Baby maternity pants and more recent sewing

28 12 2010

With Christmas behind us, our advent activities over, and a mountain of new toys to entertain the boys, I finally mustered up the energy to do some sewing for LB.  He has a closet overflowing with clothes (ah, the life of a younger brother) but most of his pants don’t fit very well.  It’s largely due to the bulk of cloth diapers, but even in disposables most pants either drag on the ground if they’re big enough to cover his tush, or fail to cover his backside if they’re a good length.  So for a little bit of practical sewing I took an old and beloved pair of corduroys and used them to make some made-to-measure pants for LB.  I used a pair of pants that fit in the waist but were too long, and used that to make a pattern that was just a bit shorter.  I used the legs for one pair and the top for another.  In the process I had a very “duh’ moment where I cut two left legs, thinking for some reason that they were symmetric…nope.  So I ended up having to cut the waist very short, and I added a waistband of knit fabric.  In the end I was really happy with that pair, and even though my husband laughed that they looked like maternity pants, they fit really well and look so comfy.  I know I loved wearing maternity pants, it was one of the best things about being pregnant!


The other pair was made from the top of the pants, and it was a bear to sew because of the thickness of the layers.  They look a little goofy but I like them anyway.  Then I made a matching shirt that ended up not matching all that well…oops.  It was super quick though; I finally figured out how to do a blind hem on my serger and WOW it makes hemming so quick and painless!  The shirt took about an hour total.  I did the whole set in a day and a half, some while the kids were sleeping and quite a bit while they played with all the great new toys they got for Christmas.  I didn’t realize what a gift they would be for me, also!

12 December1

I’ve already cut up some jeans and an old corduroy shirt to make him some more “maternity” pants, oh boy!  So I currently have some enthusiasm for sewing boy stuff, but we are also expecting a NIECE so there will be some girl sewing going on around here!  Yay!

Advent, week 3

22 12 2010

Can you believe Christmas is almost here already?  I look at our advent tree and see those three ornaments left and just wonder where the time went.  At least I can say our Christmas cards went out; this is the first year we have managed that feat before Christmas has come and gone!

We have been busy with our activities; here’s the rundown:

Day 16: Make cinnamon ornaments.  I had seen a ton of ideas on the Crafty Crow for making ornaments but I really liked this idea from 5 Orange Potatoes because (1) it was made using things I have on hand and (2) it’s like cutting playdough which is always a hit in our house.  It was really easy, just mix 1 cup applesauce, 1 cup cinnamon, and 1 tablespoon glue.  Roll out, cut shapes and let dry.  I did as suggested and baked them at 200F and flipped them every 15 minutes till dry.  Patience is not my forte!


I did make holes before baking, with a straw for the big ones and a toothpick for the small ones.  It made lots and lots!  We decorated some with glitter glue and some we left plain, made pipe cleaner loops and strung them up as a garland. 



Day 17: Make Christmas trees.  This was just a catch-all craft category on a day I didn’t have much time to spare.  We did these trees from Frugal Family Fun Blog, though they didn’t work so well with construction paper (a little too floppy).  Not surprising but I just used what I had!  BB stamped it and glued on sparkly snowflakes.  Then we did a tissue paper on contact paper craft like our autumn tree.  I had had some more in mind but there wasn’t time. 


Day 18: Take a winter hike.  My husband was actually home, so we were able to all go out to Wild Wings and see the birds of prey, then take a short hike to feed the chickadees.  They come to eat out of your hand, which is not really the least invasive way to observe nature, but it’s LOTS of fun. 



I mean, holding a bird in your hand, how cool is that?!?

Day 19: Make a gingerbread village.  Here’s another one where I came to my senses.  I mean, we’re not going to eat it, so does it really have to be home baked?  I bought a Wilton kit on sale and figured it was cheaper that way since I didn’t have to buy lots of candy for decorating.  It was a lot harder than I expected, and I had to do most of it because the frosting was so hard to work with that BB couldn’t really use it at all.  But he happily sprinkled candy on the rooftops of the houses.  I worked as fast as I could to keep up with him and the result is not much like the picture but it’s a cute little centerpiece for the table. 


Day 20: Make ice cream.  This was one of those things that was maybe more for me, and for the convenience of using up cream that was about to go bad, but ended up with stellar results.  Described in detail in the previous post, should you want to try this. 

