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Nov 24 / Erin

Thoughts on Year Six and Tiny Turkey Art

I miss blogging.  More than that, I miss the “back in the old days” blogging when the email notifications about new comments on my latest post energized me and I could count on two hands the number of blogs I followed—and commented on—religiously.  Now that email notification in my inbox is most likely a spam comment and the number of blogs I can follow is endless.  Pair that with two kids under age four and a busier-than-ever job and, well, I’ve simply lost touch with current-day blogging.

I’ve been blogging since 2009—before business pages for Facebook, before smartphones, before Pinterest. (Gosh, I suddenly feel old.) So much has changed in blogging and I haven’t quite kept pace, which, for a competitive person like me, is hard to swallow. I’ve yet to reconcile the two bloggers in me.  On one hand, I want to blog like it’s 2009 with little regard for stats, pins or likes.  On the other hand, I want to be in the blogging game.  

While I’m still trying to figure out how blogging fits into my life today, I’ve decided the sixth annual Dare to DIY Challenge (sixth!) is the perfect reason to come out of hiding.  After all, it was Kim at NewlyWoodwards’s original Dare to DIY party in 2009 that drew me into the blogging community and created lasting friendships.  I’ve managed to participate in each of the first five years and I’m looking forward to more of the same this year.

And that, my friends, would explain why I was making tiny paper turkeys this weekend.

How about that segue?

Chris wanted to know why I was “making Origami.”  I told him that small paper fans didn’t exactly qualify as Origami, but I was folding paper so he kind of wins.

To be honest, I had no idea what to make for this week’s Dare to DIY challenge of crafting a Thanksgiving-themed project.  Heck, even a scroll through Pinterest left me uninspired.  So, I rifled through my craft closet and came up with two empty tiny frames, some Halloween-themed scrapbook paper and a piece of a cork square leftover from another project.

Each turkey consists of two paper fans (hot glued in place), some tiny paper tail feathers, and a little turkey body/face.  What you see is what you get here, people.

It’s hard to tell the scale in these photos, but the frames are pretty tiny—about 4×3″ or smaller.  I like that I can tuck them onto shelves or windowsills to add a seasonal touch without having to re-style a whole display.

I also like that the turkeys are neutral enough that they blend in, but still fun and quirky enough that the kids find them amusing.  Lincoln’s still working on his “gobble gobble,” but we’ll settle for the solid “quack quack” effort.

Have you crafted anything for Thanksgiving, or are you just focused on which kind of pie to make eat?  It’s hard to believe that Thanksgiving is nearly here. We just barely got our turkey, which, I can assure you, is anything but tiny!

Please be sure to visit the Dare to be Thankful segment of the Dare to DIY Challenge (hosted by Shift Ctrl Art today) to see what some other crafty bloggers have been up to!

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Oct 26 / Erin

Milk and Cookies Toddler Halloween Costume

I am certain I threw my mom a few curve balls when it came to Halloween costumes when I was growing up.  For example: one year I asked to be Humpty Dumpty.

An egg.

That falls off a wall.

So that’s why I wasn’t surprised by Ike’s initial request to be an octopus for his fourth Halloween.  I was ready.  I was up for the challenge.  Then, out of no where, Ike had a nightmare that included a T-Rex taking away his little brother.  That’s when most things, including an octopus, were “too mean looking” for him.  Poor thing—he’s still recovering.

That’s how we landed fair and square on a nice wholesome set of cookies and milk.

Given that my darling three-year-old thinks everything in the world belongs to him, including the sun and the moon (literally), I was delighted when Ike wanted to share his costume with his little brother.  Of course, Lincoln got downgraded from sprinkles to chocolate chip, but he’s not complaining and neither am I.

I know you haven’t seen much of this little guy, Linc, since he was born (nearly two years ago…gasp!) given my infrequent blogging.  But, man, he is a handful.  With super kissable cheeks.

I didn’t use a pattern or document my full sewing process on this costume, but I think anyone with beginner to intermediate sewing skills could tackle the project.  I used felt for all of the cookie pieces plus the lettering and straw on the hat.  The hat itself is white polar fleece, which is perfect because you know it will be freezing here in Maine on Halloween night.

