Nov 29, 2012

Tiny Tarts





These little tarts came about yesterday when I had to make a dessert to take to an evening event.  I needed it to be fast, to require only ingredients I had on hand, and I was aiming for something lighter. My Google searches led me to a recipe for a lighter No-Bake Cheesecake and figured I could tweak it to fit my sensibilities.  A simple recipe, it calls for Cool Whip and reduced-fat cream cheese.  I reject Cool Whip as a food, and reduced-fat cream cheese just doesn't make sense, so didn't have either in my fridge, but I knew I could work something out.

I was so happy with how it all turned out, because not only did I use what I already had, I used bits and pieces of things that were leftover and might have gone to waste otherwise.  I felt so frugal and thrifty.  This is what I found to work with:

-Festive mini-cupcake wrappers bought on clearance that had been languishing in a drawer for over a year
-Graham cracker crumb topping leftover in the fridge from when my daughters made s'more cupcakes
-Real whipping cream leftover from my Thanksgiving  pie extravaganza.
-Homemade fromage blanc* also leftover from Thanksgiving

The mini cupcake wrappers allowed me to use ingredients higher in fat, but still keep the fat and calories per portion low.  I knew there'd be a variety of desserts at the event, and when that's the case, I always prefer to take small pre-portioned items, so people can try my dessert without committing to a huge piece.  The graham cracker crumb topping was much higher in butter than I would have preferred, but it saved a lot of time, and I used a tip I found here, and just rolled it very thin.

I think in ratios these days more often than recipes, and I only had 6.5 ounces of whipping cream on hand, so I used that to determine the size of the recipe.  That's the handy thing about using ratios, it's so easy to scale the recipe to what you have, no lamenting that you can't make that recipe because you're an ounce and a half short of something.  Here's the ratio I used, by weight:

4 parts whipping cream
4 parts fromage blanc (or if you're fresh out of that, you could use the reduced fat cream cheese)
1 part sugar
1 squirt lemon juice

Beat fromage blanc, sugar, and lemon juice together for about two minutes.  In a separate bowl, beat the whipped cream to stiff peaks.  Fold whipping cream into cheese mixture.  Spoon into mini cupcake papers and refrigerate.  That's it, fast and easy.

If you're counting WW points, each mini tart is only one point, and I was satisfied after two, so the real cream and butter aren't such a diet disaster in this context.

The amount I made (with 6.5 oz each of whipping cream and fromage blanc) filled the 24 mini tart papers I had prepared, with about four tarts-worth left over.  I found a great use for the leftovers, but that's another post.  Full disclosure- after a few hours in the fridge, they were a little soggy, probably because my fromage blanc wasn't drained quite long enough when I made it.  But I stuck them in the freezer for an hour, and they were delicious that way, so disaster averted.  Before putting them in the freezer, I garnished them with some mini chocolate chips, you could also use chopped nuts or chocolate shavings, or drizzle with any number of things- chocolate sauce, caramel sauce, strawberry sauce, etc.  You could even garnish, say 1/4 of them with nuts, 1/4 with chocolate chips, etc. and make it look like you made a lot of different desserts!  Ooh, I like that idea.




*Fromage blanc, is a fresh (non-aged) white soft cheese you can substitute for cream cheese, but with a fraction of the calories and cholesterol. Read more about it on the New England Cheesemaking website here, and order the little packets of powdered culture to make your own here.  (And no, they're not paying me to advertise, I just love the New England Cheesemaking company, and I'm so grateful for their work in bringing cheesemaking back to the masses.)  You should definitely try making your own, it's really not much more difficult than instant pudding, really, your kids could make it.

Nov 26, 2012

You Can Have Your Pie and Lose Weight, Too

I thought that title was so clever when it popped into my head.  Now I realize that my subconscious was just copying the title of Dora's recent post.  It's not the first or the last time I'll fine myself following Dora's lead, and that's okay, she always leads me in great directions.

I wrote a really long-winded post about this, then decided that if I were reading it on someone else's blog, I would've lost interest long way before making it to the end.  So here's the Cliff's notes version.  You're welcome.

I'm on a roll shedding some unwanted pounds.  I ate all my normal Thanksgiving foods, including four kinds of pie, but in moderation, and got lots of exercise.  And when I stepped on the scale Sunday morning, the numbers were still rolling downward!  Losing weight doesn't have to mean sacrificing all the food and food-related rituals you love.  And even if you're an exercise-phobe like I was, taking a thirty-minute walk every day won't kill you.  Really.

