Friday, December 24, 2010

Handmade Holiday

 Last year, I decided to personally make all the Christmas gifts we were giving out.  Because we had a new baby in the house, I kept it simple and baked cookies for everyone.  I wanted to do another handmade holiday this year, but oh, how quickly Christmas snuck up on me!  I had all these wonderful intentions but didn't realize that a one year old toddling around the house would take up so much of my time.
     I managed to get out some of the gifts, sending homemade shortbread cookies (found here) to my family with a cousin traveling home to the New Orleans area for the holidays.  I also sent with him a couple of VERY late birthday presents (we're talking March and August birthdays).
     As soon as I finish the other presents which are works in progress, I should start next year's gifts if I want to have a hope of finishing them in time!

     Here's our Christmas tree.  We had a small tree last year and liked it a lot.  We decided to have another small tree this year so we could keep it out of reach from baby's grabby hands.  



Sunday, November 21, 2010

Snowy Surprise and a Sweet Retreat

     Ken and I decided to take the children on a mini-vacation, so we booked the most charming cabin in Nevada City, CA.  Hoping to enjoy the glorious colors of the fall foliage, we were dismayed when we encountered heavy rain on the drive up from the Bay Area.  We settled into the cabin, and were delighted when, a couple of hours later, little momma announced that it was snowing outside.
     Last night, the snowfall was heavier, and this is what we found outside our door:

Squeals of excitement ensued.  Since the light snowfall the day before, the kids were itching to go sledding down the hill behind the cabin.
     We absolutely adore our lodgings.  We booked this charming cottage.  The owners are wonderful and so helpful.  How sweet is this:

     Snow this heavy and this early is uncommon, and they seem to have anticipated almost every need.  They offered to lend us snow clothes for the children so they could go sledding and play in the snow.  They also offered to bring Ken into town to pick up provisions since we're basically cabin bound.  We will definitely book another vacation here, perhaps in the spring or summer.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Pants for the menfolk

     Brrr.... it's so cold in our house.  Because our house is so shaded by trees, we do not get direct sunlight on the ground floor.  It's always a few degrees cooler inside than it is out, which is great in summer.  In late fall and winter, not so much.
     Last night, the little guy got a new pair of lounge pants.  I could have gone out and bought some, but I was looking for an inexpensive footed pair to keep his feet toasty in our ice box of a house.  In the interest of economy, I made a pair, using Simplicity 2291.  I made View B, minus the pockets (I don't think he'll be squirreling anything away at this age).
     Kieran was so cute in his pants.  The only problem is he went sliding all over the floor.  I need to find something to put on the soles to give him some traction. 

    I also made some pajama pants for the big guy and the hubby.  Truth be told, I started their pants 2 years ago and only just finished them.  Everything was sewn except the elastic waistband.  I'm not sure why I was so intimidated by the thought of sewing up the elastic- it's actually quite easy.  I didn't have willing models, so here is Tonio's bottom half wearing New Look 6131, View B, with a closeup of the fabric.

And here are Ken's pants (Butterick B5153, View C), with a closeup of the fabric:

        I think a few more pair of pants in flannel are in order for all of us to keep off the winter chill.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

     I finally dusted off the ol' sewing machine last week.  Little momma needed a small bag to carry essentials on a field trip to the Tech Museum, and she couldn't find the one she wanted to bring (her backpack was too big).  So I stayed up late the night before her field trip to make one for her.
     The pattern came from a wonderful little book called Sew What! Bags by Lexie Barnes.  I modified the size to fit a small child and left off the outer pocket.  Luckily, I had some really pretty pink and black fabric in my stash that wasn't earmarked for any project in particular.  Here's little momma modeling it:

     Feeling inspired to take on a more challenging project, I attempted another bag from the same book.  This time I chose a messenger bag and opted to use printed canvas, as well as line the inside for durability.  After spending the weekend sewing seams, then ripping them out and sewing them back together, I finally finished this evening.  Ta-daa!


View under the flap- pockets!

Inner pencil pocket

     I made the following mods:
  • scaled down to fit a young girl
  • lined the strap with quilt batting for comfort
  • left off the back pocket panel
  • added a pencil pocket inside the bag     

Thursday, November 4, 2010

A Happy Halloween

     Wow, it's been over a month since I've posted anything.  We've been up to much, but the most exciting to our household was Halloween, probably because it's the most recent outing we've had.  This was the first time that the whole family dressed in costume.

