Friday, December 31, 2010

Exploring New Foods: Valerie's Chicken Corn Chowder

I've been falling behind on the new recipes with the hustle and bustle of the holidays.  But, finally, I'm back to trying my hand at some new recipes.  This recipe was shared by Valerie, my sister-in-law's mother-in-law. I tried this chowder when we spent our weekend at camp for Labor Day and it was delicious- I just hope that I was able to recreate the delicious soup that Valerie makes!

Valerie's Chicken Corn Chowder

Ingredients:
  • 2c potatoes
  • 1 1/4 onion
  • 6 tbs butter
  • 6 tbs flour
  • 2c Chicken Broth
  • 1 8oz can cream of chicken soup
  • 1 16oz can cream-style corn
  • 1 16oz can whole kernel corn
  • 2c cooked, chopped chicken
  • 1 pint heavy cream
  • 3/4c milk
  • 2 Tbs shredded carrots 
Directions:
  • Cook onions & potatoes in butter 3-5 minutes over medium heat. 
  • Stir in flour, cook 5-6 minutes until golden.
  • Increase heat and add broth slowly, whisking until smooth.
  • Reduce heat; add remaining ingredients and cook 15-30 minutes.  
Notes/Changes:
  • I didn't use the onion
  • I used a bit more carrot, about 5 baby carrots, shredded.
Review:

Awesome!! This soup is so good and I'm glad I was about to make it like Valerie did when I tried it.  When I asked Derek if there's anything he would change, like I always do, the only thing he asked for was more carrots. He loves carrots. So the plan is that next time, I'll just chop carrots and cook them in the butter with the potatoes to soften them.  This recipe is so good though that it doesn't need any modifications and if he wasn't such a carrot lover, there would be NO changes! Will make it again...and again...and again!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Looking back on 2010

Wow, what a wonderful, busy, crazy year it's been!  2010 has been full of changes in every sense of the word. We had become a family of 4 in April when Benjamin entered the world nearly 6 weeks early. It was such a trying time, having a nearly 3 year old at home and a preemie in the NICU. He's doing so well now, you'd never know he was premature.




Victoria has changed so much over the course of the year. She did so well with the transition of only child to big sister. She is such a smart, beautiful little girl and she really keeps us on our toes!

We've made some changes at home- Derek quit his job to be a stay-at-home Dad to our kiddos, which has been so wonderful and less stressful all around for me! My career has also been crazy, but we've had a very productive year at work... I'm hoping that translates into a very nice bonus :) But we will see!!

Another highlight of 2010 was finding and old hobby again and learning a new one. I've begun to crochet again and I forgot how wonderful it feels to create gifts and things. I've also taught myself to knit, which has been a mystery to me for so many years, a curiousity that I have finally explored and now I feel comfortable in my new found craft. Since I rediscovered my hobby in August, I've completed two blankets, with one more in the works. I've made 3 crocheted beanie hats, 3 scarves and 3 purses. I've also made a knitted neckwarmer and two santa hats and have a big, wool scarf in progress. Here is just a snippet of my wooly creations for 2010, and I hope to have a larger collage for 2011!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Monday's Featured Blogs: The Best of 2010 Part 2

Can you believe it's the last Monday of 2010? Next week at this time, we'll be in a new year! 2010 has gone by incredibly fast, it almost feels surreal. 


As promised, this week for Monday's Featured Blogs, I'm bringing you the Best of 2010 Part 2. In this list you will find my absolute favorite blogs of 2010, the blogs that I go to when I'm in need of inspiration or a bit of cheering up. Compiling this list was no easy feat; I fall in love with new blogs on a weekly basis. Picking my absolute favorites was easy this year, since there are certain blogs that I am just drawn to, blogs that I check in on daily for updates, new posts and projects and that's why I've broken down my "Best of" into two lists - my favorites and my absolute must-read favorites.


Attic24 Lucy's blog was an obvious choice for my absolute favorites list. Afterall, it is her blog that started it all!  I stumbled upon Lucy's cheerful blog when I was googling crochet patterns and crochet blogs. I felt instant inspiration and Ben's Granny Stripe blanket was made from Lucy's Granny Stripe tutorial. I love the simplicity of the pattern and it was a great project to delve back into my creative hobby with. Lucy's cheerful demeanor makes any day a happy day. Her creativity is inspiring and I always look forward to getting a peek into the Attic. Thank you Lucy- I'm so happy I found your little place on the web.