I made two cookies for each boy—one for the front and one for the back—connected by felt pieces on the shoulders and sides.  Each cookie side is made of two pieces of tan felt with a thin layer of quilt batting in the middle.  I tacked the batting to one piece, then sewed that piece to another felt circle with the non-batting sides together.  I left a small hole on one side of the circle so that I could turn the cookie right side out, leaving the batting in the middle with only a small hole to hand sew together.  Then I decorated with felt pieces to make the frosting, sprinkles and chips, using fabric glue.  Based on these pictures, though, I’ll need to do another gluing session with hot glue to get some of the pieces to stay put.

The felt pieces for the shoulders are just sewn onto the back of the cookie pieces.  For the side straps, I attached the felt to the front cookie and cut a button hole in it.  Then sewed a button to each side of the back cookie so that the side straps could wrap around and attach.

The hats are just fleece sewed into rectangles, with the felt straw sewed into the seam.  Lincoln’s hat has a straw, too, but it was  a bit droopy in these pictures.

And, let’s be honest, I literally took more than 100 pictures of these movers and shakers in attempt to get a few good shots.  That might explain why both of them looked like this by the end.

But, I got them standing side-by-side, so I win.

Of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge my inspiration for these costumes: Memories Made by Rose on Etsy; The Costume Cafe on Etsy.  And, if you’re looking for some other inspiration, here’s my toddler cow costume and toddler robot costume from years past.

What was your strangest Halloween costume when you were a kid?  And what are your kiddos choosing for costumes this year?

Happy all-you-can-eat candy week!

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Feb 8 / Erin

Strawberry White Chocolate Oatmeal Bars

Happy weekend, friends!  It’s rare for me to post on a Saturday.  Heck, it’s rare for me to post at all these days.  But, I made these treats last weekend with good intentions of sharing them during the week so you could consider them for your Valentine’s baking.  And now that the weekend is here I thought I’d share in case you have an itch to be in the kitchen.  Or an itch to eat yummy treats.  Or both.

Last Sunday I found myself with a pint of strawberries on the verge of going bad, so I needed to use them up and fast.  And why not combine them with butter, sugar, oatmeal and white chocolate?

Strawberry White Chocolate Oatmeal Bars
Based on this recipe from Baked by Rachel

CRUST/TOPPING INGREDIENTS:

  • 1.5 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 cup old-fashioned oats
  • 1 stick of unsalted butter
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 cup white chocolate chips (for topping only)

FILLING INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 cups of sliced strawberries
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 TBSP cornstarch

INSTRUCTIONS:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Combine all crust/topping ingredients (except the chocolate chips) in one bowl and use a pastry blender to cut the butter into pea-sized pieces and combine the ingredients together.  (It will be a bit of a workout, which will help justify eating the treats.)  

If you don’t have a pastry blender, I suppose you could use a couple of knives and work the butter into small pieces.  The idea is that the crust/topping is crumbly, not well combined.  

Reserve one cup of the mixture for the topping and put it aside.

Next combine the sliced strawberries with the other filling ingredients and mix well.  Then pack the crust mixture into the bottom of a well-greased pie plate (or 8×8 square pan).

Place the strawberries on top, then sprinkle the topping mixture and white chocolate chips over the strawberries.

Pop the pan into the oven and bake for about 35-40 minutes.  Let it cool for 10-15 minutes and you should easily be able to slice the bars and remove them from the pan.

By the way, I had the fantastic idea of drizzling white chocolate over the finished bars, but I forgot how easily white chocolate burns and I nearly started a fire in our microwave.  Oops!  What can I say, my baking adventures are rarely flawless!

What kinds of Valentine’s day treats are you baking, buying or eating?

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Jan 29 / Erin

Foxy Friend Valentine Dolls

I have to admit that when I first found a tutorial to make these adorable fox plush dolls, I wondered if it would be too weird if I made a bunch to just hang out in different spots in our house.  They’re just so cute and welcoming.

Unless you look a little too long at their doll eyes.  Then they’re just weird.  But I digress.

Instead of making them for myself, I decided to whip up a few foxy friends as Valentine’s Day presents for my two boy-o-boys.  That’s a good cover, right?  I’m making these for the kids.

