Saturday, January 30, 2010

Valentine Pillows

Today DH, my little boy, and I went to Hobby Lobby. Oh, how I LOVE that store!! My big boy was spending a little time with Grandma and Grandpa. Anyway, I needed to pick up some things for school for next week and they tagged along. I also wanted to get some Valentine fabric to make some pillows for my boys. I settled for the print I bought because there was literally no other choice. It's pretty cute, I guess, but I would have appreciated a better selection. Anyway, I'd seen the idea for making Valentine pillows in THIS POST on How Does She? (which is a great blog with great ideas that I discovered recently). For some reason I decided to make my pillows round. I had bought some really wide rick-rack to trim them with. I am not totally pleased with how they turned out, but my boys love them already. And that's what's important, after all. I used some sparkly felt to make a heart-shaped pocket on the front of each pillow. The top of the heart is open so that each day in February up until Valentine's Day I can tuck a little "love" note into the pocket for each boy. Hopefully, DH will write notes to them too. I know my oldest son, especially, will treasure these little love notes because he is always very touched when we write special things to him.

Here's a close-up of the pocket on the front. I added the small pink heart in the middle for an accent. I had originally sewn it on using a straight stitch but was really unhappy with how that looked. I like the loose zig-zag much better.

The "love" pillow below is another in my series of freezer-paper stencilled burlap holiday pillows. I painted the "love" on the burlap ages ago and just had to sew and stuff it which I finally did tonight. It took MANY coats of white paint to make the word look really white on the red burlap. If you are planning to freezer-paper stencil on burlap, remember to place some waxed paper underneath because the paint really bleeds through. I found that out after I accidently printed the word "believe" on my ironing board cover. Like DH said, though, it's not a bad word to ponder while you are ironing. He irons WAY more than I do. I try to buy clothes that don't have to be ironed. In fact, I only iron when doing sewing projects. Anyway, I digress. I added a little heart pocket on the back of this pillow so I can write love notes to DH in February. sweet is that? Maybe if I'm lucky he'll write a note or two back to me. (hint hint)

Here's the pocket on the back.

FYI: For the heart shapes I used patterns printed from Preschool Express. If you click on the left sidebar on "Pattern Station" you will find printable shapes for all sorts of occasions. I often find patterns there that I can use for school.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Buzzy is a Blog Star!!

I'm so excited to finally be able to tell y'all that Buzz (our dog) and I have been interviewed over at Coffee with a Canine. Marshal, who writes the blog, contacted me a few months ago asking if I would be interested in being featured with Buzz on the blog. I loved the whole concept and he published our interview today. CLICK HERE to read it.

(By the way, someone should really do something similar with cats. Lee? Are you reading this? You would be PERFECT to start a cat/owner blog. If you decide to do it, count me (and Nina, Macy and Prince Bob) in!!)

Monday, January 25, 2010

What we've been up to

I haven't checked in here for over a week I'm long overdue for a post. Here's a quick update about what's been going on. I didn't have preschool because our local school district called a two-hour late start due to blowing snow. However, I was not aware of this until I went to school. I had gotten up early to work out and checked the school closings on TV before switching over to a cable channel while I ran on the treadmill. Afterwards I figured we were still on since by that time it was getting too late to call a delay (or so I thought). It was pretty bad driving on the back roads I take to get to school, but our superintendent rarely calls a late-start due to weather. It wasn't until I drove past our high school and noticed there were very few cars and NO busses that it dawned on me that perhaps something was amiss. I immediately called our local elementary school (where I used to work) when I got into my office and then found out that there was a two-hour late start. I guess the teacher was truly the last to know today. I stayed and worked for a while before heading home with my little boy.

When I got home I decided to sew a chicken saddle for one of our hens. I had cut it out this weekend and just had to put it together. For those of you who are not fully aware of the tools of the modern chicken farmer, a chicken saddle is a piece of fabric that is attached to the back of a hen who has been "overloved" by a rooster. Unfortunately one of our hens, Clara, is apparently very popular with our rooster, Arthur, and has developed a very nasty sore on her back due to his overzealous advances. Yuck, huh? Fortunately I was able to research this problem on Backyard Chickens and found that some people put a "saddle" on the hen to protect her back during mating. I found a great pattern on Back To Basic Living and sewed it up just a little bit ago. Since Clara has tan feathers (she is a Buff Orpington chicken) I tried to find a fabric in my stash that would color coordinate with her feathers. To slap any old fabric on her back would just be wrong. Of course it has to look good with her coloring. Lucky for Clara I found a scrap of designer Amy Butler fabric in my scrap stash. In case she really starts to love wearing high fashion I already have a handbag to match.........isn't that awesome?