Crochet with Raymond - Alice's blog is my daily dose of colour therapy. I love reading her blog and feel so inspired when I do. She's awesome at sharing tutorials and taking lovely, colorful pictures that it's hard not to be in a good mood after reading one of Alice's posts. Alice is very talented, she's both a knitter and crochet goddess - I've seen her madalas and tea cozies pop up all over the creative blogworld.  Through her blog, Alice conveys the type of excitement about her projects that I think most of us feel when we are creating something or fall in love with a pattern so much that we can't wait to start another project using the same exact pattern, but in a different color. I hope that Alice will continue to blog and share her wonderful creations.  Alice-- you rock!


iCrochet - I'm not even sure you can count this as a "blog" but more of a portal of sorts where you can share your blog links and photos of your finished objects. I've found many, many of my favorite blogs through this site and I'm very thankful to Sarah London for creating and mainting it.
Half Baked -The Cake Blog- Carrie is a creative genius when it comes to cakes and decorating!  She features cakes and decorators and everything that can be a help to you for planning any event.  I stumbled across her blog when we were trying to make a final decision on a theme or color scheme for my Sister-in-law's baby shower. When I found this Real Party: Turtle Baby Shower, I knew I'd stumbled upon a gold mine! Her taste is impeccable and I definitely plan to turn to her features to help me plan events in the future. I've already got plenty of cool ideas for Ben's first birthday party from the Real Party: Dr Seuss Birthday. Thank you so much Carrie for all you do!


Paisley Jade- Kristy Drake is amazing. I love her creations, her yummy recipes and her overall positive vibes. Reading her blog is sure to make me smile. She takes amazing pictures and it seems like she has such a fun family.  Thank you Kristy for giving us a glimpse into your life!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

'Tis the Season

I hope that everyone has had a Merry Christmas with friends and family!
I've been MIA on the blog front in preparation for the big celebration.
Last week, I did manage to whip up a quick Boutique Bag that was posted by Sara over at tangled happy.


I ran out of yarn to finish the bag, so the handles aren't as thick as the pattern intends, but it was a super quick and cute project. I made it as a last minute Christmas gift for Victoria. The best part was I did it while we watched The Santa Clause and I told her I was making for a friend at work. She's three, she fell for it... her reaction when she opened it was priceless- she exclaimed that I tricked her! I actually think I'm going to make a larger bag for some of her books, since she has so many and likes to carry them with her... but that will have to wait until I finish up some other projects.

I'll be in and out over the next week - Derek's parents will be visiting for a day or so while we're here and then we're heading to my grandmother's house for two days to celebrate the holidays with my family.  I'm looking forward to a productive and busy new year though!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Monday's Featured Blogs: Best of 2010 Part I

So I'm a day behind with this post- I've fallen a bit under the weather and blogging was definitely not on my list of things that I must do!


Anyway, as promised I'm going to compile a Best of 2010 Blogroll! Today's list will be Part 1 and will include blogs that I've come across and have been creatively inspired by, or just simply enjoy reading.  They will fall in no order of importance or show no ranking for absolute best, because I really enjoy them all.


...work in progress... This is a must read if you love to read! Jennifer gives a lot of book reviews, album reviews and funny stories such as the Tao of Hannah series. This blog is a nice variety that I enjoy reading.

Bunny Mummy This is one of the creative blogs that I found using iCrochet. I love looking at the nice splash of colour that Jacquie shares.

Crochet by Day Another one of the creative blogs that I found that gives me inspiration with my crochet projects. I love reading about and seeing Erica's crochet projects, like her awesome Noro scarves, along with other artsy projects that she has going on.

Little Woollie I caught up with Jules at Little Woollie during her Blogtober Fest and I've been hooked ever since. I love her creations in knit and crochet, and like me Jules is pretty new to the whole blogworld too!

tangled happy This is a recent find for me.  I found out about about Sara's blog when Alice from Crochet with Raymond mentioned that she was featured on Tangled Happy. I obviously had to check it out since I LOVE Alice's creations.  Well, Tangled Happy is quickly becoming a frequently visited site because Sara features projects that she's found, or created herself, with links to the patterns.  There are a few things in my queue thanks to her blog!


So there's my picks for the Best of 2010 Part I. Next week, you will find my absolute favorite blogs of 2010, the blogs that I go to when I'm in need of inspiration or a bit of cheering up.  It's so very hard to compile this list because each new blog I find really inspires me and hooks me in!


Please feel free to leave a comment with links to your favorite blogs as well, because I'm always up for something more to explore!!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Project ADD: A little bit of this, a little bit of that

I've been majorly slacking the blog arena lately and I'm also slipping far behind in the creating arena too. 
The holidays are such a busy time, and Derek's work schedule is hectic right now, along with me dealing with late meetings and getting home later than usual, holiday baking, holiday shows and the list goes on.  Now it's time to try to play catch-up with my "to-make list" while still trying to get my holiday things done- like wrapping all the presents that are hiding in my storage room!!

I thought it would be a good time to show a smattering of my WIPs, moreso to convince my self that I am, indeed, creating - just creating a bit slowly these days. I'm also having a hard time working on just one project. In fact, last night I was working on Teddy's blanket for a bit, but then I switched to my Queen Anne's Lace scarf because I just couldn't concentrate on the blanket!