By the way, I’m pretty sure that if you asked a fox what he really says these days, it wouldn’t be “hatee-hatee-hatee-ho!”**  Instead, he’d reply with a sigh and an eye roll by saying, “please, isn’t there another woodland animal that is, like, so on trend now?”  Yes, Mr. Fox, I’m sure there is.  But I live on the edge of the Earth in Maine where trends arrive a year late thankyouverymuch, so you’re here to stay.

**in case this blog post stands the test of time and in the year 2025 someone is wondering what this “hatee-hatee-ho” business is all about, just Google “what does the fox say video.”  If Google even exists then.

Using this well-written and photographed tutorial on A Beautiful Mess, I made these little lovies in less than two hours.  I decided to go with a circle belly patch, plus some hearts, making them a bit unique.  As for fabric, I opted for some soft red cotton and then comfy jersey material for the snout and hearts.  That pretty blue is actually a super soft corduroy. It was just a matter of cutting a few pieces and stitching them together.

I even embellished the back, just a bit.  The crooked zig-zag stiching adds some charm, don’t you think!?

Back to the creepy doll eyes for a quick sec.  These were easy to find at my local fabric store and were just over a dollar for three sets of eyes.  They have a snap/lock mechanism on the back, so you lock them on before you sew the front and back together.  Once it’s stuffed, you can’t even tell there are doll eye screws and bolts in there, and then it’s super safe for the littles.

To get the eyes nice and symmetrical, I folded the front piece of fabric in half and cut a small slit through the two layers so that everything lined up nicely.  A fox doll with crooked creepy doll eyes would be super weird.

While I’m talking about plush dolls for Valentine’s Day, I thought I’d show you the sweet little Valentine’s Day pillow that my mom made for me when I was une petite fille.

Sweet, right?  I’m not sure my boys will hold the same sentimental value in their little fox dolls, but who knows!  Even if they don’t keep them forever, I might…

Are you making any Valentine’s Day projects for yourself your kids or someone special?  And are you totally over the fox trend, or still hanging on like me?  Even if you’re not into the fox look, I’m betting this tutorial could be super versatile and could be adapted to make a dog, cat or other animal.  Hmmm…now I’m thinking the possibilities are endless…

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Jan 21 / Erin

Savory and Healthy Veggie Frittata

Okay, fess up.  You’re like me and you loaded your refrigerator with all kinds of healthy veggies two weeks after your initial new year’s resolutions failed, right?  Well, if you’ve been more successful than me with that whole eating-your-fruits-and-veggies thing then you’ll surely enjoy this recipe.  And if you find yourself in the same boat as me, well, you can thank me as the zucchini is rescued from the depths of your crisper.  You’re welcome.

You should have seen the face on my darling husband when this egg and veggie glory came out of the oven—it was akin to the face he makes while changing diapers.

See what I have to put up with around here?

My rationale:  It has all things you like.  Egg, cheese, zucchini, red pepper and potato.  With that I got a “hmmmmm….I’ll try some” response, and then he was hooked (with a little ketchup drizzled on top, of course).

Interested?  Here’s how you can whip this up for your family tonight.

Veggie FrittataINGREDIENTS:

  • 6 eggs
  • 3/4 cup liquid egg whites
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 TBS olive oil (I used the fancy-pants Tuscan Herb Olive Oil from my pals at Fiore)
  • 1 large potato diced into small cubes
  • 1 medium zucchini sliced and cubed
  • 1 red pepper sliced and cubed
  • AND/OR any veggie of your choosing
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup shredded cheese

INSTRUCTIONS:

Slice and prep your veggies starting with the potato.  You can do one of two things with the potatoes.  You can pre-cook them a little in a bowl in the microwave (I did 3 minutes) or you can add them to an ovenproof skillet in the olive oil for a few minutes.  The goal?  Get the potatoes a little soft so they cook along with the other ingredients.  While your potatoes are in the microwave, cook your other veggies in the ovenproof skillet with the olive oil for 3-5 minutes, until they start to get soft.  Then, add the potatoes.

