Bag Lady

Okay, I really didn’t mean to troll you again.  There will be no pictures of adorable tiny fluffy dogs this week.  But next week.   Next week for sure.  The reason?  It is Earth week!  Honestly I had this whole ridiculous idea planned for Earth Day this year.  Will and I were going to hype it up to Julius as if it were Christmas and start all sorts of fun Earth Day traditions!  Then we could have an Earth Day “party” to crown the week off (yeah I know, I was still working on this one).  Anyway I was thinking about all this about right before the shit hit the fan whole coronavirus outbreak hit the US.

Well, we still have plans to have a happy Earth day and to wish Mother Earth to continue healing so she can support our raucous, frequently ungrateful abundance of human life.  So don’t forget to show a little love to your Earth Mother this Wednesday and let her know you’re thinking of her.  Some ideas?  Eat vegetarian!  Sign up for a local CSA who uses IPM!  Plant a tree!  Clean up litter!  Send an email to the Trump administration explaining (in short sentences) how they are sacrificing the planet!  Yes I’m still bitter right now about this and this and how about going back to the start of it – this?  Sorry, I digress, the whole point of this paragraph was to explain that later in this post there will be an environmentally friendly craft so stay tuned!

Anyway, want to hear some adorable stories instead of more doom and gloom?!  Well the other day Will relayed to me a cute conversation.  Will found Julius peering down the cellar stairs and Will asked, “why are you opening the basement door Julius?”  To which he replied “checking for bears.”  Will returned “are there any bears?”  And Julius replied “I hope not.”  I hope not either buddy.  I think I had better tone down the “bear hunts” in our neighborhood.

Will and I have gotten into a sort of routine with Julius throughout the past few weeks.  We are somehow each able to do 8 hours of work while watching Julius throughout the day.  While exhausting, we each get to spend a lot more time with Julius which is really nice.  I do like that little guy.  And I want to give a shout out to teacher of the month Will over here – Will has been doing a great job teaching Julius the written alphabet and Julius can now recognize all the letters!  He gets confused on a couple – but who doesn’t?!  On to algebra!

So this tote is very similar to the bags I made for Danycon last year.  Those bags are a nice size for toting your lunch to the beach, but I wanted a bigger bag to carry bulky grocery items in so they don’t get squished.  I’d purchased this adorable farmer’s market fabric at Ikea a couple years ago, and I guess it screamed out farmer’s market tote.  It is PERFECT for the farmers market (or grocery produce section since I don’t have a farmer’s market near me).  Roomy, and I can throw it in my purse so I don’t inevitably forget to bring it!  It was super quick to make and I plan to make several more to give away.  

Farmer’s Market Tote

  • 23″x40″ rectangle of sturdy fabric
  • 2 xxy rectangles of same fabric for handles
  • 1 7″x12″ rectangle for pocket, with 12″ side along seam allowance.
  • 1 5″x1″ strip for bag hanging hook
  1. Serge each 23″ edge of fabric to prevent unraveling.
  2. Fold canvas rectangle in half to form an 23″×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 4″x3.5″ square in each of the bottom corners of the bag (4″ side is into the seam allowance, so effectively creating a 3.5″x3.5″ 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. Fold rectangles for handles in half the long ways, wrong side in, then fold under 1/2″ on each lengthwise side. Press and stitch.
  8. Take 5″x1″ strip for bag hook and fold in half the long ways, wrong side in.  Fold under 1/4″ on each lengthwise side.  Press and stitch. 
  9. At the opening of the bag, turn the fabric over 3/4″.  Press
  10. 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 handle inside the 5.5″ & 6.5″ marks, so the edge touches fold.  Pin. Ensuring the strap is not twisted, place second edge of handle inside the 11.5″ and 12.5″ marks.  Pin.  Turn bag over and repeat.  At the center of the bag, place hook into the bag as you did for the handles, as shown. 
  11. Stitch 1/2″ from the top of the bag and again 5/8″ from the top of the bag, encompassing the handles and hook.
  12. Fold 12″x7″ length of fabric (right sides together) in half to form 7×6″ pouch.  Stitch along one long edge and one short edge with 1/2″ seam allowance to form a pouch. 
  13. Match pouch side seam up against side seam of the bag, near the bottom.  Pin and stitch through seam allowance to secure. 
  14. Turn bag right side out.

    Finished bag.

    Finished bag interior

    Bag all tucked away in it’s pouch.

Posted in Crafts & Sewing | Leave a comment

Bunny Parade

I hope you all had a wonderful Easter or are having a wonderful Passover to those of you who celebrate.  I know you were expecting more cute dog photos, but you’ll have to wait for those next week.  Instead let me tell you about our Easter weekend while it’s still fresh!  We had a great weekend prepping a bountiful feast and fun activities for Julius.  And of course watching your kids have fun is the main return on investment for parenting.

