Saturday, November 29, 2008

Yes, You Can! Or at least I can attempt.

So for any of you that read my blog (and I'm not really thinking there are many) you may notice that I decide to do things rather impulsively. Now, whether or not that is directly related to my status of baby baker or not is completely irrelevant, because I probably do the same stuff un-pregnant but I don't realize it because I've been pregnant for the majority of the past 7 years. Some experts might call this "nesting" which I think is a crappy term because don't birds usually have nests before they mate? I mean, if it was me, and I was flying around looking for that special someone to crack an egg with, I'd expect him to have a fully furnished nest and definitely not be still under his mothers wing, know what I mean? But then again I digress.

So, here's a little inspiration for you gal's out there. The story of my sink. I had a really crappy stainless steel sink that was about 4" deep on each side. I could barely soak a cup. Seriously, why do they sell these? It was definitely not a good thing for someone with 6-7 people to wash up after. I LOATHED this sink for the 2 years we've been living here. While on a trip to Lowe's we spotted a fiberglass white sink 90% off. Yes ninety, that's not a typo. Regular price on this sink was $178.99 and we got it for $17.89 minus the 10% military discount and plus 7% sales tax so it was still $17. Fabu for me!!! I have a faucet that's nice and tall not the crappy little hump of a faucet that lost the caps to the hot/cold valves and the sprayer was possessed and only wanted to work when it wanted to.

Last week I went to work. Now mind you, I'm 35 weeks pregnant, and this baby isn't a tiny little lump, he's practically a full grown newborn in my gut. So imagine if you can, a hugely pregnant woman with 3 kids running around dismantling and installing a sink and faucet and you'll get an idea of what went on at my house for 2 days. I actually did really great, I think...

I at least started off buying a book on plumbing. Yes, I know this is a profession and not a hobby but it was have a book that spelled it out for stupid people or wing it. (No bird pun intended). I gathered up all my hubby's plumbing supplies, mainly anything labeled "PVC" or "plumber's" or looked like something that would be used to work a plumb and set out. Taking out the old sink was easy as it wasn't actually stuck to the counter top since we just replaced it a few months ago and knew we didn't want the old sink permanently adhered. I shut off the water and disconnected the pipes, drains, valves etc. Pulled the old sink out and set it on the curb for the scrap metal guys (it was gone before daylight). The new sink weighs less than an 18 month old so it was easy to put in with one person. I got all the new sink hard ware and assembled it with some tiny set backs. The underneath plumbing was a little tricksy.

About Wednesday, I decided that it was time to call in an expert. The sink part is great. I even went and bought a new drain and reinstalled the garbage disposal. Where my "oopses" (yes, plural) were was in the cold water installation, the valve in the handle fell out and ended up in about 4 pieces that I apparently didn't get back together so the cold water and hot water valves don't work the same way and it drips a little from the faucet. And when it came to getting the new plumbing together underneath I just couldn't get it to not leak. So, my neighbor game me the handy man's number and he came out and for $65 fixed all the plumbing underneath which wwas still a whole lot cheaper than buying the sink new anyway. '

Now I have a lovely sink big enough to wash a baby! My parting words to you fair ladies is, if you don't try you never know! I realized when a good time to call in someone to finish the job but now I can say "I did it!" or at least "I attempted it!" which is just as great a feeling.

If I had the foresight to photo the old sink I would have, but you'll just have to make due with the photo of the new sink and the lovely plumbing job my handyman did underneath.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

How to make a French memo Board

I'm nesting so I'm doing all these great and crazy projects while being a whopping 8 + months pregnant. But I am being really productive and I want to share! I was also really upset when the kids bent up the first post cards from Daddy and needed a way to keep the things he sends to them while he's deployed nice for later.

This time I've made a couple of French Memo Boards.
1. because I'm cheap and didn't want to ante up the $15-30 a piece
2. because I had the materials on hand already
3. because my life isn't full enough, I like to pop in projects

Before and After

I made the first one at about 9 at night which is almost an hour past my bedtime (seriously). I also don't like to measure and I didn't make sure I had enough materials to do the silly thing in the first place. Which means I was tired and I ended up being short on ribbon and this project lasted longer than it should have. Thirty minutes and you should be done. If it takes longer than that you may need professional crafting help.

Step one.
Get a bulletin board with a wooden frame. I found mine both matching sizes at a thrift store for $2.49 each (yippee!) and it doesn't matter the condition their in really as long as the frame and the cork are relatively still one piece and sturdy. You might even have an old bulletin board around you could use.

Step two.
Gather the rest of your supplies and make sure you have enough before you start. The boards I made are approx 2x3' so here's my supply list based on that.
  • 1 yard of outer fabric (I used less but it's nice to be over just in case)
  • Enough batting to cover the front and all sides to the back
  • 5-6 yards of ribbon
  • 20 buttons (give or take)
  • Staple gun
  • hot glue gun
  • Bulletin board with wooden frame

I am fortunate enough to have an electric staple gun (insert manly sounds here) so this project was pretty easy but a non-electric will work just fine. Make sure you have lots of staples and glue.