 Maddie's Splash of Color Kiddie purse
All of the components of this purse are crocheted to completion - now I just need to take the time to assemble it into a cutesy little purse, perfect for the cute two year old it was created for.

Teddy's Star
When I began this blanket, I really thought that it would be done before Mr. Theodore made his grand arrival. Now, it would take nothing short of a miracle for that to happen - but Teddy made his grand arrival earlier today, so the blanket is past due!  I think the blanket itself is going to be great, light blue with black edging detail, but it just didn't excite me as much as another color scheme or blanket pattern would have.  The star is great, it really is, because it's more unique than a regular baby blanket, I'm just not competely feeling it.  This tends to happen though - I felt crocheter's remorse in the middle of Brayden's Granny Rectangle, but loved it once I saw the finished project.


Queen Anne's Lace Scarf
I just started this scarf and have put probably less than an hour's worth of effort into it. I LOVE the Stitch Nation wool! I love the color, the feel, just the wool in general. I'm hoping to finish this one up pretty quickly- the pattern is so easy once you get going. I think I made a mistake in the very beginning, but it's no big deal!

Derek's Fishermens Wool Scarf
This is the poor, neglected project. I didn't have a priority deadline for this one once I realized there was no way I was getting it done before hunting season. It would have been nice to finish it off before Christmas, but that's not happening either. The wool is a bit scratchy for my taste, but I do love working with it. Hopefully I can show it some love soon!!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Monday's Featured Blog

I know, it's not Monday anymore.  Yesterday was a bit hectic and I didn't get a chance to blog about my favorites this week!

So, for the sake of keeping up the feature, this week I'm featuring something that I'd consider more of a portal for creative blogs: iCrochet. I also thought with the theme of being creative for Christmas time, the iCrochet portal would be a great place for  ideas and inspiration. 

I have to admit, I've found many of my favorite blogs through the iCrochet site, so I'm very thankful for it! Go check it out :)

Stay tuned for next week's installment of Monday's Featured Blogs where I'll be starting Part I of a "Best of 2010" blogroll!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Melted Snowman Cookies

Ever since I saw the photos of the Melted Snowman cookies, I've been dying to make them.  It all started when MamaCheaps blogged about them here. She linked to the original Melted Snowman Cookie tutorial by Truly Custom Cakery and I was just amazed. I checked all the recipes and the only thing I was missing was marsmallows! 


I decided that this would be a great Saturday/Sunday activity for Victoria and I while Derek was at work, given that Benjamin would cooperate and let us bake and decorate.  Well, either it would be fun or a disaster, but I took that chance.

It's a bit of a drawn out process- dough one day, baking cookies the next, cooling, royal icing the "melted" part, doing the marshmallows and then finally decorating...  I think the idea is great and I think if I had more Meringue powder it would have been great since I ran out of icing. Another issue was that I didn't have black food coloring, so I just picked up a tube of pre-made black icing and that was a disaster, it didn't pipe as smoothly as royal icing, plus I couldn't find all my cake decorating supplies, so I was limited on piping bags and tips.

Another major issue was that I was home alone with kids and Victoria wanted to be very much involved.  They didn't turn out as cute as I imagined, though I'm sure if Derek was home to help with the kids and I had all my supplies they would have been a bit more perfected.

Overall, it was a fun time for Victoria and I. She loves being in the kitchen and actually being able to do things, like piping on the details for the snowmen - which really meant squeezing the bag to make random squiggles.

Here's the steps to making the Melted Snowmen, according to Victoria.
Step 1: Make/mix the dough.

Step 2: "Quality control" aka licking the spoon:


Step 3: Forming the "puddles"/baking the cookies:


Step 4: Adding the melted snow (aka Royal Icing):
Step 5: Decorating the snowmen:





Saturday, December 11, 2010

Ta-Da: Finally! Santa Hats complete

 I've finally gotten around to adding the pom-poms to the Santa hats and getting a few pictures. 
 Ben wasn't too impressed with the hat, but I managed to sneak a picture.
 But Victoria LOVES her Santa hat and even  had to wear it out today.

Exploring New Foods: Recipe VII

Homemade mac & cheese is one of my favorite comfort foods, especially during the winter.  Surprisingly, it's something I haven't made- I've always eaten it when my grandmother makes it, along with her awesome fish fillets. My favorite was when my grandfather would go deep sea fishing for sea bass. YUM!  Well,  mac & cheese is a favorite of Victoria's and she loves going to Mam-mam's to have it.  At one point, she even told me that Mam-mam stays at home to cook mac & cheese. My grandmother makes the Mueller's mac & cheese recipe, minus the dry mustard, so that's where I got my recipe from.