While I’m fully committed to being trapped at home, I’m trying to avoid doing a lot of online shopping.  I did cave and buy Julius a boatload of books since he has been wanting to read about 20 books a day, plus I knew the books I was buying weren’t available in stores anyway.  Two of these ended up in his basket, and the rest of his Easter basket consisted of handmade items.  Julius kept asking for slippers that were his size, so I decided to tell him “maybe the Easter bunny will bring you some”.  After that anytime the Easter bunny was mentioned, Julius brought up “maybe the bunny will bring my slippers”.   So slippers was one of the items I made for Julius.  The other ones were Easter sugar cookies and a little stuffed bunny.  (Now known as the Easter bunny bunny.)  I had big plans to make a quiet book style house to go with the little stuffed bunny, but as usual time ran short.

The Easter bunny was really proud of these cookies… so here’s a close up.

The basket the bunny brought for Julius

Julius loved everything.  It really made my month.  There is nothing like having your toddler love and appreciate the things you’ve created for them!  He even brought his Easter bunny bunny to the bunny parade!  (Where you sit in your car while the Easter bunny drives by on a fire truck.)  Julius loves fire trucks, but when I asked him if he wants to get out of his car seat and stand up to see better he vehemently said “no!  I scared!”  Poor guy, the sirens on all the vehicles were very loud.  Good news though, when he saw the Easter bunny drive by waving on top of the truck Julius actually giggled.

Julius wearing his slippers, holding his bunny and eating a cookie!

Easter Bunny Bunny

What you’ll need:

  • scrap amounts of white cotton or linen fabric
  • scrap amounts of pink cotton fabric
  • a small white pom pom
  • a tiny amount of stuffing
  • blue, pink and black embroidery thread
  • pattern here
  1. Cut out all pattern pieces as indicated.  Be sure to add seam allowance.
  2. Place two body pieces together and pin.  Stitch all around body, leaving 1″ gap in one side to turn inside out.
  3. Clip curves, especially around the legs and neck.  Turn right side out.
  4. Stuff.
  5. Hand stitch the opening closed using a ladder stitch/invisible stitch.
  6. Choose the least attractive side of the bunny.  Stitch pom pom tail onto bunny on less attractive side.
  7. Create two arms following steps 2,3,4 and 5 but stuffing the arms a little less full.
  8. Position top of arm just below neck of bunny.  Stitch through each arm about 1/4″ from the top directly into the torso and back out the same hole, so it forms a movable limb.  (I do this several times to make it secure.)  (Here is a site with examples – I basically did #3.)
  9. Assemble the ears.  For each ear, sandwich pink fabric between 2 white fabric pieces.
  10. Stitch around ear, leaving the bottom opened.   Trim excess fabric.
  11. Turn right side out.
  12. Turn the unfinished edge of each ear inside and invisible stitch closed.
  13. Pin ears to head at a slight angle so pinks of ears are visible.
  14. Invisible stitch ears to head.
  15. Transfer face pattern onto bunny.  Embroider eyes in blue, mouth in black and finally nose in pink.



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Puppy Love

Well it has certainly been a while since we’ve been out of our normal routine and I’m starting to go a bit crazy.  It’s been 3 weeks and 4 days since I started working from home and stopped going out of the house for unnecessary travel.  Not that I’m counting.  I didn’t even think social isolation would bother me so much because I’m a bit of a homebody, but it’s starting to remind me of when I stayed home from work postpartum and saw nothing but Julius and Will for 6 months.  That was probably postpartum depression though, and this I think is stress.  Anyway I hope you’re all staying sane and having fun – and if so maybe you can share your secret with me.

Julius and I have been finding interesting things to do on the weekends.  This weekend we started out by making some corn muffins.  Then we colored and decorated easter eggs, though we rationed it to only 6 eggs because eggs are not available on instacart this week.  After decorating the eggs he immediately consumed 5/6 of them in a rather Gaston move.  Post egg consumption we looked through mama’s seed collection and picked out some easy ones to grow.  Then we decided to see if some beans would germinate between some wet paper towels.  Next we hoed the garden and turned the compost (both of which Julius insisted on helping with, convincing me by saying “I so, so strong mama”.)  All of that took a total of about an hour, so then we had to come up with more activities for the rest of the weekend.

I know many of you are lamenting the lack of live sports on television these days.  As an end to the doldrums Erin and Mark put together a very clever “April Madness” bracket based on bed time stories their son Finn picks.  I don’t want to brag (okay I do) but I’m currently 6 for 6…  Maybe sports sites will take a page from my brother or sister in law to get everyone back in the contest mood or maybe they’ll just host a weekly puppy bowl – we all know how much strategy is required to keep all those puppies in one room.

