Monday, February 27, 2012

A few of my favorite things: blog edition

I follow a lot of blogs. And there really is quite a bit of variety there when I scroll through the list in my reader. I first got hooked on blogs back when I was working at my church as the Children’s Ministries Director and discovered the wide world of Kidmin blogs. Since Jace was born, though, I’ve branched out (and become engrossed in) craft and home blogs. With some fun life blogs thrown in there. And when I open up my reader with only a few minutes to pick through the 80+ unread posts at any given time, there are a few I scroll through and read first. I feel like these ladies are my friends (even though I’ve only met one in real life). So, without further ado, my favorite blogs would include, but are not limited to…

image

My friend Jen writes over at Brazenlilly. She shares stories about her kids, her family’s long-lasting journey to adopt a precious little boy from Thailand, embarrassing moments, and what she’s learning in her faith. She isn’t your typical mom/family blogger though. Her writing style gets me (and Nolan) laughing while also plunging deep to teach me and challenge me. And I know her in real life and she’s even cooler in person.

image

I first got to know Kayla Aimee’s blog, Only Slightly Neurotic, when her daughter, Scarlette (a micro-premie) was battling for her life. I found myself praying daily for Scarlette and cried when she was finally able to go home. Since then, I crack up constantly at Kayla Aimee’s stories and writing style. I seriously love reading what she writes. And most of it is just about random things like what her hair looked like that day or Scarlette’s love of Elmo. 

image

I love Rachel’s blog Maybe Matlida. I don’t care whether she’s posting a tutorial or pictures of her son. I get a kick out of everything she posts. Her rants resonate with my own frustrations and her honesty and openness about finding her identity as a blogger is refreshing. She taught me to crochet. I think we’d have fun going clothes shopping together. And let's not forget, she has great hair. (Ha! Rachel, when you read this, I was totally thinking of your post about the farewell party where all the girls shared sentimental stories about each other and just talked about your hair).

image

Kirstin, half of the team over at Kojo Designs, is my girl. We’ve never met or talked. But we email. And I love it. And I love her blog. She and Jordan (her sister, the other half) come up with some amazing sewing/crafting/home d├ęcor projects and some even more amazing parties. I felt like I was channeling my inner Kojo when planning Jace’s birthday party. These two are super sweet and allow you to see their real lives—not just the pretty pieces.


Now, don’t get me wrong, there are many more blogs that I love dearly and read every word of every post. But these ladies just tug at my heart and draw me to read their posts first. I feel like they’re my friends and we’d have a blast in person. How about you? What bloggers are you drawn to most?

Guesting at Ucreate Today!

the petal top

Today I’m over at Ucreate showing how to make The Petal Top. Stop on over and check it out!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Balloon Blowing Made Easy

We had a lot of balloons for Jace’s birthday party. I gave Nolan the job of blowing them up. After maybe two balloons he realized that he was going to quickly get a headache. So he did what he does best, and came up with a better way of getting the job done.

balloons

He simply used his air compressor, with the regulator set to a low pressure (somewhere around 10 PSI), using a rubber tipped nozzle, to blow up each balloon. It worked like a charm. And he wasn’t winded or cranky when he was finished. The crazy thing is that almost a month later, the balloons we haven’t popped yet are still just as full as they were the day of the party. No deflating at all. We’re wondering if it has something to do with a lack of the moisture that usually comes with being blown up by someone’s mouth?

jace 5

But ultimately, this little guy loving them was the best part of the whole discovery.

Thanks for stopping by!

Parties I like to link up at:

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Some Sewing Inspiration

This little baby in me must be growing like crazy because my stomach has been feeling upside down. I want to be sewing. I actually need to be sewing (I am doing some exciting guest posts soon!). And I have plenty of fabric and inspiration. But every time I put Jace down for a nap, my body decides it’s time to just lay on the couch. So I’ve been getting caught up on watching Pan Am and Downton Abbey instead of creating new, fun things to show you.

