Friday, December 21, 2012

Advent Calendar

This year I wanted to do an Advent calendar to bring daily awareness to this special time of the year and talk about the meaning of Christmas with the kids. I wanted something that would fit into our existing holiday decor and be easy & inexpensive to make. I decided on using my favorite old standby the rubber stamp. All the stamps we used to make the calendar had previously been purchased for other projects and the brown bags we had in the pantry so...the price on this holiday project was almost nil. The entire project only took about 30 minutes from start to completion. I filled the bags with a mix of holiday projects, small sweet treats, stickers and words of giving. One of the bags had a gingerbread cookie cutter with a note that said, Lets make holiday cookies today. Another bag had a bag of decal gems and a styrofoam ball with a message that said, "Design an Ornament". The calendar has been such a hit, every morning the kids come down and can't wait to see whats in the baggies and count down the days until the 25th. This is most definitely a tradition we will keep up with. So far I have been able to recycle and save the bags so next year we are good to go and can use them again. 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

New Mexico Balloon Fiesta

We booked a last minute family vacation to see the Balloon Fiesta in Albuquerque, NM. It was an amazing trip. We stayed at The Tamaya resort outside of town, the hotel is located on the majestic lands of the Santa Ana Indians surrounded by mountains and several buttes. This festival is the only one that allows viewers to be right up next to the balloons as they prepare for ascent. Roughly 750 balloons cover the open field gearing up to go before the sun even rises. You get there while it is still dark, bundled up in warm gear, drinking hot chocolate and eating the most incredible green chili breakfast burritos while watching the preparations. At dawn they send up the initial patrol and the balloons are alight from within as they rise up and test the air. Once the sun come up the rest of the balloons all go as up they are inflated. The kids loved it. Beside the balloons Albuquerque offers so much to do as a family, we hiked and found a meteorite, went to local crafts shows and ate great New Mex food. We are already longing to get back to this very very special place. 

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Big Bad Wolf Cake

Mr. T's birthday was right on the heels of our coming back from a family vacation and just a few days before Halloween. It was a crazy time around our house and so I just wanted to do something small, low key and just family to celebrate his turning the big 2. At almost the last minute we decided to call see if some family friends wanted to join in the fun and so that put the pressure on to do a cake. Now if you read this blog you will notice for one that theres not alot a posting going on but also in the few post I do have  that we have kind of a family tradition of trying to do great cakes. I have to preface that by saying it's not that we are great bakers or cake makers but that we have cake envy and always want to try and do something new and challening. My husband and I collaborate and always make the cake thing happen and by some miracle we are always smiling and happy with the results, even if some times they are less than perfect. This year was a bit of a challenge in that since the last cake efforts we have discovered that we as a family have gluten issues. The kids and I were tested and things have not been the same around here when it comes to sweet baked treats. For this cake I used the chocolate gluten free mix from King Arthur, to my surprise is was very good. Moist, tender with good chocolate flavor and none of the grit you get in alot of store bought GF mixes. For the icing I used Martha Stewarts recipe chocolate ganache - it was the first time I had made a ganache. It is now my go to for quick chocolate icing. So easy and it looked so professional. I can't take full credit for the design, I was hard pressed to do a big bad wolf cake from scratch and I was inspired by a cake I spied online wolf cake inspiration

Little Red & Wolf

Without a doubt Halloween is my favorite holiday. What's not to love there is obscene amounts of candy, spooky movies, creepy decor and the best part... dressing up. Well maybe not so much dressing up for me anymore. Luckily, I've discovered that I like making the costumes better than putting them on. This year I didn't have to put a lot of brain power into coming up with a concept - our littlest one is obsessed with the big bad wolf so that was pretty much a no brainer,which in turn made coming up with costume for big sister just as easy, she was going to be Little Red Riding Hood. I started working on the costumes early this year trying to avoid my typically last minute all night sew-a-ton and to my surprise I was actually done the a few days before. I have to say I am very proud of the costumes, the dress was a real struggle that I nearly abandoned. I had never made a dress from a store bought pattern before - I found the whole thing incredibly frustrating and must admit reading patterns takes the kind of smarts that I just don't have. At one point I even went up to T's closet in search of a red dress that I could just throw a home sewn apron on and call it day, but after letting the project sit for a day or two I pulled out my seam ripper and tried again. Not perfect but a huge milestone for me in my self taught sewing education. Little mans costume was much easier, no pattern just complete trial and error. I used an old pirate costume vest as the go by and the hat I just kind of eyeballed and figured out as I went along. Halloween was a blast, the kids spent it trick or treating with friends and even thought I would have loved to dress up I just couldn't bring myself to be the grandma to their red & wolf.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Super 4