Step three.
Lay your fabric face down. Lay the batting on top of this and then the cork board on that. Trim the fabric and batting so it is long enough to cover the sides to the back of the board. Start stapling the fabric and batting to the wooden frame of the cork board like this. Make sure you pull and smooth the front side as you staple or you'll end up with a bulge or wrinkle.

Step four.
Cut the corners as shown and fold over and tuck in to make a neat corner. Staple the hell out of it.

Step five.Now it's time to staple the ribbon on. start at the back and angle it so there's not a bulge and staple it to the back of the board as shown. Pull it across and do the same on the opposite side of the board. I didn't measure intervals between ribbon but if you did it might come out nicer. You could also do this up and down but I like the diagonal placement. Go all the way around the board so you have rows of ribbon that overlap.

Step Six.
Staple every place the ribbons meet on the front of the board.

Step Seven.
Take your buttons and hot glue the backside and stick these on the staples you have on the front of the board to hide the staples. This also gives it a more "pillowy" look and secures the ribbon for when you put cards and photos and junk up on it.

Boys room:

Girls room:
Step Eight!
You're done! Your board can be free standing or if you want you can staple some ribbon on the top like a picture hanger or attach real picture hanger hardware to the back or just drill the darn thing straight into the wall. You can finish the back too if you want to give it as a gift by hot gluing a piece of fabric on the back. Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Handpainted Tea Party Table on a budget

My girls are girly-girls. Even my 18 month-old is shoe obsessed and hair bow oriented. I don't know where they get it from really. Probably my hubby's side, as I rarely make any effort with my appearance and my daughters tell me they can't wear what I pick out because it's "not fashion enough". So, when deciding to get my girls a small table for their room for tea parties and what-nots I just knew a plain white table just wouldn't do.

I was absolutely horrified at the prices of these tables! A small table and 2 chairs, just plain white or stained wood, was running around $90!! I didn't even pay that much for my dining room tables from IKEA. And don't even get me started about the prices of hand painted or custom sets. I knew my mission: create a solid wood table and chair set for my girls, my self. Luckily, I found a plain wood, unfinished table at Michales Crafts. Regular price of the table was $35, again a bit steep for me considering what it'll be used for, and the fact it still needed chairs. Sunday Michales came out with 50% off coupons which they do ever so often, and I was able to pick up the table for $17.50.

The fact that I dabble in lots of different arts actually worked out well for me this time. I had 2 cans of white primer spray paint on hand and lots of craft paints and even a bottle of non-toxic varnish, plus lots of brushes. So I set off spraying the entire table white which took a lot longer than I thought.

For the top of the table I wanted a unique design that accented the colors of the room and some of the patterns. Their room is no Pottery Barn picture; lots of different clearance items thrown together that are pretty much all pastel. I started off with sketching the table top on a 1/4" scale on white paper. I looked at what they had in the room and went with something similar. I also decided to stay away from painting the rest of the table with colors to keep some of my sanity.

Here's the diagram I thought up.

The hardest part was drawing the 2" squares around the perimeter even. The table top was 20" x 29" but with beveled edge which shaved off a little on the actual measurements. So, some are 1/4" larger or smaller to make up the difference.

Next was hand drawing the scale design to the table top. I did this with pencil but next time would figure out something else to use because on the lighter color paints the pencil markings show through.
Then on to painting!

Day one. This is as far as I've gotten but remember this was also with about 2 hrs of priming time, layout design and hand drawing the top image.

And the finished table top. I still have to get the table put together and put it in the room but this is it varnished and set to dry. It's not perfect but it's from me to my girls. I hope I've inspired you to grab your craft store by the balls and refuse to pay high prices for quality stuff and maybe try something you've never thought you could do.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Homemade Halloween Treats

With all the scary recalls on candy I've been seeing the past week I'm being paranoid about my kids getting treats from unknown sources. So, I said to myself, "Self, lets make a treat the kids can enjoy making, we know where the ingredients come from and we won't spend all day slaving over a candy thermometer." And my good friends at came showed me a great, simple recipe for a wonderfully simple treat...Brigadeiros.

These tiny treasures tickle taste buds but only contain three ingredients, and once cooled, it's a fun treat for little fingers to help out in the kitchen.

Here's the recipe
14pz Sweetened Condensed Milk
4 TBS UNsweetened coco Powder
1 TBS Salted Butter
Sprinkles, coconut flakes, ground up nuts or chocolate chips or whatever catches your fancy
small cupcake liners

Mix all this stuff (minus the sprinkle and cupcake liner part) in a medium sauce pan on med/high heat. Mix it pretty much continuously until it's all bubbly and starts to thicken. Let cool until it's handle-able. Grease up your hands!!! I used olive oil but you can use butter too. Grab hunks and roll into balls, the size is up to you and will yield whatever it will depending on the size of the ball.

Now here's where your little Brigadiers come in handy. Here are mine but yours will differ depending on household.

Dump your coating of choice on a plate and while you pull out the warm dough and roll into a ball have your little ones roll the balls in the coating, making sure they get all the sides. Then plop them on a piece of saran wrap or cup cake papers and your ready to go!

Here's a photo of the finished Brigadieros

No matter if you plan to devour your door-to-door treats or decide to let your kids "trade up" for homemade goodies like we're doing, please, have a safe and Happy Halloween!