Baked Macaroni and Cheese

Ingredients:

  • 8 ounces Elbow Macaroni
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 3 cups milk
  • 2 tablespoons margarine or butter
  • 2 cups (8 ounces) shredded American or Cheddar cheese, divided


Directions:
  • Preheat oven to 375°F.
  • Cook pasta. Drain.
  • In medium saucepan, combine cornstarch, salt & pepper in medium saucepan. Stir in milk until smooth. Add margarine, stirring constantly.
  • Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Boil 1 minute.
  • Remove from heat. Stir in 1-3/4 cups cheese until melted. Add cooked pasta. Pour into greased 2-quart casserole. Sprinkle with remaining cheese.
  • Bake uncovered 25 minutes, or until lightly browned.
Notes/Changes:
  • I used half sharp cheddar cheese and half monterey jack.
  • I topped half the mac and cheese with panko breadcrumbs before baking.
Review:
 No surprises here- it was great!  Victoria had two helpings of it, of course.  The panko was a fabulous addition.  I grew up with baked mac & cheese topped with breadcrumbs, but Derek isn't a fan and Victoria goes back and forth, so I decided to only do half. Panko is so much crunchier than the regular breadcrumbs, almost a mix between chips and breadcrumbs for the topping. It packed a nice crunch. I'll obviously make it again, I just wish I would have realized how quick & easy it is to prepare!!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Revisited: Exploring New Foods: Recipe III

About a month ago, I added a new recipe for Cheddar Potato Chower that was an absolute disaster for me due to some technical difficulties (ahem, misreading the recipe). I LOVE potato soup, so the recipe was begging for redemption and I gave it another go.


Cheddar Potato Chowder




Ingredients:


  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups diced unpeeled red potatoes
  • 1 cup diced carrot
  • 1/2 cup diced celery
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 2 cups 2% milk
  • 2 cups shredded reduced fat cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup cubed fully cooked lean ham


Directions:
  • In a dutch oven, combine first 7 ingredients. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer 10-12 minutes or until vegetables are tender.
  • Meanwhile, place flour in a large saucepan; gradually whisk in milk. Bring to a boil over medium heat; cook and stir 2 minutes or until thickened.
  • Remove from heat. Add cheese; stir until melted. Stir the cheese sauce into undrained vegetables until combined.
Notes/Changes:
I didn't have any ham on hand, so I skipped it. We also left out the chopped onion since we don't really care for onions in our house. I also only used half the amount of cheese because I didn't realize that I was nearly out of shredded cheese!

Review:
It didn't live up to the ridiculously high expectations that I had for it.  I love potato soup, could eat it daily I love it so much.  I just don't have a recipe for one yet.  It wasn't terrible, it just wasn't what I wanted.  Derek commented that it didn't have enough potato flavor, and I could agree with that.  I only used half the amount of cheese since I forgot to get more, and that may have added a little to the disappointment.  There's leftovers from dinner, and I will eat them because it was good, just not great.  I have some ideas for changing the recipe a bit, but I am going to continue my potato soup recipe quest.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Exploring New Foods: Recipe VI

I haven't tried a new recipe in about two weeks with Thanksgiving and then the family being away.  This week, I'm trying a new recipe, but it is something I've made before.  I haven't made Beef Stroganoff in at least two years and I just found a new slowcooker recipe in an old (2007) issue of Taste of Home magazine. Slowcooker recipes are perfect for the busy days we've been having with gymnastics and Derek's nighttime work schedule.

Slowcooker Celery Beef Stroganoff 
Ingredients:
  • 2lbs beef stew meat, cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 1 can condensed cream of mushroom soup, undiluted
  • 1 can condensed cream of celery soup, undiluted
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 jar (6oz) sliced mushrooms, drained
  • 1 envelope onion soup mix
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • Hot cooked noodles
Directions:

  • Combine everything except sour cream and noodles in a 3qt slowcooker.
  • Cook on low for 8 hours or until beef is tender.
  • Stir in sour cream and serve over noodles.
Notes/Changes:
I didn't add the chopped onion or jar of mushrooms since we don't like onions and I'm the only one to eat mushrooms.

Review:
It wasn't horrible, but it wasn't fantastic either. I've had better.  I can't pinpoint my disappointment, though I'd have to say that it tasted very salty, which I'm assuming came from the soups and onion soup mix since I didn't add any salt.
I might try again, but it would need a bit of tweaking.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Monday's Featured Blogs

It's Monday... you know what that means!  Another week of Monday's featured blogs!!
This week, I'm featuring creative blogs with great ideas for the holidays!


Little Woollie Jules is quickly becoming one of my favorite crafy bloggers. I love reading her blog and checking out what she's making. She knits and crochets, which provides double the inspiration for me and I love the Pippi scarf she recently shared.


