Sunday, October 30, 2011

Happy Halloween!

Halloween is a three-day affair for our family this year. It began Saturday evening, when a wonderful group of friends from around the neighborhood gathered on our front lawn then paraded to a nearby neighbor's home for a bonfire, s'mores, and hot chocolate. It continued Sunday evening, when we put the costumes on again and attended a "Trunk or Treat" event. Finally, on Monday evening, we'll get to the original business of ringing doorbells and collecting goodies.

As you may recall from my previous post on the topic, we had a Wizard of Oz theme going this year. It started innocently enough, with the decision to reuse the scarecrow costume I made for Finn a few years ago. I then made a Dorothy pinafore and picked up some red ballet flats at the local Goodwill for iona. And I got totally lucky on the lion costume, as I had a serendipitous conversation with a mom I know that resulted in her lending us a size 4 cute-as-can-be lion costume for Finn. Here they are in all of their Emerald City glory:





At the last minute, Sean and I decided to join in the themed fun and dressed as Auntie Em and Uncle Henry:



Though, as our good friend pointed out, all we needed was a pitchfork and a black suit jacket to pass as the couple from American Gothic:



I was so pleased with how the costumes turned out. Emmett grew increasingly wary of the scarecrow's headpiece as the night grew late, but he tolerated it nonetheless, and his amateur walker stumbles gave him the appearance of being in perfect character. Finn was absolutely tickled to be the lion, from the whiskers to the big "Courage" medal he wore around his neck. And iona, who is celebrating American Halloween (she is from France) for the first time, was seemingly delighted both with the costume and the sweet treats. Collectively, they looked great and had heaps of fun (even if the boys don't look particularly happy in this picture):



I should add that The Wizard of Oz has some history in our family. Way back when I was in junior high, my suburban school district put on a production of The Wizard of Oz, and I played the part of Dorothy:



At dinner on Saturday evening, we started talking about the story, and iona and Finn both informed me that while they have seen the VHS recording of that production countless times at Grandma and Grandpa's house, neither of them have ever seen the real movie! So we'll be hitting the movie section at the library sometime this week to check out the MGM version. Finn will probably be sorely disappointed that I am not in it.

I hope everyone had a safe and memorable Halloween weekend. I will never stop loving the imagination emphasis of this kid-centered holiday, and I love being able to be a part of that magic for my own kiddos.

By the way, I am officially project free, having finished my two knitting projects and finished sewing Halloween costumes. I have a stack of knitting books that I checked out from the library last week and a headful of ideas for sewing projects. We'll see where the week takes me.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

An Ode to Autumn

An ode to autumn, my favorite season of the year. I get giddy when it is time to wear socks again. All summer long I set my sights on crunchy leaves, apple cider, and cool nights. And every October I get a little shutter crazy. So here are a handful of recent favorite images:







 

Friday, October 28, 2011

Dinner Tonight: Rustic Caramelized Onion Tart

Remember a few weeks back when I said that we don't eat much meat in our house? We don't. But we really like bacon. A Lot. I came across this recipe in a cookbook I recently picked up at my grocery store. It's published by Philadelphia Brand Cream Cheese, and they were running a promotion that if you purchased three Philadelphia products, you got the cookbook for free. I happened to be shopping for my younger son's birthday party, and, between dips and frosting, birthday parties around here require a lot of cream cheese. So I grabbed the cookbook ("a $19.99 value!") before checking out. The cookbook is called Spread a Little Joy, and it is available for purchase from Amazon. It's actually a great book, with a lot of yummy recipes and nicely reproduced full color photography. I've tried a few things over the last few months, and they've all been good.

But back to bacon. I was looking for something to go with soup. We eat a lot of soup, both homemade and canned, so I'm often looking for interesting accompaniments - breads, sandwiches, rolls, breadsticks, paninis, etc. This recipe was actually listed in the appetizers section, but it was the perfect dish to serve on a drippy fall day with big steaming bowls of tomato soup. Besides being super delicious, it was easy to make and visually impressive. The recipe claims twelve appetizer size portions; we sliced it into eight wedges and ate every crumb.

