Wednesday, November 26, 2008

No Lye

Christmas is coming. And that means it's time to make my annual chocolate-mint soap.

On Thursday and Friday nights (after the children were in bed), I made soap. It's really a quick process and took about an hour from start to finish, including clean up. And it looks so yummy (like chocolate pudding) and smells so yummy (think Peppermint Patties and Junior Mints) that the effort seems minimal.

However, on Thursday night, I skipped a step in mixing the cocoa powder to some oil to blend it before adding it to the lye mixture and rest of the oils. I tried to blend out the lumps, but I noticed a few as I poured it into the mold. Drats! I knew I'd need another batch anyway, so I made soap on Friday night as well. When that turned out nicely, I figured I would make some more on Saturday night (Joe was out of town for part of the week and all of the weekend, so I had plenty of time on my hands), but I needed more lye.

I usually buy my lye at Lowe's. It's the only local source that I know. I ran into Lowe's on Saturday and they no longer carry lye, thanks to all the people who use it to make illegal drugs. I ran into Home Depot. They don't carry it. I called a few other places, and they didn't have it. I searched online and saw the outrageous prices. Because of the nature of lye, there is usually a $20 Hazmat service fee attached to shipments. I was so bummed. Soooo bummed.

Thankfully, yesterday I accidentally came across a source with reasonable prices, without the added Hazmat fees. Even if I had to buy twelve pounds of it. Whew! Soaping crisis averted.

And, while this soap will take four weeks to cure, there is another longer way to make soap that doesn't require curing time. I might be making that as soon as my lye comes. However, there might be a silver lining in the cloud. I checked both batches of soap this morning and I can't tell them apart. Maybe the cocoa powder lumps were absorbed into the soap. That first screwy batch may be saved after all. Only time will tell.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


So yesterday I spent the morning and afternoon at parent-teacher conferences. I met with ten teachers, I think. I kind of lost track. It was the first time I had met some of them, so it was good to go. (We were on vacation when they had their back-to-school, meet-the-teacher days.)

Anyway, the boys have off of school this week and we've been playing a lot of games together, like:

Who stabbed this apple with a pencil? (No one confessed.)

Who peed on the toilet seat? Who peed on the bathroom floor? And, Who peed on the toilet seat, again?!? (No one confessed.)

And Who had a bloody nose and dripped on the bathroom floor and didn't clean it up? (No one confessed.)

But, seriously, Who stabbed the apple with a pencil? That's all I want to know ... Besides why?

Have you played these games before or do you have your own you'd like to share?

Friday, November 21, 2008

Three Down

30+ to go...

Now, please tell me:

Do you like the snowman with the white thread? Or ...

The black thread which resembles coal buttons?

(Do you think they will "get" it? I know you do because you are crafters. Do you think they will?)

Thursday, November 20, 2008

In Christmas Denial

I think I'm in Christmas denial. Is it really coming up?

Just two weeks ago it was 70 degrees outside. Now it's cold, windy, and blustery. We saw our first snowflakes on Tuesday. It was bitter cold.

I'm still in Autumn mode. Apples and applesauce, pilgrim hat cookies, falling leaves. I'm not ready for this thing called Christmas. Or winter for that matter.

In a bit of reality, I ordered some Christmas presents. Like this cute wooden scale. And this cute wooden food for Spenser. She spends most of her days playing with her wooden food. It's the best investment I've made. They came out with a few new ones this year and so I'm happy to add to her collection.

I'm also looking at some wooden cash registers. I like these three. (Anyone have any experience with them?)

And look at this cute wooden mailbox!

So maybe I'm not really in denial yet. Maybe I'm getting a teensy bit excited. It really is a wonderful time of the year.

Are you in denial or are you excited?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Doctoring It Up

(Sawyer's cupcake)

A few years ago, a friend of mine introduced me to Cherry Chip cake mix. I had never heard of it. I was living in Ohio at the time and was able to find it, of all places, at the Super Wal-Mart. Since coming back to Maryland (almost six years ago), I have not been able to find it. Until a few weeks ago ...

I was in our local grocery store that has over-priced, out-dated food. I only go there when I don't feel like running into "town" (which is about 15-20 minutes away) and I'm desperate for something. Well, a few weeks ago, I must have been desperate for something because I spied Cherry Chip cake mix. While it was completely over-priced, I picked up a box and was delighted. (I know, I sound like I have a really pathetic life.) I thought, "if I show an interest in this over-priced cake mix, maybe they will keep it in stock.

