Thursday, December 31, 2009

Reflecting

I have been reflecting over the last few days about this past year. It was definitely a year of challenges and tests for our family. Christine's illness, my husband's months-long absences, a move, and loss which I had not yet shared here. . . it was a lot.

But it was also a year of awakening and blessings. I learned to appreciate our health, even when it is not quite perfect. There are so many others that have bigger crosses to carry.

I learned to appreciate my dear spouse, for all he does, for his hard work, for his loving care and support.

I learned to depend on friends and family, and was tremendously blessed by their love.


I learned to count my blessings, and see that I am truly a rich woman.

I hope and pray that you all have a blessed, happy and healthy New Year!

My new friends


Why didn't I know about these guys sooner? Since I've been aquainted with the Jean-a-ma-jig / Hump Jumper, I no longer cringe at sewing over thick (denim) seams. My blood pressure thanks you.

My sweet daughter made this terrarium for me for Christmas. I love it.

A tiny handmade fairy relaxes on a toadstool. . . so peaceful. She now sits on my sewing desk.

And then there's Dwight Shrute -- to keep tabs on my slacker self. (Thanks, sweet husband!)

My sewing space is slowly coming together. Once I clear a couple of boxes, I should be settled in completely. I'll post pictures if that ever happens.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Meet the Happy Chef

I'd say the apron and toque went over very well with Monkey 7, wouldn't you? (Sorry for the crummy mobile photo. . . my camera DIED on Christmas morning, of all days.)

Monkey 3, aged 12, loves to cook, too, and had been asking for a full apron for months. Poor kid. I just now got around to making this sugar skull apron for her. She loves it!

I love french knots.

After the apron, I made Monkey 2 a kitty pillow, inspired by this adorable one. She now sleeps with it every night, also curled up next to our real kitty, Pippi.

I ran out of time to make Monkey 1 a messenger bag, so she received these handmade soap tarts from LolliLucious. (The messenger bag will come along shortly.)

They were so beautifully wrapped, and my daughter loves them. She was a wee bit disappointed when she first opened the box, as she thought they were real sweets! The raspberry truffle is her favorite, and I think the blueberry tart smells amazing.

For most of Christmas Day, we had a peaceful, blessed time together. Unfortunately, our littlest one, Owen, awoke from his afternoon nap on Christmas Day with a 104-degree fever. . . very miserable. He's mostly recovered now, with the exception of a slightly runny nose. I think he had a bout of roseola -- no big deal. I'm thankful it wasn't something worse, or something the other kids "shared."

I hope your Christmas was a beautiful, blessed one as well!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Peek III

I'm in the home stretch. I finished three of these sweet little skirts for Monkey 5 in just a couple of hours. I used the free Lazy Days Skirt pattern from Oliver + S. SO easy.

I used some Michael Miller, Robert Kaufman and Wal-Mart ($1.50/yd) fabrics I had in my stash. At some point, I want to make a couple of little petticoats for her to wear underneath, but time doesn't permit that right now.

I was really stumped on what to craft for Monkey 4, our 11 year-old son. I think boys that age are difficult to craft for. I was thinking some (unexciting but practical) pajama pants. But my sweet hubby came to my rescue, and brought home a gift for him that we think he'll really love. So now, only three projects are left on my list. I'll be sure to share photos after Christmas!

We're enjoying a little winter storm, with snow (!!!), here in west Texas. . . rare in these parts. It's definitely beginning to look and feel a lot like Christmas!

I hope you and your loved ones have a lovely, blessed, and safe Christmas!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

And another peek. . . .

Monkey 6: Super Hero Extraordinaire.
Need: crime-fighting super-powered uniform ASAP.

Crime-fighting cape, energizing head wrap (no mask -- he wears super-glasses) and super-power cuffs: Complete.

Made completely from reclaimed fabrics (shirts, vintage table linens.) If only I had had some camouflage prints. . . his favorite "color."

Three down, five to go.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Just a little peek. . . . I'm so behind

Every year, I start with the best of intentions, even as early as October, hunting down patterns and tutorials, sketching plans, buying supplies. . . and then nothing. December comes, and I avoid looking at the untouched piles of fabric, balls of polyfil and unopened padded envelopes from Etsy suppliers stacked on the corner of my desk.

I'm very, very late in crafting our Christmas gifts this year. But I am determined to make a handmade gift for each of my Monkeys! I am keeping it simple, and am making gifts that I know my children will like. . . no risky, over-complicated plans this year.

I just began last night.

You can't go wrong with a ball for a toddler. Owen is getting this one, made from purl bee's free pattern. I doubled the size of the large ball pattern, so this ball is about 18" in diameter, and I used all scraps and/or recycled fabrics to construct it.



Last night, I also whipped up an apron and puffy chef's hat for Monkey 7, who loves to help cook, and who closely studies food magazines and cookbooks. He was tired of wearing his sister's girly pink apron, and asked me to make him a blue one, with flames. Well, I did not have flame fabric, so it's blue with ferocious dinosaurs. I'll be sure to post a photo of him wearing it. . . right now, it's under the tree.

Only 6 more crafty gifts to go. . . .