Rustic Caramelized Onion Tart
Adapted from Spread a Little Joy

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1 large onion, thinly sliced
8 slices bacon, chopped
1 ready-to-use refrigerator pie crust (1/2 of 15 oz. package)
1 8 oz. package cream cheese (I used 1/3 less fat with no obvious problems), softened
1/4 cup sour cream (again, used the lowfat version)
1/2 cup shredded Swiss cheese (I used a fancy block of Gruyere de Comte; I'm sure Swiss would be fine)

1) Cook onions and bacon in skillet on medium-high heat 10 to 12 minutes or until onions are tender, stirring frequently.

2) Heat oven to 400 degrees. Unroll pie crust on baking sheet. Mix cream cheese and sour cream; spread onto crust. Spoon onion mixture onto center of crust, leaving two-inch border. Sprinkle with cheese. Fold border over filling, leaving opening in center and pleating crust as necessary to fit.

3) Bake 12 to 15 minutes or until crust is lightly browned. Cool slightly.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Goodbye Garden

For the last four summers, we have grown vegetables in raised garden beds out behind the garage. It's a ridiculously sunny spot and gardening thus far has been fairly fool-proof; we add some mushroom compost in the spring, plant some plants, and make sure they get enough water through the hot summer months. In the fall, we pick what's left and compost the rest before the first hard freeze.

The thing is, I'm a lousy gardener. In my head, I'm supposed to be great at it; it goes along with the other things I love to do. But I'm just not. Part of it is that I don't have a lot of background knowledge about gardening, but the bigger factor is simply that I don't give the gardens the time and attention they need. I am not a fan of the hot, humid summer days, and I would much rather be cooking in my kitchen than gardening in my yard.

This year, knowing we'd be traveling a lot of the summer, we kept it simple: three tomato plants and three basil plants. I wasn't planning on planting anything in the second bed, but at the last minute Finn and I planted some pumpkin seeds and a handful of snap peas. In May, when the leaves are shiny and new and the plants just a glimmer of what they will someday be, the garden is abundant with hope, and I am giddy with anticipation. And most years, with very little effort on my part, we get a tremendous harvest.

Tomatoes and basil, June 1st

Watering his pumpkin


This year didn't go so well. There are summers like that, I suppose. This one was particularly dry around here - I think it rained twice the entire month of August. But the vegetables just didn't take off like they usually do. One tomato plant didn't produce anything at all, and the other two produced far less than I was expecting. The pumpkin plant got some kind of bug infestation in mid-August, and the peas never even sprouted. Fortunately, the basil plants did all right.

Tuesday's weather was sunny and bright, with temps hovering in the mid-seventies. I took advantage of the mild weather to harvest what I could from the vegetable beds and to say goodbye to the gardens. Even though it wasn't the most rewarding year, I did learn a few things...and I know that by late April I'll be making plans to start anew. That's the great thing about seasons.

And with this final harvest comes the opportunity to make as much pesto as I can possibly squeeze out of those basil leaves. It's never as much as you think it will be, but boy, does homemade pesto taste yummy in the middle of the winter. Finn and I spent the afternoon picking and cleaning the leaves, peeling garlic, and mixing up a giant batch of pesto to freeze.

Pesto Pro
"C'est moi, le chef"
Mmmmmmm!
iona gets a taste

Soon those 4 x 4 square boxes will be covered in snow, my gardening gloves will be packed away, and sun-ripened tomatoes will be a distant memory. But there will be pesto. There will always be pesto.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Three Easy Recipes

I love to cook, and I love to cook new things, but I am not an experimenter; I am completely recipe dependent. While I occasionally adapt or substitute ingredients, I very rarely invent something from scratch. In instances when I have a specific thing in mind that I don't know how to make, I'll scour the Internet and my cookbook collection for a recipe rather than make it up, even if it is really simple.