Day 21: Make gifts for teachers.  Last year I was up half the night making chocolate dipped pretzels, so I swore this year I would find something easier.  I had seen this recipe for hot chocolate on a stick on giverslog a while back and decided this would be it.  A little risky doing something for the first time when you need it to work…sure enough, they did not release well from the molds and the look a little wonky.  BUT!  Finally I have a gift that BB could help with.  To go with the hot chocolate on a stick I used our homemade marshmallows to do some cutouts and we decorated them with colored sugar.  Who wouldn’t love hot chocolate and marshmallows?  (I’m hoping the answer is not “BB’s teachers”.)


Day 22: Make cookies.  This was another practical one since I need to take cookies for BB’s Christmas party tomorrow.  Fun!  We made lots and took some to the neighbors too, and still have lots left for eating.  I made some baby-sized cookies with the last bit of dough; they are a much more reasonable size, IMHO.  The ones for school are unfrosted (they will be decorating them at the party) but I made some icing and we used our leftover colored sugar and gingerbread village decorations to decorate a few for immediate consumption. 


Yum!  The next few days will be pretty simple; Christmas party at school, Christmas eve service, and then Christmas day!  So this is the end of my little advent series.  We have had a great time and I wonder what we will do from here… quite possibly more “educational” type stuff will fill our days.  BB has shown an interest in writing letters and spelling words, and counting too, so I might try to set up some school time to keep us busy.  Hope you have a wonderful Christmas!

Homemade ice cream—without a machine

21 12 2010

Our advent activity yesterday was to make ice cream.  I know, you’re probably thinking “Ice cream?  In December?” and usually I would agree.  I never buy it in the winter, and hopefully that helps the calorie balance sheet a little since we overdo the cookies, candies, and hot cocoa this time of year.  But this was one of those happy coincidences…  I have no idea what led me to this, but I found a post about making ice cream without a machine.  And wouldn’t you know it, I had 3/4 a quart of cream left over from making caramel that needed to be used ASAP.  (I had thought of making some other caramel recipes but was put off by the effort involved in that first recipe).  So I put on the calendar “Make ice cream” and thus began our tastiest advent activity yet.  It took a while, but mostly just waiting time, the active time was pretty minimal.  If you want to try, here’s what we did:

  1. Put a 9×13 glass pan in the freezer.  (Making room for that was the hardest part of this project.)
  2. Get your helper to stir up: 3 cups cream, 1 cup milk, 1 cup sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla, 1 teaspoon peppermint extract, and 1/2 teaspoon salt, until all the sugar dissolves.  (The original recipe called for 2 cups each of cream and milk but I needed to use 3 cups of cream). 
  3. Pour the mixture into the chilled glass pan.
  4. Come back every 30 minutes or so and stir it up.  BB started helping with this, but it’s not too exciting so eventually I just took over. 
  5. Once it’s getting solid, melt some chocolate and drizzle it over:IMG_3062
  6. Freeze it some more, and the attack it with a stick blender to break up the chocolate. 
  7. Go and eat dinner and when you are done, scoop up some ice cream for everyone who ate a good dinner!  There was never such a good enticement; I have gotten 2 good days of clean plates from BB.  Even though it was yesterday he is still talking about how we made ice cream, so I would say this activity is a keeper!  IMG_3064

Advent, week 2

16 12 2010

Our ornaments and activities:

12 December

Let me just say that the ornaments have been great number practice.  It’s funny because BB is great with letters and is always trying to spell things, sometimes successfully, sometimes not.  But he recognizes only a few numbers, and I joke that it’s because he missed the first week of preschool last year because we were on vacation.  I hope that’s not true.  At any rate, he has been playing with these and lining them up in order and using them to count things, so these alone have been a good source of entertainment and a fun introduction to double-digit numbers.  Here’s what we did:

Day 8: Give a gift.  We went to Wal-Mart and chose an angel from the angel tree (a little boy) and purchased some hot wheels for him, to remember that this is the season of giving, and to remember the less fortunate.  I don’t know how well BB understood this, but it’s worth trying to teach. 

Day 9: Make jingle bells.  We threaded jingle bells onto chenille stems, the formed them into bracelets.  So easy and so much fun!  We learned the song “Jingle Bells” and lo and behold, I turned on the radio and it came on!

(Video of boys playing with the jingle bells.  I can’t figure out how to embed videos!)

We also made these little jingle bell ornaments from the Crafty Crow:


Day 10: Make candy.  We got as far as making marshmallows, and I did the rest myself, deeming it too difficult/dangerous/delicious for BB.  Ha!  Described in detail in the previous post. 