Below you can see two photos showing the new chicken saddle. It basically lays right on the hen's back and the elastic straps snap under her wings.

OK..........chicken saddle done, all very well and good, right? The hard part, of course, was getting the dang thing on the chicken. Of course I wanted to try it on her right away. So, armed with my chicken boots, "chore" coat, camera and the new saddle, I headed out to the coop. First I took the photo you see below. I wanted to show you the sore on Clara's back that prompted this little sewing project. It is so gross looking and her feathers have come out in that area.

It took me quite a while to catch Clara to put the saddle on her, even though the interior space of the chicken coop is only about 64 square feet. She was just not grasping the idea that she was soon to become the most fashionable girl in the flock. During the "dressing" I had stuffed my camera in the pocket of my coat so I could have both hands free to wrestle with Clara. I managed to successfully get the saddle on her and put her down. Then the other chickens started pulling on it and one of the straps came loose. So...........I had to catch her again to reattach it. When I leaned over to pick her up two funny things happened. My camera fell out of my pocket and into the not-so-clean pine shavings on the floor of the coop AND Sarah, our little white chicken, flew up and sat on my back!! I'm sure that had this been filmed I could have won our family a large amount of money on "America's Funniest Home Videos". I finally got the saddle back on Clara and released her, much to her relief, I'm sure. She immediately turned her head and started trying to pull the saddle off her back. The first photo shows her doing just that.

Here is the best picture I got of Clara with her saddle. I probably don't need to tell you that chickens are hard to photograph under any circumstances, but they are especially difficult to photograph when they have recently undergone the trauma of having clothing attached to their body. I'm just sayin'..........forgive me for the poor photo, 'kay? I am thinking that the saddle might be a little big for her because it should really fit closer to her body. However, it does completely cover her "owie" which is the goal after all.

After all this hullaballoo I would not be the least bit surprised to go out to the coop later this afternoon to find my beautiful, handmade chicken saddle trampled and dirty on the floor of the coop. In fact, I am pretty sure that I WILL find it off Clara's back and buried in the pine shavings. I'll keep you posted. ;-)
PS: In other news, my husband has been busy this weekend helping our sons make their cars for the upcoming Cub Scout Pinewood Derby. We were excited to find out at last week's pack meeting that there is a separate category for siblings, so our little boy gets to make a car too. He is BEYOND excited about it. I will post more about that soon, FOR SURE!!
Edited to add: At 4:00 p.m. I went out to the coop to do my afternoon "chicken chores". As predicted, the chicken saddle was off Clara's back and lying on the pine shavings. So..........I think I'm going to try a design that doesn't use snaps and see if she'll keep that on. If that doesn't work then.............too bad, so sad. At least I tried. And for heaven's sake, if she would just keep her clothes on she probably wouldn't be in this situation to begin with!! (Sorry..............I couldn't resist writing that. Please know that I'm KIDDING!!)

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Project Life = Project LOVE!!

Way back in November I wrote a post about Becky Higgins' new scrapbook product called Project Life. I ordered it the moment it was available and it finally arrived on Saturday. It was supposed to arrive via FedEx on January 5th but FedEx LOST my original order. Isn't that amazing? Anyway..........Becky and her husband, David, were awesome about corresponding with me through it all and got another kit sent out right away. I was SO happy when I saw the FedEx van pull into my driveway Saturday morning. You should really click over to Becky's site for all the details about this awesome kit. However, I am going to devote this post to it to try to describe to you how wonderful it is.

Before I start I want to tell you that I have been a "scrapbooker" since about 1996 or so. Before we had children I was very into it and kept all my scrapbooks very up to date. I still enjoy pulling them out and looking through them. Once the boys were born I did pretty well keeping up for about the first 5 or 6 years of my oldest son's life and then I pretty much just stopped for the most part. It was just too much to keep up with. Becky's new system will, I think, reinvigorate my previous enthusiasm for preserving our family memories. Before you stop reading because you believe you could never "be a scrapbooker", let me assure you that this system can work for ANYONE who takes photos of their life. It is so easy and Becky has made sure that it will look really good with little effort.

In the kit you get a HUGE binder to hold all the pages you will make. I was a little surprised at how big it is. I love the colors and design of it. You can see mine pictured below.