That said, here are three recipes that are SO ridiculously easy that it is almost embarrassing to call them recipes. I am not sure where or when I found them, but at some point I jotted them down in my kitchen journal and have made them many times since. Assuming that some of you, like me, appreciate having quick and easy recipes on hand, I thought I would share them with you today.

Oven Roasted Carrots

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Buy a bag of baby carrots. Throw them in a 9x13 glass dish.  Sprinkle with a couple tablespoons of olive oil, some sea salt, and some freshly ground pepper and stir to combine.  Roast at 475 degrees until tender and slightly browned (about 30 minutes).

These are perfect to make when bags of baby carrots go on sale. I roasted two bags yesterday morning and between afternoon snack yesterday and lunch today, they are all gone. They are seriously addictive!

Brown Sugar Glazed Salmon

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Combine 1/4 cup brown sugar and 2 tablespoons of Dijon mustard. Brush over four salmon filletsSprinkle with salt and pepper. Broil 10-15 minutes.

How easy is that?

Quick Hummus

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1 16 oz. can chickpeas
1/4 cup liquid from the can
3-5 tbsp lemon juice
1 1/2 tbsp tahini
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp olive oil

Blend and serve! The key ingredient here is the liquid from the can. I've tried lots of hummus recipes and could never get the texture quite right. This is super yummy, super economical, and super easy to throw together. Tahini is the only unusually ingredient; however, once you buy a jar to make this once, you'll have it on hand whenever you want to make more.

Happy cooking, all!

Monday, October 24, 2011

On the Needles: Felted Yoga Mat....DONE!

A lapful of knitting

It was a blissful October afternoon. A sprinkling of clouds, abundant sunshine, and a breeze that subtly shifted from a little cool to a little warm throughout the day. And for two incredible hours, Emmett napped, Finn tossed a football around the backyard (supported by my whoops and hollers), and I sat on the back porch watching Finn and working on the yoga mat bag. None too soon, as we were scheduled to stop by Patty's house to say goodbye that evening, and I was determined to have the mat done to give to her. The last minute magic worked, as my children were happy, my fingers nimble, and, by dinner time, the bag was complete.

As mentioned in my previous post on the topic, this pattern comes from Joelle Hoverson's book Last Minute Knitted Gifts.  The finished length of the project was 48".  I had no idea how long it would take to get to 48", even using size 10 1/2 needles, and I've been slowly working on this project all summer and into the fall. The pattern is essentially a great big bag with a big wide strap and, when finished, it looks like it would hold a yoga mat for an ogre.

Finn and 48" of unfelted yoga mat bag

I loved this project because I didn't have to pay a whole lot of attention to what I was doing; after deciding what colors I was going to use, I could change the yarn whenever I felt (ha!) like it. I wanted playful, sunny colors and was able to find exactly what I needed in my yarn stash.

Pre-felting
Post-felting


I felted the bag in my front-loading washing machine; it took about twenty-five minutes total and I checked it every five minutes. Once complete, it was the perfect size for a yoga mat.




It makes me so happy to think of this mat accompanying Patty on her journey west. She loved it, even if it was still a little damp...hopefully it'll dry out by the time she gets there!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Spice Girl

     "Are the spice bottles in your kitchen out of control? Do you end up      searching in every cabinet and going through bottle after bottle just to      find the one you want?" - from The Swivel Store website

It has long been on my agenda to reorganize my spices. I have not one, not two, not even three, but four different containers for bottles of spices, which makes it really tough to find the bottle I need when I need it. It also means that I often end up buying spices because I can't find the one I want only to discover it later. Which is why, for example, I have three bottles of nutmeg. Spices are not cheap, nor do they stay fresh forever, so it was time to get organized. Additionally, I wanted to take some time to reevaluate which spices I use most often. I frequently find myself reaching for paprika, but it doesn't have a space on my spice carousel. It was time to clean and relabel those easiest to reach bottles with my most frequently used spices.