Attic24 I know I've featured Lucy's blog on Monday's Featured Blogs before, but I just love her creations.  She just recently added a tutorial for Christmas decorations and I thought you should all go check it out!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Week in Review

It's been quite a long and lonesome week for me, since I was home alone while Derek and the kids were off visiting family so that he could go hunting with his dad.   I really didn't have the spare time to take off from work, so I stayed here.  Monday thru Wednesday, I spent time with my sister-in-law.  For being 9 months pregnant, she wore me out!!  Each night I'd come home, curl up in bed and work on my projects. 


As I've already blogged about, I've completed the hat and scarf set for Victoria:


And I made some good progress on the new Santa Hat for Victoria, since the first one I made will be Ben's due to some size issues. Thursday and Friday, I came home from work and caught up on some TV while working away on my knitting project. I have to admit that I absolutely LOVE knitting!  It's such a new thing to me and I'm so happy that I decided that I was going to learn.  I have to thank my mother-in-law for encouraging me to just buy that set of knitting needles when we were at AC Moore... once I started, I was determined!  I suspect that the Santa hat will be done no later than Tuesday, then I just need to make the white balls to finish them off.

This week, while working on the new hat, I've realized that I'm getting faster and more confident in my knitting and I realized that I enjoy using DPNs, which I thought looked way too complicated for me.


I also snuck in a few rounds on Teddy's blanket, because I just wanted a slight change of pace.  It doesn't look much different than last time, but I promise you it has grown.


I was dying to start on my scarf, but I knew that I really needed to get the Santa hat done soon so Victoria can proudly wear it before Christmas. Since it's already December, I figured that should be my #1 priority.  Unfortunately, the lovely fisherman's wool that is shaping up to be Derek's much anticipated scarf has not gotten any attention, but soon I hope to make progress on that as well.

And, I just had to show you the deliciously fun, bright yarn I picked up that will soon be a purse for a wonderful little girl (not Victoria for once!)
I feel like I've made some good progress this week and I really hope the momentum continues! Soon I will be revisiting my growing list of projects.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Ta-Da: Victoria's hat & scarf

I think I've probably blogged about my excited little girl who thinks that every time I get new yarn it's suppose to make her a hat. She convinced me to buy yarn because "it's so beautiful" and she asked me so sweetly to make her a hat... and I did - then she realized there was more yarn left over so she asked for a scarf too, so I made it. Then she was begging me to make her a black hat when I pulled out my huge skein of black... and was beyond excited when I told her my plans to make her a Santa hat.
So, I was planning to make her much desired black hat while she was away this week so that it'll be a little surprise for her on Christmas. That was one of the main things on my "must make" list for this week, since I wouldn't get caught making it. I also wanted to make a coordinating scarf so my little accessory queen was happy!


I finished the hat on Monday and added the hot pink rose that I made as my very first knitted item. I was pretty happy with the finished project.






Then I began working on the scarf and finished it up yesterday. The jury is still out on the scarf, as it's not my usual and the colors are a bit loud but I've had people tell me that they like it, and I know Victoria will love it even if I don't. The colors are really off in the photo, but you get the idea.
And, of course I took a photo of the two together, which shows the colors a bit better. I know she'll love it!


Tuesday, November 30, 2010

More Amazing Deals

In case you haven't noticed, I'm in love with finding good sales lately!  I've made it my goal to get my shopping done early this year and along the way, I've been watching out for good deals and sales and I really want to make bargain shopping a part of my normal routine.  It sure won't hurt, especially if I can save a few bucks along the way.

Well, my big deal this past weekend was on Saturday at AC Moore.  I did NOT go out Black Friday shopping. There was really no allure to it for me this year. I also feel that the only time Black Friday deals are really worth it are if you're out to buy electronics or appliances. Even then, the sales aren't always worth the effort you put into it.

Anyway, one big thing left on my Christmas list was Victoria's easel, which we were planning to get from AC Moore.  Last Sunday, they had a 60% off coupon - and my sister-in-law and her husband were going to pick it up for me while they were out, but my printer broke, therefore my coupon was useless because I wasn't able to print it.

One of the 2-day Doorbusters at AC Moore was the easel, normally priced at $69.99 on sale for $29.99. Yes, that's right $40 off!!  Of course, I had to get it then, why wouldn't I want to save nearly 60% off?  While there, we also picked up a Melissa & Doug United States Floor puzzle and a set of magnetic dolls for Victoria since she loves them. 

The Melissa & Doug stuff was BOGO Free, which is awesome. I also picked up two small photo albums, which were $1.50 for both.

The bottom line?  I spent $49 plus change for over $100 in retail value!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Monday's Featured Blog

Hello there and welcome to another installment of Monday's Featured Blogs!

This week's features aren't going by my usual established and developing blogs theme. Intead I've chosen one blog this week. It's a blog that inspires me to be more giving...after all, 'tis the season!