Day 11: Holly Trolley.  We live near a great little train museum that is entirely staffed by extremely enthusiastic volunteers.  They have all kinds of old vehicles that the kids can climb in, mostly trains, a large model train display, and the icing on the cake is a working railroad that they have built themselves.  Wow!  They were telling us the story of how they got the track from the old Rochester subway (Rochester had a subway?!?), laid it out there, and donations go toward expanding the electrical cables overhead that run the trolley.  Anyway, the Holly Trolley is just a ride on this railroad in December, and they handed out candy canes during the ride.  Still, we went with some friends and the little boys all had a blast riding the train.  Unfortunately it seems I didn’t get any good pictures (at least not of my kids). 

Day 12: Watch X-mas movie. Halfway through, this was the day that I nearly called it quits!  Don’t we all have days like that?  The boys woke up super early, I didn’t have anything planned and fortunately BB didn’t ask until later, after I had snuck this hasty sticker on.  We watched our new Veggie Tales movie, which was totally adorable, and had popcorn after LB was in bed.  It was all I could manage and it ended up being a lot of fun. 

Day 13: Make pumpkin muffins.  Kind of lame, also a last-minute addition, but I had some pumpkin to use up…

Day 14: Make Christmas gifts.  I had wanted to make some gifts to send to the boys’ grandparents, and I saw this silhouette idea ages ago.  Well, I finally got some contact paper and we did it.  I thought the results were pretty good!  I used watercolor paper and cut it to about 4×6, then found pictures of the boys in profile and traced them onto contact paper.  That was the hard part; since they were asleep I just pored through my photo library and that was the most time consuming part.  Anyway, we used acrylic paint because I was worried the watercolors might seep under the contact paper.  If the grandparents are reading this, surprise!  This is what you’re getting:


BB painted his silhouettes and I did LB’s.  Frankly I like BB’s better!

Day 15: Make gingerbread playdough.  Well, I knew it would happen sooner or later.  I took advantage of my illiterate child, and when I turned that one over, I said with a straight face, “It says we’re going to decorate our own wrapping paper!”  It’s all in how you sell it, people.  Sigh, I realized at the very last minute that I did not have salt to make playdough.  So we had to scrap that.  We will go back to it though; I just love the recipe here, and the ideas for seasonal variations.  Instead I broke out the roll of paper and the Christmas stamps and BB went to town on it while I worked on our Christmas cards.  It was win-win. 


Hope you are having a fun advent season also!  I can hardly believe how quickly Christmas is approaching… gulp!  Better do some shopping…

Holiday goodies

15 12 2010

In addition to our daily advent fun, I have been doing some more, shall we say, challenging cooking.  I have not been in the mood to make cookies so we bought a candy thermometer, some good melting chocolate, corn syrup, heavy cream…all the things you would only get away with buying at this time of year.  First up, chocolate dipped candied orange peel


The verdict: not really that hard, though fairly time consuming.  It took a morning to do the peel, then after the kids were in bed at night, I did the dipping in chocolate.  But the ingredients were few and the active work involved was pretty minimal.  The results were very tasty!

Next, making marshmallows (with BB). 


The verdict: the only hard part was getting the thermometer in the liquid.  The liquid was not deep and my pot was too small to clip it on, so I had to rig a stand for the thermometer.  Other than that, the mixer does all the work, so I would say it was a piece of cake.  BB is loving the marshmallows, and I made them with the thought of giving them along with hot chocolate on a stick to his teachers.  It made quite a bit, so I think we’ll have enough.  They are tasty, but I don’t see that they are that much different from the store bought kind.  No artificial colors or flavors though, so that’s a perk.  I would do it again. 

Next, I saw these homemade peppermint patties and decided to try them, because we had a bunch of sweetened condensed milk that I don’t know what to do with. 


The verdict:  well, this is my fault.  I had mint extract, not peppermint extract, and it came out OK, but not great.  Really tricky.  I froze the patties for about 10 minutes and once I dipped them in chocolate they got all melty.  Most of the first batch was a total mess.  Once they sat overnight though, they hardened up pretty well.  I did a second batch later, and I made the patties thicker and froze them for 30 minutes.  This time I also used chocolate chips, as stated in the recipe (the first time I used the nice Swiss melting chocolate I had).  I thought the dark chocolate from the first batch looked and tasted better (the one in the middle is from the first batch).  If you’re going to go to the trouble to make candy, you might as well use good stuff.  Lots of work though.  I think it would be easier next time, and I would consider doing it next year, maybe with BB (I did them alone, it was definitely too hard for a young child to help with), and I would buy peppermint extract for it. 

And finally, on that page there was a link to these chocolate dipped caramel pecan bars…drool!  It’s all my favorite things; how could I not make them?!?


