Oct 31, 2012

A Halloween Trick up my Sleeve


Happy Halloween, friends!! In the spirit of Halloween tricks and treats, I learned last week that new moms ... can learn new tricks ;) Remember this post, when I told you months ago that I'd bought a sewing machine? Well, said sewing machine went into a closet and stayed there until last week, when I finally took her out of the box. Maybe it's being pregnant, or maybe it's just my creative side kicking into gear, but I really wanted to make Max's Halloween costume myself this year. I wanted to at least try. These were my inspirations:

via etsy seller HoodzillaHoodies

via JustSewSassy

My shiny new sewing machine was overwhelming straight out of the box, with buttons, knobs and levers all over the place. But these things are really user-friendly nowadays. I followed the threading instructions on the quick-start guide, and after a little time and a late-night phone call to my mom ("Do I really have to thread the bottom part of the machine too??" The answer is yes, yes you most definitely do.), I was up and running. Lucky for me, when I was a kid my mom had taught me basic sewing machine skills, and it came back to me pretty quickly. I'm sure that true newbies could find youtube videos with the basics and still get going fairly easily.



When my test sewing swatch was a success, I raced downstairs to show Ben, giddy with success and the possibility of sewing anything I could dream up. I had no real game plan for making Max's costume, but I had purchased an inexpensive hoodie, felt squares and a few spools of thread. (My total cost was probably about $15.) I used cardboard to make a triangle for the dino spikes, then traced it onto the felt with chalk. To make the spikes stand up, I doubled the felt over.
























I cut three rows of (doubled over) spikes out of felt and ended up with this:
























Then I pinned the spikes to the hoodie, fired up the sewing machine, held my breath, and put the pedal to the metal! This was the easy part, a straight stitch all the way down the middle of the spikes.
























Once all my spikes were attached down the middle, I folded them up and sewed them closed. Easy peasy! I originally intended to make a removable tail (so Max could use the hoodie for the rest of the winter) and add some eyes, but my energy level has been low and my nausea level high this first trimester, so I decided that spikes alone would suffice!

We went trick-or-treating with Max's buddies yesterday at our a local botanical garden, Cheekwood. It was cold and Max wasn't really digging the chaos, but he still wore his dino with pride!



Two beginner-sewing lessons I learned? (1) Buy good sewing scissors!! I struggled through that felt with my kitchen scissors and would have gotten much more precise cuts with real sewing scissors.  (2) Check what kind of thread you're getting. I wanted to do a decorative navy stitch on Max's spikes, but accidentally bought upholstery thread, which was thick and very difficult to work with - so much so that I ditched that plan!

Oct 29, 2012

I've Got Some Explaining to Do

You may have noticed I've been a little ... absent ... from the blog lately. But I have a great excuse, I promise. I employed Max's help in explaining my blogging hiatus. Just scroll down to see what he has to show you!





























































Yup, Ben and I are excited to share that we're expecting another little one in early May of 2013!

Oct 24, 2012

Cookie of the Month: Chocolate Compost Cookie

Pardon my lack of blogging lately! I know I owe at least one, maybe two cookies of the month ... to make up for the delay, this month I chose the most decadent, outrageous cookie I could find. You'll find no health benefits here, but the sheer yummy-ness (yes, I am coining that as an adjective) makes it worth the calories!



This "Compost Cookie" recipe came from my favorite home magazine, Canadian House and Home. Although the name of the cookies almost turned me off, don't be fooled - once I read the description, I knew I had to try them. They contain everything you've ever craved: chocolate, coffee, butterscotch, white chocolate, pretzels (even Fritos, if you want), and miraculously it all tastes phenomenal together. I had everything on hand (what does that say about me?) except the Fritos, so those were skipped - but I will absolutely make them again using Fritos. They will perform like a rock star in this cookie, I promise.



A note on the coffee - I used one scoop of regular and one of decaf, but next time will use all decaf. It gives just as good of a coffee flavor without the extra caffeine, since god knows there's already enough sugar and chocolate in this recipe to keep you wired for a while!

Case in point .... given the caffeine content, these were meant to be grown-up cookies ... but while they were cooling on the kitchen counter, Max sneakily opened the pantry, got out our step stool, unfolded it and climbed up to the counter where he then proceeded to take one bite out of almost every cookie that was cooling! Ben and I had no idea he knew how to open up the stool - we speculated that he'd been saving that trick for a special occasion such as this one, ha! We were kind of proud of his prowess, but paid the price as he ran around the house like a wild, wired monkey as we tried to get him ready for bed!

Usually when I make fresh cookies, I easily down 4 or 5 before they've even cooled all the way (so Max comes by his cookie thievery honestly!). Not so with these. These are rich, buttery, salty-sweet, one-and-you're-done type morsels. (Consider yourself warned!) Best enjoyed with a cup of milk - or dare I say a scoop of vanilla ice cream? - to wash it all down. And perhaps these are even better after they're cooled, because it gives the pretzels a chance to crisp back up, lending a nice crunch to every bite.

Onward to the recipe!

Ingredients:

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
2 heaping teaspoons ground coffee
1/4 tsp salt

2/3 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup butterscotch chips
1/3 cup white chocolate chips
1 cup mini pretzels
1 cup plain Fritos

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

1) Mix together dry ingredients in a medium bowl (I don't have a sifter, so just stirred everything gently with a fork). Max was, as always, my dedicated helper!


2) Beat together butter and sugars until smooth, then blend in egg and vanilla extract. The recipe recommends a stand mixer, but since I don't have one, my basic electric beater worked just fine.