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Pattern Review - VegBee's Fair Weather Jacket pattern

I purchased this pattern from sweetshop on etsy. I'm also familiar with the pattern designer from her blog Just Tutes which is a great place to get some wonderful free tutorials and Craftster ID Vegbee.

I am totally pleased with the pattern. It was probably better made than some of the over-the-fabric store-counter ones and so cute! It's also really nice to know I'm supporting another crafty mother. The pattern came from Canada and took less than a week to arrive in Florida. The pattern itself is a very durable paper (not the thin tissue paper) and is boldly written with large information, clearly labeling each piece of the pattern, the markings, sizing and which way the grain should go. I also had a question about possibly resizing the pattern for my oldest to a six. I sent her an email and she was quick to reply with suggestions on how to do it (plus she has a pattern resizing tutorial on her blog), you won't find that kind of service with some larger pattern makers.

I purchased materials specific for this project. I got flannel for the lining at $2.99 a yard and Corduroy for the shell which was about $4 a yard, both on sale. I needed 2 yards of each to make the largest size which is a 4. My three and a half year old had a wonderful (read: mommy went crazy trying to get her to decide) time picking out the lining and we finally settled on a tiny ice cream print with a pink background. I'm making three, one for each of my girls and purchased the corduroy all the same color which is a dusty rose, though the lining will be different for each girl. My 5 year old is getting a white background flannel with lots of bright tiny flowers and the baby (17 months) is getting a blue background flannel with trees, acorns and squirrels on it.

I initially was opting for buttons that matched the shell fabric but after seeing some other examples of finished products on decided to do covered buttons from the interior fabric. With the corduroy and the flannel, I think a matching hat would be in order and that would be completely enough for a Florida winter. I'll update with more photos as I make the other jackets.

There was a small learning curve as my baby decided to throw the directions on the floor after I took the book apart to get the pattern out and I couldn't tell what steps went in which order. But even with that the pattern was labor intensive but not at all difficult and after a quick email letting her know, she's considering revising with page numbers. The only real problem I had was with the button holes. My machine was having a hard time with the thick corduroy on the edges which is folded over a few times and the 2 layers of flannel so the button hole foot had a hard time feeding the material through. Next time I'll either do vertical button holes or make them a bit further into the jacket to accommodate the bulk.

If you decide to purchase this pattern, I don't think you'll be disappointed. Happy sewing!

Pattern Review - Children's Undies from YCMT

I have a couple of skinny kids so I found this pattern and thought I'd give it a whirl to see if I can make anything better than the ol' store bought panties. I like the fact these are made with knits instead of just light cotton which makes them seem more sturdy and there is no elastic which makes them look like they'd be more comfy. I say seem and look because I can't wear them though I have thought about resizing the pattern so I can.

The pattern was pretty straight forward. Nothing too difficult and it was described well. I made about 2 pairs in the first hour or so and that's with:
1. never working with knits
2. never making panties before and
3. not having a serger

I hadn't ever worked with knits before. It just seemed too scary. But now that I have I really like them! It has renewed my longing for a serger though.

The pattern says you can use 1/2 yard and get 2 pairs but if you're doing contrasting and the smaller sizes you can get a few more if you lay it out so you maximize the fabrics used. I hate wasting fabric so I was able to get 4 pairs plus a matching cami that I created out of 1/2 yard of a print and used much less than 1/2 yard for the contrast on the panties and the straps for the cami. I still have some left too that I might be able to squeeze another front or two out of as well.

Here are my first two I made. These come out more like boy shorts than bikini panties but my 3.5yo says they're comfy anyway.

I also didn't do the topstitch like it says to because I didn't use a serger and wanted to cut down on the threads and it seems to have worked out fine anyway. One thing that did snag me up is when you're attaching the bands it's sometimes easy to miss the bottom layer or the additional layer around the crotch where the lining is (this is for the girl panties, I haven't made boy ones yet!) so I had to check all my seams and make sure I grabbed all the layers of fabric when I stitched.

This is the next set I made. I created the cami myself and as soon as I can I'll get a tute up on creating toddler cami's. As you can see in the photo there needs some adjustments in the making. I made it too big and had to cut down the middle of both front and back but after I work that out I'll get it up. It's a great addition to the panties and makes for a nice summer jammie set. I used the same concept as the panties when creating the straps which I think ties the set together. This would be a great learning to potty train set or a gift set when your little one masters the potty.

Overall, I was really pleased with the pattern but expect a learning curve when you start. I have also heard that you can repurpose t-shirts and other knits to make these though I haven't tried it. If you buy the pattern (which is $9.95 at you can always keep your eyes out for knits when stores clearance them out. Only needing 1/2 yard for a few pairs is nice too since you can have many different kinds of knits in your stash and not spend a ton.

Now that I've made a few (about 6 pairs) , I'm by no means an expert I still have the occasional slip in fabric, but I can whip out 4 or so in about an hour. Much better than dragging 4 kids to the store and fighting over what kind I'm willing to buy and still shelling out gas money and $4-5 on 3 pairs. Plus there's the added bonus that my kids can tell everyone "mommy made these!".