The verdict: these were about a thousand times harder and more time consuming than they looked.  I made the cookie crust; pretty straightforward.  Then I started the caramel, and the instructions were a little vague.  So if you think of doing this, let me advise you to google “how to make caramel” FIRST.  Alton Brown had some info, as did some other good sites.  It is fascinating, terrifying, and a miracle of calorie density.  I cooked 1 cup of corn syrup, 1 cup of sugar, 1/2 cup water and 1 cup of cream and I swear I got 1 cup of caramel.  Amazing; the laws of physics do not apply to making caramel!  No, really, you just get rid of all the water leaving only sugar and fat, it truly must be the most calorie dense thing I have ever made.  I question the need to start out with 1/2 cup of water and if I were crazy enough to try this again, I would look elsewhere for the caramel recipe.  So, when all was said and done, I went to cut the bars and they were STUCK in the pan like nothing you can imagine.  Most of them came out in pieces and only with patient chiseling did I get any out intact.  The caramel is not very firm, so it kind of oozed out as I tried to cut and extract them.  Needless to say, with a crumbling crust and an oozing top, I could not dip them in the chocolate because they just fell apart.  So I refrigerated them some more and drizzled the chocolate on top and refrigerated them again.  At room temperature I can say they are very messy.  My lucky children did get some of these in the end and it took awhile to get them unstickied. 

That’s my holiday kitchen adventures; later I will post more of our advent activities!

Advent, Week 1

7 12 2010

So, after the massive push to organize advent activities, you might be wondering what the results have been so far.  Here’s a rundown:

Day 1: Put up decorations.  This was a bit underwhelming.  Somehow I thought we had more decorations than we actually do.  BB found “ghostie”, our color-changing Halloween decoration and was much more captivated by that than the wreath for the door and vase of fake poinsettias.  I can’t blame him. 

Day 2: Go to Park Ave Holiday open house.  This sounded like so much fun, but wouldn’t you know it, it was a day that the kids didn’t nap and there was no way I was dragging them out after dinner when they are tired and cranky.  Lesson learned!  Evening activities will not go on the calendar again; they happen if they happen but we will plan on simpler things.  Instead we actually just did some other crafts with stuff I had on hand, some glue snowflakes (idea seen here) and a “mixed media craft” (i.e. some glue, stamps, and whatever random Christmas stuff we have lying around).  I did the glue snowflakes and BB glitterified them, but the other craft is all him. 


Day 3: Make a garland.  Pretty simple!  We had fun making it.  Here it is:


Simple as it is, it really makes our house look more festive, given our sparse decorations beforehand. 

Day 4: Our mom’s group Christmas party.  I knew this was going to take a while and include a craft so I wimped out and we did not do anything else that day. 

Day 5: Set up the Christmas tree.  Yes, we have a fake pre-lit tree that we got at Big Lots.  It’s nothing special but on a limited budget it’s nice we don’t have to buy a tree every year.  Sadly I don’t have a picture of this yet, but the kids are fascinated with it!  And let’s just say that the plastic ornaments from Target that went on the lower half of the tree are not as unbreakable as I thought they were!

Day 6: Make a birdfeeder.  I was going to do pinecone birdfeeders but we got dumped on with snow and it would have been hard to find pinecones, so this is what I came up with:


I poked some holes in a paper towel roll and a TP roll, put craft sticks through for perches, and we spread peanut butter on and rolled it in birdseed.  BB loved this and would not stop talking about it, but sadly, 2 days later, we have yet to have any feathered friends come visit.  I even got a suet feeder so we could see if different birds came to different feeders…. well, at least the squirrels haven’t gotten them yet. 

Day 7: Go to library to check out Christmas books.  BB’s response this morning, “Oh.  Do we have to?”  Me: “Yes!  It’ll be fun!”  BB: “ohhhh-kaaayyy.”  What are you, 16?  So. little. enthusiasm.  He has enjoyed reading the books we got, but wow, that was not a great response to that activity. 

Odds and ends: Building a nativity?  What was I thinking?  Sometimes people just need to smack me back to my senses.  I saw this post and went out and got a little people set too  It has already taken much abuse been much loved. 


Baby Jesus has been on many adventures, although LB prefers the camel.  You know what’s funny though, when my husband saw the set his first response is “You bought a nativity?  Why don’t you guys just make one?”  Hahaha!  Great minds think alike.  But in this case he conceded that a chewable nativity was better than a handmade one. 

That’s about it around here, now I just need to get something up for tomorrow…