I decided to move forward with the project when I saw the Swivel Store prominently displayed at the local Walgreens. It's in the line of "As Seen on TV" products (the last of which I purchased was The Magic Bullet a.k.a "The Ultimate Party Machine!") which I typically find a bit off-putting. I mean, with all that hype, is the product really worth it? I decided to give it a go and spent the $20 for my very own Swivel Store.

 
With my fancy new chunk of plastic in hand, I then proceeded to empty my cupboards of every spice I could find and bring them to the dining room for sorting and organizing.


I won't bore you with all the details of the process.  Let's just say that when I got started, I had 73 bottles of spices in 4 different places. Now I have a freshly sanitized and newly relabeled countertop spice carousel that holds my 16 most frequently used spices, a fancy Swivel Store that holds my 20 second tier spices, and a small basket of refills and very rarely used spice blends that fits neatly on a top shelf.



Of note, I chose to work on this while Finn was at preschool.  Emmett hung out with me and shook the various bottles and jars. His favorite: boring, white Cream of Tartar. Go figure.



As for the Swivel Store, I don't think it is the greatest organizational tool ever to hit the market. It's cheaply made and does not include any type of adhesive to attach it to your cabinet (I used some 3M strips that I had laying around to do so), so it shifts a bit when you pull out the sides.  It does, however, hold a lot of spices in a very small amount of space. More importantly, it was there when I needed a good reminder to move forward on this project. And now...it's done! Time to get back to cooking. I'm feeling like something spicy tonight...

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Dinner Tonight: Oven Roasted Tomatoes

I love Everyday Food Magazine. Love it. I love the handy little digest size.  I love that everything I make from this magazine looks exactly like the pictures. I love that I actually make things from this magazine the day that it comes. It is the only cooking magazine I get that I actually keep in its entirety and use and reuse, and some of my all-time favorite recipes come from here. I cannot recommend it enough to people who enjoy simple, flavorful recipes, lots of variety, and a user-friendly approach to cooking. So if you haven't tried it out, do.

One of my recent favorite go-to recipes - Oven Roasted Tomatoes - comes from their "Secret Weapon" feature. The idea is that you can make one base recipe (in this case, oven roasted tomatoes) then adapt it slightly to make several simple variations. Since this was published in November 2010, I think I have made it a dozen times for my own family and just as many times for others. It's a great recipe for those nights when you find yourself at the grocery store with nary a plan for dinner as it is easy to remember and quick to assemble. It does require some roasting time, but that is completely hands-off. If you are feeling ambitious (and have a pasta machine), it's great pureed with a little cream and tossed with homemade noodles.

Oven Roasted Tomatoes
adapted from Everyday Food Magazine, Issue 77 and here 

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Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Place 2 cans (28 oz. each) whole peeled tomatoes in a large roasting pan.  Use your hands to roughly tear the tomatoes up. Add 3 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled, and drizzle 3 tablespoons of olive oil over the top.  Roast until mixture thickens, 70 to 80 minutes, rotating and stirring halfway through. Makes 4 cups.






 Things to do with oven roasted tomatoes:
  • spread on crusty bread
  • spoon over roasted eggplant or zucchini halves
  • add to spaghetti and top with grated cheese
  • puree with cream or milk for a quick pasta sauce (my favorite!)
  • toss with steamed vegetables as a side
  • spoon over cooked chicken breasts and top with mozzerella

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

On the Needles: The Finish Line

My husband Sean, who is an excellent runner, often jokes that he has a difficult time making himself go running unless he is signed up for a race. I'm kind of the same way with knitting projects; I love to plan them, I love to work on them, but I am terrible at finishing them unless I have a very specific deadline.


