Pajama Pattern Drafting

I know I’ve mentioned before that my kiddo is not your average sized two year old. The area that I have the hardest time finding things to fit is in the pajama department. They make kids pajamas sooo long and narrow. And tight. My boy is long, but not so narrow. I’ve had to squeeze his chubby arms and legs into a good many pairs of pajamas. Even when you buy a size up (or two), it doesn’t seem to make a difference in the circumference.

I’ve had some success with making pajama pants, but I hadn’t been able to get a hang of the tops. I had found one pattern a few months ago that gave me a lot of trouble. I stopped halfway through one top because I knew I was going to hate it. The only other boy pajama pattern I could find was for older boys, not toddlers. I’m telling you, it is really difficult to find good patterns for little boys!

So, with the help of my mom, we drafted a new pattern. We took the pattern that was dumb (I don’t say that lightly) but the right size and matched it with the good pattern that was the wrong size. A little guessing here and there, and a new pattern was born!I love the baseball style shirt, it’s great for pajamas or everyday wear. I must see if Brian has any shirts he wants to get rid of that I can use the fabric for more shirts.

Knits and sergers are a match made in heaven. So is sewing with your mom!

Little boys love to help. Especially when measuring is involved!

Getting ready for bed with grandma in his new pajamas. Aren’t they cute?

One word on working with knits. WASH THEM BEFORE HAND. I’m pretty lazy when it comes to washing my fabric before I make things. With most fabrics that isn’t a big deal. Guess what? It’s a big deal for knits. After their first wash, these pajamas are more suited for Baby N when he arrives! Whoops! I guess I’ll be making more of these in pre-washed knits for my (not-so) little guy.


Tomatoes and Apples — oh my! Canning 101

Remember those tomatoes I was talking about? 50 pounds of them? Yeah, they are all peeled, seeded, diced, and canned into 17 quart jars. I’ll be enjoying these bad boys in soups, stews, and sauces for the year to come. I couldn’t have done it without the help of my amazing mama. It is a lot of work, but so totally worth it to me to be able to enjoy BPA free canned tomatoes. Yay!

In case you want to know how to can diced tomatoes, here’s a brief how-to.

First you skin the tomatoes. You do this by placing them in boiling water for about 45 second. Plunge them into an ice bath, and the skins come right off!
Then it’s time to seed the tomatoes. Slice them in half (horizontally) and stick your finger into each of the chambers
all the seed will come gushing out.

Now it’s time to dice your tomatoes. Put them into a large pot and heat them thoroughly on the stove. While they’re heating up, bring the water in your water-bath canner to a boil. You also want to heat the lids and jars. I was able to use hot water from my sink because it’s get REALLY hot, if yours doesn’t, just run everything through the dishwasher. The key to successful canning is having every component be VERY hot at the time the food goes into the jar.

Don’t forget to pose for some pictures! This pose actually wasn’t planned.
I’m really just holding my knife behind my mom’s hand, not pretending to chop the tomato while she holds it.
Folks, don’t try that at home!

I didn’t get a picture of the filling the jars part, but basically you just fill the jars with tomatoes and some of the juices that have accumulated. Leave about an inch space at the top, wipe the mouth clean, put the lids on loosely, and then everything goes into the boiling water bath. They need to boil for about 45 minutes. Remove the jars from the water bath, let them sit over night so they can cool. After about 24 hours the lids should be airtight and sealed. Use the tomatoes over the next year in all your favorite recipes!

Now that I’m an experienced canner, I decided to try canning some apple pie filling. We came home with about 50 pounds of apples after our apple picking excursion, and I just want to spread the goodness over the year to come. Last year I made apple pies and froze them, but didn’t really like the texture of the pie crust after it’s long stint in the deep freeze. So, canning apple pie filling was the answer! I’ve got 13 quart jars of apple pie filling, just waiting for the day they’ll see a pie crust and make their way into the oven. Here is the recipe I used. I had just enough apple pie filling leftover after the canning to whip up a fresh pie–yummy!

Here’s what you’ve got to do to can apple pie filling:

Peel, core, and slice your apples. You want them to be about 1/4 inch thick.
To prevent excessive browning, place them in water with a tablespoon or two of lemon juice.

After you’ve sliced your apples, you can make the pie filling while the water bath comes to a boil.
The filling just needs to come to a boil, then thicken to a nice consistency.

Stuff as many apple slices into hot jars. Really squeeze those guys in there. Then pour the hot filling over the apple slices (notice my handy-dandy wide mouth funnel? Makes the job so much easier!). You’ll need to use a plastic knife to get the filling down in there. It takes some time, but it’s worth it. Leave about 1/2 inch space, clean the mouth, add the lid, and into the canner it goes! Boil for 20 minutes.