In addition to the divided page protectors (I will explain those more in a moment) you get a box with all the decorative "elements" (all precut to slide right into the pockets) and 4 little boxes with journalling blocks.

The next photo shows the "title page" of my album. You can see from this photo how the page protectors are arranged. On every double-page spread there is space for 8 4X6 horizontal photos (one space will be used for a "header" card..........more on that below) and 8 little 2X3 inch spots for journalling (and decorative) cards. Becky has included several decorative cards to insert into the title you can see my layout.

This system is very flexible. Last year Becky launched a Project 365 product which encouraged people to take a photo every day for a full year. In the Project Life kit you have enough space to do the photo-a-day approach. However, it is also really flexible if you fall "off the wagon" and don't have a photo a day to scrapbook. As I described above, there are "header" cards that you can insert in the top left space of each double-page spread. I have gone ahead and inserted those into all the page protectors in my album. You can see from the picture that you can simply circle the month and then write the dates of the photos on that layout in the little white space at the bottom.

In addition to the journalling cards there are a bunch of little tiny stickers with the days of the week that you can stick right onto the journalling cards if you wish. In the photo you can see the "sat" sticker in the bottom right corner. There are also arrow stickers that may be used to point to the photo referred to on the card. You can see one in the photo below.

There are also clear days of the week stickers that can (if you wish) be stuck onto the page protector covering your photos to further label your photos. You can see the "sat" sticker in the bottom left of my egg photo..............this egg photo corresponds to the journalling you saw above.

Here is my plan for keeping up with this system. Luckily, I frequently upload photos from my camera to my computer because of all the blogging I do. I have set up a separate folder in "My Pictures" folder called "Project Life." As I upload, I copy the photos I plan to use in the Project Life book into that folder. Every weekend I plan to upload the Project Life photos to Shutterfly. I can then pick them up (or my husband can) at our local Target store. That way I don't have to pay shipping. If you don't have more than 100 photos, you can usually pick them up in 1 hour. Becky suggests writing on the journalling cards every day if you can and I am going to try to keep that up. I started this project on January 1st because I knew my kit was on the way. Before I had the kit I had a Word document where I was briefly listing the things we were doing each day that I wanted to include in the Project Life book. Now that I have the journalling cards I will probably just use those to jot things down as they happen. Another strategy I am planning to employ is to take some "filler" photos each week which I will fill in when I don't have a specific photo for a day of the week. For example, tonight I took a photo of the split pea soup I made for supper. If I don't have enough photos for the whole week, I'll fill that one in as it gives a glimpse of our life right now.
Oh...........I almost forgot. Becky is just about to release a digital version of this kit. Details will be posted later this week on her site. It sounds like you will be able to totally play around with it for free. Then if you like it you order a finished book to be sent to that you've customized online. It sounds pretty cool too.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

I'm really not scared of mice & My first blog interview

I feel like a horrible mother. Today after preschool my little boy and I were getting ready to leave the classroom and I glanced over and saw a live mouse on the tile floor near the kitchen of my classroom. I knew we had a mouse because Michelle, my assistant, had also seen it. However, without thinking about what I was doing I SHRIEKED very loudly when I saw it. I'm really not scared of mice. They just startle me when they appear so unexpectedly and move so quickly. You know what I mean? Anyway............simultaneous to my shriek my little guy started bawling in a more terrified manner than I've ever heard him cry and he BOLTED through the door of the classroom, down the hallway, past my assistant and her son, out the doors to the outside and when I finally caught up to him he was in the parking lot standing beside our van sobbing. With much prodding (and dragging) I convinced him to return with me to the classroom where I had left all my belongings, all the while trying to convince him that Mommy didn't scream because she was scared of the mouse. Rather, I screamed because I was SURPRISED by the mouse. I assured him that mice can't hurt us, etc. Well, he talked about little else all night so I'm sure I've instilled an irrational phobia of mice in him, completely unintentionally. When relaying the story to DH he asked me why I had screamed. I told him that I think it is perhaps part of my female genetic make-up and that it just happened without me even knowing it was going to happen. And that's true. Because I am NOT scared of mice. I just don't like to be startled by them.