Case in point: I recently knit up this little acorn cap and matching swaddle for a gift for my cousin Suzanne's baby. I found the pattern and bought the yarn well in advance, but I was still up until 2 a.m. the night before the baby shower. It turned out pretty sweet, though; I'm particularly fond of the acorn hat and will probably stitch it up for a few more babies I know.


I have two projects on the needles right now. My niece Caroline is dressing as Hermione Granger for Halloween, and I long ago promised her a Gryffindor maroon and gold scarf. Suddenly, Halloween is just around the corner, so I've got to finish it and send it off.  Not a particularly stimulating project, but it is always fun to make a gift that will be adored, and Caroline is the biggest Gryffindork I know.

I'm also hard at work on a retirement/going away present for our close friend/superstar babysitter Patty. It's a felted yoga bag that I found in Joelle Hoverson's Last Minute Knitted Gifts (there are a few pics on the Ravelry description). Let's just say that Joelle and I have a really different idea of a last minute gift - I've been working on this all summer! I love this project because it allows me to use up bits and pieces of wool that I have laying around. Felting projects always take a while, since you have to knit them so much bigger than the finished size; this particular piece needs to be 45" long before beginning the felting process. I'll post some pics when it's off the needles and ready to felt; she's moving in the next few weeks, so I know it will actually get done.

Even though it takes me longer than the average knitter (or so it seems), I love the process. I'm pretty sure that I have had something on my knitting needles since I started knitting fifteen years ago, and I hope I always do.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Soup and Bread Sunday

When it comes to cooking, I am constantly on some kick or another. I rely heavily on the cookbook section of my library to support my changing moods and will post frequently here about the many cookbooks I check out. My kicks run the gamut from slow cooker recipes to low fat recipes to five ingredient recipes to meatless recipes to cheap recipes to all of the above (not easy to find, I might add).  Sean and I recently watched the film Forks Over Knives and it led to a lot of discussion about the foods we eat. We were both vegetarian for many years before moving to Mongolia for Peace Corps (that's where we met), where vegetarianism isn't really an option. And while we do eat meat now, we don't eat much. The film really impacted both of us, mostly because we both have family members dealing with the health issues addressed in the film.  Anyway, in the weeks following, I have had some different approaches to cooking, two of which worked their way into tonight's dinner.

Quinoa.  The stuff is amazing! A complete protein source and full of essential amino acids, it has the added benefit of also being really pretty; when you cook it up, the grains separate into delicate little curlicues.  The other featured component of tonight's dinner was part of my effort to bake more bread from scratch; I made two loaves of multigrain bread based on the recipe on the back of a bag of wheat bran that I found in the cupboard.  The bread was very good, though I'd probably use part whole wheat flour the next time I make it. All in all, it was a delicious dinner and received rave reviews from all around (except from Emmett, who dumped not one but two bowls onto the floor...)

 



South American Quinoa and Corn Soup
(adapted from Vegetarian Soup Cuisine)

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1 tbsp canola oil
1 medium yellow onion, diced
1 red pepper, seeded and diced
2 celery stalks, sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes in juice
1 1/2 tbsp dried parsley
2 tsp paprika
6 cups vegetable broth (I use Better than Bouillon) or water
1/2 cup quinoa, rinsed
2 cups frozen corn kernels
1 15 oz can red kidney beans, drained

In a large saucepan heat the oil.  Add the onion, bell pepper, celery, garlic, and jalapeno and saute for about 5 minutes.  Add the tomatoes and seasonings and saute for 3 to 4 minutes more, until the mixture forms a thick pulp.

Add the broth, quinoa, and corn and cook for 25 minutes over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally.  Stir in the beans and cook for about 5 minutes more. Let the soup stand for 10 minutes before serving.

