Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Coming Up Next...

Howdy! (Yes, I’m an Aggie)

I had to take a few days off of crafting and cooking to tackle a very left-brained project that does not involve kids-income taxes. Now that those are prepared and gone (because being creative on your taxes gets you arrested) we are back to living on right brain time and a new project. Three projects, to be exact, but they all take multiple steps and we will be working on a couple of them with friends. I figured that I would give you a quick taste of “what’s next” so that the blog doesn’t stagnate.

Tomorrow, we will get started on a Valentine’s Day tie-dye project. There is nothing like five kids and a bunch of permanent dye to make an afternoon fly by. The plan is to work with my bud, the tie-dye guru, to make tie-dyed heart shirts the way we tie-dyed Mickey Mouse shirts for our trips to the Merry Ol’ Land of Disney (wayyyy better than Oz, if you ask me, although I’ve never actually been to Oz).

The kids will be designing their patterns and then, as the responsible adults in the group (no snickering) we will stitch the heart patterns with dental floss before the mass dyeing occurs. We have to make sure the patterns are stitched tight enough to keep the patterns intact. Stay tuned…

Also on the Valentine’s Day theme, but sans dental floss and scads of ink, is another shirt project. Ever the glutton for punishment and blog fodder, I am leading my ragtag band of offspring back to the sewing machine. I found a very cool project that makes a design look like it is made of chenille but is really made from gauze. You design a pattern, draw it on a shirt, stitch gauze on over the pattern, cut away the excess around your stitch lines and wash to fray the gauze. Seems simple. Let’s hope the operative word is not seems.

For Thursday, I purchased everything for our gardening project (the one we had rained out last week) and we are ready to get that started with some other friends. We have been discussing gardening for over a year now, sharing tips, knowledge and books, and I have a fun idea to take our gardening to another level. Literally. Like three or four more levels. We are going to make tiered pallet gardens.

I hate to admit that my bright idea dimmed a bit when I Googled it and found that someone else had already thought of gardening vertically in a wooden pallet. Everything is on Google…frustrating. My idea is a little different than the one I found, so we’ll see if we are being original after all. I am putting the pictures of our supplies below. This is the before. I’m excited to see how five kiddos turn this into a garden!

Sorry for no saucy, silly or sweet sayings from the wee ones today. Trust me, they’ll be back tomorrow in full-form I’m sure.

P.S.-We actually have a couple marshmallows left. A good thing, too, because they are really good in coffee!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

A Sticky Situation

It’s incredible what a storm can do.

It was Wednesday at 4:30 a.m. At least I think it was 4:30. It’s a little fuzzy now. At any rate, I heard a sound like a bomb exploding and woke up confused. I had no idea what it was until a flash of light lit up the whole room, followed by a second explosion. I realized it was a storm, not an invasion.

Actually, it was both. Immediately we were set upon by three kids and a cat. The other cat made it through under a bed somewhere, and the dog stayed in her kennel but the rest of our motley crew tried to crowd in the queen-sized bed.

As the storm raged on our situation on the bed deteriorated until beanbags were brought in and thrown on the floor and only three of us (and a cat) were left on the bed. At one point we had a mom, a cat and a kid on the bed with a second kid perpendicular across our feet. On the floor was a dad and a third kid, squished on two beanbags each while the dog whined in the kennel. Good times.

At any rate, by the time school was out and work was through, there was little energy for creative endeavors in our home. The next day, too, our project plan was drowned out by the continued rain. So gears had to be switched and we decided on a sweet, indoor project instead. We decided to make marshmallows.

Who doesn’t think the world needs more homemade marshmallows? I am certain you were just saying to someone the other day, “I wish I had some homemade marshmallows but I’m stuck with this old store-bought bag that only cost $1.50”.

I’m pretty sure Williams Sonoma makes some called artisanal marshmallows, so henceforth, I will refer to ours as very-artisanal. I even pre-read the whole recipe and saw where it said, “chill for three hours” before we started. Ha! Take that cake-pop recipe!

Time to call the kids, who bailed on me! That’s right, two of the three decided to go play with friends!

My darling youngest child, referred to here for the rest of the post as “The Favorite”, declared that she would love to make marshmallows and ran to wash her hands.

We started with the unflavored gelatin. It had to “bloom” while we mixed the rest of the candy. The Favorite added ingredients to the pan and started stirring.

At this point, one of the deserters and her friend ran through the kitchen to check out the progress. They tasted the corn syrup and declared it “ewwwww, too sweet!” Impressive, coming from eight year-olds.

Once we got the sugar boiling I took over the stirring. I didn’t want an ER visit, just marshmallows. I added the candy thermometer and turned up the heat. The Favorite asked how hot it was supposed to get and when she heard 240 degrees, she asked, “is that Fahrenheit?” A kindergartener.

We added the sugar mixture to the gelatin and The Favorite was back to stirring again. I put the bowl on the stand mixer and turned it on. We set the microwave timer to six minutes and started watching the mixer.

“Not long until six minutes is over,” she said.

Then, “It’s turning from yellowish-beigeish to white!”

And, “The timer is in the twos now!”

Also, “Since we have a bag of marshmallows (yes, store-bought) we can eat one of those and then one of these and see how they are different and how they are alike,” she said. “We already know one way they are alike without tasting them,” she giggled. “They are both white!”

