April 16, 2014
by jenny
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Still Spring

 

Dear People of New England,
It’s okay. I know we welcomed spring weather this week, and now we are waking up to icy steps and windshields, but it’s okay. That’s why we celebrated that spring weather. There may be a couple things you have to replant, but most will live through. The sun will be shining the rest of the week, and the best part – the pollen count will be a little better today for hay fever sufferers. Go ahead and take that deep breathe. It is New England, what did you expect?

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April 14, 2014
by jenny
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A Spring Monday Morning

 

Here in Massachusetts we just enjoyed our first springlike weekend. If you have never lived in Massachusetts then you may not appreciate the rarity of springlike weather. Our “nice” spring days are generally considered some day in February when the sun is out and the thermometer reaches the mid 40s, and then a handful days in April where you don’t need the heat on at night or the air conditioner during the day.  It goes quick, but it’s evident that we know how to celebrate spring. People are outside walking, riding bikes, or doing yard work and the lawn goes from yellow to green within hours.

Happy Spring tomatoes that didn’t like the hardening process! Enjoy composting in my woods. (I don’t think that I’ll try those biodegradable pots again!)

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Happy Spring tomato plants that look a little better!

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Happy Spring ant holes that just appeared in the sidewalk!

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Good bye, bird feeders! There’s enough food for our feathered friends now. Enjoy your rest in the shed.

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Happy Spring, tree buds and sedum and whatever you are that has left my eyes itchy and watering and my nose running just getting close enough to take a picture of you.

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Happy Spring to the all of the toys that will be left out in the yard.

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Happy Spring, friends! You made it through the winter!

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April 10, 2014
by sarah
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Embarassment? DIY Maraca

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Where is the line between supporting your child and embarrassing them?

My husband is very athletic. He and my sporty son disappear to the ski mountain, to the baseball field, to the soccer field, and to the tennis courts. I am the artsy one. That is what I bring to the family. This afternoon I had a brilliant idea of how I could support my sons baseball team with my limited knowledge  and ability of the sport.  His team mascot is a rattle snake. We could make maracas to shake on the side lines. Will he be delighted that we are supporting him or mortified?

The girls and I had a wonderful time painting oatmeal canisters and paper towel rolls! I think they will be a fun distraction for the younger siblings on the side lines. I wonder if the coaches will allow the kids on the bench to play them too?

Here is how we made them ….

DIY Maracas

Supplies

  • toilet paper rolls or paper towel rolls
    or small / medium size cylindrical canisters
  • paint or stickers or glitter glue or fabric and glue
  • stapler
  • masking or duct tape
  • beans, rice, or poly pellets

Directions

  1. Decorate the rolls or canisters as you would like.
  2. Let dry.
  3. If using the rolls: Staple one end.
  4. Fill with about 1/4 cup beans, rice, or poly pellets.
  5. Staple the other end. The roll can be flat or I stapled it the opposite direction. If you are using the canisters glue the top on well after putting the beans, rice, or poly pellets inside.
  6. Place tape over the staples.

I also have to give credit to my big girls preschool who did a whole instrument week. The maraca with the fabric on it in the picture she brought home from school. They also made castanets by hot gluing 2 buttons to a piece of cardboard and folding the cardboard in half, then the kids decorated them.

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April 9, 2014
by sarah
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Curried Fish and Butternut Stew

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It is so easy these days to plug an ingredient into Google and then 100 plus recipes are spit back at you. I have found some wonderful yummy things this way. But there is something to be said about a good old cook book! Searching through a book takes you on a different kind of journey than the internet search. It is a little slower while I read all the little side bars about tips and get side tracked in the appetizer chapter while looking for a main dish.

I picked up “Hay Day Country Market Cookbook” at a yard sale years ago. The other night I found their Curried Sea Bass and Butternut Stew. I couldn’t find sea bass on my quick stop to the grocery store so substituted mahi-mahi and I think any fish that will keep its shape in a stew would work. It is a very quick recipe to make. The step that took me the longest was preping the squash. If you buy the squash already pealed and cut this is an easy weekday meal.

Curried Fish and Butternut Stew (adapted from “Hay Day Country Market Cookbook”)

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 large onion diced
  • 1 large clove  garlic minced
  • 2 tablespoons curry powder
  • 1 pound butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • 16 ounces diced tomatoes
  • 1 1/2 pound of firm fish fillet (Mahi mahi or sea bass)
  • salt and pepper

Directions

  1. Heat the oil in a heavy bottomed sauce pan. Add onions and garlic. Cook for 5 minutes. Stir in curry powder and cook another minute.
  2. Add the squash, stock, and tomatoes and bring to a simmer. Cook for 15 minutes or until the squash is tender.
  3. Season the fish with salt and pepper on both sides and cut into 1 inch chunks. Add the fish to the stew, cover, simmer until the fish is cooked through (5-10 minutes).