Cathy's Creations Blog The title on her blog header says it all: Cathy's Creations.. Jewelry with a heart. From the blog, you can link to Cathy's Creations on Etsy and also the Cathy's Creations Facebook Fan Page. Cathy makes amazing beaded bracelets and rings. She does so much to help raise awareness in the forms of donations and giveaways. She's got such a huge heart and her work is amazing! I thought that with the holidays quickly approaching, this might be a great gift for someone or for yourself and Cathy is such a giving person, it's only fitting that I choose her as my featured blog this week. Please go check out her blog, and hop on over to her FB Fan Page and Etsy site if you're interested in some awesome bracelets!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Santa Hat update- Almost Finished!

I'm almost finished with my first ever knitted hat!  The Santa Hat  I made isn't perfect- I can see where my tension was varied and stitch sizes are off from one to the next. But, I was pretty proud that I didn't drop or add any stitches and I followed along with the pattern pretty well.  It was suppose to be for Victoria, but unfortunately, I didn't measure her head before starting and just made the pattern for a "child" size hat with a circumference of 17 inches.  It stretches to fit her, but it's tight and looks silly, so now it'll be for Benjamin and it fits him well.  I've already started on the "adult medium" which should fit Victoria.

The only thing that's left is to weave in my ends and make and add the white pom-pom for the top of the hat.


It's taken me a while to make it, but it's hard to always find time lately with two kids and Derek's nighttime work schedule.  This coming week (starting tomorrow afternoon), Derek and the kids are going to be away, so my TV time will be filled with crochet and knitting projects. 

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thankful Thursday

Today is Thanksgiving for those of us in the States, so I thought it would be appropriate to show you all the things I'm thankful for.

First, and foremost, I am thankful for my wonderful husband. Without him I wouldn't have the family that I adore. He is so loving and supportive and I'm so happy to call him mine.


Next, I am thankful for the awesome children I have. Even in the midst of the Trying Threes, Victoria ceases to amaze me. Her imagination runs wild and she keeps me on my toes. Benjamin is such a happy boy that he is sure to lift my mood no matter what is going on. He's such a smiley child and there's such love in his eyes. He's also a very laid-back child, which gives me a nice break!

I'm thankful for all the family and friends that I have to support me and be there through tough times. I am especially thankful for my grandparents, who were like my parents when I was growing up - being there for me even when my actual parents were not and providing the love and support that I needed. I'm also thankful for Derek's parents who show the same love and support to our children that I had as a child with my grandparents and great-grandparents. I'm so glad that our kids are getting to know their grandparents and great-grandmothers the way I was able to know mine.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

From the Mouth of a Child

Any of you who have children or spend a great deal of time with them can understand that they are so unpredictable, especially during the early years. Victoria provides me with endless examples of how random and spontaneous children are, and sometimes I'm in awe of the things she comes up with.

I thought I'd share a smattering of her thoughts with you today:

"Mommy, did you ever taste Mam-mam's Milk? It's so yummy... it's better than ours" 
Okay- so I can see how this isn't so funny, but the fact that we haven't been to my grandmother's house in about a month, combined with the fact that we both buy the same 2% Milk made me chuckle a bit at the randomness of the comment.

"Did we lose our loudinator?" Me: "What does it do?" Tori: "It makes you sound really loud. I think we lost it, or it was broken"
So, you might have to be a fan of Phineas & Ferb to get this one, but the "evil" Dr. Doofenshmirtz creates an endless array of -inators.  Love that she came up with the loudinator and was actually looking for it :)

"Mommy, you guys fell in love" Me: "Who?" Tori: "You and Daddy and you got married. I fell in love with Daddy too".
She melts my heart. She is so loving and adores her daddy so much and I am so happy that he is such an awesome father, but it's times like this that it can nearly bring me to tears with the amount of love and admiration she has for him - I only wish he would have been home to hear it from her!

WIP Wednesday

My new found joy of knitting has continues to monopolize my crafting time.  Derek's wool scarf is on a temporary hold since we figured out there was no way it would be complete before hunting this year.  So, I've started working on the Santa hats for the kids and I HOPE I will get them done in time to be worn this year.  I haven't found a lot of time for knitting/crocheting/crafting in general of late, but I'm making some slow progress.

The Santa hats-   I started on my circular needles, using Bernat Christmas Cotton:

Then changed to Crimson yarn, which is not as thick as the cotton and I didn't realize what sort of trouble that would cause me with the knitting process.  It was getting too tight to work on the circular needles, so I made the decision to transfer to DPNs and give that a whirl:


So far, so good. It's a little complicated to figure out how to hold it so that all the needles aren't knocking together, but it's a learning process.