I'm challenging myself to continue losing weight through the holidays, without turning into that woman who sits sadly in the corner nibbling on a lettuce leaf while everyone around her enjoys their holiday.  Maybe Dora will join me, and we can cheer each other on, or maybe not, that's up to her.


After I read Rachel's post I was inspired by the thought of losing weight instead of gaining it during the holidays, until I remembered that losing weight is not an option right now - with being pregnant and all. While I am watching what I eat in general, I never skip out on a good holiday meal. What I need to do, instead of "sitting sadly in the corner nibbling on a lettuce leaf", is watch my portions! I tend to forget that when there is a platter of Christmas cookies in plain sight. I remember seeing my brother-in-law (yes, a man who watches his weight!) cut cookies and bars in half  with his pocket knife one Christmas, and only choosing to sample a few instead of all the delicacies. 

My challenge for myself, will be portion control and exercise for at least 15 minutes a day. I started this pregnancy already overweight. Due to thyroid problems I never lost any of the "baby weight" after son #4. Plus my hormones were all wacky and by the time I was ready to go on prescription meds for my thyroid, I was pregnant with surprise #5. So, my goal is to limit the amount of weight I am gaining to minimal, while staying healthy. And recognizing that until my thyroid is taken care of, I am not going to lose much weight at all. For me what is important is to have realistic expectations for myself when it comes to weight management  It is good to have a goal or challenge - but it has to be reachable. Otherwise I would just be setting myself up for failure. 


Nov 25, 2012

THOUGHTS: Having Your Cake and Eating It Too


As many people, I have heard over and over again that I cannot have my cake and eat it too. I have thought about this a lot when it comes to life. Does that mean that we have to settle for less like the saying suggests?

When it comes to juggling life and blogging, I found some answers.
 Recently the very talented Rae from Made By Rae  wrote about how she fits it all in. 
I am really grateful for her honesty. She answered a lot of questions I have always had. I would read my favorite blogs and wonder how these women with small children could do it all. Make something gorgeous, take awesome pictures (with a small living room set in the park!), edit, write the blog post, handle advertising, giveaways, e-mails, comments, travel to blog events, host craft events, cook, clean and be a mom. Oh, and look put together also!

Rae was spot on when she said,  "the blog began demanding more of me ". I think sooner or later it happens to all of us. Again, I am going to quote Rae, "I began to feel a bit frustrated by my inability to keep up with the work of blogging. It wasn’t just writing blog posts, it was answering emails, trouble-shooting pattern download issues, and participating in blogger events, and on, and on…"

I remember feeling that way when my previous craft blog, Show, Tell, Share took off and we started to get a lot of hits and followers. It felt great to be finally noticed, to have invitations to participate in blogger events, to have companies seek us out to advertise.

Just like Rae though, I had to make a tough decision. I respect her choice of working part time on her blog and patterns, while her children are taken care of by a babysitter/preschool and even hiring others to help keep up with her site. It works well not just for her, but also for her husband and for her family.

I am grateful to know that she does not do it all herself. I used to think something was wrong with me. Why couldn't I do what others seemed to do effortlessly? Of course I knew that was not realistic, but it is different to know for sure versus wondering.

So, can we have our cake and it eat it too? I am starting to think that yes, it is possible. We just have to choose which cake we are going to eat. It is not an easy choice, sometimes it may even seem unfair. But it does not mean we have to settle for less. I strongly believe that the only way one can truly be happy if those around him are happy also. For a mother, that means her children, her husband, her family. I know that I cannot make my kids happy all the time - a lot depends on their own attitudes. But all of my action have a great influence on my family. It means giving up and sacrificing and serving those closest to us. I noticed that it is seems so much easier to serve and sacrifice for those not close to us. It is easier to give our time and attention to someone who needs us for a limited time or only occasionally. It is much harder to do the same, day after day, year after year for the same people. Still, greater happiness comes from knowing that you are doing what is right and trying your hardest to be the best mother and wife you can be than from following your own (let's just say it: selfish) ambitions or wants. They key is to find what works not just for yourself, but those around you also. Which is not going to be the same as Rae's or mine.

For me, the choice between making blogging a part time job or simply doing it for fun, with no expectations was...well, a bit rocky. It seems pretty silly now, since I have so many wise voices to rely on.  As long as I listen, I am not alone in making tough decisions.