I thought I little trip through my clothing inspiration board might help get me some motivation. And hey, maybe sharing it with you will help take these pieces from my computer screen to my closet.


I love this jacket. I actually bought some red sweatshirt fabric and black knit to line it with already (I figured that was a much easier and cheaper route than going with wool), as well as some big, black buttons. I even have a pattern that should be easy to adjust for this look. Now just to cut and sew it…


This dress is beautiful. I think it would make an amazing Easter dress and would use a pastel color for it. Yellow perhaps? Imagine it with a white cardigan. And since I’m guessing I might have a bit of a belly by then, I could just tie the belt higher. It’s decided. Easter 2012, here you go!

image

I think this shirt is beautiful. I already have some gauzy white knit that would probably work perfectly for it. Just use a rolled hem foot, and it really shouldn’t be complicated.

image

I love the simple and beautiful embellishment on this top. I should check out the clearance racks at Target, and then all it would take is some lace and beads.


Thanks for stopping by!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Make Ahead Meals -or- Cooking Once A Month

I have ten meals sitting in my freezer right now, four more in a crock pot cooling in the fridge waiting to be packaged and frozen, and the meat for three more just needing to be prepared. It’s a pretty wonderful feeling.
Once I found out I was pregnant I knew I needed to get on making some freezer meals. Morning sickness hit me hard with Jace, and the yuckies didn’t go away until well into my second trimester. I honestly would rather go through labor than morning sickness. And I had a long, hard, 34 hour labor experience (19 of those hours being without an epidural). I figured I’d have until eight weeks along before this baby started making its presence known in the worst way possible (which I am very thankful for… after all, it means this little one inside of me is alive and growing). But this time around it hit at 6 weeks. And it hit hard. But purchased groceries sitting in my fridge not wanting to be spoiled were a great motivation to get off the couch.
All that to say, if I could pull off fourteen meals in one afternoon (with plenty of breaks throughout the cooking), I’d say this is a pretty manageable project to take on!
2012-02-13 005
I did a lot of reading up prior to making my menu and shopping list. I found The Test Kitchen of Mellisa Fallis’ post about freezer crock pot meals to be the most helpful. Each meal I make is intended to feed three people for dinner (and we’re big eaters in the Nelson household) with leftovers for my husband’s lunch the next day. My plan was to make 2 each of: Healthy BBQ Chicken and Teriyaki Chicken. 1 of Honey Sauced Chicken. Each of these will be later thawed and then cooked in the crock pot. Also in the plan was soups in the crock pot that will just need to be thawed and reheated later on—three meals each of: Taco Soup and Chicken Vegetable Soup (recipes below). My last two meals were chicken enchiladas (although I actually made three, one was for dinner tonight).
I started by boiling chicken breasts in broth and seasonings to be shredded later for the enchiladas. Once I got that going on a back burner, I browned hamburger for the taco soup. While it was browning I started chopping all the fresh produce. (In the picture above you’ll see my final preparations of: red peppers, green peppers, zucchini, garlic, red onion, yellow onions, red potatoes, and chicken.) Once the hamburger was browned, I put the taco soup in one crock pot.
2012-02-13 006
I then got all my zip lock bags labeled for what would go in them, the date and cooking instructions.
2012-02-13 008
Then it was simply assembling the ingredients in each bag. I saved the chicken to be added last. Once these bags were in the freezer, I cut up the chicken for the vegetable soup and got it cooking in another crock pot.
2012-02-13 009
And finally came the best part—the enchiladas! I love the sight and smell of simmering onions.
2012-02-13 013
One pan of enchiladas went in the oven while the other two were put together in aluminum pans (I look forward to the lack of dishes the day we eat these!).
2012-02-13 015
They were topped off with foil and the instructions written on them. The taco soup was done before the chicken and vegetable, so it was cooled by the time I headed to bed and I just spooned it into three zip locks and stuck them in the freezer. The chicken and vegetable went into the fridge and I’ll take care of it in the morning. I plan on making Cheez-it chicken strips to also freeze tomorrow.
2012-02-13 014
And ah, the carnage. My sweet husband did the dishes for me, which was wonderful!
2012-02-13 004
Jace was quite the audience in his jammies (yes, it’s 5 pm and he’s still in his jammies with crazy bed head and munching on crackers). Poor kid, he kept thinking the onions were apples and didn’t understand why I wouldn’t give him a slice.
Jeanette’s Taco Soup (I doubled this recipe to make as much as I did)
-1 lb Hamburger
-2 cans crushed tomatoes
-1 can tomato sauce
-1 can black beans (including sauce/juice stuff)
-1 can red kidney beans (including liquid)
-1 packet ranch dressing mix
-1 packet taco seasoning mix
-Olives
-Corn (I love it with corn, but didn’t have room in the crock pot this time)
-1 TBS onion powder
Brown hamburger, combine all ingredients in crock pot. Cook on low for 4-5 hours.
 