Next week, Derek and the kids are away visiting family while I have to work. I'm going to miss them terribly, but I'm going to try to use the time to my advantage to get my projects done. I want to finish up Victoria's Santa hat and try to squeeze in making a purse for her for Christmas, as well as a black hat and a black & hot pink scarf. I also have another purse that I'd like to make for a Christmas present as well and I would love to make some great progress on Teddy's star blanket, so we'll see how much I can get done. Hopefully my WIP post next week will be full of creative goodness!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Monday Shopping Extravaganza!

Yesterday was a special day for me... my birthday!  I decided to take a day off from work so that I could enjoy my day, but busy as always I didn't really take a moment to relax!  I really wanted to take a day off while Victoria was in school so that I could finish off some Christmas shopping - as she is becoming too wise about things for me to properly shop for her and Ben without her remembering in just a few short weeks that Mommy & Daddy bought these items that "Santa" was bringing.


Our first stop was Target, because they had the Tag Reader Books at Buy One, Get One Free! Now, Victoria already has a handful of books for her Reader, and we have two more waiting in Santa's box but there is a new Beauty and the Beast book that we just had to get her. Why not do it while they are BOGO?  So, we also picked up Tangled as well.  Target had a special on select books as well - $9.99 instead of $13.99, so essentially you could get TWO books for LESS than the price of one.  Unfortunately, since Tangled is so new it was still $13.99, but such an awesome deal to get one free. 



While at Target, we also picked up the Lil' Zoomers ramp for Benjamin for $9.99, marked down from $14.99. 


Then we picked up some stocking stuffers, not on sale but small things we loved - like a ViewMaster and some reels for Victoria.  I had a ViewMaster as a kid and I loved it - I'm so happy to see all of the toys from my childhood reappearing.


We then made the next stop in our journey at Wal-Mart.  Here we snagged the Fisher Price Lil' Zoomers Speedway for Ben, on sale for $4 off the regular price.
After a productive morning of shopping, we celebrated my birthday with lunch at The Cheesecake Factory... I was in heaven!

Monday's Featured Blogs

Hello there and welcome to another installment of Monday's Featured Blogs! My three-day weekend has me a little off and I just realized that it's already Tuesday...oops.

This week's features aren't going by my usual established and developing blogs theme.  Intead I've chosen two blogs that are sure to help you with your holiday cooking and shopping!

First, to help with your holiday and everyday shopping needs - MamaCheaps. I actually found out about Mama Cheaps from my husband - he saw an ad in our local Clipper magazine.  She helps point out deals and coupons on items ranging from every day use, groceries and personal care items, to freebies and holiday specials - even outlining a lot of the awesome Black Friday deals for those looking for a great deal.  Through following her blog, I've saved oodles of money and continue to follow, enter her giveaways and print those coupons she's making me aware of time after time.  If you're looking for a great deal this holiday seasone, or wishing to learn the art of couponing, check out Mama Cheaps!!

Next, to explore new recipes and spice up your holiday and everyday cooking, check out Smitten Kitchen. Be warned, your mouth will begin to water and you'll suddenly have the urge to cook, bake or eat immediately.  I become wise to Smitten Kitchen through a friend, when I was looking for some yummy soup recipes, and since, I've consulted it for all sorts of food ideas.  I wish I had the time to make all the recipes on the site!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Exploring New Foods: Recipe V

In my quest for soup recipes, I requested a recipe from my sister-in-law's mother-in-law (are you following?) Well, along with the soup recipe I asked for, she also included a few other recipes and we decided to try the Taco Shells, a a fun twist on tacos crossed with italian stuffed shells. It was an easy recipe to make... Derek actually prepared it while I was on my way home from work since we had some time constraints today.

Val's Taco Shells

Ingredients:
  • 1 1/2 lbs Ground Beef
  • 3oz cream cheese
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • salt and pepper
  • 16 Jumbo shells
  • Taco Sauce
  • 2 c Shredded Cheese
  • Tortilla chips
Directions:
  • Boil shells.
  • Brown ground beef, drain grease.  Add cream cheese, chili powder and salt & pepper. Simmer 5 minutes.
  • Fill shells with beef mixture, place into a 9x13 baking dish. Cover with taco sauce and bake 15 minutes at 350. Add shredded cheese and crushed tortilla chips and bake for an additional 15 minutes.
Notes/Changes:
  • We didn't add the tortilla chips.
Review:

Success! I really enjoyed this recipe as a fun spin on traditional tacos.  We were in a hurry today, so Derek made it and that was the whole meal.  Ideally, it would be great served with salad, or keeping with the mexican theme, refried beans or black bean & corn salsa.
The only thing I would consider changing would be to add some taco seasoning to the ground beef, but it was great just the way it is too!

"To-Make" List and current WIPs

I've noticed that I am compiling a long list of things to make, exacerbated by my husband's wish for a wool scarf for hunting JUST as I was finishing up his neckwarmer for hunting. Well, his hunting week is less than 2 weeks away and progress on the scarf is s--l--o--w. He said that I can do my other stuff and he can just have the scarf for winter this year, which takes some pressure off me, but now it's more of a challenge to get it done.  Kind of a hard challenge when I don't always get time each day to work on it - like last night when I feel asleep with Victoria waiting for Derek to get home.