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Brian Jaques and Redwall Abbey - A Book Review

We love us a good bibliophile. If you have good ones that you can recommend please do so. But for those of you that are currently searching, here's a little tidbit on a series called 'Redwall'.

It all starts with a little book called "Redwall". This is a very unpretentious little book tucked away in the adult section of book stores which may be easily overlooked (as I almost did because it was at floor level) because of it's cute-sie animal artwork on the cover and the fact that it's purple, which may put off some male Sci-Fi readers. I mean honestly, what guy do you know that would be sitting reading, well, anywhere in public, with a purple book with illustrated animals on the cover?

Then again, that guy is missing out on some seriously great literature. And those little animals kick some mighty ass. I was a little shocked at the violence that covers some of the chapters of this book but it is an adult book and does make for a great read. Plus there is the great literary visualizations partaking at every meal so now I just have to go buy the cookbook so I can make them for my little mice.

There are so many books in this series I seriously can't even begin to list them here. There is also a cartoon about the series though I haven't watched it. So far, I'm on "Mattimeo" the third in the series.

Reading about Brian Jaques is intriguing. He looks like a combo between James Lipton and Jean-Luc Piccard and I attribute him acting like them but with a British accent.

No Pattern, No Problem.

So I had this totally cute jungle fabric that I love. I have a half yard because that's all I could afford at the time. I have been lacking the inspiration to know what to do with it and not wanting to cut it up until I figure it out. It's been a few months now but I had an idea after unconsciously laying it on top of an Amy Butler print. So, today after church I set about to make a dress that I had no pattern for!

I have a basic understanding of how to make a dress. I have made many similar dresses before and have made another no-pattern dress awhile back that's similar for my oldest daughter, again just having fabric that I wanted to use and not knowing what to do with it. this is a photo of that dress. On this one i messed up and put the button hole on the underneath fabric and then had to go back and put another button on the other side which actually worked out ok other than it buttoning inside and out because the overlap was a lot .

I didn't size it either which is ok because it fits my 3year old instead of my 16 month old but the baby will grow into it! Or I could actually measure her and hem it up. I still have to get some large red buttons for the mock shoulder straps and am debating putting a trim between the bodice and the skirt and/or pockets on the front but otherwise the dress is finished!

I picked up a great snap setter from Keep Me In Stitches for about $9 which made banging in the snaps a breeze. I also pretty much didn't measure after the initial bodice cutting. The arm holes are a little small and I think that's because I decided half way through sewing the cut bodice together that I was going to make the top connect differently and overlapped the front and back at the shoulders about 1/4 inch after sewing them right sides together. Next time I think I'll add an additional 1/2" to my measurements to make sure I have enough arm hole space.

Well, I hope my fuddling through sewing a dress has helped to quell any fears you have about starting up that project that seems too daunting to consider. Thanks for letting me blog.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

It's been awhile.

A Lot has happened in our family lately and I haven't been even thinking of blogging which is fine because that's kinda how it's supposed to work right? Blog when you have something to say.

Well, officially I have nothing to say so this is just a random posting of facts and information which I'm submitting to the wonderful world of internet to be chastised and ridiculed about later on and no one will ever forget. But I digress.

I went pimping my wares at a local group function today. It was interesting with 4 kids and being 26 weeks pregnant but it was do-able and worked out ok. I sold some dresses and a purse and took my earnings and kids over to Chili's for a steak. Yeah, I know red meat. But according to my OB my iron is low and they want me to supplement which I don't want to do so, insert red meat.

I've been trying to keep busy over the past few weeks since hubby has been gone. Trying not to think about his final departure in October as I will probably (rephrase: definitely) start bawling hysterically and freaking out my kids. If you don't have kids, to let you know that's generally not a great idea.

I still have to get around to hiring a doula to come with me to the birth. I can't imagine doing it by myself, and in all honesty, if I wasn't scared I'd just pop him out at home and go back to bed. After Emmy and her dramatic entrance by placenta abrupta at 37 1/2 weeks, I feel putting myself in the hands of a trained medical professional with access to all that great life saving equipment is probably the best way to do it, for me at least.

We've moved, which was interesting. We're back in our little old house which is 1200 square feet and did I mention small? I'm trying not to think about it but I just pulled out my sewing stuff yesterday and was miserably reminded how much space I now lack. Though, in the long run it will be for the best, it's just an adjustment I have to learn to live with. It might help me to sort out actual times for projects instead of blowing up a craft bomb in a room and leaving it until the next perfect mixture of free time and inspiration collide.

My 2 oldest kids have started piano lessons which has been great. The teacher comes here and I have to be disciplined enough to not give into my kids pleas to stop practicing because of the "I already know all the notes" excuse. As much as I'd love to admit my little prodigies are budding Motzart's, the truth is they probably aren't no matter how quickly they pick up beginner piano once a week. It's nice because it gives me some time to lock myself upstairs and spend time with my 2 littlest ones playing and cleaning up.

I need to find more time to divulge my 5 year old in arts. It's been pointed out to me that she's quite artistic and I am feeling a little bit the bad mother for not entering her in more extracurricular activities. So, I'm now on the lookout for classes that she can take without me that aren't erroneously expensive or at silly times of the day (which is to say, they're usually at night). So far, Google has come up with none.