Whisk the eggs, whites and salt and pepper in separate dish, then pour the mixture over the veggies and cook for 3-5 minutes over medium/high heat, until the edges start to firm a little.

Sprinkle the cheese over the top and move the skillet from the stove top to an oven pre-heated to 350 and bake for 30 minutes. 

We each had a slice right away (even the baby liked it!) and then I transferred the frittata to a plate to store in the fridge.  Now it’s ready for breakfast, lunch or dinner.  Heck, maybe all three depending on how lazy I am this week.

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Jan 19 / Erin

DIY Train Board

Christmas as a parent is amazing.  There is, quite possibly, nothing more fun than seeing your kiddos enjoy the magic.  And, for a three-year-old who loves Thomas the Train, nothing is more magical than waking up to a train board under the tree on Christmas morning.

Behold, the train jackpot:

Santa and his workshop may get all the credit, but I don’t mind.  I had a blast making this because I knew Ike would love it so much. It’s most age appropriate for Ike right now, but this was the primary gift for both boys.  They each had a stocking and one other gift from Santa.  Along with gifts from generous family members, it was more than enough.

After researching and looking at inspiration on other blogs, I decided to make a board with an attached track that slides on the floor and fits under our guest bed (the guest room is sort of serving as a playroom the majority of the time).  At this stage, I knew the boys would enjoy playing with trains on the tracks more than assembling the tracks, so I attached them using small finish nails and some wood glue, but I did it in such a way that we could pull it apart someday so that when the time comes the boys can build the tracks of their dreams.

To make our train board I used:

  • Melissa & Doug Deluxe Wooden Railway set (which was on sale for $72 when I bought it)
  • 3×4′ piece of plywood (Home Depot cut a large piece to size)
  • Self-adhesive plastic discs used for moving furniture
  • 1 sample size of green satin paint
  • Craft-sized tubes of acrylic pain in blue, black, brown and light green
  • Finish nails
  • Wood glue

The Melissa & Doug set came with engines and accessories, but it’s completely compatible with the Thomas and Friends wooden railway trains, so Thomas can shunt, bust his buffers and huff to his heart’s desire.

Side note: I’ve learned way more train vocabulary in one year than I ever new existed.  No matter what you do, do not confuse a funnel with whistle or a freight car with a passenger car.  Ike will correct you.

My first step was setting up the whole track system on the unpainted board (it took about 30 minutes using the diagram provided with the set).  Then I used pencil to sketch where the water and roads would be, and took the tracks apart. Then I painted the road and water and covered the rest in green and brown.  It was fully painted in less than two episodes of Breaking Bad.  (BTW, do you think Santa watches Breaking Bad in his workshop?)

I added the roads on each side of the board thinking that the kids would like to drive cars on the board along with the trains, but so far they’ve been just obsessed with the trains and the tracks.

Once it was all painted, I reassembled the tracks.  It’s a bit tedious, but comes together really quickly.

You might be able to see the finish nails in the pictures.  I used one nail per piece and didn’t drive them flush with the track so that we can easily pull them out someday.  They stick out just enough to be snagged by a small hammer or pliers, but not enough to interfere with daily train use.  I also used wood glue to attach the risers (where the tracks go up) then gently nailed the tracks into each riser.

The red bridge and the cranes lift off and can be stored laying down so that the whole thing slides nicely under the bed.  But so far it really hasn’t been put away.  On Christmas Day Ike played with the trains for almost five hours straight—it was a hit!  And it’s so fun to hear him act out different train scenarios—most of which involve crashing and one engine saving the others when they fall off the track.  He’s all boy, with a flair for the dramatic.

And here’s where I give credit where it’s due to the other bloggers who helped inspire our train board: Young House Love, Reasons to Skip the Housework, and Preparing for Peanut.  We all used slightly different approaches, so check them out if you’re interested in taking on this project.

So, did you attempt a major homemade gift this year, or did Santa really come through for you?  And does anyone else have the Thomas theme song stuck in their head right now?

