Seal the Deal

I am one today!  Julius is wearing the onesie I made him instead of sleeping before our early wake up to fly to Nashville.

Last week Julius turned one!  Though he didn’t quite understand the concept of opening presents he was very excited for all the new things he received! I decided to make Julius a big giant stuffed animal circus seal.  Yes that sounds a bit weird, so of course there is a story behind it.  For Lauren and Andrew’s wedding the staff came out halfway through the dancing with huge platters of LED glasses, crowns, tambourines, rings, etc.  We all spangled ourselves in fabulous neon glory and danced the rest of the night away.  The next day Julius discovered the cache of blinking goodies and decided the tambourine and ring were his favorite.

The problem with the ring is that it was a giant 1.5″ diameter sphere bauble that he liked to immediately put in his mouth.  Though I think it would be nearly impossible for him to get that ring far enough into his mouth that he would choke on it, I didn’t want to take the risk.  My idea was to take the color changing LED ring and turn it into the nose of my circus seal, that way it was solidly affixed to something, and would prevent him swallowing it.  Unfortunately the idea did not pan out (I had to make some modifications to the ring to attach it, which looked silly), hence the pom pom nose.  The first thing Julius did when I gave him the seal was chomp on his nose though, so I guess I had at least the vision correct.

Also I would have used grey, but I didn’t have any grey material.  Now he’s a sort of sea lion cross snow seal hybrid….

Giant Circus Seal

What you’ll need:

  • 1.5 yards fleece fabric
  • 2lb bag of stuffing
  • 1 large pom pom
  • black embroidery thread
  • Pattern here – will be updated when I am back in town!
  1. Cut out all pattern pieces as indicated in pattern, being sure to transfer all markings.
  2. Pin seal tail pieces together, leaving a 3″ gap in the center as indicated on pattern.  Stitch. 
  3. Turn tail right side out and make sure to fold the unfinished edge inside.
  4. Using a long running stitch, pin and stitch along three lines you marked on the tail.
  5. Place two of the flipper pieces together.  Pin, leaving a gap where the flipper will attach.  Stitch. 
  6. Clip points of the flipper.  Turn flippers right side out.
  7. Pin two sides of seal together on outside between markings.
  8. Pin the belly of the seal to the seal body, lining up points of belly at each marking.
  9. Remove pins to open up a gap at the top of the belly on one side about 4 inches wide.  Insert a flipper inside the gap and repin the side of the belly, enclosing the open end of the flipper. Repeat for second flipper.
  10. Remove pins to open a gap about 4 inches wide on the bottom of the body on the tail end.  Fold the tail in half and insert into the gap you just created.  Make sure the unfinished edge of the tail is sandwiched in the gap.  Repin, encompassing the unfinished edge of tail.
  11. Stitch along seal body pins, stopping on the underside about 6 inches from the seal belly.
  12. Turn seal right side out.
  13. Stuff.
  14. Stitch pom pom onto nose of seal
  15. Hand embroider eyes onto seal.
  16. Hand stitch the belly closed using blind stitch.
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Unhampered Progress

The spider went over very well last week at work, and the little guy really loved the Halloween party!  He tried very hard to chase every single child dressed up as a dinosaur.  I guess he likes dinosaurs!  AND he was the cutest ewok I’ve ever seen.  Just look at this gif!  I guess they even liked my Endor Leia costume because I won second prize in the costume contest (I lost to a guy riding a dinosaur, let’s face it that is pretty hard to beat – Julius would agree).

Julius has been working on clapping his hands during the “If You’re Happy and you Know it” song this past month at daycare.  He’s gotten so good at it that he now associates clapping with happiness.  Every time he’s happy he claps!  For instance today during his bath, I started singing Baby Beluga and he clapped!  This morning for breakfast he ate some hard boiled eggs and he clapped!  Dany paid attention to him this afternoon and he clapped!  It’s pretty great seeing what is going to make him clap.  (Plus it really feels great being applauded for our efforts.)

What makes me clap lately is a clean house… for a while there I was so overwhelmed I let the house get a bit messy but I’m trying to get back on track.  The first thing I’ve been tackling is laundry!  There is SO MUCH laundry to do all the time (partially because of the cloth diapers but also because babies generate so much laundry).  We let mountains of clean laundry pile up on the laundry table which is exceedingly frustrating.  I’ve been trying to take my laundry and Julius’ laundry up once a week.  On top of that, since we don’t have a laundry shoot we tend to just chuck dirty bibs down the stairs until one of us walks downstairs and can deliver them to the sorted laundry bins.  We joke about this being a trip hazard, but it really is a trip hazard.  I finally made a laundry bin to go on the back of the basement door to throw dirty bibs and cloth napkins in.  The hamper was super easy to make and takes up very little space.  After I installed it, I asked Will if he had noticed it and he responded that he had but immediately after he saw it he had accidentally chucked a bib down the stairs instead of using it.

