Thursday, January 23, 2014

Bicycles for the Boys

9:12 PM 1 Comments
When we decided to move Finn and Emmett into the same room this past fall, it seemed like a natural time to redecorate. Out went the soft sculpture rainbow and butterflies from the nursery, in with something new. But what?

Not sure how we came up with bicycles, but the boys loved the idea and so did Sean and I. It wasn't a common theme, which we loved, and it was clear from the get-go that we'd have to create and gather a lot of the details ourselves.

I found fabric for curtains (and perhaps patchwork duvet covers in the future) here and worked that in wherever I could; curtain pullbacks, valances, a bulletin board. We found the bicycle print at Uncommon Goods and my mom got us the bicycle mobile from Signals. I found picture frames made of bicycle chains at Ten Thousand Villages here in Champaign, which we used to frame recent (or, in the case of E, recent-ish) pictures of the boys on their bikes:

 Ready for the irony? About a month after we finished custom creating our very original theme, the Pottery Barn Kids catalog shows up, including a featured new line of - yeah - bicycles. The fabric is almost identical to what I used for window dressing and the kids' bulletin board.

From Pottery Barn Kids

Oh well. What we lack in uniquity we hopefully made up for in effort. Here are a few pics of the finished room. Enjoy!

Saturday, January 11, 2014

The Force Is Strong in These Parts

2:24 PM 0 Comments
It's been just about a year since we invented Dapper Dinner here at our house. We've had many more since the inaugural event, generally born out of last minute spontaneity, and it has proven a valuable tool for making an otherwise unimportant night feel really special. We needed one of those last night...after starting the week in the middle of a polar vortex, we ended it with rain, rain, rain...the snow has turned to slush, the landscape is muddy and gray, and we all needed a pick me up. I suggested Dapper Dinner; Sean countered with "How about Jedi Dinner?"

We're a bit Star Wars mad around here right now. Action figures, Lego sets, movie viewings, books, dress-up. It's been lingering for a while now - the boys dressed as Luke and Yoda for Halloween, so I'm certain the fascination is at least three months old. Like most phases, I am confident it will pass, but in the meantime I'm having fun learning along with the boys.

So we eat Dagobasta (spiral pasta with pesto) and the boys drank Yoda Soda (sparkly water with Rosa's Lime Juice and a bit of sugar). We ate in front of the TV -- which we don't EVER do -- and, naturally we wore costumes. Emmett went with Anakin, Finn chose Darth Vader, Sean pulled out the R2D2 costume he made for Halloween, and I quickly twisted my hair into a Leia do (the boys wanted me to be Padme but I had neither the energy nor the wardrobe for that):

 And that's how we make our own merry. Happy winter, all.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Homemade Pretzels / The Never-ending Winter Break

4:05 PM 0 Comments
Checking in from the frigid midwest, where the outside air temperature feels like -48 and a cup of boiling water vaporizes in mid-air when thrown out from the back porch. We were supposed to go back to school today - it's the end of winter break - but school was cancelled, and I just got the call that it is cancelled again for tomorrow. And while many of you out there are going cabin-fever-crazy, I am just plain giddy with happiness. I love being home with my boys.

Way back in my stay at home mom days, Finn and I got hooked on an obscure kids program called Hi-5. In a moment of apparent nostalgia, Finn requested it this morning, and I was all too happy to pull out the old DVDs. At some point during some episode there was a reference to soft pretzels, and I couldn't get it out of my head. And that's how Finn and I ended up making soft pretzels this chilly day. And, oh my goodness, if someone had told me years ago how easy it was to make AMAZING soft pretzels at home, I would have jumped on that bandwagon long ago.

So here you go. Whether you are stuck inside or just can't get the idea of a soft pretzel out of your head now, I hope you enjoy these as much as we did.

Homemade Pretzels
Adapted from Sally's Baking Addiction

Makes 10-12 large pretzels


1 1/2 cups lukewarm water
1 packet active yeast (2 1/5 tsp.)
1 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. sugar
3-5 cups flour (I used half white, half whole wheat)
2/3 cup baking soda
1 large egg, beaten
coarse sea salt for sprinkling

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line baking sheet with parchment paper or silicone baking mat. Set aside.
  2. In a large soup pot, bring 9 cups of water and 2/3 cup of baking soda to a boil.
  3. Dissolve yeast in warm water in bowl of stand mixer. Stir with a spoon until fairly mixed. Add salt and sugar. Stir until fairly combined. 
  4. Attach dough hook and turn mixer on low. Slowly add 3 cups of flour, 1 cup at a time. Mix on low until dough is thick. Add additional dough (up to one cup) until dough is no longer sticky.
  5. Turn up mixer and knead with dough hook for 3-5 minutes, until it forms a soft, supple ball.
  6. Turn the dough onto the counter. With a sharp knife, cut the dough into chunks, about 1/3 cup each (bigger than a golf ball, smaller than a tennis ball).
  7. Roll each chunk into a rope with an even diameter. Once you have a long rope, take the ends and twist them together, then bring them to the middle. Press firmly.
  8. Using a slotted spoon, dunk each pretzel, one by one, into the boiling water for 30 seconds. Transfer to a plate. Once cool enough to handle, dip into beaten egg (both sides). Place on baking sheet and sprinkle with salt. Repeat for each pretzel.
  9. Bake for 10 minutes at 425 degrees. Turn oven to broil and bake for 5 more minutes to brown the tops. Watch closely to avoid burning.
  10. Enjoy!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Hello Blog

4:32 PM 1 Comments
"Wherein Hope writes about cooking, crafting, photographing, parenting, organizing, and other day-to-day gerunds." Sigh. Still doing all those things, with varying levels of commitment and success...just not writing about them, much as I want to. So in an effort to get back to this here blog, here I am. New year. 2014!

  • Cooking: Plenty of new recipes attempted in the last few months. Some great, some passable. Some will end up here, most won't. I've really missed writing about our eating.
  • Crafting: Many gifts as of late. Knitting, mostly, with a few sewing projects thrown in for good measure. Some fabulous (super easy!) teacher gifts. Some fun with cork.
  • Photographing: Whenever I can. Many snowy days as of late. Favorites to come.
  • Parenting: My boys are growing faster than I can handle. Old challenges put to rest, new challenges on the rise. Much, much joy.
  • Organizing: Constantly rethinking our little house. Moved the boys into a room together earlier this fall. Tremendous thematic decorating fun.
  • And much more! 
So...if you are still with me, or just reading for the first time...thanks. I'll be here when I can.