Speaking of the puppy bowl, if you want to make your dog a flag football jersey I’ve got the perfect project for you.  I picked my sister’s girlfriend Bailey this year for Secret Santa/Trash Christmas and she asked for costumes for her dog Phoebes who is a tiny pomeranian.  Bailey is a nationally ranked flag football player so I wanted to make Phoebes a tiny flag football outfit so she could join in the fun.  I used a thrifted shirt as my base, and everything else I had at home.  The hardest part was guessing how big Phoebes was, so I used the average pomeranian measurements that I found online as my basis.  I think it was a bit tight, but Mandy and Bailey assured me it was because she was in her winter fluff.  Either way, I think you probably want to make it a bit roomier if you have a fluffy Pomeranian.

Pomeranian Flag Football Shirt

  • 1 old (human) t-shirt
  • Heat Transfer Vinyl (if desired)
  • Pattern here
  1. Align bottom of shirt front and back pattern pieces with the bottom hem of the shirt you are repurposing then mark and cut, adding 1/2″ seam allowance everywhere but the hem
  2. Cut sleeves of shirt, aligning bottom of sleeve pattern with hem of sleeves, adding 1/2″ seam allowance everywhere but the hem.
  3. Fold sleeve in half, right side in then serge along the edge.  Repeat for second sleeve.
  4. Pin right side of dog shirt front to right side of dog shirt back, aligning hems and arm holes.  Serge.
  5. Insert sleeve into armhole, right sides together, and pin.
  6. Serge.
  7. Repeat for second arm hole.
  8. Pin shoulder portion together then serge.
  9. Remove collar from the thrifted tshirt, open out, pin and stitch together to create an 8.5″ wide band.
  10. Fold band in half then pin along neckline on outside of shirt, matching neckline to unfinished edge of band. Center the seam of the band in the center back of the shirt.
  11. Serge.
  12. Flip band right side up and press.
  13. Here I added a number and name (Tumbleweed, my mom’s name for Phoebes) with heat transfer vinyl that I cut with my Cricut.





Posted in Crafts & Sewing, Thrift Finds | 4 Comments


In the last two weeks Julius has been experiencing a lot more screen time than he ever has before…  In the past we’d let him watch one movie a week, now he has a daily conference call at 10:30am with daycare, and he watches 2 movies a day in the afternoon.  (Yes you read that right, Julius has been conference calling with his daycare – it’s adorable.)  Poor Will is taking the brunt of childcare activities during this quarantine because until a couple days ago I was working crazy hours and weekends.  (Now I’m working mostly normal hours and just every other Saturday.)  I can’t complain because unlike a lot of people I am able to continue working full time from home.

One of the activities during Julius’ daycare conference call this week was “a bear hunt”.  (If you haven’t heard about this, you should put a teddy bear in your window even if you don’t have a kid.)  I was not surprised to learn that his daycare was excited to share news of the international “bear hunt” since Julius made me aware that his class had read “Going on a bear hunt” a couple weeks ago.  This morning we went on a walk in our tiny neighborhood and found 3 bears!  But Julius assured me “I not scared”.

Julius and I are also baking and cooking to beat the quarantine blues!  We have made several batches of muffins in assorted types, peanut butter coconut flour cookies (when we couldn’t find regular flour), peanut butter ice cream and gnocchi to name a few.  The peanut butter ice cream was amazing, I used the Ben & Jerry’s recipe from their book (yes I have their book) and it was to die for.  The gnocchi I used in a vegetarian-ized version of Olive Garden’s Chicken and Gnocchi soup.  It was amazing.  Overall we’re eating pretty well during this quarantine.

My little chef has been wearing the apron I made him for Christmas during our cooking forays.  So far so good – it’s covered in stains so it must be doing it’s job.  This one was really quick to make.

Toddler Apron

What You’ll Need:

  • 1 yard of woven material of your choice (I used linen)
  • template here
  1. Cut out apron using template provided – be sure to cut on fold. 
  2. Cut a 16″x2.5″ strip for the neck and two 22.5″x2.5″ strips for the ties.
  3. Fold ties in half, press.  Fold under 1/2″ all around (with the exception of one side on the length.  Press and stitch.
  4. Fold neck loop in half, press.  Fold under 1/2″ on the long edge. Press and stitch.
  5. Form a rolled hem on all sides of the apron except the top.  Press and pin.
  6. Feed the unfinished end of one raw strap underneath the rolled hem you just pinned on one side of the apron where the apron makes a point. Then fold strap so the end faces out from the apron.  Pin.  Repeat with second strap on opposite side.
  7. Stitch all around the rolled hem you created, making sure to securely attach the straps you pinned.
  8. Fold the neckline down 1/2″ and then another 1″ to form a thick rolled hem.  Pin.
  9. Insert one end of the neck strap under the rolled hem on one edge, then fold up so the strap protrudes from the top of the apron.  Pin.
  10. Repeat for the second side of the neck strap, taking care to avoid twisting the neck strap.
  11. Stitch close to all edges of the 1″ rolled hem.
  12. Decorate as desired!  (I of course decided Muffin Man was apropos!)
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It’s a-me…Paper Mario Party!