The filling will last for 18 months – 2 years. Not that they’ll be around for that long!

I still have a few more things I’d like to can this year, before the season is over. I made apple butter and strawberry jam last year, but froze everything instead of canning. My freezer got very full and I would often forget what I had once it got buried underneath other food items. So, this year, I’d like to can any jams or jellies I make. I just found a recipe for Apple-Blueberry Jam which is definitely on my list. Probably more strawberry jelly too.

Any canning going on in your lives? If anyone wants to learn to can, I’m ready and willing to teach and loan out my equipment. It’s so much fun!


A Week of Fun

Sometimes there is an abundance of silence on this blog because I don’t feel like I have anything particularly exciting, creative, or interesting to share. That has NOT been the case over the past two weeks! On the contrary, there has been silence because I’ve been too busy doing stuff I really want to share with you all. The main reason for that is my awesome mom was in town for one week. We flew through my to-do list, let me tell you! Here is a recap of our week in pictures, with many completed project to come in the next week or so!

The day after my mom arrived, we took a trip to Norton’s Farm in St. Charles, IL.
They had a lovely selection of canning tomatoes that I wanted to get my hands on.
A 25lb box for $12! I took two home (and we spent much of our time canning them later in the week!)

They also have a GREAT kids area at the farm. Parker was thrilled to see they had a fake train to climb on.
This area kept his attention for a good amount of time — that’s hard to do with a busy boy!
We then lunched in beautiful Geneva, and headed home.

Like I said, there was a lot of tomato canning going on!
This big guy (the tomato, not the little one in my stomach!) won the award for biggest tomato ever.
I’m a big person, so maybe you can’t get perspective, but wow. HUGE tomato!

Over the weekend we went apple picking at Edward’s Apple Orchard, close to the Wisconsin border.
It was an incredibly picturesque day.
The little man went NUTS over getting to eat every apple he touched.

The rest of our visit consisted of good conversations, good food, a TON of shopping, cleaning, and some good old fashion organizing.
Parker got to spend some one-on-one time with grandma (Gigi), while we went to our calligraphy class (yes, hubby and I take it together).
They are too cute together. We miss you, Gigi! Come back soon!

P.S. This is a little vain, but do you guys like my new haircut? I got bangs! Haven’t had them since the fourth grade. 🙂


Doing It All

I’m often asked by people, “how do you do it all?” My answer is pretty straightforward: “I don’t.”

Facebook. Blog posts. Little snippets of conversation. Quick answers to “How are you?” All these things lead to a very warped understanding of what’s really going on in someone’s life. We all talk about the good things–the fun and exciting things going on in our lives. The things that we feel proud of or are excited to share with others. This leads to a very warped perception of people. It’s easy to feel like everyone else has it all together and we are just not cutting it somehow.

Well, I’m here to tell you that I don’t “do it all.” I tell you about a lot of fun stuff on my blog. I share the things I’m really excited about on my facebook status. But you know what? I do a lot of other mundane and unsuccessful things too. I spend more time doing laundry, doing dishes, cleaning, chasing a toddler, working part-time from home, taking a calligraphy class, leading a Women’s Bible Study group, etc than I do on all the fun stuff in life.

And because of that, I get tired a lot. I don’t always get dinner on the table. We order Domino’s occassionally. I have to ask people to watch my son so I can get my work done. I cry to my husband because I’m overwhelmed. I have days that homework doesn’t get done and late nights filled with work. In my busy-ness I can often wonder how it seems that everyone else is “doing it all”, because I just can’t seem to.

So, all that to say, it’s a busy day. Busy weeks really. I have piles of apples and huge zucchini that I need to find time to do something with. I have a ton of laundry to fold and a to-sew list that is getting frighteningly long. But we can only do so much, and I’m trying to accept my own limitations. I’m trying to put people first, then my health (because that’s looking out for another person too!), then all the stuff of life. The rest will just have to wait a bit.

How you do you prioritize during busy seasons?



Simple Tomato Soup

I’ve tried making my own tomato soup before, and well, it just didn’t go as planned. I love a good tomato soup, and for some reason, homemade varieties end up tasting like blended vegetable soup. Not quite tomato-y enough. You know? As the weather has started to turn cooler, I decided it was time to try making tomato soup from scratch once again.

Wouldn’t you know it? The most simple/easy/cheap recipe for tomato soup that I came across is the BEST. It definitely rivals Panera Bread or Corner Bakery (which are two of my favorites). And lucky for you, you probably have most of the ingredients already on hand. Especially if you have an over producing tomato crop or a basil plant on your patio. Trust me, this soup may look simple but it is ideal in taste and texture!