In other news, I'm excited to announce that Shannon from Letters, Numbers and Books Oh My! has interviewed me over at her blog about my Random Acts of Reading project. CLICK HERE to read the interview. I was really excited that she wanted to interview me. It's my first (published) blog interview. There is another one in the works that I'm excited to tell you about when it goes online. That's all I'm saying for now though.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Update on waffle experiments and a new obsession

If you read my previous post you are aware that during our GREAT SNOW-IN I pulled out a waffle iron that hadn't been used since the 1990s and tried out some made-from-scratch waffle recipes on my family. You would also know that my banana cinnamon waffles were met with a less-than-enthusiastic response. As I said in that post, I am not easily discouraged and planned to try out a gingerbread waffle recipe. Which I did. Let's just say that future waffle experimentation is on hold until further notice. Nuff said.

(Sidenote: I will say that between the two recipes (links are in my previous post) I really loved the banana cinnamon waffles. In fact, I ate some of the leftover ones for breakfast this morning. I had refrigerated them and I just popped them in the toaster like an Eggo waffle and ate them with sliced bananas and pancake syrup on top. It was much more decadent than my usual breakfast fixings! So I may make more of these for my own breakfasts and freeze them to eat during the week.)

In other news, we haven't retrieved any more gigantic eggs. However, today was a 4-egg day which is always exciting because that means all four hens laid an egg today. I found a frozen, squashed mouse in the chicken coop and had DH dispose of it. Before tossing it he brought it to the door to show our boys. My oldest son promptly said, "Mommy, you can write about that on your blog." So I am. :-) I will, however, spare you a photo glimpse of the mouse remains. In case you are wondering I DIDN'T even take a photo. (Thought about it, though!)

My new obsession is planning our garden for this summer. We have not had a vegetable garden since we had the boys. Usually we don't even think about gardening until about the middle of June and then it seems too late to tackle it. So.........I'm getting a head start and planning it all out now. I have been obsessed about looking up information from the Square Foot Gardening (SFG) website. That is the method I plan to use. It requires virtually no weeding..........seriously. I'm all over that. You should check out the concept of's a really neat idea and you can do it in very little space with very good results. I have also been looking through my Burpee seed catalog that just came yesterday and getting on the Burpee website to read the customer reviews of all the different types of seeds. That has been really helpful in deciding which seeds to order. I am pretty excited about our venture into gardening. I'm sure I will write many future posts about it. If any of you do the SFG method, I'd love it if you'd post a comment about how you like it, what you grow, etc. Below is a photo of my garden notebook and some gardening books I checked out from the library today.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Reba's MONSTER egg (and other news from the Arctic)

Laura here, reporting from the arctic zone also known as the Midwest. Temperatures here reaching a whopping 4 above today (or something like that) with windchills around -20 degrees. When this posts we will be on our third straight day off from school. The first day (Wed) due to a snowstorm which dumped another 4-5 inches on top of the MANY we already had on the ground, the second day due to winds creating blizzard like conditions, and the third day due to a HIGH of 0 on the thermometer with windchills of -30. Yeah.........that's what's going on. Because of the cold I have been going out to the chicken coop several times a day to thaw the frozen water and to collect the eggs before they freeze. I was completely blown away by the egg I found late this afternoon. Most of the hens lay in the morning, but when I had gone out around 2:00 p.m. Reba was in the nesting box although nothing was under her when I checked. When I went back around 4:00 or so there was a gargantuan egg in the nesting box........very dark brown so I knew it was Reba's. Of course I had to blog about it. What kind of blogger would I be if I didn't brag to everyone about the huge eggs produced by my girls? You can see the monster egg next to another egg I gathered this morning.

I don't know if it was just a fluke today or if we can expect ginormous eggs from Reba from now on. Time will tell and I'll keep you posted.

Wednesday morning when we had our first snow day I went downstairs and brought up a waffle iron that DH and I got MANY years ago, perhaps as a wedding gift. That would make it a circa 1993 waffle iron in case you are wondering. This baby hasn't been used since WAY before we had kids. In fact........neither DH or I could remember when we had used it EVER. Anywho........waffles from the waffle iron are my boys' new favorite breakfast or just about anytime food. Since I've been a bit of a blogaholic on my days off, I stumbled across a recipe for homemade banana cinnamon waffles. I decided to make these for dinner tonight along with roasted potatoes and scrambled (monster) eggs. Now I'll let you guess...............did my oldest son (the one who's been asking me to make waffles for him about 5 times a day since the waffle iron appeared) prefer his mother's made-from-scratch, farm fresh egg infused, fresh banana-cinnamon with buttermilk waffles OR the generic store-brand pancake mix waffles we'd been having up until tonight? I'm sure you're thinking the made-from-scratch waffles were a hands-down winner, right? You might be thinking, there's no way he could have preferred the bland, boring box-mix waffles. Oh. Yes. He. Did. About 2 bites into the most fantastic waffles this girl has ever produced he announced (in a fairly whiny voice I might add), "I don't LIKE banana waffles." Yeah. That's what he said. Seeing the obvious disappointment on my face he asked, "Are you mad?" To which I replied, "No, I'm not mad. I had just hoped you would like these waffles, but it's okay."