Oh, on a smaller note, it was my birthday on the 19th. Yippee, I'm not 30 yet but close enough.

So, we're just trying to get into a routine, make time for special things and generally be happy as often as we can.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Homemade Raw Food Treats

MMMMM We made some good treats today. I'm very proud of myself. We've been battling the mainstream, processed food issues for years but for some reason the alternatives just never stuck. I know it's important for my family to get the best possible nutrition and to live a healthy lifestyle. Its a really hard thing to do when I've been brought up on processed meals and every other ad in magazines and TV is for sugar laden foods; even the ones geared towards kids! On the other hand, offering up healthy organic delights can leave our checking account quite a bit lighter and we've still needed to make those runs for fill in meals.

Well, I've had enough. At 27 I feel like I'm 87. Granted, I've had 5 pregnancies in the past oh, 6 years and have been on and off a single parent when Rob's training and deployment have come up but I still don't think I should have these health issues. Aching, sore back and neck, constant fatigue, poor concentration and memory, overweight issues, and depression are the majority of complaints I deal with daily, though I've learned to live with them I don't want to anymore.

I picked up a book last night called Living In The Raw. The first few chapters gave me the why and how in layman's terms, that food works in my body. It also has some pretty realistic goals for changing diet and exercise that gradually introduce new things to your body and lifestyle. I was really impressed with this. My kids and I already enjoy some raw/organic foods (mostly treats LOL) such as Lara Bars and Betty Lou's Almond Butter Balls. At about $1.00 to $2.00 a piece (depending on where you can find them) these treats of wholesomeness are just too costly for my pocket, especially with 6 people enjoying them, so I came up with my own recipes after scouring the internet for healthy raw food directions. Here's a little peek at Olivia and I making our treats.

Here is Olivia sinking her hands into her glob of dates and cherries. I think the mixing was the best part for her other than the taste-testing of course. And a photo of the globular concoction after I dug in and added the raw almond bits.

Then I shaped it after wrapping it in saran wrap. It was actually easier to do than I thought it would be. Granted the log isn't quite even all the way throughout but that's part of the fun.

As Olivia was mixing up her "gunk" as she called it, I was rolling the nut butter mix into balls and dipping them in almond bits. For these I used some fresh Almond Butter, almost a pound, raw oats, raisins, raw oats and flax seeds, organic honey for sweetening and for stickiness, and a tiny pinch of sea salt to balance it out. I didn't use measurements or directions so I can't give them here sorry! I combined all the ingredients in my stand mixer on low until it was throughly mixed up. Then I rolled them into balls and then rolled them in almond bits (the left overs of what I added to the date and cherry bars).
I had a great time with my oldest daughter making these treats, she was so excited to see the ingredients turning into things she recognized and loved to eat and enjoyed the very easy process of making them. I was overjoyed at the ease of "baking" up so many yummy things in a very short amount of time.

To give you a quick cost analysis the Almond Butter balls costs about $9.50 of ingredients and made 16 balls, approx .60 cents per ball compared to .99 cents at the local store. Also, other than the Almond Butter I had (and will have for next use) all the ingredients on hand which should make it much less expensive next time. The flat date and cherry bars cost approximately $6.20 of ingredients and made approx 8 granola bar sized bars; approx. .78 cents a bar compared to up to $2.00 for similar bars in stores. And of course the final ingredient which makes these priceless; love.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

It's just like the first time all over again.

Yesterday Rob and I went to the OB's office for my 20 week appointment. Let me just say, 20 weeks goes by WAY fast, even on a 5th pregnancy. He usually doesn't go with me but with him leaving in a few weeks and not being here for the birth, I wanted him to attend as many ultrasounds as he could especially this one.

Why is this one so important? For those of you, yet to experience pregnancy either yourself or with a significant other, 20 weeks is the time when the gender can be determined, pretty much 100% granted the baby cooperates and the ultrasound tech is patient.

I sat on the table with my pretty big belly sticking out and could remember when I was getting my very first gender-telling ultrasound with my very first baby. I was totally hysterical. I couldn't even look at the ultrasound image as she was taking measurements. I was laughing with anticipation, happiness, and just plain overwhelmed with the whole thing. Which in turn, made my belly jiggle and the US lady really annoyed because she couldn't get her photos. I was resigned to stare at the ceiling and not look while Rob was able to view the whole thing pretty much as calm as a cucumber.

I remember after that first ultrasound feeling just immortally happy and finding out this was indeed a BOY! Pregnancies 2, 3, and 4 went pretty much the same way. Though some Rob was there, others he wasn't and some him and a couple of kids were watching. Each time it was like I had never seen a baby in me before. I was just as giddy and excited as when one turned into two and two to three and three to four.

Laying on the table yesterday was no exception. Though I was a little more self composed than the first time I still had to consciously remind myself not to laugh and had to look away a few times to regain composure. Rob was right next to me holding my hand and commenting on the little person we had made. Finally, towards the end the tech asked us if we wanted to know and if we already knew. We had a suspicion on the gender before hand just because this pregnancy has been dramatically different than the last three. But, it was no less exciting and we're no less in love with our newest baby which is a BOY!