I’m going to keep this brief because in the morning of my one day off this week I started seeing halos and then my vision went into that completely fractured migraine vision.  Looking at a screen for more than 5 minutes at a time still splits my head in two, but the show must go on!  Luckily I have a guest blog post from my brother and sister in law that I’ve been meaning to show you!  It’s actually perfect for the current circumstances where everyone is looking for something to do remotely.  We had so much fun playing at Christmas, it was such a blast, but I’ve ruined too much already!  Read on!

Hi, Lady Beekeeper readers! This is a guest post by Lexi’s brother and sister-in-law, Mark and Erin. Lexi generously invited us to share one of our recent DIY projects with you.

Every year on Christmas Eve, the Collins siblings stay up late and play Mario Party–specifically, Mario Party 3 for the Nintendo 64 (this is a detail only the Collins kids themselves would appreciate). The tradition continues even after we all grew up, went off to college, found our significant others, and had kids. Unfortunately this year, we (Mark and Erin) were unable to attend the yearly festivities in Rhode Island due to the impending birth of baby Artemis. We didn’t want to miss out on this most sacred of Collins Christmas traditions and we didn’t have an online emulator that we could use to play as a group in 3 different locations, so we had to improvise. Erin researched Mario Party statistics, re-calibrated the game mechanics, and designed the board. Mark did the artwork, wrote up the rules, and provided true insider knowledge of elements crucial to the game (basically, a lot of gimmicks that make the game more about luck than skill). We both had a lot of fun creating the mini-games!

Once the game was finished, we mailed identical versions of the board and supplies to the other players—one set for each couple. Everyone was told to look out for a mysterious envelope in the mail. Unfortunately we did not take into account that Lexi, Will, and Julius were spending Christmas in Rhode Island. Poor Will had to drive all the way back to Massachusetts to collect a plain Manila envelope from their mailbox. Thanks, Will!

All in all the game was a success (at least we think so)! The mini-games were a hoot and, after the post-game stars were awarded, Bailey (as Donkey Kong) was our Mario Party Champion!

Paper Mario party board with playing pieces and assorted paraphernalia.

Game board came complete with Item Shop and Toad!

Paper Mario Party: Christmas Edition 

Step 1: The Board

A standard Mario Party game is 10 rounds. This seemed a bit ambitious for a game played over a three-way phone-call, so we cut our version down to 5 rounds. We looked at some of the standard Mario Party 3 boards and decided to use 20 spaces (10 blue, 2 red, 5 event spaces, and 1 Bowser space). Our board also included an Item Shop and a Start space, but players only pass through these spaces and cannot actually land on them. In honor of Christmas, we designed the board with frosty ice cream cones and a disgruntled, snowball-throwing yeti. We mapped out the route and tried to evenly distribute all the spaces. We also gave everyone 10 starting coins (the cost of a star) so that things would move quickly.

Since he was hand-drawing three identical game boards, Mark used two pieces of 8.5 x 11 printer paper. He also added an Item Shop with a pop-up Toad, saying his signature: “Hiiiiiiiii!”

Step 2: The Rules

To keep things fair, we typed up a set of rules and sent them to all the participants when we started the game. The rule book had explanations for how the star location moved, what happened on different event spaces, what the Bowser space entailed, what to do if a player landed on a space with another player, and how stars would be awarded at the end of the game. Most of these actions involved dice rolls to keep everything fair. The official rule book is included here with this post.

Step 3: The Mini-Games

In between each round of Mario Party, there is a short mini-game. Some mini-games are team-based, some are 1-vs-all, and some are free-for-alls. Below are the mini-games that we chose for Paper Mario Party. Most minute-to-win-it games would work. You can really pick whatever minute-to-win-it game looks fun to you or whatever game you happen to have the supplies for.

Mini-Game #1: Santa-Grams (Free-for-All)

Basically, this mini-game is a simple Christmas-themed tangram challenge. Each player is given a set of tangram shapes, then a tangram shape silhouette is revealed (ours was a Christmas tree!). The first player to replicate the shape with all their tangram pieces wins!

Materials (per person):

  • 1 set of tangram shapes. These are easy to find online, print out, and cut up.
  • 1 tangram shape silhouette. Again, there are tons of examples online. Mark selected one because he has the worst memory, so would be least likely to remember the solution!

Mini-Game #2: Snowball Fight (Teams)

In this mini-game, team members must stand fingertip to fingertip facing each other. Players have 30 seconds to catch as many ice cubes in the measuring cup as possible. The trick is that the teammate with the ice cubes is only permitted to spit them towards the cup that the second player holds. The team to get the most ice cubes in their cup in the time limit wins!

Materials (per team):

  • 1 standard 1-cup measuring cup. Really, any cup would work, but we figured this was a standardized kitchen appliance that everyone owns.
  • 1 bowl of ice. The winning team got an absurdly high final score, so we recommend putting a lot of cubes in your bowl!
  • maybe some towels?