 
Aunt Cola’s Enchiladas (which I tripled to make as much as I did)
-2 cups cooked chicken, shredded
-1 onion
-1 can Cream of Chicken Soup
-1 cup sour cream
-1 cup cheddar cheese
-1 cup mozzarella cheese
-1 can crushed tomatoes with green chilies
-tortillas
Sautee onions (I used a little butter for this part) until tender. Turn off heat and stir in cream of chicken soup, sour cream and 3/4 cup cheddar and 3/4 cup mozzarella (I actually just used a pre-shredded pack of chedder/jack) and can of tomatoes (I was out of this and sometimes find the chilies too hot, so I just added a can of tomato sauce, which a whole can would probably only work with the tripling size, and a few splashes of hot sauce). Smear some of the sauce on the bottom of your pan, then put 3 TBSP of the sauce and 1/3 cup chicken in each tortilla, roll, and place in pan seam side down. Top with remaining sauce and sprinkle with remaining cheese. Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes or until cheese is starting to brown.
 
 
Chicken and Vegetable Soup (which I doubled)
-1 can tomato soup
-1 can tomato sauce
-Chicken broth
-2 zucchinis, diced
-small bag of frozen mixed veggies
-1 clove garlic
-2 chicken breasts, raw, cubed
-Onion powder
-Basil
Mix all ingredients in crock pot and add chicken broth until you get to the consistency of broth you like for your soup. I use about a TBSP onion powder and a lot of basil, but really, just add whichever spices you think sound good. Cook on high for 4 hours or low for 6-8 hours. If you don’t like your zucchini as well done, just add it for the last hour or so.
Cheez-It Chicken (My all time favorite dinner growing up.)
-4 chicken breasts
-1-2 cups Cheez-Its, crushed
-1 tsp Garlic Powder
-1 tsp Onion Powder
-Butter, melted
In a zip lock bag combine crackers and seasonings. Dip chicken in butter and then shake in cracker mixture until well coated. When cooking right away, top chicken in pan with remaining cracker mixture and bake at 350 for 30-45 minutes or until cooked through. If planning on freezing, slice chicken into 1 inch thick strips prior to coating. Flash freeze on parchment paper on cookie sheet and then combine in zip lock bag. Bake without thawing at 350 for 3o minutes or until cooked through.
*And, in case you’re wondering, I spent a little less than $140 between Walmart and Costco for all of the food to make 17 meals for 4 people and have lots of cheese, tortillas and sour cream left over.*
Thanks so much for stopping by and good luck with your freezer cooking!
Parties I like to link up at:

Friday, February 10, 2012

Polka-Dotted Tunic Top

I think it’s safe to say that I’m on a quest for the perfect tunic top. And after this one, I think I’m just about there. I could have shown it to you a few days ago, but I just didn’t feel like making myself presentable and getting out the tripod.

2012-02-10 003

I had ordered a few yards of a light weight, sheer polka-dotted knit for my shop a while back, and then thought I should use some for a top. It was just too cute to pass up. I lined with with a soft black jersey knit to keep it appropriate and wearable.

quincee's boutique 8

My original inspiration came from Quincee’s Boutique (as all my inspiration seems to these days). I loved this top instantly. My original plan was to do a draw string or elastic waist like in the inspiration. But then I saw this “My Favorite Tee Dress” from iCandy handmade.

image

I figured leaving the waist more adjustable would server me better as my size will be increasing.

