Sunday, October 31, 2010

{Happy Halloween!}

We are taking Halloween on as a family.

In fact, we actually won our trunk or treat contest for best trunk theme!

Here we are, I think the photos will probably explain it best:

Happy Haunting!


Thursday, October 28, 2010

Snow day...

Does snow mean it is officially winter? Because if it does, this is the first time I've ever experienced winter starting before Halloween...

We had rain, then hail, then snow. And the crisp autumn air suddenly changed to DANG COLD.


Wednesday, October 27, 2010

{My only good recipe}

Ok...that's not entirely true. I do have one other good recipe, but it's a secret.

Anyway, the Mister and I honeymooned in San Francisco after our wedding. San Fran is one of the greatest places on earth as far as I am concerned, and one of the very best things about it is the food. Whenever we travel to another city, we always make a pact not to eat anywhere that we could eat at home--we want to try only new things. We both LOVE food; in fact, we probably spent the greater majority of our honeymoon just wandering around the city and picking up food any chance we got.

S.F. is particularly great because there are so many little niche areas of town that offer completely different kinds of food, and we ate at every one of them (and then stuffed ourselves with sourdough in between).

Anyway, the point of that tangent is this: One night, we stopped in this little hole-in-the-wall Italian restaurant at 10 in the evening SOMEwhere in Little Italy for a very late dinner. It was tiny, and dark, and I had the MOST amazing pasta I had ever tasted in my life--pure, home cooked goodness in a bowl. Sometimes, I have dreams about it.

For the last couple of months, I have been trying out every lemon garlic cream pasta recipe I could get my hands on, because for some reason, the urge to have that dish again is back. After a lot of trial and error (and some good, but not quite right, recipes) I have emerged victorious. I'm still not sure it is as good as my Little Italy fare, but it certainly satisfies. Even the kiddos gobble it up. For the record, it is very lemony and very garlic-y. But also very scrumptious.

So try it out (especially if you happen to, ahem, not be a fan of tomatoes in your family...I know you're reading this...)!

You will need:
3 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
2 or 3 lemons (for juice and lemon zest)
4-6 cloves of garlic
1 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
2 cans of chicken broth (14 oz)
1 12 oz package of whole wheat pasta
3/4 cup whole milk
1/4 cup melted butter

In a baking dish, lay out the chicken breasts. Squeeze half (or a whole, if you like more) lemon over the chicken breasts, sprinkle with pepper, and then mince 2-3 cloves of garlic and spread over the chicken. Bake the chicken in the oven at 350 degrees for about 40 minutes, or until cooked. (*Ok, just a note. Your garlic will turn blue. At first, I thought I was poisoning my family, but some smarty friends of mine  informed me that it's just reacting with the lemon juice...which I think is kind of cool...)

Once you get the chicken in the oven, pour the broth into a sauce pan and mince the rest of your garlic and add it. Once the broth comes to a boil, add the pasta and about 1/4 cup lemon juice (I just use the rest of the lemon and another...and sometimes another.) Let it cook, stirring occasionally, until the liquid is all absorbed (will take about 20-25 minutes).

Your chicken is probably about done now. If so, go ahead and take it out and shred the chicken. Then add it to the pasta, along with the milk and the butter. Grate about a teaspoon of lemon zest from the peel of one of your leftover lemons and toss it in for a little extra kick.

Mix it all up and serve pure deliciousness...

{Sorry I didn't take a picture of the finished product...turns out, I was too busy stuffing my face...}


Monday, October 25, 2010

{Digging Potatoes}

Well, we must really live in Idaho, because today I went out and dug up potatoes. This was a first for me, and I actually enjoyed being out in the co-op garden, alone in the sun and breeze, just me and my thoughts.

One thing about potato digging though: it is HARD work. When I left the garden with my little bucket of taters, I was covered in dirt and ready for a forty-year nap. I like picking lettuce, or tomatoes, or squash. I like picking berries or pulling beans. These things are easy work--you use your eyes, pull the prettiest, plumpest fruit, and stay relatively clean. Potatoes are different.