Mini-Game #3: Bouncing Baubles (Free-for-All)

The objective of this mini-game is to keep 3 balloons in the air as long as possible using only one hand. (This was significantly more difficult than originally expected!) Players are eliminated until the last one with all three of their balloons in the air wins!

Materials (per person):

  • 3 balloons. Bonus points if they are fun colors and resemble Christmas ornaments!

Mini-Game #4: I’m Dreaming of a [Blank] Christmas (1-vs-All)

This mini-game is modeled after the party game “What is Yours Like?”. In this version, the guesser leaves the room, while the clue-givers are given 3 categories and must come up with short descriptions to accurately describe what their thing is like without being too obvious. The guesser must correctly identify the category based only on their descriptions–best 2 out of 3. Lexi was our guesser, so she left the room. In keeping with the Christmas theme, our categories were: your stocking, your Christmas tree, and your favorite day of “The 12 Days of Christmas”. The clues for “The 12 Days of Christmas” included things like: “mine is the bird in the fruit tree” (Partridge in a Pear Tree), “mine is for some reason bigger and louder than all the rest” (Five Golden Rings), “mine is foreign fowl” (Three French Hens), “mine is a gestating gaggle” (Six Geese A’Laying). Lexi was a champ and managed to discover all three categories!


  • Nothing! Just pick out some fun categories.

Mini-Game #5: Snow Job (Teams)

In this mini-game, each team must place their pile of “snowflakes” (really, small circles of paper) on one surface and the official “snowflake landing pad” on another with a standard measure of string to mark the distance between the two. The first player picks up the snowflake and passes it to their teammate, who deposits it on the landing pad. The tricky part is that both players are only allowed to use their mouths! The team to get the most snowflakes on the snowflake landing pad in 30 seconds wins. Note: This game involved so much laughing that one team did not successfully move a single snowflake!  (edit by Lexi: that team was Will and I, I just could not handle it.)

Materials (per team):

  • 1 snowflake landing pad. For this, we used an 8.5 x 11 piece of paper that Erin decorated to say “Snowflake Landing Pad.”
  • 11 snowflakes. Erin cut out 3-inch diameter circles from printer paper with fabulous snowflake designs. Poster board was originally tested, but it proved too heavy.
  • 1 piece of string. The length isn’t super important as long as all teams have the same length. We very scientifically measured the distance from our kitchen table to the kitchen counter as the standard distance, so our string was about 10 feet.

Step 4: The Game Pieces

We made small tokens for each character out of poster board and decorated them with symbols or initials that matched our chosen characters. We kept these pretty small so that they would fit nicely on the spaces. Our game included the characters: Mario, Luigi, Peach, Yoshi, Waluigi, and Donkey Kong.

While it wasn’t quite the same as playing old-school Mario Party 3 at the Collins family home with a couple of broken controllers, Paper Mario Party was a rousing success. (Plus, everyone could play, not just 4 people at a time!)

Disclaimer: All Mario Party names, images, and references are solely the property of—please don’t sue us, Nintendo!

Posted in Crafts & Sewing, Parties | Leave a comment

Hat’s Off

Well I was feeling disheartened about the recent pandemic, and almost decided to put off blogging for a while.  Then I realized, “wait! If I am disheartened, others are too!  What better time than this to put some cheer out there into the interwebs?”  So here is your Monday cheer report.   (Sorry if there’s a lot of tongue in cheek humor this week.)

So let’s recap the last week’s events from the point of view of a germaphobe.  I was supposed to fly out today (Sunday; writing this a day early) to Austin for a work event lasting 2 weeks consisting of hundreds of travelers, during the week of SXSW.  I’ve been freaking out about this for a while.  Monday Intel cancelled all domestic flights for work, so my trip was cancelled.  I started freaking out about transmission of COVID19 in the office on Monday when they recalled a bunch of people back to our office from business in CA. Tuesday, Intel instilled a “work from home if you desire” policy.  I finally got so freaked out that on Thursday I worked it out with my managers to work from home until further notice.  Friday, Intel issued a strongly suggested work from home policy for those who are able to work from home.  I also convinced Will to work from home, since HPE had a “work from home if you talk to your manager” policy.  Now I’m just worried about Julius (affectionately known as the plague bearer) contracting it at daycare.  Today, the governor of MA issued 3 weeks of shut downs for schools and dine in restaurants and gatherings of more than 25 people.  So guess that means day care… Honestly this is all just affirming my germaphobia.  Maybe I’m not a germaphobe?!

I’ve been reading the CDC recommendations daily, so when they announced 3 weeks ago to prepare for a pandemic with canned goods I went out and bought enough soup and beans (vegetarian protein) to last us for a month.  It was far enough in advance that I got some strange looks from the cashiers.  Will returned to the grocery store today and reported back that everything I bought 3 weeks ago is still in stock, but that they were nearly out of toilet paper and meat.  The only silver lining I can envision from all this whole situation is that the pandemic may turn everyone into vegetarian hippies.