Julie B. Beck, a woman I admire stated it well:

"Mothers who know do less. They permit less of what will not bear good fruit eternally. They allow less media in their homes, less distraction, less activity that draws their children away from their home. Mothers who know are willing to live on less and consume less of the world’s goods in order to spend more time with their children—more time eating together, more time working together, more time reading together, more time talking, laughing, singing, and exemplifying. These mothers choose carefully and do not try to choose it all. "


For me that means putting blogging in the background and only work on this new blog when I get a chance. It means that not all projects I make - no matter how great they turn out- will get posted. It means that I  choose to leave half written posts alone when one of my boys need something. It means turning off the sewing machine to play a game. It means not concerning myself with what others will want to read and see, but be more open and not afraid to be myself. 
It means keep changing my attitude. I am not perfect, but having a direction in life, having made a choice makes it easier to know what I am going to do when I hit crossroads or I am tempted by other distractions. 

I am happier than I used to be, because now I see things differently. Having your cake and eating it too does not mean you really get to do anything you want no matter how contradictory it is (like being a full time mom, homeschool, clean house and run a successful blog or business at the same time) without any negative consequences to yourself and others. That's simply not possible. 

The key here is simply choosing the right cake. Then you can eat it all without any regrets. Or a stomachache. 


Nov 24, 2012

PROJECT: Cool Pants - a refashioned project

My 3 year old cannot stand jeans. He likes soft pants made from knit fabric. They are easy enough to find. But, soft knit pants with stripes are much harder. That boy is obsessed with stripes. He loves his pajamas with stripes, his shirts, his sweaters....everything. While I was browsing at our local thrift store, I found some large men's polo shirts with stripes! Did not take long for me to decide to grab them. However, it did take me a while to sit down and actually make the pants.


Finally, after I caught up on mending and sewed on all the merit badges I was supposed to months ago, I was able to sit down to make some pants. This was the first time I used twin needles too and I have to say, it was a lot of fun and I loved the results. 

He wore all 3 of them throughout the day, so it was easy to snap pictures of him. 


He was so happy to be able to run and jump and kick as much as he wanted. 


We rode bikes, he did somersaults in the grass, colored with chalk, jumped on the bed....all in comfortable and striped pants. 

And now I can concentrate on some Christmas projects completely guilt free.



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Nov 21, 2012

PROJECT: Lotta Jansdotter Baby Snuggler

 Another baby project is checked off my 'to make' list. I have seen a lot of baby snugglers online and really liked Lotta Jansdotter's free pattern. It is a pretty easy project, except a couple tricky corners. But as with anything, patience and taking your time will give great results. I chose a print that I think is fairly gender neutral and used soft flannel instead of fleece or minky fabric for the lining. Out Texas weather is too warm even in the winter for anything heavier than flannel.
 I followed the easy direction until the very end. I placed the Velcro without looking at the pattern or directions.
 And added a small DIY tag as an afterthought. I chose a cute little mouse stamp I have.








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Nov 20, 2012

Thanksgiving Pomander Balls

So last week I was looking for a craft to do with my daughters and sixteen of their closest friends, ie their American Girl Club. The girls in the club take turns planning and executing the meetings, and this month was my daughters' turn. It had to be related to Colonial times, since my girls had chosen to talk about Felicity for their turn to host the club, it had to be something we could accomplish in under an hour with sixteen 9-13 year old girls, and it had to be something that hasn't already been done a hundred times (okay, that was my personal requirement). Pomander balls kept coming up in my searches for Colonial crafts, but to really do those right is a several week process, and I'm never quite sure if the orange is truly preserved, or secretly rotting and molding inside. So I looked around for a different take on the idea, preferably involving felt, just because it's my favorite material to work with right now. As soon as I spotted this tutorial, I knew that's what we'd do. It's a very well-written tutorial, and her end result is gorgeous.

Nov 19, 2012

RECIPE: Pumpkin Bread Pudding

This is a family favorite and a must for us in the fall. It is gone quickly with little or no leftovers. Best served with fresh whipped cream!


I set out to take pictures as I was making it. I managed to take 2! Cooking and taking pictures at the same time is not my forte. Since it is a pretty simple and straight forward recipe, I do't think a picture tutorial is really needed anyways.


PUMPKIN BREAD PUDDING

2 cups heavy cream
1 (15 oz) can solid pack pumpkin
1 cup whole milk
1 cup sugar
5 large eggs
½ t salt
1 t cinnamon
½ t ginger
¼ t allspice
⅛ t ground cloves
1 baguette loaf or other crusty bread, day old, cubed to make 10 cups
¾ cup butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350f with rack in middle.  Whisk together cream, pumpkin, milk, sugar, eggs, salt, and spices in a bowl. Toss bread cubes with melted butter in another bowl, then add pumpkin mixture and toss to coat. Transfer to an ungreased 9”x13” pan and bake until custard is set (30+ minutes). 