Scurvy pirate
Vampire baby 

Zombie flamenco dancer

Vampire Daddy and bohemian Momma

     The big guy's costume was made from a thermal shirt (which we tattered ourselves with scissors), black sweats and boot covers I made from brown vinyl.  Little momma's costume was straight off a hanger from a tourist shop in Spain, and the little guy's cape was designed and sewn by yours truly.
     I'm not sure if I pulled the bohemian look off.  What you can't see are my knee high boots and bangle bracelets.  It seems if you wear something a bohemian might actually wear rather than an exaggerated version of it purchased in a store, people aren't sure if you're dressed in costume or in everyday clothes.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

The organic conundrum

Over the past year, we have made some significant changes in the way we eat and the way we shop for food.   It all started last summer, when I first picked up a copy of Barbara Kingsolver's book  Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.  It chronicles her family's attempt to eat like locavores, grow their own produce, raise their own heritage turkeys and make every meal from scratch for a year.
Our decision to change our eating habits was further fueled by two movies: Food, Inc and King Corn.  Both movies reveal some disturbing secrets and practices in the US agricultural industry.  It's not a pretty story.
So we started shopping for our produce at the local farmer's market, buying the organically grown fruits and vegetables.  Shopping for food at the average grocery store, or even Whole Foods, presents some problems for us.  How hard-core do we want to get with shopping in an environmentally friendly way?
I may pick up an brand known for being organic or all natural, and having sustainable company practices.  I may feel good knowing that I'm supporting a business which is small, or local, or both.  But I may actually be supporting a huge company I am trying to boycott because of GMO's, lack of sustainability practices, or ties to the dreaded Monsanto.
Case in point: I love Kashi Go-Lean.  But did you know that Kashi's parent company is Kellogg's?  That's right, Kellogg's, whom I am boycotting because of their refusal to stop using GMO's in their product.  Another case in point: Cascadian Farms.  An organic label which has been purchased by general Mills, who have fought legislation requiring GMO foods to be labeled as such.
I  suspect the list of safe brands for me will be quite small once I'm done looking into this issue, which begs the question:  Do I buy organic labels because I want to feed my family organic food, or do I follow the food trail and make sure that these labels are not owned by large corporations whose values do not align with mine?

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Homemade cleaning supplies

As we use up our store-bought bathroom and kitchen cleaners, we are replacing them with solutions made from natural ingredients that most households would have on-hand anyway, such as lemons, vinegar and baking soda.  We simply re-use the spray bottles once empty, diverting them from the landfill or from being down-cycled.  I found a great resource here for recipes:

We've also invested in a good old-fashioned toilet brush (we used to use the wands with the disposable cleaning heads).  The hubby's old t-shirts and our old socks will replace the disposable swiffer dusters for cleaning furniture.  Shamefully, we've used many a paper towel to clean glass and windows.  I remember using old newspapers on the windows and glass, which did a pretty good job. 

Little momma and the big guy haven't really had to help to the major cleaning; they are only responsible for picking up after themselves.  Now's a good time to introduce housecleaning chores to them and explain why we're switching to homemade cleaning solutions. 

Monday, September 6, 2010

It's a family affair

We have settled into a nice weekend routine.  On Saturdays, we're up at 7 am and out of the door at 7:45 (7:30 if we decide to grab breakfast out).  At 8 am, we're arriving at whichever estate/yard/garage sale I thought was the most promising when I scouted them out on Craigslist.  We hit about 3 or 4 of them, and we're usually done by 10:00 or 11:00.

On Sundays, we're up at 7:30 am and out of the door by 8:30.  We grab a quick breakfast (usually a pastry and coffee, juice for the kids), then it's onto our favorite farmer's market in Campbell, where we have samples and buy our produce for the week.

This weekend's thrifting was quite successful.  We walked away with a fair amount of vintage Pyrex and other vintage kitchen items from one estate sale, thanks to the well-trained eyes of my family.  While I was happily building a small stash of kitchenware from a box I was digging through  on the front lawn, my industrious hubby was poking through boxes in the house.  Little momma screamed from the doorway that daddy found some "pay rex."