Some people can't understand what it's like to have a large family. Rob and I have a hard time even considering ourselves "large" yet. Though our car 8 passenger van is getting mighty cramped. Each time our numbers grow, a "large family" seems so much bigger than the one we have, or will have. We still haven't decided on a number of kids to stop at, though everyone else has been confident this is "it" for us, especially since we started with a boy, now we can end with a boy. But I'm still not so sure.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

we make paper!

I was recently at Target and while perusing the toy aisle at my kids request I found a kit for paper making. I wouldn't normally have bought it but it was about $4 and making paper has been on my "to home school" list for awhile now.

It took me a couple days to get around to opening the box up and seeing what we had to do and I was immediately disappointed that it was recommended we wait 24 hours after ripping paper to tiny bits before actually getting to the paper making process. I wasn't disappointed for me, but the fact that I'd have to explain to my kids that after all the work (and yes, ripping up paper is work) we wouldn't get to even make the paper until the next afternoon. Surprisingly, they weren't that upset. They didn't even get that tired of ripping up the paper.

We half filled a large bowl with warm water and added in our paper pieces. We left it on the counter until the next afternoon where it still resembled the same thing we left the day before.

Alex was the first to try out the paper grinder that the National Geographic kit came with. It's like a kid save blender. It kept the water in the bucket but didn't do such a hot job making the paper into pulp, even after I beat it up a bit.

We came out with a semi-pulpy substance which resembled water in paper and not the "soupy" consistency the directions stated we'd get after "a few minutes" of grinding. But, I figured we'd give it a try anyway. I had the lustrous job of dipping the mold into the paper concoction and creating our first piece of paper. It wasn't that I wanted the job it was just that the kids were a little over excited and got to sloshing the stuff out of the yellow pan the kit came with instead of getting paper onto the mold.

Our first piece of paper was made and let to dry. Unfortunately, between then and now it got crumpled by a well meaning little tot. I suppose the pulpy mixture wasn't quite pulpy enough to handle being handled. So, we're back to the drawing board on the paper making. I suppose I'll have to dig out my blender and give the paper a whirl in there to see if we can get a more fibrous mix to dip the mold.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Barbies have been banned

Week one of Banned Barbies.

Last week I took a large black garbage bag and "cleaned up" the kids room. While they were running up and down the stairs delivering various things to the laundry room and kitchen I was hoarding away the Barbies in the inconspicuous black bag of banned toys.

I have to admit it was liberating tossing those perfect figures (we donated them) into the bag and I did feel a little naughty when the kids would come back up and I'd have to close the bag up quickly so as to not be found out for my crimes. Though in the end the ends justified the means. It's been a full week and neither of my daughters (ages 3 and 5) have noticed their bins lacking.

We are reading a book called "Beyond the Rainbow Bridge" which is chock full of wonderful words of wisdom centered around raising children ages birth to 7 (which we have almost 5 in that age group). In the very first part of the book it says that "What is normal is not always Healthy" or something worded slightly different. It made me realize that just because there is a hot pink aisle in every Target or Walmart and everyone and their cousin has a box full of these toys, doesn't mean that it's right for MY child or MY home. Stepping away from the Main Stream can be difficult and tricky but I think in this case the results are priceless.

They have in fact, started playing with OTHER toys they had abandoned for Barbie play. Which are more innocent than those scantily clad, impossible to replicate in real life, women. Because lets face it, Barbies are notoriously gallivanting around the house NUDE, possibly in panties depending on the mold but otherwise completely bare. As I've found during play dates, Barbies tend to follow a more nudist lifestyle in other homes as well. A fact that just doesn't sit well with me or her daddy.

Here's why. My 5 year old daughter is amazing, she strong, sensitive and beautiful. When she's not paired with a Barbie she has a wonderful self image. But as soon as Barbie and her posse come around she starts saying things about her body and how she wants to look when she grows up i.e. "I want to get big boobies when I grow up". For a 5 year old (and anyone not old enough to buy their own breasts), in our home this is not acceptable.

Why on Earth should a 5 year old girl be worried about her future appearance? Why should anyone pre-pubescent for that matter? It was a problem with an easy solution...Barbie had to go.

Her eviction came with little fan fare, as the kids had NO idea she was on her way out. Now, a week later we've had 2 requests to play Barbie with which the girls were very easily directed to other forms of play or other responsibilities they hadn't completed. Their main play with Barbies was the dynamic of mother and child which has been easily filled with other toys such as, playmobil, Loving Family doll house people and believe it or not, match box cars (the larger Loving Family mini van acted as mother to the much smaller match boxes). The girls are content and haven't even noticed one missing Barbie clan member. I'm feeling mighty grand that we don't have these images of unfulfillable destinies cluttering our wee ones minds. Now comes the hard part, getting the relatives to stop buying them.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Test Taster Review - SKOR vs. HEATH

This is the first review of food I've done. I choose SKOR and HEATH because honestly, WHAT is the difference?? They're both chocolate covered toffee, right? WRONG, well, almost.