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Jan 8 / Erin

A Frosty Fun Snowman Birthday Cake

I could name this post so many things.  Like: Ike turns three!  Or: My First Foray With Fondant.  Perhaps: Merry Christmas, Happy Birthday, Happy Anniversary and Happy New Year!  (All would be applicable for us.)  It’s been a busy few weeks, to say the least, with Christmas fun, Ike’s third birthday, our sixth anniversary and the start of 2014.  I hope to get caught up here on the blog eventually.  And since the majority of the country is in a deep freeze this week, I think a snowman cake is an appropriate place to start.

I wanted to make Ike’s cake special because to him, at age three, birthdays equal CAKE and SINGING!  Really, as much as he loves presents, he is mostly excited about cake at this point.  After looking at different cake ideas, I decided on snowmen despite the Christmasy feel because Ike had grown particularly fond of snowmen after watching Frosty the Snowman who, of course, exclaims “happy birthday!”  Plus, it was easy and I had all the ingredients.  (BTW, I was inspired by Martha’s snowmen, I didn’t think up this idea on my own.)

This cake came together in a series of short steps over three days, though it could easily be done all in one day.  We were heading to Vermont for some family gatherings and to celebrate Ike’s birthday, so I made the fondant snowmen on Christmas night, the cake and frosting the next day, and then assembled the whole cake on Friday night once we arrived in Vermont so it was ready for Ike’s birthday on Saturday.

Unfortunately I didn’t have my act together enough to take step-by-step photos, so if you’re interested in recreating this, you’ll have to use your imagination!

Here are the recipes I used for the cake:

The marshmallow fondant was surprising easy to make using melted mini marshmallows, confectioner’s sugar and a bit of water.  It was really easy to work with, too, so I think I may be trying more with fondant in the future.  It’s like a grown up version of Play-Doh!

After I made the fondant, I separated a few small pieces and used gel food coloring to create the different colors.  I used black gel icing that comes in a tube for the eyes and mouth, and sprinkles of different sorts for the buttons.  On the outside of the cake I used blue sprinkles, sparkling sugar and cinnamon dots to create the wintery scene.  Oh, and I used tooth picks and wooden dowels to keep the snowmen standing and to keep hats and noses in place.  Tres important.

The cake ended up being a huge hit with my biggest birthday boy.  As different family members arrived, he proudly opened the fridge to show off his cake and exclaimed, “I’m fweee now!”  It’s fair to say it made his day.  We even let him eat two slices.

Have you tried making cakes with fondant before?  And, seriously, you should try the chocolate marshmallow buttercream frosting that I linked above.  It’s amazing.

Psst…looking for another cake idea?  Check out last year’s sprinkle #2 cake!

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Dec 18 / Erin

Our stockings are hung

Sometimes it really hits me that I have two children.  I mean, obviously I know we have them, but there are times when I wonder how and when, exactly, we got to this place.  Seeing our four stockings hanging in a row was one of those moments.  Holy cow.

Of course, we can’t forget Frankie the dog’s stocking, which will be hung out of reach of his sniffing nose (it’s too easy for him to sniff going up the stairs!).  But seeing our stockings alongside those of our two boys is just crazy.

It’s been fun making these stockings as our family grows.  I’ve been saving this one long piece of red satin over the years to use for the hanging loop for all the different stockings as they come.  It ties all of the stockings together since otherwise they don’t really match.

Somehow I’ve developed a taste for stockings that aren’t made with overt Christmas patterns.  I’m not sure why.  So this year I made a new stocking for Chris to replace the red and green velvet one I made for him the first year we were dating.  Ike came with me to our local fabric store and he picked out the moon and stars fabric, so now Chris’ stocking has even more sentimental charm.

And it’s Lincoln’s first Christmas, so we picked out fabric for his stocking, too.

I also took the opportunity to embellish the stocking I made for Ike two years ago with some gold ric-rac.  (BTW, ask a nearly-three-year-old to say ric-rac and you will be overwhelmed by the cuteness.)

And I gave my stocking some pom-poms.  Because I’m the mom and I wanted pom-poms.  Someone has to add a little femininity around this house of boys, right?

So, let’s now talk stockings.  What are the traditions in your house?  Do you wrap items that go into the stocking, or leave them unwrapped?  Do the stockings hide until Christmas Eve?  Or are you like us and display them throughout the month? Spill it.

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