Wednesday, August 25, 2010

First Day

I have a First Grader! How weird is that?? Ethan has been so excited to start school again, and was happy to see many of his friends in his class again this year. His teacher is Mr. Robles, and we are sure he is the best, most fun, and coolest teacher ever! (At least Ethan thinks so, which is all that matters!)

Aubrey was absolutely sure that she was going to school with her brother this morning as well. Her little tears broke my heart as Ethan walked into the school, leaving his little best friend behind. It sucks to be little sometimes! Aubrey and I plan to spend our days as "us girls" doing fun stuff like going to the park, library and reading our own books at home.

Congratulations Ethan, you are going to have a great year!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Ethan & Aubrey's Christmas Project!

We have a lot of play food around here. A. lot. And, crime of crimes - no play kitchen. (gasp!) I have been wanting to make/buy a play kitchen for E and little A ever since she was born - especially now that her play food collection (my first designs are always hers) has grown to overflowing her little tote. She needs a kitchen. 

I absolutely detest the plastic crap that is sold in toy stores, and have long wanted a beautiful, handmade play kitchen made from natural wood. I have scoured and other beautiful models from other online sellers, but sadly cannot justify the $300-$500 price tags on the ones that I would put in my home. 

My sweet husband is really skilled with wood working, but sadly full-time school, work, church callings and family life in general haven't permitted him the time to make a play kitchen from scratch. SO, while reading some excellent blogs, I found some amazing DIY projects! This pink & white one is made from a simple Ikea shelf, instructions here on ikea hacker.

DIY play kitchen

Here is a great one made from an old nightstand from oh write! This is her version, and I am SO excited to use some of her amazing ideas to make our own play kitchen for the kids for Christmas this year! 

Last Christmas we decided to make Maren a little kitchen of her own. I had seen a few ideas here and there (I'm sure you have, too!), so I can't take complete credit for what we came up with.

We found this little footed nightstand on Craigslist for $15. Here's the best before picture I have. We had already sanded the top, but you can see how the piece looked in it's original form.

And, the completed kitchen:
We used wood craft circles and a square dowel for the burners. We painted wood nobs found in the craft store for the black nobs. The sink is a square cake pan and the faucet came from a salvage yard. Brett cut shelves to fit where the drawers had been, and cut and routered the back splash from a piece of shelving we had on hand. Hinges and handle for the oven came from Lowe's.

The inside of the oven is spray-painted shiny silver, and we have since added chains to both sides of the oven door to make it more sturdy. I made the little curtain rod with leftover fabric from M's nursery, and it's hanging on a small tension rod.

We estimate having spent close to $60 total, but definitely could have done the project for cheaper. Since this was a gift for our only child, we did splurge on a few things. (Namely the cost $20, but we loved the size and the 'realness' it brought to the project! We also splurged on the handle for the oven door, and again, just loved the size and look of the one we chose.)
I found some great pics of other DIY play kitchens, and am so excited to get going on E and A's!!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

The Long Absence

Sorry for the delay in posting, I have had several fun posts about summer projects, trips and the like rattling around but have not been able to sit down & blog them. I have been sick for 10 days with a terrible sore throat & am finally headed to the doctor tomorrow. I am suspecting Tonsilitis or Strep Throat. I haven't touched my desk or sewing for days, and am feeling the itch to get back to work, and am definitely ready to be feeling back to normal again.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Super Heroes and the Capes they Wear

I have a Son who has a shadow. A two year old shadow, always following at his heels, copying his movements, words and every silliness that can be had. Since his greatest ambition in life is to grow up to be Batman, he practically lives in his cape - zooming around the yard fighting bad guys, and all other injustice (the world needs more of these heroic men, doesn't it?). Along with all of this crime-fighting comes his little Sister - shadowing his every move like an apprentice in training.

So what a shame, I thought, that this little super heroine doesn't have a super cape of her own. A crime worthy of the baddest of bad guys! I have redeemed myself today, and hope to pass along this fun design to you, so that you may not face the wrath that I did. ;)

You will need:
- 2 Pieces 22"x 24" fabric (I used fabric remnants from the fabric store. 1 cotton print, 1 satin liner)
- 1 Piece Hook Velcro
- 1 Piece Loop Velcro (I prefer these over snaps, as they are safer and easier to break in event of
- Scissors
- Sewing Machine

**Note: this cape is to fit a 2 year old, so you can adjust the length to fit your Little Hero (or big one!).
1. Decide on the top & bottom of the fabrics, line them up with right (printed) sides together on the inside.