2012-02-10 011

I had already cut the dress/top as a sleeveless piece before seeing the iCandy tutorial, but now I wish I could have made it with the simple sleeves like she did. Oh well! If you’re wanting to make one, just follow iCandy’s tutorial… it’ll be a lot easier than my mismatched pictures (I was a hurry to finish this in time for an early Valentine’s date with Nolan).

I’m looking forward to playing around with more ways of styling it. I think I’d like it better with a colored cardi (a splash of color from the scarf worked well enough for now, though), and It might even work well with skinny jeans. We’ll just have to see. I will say that I love the way mixing brown and black is completely fashionably appropriate these days! Wearing my gray boots with this would have been way too monochromatic.

Thanks for stopping by!

top it off logo

This post is a part of my ongoing Top It Off Series. You can see previous posts HERE.

Parties I like to link up at:

Monday, February 6, 2012

Serger Tips & Tools: Part Two

serger tips and tools 2

Go HERE for Serger Tips & Tools: Part One.

Last week we looked at whether or not you actually need a serger. Today we’ll look at how to choose one. (If you’re unsure about what exactly a serger does, check out THIS video that demonstrates a serger’s stitches.)

When I was shopping for a serger, I didn’t do anything more than read a few articles online and then read lots of Amazon reviews. Then I narrowed it down to a few and read all sorts of reviews from anywhere I could find them online. I finally chose mine.

image

I bought the Brother 1034 D from Amazon. My other machine was a Brother, so I knew I liked the brand. I was impressed by how people rated its ease of threading (which trust, me still isn’t all that easy). The only thing I wish I had taken into account was how local Brother repairmen were to me. I haven’t needed to look into servicing this machine yet, but I am finding that getting my regular machine serviced will mean an hour drive.

If you’re wanting to be more in depth about choosing the right serger for you, I found some great articles and blog posts online for selecting the best machine.

*Linda Lee Originals provides a great bullet point list about details to consider when choosing your machine and some suggestions regarding the experience you’ll find at different stores while shopping.

*Overstock.com provides three clear and concise, yet well encompassing, points to consider.

*eHow Style gives five easy steps to choosing a serger.

*Sewing Alterations & Patterns Blog helps you consider what functions you’ll need for the fabrics and projects you’ll be working with.

Updated: A reader, Allison, shared this great tip from when she bought her serger: When I was shopping for my serger, I went to a smaller quilting/fabric store which also sells an extensive line of good quality machines (Bernina, Janome, etc) and ended up getting a fantastic deal on an older, used Bernette serger. If someone is looking for a serger and the prices are out of her budget, I would suggest looking at smaller, privately owned stores to see what their used inventory is.
Thanks for the tip, Allison!


Next week we’ll look at how to actually use your serger. While I know that like sewing machines, sergers are very different from brand to brand, but there are some things I’ve been learning along the way that I hope will be helpful to you!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

An Exciting On-Going Project

2012-01-29 005

In case you didn’t notice, Jace’s shirt says, “Hello, my name is Big Brother.” That’s right, I’m about six weeks into a project that should take about nine months to complete. I’m so excited to know our little family is expanding. In some ways it feels unreal. I’ve been hoping to get pregnant since last February. So when I took the test and a few days later the only things happening in my body seemed pregnancy related, I excitedly made a shirt for Jace to wear announcing our big news. The timing was amazing—my mom was flying in from Maryland for Jace’s birthday and we were able to see Nolan’s parents on our way to pick her up at the airport. The shirt was simple—I just used a fabric pen to draw the name tag design on an iron on patch.