Tomato-Basil Soup
(Serves 4-6)

2 – 28 oz cans of diced or crushed tomatoes (you could dice your own tomatoes if you want to use fresh, just make sure to include all the yummy juices!)
1 – 14.5 oz can of chicken broth (or use homemade: less salt and more yum!)
18 – basil leaves, chopped
1 cup – whole milk
3 TBS – butter
1 – small yellow onion, chopped
salt/pepper to taste

Melt the butter over medium-high heat in a stockpot. Saute the onions in the butter until golden. Add the tomatoes and chicken broth. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 10 minutes. Add the basil and milk, stir. Use an immersion blender to reach desired consistency (or transfer to a regular blender in small batches). Add salt and pepper to taste. Enjoy!

I love to make a whole meal out of my tomato soup. It always pairs nicely with a grilled cheese sandwich (even Parker loved dipping his sandwich into his soup). Another fun way is to make the soup into a base for chips, sour cream, cheddar cheese, and green onions. Anyway you eat it, tomato soup is the perfect way to start off the Fall season!


Potato Stamps

Like many of you I’ve seen the idea of creating stamps out of potatoes floating around the internet. I also have one of Lotta Jansdotter’s books, and she brings up this idea frequently. I decided–what could be a simpler craft than creating potato stamps, using fabric paint, and decorating some white onesies?

Well, as it turns out, a lot of things could be simpler. My potato stamps on onesie were a bit of a bust. It is really hard to find the perfect combination of (1) enough paint and (2) not so much paint that the stamps are all fuzzy.

The one on the left wasn’t really supposed to look like flowers, it was just a geometric design. Now it’s a little too feminine, and well, smudgy for my taste. The one on the left is my attempt at a crescent moon and stars. The moon just wouldn’t cooperate. Stars are a little better. What can you do?

Thankfully, not all was lost. Parker had a grand old time playing with the leftover “stamps” and marking up paper (and himself) with paint. It may have been a “mama-crafting” fail, but at least the toddler was happy!

Any activity involving dipping is a favorite right now (dipping food in sauces, painting, etc.)

Hello Mr. Handsome!

I still really wanted to have something to show for my fabric paint efforts, so I busted out a sponge brush and decorated a plain shirt for Parker and a plain shirt for “N”. (Yes, we’ve decided on a name for the little boy, but for now, you’ll get to know him as “N”. Okay?)

Can you believe how much bigger Parker’s shirt is than that little onesie?
Oh, newborns and your little clothes, you just melt my heart.

I still don’t really like how these came out. I feel like they look like a kindergartner painted them, but oh well. Also, I never realized that Parker’s initials PTG, look frighteningly close to PIG. Hmm. And “N’s” initials are a little close to MSG. Maybe initials weren’t the best idea ever? I guess that fabric paint and I just have a testy relationship for now.

Have you tried making potato stamps? Have you used fabric paint? I’d love any tips you’d like to pass on!


Taggie Blanket Tutorial

Now that I’m halfway done with this pregnancy (can I hear an, “Amen!”?), I figured it was high time to start crafting for this little one. I was feeling very uninspired before I knew the gender, but now all that has changed. Even though I’ve got boy stuff coming out of my ears from Parker’s hand-me-downs, I want to make some special new things just for little boy #2.

Enter: the taggie blanket. It’s one of the fastest, cheapest, and sure to be well-loved things to make for a baby. I used all scraps from fabric and ribbon that I had on hand–doesn’t get cheaper than that! It took all of about 30 minutes, which is exactly my attention span for this type of project.

Simply choose 2 pieces of fabric (I used cut up pieces of flannel from old receiving blankets) and cut each into a square (mine was about 11 inches). Cut various pieces of ribbon.

Place the two pieces of fabric right sides together. Fold each piece of ribbon in half and sandwich in between the two pieces of fabric, raw edges of the ribbon should be out. Leave a gap where one ribbon would fit — you’ll use this area to turn the blanket inside out and will add a ribbon later.

Sew around the edges, leaving a 3″ hole to turn the whole thing inside out. Turn right side out, insert a ribbon in the “hole” you left open, pin in place, and top stitch around the edges. That’s it! It’s sure to be a winner with any baby — oh boy, do they love tags!


What’s Cooking?

After a summer of needing to simplify in the kitchen, I am back into the swing of things as Fall approaches. Fall is my favorite cooking season. I get so giddy when the September issue of Cooking Light arrives! I love the heartier meals that come with the cooler weather. Not to mention the baking. Oh the baking! And canning! It’s a marvelous time to be a cook!