P.S. For years my family has had self assigned seats at the dinner table. Recently we have been changing it up. We made (and laminated) place cards. Mine can be seen in the photo above. My son drew a garden, yarn and knitting needles, an animal, and a stove to represent me.  Each day we take turns deciding where everyone sits.

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April 7, 2014
by sarah
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Forcing Forsythia

It is still pretty grey in New England. The temperature is getting warmer and the sun is shinning sometimes. However the landscape is still pretty dull, even with little patches of dirty snow in the corners. The bright yellow forsythia should be flowering within the next couple weeks. If you want some color now you can force it to bloom inside.

Simply cut a bunch of branches from a forsythia bush outside and place them in water inside. I recently brought a bunch to each of my kids teachers as a gift to them, as well as something fun for the students in the class to observe.

Outside Forsythia:

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Inside Forsythia after a couple days:

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April 3, 2014
by jenny
1 Comment

Fabric Scrap Project: Boy’s Necktie

 

Either last spring or the spring before I remember seeing a sewing pattern for a boy’s necktie. It was one of those things where I had no idea and didn’t even think that you could make one yourself and the idea of being able to pick any cute fabric intrigued me.  It’s been in my head ever since.

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We have Easter and a First Communion coming up, so I figured it was a good time to try it out making a boy’ s tie. My guy loves to dress up. I was picking out some tie fabric options on Monday, when I spilled my fabric bins. On Tuesday I showed my boy three choices: Superman, a teal batik, a Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle fabric, and another spring looking pattern. That kid announces that he doesn’t want a necktie at all!

Today I chose a fabric and decided to make him one anyway, just in case. Making a necktie is SUPER EASY. If you are a beginner sewer, you can easily handle this. You are sewing about 6 lines and then it’s just in the folding and ironing. The whole thing took under an hour and after having done it once might only take 15 minutes. I used this great free Totally Terrific Tie pattern by Fishsticks Designs. I used the velcro option. I recommend the pattern for it’s ease and clarity, but there are others out there.

I’m just going to leave the tie in my boys room as an option. I have a feeling he might like it.

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April 2, 2014
by jenny
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Challenge Accepted

 

My sort of in-between things week has continued, I’m busy finishing up stuff and planning ahead to stuff, and trying to catch up and get ahead on other things, but I don’t really have to be anywhere specific at any time during school hours.

So this morning I went searching for a recipe recommendation Sarah had sent me a few months ago to start for dinner plans. I have been looking at the link Sarah sent me from her mom every few days for the past few months thinking about it. But alas, it disappeared, after googling trying to find it, and wanting to try right that second, I used a new recipe.

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And soft pretzel rolls are now sitting on my kitchen counter cooling. They look good, smell good, and taste good. They are soft and light and fluffy, which I didn’t totally expect. I wouldn’t say they are all that pretzel tasting, but some. Sort of like a pretzel crossed with a fresh dinner roll. Thus the name pretzel roll, I suppose, though I did expect more pretzel taste like the pretzel dogs I’d made a few nights ago.

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The recipe I used is from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe and I was happy with it. I might boil the rolls a little longer to see of there is a little chewier crust. Resend the other recipe, Sarah!

We’ll be using these for burgers for supper tonight!

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March 31, 2014
by jenny
1 Comment

Monday Mom Cookies

I’ve been super busy over the past few weeks doing stuff for other people. Today for the first time in maybe all of March, I don’t have to be anywhere while the kids are in school. So while I’m playing catchup on the past few weeks of house cleaning, laundry, bills, mail, and email, I decided to take a break and spend a little time doing something as a treat for myself.

This is one way I differ from other folks, a normal treat is probably getting a manicure, haircut, shopping, coffee with a friend, or watching a TV show. My treat was looking through my fabric stash for a few minutes, and then trying out an iced oatmeal cookie recipe.

I used to really enjoy Archway Iced Oatmeal Cookies. Also the Little Debbie Oatmeal Creme Pies. I’ve wanted to try to make both of those homemade for years and sometimes research recipes for them online for fun. However, the folks in my house aren’t at all into those sorts of cookies. And since I usually have to try a few recipes or monkey with a recipe a few times before settling on one or getting it the way I like it, without an open audience, it seemed like there would be a lot of extra cookies. The recipes for these sorts of oatmeal cookies also include pulsing the oats in a food processor then using a mixer, which seems like lots of dishes and up and down the basement stairs where extra kitchen stuff is stored. So I’ve never tried these.