Monday, December 21, 2009

Fairy Drop Cookies. . . YUM

We like to try at least one new cookie recipe each year during our Christmas baking marathon. This year, we picked Fairy Drop cookies -- and I'm happy to say it has earned a spot on our yearly Must-Make list! It's a buttery cookie, with a shortbread-like crumb/texture. It's also very easy to make. One of my sweet teens made the above-pictured batch with the help of her 8 year-old sister.

The dough is rolled into little balls, and then stamped with a cookie stamp, drinking glass, or even a kitchen utensil. We used a swirly egg beater for this batch! You can then use sprinkles or colored sugar for the decoration -- applied prior to baking. The colored sugar will settle into stamped designs, and make a lovely design and sweet crunch when baked. One other mention -- I was nervous about using butter and vegetable oil, but these turned out very good -- not heavy at all!

Fairy Drop Cookies

1 cup butter (no substitutes)
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup sifted powdered sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup cooking oil
2 eggs
2 teaspoons almond extract
4 1/2 cups all-purpose flourcolored sugar
  • PREHEAT oven to 350 degrees.
  • BEAT butter in a large mixing bowl with an electric mixer on medium to high for 30 seconds.
  • ADD both sugars, baking soda, cream of tartar, and salt, beating until combined, scraping sides of bowl occasionally.
  • BEAT in oil, eggs and almond extract until combined.
  • BEAT in as much of the flour as you can. Stir in remaining flour.
  • COVER and chill about 30 minutes, or until needed.
  • TO SHAPE cookies, roll rounded teaspoons of dough into balls (dough is soft.) Arrange balls on ungreased cookie sheet. With the bottom of a glass or a patterned cookie stamp, gently flatten the balls till about 1/4 inch thick. Sprinkle with colored sugar.
  • BAKE in a 350 oven for 10 - 12 minutes or till edges are lightly browned. Transfer to wire racks to cool.
  • Makes about 55 - 60 cookies.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Scones, marvelous scones!

Chocolate chip scones from the recipe below.... 
the scone on the right has a drizzle of peanut butter glaze.  YUM!

No secret around there that scones are a family favorite -- and a staple. They are simple, quick and quite adaptable to whatever ingredients you have on hand. Mind you, my scones are not the fancy wedges you see at the bakery, although I suppose I could shape them that way. Being lazy, I just drop the dough onto a cookie sheet, like a drop biscuit, and they still turn out delicious. (And if you compare scone recipes with biscuit recipes, they are really quite similar!)

So, here is my basic recipe. I've included substitutions I've used in parentheses so you can see how flexible this recipe is. Please be aware that textures, flavors, etc. will all turn out differently when you substitute and/or add ingredients.
  • 1 3/4 cups flour (can substitute up to 1/2 cup of oats, whole wheat flour)
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, pumpkin spice, etc. (optional)
  • dash salt
  • 2/3 cup milk (heavy cream, half-and-half, eggnog, sour cream + a little water, yogurt)
  • 1/3 cup melted butter (melted margarine, vegetable oil, vegetable shortening (not melted))
  • 1 cup add-ins, such as chopped apples, walnuts, dried cranberries, raisins, chocolate chips -- you get the idea. I always use more than 1 cup of add-ins for extra goodness.
  • optional toppings to be added before baking -- oats, brown sugar, cinnamon sugar, nuts, streusel toppings
  • optional toppings to be added after baking -- melted butter, powdered sugar glaze, powdered sugar
* Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
* Mix together dry ingredients in a large bowl.
* Add milk and butter, plus add-ins, all at once to the dry ingredients.
* Stir only until blended. Over-mixing the dough will result in tough, dense scones.
* Drop dough onto cookie sheets . . . this recipe makes about 6 - 8 large scones, or 10 - 12 mini-scones. * * You can top with oats, sugar, nuts or whatever you like at his time.
* Bake 15 - 20 minutes (less for minis.) The scones will be brown around the edges and bottom, and golden on top.
* Top with icing, glaze or butter if desired.


Want more scone recipes? Here's a whole page of them. And here's a lovely pumpkin spice scone recipe -- delicious. If you try these out, please let me know how you like the recipe, and your results!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

It's still autumn, for a few more days. . .

I received a sweet little package the other day -- all the way from Australia! -- from Harvey, who volunteered to angel for me after I was flaked on in the Can't Wait for Fall Swap. It arrived just in time! It brightened my day, and I love what she sent. . . .

A cute bracelet -- very pretty colors!

Some hot pads that I desperately needed. And I mean desperately! I had been using some several-year-old Christmas hot pads (year 'round) that were just plain ratty. Now I have these lovelies!

A great, large bag! I took it with me to the post office the other day, and it was perfect!

And this was Harvey's first attempt at applique -- and she did a very nice job!

Thank you so much, Harvey, for your thoughtful package! I love everything!

Other news. . . .

We've gotten 99% of the house unpacked. I just need some shelves put up on the walls of my sewing room, and then we'll be done.

Christine had a flare-up a few weeks ago that attacked her other eye. . . probably brought on by the stress of the move. Scary stuff. Her doctors doubled her meds, and were able to curb the flare-up before she had any vision loss. She's doing well now, thank God, and we're already tapering her medications.

I'm making some major changes in my Etsy shop very soon. Stay tuned. . . .

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Hard work

Pilfering Christmas cookies is really hard work.