Julius has no problem eating vegetarian.  Today he glommed down his plate of crock pot chana masala we made together and asked for more!   Yesterday, Will fed Julius palak paneer while I was working from home in the other room and Julius kept exclaiming “yummy, yummy tummy!”  from the other room.  (His version of “yummy in my tummy”.)  It was adorable.

While Julius and I haven’t been baking as much, he has been helping me quite a bit in the kitchen.  I made Julius a chef’s hat and apron for Christmas to go with his kitchen playset.  He’s been wearing both in the kitchen when cooking with me.  I’ve explained to him that my “sous chef” gets to wear a fancy hat which further increases his desire to cook with me.  Today I’ll show you how to make a toddler chef’s hat in less than an hour!

Toddler Chef’s Hat

What you’ll need:

  • 1 yard of white cotton fabric
  1. Cut 22″ diameter circle of fabric and 21″x7″ strip of fabric for hatband. (.5″ seam allowance included everywhere)
  2. Pin strip of fabric end to end to form band of hat.  Stitch.
  3. Fold band in half, so unfinished seam is inside.
  4. Stitch a wide running stitch all around the outside of the circle, close to the edge.
  5. Pull up the edges to gather the circle.
  6. Pin circle to hatband, unfinished edges together.  Pull up gathers to fit.
  7. Stitch hatband to cap.  Turn right side out.  If you desire, you can add elastic to the back of the hat so it has a more snug fit.

Posted in Crafts & Sewing | 2 Comments


“Neither fire nor wind, birth nor death can erase our good deeds” – Buddha (paraphrased by Jack Kornfield)

Okay guys, I have another vegetarian recipe for you this week!  Just joking, don’t worry!  Instead – the next best thing – an upcycling craft!  You see, my grandma passed away last week.  Yes, this is my grandma Kohm who kept all the German food and traditions alive and who I very recently mentioned a couple weeks ago in this post.  I’m happy to say my grandma will always live on in all the traditions she passed down to us, that we all hold so dear.  This includes her love of all living things and the Earth!  My grandma was a regular green thumb (I did not inherit that from her sadly) and my grandparent’s postage stamp backyard was always a verdant jungle of fresh fruits and vegetables.  And for as long as I can remember (I’m certain much longer) my grandma always composted her kitchen scraps for that fabulous garden of hers.  I started composting because of her!  She also was an avid seamstress and upcycled all she could – a skill/desire that I’m certain was passed down to me from both my grandmas.   I hope they’d both approve of this craft.

This craft was born from the netting that I didn’t want around the Christmas tree, but was already around the tree by the time we got back from our walk to get it.  I’ve been wanting to make lightweight produce bags for a while, but I decided not to buy any new material this year (did I mention that?!)  The netting has been hanging around my basement, since, well, Christmas so I finally tried to make a produce bag out of it.  It was slightly time consuming, but it seems to hold up well and it is definitely very lightweight!  And as an added bonus I’m not accidentally killing any dolphins or porpoises or adding to trash island.

Upcycled Produce Bag

What you’ll need:

  • 2/3 yard of lightweight netting
  • 20″ of 1″ thick woven trim
  • 1 yard of kitchen twine
  1. Cut a roughly 16″x16″ square from the lightweight netting.
  2. Stitch ends of trim together.
  3. With needle and thread, hand stitch each loop of the netting to the “bad side” of the trim (where the unfinished edges face in), spacing the netting evenly over the whole trim.
  4. Trim off any unruly threads.
  5. After the hand stitching is complete, machine stitch on top of the hand stitching on a very narrow straight stitch setting.
  6. Fold the trim in half, enclosing the raw edges of the netting.
  7. Machine stitch very close to where the edges of the trim meet.   Leave a 1″ gap opened somewhere along the perimeter.
  8. Using a yarn needle, thread the kitchen twine into the 1″ gap and through the perimeter of the bag.  Knot loose ends of twine together.



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This past Thursday morning Will was packing for PAX in the man cave (aka the room where we keep all the board games).  The man cave happens to share a wall with the bedroom where Julius and I were getting ready for the day.  Will was being extremely loud and making lots of noise so Julius kept asking “what’s that?”  I explained to him that it was just Dada in the man cave to which he questioned in a terrified voice, “bears?”  (Bears after all live in caves.)

So I typically don’t like to post two recipes in a row since I have so many crafts lined up, but I feel like this is a special exception because I have very recently discovered the joy of seitan (aka wheat meat)!  This very gluten-intolerance unfriendly menu item is basically a big ball of seasoned gluten!  Sound disgusting?  Wrong!  It basically tastes like bread when you screw it up, and meat when you do it right!  You can’t go wrong!  And it has an incredibly weird (in a good way) meat like texture.  I think it’s best in flavorful sauces, but my attempt at “beef” stew with it came out delicious enough to post.