It was a crazy summer. Running after a 3 year old and a 1.5 year old left little time for any fun mom activities like sewing, blogging, reading or coming up with any new recipes. Now that school is back on I'm hoping to rediscover my old friends Singer and Breville. One project that I had to squeeze in was to make a cape for the little misses 4th birthday. I squeezed it in the night before we were to fly out at 7am for Florida, started pattern making and cutting after the T's went to bed at 9 and finished up just in time to pack out family bags and get a few hours of shut eye. I decided to do a super 4 cape for her instead of making another birthday crown. In hindsight I wish I did't wait until the last minute on this one, it was the first time I worked with satin...slippery - and the silver pleather was a big pain. FYI it sticks to the feeder foot and won't run through so I ended up using vellum paper to back it so I could slide through, worked. It was a rush job but she loved it all the same. 

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Easters Away

A few years ago after Tess was born Matt and I sort - kinda agreed that holidays were to be spent at home. We both recounted past childhood holidays spent with close family and mostly often than not centered around the family dining table and in my family the table and the dreaded TV. Not a lot of frills or fancy trappings just good food and being surrounded by our nearest and dearest. We both concluded that we would put our old ways of "yeah it's a holiday lets get outta this town" aside and retire our flight bags to the garage. What were we thinking.
This Easter was our third major holiday this year spend away from home and we spent it in the Texas Hill Country. We managed to skirt town for Thanksgiving (San Antonio) and Christmas (North Carolina) as well.  
It's not that I mind cooking and decking out the house in holiday fare, I like doing all of that. It's just that I am sooooooo in love with family time. And as family oriented as holidays are it just seems like that's when folks end up spending the least amount of time together. So when the opportunity for 3 or 4 days off from work and school arrises I want to escape somewhere where I don't have to cook, clean, tell my children wait until mommies done or I can't now because I have this or that chore to accomplish. I want to spend every moment immersed in their world with them. I want to see out of their eyes, do what they do, give them and get from them undivided attention. It's just my bliss.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Green Thumbs

Every year we try and plant just a few things. Usually we don't end up with more than a few tomatoes, peppers and herbs - it's really more about letting the kids experience the wonder and excitement of planting and growing from seeds. Last year Texas had an unusually hot and dry summer, the state suffered some of the worst every wildfires. Crops and lawns everywhere dried up to nothing. There were water shortages and watering bans that made growing a garden in this harsh heat even more difficult than usual. Thankfully, this year we have gotten some much needed rain and I am determined to plant some crops that might even yield us a meal or two. I have been wanting a raised garden bed since we move into the house but we are planning a renovation so I have held off building anything permanent. Earlier this year I started researching semi - permanent planting solutions and found this cool mini greenhouse call the Grow Camp. It manages to solve not only my space issue but it also boasts a nice screen which helps to block out 40% of the sun so my plants won't scorch in this heat. The screen also acts as an insect barrier so that you can grow your vegetables completely organic and without the use of insecticides. Pretty cool. When I purchased the Grow Camp I also bought a small soaker hose and a timer so that I could make a watering system to use within the greenhouse - so far it seems to be working perfectly. Here are the pictures of the set up with the watering hoses. Summer is not the best for vegetable gardening in Houston so I went with only the most heat tolerant crops. We ended up planting eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes, various peppers, leeks, celery, arugula, summer radish, lots of herbs, and sowed some carrots directly into the ground. Most of the plants Tess started from seed indoors in those jiffy grow peat pots and we moved them outside now that they were big enough.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Big Changes

It's been a long time since our last post. We have been working around some big changes around here and free time for writing has been something that's been hard to find. A few months ago me and the both of the kiddos had Iga testing done for food sensitivity issues and the results came back showing that we were all highly allergic to gluten,soy, egg and dairy. Since both of my kids had severe colic as infants and nothing except me going on a very strict elimination diet worked these results were something that we had already suspected. But none the less it has shaken up our pantries and resulted in a complete food and mental overhaul for us. First steps was to clear out all the "bad" foods from our diets and we are slowing learning how to replace our favorite foods with options that we can tolerate. It's been a learning curve to try and find work around and meals take a bit longer to plan and cook but I am getting better. One of the first essential purchases was a bread maker - what can I say we are a carb loving house. Over the next few months I will be posting our "food" successes and failures, I have had a few of both. I will also try and post reviews of some of the GF and allergy cookbooks that are starting to pile up around here.  Here is our first successful first attempt at allergy free eats. The cupcakes are from the amazing cookbook The Allergen-Free Baker's Handbook by Cybele Pascal. I used her Vanilla Cupcake recipe and the Icing recipe was the Chocolate Buttercream recipe from Vegan Cupcakes take Over the World. The cupcake recipe can be found on Cybele Site