Mug Shots

Will and I put an offer on a house last week.  We didn’t get the house and the whole experience was very stressful as there were several offers and we were the runner-up to the winning offer.  I’m not kidding when I tell you that I was a nervous wreck and didn’t eat for two days!  It felt as if we were gambling away money we didn’t have.  (I guess that is technically what we were doing.)  The process brought us down to Earth and made us realize that we don’t need a new house any time soon.  We love our house!  We are lucky to have such a wonderful house!  The flat, quiet yard, the nice dry basement with my work shop and our breezy screen porch all make me smile.  Plus, it is close to our amazing daycare and only 4 minutes from the grocery store!  Besides, I still haven’t finished all the curtains or renovations I’ve planned (we’ve only lived here 8 years, cut me some slack…)  On top of all that we started realizing that in order to stage our house we’d have to move a lot of stuff into storage.  Intimidating.

You know what isn’t intimidating?  Setting up my new Cricut machine!  I’d been putting it off for a while, but the advent of Danycon made me finally jump into action and get it working.  If you don’t know what a Cricut is, it is a die cutting machine – it basically cuts/embosses/writes on a variety of mediums using a variety of tools.  You adhere your medium to the mat (which has a sticky front), feed the whole mat into the machine, select a pattern and then send the pattern to the machine to be cut/embossed/written.  The machine really is plug and play, and the software is extremely intuitive.  I am floored at how easy it is to use.  For its maiden voyage I decided to make a stencil for the coffee mugs below using the Cricut to cut out some letters from vinyl (this vinyl was just some leftover shelf paper I’ve used for both this project and this project).  From start to finish the stencil cutting took me a total of 30 minutes from the setup of the machine and designing the pattern to finally cutting and weeding the stencil.  You read the correctly – 30 minutes from unboxing to working stencil.

It is so easy to use that I bet it would deceive someone into thinking that the similar looking 3d printer or embroidery machine would be just as easy to use.  I believe I understand now why my co-worker who owns a Cricut was flabbergasted when I explained how complicated it would be to design and embroider a pattern using my embroidery machine and embroidery software.  I really hope he believed me and didn’t think I was just brushing him off!  The Cricut though – anyone can do it!  Can you operate a printer?  Yes?  Then you can operate the Cricut.  I promise I’m not being paid or given anything to evangelize Cricut (though maybe I should be)!  I just know a good user interface when I see it.

If you don’t have a Cricut you can cut out the lettering yourself using an X-acto knife as I did in this post.  It will take you quite a bit more time.

I sure need some coffee…

Stenciled Mugs

What you’ll need:

  • glass paints (I used folk art multisurface)
  • spouncer or paint brush
  • White coffee mug (I got mine from the Dollar Tree)
  • contact paper
  • Cricut die cutting machine or X-acto knife
  1. Cut stencil out of vinyl using cricut or X-acto knife.  The stencil should read right side up when viewing the non-sticky side of the stencil.
  2. Remove the area where you would like your stencil to show.  For the ease of stencil removal and artistic liberty I completely removed the center of o’s, e’s, a’s and other closed letters. 
  3. Stick the stencil to the coffee mug. 
  4. Use the spouncer or a paint brush to completely fill in the negative space of the stencil.
  5. Remove the stencil gently.
  6. Let dry for 1 hour then place mug on a cookie sheet in a cold oven.  Turn oven on to 350 degrees F.  When the oven reaches temperature, bake for 30 minutes then turn oven off and let glasses cool down slowly as the oven cools down.  When the oven is at room temperature it is safe to remove the mug.  Mug should be top rack dishwasher safe for occasional use or hand washable.*

*Note:  The first year I followed these instructions to cure the project and the corgi on the mugs wore off quickly in the dishwasher.  This year I tried the above method from here.  They seem to be fairing better in the dishwasher so far.

I’d like to give a shout out to the amazing support I received from a helpful gentleman at ASmallOrange, my hosting provider, while I was writing this blog post.  You went above and beyond!

 

 

 

 

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Danycon 2019

I have the silliest Julius story.  The other day he kept pointing to the counter and going ah-lah-lah.  I took everything off the counter, handing it to him.  He eventually gave up and had some milk.  After Julius had been playing with his toys for 30 minutes or so I asked Alexa to set a timer for me.  He bee-lined back to the kitchen counter and started pointing and saying ah-lah-lah again.  I finally realized he wanted to talk to Alexa.  Poor Julius can’t quite pronounce Alexa to Alexa’s understanding level (mine either) but he did enjoy Alexa saying hello to him.  I put him back on the floor and he again proceeded to point and say ah-lah-lah.  This time however, he did a little dance.  I finally realized that he wanted Alexa to play music.  When I asked her to play music he was overjoyed and danced around like a crazy man.

Do you know what always has me dancing like a crazy man?  Danycon!  This Danycon was the BEST YET.  We had such a fun time getting to see our families and playing board games.  Will even updated the program to include categories of games and suggestions for each time slot.  This definitely helped us play many more games than previous years.  Below are some highlights from Danycon 2019!

Welcome Bags

Danycon wouldn’t be complete without Danycon swag!  In addition to the embroidered bags I gave away (my favorite ones yet) I also appliqued the Danycon logo onto shirts this year.  I think they are my favorite Danycon shirts yet!  (This is getting to be a trend.)  The game we gave away this year was “Liar’s Dice”.  The sets were very inexpensive to make (and not nearly as time consuming as last year’s copies of Secret Hitler.  Per set we simply needed to purchase 25 dice (5 sets of 5), and 5 plastic cups (I got mine in sets of 4 from the dollar store).  Finally I printed instructions from bgg.  I used these instructions and tweaked them to fit on half a page.  The total was less than $4 a set (and could have been about half that if I had purchased dice in advance).

Friday

Dinner

  • Frozen Pizza Extravaganza!  Since people were arriving at different times I bought 10 different types of frozen pizza and we kept putting them in the oven until everyone was full. 

Saturday

Breakfast

Lunch

  • Soup and sandwiches – I made random vegetable soup and laid out an assortment of deli meats, cheeses and breads. 

Dinner

Sunday

Breakfast

Lunch

  • Salad and sandwiches (everyone just ate leftovers)

Dinner

Tournament

For the tournament this year we did games that were “multiplayer solitaire” basically games that could play any number of people.

Final Tournament Standings

Fold it

We used the same set of 4 cards (2 easy 2 difficult).  For each card, each player had to hit the lap button on Will’s stop watch to record their time.  Each player’s total time for all 4 cards was recorded and then they were ranked by lowest time (#1) to highest time (#8)

Take it easy

Lexi drew tiles and wrote down the order each one was drawn so everyone competed with the same set and same order.

Railroad ink

Will just read off the die results from the first game in the same order so everyone had an equivalent game.

Everyone’s place in each game was summed and became their final standing.  This caused a battle between two of our former Danycon champions – Erin and Bailey!  They went head to head in one round of Galaxy Trucker!

A grueling flight through space for the championship face off!

Surprises

This year was full of surprises!  Mark and Erin put together a truly horrifying escape room!  It was the coolest thing EVER!  And after seeing that dead skeleton in my bed I had nightmares for days!  Will and I surprised everyone with a DnD adventure that we created with some fun twists!  Will and I intend to publish it at some point on here so you can run it yourself, so I won’t ruin any surprises!  The key though is that you need two separate groups with two different DMs.  We’ve already come up with some great ideas for the next adventure at Danycon IV!

This haunts my nightmares!

Cousin Love!

Finn loved Dany! And Dany loved Finn!

Danycon 3 Photo!

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Tote-ally Amazing Bag

Right now I’m procrastinating.  I’m putting off lugging a quarter of a ton of wood to the attic as flooring.  So I’m writing this blog post a little early (though you won’t read it for another couple days).  I know what you’re thinking, the Colton household has amazing Saturday nights, count me in for the next lumber haul.   To be completely honest, the lumber lugging procrastination is just additional procrastination from pillow making, which in turn is just additional procrastination from cutting wood for my next Julius project (not related to the attic wood).  When you’re like me you have artful levels of procrastination that you label as “to do lists”.

One thing I actually did NOT procrastinate on this year was Danycon prep.  I made the shirts almost a week before Danycon started (instead of the day before) and I finished the bags I think a solid night before guests arrived.  Though I may be remembering wrong, because I do have a vague shadowy memory of me staying up way too late before Danycon started, though I think it involves cleaning all our bathrooms.  The bags I made this year I am really proud of.  I’ve liked all of the bags that I’ve made for Danycon, but these ones are extra fun.  I based the pattern off the bag I got when I became a member of the NRDC.  I know what you’re thinking, the NRDC sends out junk mail and tote bags, isn’t that self defeating?  Yes it is, but they don’t.  They only send you the tote bag if you check a box and everything else is email.  I battled internally for a while if I should check the box for the tote bag and waste the resources I was donating to protect.  What tipped me over the edge was the bee on the bag.  I guess bees are my weakness, I’ll log that away for later when I discover my super powers.

Anyway, the bag I got from the NRDC is actually a pretty nice bag.  It’s a big strong tote bag that you could use to cart books from the library, groceries from the market or board games from your cubicle.  I turned my favorite Dany silhouette into a machine embroidery pattern for the shirts and bags this year.  I think it really makes the bags look complete, and gives you that subtle pop of corgi you’re always looking for.

Danycon bags waiting for their owners!

Sturdy Canvas Tote Bag

What you’ll need:

  • 18″x40″ rectangle of canvas fabric
  • 44″of 1″ thick cotton webbing (cut into 2 22″ pieces)
  • materials for embroidery (if desired)
  1. Serge each 18″ edge of fabric to prevent unraveling.
  2. Fold canvas rectangle in half to form an 18×20″ rectangle.  Stitch down both sides adjacent to the fold with 1/2″ seam allowance.
  3. Serge along these two sections to reinforce.
  4. Mark a 3.5″x3″ rectangle in each of the bottom corners of the bag (3.5″ side is into the seam allowance, so effectively creating a 3″x3″ square within the non seam allowance portion of the bag).
  5. Cut out rectangles.  Starting with one side of the bag, pull the points of the two negative space rectangles you just created apart so that the two seams meet and the unfinished edges line up.  Pin.  Repeat for second corner of bag.
  6. Stitch along the areas you just pinned.  Serge along each seam to reinforce.
  7. At the opening of the bag, turn the fabric over 3/4″.
  8. Mark at the 5.5″ mark and 6.5″ mark and the 11.5″ and 12.5″ mark along the top edge of the bag.  Place one edge of one length of cotton webbing inside the 5.5″ & 6.5″ marks, so the edge touches the serged edge of the flap.  Pin. Ensuring the strap is not twisted, place second edge of cotton webbing inside the 11.5″ and 12.5″ marks.  Pin.  Turn bag over and repeat.
  9. Stitch 1/2″ from the top of the bag and again 5/8″ from the top of the bag, encompassing the cotton webbing.
  10. Turn bag right side out.
  11. Decorate as desired!
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Luck of the Irish

Happy (belated) Saint Patrick’s Day!  As you know, everyone’s Irish on St. Patty’s Day, but being legitimately Irish my family feels inclined to celebrate with corned beef and cabbage.  When I was a kid I remember leprechauns wrecking havoc in the classrooms by turning chairs topsy turvy and hiding gold coins or a pot of candy in the classroom.  Maybe they smelled my Irish blood.  This year the leprechauns must have sensed that Julius is 1/32 Irish so they decided to pay him a visit.

I decided to make Julius a silly shamrock stuffed toy, which Will dubbed “Lucky”, from some green velvet I had leftover from the hat shop.  It was fun making the pattern for the embroidered face.  If you’d like to make yourself a shamrock (with or without a face) make sure you do a good job clipping around all the curves.  For Julius’ pot o’ gold at the end of the rainbow I used a plastic cauldron I have from halloween, stuffed with gold paper.  Because we don’t give Julius (much) chocolate yet the pot of gold had some rainbow stickers and finger paints from the Dollar Tree.  The rainbow was made from streamers also found at the dollar store.

Lucky Stuffed Shamrock

What you’ll need:

  • 14″ of 1.5″ wide ribbon (for bow tie)
  • black and white embroidery thread (optional)
  • 1/2 yard of green velvet
  • Pattern
  1. Cut out pattern (make sure you flip the pattern so you get a front and back piece, or the shamrock stem will not line up).
  2. Embroider eyes and smile using pattern here and a 4″x4″ embroidery hoop if desired.
  3. Pin shamrock right sides together.
  4. Stitch around edge of shamrock, leaving a 3″ gap on the flat part of the bottom-most leaf on one side.
  5. Clip curves and indents, nearly to the stitching.
  6. Turn right side out.  Stuff.  When satisfied with stuffing, close with an invisible stitch.
  7. Cut ribbon into 10″ and 3.5″ segments.
  8. Fold the 10″ ribbon so the two unfinished ends overlap in the center.  Fold under the ends of the ribbon so it forms a sort of triangular shape.  (See picture.)  Stitch through overlapping ends to hold together.  This is the back of the bow tie.
  9. Pinch the middle of the ribbon to form a bow tie shape.  Stitch from one of the pinch to the other to secure.  This is the front of the bow tie.
  10. Fold the 3.5″ segment of ribbon so it is 3/4″ wide and ends of ribbon are in the middle.  Press (under scrap fabric).  This will form the bow tie “knot”.
  11. Fasten unfinished edge of bow tie knot to the bow tie with a couple stitches. 
  12. Wrap the segment of 3/4″ wide ribbon around the bow tie center, so the other unfinished edge ends at the back of the bow tie.  Stitch to secure.
  13. Attach bow tie to shamrock above stem using needle and thread.
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Take a Swag

This past weekend was Danycon 2019.  Everyone has left on their flights now, so sitting at home in the quiet is quite bittersweet.  Will and I think it was our best Danycon yet!  I, of course, will have several posts about Danycon and Danycon prep in the coming weeks.

Before I tell you about today’s project I have to relate a cute Julius story to you.  In the past, we’d know Julius was awake and ready to get up because he’d cry and wail.  In the past month or so, however, he’s started becoming a much more cheerful waker.  Usually he’ll babble a bit, and if we don’t come get him, he’ll raise the decibel level until we come in.  The other day, though, when I was home alone with Julius I woke up to the sound of him singing!  He was saying the word “ba” at different pitches.  I’m not sure how long he was doing it for, but I listened to him for a few minutes before deciding to go in and thank him for the serenade.  It was completely adorable.

In a complete non-sequitur, remember that chocolate mishap I mentioned occurring during the last ladies’ night?  The one where chocolate got on the floor, ceiling and curtains?  I told my friend (who accidentally caused the chocolate fiasco) that there was no need to clean the chocolate off the curtain, because now I finally had an excuse to make the the kitchen curtain I’d been putting off for so long.  She didn’t believe me, but I really was telling the truth!  I’d bought the fabric to make new kitchen curtains at least 3 years ago (definitely well before Julius was born).   The weekend after the mishap I buckled down and made the curtain.  I think it came out pretty good, and it was actually very easy to make.

Draped Swag Curtain

What You’ll Need:

(For a 42.25″ wide window*)

  • 1 yard of home decorating fabric
  • 1 yard of lining fabric
  • 4 curtain clip rings
  • 4 knobs
  • 4 hangar bolts in bolt thread size of knobs
  1. Create a 70″x 13″ rectangle of home decorating fabric by matching patterns and stitching together (or if you intend to make more than one curtain like me, use more than 1 yard of fabric and cut one continuous 70″ long strip)
  2. Create a 66″x 9″ rectangle of lining fabric by  stitching together (or if you intend to make more than one curtain like me, use more than 1 yard of fabric and cut one continuous 66″ long strip)
  3. Press 1.5″ under of every edge of decorating fabric.
  4. Miter corners.
  5. Line lining fabric up with one long edge of decorating fabric (note I used an extra 1/2″ of seam allowance so in my picture the lining fabric isn’t perfectly lined up with the decorating fabric, but yours should be).  Start the lining fabric 1/2″ before the mitered fold line.  Pin.  Repeat for 2 other sides of fabric, leaving one short end opened. Stitch.
  6. Turn right side out and press the unfinished short end of the lining fabric under so only the fold shows.  Flat catch stitch the short end of lining to the selvedge of the decorating fabric.
  7. Insert 4 hangar bolts in or above your window frame so the spacing is equidistant.  You will probably have to pilot drill a hole so the screw end of the hangar bolt goes in easily.  Use the knob to turn the screw into the hole.
  8. Mark your curtain at 6.75″, 25.25″, 43.75″, 62.25″.
  9. We left 3.5″ in between each swag to fold and clip onto the curtain hook.  Fold at each mark, keeping the lining on the inside of the fold.  After the fold is about an inch deep, fold in the fabric on either side of the fold making a pleat.  Adjust so this second set of folds sits about .5″ below the first fold.  Clip here.  Repeat for other markings.
  10. To hang curtain, unscrew knob, place curtain ring over hangar screw and screw knob in place to secure.

*If you would like to make your curtain wider for a wider window, simply measure the width of your window, then calculate the number of knobs you will use.  Your final curtain length will be (1.11 * width/(#knobs – 1) + 3.5″) * (#knobs – 1) + 10″.  You can then add 3″ length for the decorative fabric in step 1 (1.5″ seam allowance per side) and 1″ length for your lining fabric in step 2 (.5″ seam allowance). In step 8, you will mark your curtain at the same intervals, adding 18.5″ until you reach the end.

 

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Biblical

Julius is getting a lot better at verbal communication.  I can understand several words he says like “Shhhh” for “sheepy”, “pls” and “help” (used interchangeably) for “please help” and “yas” for “yes”.  This is probably too much information, but I taught him the baby sign language word for poop the other day, thinking if he doesn’t start talking, he’ll never be able to be potty trained, and he wildly made the poop gesture today.  Thinking maybe he needed to poop (and maybe was learning from the kids at daycare) I put him on the toilet where he did genuinely look like he was attempting to poop for several minutes.  Eventually though he got bored and wanted to go back to playing, so all bets are off on what really happened there.

On the list of things Julius is good at right now we can add eating.  (Like his parents I guess.)  He will eat 2/3 of an adult sized meal for every meal (and more than we usually eat for breakfast).  I just love his chubby little belly and I can’t get enough of tickling it and poking it.  I was a single parent for 5 days last week while Will was out of town and I guess I poked his belly button so often that he decided to start poking mine.  If I ever say the word belly (for instance “do you want to pet Dany’s belly” or “wash your belly” Julius will try to poke my belly button.

One bad thing about that boy’s belly (honestly there are no bad things about the belly) is that it does seem to collect debris.  While in the past my favorite bibs were slightly absorbent because purees and liquids were his main diet, his solid foods bounce right off those bib styles.  My favorite style now is one that is waterproof with a pocket!  My own version is below and really easy to make!

Waterproof Bib with Pocket

  • 1/2 yard of PUL fabric
  • 1.5 yards of 1/2″ single fold bias tape
  • 1/3 yard of 1/4″ double fold bias tape
  • 3″ of 3/4″ velcro (hook side)*
  • 3″ of 2″ velcro (loop side)
  • Pattern here

* instead you can just use the hook side of the 2″ velcro.

  1. Cut out bib and pocket from PUL fabric.
  2. Unfold the double fold bias tape and pin one unfinished edge to top of pocket’s unfinished edge.  Stitch along the first fold.
  3. Fold the bias tape over and around the unfinished edges and make sure third fold secures the unfinished edge of the bias tape inside.  Pin and stitch close to the first set of stitching on the right side of the bib.
  4. Trim the ends of the bias tape to match the shape of the pocket.
  5. Pin the wrong size of the pocket on top of the right side of the bib, lining up the points of the pocket with the marks on the pattern. The pocket should bow out slightly.
  6. Unfold the single fold bias tape and pin one unfinished edge to bib’s unfinished edge, all the way along the bib. 
  7. When you get back to where you started, fold the end and place it under the first unfinished edge.  Stitch along the first fold.
  8. Fold the bias tape over and around the unfinished edges and make sure it secures the unfinished edge of the bias tape inside.  Pin and stitch close to the first set of stitching on the right side of the bib.
  9. Pin the 3/4″ hook velcro tape on the outside of one side of the bib as shown.  Stitch along the outside of the tape.
  10. Pin the 2″ loop velcro tape on the outside of one side of the bib as shown.  Stitch along the outside of the tape.

    Maiden voyage was a success! Raspberries:0, Bib:1

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The Pink Lunchbox

So let me tell you a story.  When we first started bringing Julius to daycare all we were bringing for him to consume was milk.  So I randomly grabbed the first lunch bag I could reach, threw his bottles in with an ice pack and brought it to daycare.  I took the bottles out when we got to daycare and placed them in the fridge.  No one really saw the bag so I barely gave any notice to the fact that the lunch bag was pink with purple and white polka dots.  I thought the bag was kind of cute.

As Julius got older we brought more food items for Julius, always in the same lunch bag.  By now I had noticed that it was pink, but again it did not bother me.  I told myself that the lunch bag was mine anyway, since Julius was not packing the lunch himself or unpacking it himself.

Fast forward to a month ago when Julius started in the toddler room.  In the toddler room the toddlers keep their lunches in a lunch bag with an ice pack.  They take their own lunch bag out at lunch and eat their lunch (with help of course).  Putting his pink lunch bag on the shelf the first time I noticed that no child had a bag that is any color other than blue or green.  By now Julius has been in daycare for 8 months with the same pink lunch bag.  Not only is he the only child with a pink lunch bag but he is the only child in cloth diapers.  Connection?  Definitely not, but my brain imagined me being judged by all the other parents as “the hippie mom who makes her son to use a pink lunch bag”.  All of a sudden Julius’ pink lunch bag started to bothered me.  Honestly, it isn’t even that great a lunch bag.  It only barely fits his lunch and it isn’t anything special – why not trade it out for a larger one?  I briefly considered changing his lunch bag over to one of the other ones I have downstairs.  But you see the conundrum now, don’t you?

It is twofold.  First off I am a hippie mom and (though it wasn’t intentional) I do make my son use a pink lunch bag.  I can’t think of a reason to change, when it isn’t hurting anyone.  Secondly, I am a feminist and I don’t want to add to the gender stereotyping of colors. Changing Julius’ lunch bag to one with a color other than pink would be giving in to the patriarchy.  And you know what I have to say about that…  So the pink lunch bag stays.  But since the other kids have cute lunch boxes and his is just some old thing I had in the basement, I figured it was okay to make the bag more adorable.  Instead of commenting on the color (which for the record no one ever did except in my head), the new improved pink lunch bag was met with a lot of compliments!

Dragon Lunch Bag Makeover

What you’ll need:

  • an old lunch bag that you’d like to modify
  • about 16″ of 3/4″ ribbon in a contrasting color to the lunch bag
  • the eyes and name tag patch embroidery file here (Note the file is zipped, so you’ll need to unzip it first)
  • white scrap fabric for eyes
  • scrap fabric for child’s name patch
  • black embroidery thread
  • medium weight tear away stabilizer
  • temporary spray adhesive
  1. First, hoop the medium weight stabilizer in a 100x100mm hoop, insert on embroidery machine with black embroidery thread.  Load embroidery file and change child’s name to desired name.
  2. Start the pattern.  It will begin by stitching the guide outline for the first eye.  Cut a piece of (white) fabric slightly larger than the guideline, spray adhesive onto the back and then press firmly over the guide stitching.
  3. Continue stitching.  The second set of stitching should attach the white fabric to the stabilizer.  Cut around the section, as close to the stitching as possible.
  4. Finish stitching.  Repeat steps 2 & 3 for the other eye and the name patch.
  5.  Once all your embroidery is complete, pop the patches out of the hoop by tearing out of the stabilizer.  This will form your patches.
  6. Hand stitch the eyes onto the lunch bag on the flap of the bag.  You may need a thimble if the fabric is thick.
  7. Hand stitch the name tag onto the bag wherever desired.
  8. Take the ribbon and fold the end of the ribbon over and then over again so no unfinished edges are poking out.  Pin this to the forehead of your dragon on the flap in between the dragon’s eyes.  The unfinished (unrolled) edge of the ribbon should be trailing down the front of the lunchbox.   Stitch.
  9. Measure about 2″ and move 1″ away from where you just stitched, away from the flap. Pin, forming a loop for the dragon’s spikes.  Stitch.
  10.  Repeat these steps for 7 spikes.
  11. For the 8th spike again fold and fold again the end of the ribbon. Attach it to the bag as you did in step 8.

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I hate Mondays

Julius’ first, no questions asked, words may be “all done”.  Aside from dada and mama (which he says sparingly, maybe not about me or Will) he makes a number of sounds that we are just now realizing he equates to words.  For instance “sssssss”  (like the noise a snake makes) is the word he uses for Sheepy, his beloved stuffed animal.  “Dat” and “dis” we are pretty sure equate to “what’s that” and “what’s this”.  But the first set of clearly audible words he has actually understandably said?  “All done”.  He now says this phrase whenever he is all done with dinner, playing with a toy, brushing his teeth, etc.  He is very excited that everyone he has said it to seems to actually know what he is saying.

In the opposite vein of “all done”, I was supposed to have another truffle party for Valentine’s day this year, but at the last minute I had to cancel because I came down with another exciting disease (potentially from Julius?).  This whole sickness thing is getting really old – I only went in to work for one and a half days in between illnesses last week.  I honestly don’t remember the last time I have had a solid week where I’ve felt disease free.  The knowing response I get from long time parents when I mention this?  “Don’t worry it gets better – once they go off to college and move out.”  Something to look forward to?

My valentine holding a Valentine

Luckily continued days of feeling under the weather enabled me to create the EASIEST version of lasagna I have ever created.  You don’t have to pre-cook or chop anything and it comes out amazingly delicious.  AND it is vegetarian!  Will and I have upped our vegetarian diet to 3 days a week (from 2 last year) so we’re always looking for good fast vegetarian recipes.  Plus this recipe is very easy to make for a crowd (and once I host my replacement truffle making party I’ll be doing just that).  You’ll need to buy the bulk spinach which comes in chunks instead of a giant 1 lb block to really avoid chopping or pre-cooking anything.

The Easiest Vegetarian Lasagna EVER

Ingredients for 6 servings

  1. Take a 13″x9″ baking dish and spread 1/2 c of pasta sauce in the bottom of the dish.
  2. Cover with lasagna noodles, overlapping each other slightly.
  3. Cover completely with a layer of frozen spinach chunks – about 2 cups.
  4. Top with 1/2c mozzarella and 1/3c of parmesan cheese.
  5. Cover with half the container of ricotta cheese by taking out big dollops of ricotta and flattening them down slightly to cover the entire lasagna.
  6. Cover with a layer of sauce (about a cup).
  7. Repeat steps 2-6 for a second layer.
  8. Sprinkle remaining parmesan and mozzarella cheese on top of the last layer and cover with aluminum foil.
  9. At this point you can let it sit in the fridge overnight or bake it immediately.  (I tried both ways, and found they both needed the same amount of time in the oven).
  10. Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes, remove the foil and bake for an additional 20 minutes.
  11. Let the lasagna rest for 20 minutes before cutting and serving to let the juices absorb.

 

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It’s in the Bag

Will and I were talking about alligators when I came to the realization that things affect me completely differently now that I’m a parent.  For instance, when I hear a happy story about a child I chuckle inwardly if it is something Julius has done, while in the past I’d probably think “aww, kids are cute, maybe it would be nice to have one”.  If I hear a story about about grumpy toddler or a parent trying to wrangle in a grumpy toddler I again chuckle to myself, whereas in the past I’d probably think something like “jeeze, I really can wait to have kids” or “how hard can kids be to control, what is that parent doing wrong?” (Yes I admit I did inwardly judge, though I would never have said it aloud or criticized someone about it.)  And now, if I hear a story about a child that is injured or has had some misfortune befall them I am devastated, not just sad like I was in the past.  I potentially burst out crying or at least weep silently.  (This makes a Series of Unfortunate Events so hard to watch.)  Oh and why alligators?  That’s just a long story.

In other news Julius moved up to the toddler room full time today.  We’ve been waiting for him to move up because we think that he will learn a lot more from the older kids.  He’s been one of the two oldest kids for almost his entire time in daycare.  Of course, this means he’ll be seeing less of his “second mothers” at daycare which makes all of us very sad.  I haven’t had to drop him off yet in the new room, but I will probably cry (because, like the first day of daycare, I don’t think I’m going to cry, and the first day of daycare I sobbed in front of everyone).

“Graduating” from the Toddler Room

In preparation for Julius’ move up to the big leagues, I had to provide a trash bin for them to put the cloth diapers in.  Like I do at home, I decided to use washable diaper bin liners to save even more on waste.  I made these to fit the Simple Human low profile 10L step trashcan.  But you can modify the pattern to your own specifications, just measure the trash can opening circumference (c inches) and the depth (d inches) of the can.  Add 1 inch to the depth of the can, and double this measurement ((d+1)*2), this will be the length of the rectangle of PUL you will cut below.  Take the circumference of the can, divide by 2 and add 1.5 inches (c/2+1.5).  This will be the width of the rectangle of PUL.  To find the length of the elastic, take the circumference of the can, add 1, and multiply by 5/6ths – round down. ((c+1)*5/6).

Reusable Water Resistant Trash Can Liner

What you’ll need:

  • 30″x19″ length of PUL fabric (for 10L Simple Human trash can or see above for calculations for a different trashcan size)
  • 30″ of 3/4″ elastic
  • 4″ of 3/4″ elastic
  • 100% polyester thread
  • Fine needle (70/10) and medium weight needle (90/14)
  1.  Fold your PUL in half to form a 15″x19″ rectangle.
  2. Use binder clips to “pin” short edges of rectangle together.
  3. Using the fine needle stitch 1/2″ from edge with a medium-long stitch width (I chose 4 on my singer).  Repeat for second size.
  4. Serge the edge of the fabric that you just stitched (using polyester thread).
  5. Fold the 30″ piece of elastic in half, and stitch along the unfinished edges to secure (1/4″ from edge).
  6. Fold the bag in half to form a 9.5″x15″ rectangle. Mark where the folds are.   Fold the elastic in half and then in half again and mark where the folds are (should mark 4 distinct folds).
  7. Match each mark on the elastic to either a mark on the bag or one of the seams of the bag. Pin the elastic to the outside of the bag at each mark.
  8. Switch to the heavyweight needle.  Using a wide zig-zag stitch sew the elastic to the outside of the bag.  You will need to stretch the elastic out for each quarter of the bag to match the length of fabric.
  9. Fold the 4″ elastic in half andstraight stitch to the seam allowance of one of the sides of the bag.  Stitch through the elastic several times to reinforce.

To close the bag, bunch the top closed and then pull the elastic loop over the bunched up fabric.  The elastic loop should keep the bag tightly closed.

Here’s what the liner looks like inside the can.

 

 

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Cake Walk

Julius started having those toddler temper tantrums a few weeks ago.  He throws himself on the ground, wailing, and flops around like a fish.  It is really, really annoying.  I naively hoped that Julius would just avoid the temper tantrum stage.  I mean, he’s such a cheerful little guy.  It is frustrating for everyone to see him go from happy to manically mad at the shake of the head.

Is this the face of a baby who would throw a tantrum?

On the cuter side, Julius has been extra nice to Dany all weekend.  Earlier this weekend he gave her a kiss on the head.  He did it all by himself without our asking.  My sister and her girlfriend were visiting this weekend.  Mandy was lying on the floor watching t.v. and in another stroke of cuteness, Julius toddled over to her, stared at her for a minute and then lied down next to her.  He was in his jammies waiting for his bottle to heat up before bed.  What a little snuggle bug.

A couple weeks ago I had another ladies’ night while the little snuggle bug was sleeping.  The ladies wanted to do a food based night again so I decided to do a cake decorating night.  I made 24 5″ mini-cakes and 4 batches of Italian meringue buttercream frosting for 12 ladies to decorate cakes.  I think the results were quite good.  I only had 3 turntables, but a few days before the event I sent everyone a link to these inexpensive turntables from Michael’s that were only $6 at the time!*  Several people took up my suggestion to get one so only a couple people had to share turntables.  Mary made some delicious chocolate, lemon and strawberry fillings and Ka brought her fabulous collection of sprinkles and decorations so the cakes were really spectacular in the end.  Despite a minor mishap involving chocolate, the ceiling and a friend’s sweater I think everyone had a great time!

Cake Night

Dinner

We have a couple gluten free guests and several vegetarian guests so I decided to make everything gluten free and vegetarian so I didn’t have to make multiple dishes this time around.  I chose a simple dinner of salad and vegetable fritatta (though technically I didn’t fry everything, and prepared the entire dish in the oven).  As a bonus I was able to use up all the egg yolks that I didn’t use in the buttercream.  I roasted all the veggies for the frittata the night before the event and then put them in Pyrex containers in the fridge until the party.  I then assembled the salad and frittatas before guests arrived.

The salad I served was our go-to winter salad of baby spinach, onions, pecans and apples.  We call this the “Will salad” because as far as I am concerned Will invented it.  You can substitute the pecans and apples with any nut and fruit combo of your choice ex: walnuts & dried cranberries; almonds and clementines.  I find the best dressing with this salad is slightly sweet and acidic.  My personal favorite is Ken’s Steak House lite Asian sesame.  Note this dressing is apparently NOT gluten free.  I also served cheese and crackers because I thought we were going to have someone on a vegetarian keto diet (and I don’t understand keto enough to feel comfortable catering for it).

From left to right, utensils, plates and napkins, cheese plate, frittata, and spinach salad

Close up of the spinach salad and fritatta

Preparation

If you are insane like me you’ll make the buttercream and 24 cakes over just 2 days, staying up way too late.  If you are more sane (highly recommended), you’ll make the cakes in the weeks preceding the event, let them cool completely, wrap thoroughly in saran wrap, place in freezer bags and then stick in the freezer until the night before the party.  The night before the party remove the the cakes from the freezer and set on the counter to thaw (make sure the cakes are not stacked).  You can also prepare the buttercream frosting up to 2 weeks in advance and store in an airtight container in the fridge.  Right before the party (or during in my case) you can microwave the frosting (I did around 30 seconds per batch), stir and then re-whip with your mixer.  If you follow my instructions below you’ll be throwing cake parties with ease!

What you’ll need (dinner for 18, cake decorating for 12):

For cake decorating (for 12)

For Dinner (for 18)

  • egg yolks (reserved from cake creation above)
  • 36 eggs
  • 4 lbs of green beans, trimmed and cut in 1″ pieces
  • 4 lbs of brocolli, cut in bite size pieces
  • 6 onions cut in half
  • 2 cups sour cream
  • 2 cups shredded parmesan cheese
  • 4 lbs of baby spinach
  • 1.5 cups of pecans
  • 1 vidalia onion, halved and sliced
  • 4 apples, cubed and set in a container with water and lemon juice until ready to serve
  • Asian balsamic dressing of your choice
  • Utensils, plates and drinks for 18 people
  1. Prepare the cakes first, up to 3 months in advance.  I used this gluten free recipe to make all my cakes, but this is the equivalent recipe that uses regular flour.  Each 5″ cake requires a scant 1 cup of batter (or 1 full cup if not using gluten free) and 20-25 min of baking time.  For best results (to prevent cakes from sticking) place a parchment paper circle in the bottom of each cake pan after preparing pan.   Each recipe of cake mix will make 6 5″ mini cakes.  I prepared 2 batches of mix at a time in the mixer.  If you are making the cakes more than 2 days before serving, let them cool completely, wrap thoroughly in saran wrap, place in freezer bags and then stick in the freezer until the night before the party.  Otherwise, let cool completely and store in air tight containers until the party.
  2. Prepare the buttercream, up to 2 weeks in advance.  This recipe is fabulous but it is a bit tricky the first time since it requires the use of a candy thermometer.  If you fail to follow the crucial instruction to let the bowl cool to room temperature your butter will melt and the recipe will not work.  In my experience (in winter in New England) this has been a solid 30 minutes of cool-down.  I made 4 batches of buttercream which was exactly right to frost 24 cakes, though I strongly recommend making a 5th batch if you want to do any elaborate piping.  Store each container of frosting in air tight Pyrex containers in the fridge until the party.
  3. Prepare the vegetables the day before the party.  The night before the party, drizzle the broccoli florets, green beans and onions with olive oil, salt and pepper, and toss.  Roast vegetables at 425 degrees F until tender and browned, about 20-30 minutes, turning halfway through.  Chop onions into bit size pieces when cool and then store vegetables in airtight containers in the fridge (far away from the buttercream).
  4. The day of the party, set up a cake decorating area with spatulas, piping bags, turntables, cakes, cake rounds, boxes and decorations.
  5. An hour before the party, microwave each batch of frosting until softened in 15 second increments (this took 30-45 seconds total for each batch for me).  Whip each batch with your mixer until frosting is smooth and easy to use.
  6. 30 minutes before the party,  assemble the fritattas and salad.  Layer broccoli, green beans and onions in two 3 qt baking dishes, dividing evenly.  Scatter 1 cup of parmesan cheese over each dish.  Scramble eggs and egg yolks, then add sour cream and whip until thoroughly combined.  Add salt and pepper as desired then pour half of the mixture over the vegetables and cheese in each baking dish, covering the whole dish evenly.  Bake in 400 degree oven until frittata is puffed and cooked through (about 30 minutes each). Prepare salad – toss spinach, onions, pecans and apples (drained) until combined.
  7. As guests arrive – serve wine.  When quorum has arrived serve dinner.
  8. After dinner, give a brief tutorial on how to decorate a cake. Start with trimming cakes to make them flat, centering cake circle on turntable, centering cake on cake circle, adding frosting/fillings and then topping with second layer of trimmed cake.  Show how to frost entire cake, top then sides, and finally how to pipe frosting.  Let guests decorate with decorations as they choose and then box up their creations to take home.

    My cake nestled into its perfect sized cake box.

    Ka had the great idea to use a cookie cutter to apply sprinkles to the cake in a shape

    Serious concentration going on here.

    Cakes in various stages of decoration

    The cake frosting begins

    Ems apron just cracked me up every time I looked at it…

    Ka captured this shot for posterity – note the adornment to the ceiling.  How do you know it was a good ladies night without a little frosting on your ceiling?  As a side note – it completely came off! Magic erasers really are magic!

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