Here's the story of how I decided to put SKOR and HEATH head to head: I was in the store looking for a great way to reduce my pregnancy cravings for both chocolate and hard toffee. First, I found a yummy looking Heath bar, which I've had many times in the past. Then, I saw a Skor bar and curiosity got the better of me. I started to look at what it was...a yummy chocolate toffee bar. Then I asked myself, "self, what is the difference in these chocolate temptations?" to which I answered myself "I don't know lets eat them and blog about it." And so the birth of this blog posting came about.

Let me note now that both Heath and Skor are made by Hershey's. Not that surprising I know, but the shocker will come at the end of the blog, so please read on.

I'll start with the ever popular HEATH which has been featured in things like Ice Cream and more recently turned into some sort of cookie concoction. Heath is described by Hershey's on the package as a "Milk Chocolate English Toffee Bar". Here's the low down on HEATH from the Hershey's website.

The lesser known Skor bar is given the description of "Delicious Milk Chocolate/Crisp Butter Toffee". Here is Hershey's information on SKOR.

Here are a few points about each bar

- Heath has a long history dating back about 100 years starting with a lovely story about the Heath brothers hand making this yummy confection. Whereas, SKOR was merely introduced in 1983.

-A Skor bar has an entire 10 fewer calories than a Heath bar making it a more healthful choice when you're looking to consume 200 calories in a single sitting.

I started this experiment very innocently. I set myself up in my bed at night (the time I most enjoy eating yummy candies, away from prying little hands) and got out my camera. I opened each package and immediately noticed they look exactly alike.

I then started with a small nibble on each bar noting the flavor and texture. Skor bars have slightly harder toffee to bite into but the quality, texture and flavor of the milk chocolate seems to be consistent between bars.

Second, I noticed the color of the toffee which actually varies significantly between the bars.

The Skor bar is on the top and has a distinctly darker toffee coloring than the Heath, though the Heath has a slightly milder flavor, the Skor definitely sports a bit nuttier and butterier flavor.

I asked my husband to do a blind test for me just randomly feeding me a bit of each without telling me what was what but he had to "check" something on the computer and by the time he came back I had eaten both bars. My taste buds had co-mingled the flavors so completely it was like eating 2 of the same candy bar.

Overall, the experience was gratifying except I'm now addicted to both Heath and Skor bars. The pleasant side is that anywhere that sells candy bars usually has at least one of the brands on hand.

If you're looking for a yummy chocolate covered hard toffee bar, you're probably good to go with either candy bar! While they're marketed differently, (Heath a whole bunch and Skor not at all) it seems that Skor is just a second attempt to sell you the same candy bar in a different package by the same company.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

My dehydrating experience

I posted about my new dehydrator and how I was excited to get it going. Well here are the results!

I started out simply finding less than perfect produce in my fridge and cutting it up. I halved grape tomatoes and some larger round ones and sliced regular sized tomatoes. I also halved apricots. The book that came with the dehydrator was less than helpful with the process but it gave me the gist of what I needed to do.

Here is a photo of the freshly cut fruits on the dehydrator.
The dehydrator instructions said the tomatoes would take 1.5-3 days. I started these around dinner time last night and today at 2:30 the smaller tomatoes and most of the larger slices were done. Only some on the second tier were still juicy. Honestly, the grape tomatoes could have been finished this morning (approx 12-18 hrs) since they're slightly crunchy but they're still good, maybe great for a salad. The apricots are still finishing up since those are more juicy and thicker cuts than any of the tomatoes I did.

Here's a photo of the finished tomatoes!

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Cafemom at

I am proud to be counted among a wonderful group of mother artists. I met these fine ladies on and from there our kids have been growing as well as our stores. It's just amazing to see these fantastic moms sharing advice and support along with our handmade items. It's so much work raising a family and yet somehow we find the time to hunker down with our crafts and create items from ourselves. Possibly, this is the only way we keep our sanity :P

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CEM, Mommy's making a difference

Garbage to Sustenance

Ok, so here it goes. I'm picky about my fruits and veggies. If my apples have bruises, my bananas have "sugar spots" or my tomatoes and peppers are a little wrinkly, I just can't eat them. Possibly, this is some strange subconscious rebellion against my mother from when I was little and she made me eat fatty meats and less than perfect produce. But I digress. Fact is, I just can't bring myself to eat them!

Unfortunately, this has resulted in my very bad habit of either pawning it off to some not-so-snobbish member of the family, or just throwing it away. I really feel guilty and horrible about the latter. There are so many kids that don't get fresh produce and so much of Rob's money wasted buying it.

But wait! All is not lost! I found a wonderful way to redeem myself of this horrific crime. I sent Rob on a hunt to buy me a food dehydrator! I really didn't want to spend more than $40 on one and I've never priced one before but I was still concerned that we'd spend a lot of money on it then never use it. Well, I was in luck! On a hardware mission to Harbor Freight Rob found one for $25! It has 5 tiers and spins all by itself so everything gets equal dehydrating attention.

Today was my first day trying it out. It's very easy to use but I have yet to try the results (I'll post about those in a few days when this first batch is done).