Today, I was up for treating myself, and extra dishes and basement stairs. I wanted to take the alone time for baking and make something that is just for me.

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But the recipe didn’t work. My cookies turned out “fine” but not right and definitely not like the Archway ones, which the recipe advertised. The cookies didn’t all spread, and the cookies that did spread, wanted to fall apart getting glazed. And the glaze wanted to suction in all of the cookies, and I decided to not let it most of the excess glaze to drip off (more frosting, yum), but it was the last 2 cups of powdered sugar in the house, and not letting a bunch drip off, I ran out of glaze before the end. Then turns out I didn’t really like the glaze on the cookies (needed a little melted butter or vanilla or both, too much cornstarch taste from the powdered sugar).

The cookie flavor was okay. Maybe too much nutmeg, the finished product tasted a little like soap to me. It also turned out that I liked the thicker cookies than the ones that flattened as they were supposed to anyway. I also spilled two bins of my fabric stash – the only two that were actually folded nicely and were sorted by color.

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I was thinking about these cookies and fabric heap and life as “Mom,” part in an exasperated “oh, come on” way, and part in an “yep, that’s the way it goes” way. The way a kid is typically sick on Mom’s birthday or the way Mom ends up with the cookies that ran out of glaze (or even the ones with the glaze already licked off!). Not so much in a pessimistic way though.

While I’d appreciate things working out my way, I am a full time mom with young kids. Maintaining healthy happy kids and keeping them feeling safe is my job requirement and getting to choose the pizza topping, or having the cookie I dreamed of are not in the job benefits these days. And that’s not AT ALL a bad thing. So for the rest of the day, I’m turning back to my job focus… washing sheets, mopping floors, prepping pretzel dogs for early pre-soccer practice dinner, searching for missing library books. And maybe I’ll  add Little Debbies to my grocery list.

 

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March 28, 2014
by sarah
1 Comment

Homes

In the fall I was asked to be part of an art exhibit. I could have easily taken several pieces of art off the wall of my house. However most of the art work was made 8 -15 years ago. I thought that this show was a great excuse to make some new work.

Where to start? What would it be about? What would it be made of? When would I have time to make it?

One theme stuck out on my list. It was the idea of: What is a home? I am working with a homeless population that are living in a local hotel. They are families that share a small hotel room with only a microwave and small fridge. In the mean while I  am getting designs and estimates on redoing my very functional bathrooms. With this conflict in mind of: suburban life never being good enough, always trying to keep up with the Jones’ in contract to classmates of my son living in a hotel room – I started making art.

Here is the artist statement that accompanied my pieces in the show:

I am very lucky to be a homemaker. I have been able to create a comfortable, safe, beautiful, flavorful home for my family. My family and I are fortunate to live in a home, in a safe suburb, with excellent schools. All of this is what I expected.

 Recently I have connected with families who live in Massachusetts funded transitional housing. I have met families of four and more who are living in a hotel room. The situation is intended to be temporary, but sometimes lasts for years. Their world is very different from mine.

 I take my world for granted. I assume it will never change. I’m sure that many of the families living in the hotel thought the same thing, but a job was lost or medical bills piled up and they lost their home.  

 Much of my art work has been about the questions of “What is home?” and “What it means to be a homemaker?” My recent body of work, that I am showing a part of here, is comparing family’s homes. I have decided to create small quilts to depict different spaces that people call home. I feel quilts make any space feel more comfortable, more like home no matter where it is. 

home quilt1 home quilt2

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March 26, 2014
by sarah
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My Way of Quilting: The Ultimate Scrap Fabric Project

I’m in the process of making a quilt for my littlest. As you know I am not a perfectionist, as a result quilting has been very intimidating for me. However over the years I have done plenty of it my way. For example:

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My aunt just recommended a book to me called “Quilting With a Modern Slant” by Rachel May. It has validated that the way I quilt is just fine. There is an entire chapter called Improv. In the  introduction to the chapter May says : “Quilters make their own rules and parameters for improv, emphasizing different elements of the process. No matter what: Don’t mistake improv as working willy-nilly. It requires a critical eye and careful attention to design.”

I have found that the log cabin design of quilting just the right balance of structure and willy-nillyness. The current project I am working on is using up strips from my bottomless fabric scraps. In addition there are strips from old “meeting shirts” (as my kids call the button down shirts their dad wears to work). The log cabin can use fabric pieces that are all the same width or the widths can vary (I like this way). The blocks need to eventually be all the same. Here are some of the blocks of the latest project with the template to help make them all the same size.

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