I don't know anything about potato growing other than what we've been told by some Idaho folk and what we've managed this season, but here's what I've got so far--when you plant potatoes, you plant them in mounds. (And here in the high desert, in our poorly funded student co-op garden, that mostly means planting them in a bed of sandy, rocky, dirt.) And then you let them grow. For the most part, you just kind of leave them alone. And then you wait. You wait until they shrivel up and die and you think the rot and the bugs are just around the corner and you're pretty sure you messed up and that God shouldn't trust you to tend to things when He's better at it anyway.

And then you stick your hands in that dry, rocky, hard-as-can-be dirt, you push aside the old dead plant, and you start digging for the roots.

Potatoes can grow deep, well below the mound you made for them, deeper into that thick, dense, desert sand. If you're lucky, and if you dig deep enough, you'll dig up some beautiful gems--small ones, big ones, all under that rotten, rocky mess, emerging a few at a time as proof that there is something bigger than you at work under the soil.

The Mister and I are often described as "poor as church mice." My father has used that phrase on us a few times, and our church leaders too. When we started this journey, we knew it wouldn't be easy. And to be honest, sometimes it is a little staggering to think of how far we still have to go. At times, it's easy to think of what we've given up, of the things (all that old STUFF) we could have if we were living the same lives we decided to abandon. If we let ourselves, it would be easy, after a long week of endless studying for him and nearly-single-parenting for me, to look at our lives and see the shriveled up plant of what we used to have. It would be easy to forget that we were led here and that there are greater forces at work. The trick is remembering that we're still digging; we're still reaching for what comes out of that pile of dirt and dead.

So we keep digging our potatoes. We may come out dirty as hell. We'll be tired and our muscles will ache, but after the ache we'll be stronger for our efforts. We'll have grime under our fingernails and dents in our knees from the rocks we knelt on, but we'll have what we came for. We'll leave behind a pile of rubble, but we'll know the love of God and hold it right in the palm of our grungy, weathered hands.


Friday, October 22, 2010

{Pumpkin Patch!}

Fall isn't fall without a visit to the Pumpkin Patch...

{This one, or this one?}

{Silly Dad...THIS one is much better...} 

 {Ah, here's one just my size!} 

{Wait! What is Sis doing?}

{Chase a poor defenseless strange cat? Don't mind if I do!} 

 {Look, ma! It's not scratching out my eyes!} 

{Okay, okay. Even though I am insanely allergic and think most cats are spawned from Satan, even I had to admit this one was way sweet and got in on the action...} 

{I realized later this was Little Bird's first ever encounter with an actual cat! He loved it!} 

{You're really gonna let me ride this train alone with her??} 

{Big stuff} 

{As usual, my attempts to get just. one. picture. of the two of them together 
never seem to go as well as planned in my head...} 

{Happy Autumn!} 


Wednesday, October 20, 2010

{Curly Little Bird}

Growing up, we used to pick on my mom for how long she let my youngest brother (the baby of the family) go without his first haircut. We laugh together about the fine mullet he had grown and the fact that those little blond locks could cause such hand wringing and torment.

Sometimes, you pay for your judgements.

I cannot bring myself to cut Little Bird's hair. I recognize the fact that his hair is getting way out of hand. I readily accept that at SOME point, I will have to get the poor kid a hair cut. I know that, most of the time, the poor kid looks like this:

{Even I have to admit that his 'do is unfortunate...and yes, I do take him into public like that, thankyouverymuch...}

But the fact is that he has hair like mine. And in a world where nearly all of my children's features belong to daddy, it's nice to have a little something of my "own." Not only that, but the specific characteristic of his hair that makes it so UTTERLY impossible to cut is that it is CURLY. Just like mom's. Unfortunately, that also means it is curly, just like mom's, i.e., it curls beautifully when just out of the tub/shower...and not so beautifully the morning after {see above}. 