2. Cut the bottom corners to be rounded, and cut a semi-circle from the top for the neck. I also tapered the sides so they angle up from the bottom of the cape to the top.

3. Line up the fabrics and start sewing with a 1/4" seam allowance. Sew all the way around the edge of the fabric, stopping about 4-5" from your starting point. You will need this opening to flip the fabrics right side out.

4. Open the hole, reach inside and pull the fabric through, flipping the whole thing right side out.
5. Straighten the seams, making sure to push out the corners on the neck pieces, so they are nice and square, or rounded, if you prefer.

6. Place the fabric in your sewing machine, starting just above the open hole that the fabric was pulled through. Roll the rough edges inside and carefully stitch (slowly to maintain control) the seam closed.
Continue sewing a 1/4" seam all the way around the fabric.

7. Now that you have the nice seam around the whole cape, we will add the velcro tabs. Place the Loop (soft) velcro on top of the right neck piece on the outside fabric of the cape. Sew securely.

8. Next, sew the Hook side on the left neck piece on the inside fabric.

9. They should lay on top of each other like this when finished.

10. Last, carefully apply whole cape to the neck of your favorite Super Hero and watch them fly!!

Friday, May 28, 2010

Ants on a Log

Celebrate Summer!! I picked my son up from his last day of Kindergarten today, so we came home and celebrated with his favorite snack - Ants on a Log! We make ours a little non-traditionally, dairy & peanut free. I used Almond Butter, Non-Dairy Cream Cheese (thank heavens for you, Tofutti!), organic raisins, and flax seeds for some additional little nutritional "buggies" on top. They were a hit!
In tribute to his graduation, I thought it would be fun to make a felt version of his treat! Quite a fun little project for the morning. Happy Summer!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

A Drowning Foodie: A meat and dairy-free life

I am food challenged. It sucks. I admit it. Please note that I am not a card-carrying vegan with an environmental cause, but feel like I have had my dietary challenges forced upon me by some cosmic force that is poking me in the gut and laughing sadistically. I have been taking a serious look at my dietary history, and the issues it has caused me, so that I can finally eat and feel well.

Now, I was a "normal" kid dietetically speaking, eating most foods I wanted and not caring what went into my mouth, though most of it was cereal - my favorite food at the time. And with that sugary crunchiness came GALLONS of milk. Seriously. But my unintended consequences were obvious, even if not to me. Battling weight and self-esteem issues, (because of all the fatty-growth hormone-infused milk I drank, and sugary crap I ate), adding serious insult to injury - constant colds. I kid you not, I packed a full roll of toilet paper in my backpack to school and blew  through it (bad pun) in about 3 days. Coming home and emptying a full backpack of used tissues should have raised some red flags that there was something wrong with my body, but I was a kid and; never considered such a prospect that I could actually feel anything but sick and miserable about myself. I have seen family photos of me holding my trusty roll. How sad is that?

Now, I must give credit where credit is due - my Mom is wonderful and was very conscious of my health, and did make great healthy food - no white bread (to my horror at the time, can you imagine eating brown bread at the lunch table while all your friends have that deceptively beautiful white bread framing their PB and J?) So no Twinkies, chips, candy or other such refined fodder in our house. My Mom made homemade vegetable and meat dinners- made with all the love that a mother can give. But a kid still gets the crap at school, right?

At the tender age of 14 while staying with my ├╝ber-fit, mountaineering brother, I finally discovered that I was dairy-intolerant. A week of drinking rice milk and almost constant exercise, I felt better than I ever had. Who knew that there was life outside of constant colds, hay-fever, and cases of Kleenex?  So, with a week of drinking Rice Milk, and feeling "snot-free" for the first time in my memory, I ecstatically told Mom and Dad that I was allergic to milk, and ran to the store to buy my first box of Soy Milk.

So my life in the world of alternative foods began. I got my second job at Wild Oats when I was 16, and an entire universe of dietary choices opened up to me. I never knew about meatless diets, vegans, raw-foodies or natural living and healing with food. I was never vegetarian or vegan, but began to make great changes in my diet and felt wonderful!

Which brings me to round 2 of my food challenges, that has just been revealing itself in the last few years.