We turned up the speed and The Favorite nearly lost her mind. “Let’s kick it up, let’s kick it up!” she danced around. “What happens if you turn it up to 10?” I was thinking, “what happens if we turn it up to 11?” I probably would have gotten a blank stare. I don’t think she’s seen Spinal Tap yet.

The timer beeped and we stopped the mixer. In another bowl (starting to get the picture of how many pans and things we used for this?) we put egg whites and started whipping those. Another amazement ensued: “It’s all fluffy, whoa! Egg whites are fluffy, fluffy white and marshmallows are fluffy, fluffy white,” she said. “But marshmallows are fluffy white cylinders.” Yup.

We added the egg whites to the mixer then poured the mix in a pan right when deserter two and her pal buzzed through again. The Favorite was licking a spatula and said, “This tastes just like a marshmallow, you guys should try it!”

They started to act very friendly and saying nice things to me…yes, I was suspicious. “Oh, now you want to be involved,” I said. I caved. I let the other kids try some. They had such big sweet smiles until I told them it would be three hours until we had full marshmallows. Gone again.

Three hours later…

We actually had marshmallows. Very artisanal, oddly shaped and vanilla-ey marshmallows. The kids all got some (even the deserters and the friend who now may think we are crazy) and they declared that, “They taste like really vanilla-ey marshmallows!”

Now for homemade graham crackers.

Or maybe not!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Finishing the Final Case

Before I regale you with the events of Pillowcase #3, I wanted to let you in on a little perk of this endeavor. Since we’ve been creating marvelous masterpieces, the girls have had less time to memorize infomercial taglines. Sigh of relief!

There is just so much “They’re happy, Happy Nappers, and they love to play with you!” or “Wuggle Pets, Wuggle Pets, snuggle my, huggle my, Wuggle Pet!” or “Now, get the best of both worlds with Pajama Jeans!” I can take.

My kids are walking ads that spit out taglines at will. I have been informed that the Buxton Leather Organizer could really help me every day, or that the Gyro Bowl would keep the car clean. Thank you, Disney Channel, for your discerning commercial selection process.

Now, though, they aren’t getting much post-homework TV time and my brain is getting a much deserved hiatus from infomercial-theme drivel.

Moving on to the pillowcase process with my middle child. I have said before that nobody needs to be told she is the middle child. Spend five minutes with her and you’ll be pretty confident of her birth order. She is also a very quirky, funny pinball of a child who never stops asking questions. I literally had to stop the process 14 times to jot down what she said.

This child also has a little sewing experience. Last year, in first grade, she worked on a hand-sewn quilt block. Therefore, she declared that she “knows how to sew.” The machine and rotary cutter were new territory, however, so I had to tell her that she did not “know how to sew.”

Here is her first experience sitting in front of the machine (please read the next part at high, high speed for accuracy):

“Are we going to use any of those big quilting feet you showed us yesterday? I was wondering if we can use a cool crisscross stitch on mine. Why does the machine say computer on it? I want two different colors of blue thread, one in the top and one in the bobbin. Why does the machine make that sound when you turn it on? I already moved the pedal so I can reach it. Oh, this machine was made in Sweden!”

And then it was time to take the first stitches.

I had her guide the fabric carefully through the machine, stitch steadily, and she did a decent job of keeping everything together. Then she started veering off course a bit. I had her stop and readjust. Soon she was doing it again and I realized she was staring at the metal gears and arms that move the thread through the machine and not at what she was sewing.

“What are you looking at,” I asked her.

“It’s fun to sew with the machine because you can watch everything work,” she said. “That part is going up and down when I push the pedal. It’s like it’s popping out of the machine to see who is sewing!”

We proceeded.

“Can we decorate the edge using that foot that you have to lower the feed dogs to use,” she asked. “The feed dogs are helpful. Thank you Mr. feed dogs.”

She had to stop to switch fabrics and for me to iron the seams. That gave her ample opportunity to poke around the nooks and crannies of the machine.

“Its cool that you have two places to keep stuff you need for sewing,” she said. “Do you like using the machine better or sewing by hand? I like that you can take a job that might take a month by hand, and do it in an hour with the machine.”

I agreed with her but shared that it was very cathartic (that’s fancy for soothing) to quilt by hand and that I preferred it sometimes. She agreed. “I really liked sewing by hand and making all the stitches on my quilt last year,” she said. “But I poked my fingers a lot.” She then put her finger directly under the foot and needle and said, “Look, my little pinkie does fit under here.”


She got back to sewing, attaching the flange to the main fabric of the case. “I like sewing with you better than sewing alone,” she said. (Go ahead and awwwwww now, if you so choose. I mean, serious case of the warm fuzzies here!) She continued with, “Did you like sewing with my sisters?” I said that I have loved sewing with all three of them.

One thing that cracked me up was her little sing-song repetition. Every time she finished a seam she would raise the foot, pull the fabric to the side and sing, “Raise, pull, scissors, open and snip!” Every time.

We took the finished case to the ironing board for a last press and she said, “The kid who gets this pillowcase is going to be lucky because this is my original design that will only happen once.”

If only there was a way to boost her self-esteem…

I am so glad that we took on this project. It really could not have been a better case study in personality and I loved all three experiences. I also love the pride that radiated off of them when we delivered the pillowcases. The lady at the shop asked if they had helped Mommy with the project. All three piped up “WE made them!” and they sure did.

We did it!

Dropping them at Quilt Country

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