I know I picked on my mom about my brother's hair, but this is so much MORE than a few little curls at the nape. This is HAIR...beautiful ringlets even Alexander Pope would be unable to fully do justice. And while daily I find myself coming to the conclusion that yes, it is finally time to bite that bullet, and get the poor guy a haircut, every evening for a short glorious while, THIS happens: 

And my mind is changed all over again. 
So Mom, I totally get it. Totally. 


Tuesday, October 19, 2010

{Just a silly post about STUFF...}

In advance, this is totally a naughty post about THINGS I love. I'm not supposed to love THINGS anymore. But...sometimes I still do. Sorry. I can't be perfect EVERYday!

Here's the other item I made for the giveaway (I also made a little headband to go with it).

This was probably the most frustrating and difficult thing I have ever made. I ended up completely frogging (a frog in crochet doesn't say "ribbit"--he says "rip it") the purse three times and starting completely over. I used this tutorial, and I just could NOT get my hands and those directions to make sense together. I finally decided to use the basic shape and ruffling, but do it in the way that made sense in my head and FINALLY, on attempt four, got it figured out. (I think I have at least two ENORMOUS change purses that are half done laying around here still, if anyone else wants to give it a try!) But, thanks to Calista for her gorgeous inspiration and handy diagrams. I'd have never been able to do it without her tutorial!

{It's about the size of a cantaloupe  and about as cute as a baby panda riding a rocking horse.}

So was really frustrating, but ultimately, it also turned out to be one of my very favorite things I have ever made! I had a difficult time sticking it in the mail because I would have loved to keep it. Now that I actually know how to make one, maybe I'll make myself another. (At least this thing I love I gave away, right?)

Speaking of more things I love: for my birthday, I got a Ninja from the Mister and the kiddos (but, for the record, I'm pretty sure he paid like 1/2 of that for it-so DON'T order it online!). I am totally stoked--I've never had anything that chops and dices and does exciting things, and I can't wait to make something spectacular with it.  I just have to remember to keep my fingers out of it. Especially since I cut myself with a knife last week while cutting a bagel (Yeah, a BAGEL...note to self: do not stick your finger into bagel hole and then proceed to slice).

The other present I got was from, ahem, myself (all women do that, right?). It is pretty much the best necklace ever, and I have been in love with it for ages:

{Is this not the greatest thing EVER? Except, I wish it were's cast and hollow in back, but if it were solid, it could also double as a weapon (you know, for protection) AND a fabulous piece of jewelry. Though for the price, fabulous jewelry only is totally justifiable.}

I think I'll wear it every day and have them bury me in it when I die. 


Monday, October 18, 2010

Perfect Apron : : : A Tutorial

There are a LOT of amazing bloggers out there. So many, in fact, that I could (and have!) easily lose myself for hours at a time out there in bloggity-land. The ones that really suck me in though are the crafting blogs. I love Dana's creativity over at MADE, and the fun projects at Noodleheads, and the endless link-ups at Tatertots and Jello and Blue Cricket, and, and, and...well, the list could go on forever.

At any rate, the point is that I am certainly not filled with the creative power of some better known mommy bloggers, but I still enjoy creating, and as a little thank you to the few of you who do come by here, and to the awesome crafty inspiration out there, I thought I'd share some of my little crafts too.

So, without further ado, here is my tutorial for pretty much the best apron ever.

I have a few of these I made for myself (I was inspired by a photo from The Mayfly), but I made this (along with the little oven mitt) one as one of the surprise handmade items for the giveaway that I held, oh...fifty years ago. (The pattern for the mitts can be found here--LOVE THEM!)

When I cook and clean, I am not really a fan of big, frilly aprons. Rather, I like something that can get the job done, and that I don't have to worry about getting dirty. I also like something I can dry my hands on, because an apron just isn't functional if you can't actually USE it. As I thought about the best material for an apron, I realized that flour sack tea towels are just about the best place to start.

For each apron, you will want two flour sack towels (you can find these pretty inexpensively at Target or WalMart, though I've heard they even show up at the dollar store sometimes).