Anyway, I have 2 current WIPs:
On the hook- Teddy's star blanket... as you'll see I haven't made much progress lately.

On the needles- Derek's wool scarf... this has been top priority, but I have a long way to go.


And, on the radar to make in the next month:
On the hook OR Needles (haven't decided)- Santa hats for the kids
On the hook- Queen Anne's lace scarf with my wonderful Alpaca Love wool
On the hook- a christmas-inspired Mandala following Alice's wonderful tutorial

And down the road I have a few more blankets to get working on!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Monday's Featured Blogs

Hello there and welcome to another installment of Monday's Featured Blogs!
This week, I'm featuring and established blog that is sure to help you with your holiday entertaining and baking needs. The developing blog I'm featuring is also a great read, with plenty of ideas for kids activities and DIY projects.


Half Baked- The Cake Blog is an amazing site that features great party ideas, wedding ideas, cakes and other decorating ideas.  The site is phenomenal - it provided me with some much needed inspiration for my sister-in-law's baby shower when we were searching to find the perfect theme, or perfect the theme we had in mind.  Since finding it, I love to follow the blog and see the cute ideas and help prepare for future parties.  I'll definitely be taking some ideas from the Dr. Seuss themed party for Benjamin's first birthday.  It's an awesome blog- go check it out.

Journal from a Jane of All Trades is a great site by an amazing SAHM.  Alison could be Martha Stewart's twin sister with all her cooking, decorating, creating. She's just made a pretty big move and I look forward to reading more stories of her journey in the coming weeks.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Exploring New Foods: Recipe IV


Ingredients:


  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar (to sprinkle on towel)
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2/3 cup LIBBY'S® 100% Pure Pumpkin
  • 1 cup walnuts, chopped (optional)

  • 1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
  • 6 tablespoons butter or margarine, softened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar (optional)
Directions:


1.PREHEAT oven to 375 degrees F. Grease 15 x 10-inch jelly-roll pan; line with wax paper. Grease and flour paper. Sprinkle towel with powdered sugar.

2.COMBINE flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves and salt in small bowl. Beat eggs and sugar in large mixer bowl until thick. Beat in pumpkin. Stir in flour mixture. Spread evenly into prepared pan. Sprinkle with nuts.

3.BAKE for 13 to 15 minutes or until top of cake springs back when touched. Immediately loosen and turn cake onto prepared towel. Carefully peel off paper. Roll up cake and towel together, starting with narrow end. Cool on wire rack.

4.BEAT cream cheese, powdered sugar, butter and vanilla extract in small mixer bowl until smooth. Carefully unroll cake; remove towel. Spread cream cheese mixture over cake. Reroll cake. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least one hour. Sprinkle with powdered sugar before serving, if desired.

Notes/Changes:
  • I didn't have ground cloves, and I'm not a fan of the clove flavor, so I skipped it.
  • I didn't add the optional walnuts.
Review:

SUCCESS!!!
This was a pretty easy recipe to make.  Pumpkin rolls always seem so intimidating to me, I remember my mom making them and getting frustrated with them cracking and a friend of mine making them and they wouldn't roll right.  Well, maybe seeing these things helped me because I wrapped it right away, unrolled when it was still slightly warm and then re-rolled and put it right in the freezer, because I prefer it frozen instead of refrigerated.

Oh my gosh- it was fantastic.  I didn't think it would have the right flavor, but it was pretty good. Everyone says you can't mess up a pumpkin roll, but obviously they haven't tasted some of the pumpkin rolls I've tasted. I love pumpkin rolls. I will definitely be making more!

Hot Off the Needles AND New on the Needles

I finished the camo neckwarmer. It's a bit shorter than it would have normally been, but I ran out of yarn and Derek wasn't too worried about it since this is a backup/trial neckwarmer anyway.  I was pretty pleased with it because it was my first real knitting project.  I used circular needles, stockinette stitch (ie knit stitch in the round), made an eyelet row so that we can thread elastic cord through and add a toggle and I also worked K2P2 ribbing for the last 3-4 rows until I ran out of yarn.  Next time, I'd like to have a larger ribbed section, but again, it was a trial project.

 I love the knit/stockinette look!

And now, New on the Needles, is the wonderful wooly scarf I keep mentioning. The wool is a bit rough to work with but it's so natural it's exciting! the 100% wool and bamboo needles make me feel like I'm doing something great working with more natural materials. The goal for the scarf, or should I say deadline, is to be done by the day after Thanksgiving so Derek can take it hunting.  I hope I get the time to work on it and get it done in time!