3) Stir in chocolate, butterscotch and white chocolate chips, then add pretzels and Fritos. I did a quick pulse with the beater to crush up my pretzels a bit.

4) Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper if you have it; I didn't, so I greased it with a little canola oil and had absolutely no problem with my cookies sticking.

5) Drop about 2 tbspns of batter per cookie, 2 inches apart, and flatten slightly. Cook at 350 for 10 minutes, or until cookies are puffy and soft in the middle. I got about 16 cookies out of this recipe.

Enjoy!!


Oct 10, 2012

Another Tab for your Reading Convenience

Hi fabulous readers - at least I think there's more than one of you out there (hi Mom!) ;) Just wanted to let you know that I've added a new section to the blog for my DIY projects. I now have four bona fide DIYs on the blog, and decided that was sufficient to give them their very own category. So if you see something you want to try but don't get around to it for, oh, six or eight ... or 18 ... months (which is how it usually goes for me), you can easily track it down again using this handy little tab.
























Cheers, and thanks for reading!

Oct 9, 2012

Showing the Love with Subway Art

You may have seen this project making its way across pinterest and the blogosphere: cheapo engineering prints from Staples + hardware store insulation foam = affordable, one-of-a-kind art.

I read through several tutorials and their comments (thanks Katie Bower, over at Bower Power!), and  gleaned the best advice for making this little project come together smoothly. This is a great project for oversized photo prints, but I wanted to go a different direction and make a piece of subway art for Ben, in honor of our 6th anniversary that we just celebrated. (hooray!)

First I designed my artwork using Adobe's InDesign software (but any program would do for this straightforward layout). I included everywhere Ben and I have lived together, as well as some of our favorite vacation destinations over the years. And I had to work in this line from a song we love by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes: "Home is wherever I'm with you." Aww. After moving around so much and having so much confusion about where we belong, this song is the perfect reminder for me and Ben that home is more about people than a place :)

So I ordered my print, which was 16x24 inches, online via Staples and picked it up the next day after paying a whopping $1.63! (Just be sure to order an engineering print.) Home Depot was right next door, so in the same trip I snagged my insulation board for around $12 for a massive piece. (I went with 1/2" thickness.) I had to get my board cut down a few times to make it fit in the car, but luckily Home Depot's staff is super helpful and sliced it down for me no problem.

Engineering prints are cheap because they're obviously not photo quality. Mine had a few subtle imperfections, but I actually liked that, since subway art is not supposed to be too perfect :) Finally, I picked up black masking tape and a jumbo glue stick at Joann and headed home.

It was awesome to have so much extra foam board, since I needed to do a few practice rounds of cutting it in a straight, smooth line. (And there's still plenty for another project or two.) All I did was lay out my print, line up a yard stick along the edges, then slide it out and slice along the yard stick with a wide utility knife. I only cut about half way through the foam, then folded it in half to snap off the rest.
























Cutting my board was the hardest part of the project - I did some adjusting and sanding to get the edges straight and smooth, then wrapped black masking tape around the sides. You can also use craft paint, but the tape did a nice job of making things look smooth and clean, and was mess free!

























I laid out the print exactly where I wanted it and held it in place with this odd assortment of paperweights! Then I rolled down the top half, applied gluestick directly to the foam board, pressed down the top half of the print, and repeated for the bottom portion. I very lightly smoothed over the whole thing with the yard stick, but the paper is so thin that I didn't do more than one swipe.



There were a few little bubbles that disappeared quickly as the glue dried, but to be safe I laid it flat overnight with some heavy books holding everything in place. Next morning, I attached twine to the back with masking tape (I love this super high-tech hanging method). It's kind of slippery, so I'll be switching it out with wire as soon as I can track some down.

























And voila! The actual portion of time spent putting this together was minimal - maybe an hour once I'd gathered all my supplies? And the cost was under $20, score! I did also buy some mod podge spray sealant to protect the whole thing, but I'm still on the fence about using it. I'm a little worried it could make the ink bleed or the paper bubble, but I'll let you know if I give it a try!

I think Ben was pretty smitten with his anniversary gift, which is what it was all about. I love that after six years we can still find special little ways to surprise each other. I hung it up in a corner of our bedroom.


















































Oct 5, 2012

What a {Fri}day for a Daydream: Gratitude

"Oh I'm a lucky man, to count on both hands the ones I love"

I heard this beautiful Pearl Jam song on my way to the park with Max this morning, and I had one of those moments. Those moments you live for, really, when you're driving down the street on a beautiful, sunny fall day and are struck by how rich and wonderful life is. Yup, I may have even gotten a little choked up and reached back several times to squeeze Max's leg and tell him that I loved him.

the reasons my life is so full :)

The thing that really struck me about listening to this song is the line I quoted above. A few years ago, before this whole parenthood thing, I would have thought about how many people love me, and not the other way around. Being Max's mom has made my heart expand in ways I never thought possible. For years I said I wasn't ready for kids because I was too selfish. I couldn't fathom the kind of love a parent has for their child, but now I realize that my ability to love little Max has only made me love and appreciate everyone else in my life even more. And to find true richness and fulfillment in life, I believe now, is to be able to really love others with an open heart, without worrying so much about whether it's an even trade or not.

So I guess today's daydream is a philosophical, emotional one, but hey - when I started this Friday Daydream series, I warned you that my brain would take us to all sorts of strange places!

I love the fall - it's always my most revelatory time of year. Something about that crisp air, the leaves falling, the sense of relief that the oppressive summer heat is relenting. So on that note, I hope all of you lovely readers have your own "life is beautiful" moments this month and enjoy the amazing season.