Wash the towels on HOT first, because they will shrink quite a bit the first time they are washed. Then line up two of the towels and iron them, because they will also wrinkle quite a bit the first time they are washed.

After the tea towels have been pressed, fold them in half and cut the open corner off into a rounded shape. You may need to cut all edges but the fold, because the tea towels often shrink to wonky sizes. I try to use as much of the tea towel as possible though.
{Here's a terrible diagram of how to cut. Make sure your fold is on the opposite side from where you are cutting the curve!}
Go ahead and set this part aside. We'll work on the waist band next. 

I prefer a thicker waistband--about 2.5 to 3 inches wide. You want to cut the fabric of your waistband half an inch wider than DOUBLE the width. So for a 2.5 inch waist band, you need to cut 5.5 inches wide. For a 3 inch waistband, cut 6.5 inches wide. 

If you are working with 45 inch wide fabric, you probably want to cut three strips of your waistband fabric so that you have plenty of excess to tie into when putting this on. 

{You can see my totally classy sewing notions box in the background here...but that's called recycling!}

{Line it up...and slice it!}

Once you have your three strips of fabric (that are half an inch wider than DOUBLE your desired waistband width....), it is time to sew the strips together. You will want to sew them on the bias to make the seams less obvious. Don't worry--it isn't as tricky as it sounds, and if you're like me you will only mess up twice won't mess up at all.

Lay out one strip of the waist band fabric. Lay another piece, right sides together, at a right angle. Then sew at a diagonal across the plane where the two overlap.

{Hopefully you can sew in a straighter line than I can draw...} 


Once you finish that seam, trim off the excess to a quarter inch from the stitches. Repeat this with the third strip of waistband fabric, and press the seams to the right. 

Next, fold the waist band in half and mark the center point. 

Lay it above your apron piece (still folded in half) 

Then mark the waistband (on both sides) where the apron piece ends. The end marks will tell you what to leave open as you sew the waistband so that you can slide in the apron. 

Next, fold the waistband in half "hot dog" style, making one loooong strip. Make sure your right sides are together and sew the strip from end to end, but make sure to leave an opening where you put your marks in the previous step. 

At the ends of your strip, sew at a diagonal, to make the waistband ties tapered, then trim to 1/4 inch. 

 Turn the waistband right-side-out and press it. We'll come back to this in a bit.
{Here's the opening I left--this is where we'll slide the apron in so that we can actually wear it.}

Next, we'll work on that cute little pocket. I cut two pieces of fabric, about 6 inches by six inches.

Then, I folded it in half, and very similar to the apron itself, rounded out the bottom corners. With right sides together, sew around the sides and bottom. You can leave the top, flat side open. Turn it back right-side-out, and press.

Then, I used biased tape (you can make it yourself, or be lazy like me and get some at the store. Because in all honesty, making bias tape binding is my LEAST favorite sewing-related activity. For the record, I DID make the binding for the oven mitt because I wanted it to be 100% cotton so it didn't melt. But I'm not worried about melting aprons, so polyester is my friend in this case.) Cut it about 1/2 to 1 inch longer than the top of the pocket.

Apply one side as shown, sewing close to the crease. 

Then roll the binding over, tuck the excess ends in, and sew near the edge (making sure to also run over the rolled over binding on the other side).

Voila! A pocket. 

While you're at it, use that same binding to trim the outer edges of the apron as shown below. Then you can sew on the pocket with just a top-stitch around the three sides. (I guess you could sew the top too...but then you'd have a patch, NOT a pocket...)

Now, grab that waistband and slide the apron up into the open center space you left. 

Sew all the way across the bottom of the waist band, which will top-stitch the previous seam, and close the apron into the waist band. 

And look! You have a finished apron (which clashes madly with you your hippie-esque tie-dyed shirt that your sister is probably laughing in her head about as she reads this)! It's perfect for getting dirty, drying your hands, or just prancing around in while you fancy yourself domestic. 

Jenny, I hope you enjoy your apron and mitt!