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Craft-O-Maniac Monday 
Made By You Monday 
Sew Can Do Craftastic Monday
Keeping It Simple Motivate Me Monday
Sugar Bee Crafts Take A Look Tuesday
Today's Creative Blog Get Your Craft On Tuesday
Tip Junkie Tip Me Tuesday
Shwinn&Shwinn Link Party Tuesday
Someday Crafts Whatever Goes Wednesday
Ginger Snap Crafts Wow Me Wednesday
Sew Much Ado We Did It Wednesday
The 36th Avenue Party Time Wednesday
Somewhat Simple Strut Your Stuff Thursday  
Scissors and Spatulas Pretty Things Thursday
Fingerprints on the Fridge Feature Yourself Friday
 Simply Link Party 
Chic On A Shoestring Flaunt It Friday
Frugal Friday @ Shabby Nest 
Be Different Act Normal Show and Tell Saturdays
Positively Splendid Saturday Seven Party
The Girl Creative Just Something I Whipped Up Sunday
 Sunday Showcase Party  
Tatertots and Jello 

Nov 17, 2012

PROJECT: Purl Bee's Baby Blanket

Finally finished the first baby item. I used to have so many blankets, burp cloths, clothes, toys etc, it feels strange to start over. On the other hand, starting over gives me the opportunity to make many baby items I could never justify to make, since we already had enough.


I have long admired Purl Bee's Chevron Baby Blanket and knitting it was fun, quick and very enjoyable.
I substituted I Love This Cotton yarn from Hobby Lobby for the gorgeous but expensive Blue Sky Cotton the original pattern called for. I love how it turned out, but I would definitely increase the width if I were to make it again. As a gift.









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Nov 14, 2012

THOUGHTS: Thanksgiving Crafts - a change in attitude is needed (again)

My Google Reader and Pinterest is full of Thanksgiving crafts, DIY decor and such. When I go for a walk in my neighborhood I see doors hung with Thanksgiving wreaths. Friends and family have table settings, center pieces, mantel decor....cute sayings framed and hung on the wall about giving thanks.
 I started to feel that I need to show my thankfulness with some cool craft or DIY home decor too!  I almost caved. I was going to make turkey shirts for my boys and make a simple "give thanks" sign.

Then I looked around and realized that I have mending to do, promised to finish sewing a couple (or more) pants for the fall, laundry is waiting to be folded and put away, my tired and pregnant body needs to rest, there are meals to make, books to read, appointments to keep....the list is endless. Why do I feel sad that I do not have anything to show the world that I am just as thankful as everyone else? That I love Thanksgiving just as much?  It is silly, I know. A completely imaginary competition with the world of others who do decorate and do it with a thankful heart versus because they do not want to be left out. Simply and again, my attitude needs to change. I need to recognize that right now there are other, more important things in my life that need to come first. And that's OK. I am still thankful, love Thanksgiving and one day, maybe I will also have a hand made wooden sign on the wall that celebrates giving thanks.

Nov 12, 2012

Christmas In Australia - a FREE e-book

A few years ago I wrote several small units on Christmas traditions from different countries. My two oldest were the perfect age then, 9 and 6 and they really enjoyed it. Again, I have a 9 and 6 year old and decided to repeat these activities in December. None of these are meant as stand alone studies in place of geography or social studies - they are fun, short, while giving a lot of different but basic information. 

I am going to post all of them (as I go through them and edit them). Here is the first one:

If you are looking for something extra to do with your kids - homeschooling or not- this holiday season, you can grab it here: Christmas In Australia (if you have trouble with the link, just hit "refresh". It should come up without any problems.)

Please remember: it is for personal use only.




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Nov 11, 2012

Stitch In Color Summer Dress


 As part of Fabric Fascination's Exchange Program, I got a half a yard of Stitch in Color by Moda. In return, I had to come up with a project and write a tutorial. It took me a while to figure out what to make. Originally I was going to make a fun tote bag, but I found that Kym beat me and made a super cute one for herself.
 Since the fabric is so fun and bright, my next thought was a skirt for a little girl. But I have 4 boys, no girls. After some thought, I decided to make something for a friend's little girl. My project started out as a skirt and soon turned into a fun summer dress. I had a lot of fun designing the dress and sometimes even making it up as I sewed.


With a few measurements, you can make this dress too. Here is how....