Imagine my surprise when it went on sale one week later for $1 a box. I scooped up five, I think. And then, just last week again, they were on sale for 98 cents a box. I bought the rest. Which were seven boxes, but two were for my friend, Kim.

So you're probably wondering where I'm going with this. When I was first introduced to this yummy cake mix, my friend made it with mini-chocolate chips and chocolate frosting. Oh. My. Goodness. Chocolate-covered cherry cake. It is so yummy. I never would have thought about mixing the flavors on my own. (I'm not very creative like that.) It just makes me wonder, what other possibilities are there for doctoring up cake mixes?

Do you have an old standby that you'd like to share? I've heard you can add extracts to cake mixes, too, which I've never done.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Camera Strap Cozy

I had seen some cute camera strap cozies around blogworld, and loved them, but didn't want to take the time to figure it out. It just wasn't a priority.

When I saw this tutorial link over on Whip-Up recently, I realized it was already figured out for me.

This took minutes to do. From start to finish. Quick, quick, quick. I'm not sure if I actually used the exact tutorial or gist of it.

When I asked Joe if this was "manly" enough, he said, "No." Oh well. I could have made it pink!

(The fabric is Alexander Henry's Rodeo Star.)

Monday, November 17, 2008

The Skirt

to go with the boots.

I've been wanting a new winter skirt to go with my new birthday boots. I bought some charcoal gray checked corduroy a while back, but didn't have time to sew the skirt. My first priority was Halloween. And then Spenser's birthday party. And a few other things in there. Including not wanting to sew anything after Matt and Caitlin's accident.

Saturday (our first soccer-free Saturday in months) was the day. It was rainy, which gave me the perfect excuse to sew while Joe and the boys watched movies.

The "pattern" is from Sew What! Skirts. It's the fitted A-line with a side zipper.

(I added three vintage buttons in front of the side zipper.)

While I really, really, really love this skirt and it turned out almost exactly as I imagined it, it's too big. Even with a few alterations to the skirt, I still didn't take enough in. It's not the book's fault. It's mine. I've made the wrap skirt from the book several times in the past and had my measurements written down, I took the lazy route and didn't measure myself again. I'm hoping it's because I've been running and slimming down, but I just don't know. Maybe when I made the wrap skirt I had big breakfast and/or lunch.

I still wore it to church, but it fit so low on my hips that it was a little uncomfortable. I can almost take the skirt off without pulling down the zipper. I don't know if I'll just live with it as it is, take it apart and make it smaller, or make a new one. It cost less than $9 to make it. The corduroy was half-price, I had the zipper and buttons.

* * * Things to remember and ponder: * * *

Taylor brought home his first report card from middle school. He made the Honor Roll, even with taking all accelerated classes. The school is holding a reception on Friday morning for all Honor Roll students. Woo-hoo, Taylor! Although I'm not surprised, Mr. Smarty Pants.

Yesterday at church, Caitlin's father shared a poem with me that he wrote for her private graveside service. It was a beautiful tribute in honor of Caitlin's life and her many wonderful attributes. I have pondered his words all night. It was so beautifully written. And it just described all of Caitlin's wonderful qualities. It just makes me want to write something about each of my children now. Maybe for their birthdays. And maybe add to it every year.

Friday, November 14, 2008

More Than Applesauce

On Tuesday I bought a bushel of apples. (1/2 bushel of Staymans on the left, 1/2 bushel of Macintosh with a mix of others on the right.)

And on Wednesday morning we made applesauce. My friend, Kim, brought over her big Squeezo Strainer and helped me. (She's the master canner. I always learn a lot from her in the process.)

It was more than make applesauce, though. It was a time for fellowshipping and learning. We talked. We laughed. We made messes. We laughed some more. And we were busy. I was washing, cutting, cooking the apples, and filling and processing the jars. She was straining them. And she let Spenser and Sawyer have a few turns turning the handle. (It's hard, messy work to press those apples. I'm so happy she offered to help me. I had planned to use my little food mill. It would have taken forever.)

In the end, one bushel of apples yielded 17 quarts and three pints of applesauce.

Today I'm helping her strain two bushels of apples, and next week I think I'm going to attempt another bushel. I'm looking forward to spending another morning with her.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Repurposing: Cardies

A while ago, Martha had a great idea for repurposing old wool sweaters. And after seeing Chris' cute rendition, I knew it was high time. I found two wool sweaters at the thrift store for $4 each. (The above was already felted before I remembered to take its photo.)