Multigrain Bread
(adapted from the label of Bob's Red Mill Wheat Bran)

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1 cup water
1 cup plain yogurt
1/4 cup canola oil
1/2 cup oatmeal, uncooked
1/3 cup wheat germ
1/3 cup wheat bran
5 to 5 1/2 cups unbleached white flour (see note above)
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 packages fast-rising yeast
2 tsp salt
1 egg

Heat water, yogurt, and vegetable oil to boiling.  Transfer to large bowl. Stir in oatmeal, wheat germ, and wheat bran.  Set aside for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine 1 cup flour, sugar, yeast, and salt.  Stir in cooled bran mixture, 1 egg, and enough remaining flour to make soft dough. Knead on lightly floured surface until smooth and elastic, about 6 to 8 minutes.  Cover and let rest 10 minutes.

On a lightly floured surface, divide dough in half.  Roll each half into a rectangle, 7" by 12".  Roll up tightly from short end.  Pinch seams and ends to seal.  Place seam side down in two greased loaf pans.  Cover and let rise in a warm, draft-free place until doubled, about 30-45 minutes.

With sharp knife, make three short diagonal slashes, 1/4" deep, on each loaf.  Bake at 375 for 25-30 minutes or until done. Remove from pans; cool on wire racks.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Introducing...the boys

I am the very lucky mama of two boys...a gregarious, always busy four-year-old named Finn and a snuggly, curious nineteen-month-old named Emmett. I'm getting a huge kick out of watching them play together; it seems they are more interactive every day and that they sincerely care about each other. My greatest wish is that they will be good friends throughout their lives.





This blog is not, however, specifically about my boys (though like most moms who blog I could find plenty to say). My emphasis here is on hobbies and balance and perspective and all that good stuff. So a few thoughts on how parenting fits with keeping up on my personal interests:
  • Babywearing
I could write for days about how much better my mothering has been because of the number of babywearing pieces I use. I own three different slings, two wraps, a mei tai, and an Ergo carrier, and I have used them all with great frequency for both boys, from birth on up. As far as hobbies go, I have the most luck with babywearing options that allow me to wear the child on my back - either a wrap worn on the back (like this) or the Ergo.  As of late, it's more often the Ergo, mostly because of Emmett's size. I will leave it to other websites to discuss the social and emotional benefits of babywearing; for purposes of this blog, I'll just say that babywearing allows me to do both things that I love (cooking, taking photographs) and things that need to get done (grocery shopping, laundry).
  • Involve your kids
Finn helps me cook.  A lot. And it is not always helpful.  Sometimes it makes things take longer and even messes things up. But the long term benefits are obvious to me, from taking an interest in cooking (he consistently tells people he wants to be a baker when he grows up) to learning about following directions to wolfing up dishes he helped prepare. He also helps me with my sewing machine; his official job is to drop the presser foot before I begin sewing and to pick up the presser foot when I am finished. It's a supremely insignificant task, but it makes him feel like a part of what I am doing.
  •  Use the time you have
It sounds silly, but I am most successful in having time to do my hobbies when I use the time I have to do my hobbies. I'll say up front that our house is not one of those houses where both kids nap synchronously for three hours every day and I duck into my studio for some me time. For one, there is no studio; for another, I haven't seen a three hour silent stretch in a long time. But that doesn't mean that I don't get a lot done.

When I was working as a school librarian, my schedule was extremely choppy:  see a class, have a fifteen minute break, do a few checkouts, have a twenty minute break, see two more classes, etc.  I was most successful at work when I took advantage of those breaks, as little as they were, and attempted to accomplish something during that time. It is much the same in my house. The time I have may come in strange segments but minutes are minutes and you have to use what you've got. I might prep dinner then play a few rounds of Candyland then knit a few rows while the boys play together then read a few books then work a bit more on dinner then take the boys for a walk. Once the kids are in bed, I have longer stretches to do my things, and I take full advantage of those times.

One final note: I claim no expertise. My best advice is to try a lot of things and see what works for you and your family. And when that stops working (as it will, as your kids grow and their needs change), try something else. That's basically my parenting philosophy in a nutshell, to be perfectly fair. Just don't forget to have fun; otherwise, what's the point?