Here's what we bought for a mere $6:

Pyrex "Butterfly Gold" mixing bowls, casserole dishes, loaf pan, 8 inch baking dish and refrigerator  dishes

 Pyrex pie plate, Anchor Hocking custard bowls, Pyrex mixing bowls, glass juice reamer, scale,grater, Pyrex individual casserole dish
vintage sifter, Anchor Hocking baking dish

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Homemade baby food

The little guy is napping, so this is a good time to enjoy that cup of hot cafe au lait I made 3 hours ago but didn't have time to drink.

The other night we let the little guy feed himself dinner for the first time, but he didn't quite know what to do with the peas.  He kept squeezing them in his fist before attempting to put them in his mouth.  I ended up pureeing the rest of the peas, so he won't be feeding himself for a while.

So far, his repertoire of food include:
  • pureed peas, carrots and haricots verts, apples, nectarines, mangoes, apricots and peaches.
  • mashed banana, avocado and roasted sweet potatoes
  • edamame, cheddar cheese

The majority of the time I serve them straight up because it's easier, but every now and then I like to mix it up.  Below is are a couple of recipes. 

Green Bean and Pea Puree
1/2 lb of haricots verts or other green beans
2 cups peas
3 cups water

Bring the water to a boil in a large pot with a steaming basket.  Chop the beans into 1-2 inch pieces and place them in the steaming basket along with the peas.  Cover and steam for 8 minutes or until soft.
Puree the beans, peas and 2-3 tbsp of water (I use the water from the steampot) in a blender to desired consistency (you may need more or less water).

Apricot-Mango Puree
1 large ripe mango
6 apricots
1 medium fuji apple (to give the puree a denser texture)
3 cups water
Bring the water to boil over the stove in a large pot with a steaming basket.  While water is heating up, peel, cut and quarter the apricots.  Peel, core, and chop the apple into 2 inch pieces.  Place the apricots and apple in the steaming basket and cover.  Steam for 3 minutes or until fork-tender.  While the apricots and apple are steaming, cut and cube the mango. 
Puree the apricots, mango, apple pieces in a blender to desired consistency.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Little chefs

I make all of the little guy's baby food.  It's pretty simple- I just cut up and steam vegetables or fruit gotten from the local farmer's market, then puree in the blender with a little of the water used for steaming (or fresh water for the carrots due to nitrate levels).

I can't believe I didn't do this for the first two children when they were babies.  It's much more economical and better for the environment than buying jarred food, and I like using organic produce.

Little momma and the big guy wanted to help make the little guy's food.  They requested to help make the pureed carrots on this week's menu.  Because the carrots were huge, we only needed to peel and steam 2 of them to make a few days worth.

Here they are peeling, cutting and steaming the carrots:

I love that they get such joy out of making the baby's food.  They really are great helpers.  And here's the little guy enjoying the finished product:

Friday, August 13, 2010

New obsession?

What started out as a thrifty and green way to redecorate my daughter's bedroom is quickly becoming a Saturday morning ritual.  I think I am an estate sale junkie. 

Surprisingly, the rest of the family seems to enjoy hitting up the estate sales.  I give them the option of coming along, and they actually seem to look forward to it.  Little momma enjoys looking for vintage items (she thinks she has an eye for it).  The big guy likes to look for puzzles and books.

This weekend we may graduate to church rummage sales.  That one may try the hubby's patience.

A few things we've picked up at the estate sales:

All of the items were under $5 individually, and the patterns were actually part of a 10 for $1 lot of vintage patterns.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Redesign on a dime

It's time for little momma to have a big girl room.  We will be ridding her room of her old Ikea disposable furniture to replace with this:

and this:

and this:

In the spirit of being thrifty and green, we purchased all of the above at an estate sale for just $75.  As you can see from the photos, they are in great condition considering their age.  I think the few scratches and imperfections they have give them character.  Or maybe I'm too lazy to try to refinish them.  Take your pick.

Taking our cue from the furniture, little momma and I are going with a vintage feel with the decor.  This should be fun!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

And we're off!

After two years of agonizing over the title and direction of this blog, here we are!  Of course, had I started this blog two years ago,  it would have been a different blog altogether.  It would have been about mother trying to bring up two children while commuting and working full-time.

Anyway,  here I am trying to raise three children as I figure out how to be a housewife.  And doing it green!