A few snips and a little sewing later, it's a child-sized cardi for Sawyer.

I decided to take the eclectic, handmade approach and used mismatched vintage buttons. I then made a blanket-stitch along the raw edges of the front and neck.

This one is Spenser's. She has worn it every day since I finished it. (And it's not even pink!) She prefers it over her winter coat. And so far she's still warm.

The only issue I had with these cardigans was the buttonholes. My machine is not cooperative with making buttonholes on felted wool. After a dozen or more attempts, I gave up. I cut the wool in Spenser's blue sweater, but I'm afraid it will stretch.

Should I do some hand-stitching? I made a few satin stitches around the bottom buttonhole, as the ribbing didn't felt as tightly as the rest of the sweater (and I didn't notice it until I had already cut out the pattern). I haven't made buttonholes in Sawyer's yet because I need your help. Any suggestions? Please?

Monday, November 10, 2008

A Worthy Distraction

The past two weeks have not been normal around here. Two weeks ago, we were preparing to attend Matt's funeral. Tonight is Caitlin's. She did not make it. From what I understand, her brain continued to swell and she began to have strokes. Through an MRI, earlier in the week, the doctors determined that she was not going to wake up. In their last bit of bravery and compassion, the family decided to donate her organs, before taking her off of life support.

I'm still trying to wrap my brain around this. It's surreal. My heart weeps for the family. It is my worst nightmare times two. As I made cookies for Matt's viewing, I cried. As I made cupcakes for Caitlin's, I was in shock. It feels like a bad, made-for-tv movie.

We went to the viewing last night. I had no idea what to say to the family. No words could come to my lips. I just shook her father's hand, and patted his back, with tears in my eyes. We communicated through our tears instead.

In a bit of trying to keep myself distracted this week, after we learned of Caitlin's turn for the worse, I made some newborn hats. These hats were made from shirts (which were about to be donated) and sent to Mama to Mama. It is a worthwhile cause and a good distraction for the week.

Some good things can come tragedies. Caitlin's organs have been donated to others awaiting transplants and some newborn babies will have hats upon their heads to help maintain their body temperature.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Happiness Is ...

Yummy, yummy apple cider from our local apple store. (I love that apple-headed man! He's been the same forever.)

Homemade applesauce with apples from my favorite apple-headed-man store.

A little girl, whose fever may have finally broken, wearing a pink hat with some new pink birthday sunglasses (that I forgot to give to her until yesterday afternoon).

Excellent test grades from Jackson (97% and 100%) and Mason (96%). I guess they get their smarts from Joe.

Happiness is ... soccer season is ending tomorrow. Taylor has his soccer tournament and it looks like we might have mild weather (if it doesn't rain). Last year I nearly froze to death at his tournament.

What is making you happy this week?

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Prolonging Skirt Weather

I know I'm not alone when I say this, but I hate, hate pants. Long pants. I can wear capris, but long pants? Well, they just annoy me on so many levels. #1: I can't find ones to fit properly. I have long legs. That's just one of my issues. And I really don't think many pants are comfortable enough to lounge around in. I don't like them bunchy around my knees.

Anyway, the weather has been nutso lately. Cold and windy one day. Mild and nice the next. And sometimes dreary and gloomy thrown in the middle. And, so while I can, I plan to prolong skirt-wearing weather with leggings. A warm compromise. (Oh, and don't worry, the boots have been out to play, too.)

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

An Election Day Trip

Yesterday we met up with my mother, sister, brother, and several nieces and nephews at Boyds Bear Country (in Gettysburg, PA). It's like a giant ... museum. Well, that's at least what I told my children it was. It was really about four floors of toys. And knick knacks. Things to buy. (I think the older ones caught on that it was really a store and not a museum.)

We had a little snack while we were there. Nachos and ice cream.

Tried on some bear ears.

Visited the nursery! (How cute is this?)

Held newborn babies.

Posed with giant bears. (Some as tall as seven feet!)

And found some cool candy corn decorations.

It was our first trip there. And it's surprisingly close. Like 30 minutes away. On our way home, Spenser asked if we could go back today.

We stopped to vote on the way home. I had all six with me. The children have been learning about the election and I thought it was important for them to not only see how we vote, but to see me vote. They stood at my side and made sure I voted for the right person. (Our voting booths are equipped with electronic touch screens, so it was quick and easy. Well the voting part was quick and easy part. The hard part was keeping them quiet while I tried to read the new laws they were trying to pass.)

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

The Tea Party

Yesterday was Spenser's birthday tea party.