Saturday, October 15, 2011

My Friend Janome

When I was seventeen years old, I decided that I wanted to learn to sew. My mom doesn't sew (though she can work wonders with a glue gun and stitch witchery) and we didn't have a sewing machine in the house. So I borrowed a machine and signed up for an introductory class at the now-defunct Minnesota Fabrics. I ended up making a very ugly but well constructed burgundy prom dress that I didn't wear to prom. I was hooked. I got a sewing machine for my eighteenth birthday which I brought to college the next fall. My college sewing consisted of two main areas: 1) making patchwork dresses, backless smock tops, and split cords to clothe me and my hippie friends and 2) working with professional dressmakers and designers as a staff member in the theater department's costume shop, where I got to learn fun things like how to dye spandex, how to use an overlock machine, and how to work without patterns. Between the two, I sewed a lot. College was followed by two years in the Peace Corps, during which I sewed frequently but slowly as I was using my host mother's hand treadle machine. Things slowed down after that: grad school, then a career, then kids.

Three years ago, my in-laws got me a brand spanking new Janome machine. It's amazing. It makes buttonholes and has fifty decorative stitches and it's quiet and classy. I love it. I knew right away that I wouldn't have a lot of time to use it, to which my mother-in-law said, "Well, if you don't have a lot of time to sew, you really need a great machine. She was right. My sewing as of the last four years pretty much consisted of making baby quilts for my newest nieces and nephews and...of course...Halloween.  Which brings me to this post.

When Finn was one year old, I made him a scarecrow costume. I used an official Wizard of Oz pattern and spent way too much time getting it perfectly right. Turned out pretty cute, though.



Now that Emmett is one, I figured I might as well get one more use out of the costume. The inklings of a theme started brewing in my head. Long story short, while the scarecrow costume is ready to go, I'm now making Finn a cowardly lion costume and Iona (my thirteen year old live-in niece) a Dorothy costume.  I found McCall's patterns on sale for 99 cents and picked up the materials yesterday. Late last night, I pulled out my old friend Janome and threw together a Dorothy costume. And you know what? It was really fun. I diverged from the pattern directions pretty quickly, particularly because the pattern called for a pinafore attached to a blouse and I just wanted to make a pinafore. The skirt turned out poofy, the front of the pinafore lays perfectly, and, most importantly, Iona loves it. I'll get to the lion costume some time this week.

Making clothes is not something I can do when I have a few minutes, as I don't have a designated space for my machine and sewing supplies. In some ways, that makes the process so much more rewarding, as I designate time for sewing and focus on the project at hand. Sometimes, you just have to do that. 

Did I mention that my mom is a goddess with a glue gun? Check out my 3rd grade Halloween costume:

A Bit of Hope

My name is Hope, and my life is incredibly, wonderfully full. For the last nineteen months, I have been a full-time stay at home mama to two boys, currently ages four and nineteen months. Before that, I was a full-time elementary school librarian by day and mama to one boy by late afternoon/evening/night/middle of the night. Through it all, I have done my best to keep up with the things I love to do, the things that need love, and everything in between.

In the life of a busy parent, hobbies are one of the first things to go. I think I have subconsciously dealt with this by focusing on the hobbies that best fit into the day-to-day.  I mean, you have to eat, right? I get to cook every day, and I find that it is a fantastic creative outlet in my busy weeks. Knitting projects are portable and easily worked on in chunks. I've just started getting into photography, and my kids are very obliging subjects (most of the time...). I love learning about and reflecting on the trials and tribulations of parenthood. And I have a borderline disturbing passion for organizational projects. While these aren't necessarily the same hobbies I had ten years ago, they are things that energize me, ground me, and help me be better in the life I am living. I'll get back to my guitar and bowling ball eventually, someday I will learn how to throw a pot, and there will be many future opportunities to pull out the old passport. But for now, my days are abundantly full of people and things that I love, and I am always learning. So here goes.