We’ve also had a lot of guests in our home, so I feel a constant rotation of cooking and cleaning up. Oh, and I’ve had a house full of 3 extra guys (on top of already having the hubster and my toddler that eats like a grown man and my pregnant self that is insatiable). I’ve had to be more creative in extending the food dollar and making sure everyone is full.

Blueberry Pancakes
Egg Sandwiches
Cinnamon Apple Muffins
Yogurt and Granola

Chicken Caesar Wraps
Salami or Turkey Sandwiches
Grilled Chicken Burgers

Mostaccioli, Garlic Bread, Italian Salad
Orange Chicken, Fried Rice, and Won-tons
Pesto Pasta, Bruschetta, and French Bread
Beef Stir Fry with green peppers, brown rice
Homemade Chili with baked potatoes (leftovers on hotdogs another night)
Slow-cooker pulled pork sandwiches, Sweet Potato Fries, and Coleslaw
Apricot Chicken, mashed potatoes, and salad

Chocolate Chip Cookies
Birthday Cupcakes/Cake
2 Apple Pies
Peach Shortbread

Whew! And that’s just in a weeks time! What a busy place my kitchen is these days!
What’s been cooking in your kitchen? Are you excited about canning season? Baking anything fun lately?


A Boy and His Pop

Even though we live two-thousand miles away from all of our family, we’ve been blessed to spend a decent amount of time with each family member. None more so than Brian’s grandfather, Pop. He has spent the last three summers with us, helping us renovate our house. Two years ago he spent two months with us while I was very pregnant. Last summer he spent two months with us and celebrated Parker’s first birthday in Illinois.

This year, well, it was much shorter — just two weeks. But this has been the sweetest time of all for Parker. He’s just starting to understand his relationship to other people, and he just adores his Pop. I captured a few sweet moments with the two of them enjoying one another’s company.

Apple picking at Homestead Orchard on Pop’s last day in Illinois.

Reading a book together with lots of snuggles.

Watching the cars go by from the front porch swing — they did this a LOT.

Working in the yard to pick up sticks. Parker loves to help!

It is always hard to say goodbye to family, but it is especially hard when Parker doesn’t really understand the concept of “being in California.” He asks for Pop every day. Sometimes he’ll hear a creak and will think he is hearing Pop coming in the back door. So cute and so sad. We all miss you, Pop! Come back again soon!


Bathroom Remodel

One day we decided it was high time to do something about our bathroom. It was in okay shape, but it really wasn’t our style and there were some funky things about it. We live in a relatively small, one bathroom house. So to have NO storage in the bathroom (we only had a pedestal sink), was sort of a bummer.

This is what it looked like when we bought the house. We did update the shower curtain to make it look a bit more modern, but that’s how it basically stayed for 2 years. Well, no longer.

First, we did a number on the floor. Out goes the tile. When you start demolition, you discover fun things. Like dry rot. Like a leaky toilet. Like leaks through the floor to the basement. Yup. Fun times. (Oh yeah, you can see our newer curtain in the background. It doesn’t stay around for long!)

Can I remind you that we only have ONE bathroom? Re-doing the floor and installing a new toilet meant a whole day without a toilet. Can I remind you that I’m pregnant and have to go all-of-the time? Oh yes, it was a very interesting day. So, to minimize discomfort, they laid the tile just around the toilet, grouted, and installed the toilet before bed on Day 1 of renovation. Whew!

After another day and a half of hard work by Pop (Brian’s grandpa), the floor was finished. Wow does it looks amazing. A modern take on a traditional style. Here we’ve painted a portion of the wall and started patching up old holes.

And then before you know it, the whole project was over! Beautiful blue paint now adorns those once creamy walls. So peaceful! A simple install of new mirror, artwork, towel racks, new shower curtain, toilet paper holder, baseboards, and vanity pretty much finished the job.

Here is the opposite wall. Rather hotel-like, no?

Close-up of the sink. I even left the water running so you can see how cool the faucet is. I just love it!

And above the toilet we’ve got some cute metal artwork. I love the way the blue comes through and shows off the birds. We’re still deciding if we’ll put in a corner shelf unit to the right of the toilet. We’ll see, I guess.

We left the shower the same, it was just white tile. But Pop did re-grout the tile since it was pretty badly done before. He also gave the old pitted tub a nice scrub down so it’s whiter than ever. We just love our new bathroom! Totally worth the inconvenience. Thanks Pop for all your hard work (and Brian too, a lot of late nights last week)!