Because of Halloween, I couldn't start working on decorations or favors until Saturday, after Carter's soccer tournament.

I whipped up a bunting, using vintage sheet scraps. And picked up a bunch of fall flowers at our local grocery store yesterday morning and placed one stem in each mini milk glass vase.

We served mini turkey sandwiches, Annie's Shells and White Cheddar, pretzels, grapes, carrots and dip. And apple juice. We can't forget the apple juice (instead of tea). Then we ate blueberry muffins and brownies.

The place settings came from the thrift store. This summer I found a set of seven matching teacups, saucers, and salad plates. These also became part of the party favors. Along with a cloth napkin (from a thrifted sheet),

and a small drawstring bag (made from the same thrifted sheet), colored pencils and a couple of mini notebooks (scrapbook paper courtesy of Cindy).

We had a fun time at the party. I think all the girls loved it. Especially Spenser.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Halloween Costumes

Sawyer, The Skunk.

I took the easy route for Sawyer and bought him a skunk costume from Old Navy. I thought about making it, but knew I would not have time. It was on sale for $15, so I probably couldn't have made it much cheaper.

Store-bought or handmade. He's stinkin' cute.

Spenser, The Ballerina.

I made the tutu and leg warmers. I bought the long-sleeved leotard and opaque tights. She wore her hair in a bun. Too sweet.

Mason, The Gorilla.

I wanted to die when Mason announced he wanted to be a gorilla for Halloween. I honestly tried to change his mind. When he wouldn't have it, I agreed. I used Simplicity 2855. If I ever made it again, I'd buy a longer zipper and place it in the back. And then I'd leave the padded, pleather stomach as one piece.

Joe made a mask for Mason out of the leftover pleather. It didn't stay on so well, so halfway through trick or treating, it went into his bag.

Jackson, Fancy Pants.

What can I say? I made the orange bell-bottoms, bought a long-sleeved black shirt, and Joe made a mohawk out of two white chair pads. Joe designed it and sewed it.

Only a few passing kids knew who he was ...

Carter, The Pirate.

I made the vest out of some vintage red and white fabric. He wore a long-sleeved white tee with some ruffly, elastic cuffs that I made. A black scarf on his head. A hoop earring and an eye patch.

The cuff.

(Taylor stayed at home and gave out candy.)

Sunday, November 02, 2008


A sweet little girl turned four today.

I have a feeling she is the most loved girl in the world.

She is completely adored by all of her brothers. And her father. But especially her mother.

When I was the mother of four boys, my mother tried to tell me that I needed a girl. "I know," I'd say. And then she'd repeat it. "I know," I'd say again. I didn't really know how much I needed a girl until Spenser came along. Oh. My. Goodness. There are no words to describe it. I needed a girl. I needed a girl.

She is the balance to these five boys. She is the most girly-girl in all of the world, but she can wrestle and karate chop and jump on the trampoline like no other.

Before she was born, I expected to bring home a blond-haired, blue-eyed baby girl (resembling her older brothers). In the days leading up to her birth, I would stare down at the pink crib sheet, in her pink room, and envision a blondie girl. I couldn't have been more surprised when she had brown hair and olive skin (and a little brown hair, or "fur" as I'd call it, on her lower back). We couldn't tell the color of her eyes right away, but we could tell that they were different from the moment we looked into them. And we fell in love.

To this day, I walk into her room at night and stare down into her bed with wonder and amazement at her brown hair, although it's more golden now than brown. She is a surprise every single day.

She was born on Election Day. Joe and I stopped to vote on our way to the hospital. We were some of the first ones to vote that morning. In a hurry to the hospital. (She had to be evicted from me because she was quite late and the Army was expecting Joe to return to work the following Monday.)

I found this poem a few months ago, and it hangs on my refrigerator. It reminds me of my awesome responsibility to raise a daughter. (Or sons.)

A careful woman I ought to be
A little girl follows me;
I do not dare to go astray
For fear she'll go the self-same way.

I cannot once escape her eyes;
What're she sees me do, she tries
Like me, she says, she's going to be,
The little girl who follows me.

She thinks that I am good and fine,
Believes in every word of mine;
The base in me she must not see,
The little girl who follows me.

I must remember as I go,
Through summer's sun and winter's snow,
I am building for the years to be,
For a little girl follows me.

~Author Unknown~

Happy birthday, to my favorite girl in the world. Spenser, I love you more today. Tomorrow. To-later. And to-now. ("To-later" and "to-now" are her words.)