I also bought a book at Target all about canning. I'm hoping to plan out our fruit seasons a little better next year since we have some amazing U-pick places here in Florida. The book is called Ball Complete Canning and was only $5.99. A pretty small investment for a huge amount of knowledge. It contains information on how to can EVERYTHING including meats and dehydrated foods! I do still need to purchase some Ball canning jars and a large pot to boil them in but I want to have things lined up before going to the expense.

I'm hoping that next year and into the following after that we will be opening up yummy jars of preserves, butters, purees, pickled and dried fruits and veggies and lots more with much less waste. This also goes with my plan to cut back on unnecessary spending and purchasing. We'll also be supporting local farmers at the U-pick farms. It will be a great opportunity for memory making when my kids can experience picking their own foods, preserving them and enjoying them later on.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

If less is more, what is more and how much is less enough?

I think we need less. Well, I know we need less, question is how much less is less enough? We've been sorting through toys lately and realizing many of the toys the kids have (with which they were bombarded with at the holidays) don't meet our expectations of acceptable toys. They limit the imagination, are creatively useless, and promote attitudes and behaviors we don't desire our kids to mimic.

A lot of these toys are simply mainstream fads. Now I know when I was a little kid I had some "fad" toys, anyone remember She-ra? Teddy Ruxpin? or how about good ol' Smurfs? Some of the toys of my childhood (early-mid '80's) are making a come back like Strawberry Shortcake and Care Bears. Though these toys and representative movies, to me have less than I remember as a kid.

Sure, society has taken a huge turn towards educationalizing (is that a word?) just about everything out there which can be good but where does creativity come to play? It seems that if it's not almost purely educational it's void of any educationalness (I should start my own dictionary here, or maybe buy one...) , some even morally inept.

I honestly was just flabbergasted over some of the attitudes and behaviors I've seen in these "kiddie" movies. Name calling, bulling and rude manners with no follow-up lesson or correction to the offenses. Some parents may overlook these as just being "entertaining" or an outlet for children as an escape from learning or just being plain fun.

For me, it's much more than that. I find that my children's behavior can be reflective of the outlets I give them whether media or toys. They're not mini-mimics but they are developing a sense of self and experiment with attitudes and personalities while searching for their own.

So, getting off my soap-box and back to less is more...Where do we draw the line? We recently had an excavation of the playroom and unearthed about 20 more Barbie and Barbie type toys than I thought we had, the majority of which were naked. This just wasn't kosher for me. Boxes upon boxes of Barbie's so we (make that I) donated them. I would hate for them to end up in a landfill but keeping such exorbitant levels of toys that really have no significant value creating and developing a childhood just didn't sit right with me.

We're down to one box of Barbie's now and the kids really haven't even noticed. I'm hoping by the holidays we're down to none and the toys I plan to make them would replace these more insignificant ones.

Now comes the daunting task of blending old with new. My son is so technically savvy it will be a challenge melding his desire for technology and mine for simplicity.

An Introduction

I'm a mom. I'm an artist. I'm a woman, a wife, a lover, a child, a reader, a procrastinator, and many other things that make the individual that is me. Just like everyone else.

I'm Crystal. If that were enough to say I'd have an easy job blogging. We're a family. We homeschool and attend Unitarian church when I can get enough energy about at 8am on a Sunday to get all 5 or 6 of us there. I love to create, pretty much anything and everything. If something catches my attention I at least like to try it out. We live in the city though I'd be happier in farm land so we're making our own little oasis in the middle of the hustle and bustle of urban life. I'm trying desperately to find that perfect center between technology and ancestry, the right mix of now and then.

I'm married to a LT in the Nat'l Guard, Rob, who is my better half. We're celebrating 10 years this October though he'll be deployed overseas during it. This will be our first Anniversary and birth we'll be apart for. I have four wonderful little lives I helped bring to this world though I can't imagine how I managed to make such extraordinary beings. I'm also baking another due December 25th, 08.

Alex, my oldest, is 6 and probably my most inspiring (at least right now) and uses his time to read Science Encyclopedias and watch "How It's Made" on the Science Channel sometimes simultaneously, while building amazing Lego models. He's the first born and currently the only grandson.

Olivia, my oldest girl is 5 and we call her our "Glamazon". She's a wonderful reminder of how to NOT take life too seriously. Mainly, because she's always overreacting. She's a strong, tall, beautiful girl that I foresee becoming a strong, tall, beautiful woman. Though later rather than sooner if her father and I have anything to do with it.

Cordelia is the "baby" of the house though she's a big sister almost 2 times over now. She is 3 and quite a precocious little thing. Even when she's being naughty (and she knows when she is too) it's hard not to melt under her huge doe eyes with their almost full inch of lashes.

Amelia is the current baby of the house and is a toddling fool at the age of 14 months. She's a peach in her own right and has taken all my preconceived notions about having and raising babies and thrown them all in the diaper pail.

Our next baby is currently gestating and due to arrive Christmas day. We're not sure if this is it for us or not. We love being a large family, and the kids love having lots of siblings but we're still working out the logistics of it. Either way, Rob will be gone until late 2009 so there won't be any baby making (or serious thinking of baby making) until after he gets back and we settle back into being a family.

I imagine this blog to be about our journey through life. My hopes and dreams for the future. A place to display my art and a reminder that the Solidity of a Rainbow is never certain and to cherish it when it comes.