DIY Hanging Laundry Hamper

What you’ll need:

  • 2/3 yard of duck canvas material (59/60″ width)
  • 41″ of lightweight boning or spring steel wire and 2 inches of nylon joiner tubing

(1/2″ seam allowance included)

  1. Cut canvas into a 51″ x 21″ rectangle.
  2. Fold rectangle in half lengthwise to form a 21″x25.5″ rectangle.
  3. Pin opened sides of the rectangle together and stitch to form a bag.
  4. Fold unfinished top of bag under 1/2″ and then under 3/4″ again.  Pin.
  5. Insert boning or spring steel wire into flap you just created.
  6. Pull bag taunt around the boning/wire and overlap the edges of the boning/wire so they fit exactly to the opening of the bag.  Zig zag stitch boning to hold together or insert ends of spring steel wire in nylon joiner tube and shrink to hold together.
  7. Stitch around the flap you created, sealing the boning/wire inside.  Be careful not to stitch through the boning or wire as your needle could break suddenly and dangerously.
  8. Finally, cut two pieces of canvas, 2″x6″ each.
  9. Fold in half, then fold under 1/2″ on each end unfinished edge to form a long strip.  Pin and sew.
  10. Mark the center of the back of the bag.  Measure 6″ on either side of the marking to mark where your loops should go.  Fold each strip from step 9 above in half to form a loop.
  11. Stitch rip at each loop marking 1/2″.  Insert unfinished ends of loop into the gap you created, and stitch, backtacking at either end to reinforce.
  12. Turn inside out and hang!
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Not so Itsy Bitsy Spider

Julius is getting good at walking!  He walks like a penguin, without bending his knees, but he can nearly make it across an entire room without losing his balance.  If he has something to hold onto (like your hand) he can walk pretty much indefinitely.  He’s also been working on feeding himself.  In the next classroom (at 15 months) they no longer spoonfeed so he must be able to feed himself!  Since he isn’t great at using a spoon by himself we’ve been giving him finger foods for lunch instead of his usual mushed up baby food.  While easier than pureeing, I haven’t figured out how to store a bunch for later (I freeze the pureed baby food in ice cube trays so I only have to prepare a variety of foods at the beginning of the week).  We try to give him the same food we eat for dinner or lunch but frequently I make items that are spicy or very flavorful so I need a backup plan.  Suggestions are welcome!!

Hammin’ it up!

I’m actually in the airport writing this (another wedding!) and currently Julius is off charming everyone in the room.  He has made a full circuit of the gate area and has befriended a stewardess, the three people next to us and the custodian.  He came back over to get Sheepy and is again making the rounds to introduce him/her to all his new friends.  What a ham.

His personality is evolving constantly and it is so incredible (and bizarre) to see him grow into a little boy with his own opinions and ideas.  Despite looking exactly like Will he has a personality all his own.  Though I do wonder if he’ll inherit Daddy’s affinity for board games or my love of sewing.  We’ll see.

Speaking of my love of sewing, the many weekends of weddings have put me way behind on my craft projects!  I have a backlog of projects that I’ve been trying to catch up on, the first of which is for my work Halloween party which is only a couple days away.  I have been put in charge of decorating the building for the party and of course I wanted to throw in an element all my own.  I decided to cover a wall of the cafeteria with dollar store spider webs and put a giant spider in the center.  I made the spider last week.  You can make one yourself if you’re feeling creepy-crawley.

Giant Hang-able Spider

What you’ll need:

  • 8 wire coat hangers (I used the free ones you get from the dry cleaners)
  • 1″x5″x12″ piece of scrap wood
  • 2 picture hangers
  • 1 yard of black fur
  • 1 yard of black flannel
  • stuffing material (I used a combination of stuffing and packing peanuts)
  • thin feather boas – 8 (I got them from the dollar store)
  • black duct tape
  • 2-8 googly eyes (I used 6 1-3 inches each)
  1. Cut out a 24″ diameter circle of black flannel (this will be the head).  Divide the circle into 8ths and mark off 8 equidistant points along the circumference.
  2. Fold the black flannel circle’s darts as indicated on the pattern.  Stitch.
  3. Trim the darts to 1/2″seam.
  4. Draw a 12″ diameter circle on the black flannel, overlap a 16″diameter circle with the first circle, so the distance between the points they intersect at is 5″. Cut out. (This will be the body piece)
  5. Attach the black flannel head to the flannel body piece along the small circle (right sides together). Leave a 5″ gap where the two circles overlap.  Stitch and turn right side out.  Stuff with stuffing.
  6. Cut out a 24″ diameter circle of black fur (this will be the spider’s bottom).  Divide the circle into 8ths and mark off 8 equidistant points along the circumference.
  7. At each point along the circumference, fold fabric so furry side is on the inside.  Form the fold so it is 3″ deep.  Mark at 5″ from the unfinished edge of the fold upwards then stitch from the 3″ deep mark on the circumference up to the 5″ mark on the fold along the invisible leg of the triangle connecting them.
  8. Trim the darts to 1/2″ seam.  Repeat for other folds.
  9. Attach the fur bottom to the flannel body piece along the larger circle, right sides together.   Leave a 5″ gap where the two circles overlap.  Stitch and turn right side out.
  10. Using a set of pliers, straighten your clothes hangers.  Drill 4 9/64″ holes through the . piece of wood for the legs
  11. Insert piece of wood into head of spider, through the stuffing, close to the body piece of flannel.
  12. Insert hangers through the head of the spider to form the legs.  Remove the piece of wood from the head of the spider to insert hot glue into the holes, place back into head of spider and insert clothes hanger wire.
  13. Using the pliers turn the tip of each leg into a small loop so it is not sharp.  
  14. Cover the entire wire with black duct tape, enclosing the sharp point of the hanger.
  15. Glue one end of a feather boa to the point where each leg meets the head.
  16. Twist boa tightly around the leg and secure to the end of the leg with hot glue.
  17. Flip the body right side out and stuff (I used mostly packing peanuts for this part so they’d be light).
  18. Handstitch the body and head to one another to seal up the holes used for turning and stuffing.
  19. Cut chelicerae/mandibles out of fur using the pattern.  Make sure to cut two from one side and two with the pattern flipped.
  20. Pin each pair of mandible pieces right sides together.   Stitch along the edges leaving the straight edge at the bottom opened.  
  21. Flip right side out then stuff lightly.  Hand stitch the mandibles to the head of the spider just below where the head meets the body.
  22. Position picture hangers at either end of the wooden board on the belly of the spider.  Screw by hand into the spider so you have something to hang your spider from.
  23. Finally, attach googly eyes to the spider by sewing or gluing (depending on the type of googly eyes).

    Spider pre-googly eyes. It looks pretty fearsome.

Side note: Julius usually loves cuddling with any toy that is larger than he is but I think the spider freaked him out a bit.  While he didn’t cry when he saw it; he also didn’t run over and try to hug it either.

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Rebel Scum

So I keep getting asked what Julius is going to be for Halloween, or more specifically what I am making for Julius’ costume this year.  I have to get this out there, I bought Julius’ costume.  I’m really disappointed in myself, but we decided to be Endor Han, Leia and Wicket and when I typed “ewok” (not even “ewok costume” or “baby ewok”) into Google the third hit was the most adorable ewok baby costume you’ve ever seen in your entire life.  It was from the Disney store (they know their stuff).  I thought it was going to be exorbitantly expensive (Disney store!) – but it was $30.  Not even counting labor I wouldn’t be able to make a costume for that price in materials alone!  On top of that, how can I possibly top this clever costume?

We tried the costume on Julius and he was SO EXCITED.  I didn’t expect him to be excited by a costume!  Maybe he takes after his mommy!  Or maybe it was just the big fat stuffed belly that was part of the costume making him excited.  He kept trying to hug himself and rolled around the floor giggling. Adorable.  With the kiddo’s perfect costume out of the way, I only had to work on adult costumes.

Leia’s Endor costume is pretty darn easy.  It is a high necked poncho type thing covered in camo.  Super easy.  And Han is wearing his typical getup plus a trenchcoat covered in camo.  Not bad.  I was actually intending to make the full Han getup until I found a Han costume that Will wore in college.  It’s pretty cheesy with build in black boots, but since Will doesn’t own knee high black boots that is fine by me.  The trenchcoat I purchased at the thrift store for $10, and when I got it home I realized it was a very fine brand that sells for quite a bit of money on ebay.  The collar was perfect and Will kept saying “destroy it” to me over and over again so I decided to cover it in camo fabric paint.

As for Leia I had acquired some tan fabric somewhere at some point. (As a tangent, I’ll have you know that last time I went to the thrift store I passed on an entire bolt of very pretty green fabric for fear of being a fabric hoarder – it was only $10!  For the whole bolt!  I hope you’re proud.)  Anyway, I had a lot of tan fabric so I cut it down to make into the poncho and then covered it in camo fabric paint.  I’ll wait to show the full family’s attire on Halloween week.  In the meantime, if you want to make your own Leia costume, I’ve got you covered.  Next step – find a Halloween party.