Nov 10, 2012

Make a Tunic With A Yoke




My son absolutely loves these tunics. He does not even mind posing for me. And he changes in and out of the different sets throughout the day. Which is really cute right now, but I am sure will drive me crazy soon enough.
You can tell from the pictures that the yoke is a little bit different. The bottom pictures shows the new updated version, which is what I am going to show you how to do.

Nov 9, 2012

Make Your Own Pattern For A Simple Tunic From A T-Shirt

My 2 year old loves motorcycles, helicopters and airplanes. Needless to say, said 2 year old is a boy. A couple of weeks ago I was ordering some fabric and saw some absolutely adorable helicopter and airplane cotton prints. I ordered a 1/2 yard from each and from the moment they arrived, that 2 year old little boy of mine loved them. He would run around with with the fabric, wrapping himself in it. I wanted to make a shirt for him.

Last night I stopped procrastinating and sat down to make a tunic.


I used an old T-shirt that no longer fit him to help me make the pattern.

Basil Spinach Lemon Sorbet


Going to Costco when the Vitamix guy is there means we get some new recipes to try out. This one is a bit tricky, since it is really up to you how sweet or lemony you want it. Anyways, we loved it and I have made it twice this week. Since it still gets pretty warm (in November!) during the day in Texas, we really enjoyed this refreshing and palate cleansing sorbet.

Basil Spinach Lemon Sorbet

10-15 fresh basil leaves
1/2-3/4 c lemonade or lemon juice (add sugar to taste if using lemon juice)
1/3 c fresh spinach
3 c ice
honey, sugar to taste (optional)

Add ingredients to your high powered blender ( please do not try this in anything else, I will not be responsible for burnt out motors!) in the order listed. Start on low, increase speed to high and blend until the ice is pulverized.

I am going to be honest. Like I said I made this a couple times already and it turned out a bit different each time. You can definitely tweak it to your taste. You can make it sweeter, more subtle, more or less lemony etc. You should not taste the spinach at all. Unless that's what you like of course. I like it with a stronger basil flavor with the lemon as just a hint. And not sweet. My kids like it sweeter with more lemon.

Just have fun and play with it.

Nov 7, 2012

Pinterest Tried Butternut Squash Soup

OK, I have been on Pinterest for a while now along with millions of others.  Thankfully I am not addicted to it, but I did realize that I tend to Pin It and then not look at my boards again.  I get overwhelmed just by the sheer number of new pins I see from people I follow, and trust me, that number is pretty reasonable.

Anyways, I decided to start trying some of my pins. Wouldn't you know that I already found quite a few links that were spam? I also read several blogs that are solely dedicated to trying out pins and blogging about it. Turns out, not everything that glitters is gold. I knew that of course, but it is easy to forget when one is looking at a gorgeous picture of seeming perfection.

Starting with recipes should be fairly foolproof, so here is the first pin I tried:

picture courtesy of http://skinnyms.com/slow-cooker-butternut-squash-soup/

It was a  hit with me and my husband. Not so much with the boys. I am on a cilantro and cumin kick right now, so anything with those two ingredients in it is going to pass. But, this soup is really perfect for the fall. My husband, who is a meat lover and likes to stick to true and tried recipes really enjoyed this soup and told me it was a keeper! I left out the jalapeno and cooked it on high to reduce the time. I also added more chicken broth because I used a whole butternut squash and that was way more than the 3 cups the recipe calls for. We had it with shredded Parmesan cheese and a dollop of sour cream. 



Nov 4, 2012

Chain Mail Beaded Charm Bracelet


I have always been fascinated by chain mail jewelry, but I knew I would not have the patience to make a whole bracelet one link at a time. Then one day I saw a friend of mine, Natalie wearing a cute bracelet made with rows of  large chain and charms. It reminded me of chain mail, so this design was inspired by that bracelet. 






HOW TO MAKE A BEADED CHAIN MAIL BRACELET


Nov 3, 2012

DIY Clothing Labels

 Have you ever wanted to add tags to your sewing projects? I have. But I always figured it was really my vanity and pride that wanted to simply show off rather than my practical self wanting to use tags for practical reasons!
I think I spent way too much time analyzing my inner purposes for something that really does not matter from an eternal perspective. I realized that just because I think that tags add to projects and because I simply like them, it is not going to make me a better or worse person. Now, if I went ahead and ordered 100's of high quality woven tags for a few hundred dollars - that would be different. But spending $20 to make enough tags to last me most of the year? Should not be a complicated decision. 

I did some research, and found several economical ways to make your own labels {I am sharing the links, just keep reading}.