Later on when I was putting my youngest son to bed I asked him if he liked the banana waffles I had made........still grasping for some waffle validation, don't you know. He said, "WHAT banana waffles?" I said, "The ones Mama made for supper tonight." He said, "Oh! Those tasted YUCK! Sometimes when I eat the food you make it doesn't taste very good to me."

Alrighty then..........Not one to be easily discouraged, I am totally planning on trying the gingerbread waffle recipe in the link above sometime VERY SOON! I'll let you know how it goes. ;-)

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Joyful Job Jar

You know those little decluttering and straightening jobs that always seem to take a back burner? Well, if you're anything like me you can think of about 20 things you'd rather do than declutter the junk drawer or the hall closet. I actually enjoy organizing things, but sometimes getting started is really hard for me. To give myself renewed motivation I decided to make a "job jar" for myself. I wanted it to have a catchy, alliterative name and since I couldn't find a synonym for "dreaded" that started with "j" I decided to be positive and call it the "Joyful Job Jar." Now I just need to generate some joy about using it. Haha

I used an empty peanut butter jar and printed two labels for it.

It's funny..........I don't mind doing laundry at all and I'm almost always caught up on my laundry tasks. Hey! Laundry is a joyful job for Laura!! Yay!!

I cut up a bunch of slips of paper and wrote a decluttering type job on each of them. When I have an extra 15-30 minutes I am committing myself to reaching into the jar, pulling out a task and tackling it.

See all those innocent little pieces of folded paper? I am about to reach into this very jar and pull out a job. I am on my second snow day in a row and didn't accomplish much yesterday. I am determined to make today more productive. Here goes.................and the joyful job of the day will be..........."declutter cabinets in basement kitchen." Our home has 2 kitchens. Not because I am a prolific cook but because that's what it had when we moved in. We use the cabinets in the downstairs kitchen to store a VARIETY of things which I guess I will now go and sort out. Can you sense my joyfulness? Me neither. Oh to the basement. I would love to hear how you discipline yourselves to complete your most dreaded and annoying of tasks.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Art class

This afternoon the boys and I met my friend, Krystal, and her two boys at a new local gift shop that has art classes on Saturdays. We had fun although my little boy got pretty rowdy. The boys did print-making, spin art, and played with clay. These photos show the spin-art. For only $5 per child it was a pretty good value. We will probably do it again but my little guy may stay home next time. We'll see! :0)

Other than that, we tried to stay warm. It is FREEZING here. Actually, if the temperature was at freezing it would feel balmy. It is below zero right now. My toes were frozen after a 5 minute ride in the car. UGH! I hate the cold of winter when it's too cold to even go out and enjoy the snow. My husband, however, did his daily run OUTSIDE today. He is crazy! Actually, I admire his dedication. He has been running for decades now and knows how to dress for all sorts of weather. Still...........I was pretty happy on the treadmill this morning. :0)

Friday, January 1, 2010

Happy New Year!!

Hope your festivities last night were joyous or peaceful, whichever you prefer! I am typing this at 11:04 p.m. on New Year's Eve, but posting it on the morning of New Year's Day. My oldest son and I just watched the "ball" drop in NYC on TV. He is still going to try to stay up until midnight here. I am the parent designated to help him accomplish this. :0)

Today I am revealing the project I've been working on. Yay! It's a new blog!! It is called Our Random Acts of Reading and you can check it out by clicking on the link here or on the sidebar. I know I may be crazy. My oldest son just said tonight, "Mommy! Now you have 3 blogs!" And he's right! I'll let you click over to read about my new blog adventure. I am pretty excited about it and would love to hear what you think.

I've decided to reveal myself to you this year as well. You may or may not have noticed that I now have a photo of myself in my blog profile. It about killed me to do it as I hate to be photographed. But I also felt that the time had come...........I've been blogging now for about a year and a half so it was time to come out of the closet so to speak. I had my husband take a bunch of photos of me so I could choose the least hideous one! haha!

That's all for now! Have a great New Year's Day!!