You may not have seen Star wars 6.5 – where Han and Leia adopt a baby ewok.

Princess Leia, and a cow!? My friend Melissa is loving her cow costume. Next time I’m making one of those.

Endor Leia Poncho

What You’ll Need:

  • 2.25 yards of medium weight cotton or linen fabric
  • Tulip Color Shot spray fabric paint in Green, Coffee and Brown (don’t pay more than $3 per can – I used coupons at Joann, but Walmart and Amazon have it for $3 normally)

Unless specified – assume .5″ seam allowance everywhere.

  1. Cut a rectangle of fabric 27″x36″ for poncho front and 39″x36″ for poncho back.
  2. Find center of 36″ edge of front and back and mark a 12″ slit.  Pin front and back together and stitch from one end to beginning of 12″ slit and from 12″ slit to other end.
  3. Cut second rectangle of fabric 28″x17″ for neck.
  4. Fold neck rectangle in half into a 14″x17″ rectangle.  Stitch along 17″ unfinished edge.
  5. With the poncho still right side in,  turn neck right side out and insert into the 12″ poncho hole.  Line seam up with one of the shoulder seams.  Pin neck edge to either end of the poncho.
  6. Stitch along one side of neck from shoulder seam to shoulder seam.  Turn and repeat for other side.
  7. Turn arm edge of poncho under 5″.  Press.
  8. Turn under an additional .5″. Press.
  9. Stitch close to fold.  Repeat for second side.
  10. Turn bottom of poncho under .5″ and again .5″.  Press and stitch to form hem.
  11. Finally, turn neck under .5″ and then 1″. Press and stitch close to the inner fold to form hem.
  12. When the poncho is complete you can spray paint your work.  Follow the manufacturer’s instructions and spray light brown blotches randomly.  (It is very difficult to really do this randomly unless you are blindfolded, so try not to give in to OCD and make blotches at regular intervals like I did.)
  13. Repeat with the brown paint.
  14. Repeat with green paint.

Fend off the imperial army.

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Baby on the Lam

We just spent the last four days celebrating the wedding of my amazing brother-in-law Andrew and my new fabulous sister-in law Lauren.  The wedding (and really just the whole weekend) can only be described by one word: magnificent.  Lauren, a corporate event planner (and former wedding planner), did not let us down with her perfectly orchestrated, beautiful, one heck of a weekend!  I joked to my brother-in-law that I feared their wedding may have tainted all future nuptials for me.

Julius got to hang out with some of my mother in law’s dear friends from college during the service, while watching though the glass windows abutting the ceremony space.  For family photos, he was his usual cheerful self, prompting the photographer to ask “what did you give that baby”?   I think the photographer even got him to smile in some of the photos.

The airplane ride was a bit long for him this time, and he was disgruntled being confined to our laps for the flights.  He was actually most happy when we let him stand on the floor holding onto our knees for part of the flight.  Though this eventually caused quite a stir when at one point I fell asleep, and Will, who had been watching him, exclaimed that Julius was missing.  Being very confused I awoke to hear the people behind us say they wouldn’t charge us for babysitting.  They passed him over the seat, along with his pile of toys, which he had apparently brought with him before he escaped.  Will and I like to refer to Julius fast-crawling away from us while giggling as “baby on the lamb”, but this gave the expression whole new meaning (and perhaps another review of daddy daycare!?)

When you want a comfort meal, perhaps after you had a near brush with an escaped child, but don’t have time to make it, whip up this rich dish!  This is my interpretation of lobster mac and cheese, but with no hands on prep work.  I made this dish several times for myself when Julius was very young.  I was able to make it by just dumping into my tiny crock pot while Julius was snoozing.

Crockpot Crab Mac & Cheese

Serves 1 to 2 (you can quadruple the recipe and cook in a 3 quart crock pot to serve 4)

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp butter (melted in the microwave)
  • 1 heaping tsp of flour
  • 1 cup milk 
  • ½ cup elbow macaroni
  • ½ cup cheddar
  • 2 tbsp marscapone cheese (or cream cheese)
  • ¼ tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp garlic
  • ¼ tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tbsp cognac
  • 1 6oz can Bumblebee premium select wild crabmeat
  1. Melt butter in microwave, pour into little dipper crock pot and whisk with 1 heaping tsp of flour.
  2. Heat milk for 30 seconds in microwave, until warm then whisk into melted butter/flour mixture
  3. Combine rest of the ingredients and stir.
  4. Cover then cook on high 3 – 4 hours.  
  5. Stir to combine then pour into bowl and let stand 5 minutes before enjoying!

 

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The North Remembers

We spent this past weekend in Miami for our friends Joe and Natalie’s wedding!  (You may recognize my friend Joe from this blog as my occasional guest photographer… in actuality he is one of my best friends from college.)  The wedding was so much fun and we were overjoyed to be able to celebrate with them!  Congrats Joe & Natalie!

Will, Julius and I flew into PBI since flights were cheaper and direct, then drove down to Miami.  On the way to Miami we stopped at a Walmart to pick up some disposable diapers for Julius (first time we’ve used disposables in months!) while Will & Julius sat in the car.  There was a grandmotherly looking woman in the diaper section sitting at a podium advertising Pampers Pure.  I thought she might be giving out samples or coupons, which would be fortuitous for the one time I buy diapers in 4 months, so I sidled over.  She must have thought I was a creeper without a child because I had to ask her what she was advertising.  She handed me a fact sheet of paper (great…) then asked if I had a child.  I said, “yep, he’s in the car, I just came in to grab some diapers quickly”.  I swear her jaw dropped, and a look of horror spread over her face.  I could almost see the gears turning; it was 86 degrees out and she must think I left Julius in the sweltering car.  So I quickly amended, “he’s with my husband, in the air conditioning”.  I kid you not, she almost fainted from relief.  Her only response was, “can you even imagine?!”  Clearly I could not imagine any such thing, or I wouldn’t have said to her “I left my son in the car” with no follow up.  After that incredibly uncomfortable conversation I didn’t even get any free diapers.  On the bright side though I also didn’t have to discuss my phrasing with the police.

On a lighter note, my co-worker Roger requested another project.  Unfortunately he requested this project about 5 days before my maternity leave ended, and if you’ve been reading my blog you know that the days aren’t as long as they used to be.    So 5 months later I finally finished it!  One of the managers in our group works on a part of a product that made her declare in a meeting “I am the manager of the North”.  That sparked a lot of discussion among all the Game of Thrones fans in my group.  Roger then asked me to make a “Manager of the North Banner”.  After a few iterations someone asked me to add a pineapple (that’s a longer story).

Here’s what I came up with:

This is actually the most complex embroidery pattern I have designed.  In addition, I started over several times due to computer issues and suggestions from co-workers.  I’m pretty happy with how it came out though.  If you want the pattern, feel free to send me an email or write me a comment and I’ll send it your way.  Otherwise, you can screen print, stencil, or embroider whatever you want on your banner.  Below are the instructions on how to construct it!

DIY Banner

What you’ll need:

  • 1/2 yard of fabric
  • 15″ length of 3/8″ dowel
  • 2 – 3/8″ button plugs
  • wood glue
  • 1 yd of ribbon to hang your dowel
  1. Cut out banner front and back using template.
  2. Pin front to back, right sides together. 
  3. Stitch around the sides and bottom leaving top opened.
  4. Trim the points of the banner. 
  5. Turn banner right side out, press flat with iron.
  6. Fold the top of the banner over 1.75″.  Press.
  7. Fold 1/4″ under.  Press. 
  8. Pin and stitch at the fold leaving a gap to insert a hanger in. 
  9. Glue the plugs to either end of the 15″ dowel.  Let dry.
  10. Insert dowel into banner and attach ribbon ends to either end of dowel.

 

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Wining Allowed

Will and I had a party nearly six years ago that we considered our favorite party ever.  We had everyone bring a bottle of wine and we did a blind wine tasting.  It was low overhead and a lot of fun.  We kept saying we’d host the party again, but neither of us imagined it would be 5 years until we finally got around to it again.

The party this time around was another success!  I kept the appetizers to my most basic prepare-ahead variety so the setup was minimal and stress free as well.

Invites

We held the party on a Saturday night starting at 7:30pm (just after Julius retires for the night).  We sent evites out for the party 2 weeks in advance and included the text below.

Let’s get fancy and have some wine & apps!  We’ll do a blind tasting.  This is how it will work:

  • We’ll make a list of the wines that everyone brought
  • We’ll put each bottle of wine in a paper bag
  • We’ll number each paper bag
  • Everyone will taste each wine, and guess which wine on the list they think it matches.  Then we’ll see who got the most correct!  

If you’re going to join us, please bring a bottle of wine (one per couple). If you know what wine you’re going to bring ahead of time – let us know in the comments so we don’t end up with all the same type!   We’ll also give prizes away for the crowd favorite wines! 

Party Essentials

  • Obtain brown paper bottle bags (we collected these from our local liquor store) 1 per bottle of wine you expect
  • 1 oz pourers (1 per bottle of wine you expect – these will allow everyone to have a taste from each bottle without accidental overpours!)
  • Permanent marker
  • Tasting Sheet & pen (one per person)
  • 1 copy of the wine list
  • Wine glasses (one per person)
  • Wine charms/markers etc
  • Cocktail napkins and plates
  • An assortment of red and white wines of different varietals to have on hand in case every guest brings the same type of wine
  • Silly prizes for the winners (or just bottles of wine from the bullet above if you prefer)

    Some of our prizes included a corkcicle, a punny wine calendar and lindt chocolate

Menu

(GF = gluten free, V = vegetarian)

  • Assortment of cheeses 1-2 oz per person (GF, V)
  • Charcuterie assortment 1-2 oz per person
  • Assortment of crackers and thin sliced baguettes (don’t forget to include a seperate plate for gluten free if you have friends with gluten allergies) (GF, V)
  • Chili corn custard squares (V) with Frontera chipotle salsa
  • Red pepper jelly over Cream cheese – (this is exactly what it sounds like, spread cream cheese on a platter, top with red pepper jelly) (GF, V)
  • Olives (GF, V)
  • Caprese Salad (tomato slices topped with mozzarella slices, then sprinkled with basil chiffonade and drizzled with olive oil) (GF, V)
  • Crudites and hummus  (GF, V)
  • Flourless chocolate cake (GF, V) (I used this recipe in its entirety, but wish I had used my go-to ganache from Julia Child instead)

    The appetizer table included crackers, cheese, charcuterie, crudites chili corn custard squares, caprese salad and was sponsored by the letter c.

Set up

The morning of make the flourless chocolate cake

2 hours before the party: make the chili corn custard squares then let cool at room temperature.  While cooling, make ganache for flourless chocolate cake and frost cake.

1 hour before the party: set out wine glasses and wine markers in one area with pens and tasting sheets, cocktail napkins and plates in another (next to appetizer station).  Place wine pourers, paper bags and a marker in the area reserved for wine, along with the wine list print out. Slice tomatoes for the caprese salad.  Chop & plate crudites and refrigerate

15 minutes before guests arrive: Assemble caprese salad and chili corn custard squares.

As guests arrive: Put out appetizers.  Instruct guests to register their bottle of wine on the “wine list” then remove the cork, insert a 1 oz pour and place in a paper bag.

Blind labeled bottles

When all guests have arrived, shuffle the wine bottles around and label them with numbers from 1 to x (where x is the number of bottles of wine) using the marker.  Inform guests they are to write down their wine guess (using the “wine list” guests filled out upon entry) for each numbered wine bottle next to each corresponding number on the Wine Tasting sheet.  Guests can also include their own notes and their own rating for how much they liked the wine.

Ka posing with the wine glasses

At the end of the night, after everyone has added their guess for each wine bottle, remove the bottle from each bag to reveal the wine.  Guests will tally up the number of guesses they got right and prizes are awarded for the best guessers.  Finally, via a show of hands, have guests indicate which wine was their favorite.   Prizes are also awarded for favorite wines.

Our assortment of wines

 

 

 

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This Eggplant Parm is Awesome, no Jokes

Julius is a little prankster.  We have suspected for a while that he is a prankster, but now that he can move to directly disobey our wishes, we know for sure.  His favorite prank?  Tricking you into thinking he is playing nicely while he beelines for the dog’s water bowl.  Last weekend he was chasing around one of his plastic balls and he kept batting it in the direction of Dany’s water bowl.  When he got too close I told him, “Julius!  That is Dany’s bowl, don’t touch that!”  To which he immediately stopped, looked right at me, smiled a huge grin and then crawled really fast to her water bowl giggling the whole time.  I didn’t get there in time so he had time to dip his hands in and splash for a second.

Later that day I was recounting the tale while Will was holding Julius.  Julius laughed at all the right parts!  I think (but am not positive) that he totally followed the conversation about how he pulled a prank on me.  He seemed very smug.   What a prankster!

If you want something to be smug about, make this eggplant parm casserole!  Will and I have been eating vegetarian twice a week this year, and one of our favorite things to eat is eggplant parm.  Unfortunately it’s fairly time consuming.  I’ve cut some corners by using one bowl for the egg dipping and crumb dipping and saved hands on time by oven baking the eggplant instead of frying.  It is similar to a baked ziti, so you can save time layering in a dish and instead mix it all together and dump into a casserole pan.  Unfortunately posting this recipe tonight is sort of pouring salt in my wounds.  I meant to buy eggplant from the farmer who comes to my work, and I accidentally forgot!  I bought everything else, and now I’m craving eggplant parm…

Lazy Man’s Eggplant Parm

Ingredients

  • 4 small or 2 medium eggplants
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 c Italian seasoned bread crumbs
  • 1 c cottage cheese (or ricotta if you prefer)
  • 1 24 oz jar sauce
  • 1/2 c parmesan
  • 1 c shredded mozzarella

Preheat oven to 400 deg F.  Slice eggplant into 1/2″ thick wheels if small, or 1.5″x1.5″ chunks if larger.

Scramble eggs in a medium sized bowl.  Pour sliced eggplant into the eggs.  Toss until completely coated.  Pour the excess egg out of the bowl.

Either add the breadcrumbs to the bowl and stir until eggplant is coated, or add breadcrumbs to a large ziplock bag, dump the egg coated eggplant into the bag, seal and shake. Add more crumbs as necessary to coat completely.

Dump eggplant onto a nonstick baking sheet.  Bake for 20 minutes or until eggplant is browned slightly and soft, flipping eggplant halfway through baking.

Turn oven down to 350 deg F.  Transfer eggplant to a large bowl.  Add sauce and cheese (reserving 1/4 c of mozzarella) and toss to combine.    

Dump into a 8″x8″ baking dish and top with reserved mozzarella.  Bake for 30 minutes or until sauce is bubbling and cheese is melting.

Serves 4. 

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Upstanding Citizen

Guys, I received the best compliment ever the other day (seriously thank you, you made my day).  My co-worker stumbled upon my blog and informed her brother that she had found the real Leslie Knope.  I told her that comparing me to Leslie Knope was the highest praise I could ever hope to receive because, if you hadn’t noticed, she is one of my idols.  The comment was followed up with a question about how I find the time to do blogging, motherhood and work, to which I responded (semi-seriously), “I don’t sleep”.

Well I used to sleep, some point before I had Julius, but lately I have re-discovered caffeine!  I don’t know if you guys have ever tried this stuff but it is pretty darn amazing.  Honestly I didn’t drink much caffeine at all before I was pregnant (except for the occasional cup of tea or rare mountain dew code red while in college), and I had sworn the stuff off since finding out I was pregnant.  Several weeks ago I hopped off the wagon.  I’m still nursing but I’ve convinced myself that if I have a cup right after I pump it doesn’t affect my milk.  The jury’s still out.  Good news is that blogging, motherhood and work doesn’t leave much time for me to google paranoid parenting blogs, so I may never know!

I may have to start sleeping a bit more though since I don’t think caffeine can solve all my problems.  Today I got up, got Julius dressed and fed, then got ready myself and threw on some clean pants and a shirt.  I was pretty proud that I did all this with enough time to get Julius off to daycare on time, and myself to work “early”.  When I got to work I realized the pants I was wearing didn’t look very familiar.  They were certainly my pants and were certainly very comfy.  I decided not to care.  Several hours later, in better lighting, I realized that they were one of the pairs of pants I’d retired into painting duty.  I thought to myself, “I can totally own these pants with their giant blotches of white paint”. Maybe someone would think they were meant to be paint stained.  Paint stained is still a style right?  Another hour passed and I ran into the bathroom to double check the crotch of my pants.  I’d realized that my retired painting pants usually have large unsightly holes in the crotch.   Crisis averted, no holes. I went through the rest of the day working those paint stained pants like it was my job.  When I finally got home I told Will the story of the pants and how I was able to pretend they were purposely paint stained.  That was when Will pointed out the giant 6 inch hole in the seat of my pants, through which you could see my underwear.  I’m not going back to work ever again.

Since I’m too mortified to show my face in public again, Julius is going to have to take himself to daycare tomorrow.  While he may not be able to drive himself to daycare this week, one thing’s for certain – Julius is growing up fast.  In just the past week he has gotten really good at standing.    Last Saturday he could balance for ten seconds or more at a time and he’s improving that number daily!  He’s really proud of himself too (and so am I of course).  The first time he showed me his standing abilities he had on the biggest grin.  Now he stands while going about his tasks like it ain’t no thang.  In no time he’ll be making his own lunches and ironing his own shirts.

Julius is standing! (Without a hole in his jeans.)

Speaking of ironing your own shirts, I finally got around to making something that has been on my list for years!  A seam roll (or sleeve roll) is a cylindrical, firm, pillow type device that you use to iron out wrinkles in difficult to iron places like sleeves.  The roll allows the iron to press tight areas that would normally cause a crease when pressing.  The sleeve rolls needs to be filled with a material that can withstand high heat.  My friend Amy gave me a whole pail full of sawdust from her woodworking projects, making this project both free and upcycle!

Seam rolling

DIY Seam Roll

What You’ll Need:

  • about 1 cubic foot of sawdust (not compressed)
  • 10″x15″ piece of strong natural fiber fabric (cotton, linen, etc)
  • funnel for stuffing the roll
  • Pattern here
  1. Fold fabric in half (right side inside) to form a 5″x15″ rectangle.  Stitch along the long end of the fabric leaving .5″ seam allowance.
  2. With the template lined up along the fold, mark the corners for stitching.
  3. Stitch along the lines on one side of the seam roll, closing one end of the roll.
  4. Stitch along the two corners on the opposite side, leaving a gap where the dotted line is.
  5. Trim the corners and edges of the closed end of the roll, clip the corners on the open side.
  6. Turn right side out.
  7. Using a funnel, fill with saw dust.  Periodically stop and pack down the sawdust by pushing in and down on the edges of the roll.  You want the roll to be as hard packed as you can get it!
  8. Continue filling until you are about 3/4″ from the edge.  Turn the edge under along the 3/4″ mark so the unfinished edge of the roll is inside the seam roll.
  9. Slipstitch/ladder stitch the fabric together along the fold to make your stitching invisible.  (Or you can do the weird suture stitch I decided to do because I thought it looked neat.

Finished roll!

 

Posted in Crafts & Sewing | 2 Comments

Better than a mouthful of sticks

So I may have mentioned that for Will & my anniversary we were running late for dinner so I threw together something from what we had on hand.  At the moment that was eggs and mozzarella cheese plus tomatoes and basil from my garden.  I think my inspiration came partially from this series of books I have been loving called the “Magical Baking Mystery Series”.  The protagonist frequently will grab random items from her kitchen and plants from her garden and throw together mouth watering dinners.  I wasn’t sure about my combo but everything was screaming that I throw it together into an omelette or scramble.  I prefer egg scrambles to omelettes (I like my eggs light and fluffy and perfectly cooked without the browned edges that so many omelettes have) and thus caprese eggs were born.  As proof of their deliciousness they have become a regular staple in our home.  You’ll have to try it yourself and let me know how it fares on your table.

I know, I know you all want to hear about this fabulous book series I just mentioned, right?  Well let me tell you, I have just finished listening to the seven book “Magical Baking Mystery” series by Bailey Cates and I really could not get enough of it!  It has endearing characters, a sassy amateur detective, a Wiccan coven, an adorable dog, mouth watering food descriptions AND MURDER!  It is almost like this series was written for me!  Weirdly I first stumbled across the seventh book in the series while randomly browsing audiobooks that were “available now”.  There were some spoilers in book seven but that didn’t stop me from plowing through the rest of the series afterwards!  I highly recommend it.

Julius has been getting much better at eating real food!  Lately he tends to enjoy eating if he can grab the food and feed himself.  Unfortunately those two bottom teeth don’t do much for his chewing abilities.  He’ll frequently gum the food a bit and then just suck on it until it dissolves.  This doesn’t apply just to food, he will try this with almost everything he comes across that will fit into his mouth.

For instance last weekend Will & I had to do some yard work.  We set up a tent for some shade and plopped Julius under the tent surrounded by toys, while Will sat nearby and weeded the garden.  Julius immediately decided what Daddy was doing was far more interesting than his toys and crawled over to him.  When I finished mowing the lawn, I saw Will weeding the garden and Julius plopped next to him seemingly also weeding.  When I approached and asked how the weeding was going, Will informed me that Julius was not so much weeding as filling his mouth full of sticks.  I thought this was a joke until Will explained that he had gardening gloves on and didn’t want to put his hand in Julius’ mouth to remove said sticks.  Still not quite sure if Will was joking, I gently inserted my finger into the side of Julius’ mouth and fished out a stick.  I was still debating if I should be amused or grumpy about the supervised stick eating when Will informed me there were more sticks in Julius’ mouth.  So much for daddy daycare?

Daddy and Julius weeding

Does it look like I’m eating sticks?

Only a couple.

I promise this meal will be much more nutritious and tastier than a mouth full of sticks!

Caprese Eggs

(Serves 2)

Ingredients

  • 7 large eggs
  • 2 Tbsp chopped basil
  • 1/2 c shredded mozarella (packed)
  • 3 or 4 plum tomatoes
  • 1 Tbsp butter or oil
  1. Chop tomatoes and basil and beat eggs.
  2. Heat oil or butter in a medium frypan over medium heat until melted.  Swirl to coat pan.  Pour eggs into the pan.
  3. Top eggs with mozzarella, basil and tomatoes.
  4. Stir gently, breaking up eggs and distributing the toppings.
  5. Cook until eggs are firm and fluffy and have just become set and dry.  Serve immediately with garlic naan, a green salad and a dry red wine.
Posted in Culinary Delights | 6 Comments