2011-08-22 017

Part of why this pregnancy seems unreal is that I made another announcement shirt back in August. We were six months into being hopeful about pregnancy, so when I took the test I was so excited to make a shirt for Jace. I cut out the “Big Brother” from some blue fabric and then used my free motion foot to roughly stitch it down in red, yellow and dark blue thread. The “I’m going to be a” part was made from patch material and a fabric pen then ironed and sewed on.

Jace and I had a blast doing a photo shoot in a nearby field, and then after Nolan came home we Skyped with our parents to share the news. That evening, though, I started spotting. After three days it was confirmed that I was no longer pregnant. While the news of the miscarriage/chemical pregnancy was sad, it wasn’t devastating to me. Aside from the fact that the possibility of it not lasting was evident so early on, there was some apprehension connected to it. I had shingles just two weeks before I took the positive test. And, according to the doctor I saw at the time, shingles can cause some pretty major birth defects if a baby is exposed to it in the first trimester of pregnancy. So while I would have loved for that baby to have developed and grown in me, I also saw it as a blessing to not have to worry about whether or not the shingles had affected things.

2011-08-22 008

I didn’t tell many people about the miscarriage because I honestly didn’t need sympathy. I was sad over the loss, but I already had one very healthy baby. Some of my friends had recently gone through miscarriages and scares in their pregnancies, so I knew the reality of not every pregnancy resulting in a little one in your arms. I did, however, enjoy some sewing therapy and Dressin’ Up Week was born.

As the next five months progressed, though, I did start getting discouraged about whether we would ever get pregnant again. It’s amazing how quickly we can build up stories in our minds. Maybe Jace was a miracle pregnancy and having more children just wouldn’t be an option for me… or maybe his birth was too traumatic for my body… or what if we can’t get pregnant again… or if we do get pregnant and it miscarries as well?

2011-08-22 006

I’m going through Beth Moore’s “Mercy Triumphs” Bible study at church right now and have been loving this time of study for myself. A few weeks ago we were looking at James 1 and the trials we’re facing and she asked, “So what are you going to do with all you’re going through?” Not being pregnant was my trial. Beth’s challenge was to obey James 1:2 and consider it joy as I persevere through this trial. Doing this section of the study felt like the last step of a turning in my heart to truly let go of my desire to be pregnant and trust God’s timing. I was honestly able to tell Him that as much as I desire to have another baby and see our family grow, I could trust that if we were to have one naturally—He would cause the right timing. And if a baby joining our family through adoption was His will, that child would be provided for us.

As I shared this with the ladies at my table a week and a half ago, part of me was hopeful I was pregnant, while the other part of me knew I shouldn’t get my hopes up. This month would be like every other month—more money wasted on negative pregnancy tests. But that afternoon, I couldn’t resist. And when I saw the “Pregnant” on the screen, I almost couldn’t believe it. After all, I had made up my mind that I just couldn’t get pregnant. And as the next few days passed, I kept expecting the spotting. After all, I had made up my mind that I couldn’t stay pregnant.

2011-08-22 004

But here I am, at just about six weeks, and things are looking good. I know that pregnancy can change at any moment, but for now I’m going to celebrate this little life growing in me. And hopefully I’ll be able to just keep on celebrating this little life for eight more months and then years and years and years after that.

And there you have my fertility story. I’ve found that all of us women have one—some more difficult and exhausting than others. But whether it’s a story of being overly fertile and having babies at times you wouldn’t have described as perfect, going through years of testing and hoping only to have a monthly disappointment, or carrying a child only to loose it after it enters the world, your story is important. I can’t wait to find out if we’re having a boy or girl (I’m hoping for girl!) and when we do, I will love finding a name that gives meaning to the journey of welcoming this baby into our family. (You can read about how we chose Jace’s name HERE.)

I will still continue doing my Top It Off posts on Thursdays as I’m able and everything else crafty or creative I can think of in between, and then I’ll be throwing some maternity and baby posts in there as we go! I’m figuring that if this pregnancy goes at all like it did with Jace, I have two more good weeks and then life will get nasty. But at least this time around I’m not working and know what to expect.

Thanks so much for letting me share my story with you!