I guess it has been a long time coming, but since I turned 30 four months ago, my body has completely shut down on any dairy or meat. Crap. I used to be able to eat small amounts, like butter on my toast, or ranch dressing on my salad, and an occasional serving of grilled chicken at a family party, but no more. I have spent more sleepless nights in these last few months, curled fetal-position on the floor of the bathroom, my stomach twisted in spasms of excruciating, kick-in-the-gut pain, wishing to throw up (which doesn't help, by the way), than I have ever experienced with my worst bouts of stomach flu.

So, on that lovely, personal note - we move on. ;)

As I live with the new developments of my dietary challenges, I figure I can take a glass-half-full or half-empty attitude about it. I have found delicious substitutions for most normal foods - have you ever tried Coconut Ice Cream??! I'll never feel jealous at an ice cream party again. I have discovered some amazing blogs out there that have the most amazing food I have ever tasted, or dreamed of tasted. My favorite is a blog called Yasmeen-HealthNut - in which I have spent hours reading and drooling. Our new family favorite is Yasmeen's Cardamom Mango Panna Cotta with Honey Peach Sauce.

I also love the Non-Dairy Queen's Blog for her fun and delicious alternatives to dairy and gluten-free cooking.

I must note that this post has been written mostly for me, as an honest self-analysis, and you lovely people just happen to be the bystanders in my dietary therapy session. Hopefully, my sad childhood food experiences can shed some light on unknown issues with others' health issues and maybe help a little.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Easter Weekend

Our family SO needed some sunshine this weekend - with a massive snowstorm headed to Orem for Easter weekend, we packed up the kids and headed for the desert. This has been the first family trip that my WHOLE family was able to make it down South at the same time.

I learned last year how much trouble it can be traveling with two wound-up kids for 4 hours, so we left at 4am - hoping that the kids would sleep right through the drive. It was perfect - except that Ethan was too excited to sleep! So he & I started our day really early. The drive was so great! There was no traffic, the moon was out, and I got to listen to a book while the family (sans Ethan) slept. I was wide awake - having gone to bed at 8pm the night before, and there were the most amazing cloud formations that were lit by the 3/4 moon. It was incredible.

We arrived in St. Geo at 8am & went to breakfast at Denny's - even though we weren't actually served for an 2 1/2 hours, we still had so much fun chatting with my sisters, nieces, nephews and parents. 

With the whole day ahead, we went to the dinosaur tracks - I haven't been there since I was 12! Braving an empty gas tank and really sandy roads, we arrived and had a great time playing in the sand and tracing our fingers in the tracks. Ethan loved the little baby dinosaur tracks the best, as his hands were the perfect size! Aubrey loved the big 3-toed tracks (about 12" square), and showing them to Grandpa Dino - who was also amazed.

 Ethan's favorite part of the weekend was playing with his cousin Eli - pictured here running along the 6 large dino tracks together - can't you just hear them roar?

Aubrey's new favorite person is Auntie Jen - who voluntarily became Aubrey's Sherpa for the hike - lucky girls! I'm not sure Aubrey was sold on Jen's favorite desert herb - Brigham Tea, but they had fun sliding down the rock slide anyway.
Our next stop was to Red Rocks, where we watched our little monkeys scamper up the slickrock.
Aubrey loved the mini Arch!

Jen took us through a great squeeze that was really fun, and we were so proud of Ethan - he was really nervous about going inside, but he DID IT! We also somehow convinced Mom and Dad to come through as well (nice job Mom & Dad!!)
 That night - after some much needed downtime, we met at Granny Morton's house for dinner with our whole family. Mom made really great-smelling BBQ pork - though I didn't taste it, as I was busy explaining to everyone the merits and pitfalls of my being a vegetarian. It was so great to chat with everyone - especially my nephew Steve who just got home from his mission in Texas. 

Ethan got to sleep over at his cousin's house that night - going to bed at 11pm I am told - which tally's his day at 19 hours of being awake. Poor kid. 
On Saturday, we had a picnic up in the Cedars near Jen and Eric's house, where somehow, the Easter Bunny left eggs for the kids! They had fun with their cousins searching for the remarkably well-hidden eggs. How does a bunny get 6 feet up in a cedar tree? Hmmm.
There was great sand at our campsite, and the kids played with their cars and of course, Ethan's Legos for hours.
 The drive home was amusing to see our little ones literally passed out from exhaustion (this pic was of course taken at a long stoplight).
On the way home we even managed to get the guys some fishing time in at a local pond on top of the bluff - the kids loved feeding the ducks and reeling in Grandpa's fish. (Notice my brother's feet - sleeping in the background!!)
On a side note, remember to tell Aubrey that St George mud is STICKY!
It was an amazing weekend all together!