Gabe was clearly fueling my obsession with love of Geralt with this year’s program art.

Anyway, the reason my wheat meat recipe must be posted today is because of this Penny Arcade comic that allows me to pinpoint the first time I’d ever heard of seitan.  And more importantly did I mention we went to PAX this weekend?!  We didn’t see Tycho this time so I couldn’t ask him about wheatloaf, but we did get to play lots of fun board games and video games.  My personal favorites were Maquette, Barrage, and Die Crew but we played lots of great ones.  As a sidebar – I have totally forgotten how to play a first person viewpoint game so my skill borderline incompetence has gotten even worse.  This made it slightly nerve wracking to play Maquette in public in front of other humans who are video game competent.  Given that, it speaks volumes that it was my #1!  Anyway, go make some wheatloaf, play some games and don’t forget to vote tomorrow for those who observe Super Tuesday.

Yum. Almost-beef stew.

Wheatloaf Stew


  • 2 cup Vital Wheat Gluten
  • 1/2 cup chickpea flour
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 tbsp miso paste
  • 10 cups veggie broth
  • 1 cup wine
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 4 carrots, peeled or scrubbed and chopped into large dice
  • 4 sticks of celery, chopped
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 3 or 4 potatoes, peeled and chopped into large dice
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3 tbsp corn starch
  • pepper to taste

Note: I started with this fabulous recipe for the seitan and it came out great!  As usual though I made the preparation lazier so my steps are for my lazified version below.

To make the Seitan:

Place the vital wheat gluten and chickpea flour in the bowl of your mixer, stir.  Add water and stir. When dough starts to come together switch to dough hook attachment and knead on low for 5 minutes.  Let rest for 5 minutes.  Combine the miso paste, veggie broth and wine in a stockpot and bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer.  Cut the dough ball into pieces that resemble 3/4″ thick steaks.  Add to the broth and simmer for 1 hour.  When the hour is complete, reserve remaining cooking liquid and divide the steaks into 3 portions.  Reserve 2 portions in the freezer for later, then chop the other portion into bit size cubes.  Note- I varied mine in size, but the concensus was that the smaller the cubes, the better it absorbed the flavor, so keep the seitan at like 1/2″-3/4″ dice. 

A dough hook makes seitan dough kneading a breeze.

Seitan dough becoming seitan

Finished seitan, cooling.  Looks weirdly like meat, right?

To make the Stew:

Heat oil over medium heat in the stock pot you used for the seitan.  Add onion and seitan.  Brown seitan on all sides and cook onions, stirring occasionally.  When seitan is browned, add carrots, potatoes, celery and bay leaves.  Cover with reserved liquid from the seitan cooking step.  (Note: if there isn’t enough reserved liquid remaining, add vegetable broth to cover the vegetables.)   Bring to a simmer and simmer for an hour.  Mix cornstarch with 1/4 cup of water and stir with a fork until combined into a liquid.  Add to the pot, stirring the stew constantly to incorporate it and prevent it from clumping.  Simmer for another 5 minutes to thicken then season with salt and pepper and serve.

Prepped veggies and seitan

Simmering stew components



Posted in Culinary Delights | 2 Comments

Sweet Dish of Meatballs

You’ve probably heard me talk about my grandma’s Swedish Meatballs at some point in time (maybe here, here, or here).  My grandma used to make them every year for Christmas and over the years my mom and I have slowly taken over making them.  For this reason I’ve gotten lazier smarter in my preparation of meatballs.  The original recipe requires you to lovingly pan fry them a few at a time but when you’re making 200 meatballs that gets really old, really fast.

The other problem is that the delicious Swedish meatballs my grandma makes contain not one, but two types of meat!  This makes them twice as non-vegetarian (that’s definitely how that works).  German food and gravy are two of the things making me want to cave on this whole vegetarian thing.  I was looking over one of my recipes, which was chicken schnitzel with mushroom gravy, the other day and realized that pretty much the entire world of my grandma’s German cooking is out the window.  That is not okay!    This (and selfishness for not being able to eat Swedish meatballs on Christmas) lead me to attempt a vegetarian version of Swedish meatballs from Impossible Meat.  It was darn close to the original and I’ve had it 3 times now.  Plus with all the shortcuts passed down in the Kohm/Collins/now-Colton family, it is a breeze to make (as far as Swedish meatball making goes).  Now to figure out how to vegetarianize rouladen

‘Meat’balls over spaetzle!

Grandma Kohm’s Vegetarianized Swedish Meatballs


  • 2 packages (12 oz each) of Impossible Meat
  • 1.75 tsp allspice
  • ½ c breadcrumbs
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1 tbsp graded onions
  • 1 tsp fresh parsley minced (or 2 tsp dried – I know most people say halve the dried herbs, but in this recipe, don’t)
  • 1/2 tsp salt (or to taste)
  • olive oil
  • 2 cans of mushroom gravy**

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Combine all ingredients except mushroom gravy and olive oil.  (It is easiest to mix with your hands to really get everything properly combined.)  Let stand 30 minutes for flavors to mingle.  Scoop meat by teaspoonful and roll into balls.  Place on a rimmed baking tray, drizzled with olive oil and either toss balls in olive oil or lightly spray with olive oil.  Bake at 400 for 10 min until the meatballs have browned, then flip meatballs and cook for 7 more.  At this point you can freeze the meatballs* on a new tray in the freezer until firm and transfer to ziplock bags or freezer proof containers for storage.  If you would like to eat them right away, stick them in a large saucepan, cover with the mushroom gravy and bring to a simmer, stirring periodically to prevent the meatballs from sticking to the bottom of the pan.  Let simmer for 30 minutes so the meatballs impart flavor to the sauce.  Serve over spaetzle.  

*To reheat the meatballs from freezing I usually stick them all in a crock pot in the morning, throw the sauce on top and cook on low until dinner time.

**My grandma is the original smart cook, she used to make a delicious gravy to go over the swedish meatballs but eventually realized that canned gravy worked nearly as well and took way less time to make.

Combine ingredients

Meatballs prior to rolling.

Meatballs after the first browning step.

Finished browned meatballs.

Posted in Culinary Delights | 2 Comments

Short stacks

Julius has had so much fun this past week with his cousin Finnegan!  They have been doing lots of adorable things together with lots of adorable giggles.  After the first evening Julius spent with Finn I went up to his room to say goodnight because I was late home from work.  I asked him what he thought of his new cousin Artemis and his response was “baby’s crying” because at the time she was indeed crying.  Then seconds later he got all excited and said, “oh! Finn’s here!” And I told him that I knew and that it was very exciting.  His response was “I like cousin Finnegan” in the cutest contemplative little boy voice ever.

A rare photo where both boys were (mostly) in focus (usually one or the other was blurry due to constant movement).

In other news,  we’ve learned this weekend that while Julius’ love of baking may be waning, his love of music is only just beginning.  He saw Aunt Mandy’s guitar this week and could not contain his excitement.  He asked to play it about a dozen times. My favorite part?  He called the guitar strap “seatbelt”.  Watching Julius play the guitar while singing was adorable.  And I got front row seats! (“Mama sit.” says Julius, patting the ground in front of him.)  The only ones closer were Julius’ loveys Gaga, Sheepey and Baby Sheepey (who got stage seats).

The face of a future rock star.

Despite Julius’ new found love I still decided to reorganize my cabinets for easy access to my muffin tins.  You know, just in case his love of baking renews.  I have this incredibly long, thin cabinet where I keep my baking sheets, cutting boards and cooling racks.  It’s so deep that I also keep all my muffin tins (mini muffin tins included) in there behind the baking sheets.  This is fine when you only need to make muffins every so often, but it got to the point where I’d be pulling out the muffin tins more often than the baking sheets!  In addition to being long and thin, it is also very tall.  To solve the muffin problem I decided to grow vertically.

Baking Half Shelf

Before – Check out all that clutter! You can barely make out the stack of muffin tins behind all the front row baking paraphernalia.

The shelf is an old piece of scrap cabinet that I cut to 10″ deep by 7.5″ wide and sits 17″ above the floor of the cabinet, leaving a shelf 11″ high space for me to slide muffin tins and cooling racks onto.

Finished shelf sits 17″ above the bottom of the cabinet and only protrudes less than halfway into the depth of the cabinet, so if needed taller items can still fit in the front space.

I used repurposed those Ikea wall mounting brackets as the braces for my shelf and screwed the braces onto the shelf before I mounted it.

Note the repurposed Ikea brackets.

Because the cabinet is only 7.5″ wide, mounting the whole thing inside the cabinet was a task of perseverance and raw muscle.  I used a short handled ratcheting screwdriver (that I got from a Yankee Swap several Christmases ago and LOVE) and lower arm muscle to drive the screws into the walls of the cabinet.  The walls were made of some kind of compressed hardboard type board so it was VERY difficult to get them to bite.  I attempted several times to tap in some nail holes to use as pilot holes with limited success.  (7.5″ minus the length of a nail is not very much room to hammer a nail…)  I don’t have a picture of this because it was nearly impossible to wedge myself into the cabinet in such a way that I could reach that far back.  It was completely selfie proof.

Look at how much more organized my cabinet looks!

The shelf works great and makes my cabinet feel so much more organized!  I no longer have to move things around to get access to my muffin tins and I even had space to put my cooling racks on the shelf, making the bottom space feel roomier!

Wow! Everytime I open my cabinet I stand in awe of the baking organization!

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