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Things That Go Birthday Party

My little boy turned two on Friday. It’s hard to believe that the little boy who took almost 34 hours to make his appearance is now a non stop moving and talking two-year-old. He loves anything with wheels—cars, trains, airplanes, trucks… so we decided to have a Things That Go party for him.

jace's birthday

I designed his invitations in Publisher (had to make the tire treads myself using lots and lots of round-cornered rectangles) and then just had them printed as 4x6 photos at Costco.

2012-02-02 076

My mom spent the weeks leading up to his birthday making all sorts of fun cut-outs on her Cricut. Since it was an evening party we served sandwiches and crock pot macaroni and cheese for dinner. The plates, napkins and cutlery were all bought at Walmart. I put some of my mom’s cut outs on the jars holding the forks and knives.

2012-02-02 077_picnik

Jace’s Tonka truck was used to hold the napkins.

2012-02-02 098

My mom made a super cute Happy Birthday garland out of a train. We hung it from the bar and then set up Jace’s wooden train around the table. The food later went inside the tracks.

2012-02-02 053

Since Jace doesn’t like cake we had an ice cream sundae bar for dessert instead.

2012-02-02 062_picnik

An old-fashioned soda shop was the look I was aiming for. We used parfait glasses and pretty plastic dishes I found at the Dollar Tree for the sundaes.

2012-02-02 063_picnik

The toppings were a lot of fun to come up with. In addition to hot fudge, caramel and whipped cream, we also had sprinkles, gummy bears, crushed Oreos, crushed waffle cone and M&Ms.

2012-02-02 060_picnik

Like the forks and knives, the spoons were in a jar with cuts outs on the front. The jars were just a little too deep for the silverware to stick out so I put some paper filler from the Dollar Tree in the bottom of them.

2012-02-02 052

My sister-in-law and niece are gluten-free, so I also had salted brown butter rice crispy treats to eat. My mom had the clever idea of sticking the cut outs to little wooden cubes to made them stand up on their own. I loved being able to add such fun little touches of things that go all around the house.

2012-02-02 084

I wanted Jace to have a special spot for opening his presents, so I brought in a chair from his table/chair set that we have outside and loved that it matched the color scheme.

2012-02-02 087_picnik

Balloons and a “Jace” banner also made by mom my topped off the look. The balloons are just tied to a yellow grosgrain ribbon.

jace 5

Jace thought his special spot was pretty great and I loved that we finally captured him with “Nowie” his stuffed cat that goes everywhere with him. The kitty got its name from the way Jace says meow. She was first called Now and then he made it more special by calling her Nowie.

2012-02-02 078

I made his shirt without having to do any sewing! I used a Garanimals shirt from Walmart and then cut the train track pieces from black grosgrain ribbon. After melting the ends so they wouldn’t fray, I used Steam-A-Seam to bond them to the shirt. The “2” was cut out of felt and the pattern used the same font as the 2 on his party invitation.

2012-02-02 081_picnik

Going back and sewing everything on would be cute, but I didn’t want to deal with my sewing machine at this time.

2012-02-02 037

Party favors were two containers of homemade play dough each. I made red, yellow and blue to match the party. I used THIS recipe and loved the texture! The dough was then put in small Glad containers that come in an 8 pack.

2012-02-02 095_picnik

Each cousin got a bag with their two play doughs. The bags were sealed with glue dots and a 2 cut-out my mom made, and then a train/car/dump truck/plane was stuck on as well.

cousins

During the party all the cousins played Pin the Wheel on the Car. My mom drew the car on a poster board and then cut the wheels out of scrapbook paper.

airplanes

We also had fun flying paper airplanes. I found this site with all sorts of templates and instructions and just printed them off. Then the dads folded the planes and the kids had fun flying them.

jace ice cream

When it was time for the birthday boy to have his sundae I just put a candle in it like it was a cupcake. The party was a lot of fun and we loved having so much family come celebrate with us. Jace loved being the center of attention and I can’t believe he’s two!

Thanks for stopping by!

Parties I like to link up at: