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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50’s Flair

Sorry dear friends, I was terribly sick yesterday and I was out of commission for blog posting, or for anything really.  Julius keeps incubating more and more terrible bugs it seems because this one was the worst so far!  But I owe you a post about my science skirt!  (Or my I’ve-been-watching-too-much-Mrs. Maizel skirt?)  I got this adorable fabric at fabric.com and the next day we decided on “science” for a fun Friday theme.  Serendipity?  Sort of!  I do have a bit of say in our fun friday themes…

Just like the underskirt, I based the pattern on piece 8 of the Simplicity dress pattern here.  Somehow I forgot to take a picture of the skirt the day I wore it and I look like a train wreck today, so you’ll have to just settle for my perky mannequin until I feel better (UPDATE 3/3/19 – I finally added photos of me wearing the skirt).  Other adjustments to this skirt for when I feel better?  Pockets.  How could I forget pockets?!  

1950’s style skirt

What you’ll need:

  • 3 yards of cotton material (pre washed & dried)
  • 1 7inch zipper
  • Pattern here*

*I am a size 4/6, but the skirt pattern should work for a couple sizes up since it is very full. You’ll just have to gather a bit less to fit your waistband.  If you are tall (I am only 5’3″ you may need to lengthen the skirt a bit to your liking).

  1. Cut out 4 pieces of the pattern in cotton.
  2. Pin 4 cotton pieces, wrong sides together, edge to edge along 3 seams with 1/4″ seam allowance.  Stitch.  Trim seam allowance to 1/8″.  Press. 
  3. Turn seams right side in this time (so the seam you just stitched is sandwiched inside).  Pin & stitch a 1/4″ seam again.   (This is a french seam).   OR skip step 2 and 3 and stitch seams together (right sides together) as usual and serge.
  4. For the 4th seam (the back seam), serge along each unfinished edge.  Place right sides together and stitch with 1/2″ seam allowance leaving a 4.75″ gap from the waist end of the skirt.  Press 1/2″ seam allowance.
  5. Stitch along the 1/4″ mark using the longest stitch length.  Repeat along the 3/8″ mark.  Gather.
  6. Measure your waist and add one inch for seam allowance.  Cut a 6″x(waist+1)” strip of material for the waistband.
  7. Fold the waistband in half lengthwise (right sides in).  Stitch 1/2″ from each edge.  Trim the corner, turn right side out and press.
  8. Turn waistband inside out.   Pin unfinished edge of waistband to waist of skirt, right sides together, pulling up gathering stitches to fit.  Stitch.   (Make sure that the fold from the 1/2″ seam allowance on the skirt in step 4 matches with the fold of the waistband.)
  9. Turn waistband back right side out.  Fold the unfinished end of the waistband under 1/2″ so it encloses the unfinished gathers of the skirt.  Pin and stitch in the ditch along the right side of the skirt near the waistband so stitching is not sewn.
  10. Insert zipper.  Pin zipper to waistband and seam allowance you pressed in step 4 following zipper instructions.  Bottom of zipper should end slightly under the seam in step 4.
  11. Steps 11-13 are optional:  Cut 2 30″x6″ strips for ribbons.
  12.  Fold each strip in half lengthwise.  Stitch along length of each strip and one side of each strip.  Trim seams and clip corners and turn right side out. Press.
  13. Fold the unfinished edge into the ribbon 1/2″ so it does not show.  Pin each opened end of the ribbons to the waistband, 6″ from the zipper on either side.  Opened end should point towards the zipper and the finished end should point away.  Stitch along each opened end to attach to skirt and seal.
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Atomic Brownies

Julius has four more teeth as of yesterday!  He’s up to 10 teeth total which is half the number of baby teeth he’ll have overall.  I guess that could explain the recent fussiness.  And come to think of it may explain why he keeps running into the bathroom and demanding to use his toothbrush.  I guess he wants to keep those new pearly whites, pearly white.  After the third day in a row that he did this I finally tried to get him to show me inside his mouth.  This is a dangerous task since, much like a baby velociraptor, he tends to chomp on your fingers because he thinks it is funny.   Perhaps this is why it took me another three days to realize he didn’t have just one new tooth but four!

I believe I mentioned last week how we’ve been having different “fun friday” themes at my work.  This one was “Science Friday” which was surprisingly difficult for a lot of people.  I made a skirt, which I’ll show you how to make next week, and some fun themed brownies for my co-workers.  Of course – since I am an engineer and work with lots of engineers I feel the need to point out that these brownies are entirely fictional atoms.  I also need to point out that I am aware that helium doesn’t have 3 electrons (though I thank the multiple people who brought this up before eating the brownies).  And while we’re at it I’ll throw in that I know the Rutherford model is inaccurate (but that Rutherford is mostly irrelevant when you are devouring brownies).  Finally I know for a fact that these brownies are adorable and delicious, as evidenced by the lack of brownies I brought home from work on Friday.

Atomic Brownies

What you’ll need:

  • 2 – 6 muffin tins
  • brownie batter from here
  • offset spatula
  • size 2 pastry tip & pastry bag
  • mini baking m&ms or m&m minis
  • m&ms
  • vanilla frosting
  • chocolate frosting
  1. Grease muffin cups or line with cupcake liners.
  2. Make brownie mix and pour into 12 greased/lined muffin cups (fill about half full about 1/4 cup of mix)
  3. Bake brownies for 15 to 18 minutes, using care not to overcook them.
  4. When brownies are done, let sit in pans on wire racks until fully cooled (around 15 to 20 minutes).
  5. When brownies are completely cool, run a knife around the edge of the muffin tin and pull brownie out.  Repeat for other brownies.
  6. Stir frosting until soft – if I can’t get the light fluffy consistency I’m looking for I’ll using a hand mixer to whip the frosting into shape.
  7. Take a dollop of vanilla frosting with the offset spatula and smooth it onto the surface, holding the spatula level and turning the brownie.  Repeat for other brownies.
  8. Fill pastry bag with chocolate frosting and fit pastry bag with #2 tip. Draw an electron ring in the center of the cookie.
  9. Turn the cookie 1/6 of a turn.  Draw a second ring over the first ring.
  10. Turn the cookie 1/6 of a turn again.  Draw a third ring over the first two.
  11. Take 2 full size m&ms in one color and 2 full size m&ms in a second color and place in the center of the rings, alternating colors.
  12. Place a third color of mini m&m in each of the electron shells around the nucleus.  
  13. Give them to a group of engineers and watch them scoff*.

*As a side note, I’m concerned Randall Monroe is out to get me because he posted this comic on “Science Friday”.  I knew  I wasn’t the only computer engineer who didn’t remember the difference between the Rutherford and Bohr models!  I was just behind on my XKCD reading that morning!

Posted in Culinary Delights | 2 Comments

Tulle Infinity and Beyond


Even though Julius doesn’t really talk much, he is so much easier to communicate with now.  He seems to understand what we say a lot of the time and frequently will help me accomplish tasks like, bringing his bottle to the dishwasher to be washed, cleaning up the toilet paper he has ripped into bits or picking up the pile of items he has thrown all over the floor.  He is a destructive but repentant force.

I’ve started playing hide and seek with him and he usually loves it.  Well mostly I hide and he “seeks”.  He’s actually quite good at it!  I think it originally started as chase, but then I started hiding around corners and he would tentatively hunt for me.  The most impressive instance was the time when he found me in the closet with no hints.  He must have heard the door close!  Usually I have to cough a few times to lead him my direction…

Well the new year is bringing lots of new craft and food project ideas to the Colton household.  You may remember that I used to do Hawaiian shirt day every Friday at work in the summers which morphed into “Fancy Friday” though I was the only one that really observed Fancy Friday.  Eventually my co-workers agreed to do “Flannel Friday” with me in the fall and we got a pretty big group going wearing flannel and looking like hipsters.  A new co-worker joined our group and now we’ve migrated from Flannel Friday to Fun Friday.  A small group of us pick the attire for our team (around 100 people) to wear to work every week.

I think most people initially thought we were crazy, but around the holidays we held an ugly sweater Friday and people really got into it.  My manager, who is extremely fashionable, got a lot of grief because she wore a very trendy sweater on ugly sweater day while the rest of us looked like hot garbage.  To make up for her blunder, she was shamed into leaving work and driving to Walmart to buy the ugliest sweater she could find.  She came back with the most hideous invention I saw that day – complete with cats and LEDs.  Off record I think she won the contest.  Officially though, she opted out of the contest because she had to attend a meeting with my 4th level manager.  I’m proud to say she wore the sweater.

Julius LOVED my sweater.  My sweater, also from Walmart, featured half of a stuffed unicorn (the front half) glued to a polyester sweater.  He kept hugging the unicorn and flipping the sweater over to find (without avail) the unicorn’s other half.  I’m a little disappointed I didn’t make the sweater, but after seeing it I didn’t think it was top-able.  (Though I apparently hadn’t seen the cat sweater.)  This month is a bit tamer in terms of fashion, but I ordered some fabric specifically for the Fun Friday at the end of the month.  You’ll have to wait to see the fabric, but I’ve created what I think is a neat underskirt to add a little extra flair to any full skirt or little black dress you own.  The neat part is that the tulle portion is interchangeable!

Interchangeable Tulle Petticoat

What you’ll need:

  • 2.5 yards of medium weight linen or other breathable fabric
  • 3 yards of tulle
  • 16 to 18 sets of snaps
  • 1 yard of 1.5″ wide elastic (mine was recycled from a pair of Will’s boxers…)
  • Simplicity Pattern 1459 K5* or pattern here if you are size 4/6

*I used this Simplicity pattern as my basis – I’m a size US 4/6 so if you need another size you’ll have to follow my instructions to modify the pattern.

**Pictures and pattern will be posted 1/16/19!  Please stop back!

  1. Measure the distance from your waist to your knee and subtract 5″.  Take piece 8 from the Simplicity pattern (or pattern above)and shorten pattern to the length you calculated.
  2. Cut out 4 pieces of linen from pattern.
  3. Pin pieces together at sides and stitch 1/4″ from the unfinished edge.  Trim seam to 1/8″.  Repeat for all 4 seams.
  4. Press each seam so the unfinished edge is on the inside.  Stitch 1/4″ from fold.  This is called a French seam and prevents the unfinished edge from unraveling.  Press seam to one side.  Repeat step 4 for other 3 seams.
  5. Measure your waist and cut your elastic 1/2″ shorter than your waist length.
  6. Pin the ends of the elastic together and serge along edge.  Optional: open seam out and coverstitch over serged edge to make it lie flat.
  7. Mark along the edge of the edge of the elastic at 8 equidistant points by pressing flat then folding in half and in half again and marking at all the folds.
  8. At the waistband portion of the skirt (the narrower pattern pieces) mark the middle of each panel and each fold, forming 8 marks total.
  9. Pin the elastic to the waistband portion of the skirt, right sides together, matching marks.  With the elastic unstretched, the linen material will have a large amount of excess.  Simply roughly pleat that to match the width of the unstretched portion of elastic.
  10. Serge the elastic and linen together, working from one set of markings to another at a time.  Stretch each section before you serge it, letting the excess linen material that you pleated stretch to form a narrower pleat.  Repeat for the whole skirt.
  11. Turn right sides out.  Press.
  12. Try on the skirt, it should be about 5″ above your knees, if not, cut the hem down until it is 5″ above your knee.
  13. Hem the bottom of the skirt with a 1/2″ rolled hem.
  14. Insert snaps along the bottom of the skirt at 6″ intervals, alternating male and female snap connectors.  (Should be about 16 snaps).
  15. Cut 16’x3 yd strip of tulle.
  16. Cut a 1.5″x3 yd strip of linen.
  17. Fold tulle in half.Pin a strip of linen to the tulle, with the raw side of the linen lined up with the fold.
  18. Serge the edge.
  19. Form a rolled hem around the serged edge. Pin & stitch.
  20. Insert snaps along the hem you just created at 6″ intervals, alternating male and female.
  21. Repeat steps 15 to 20 for all colors of tulle desired!

To wear, snap tulle to skirt and put dress or skirt over!

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Reusable Resolutions

Well it wouldn’t be January without a nod to some resolutions for this year.  I have probably mentioned this before, but I try to make concrete commitments for the new year.  For example instead of “work out more” I say “do yoga twice a week”; instead of “eat healthy” I say “eat vegetarian two days a week” and instead of “lose more sleep” I say “post a blog entry once a week”.  Well I have one category this year that is throwing me for a loop.  I’d like to reduce our family’s environmental impact this year and Will said he would help me achieve that goal.  The problem is, it’s too darn vague.  Lately I have been thinking about reducing our waste (both trash and recycling) and started looking into ways to do this.  Since we already compost and recycle everything we can (above and beyond curb side recycling), I think the best way to create less waste is to buy less packaging.

Our biggest sources of waste (recycling, compost or trash) are from online shopping and food packaging from the grocery store.  Online shopping I can limit.  I’ll start condensing packages from Amazon and limiting my orders to monthly.  Or maybe I can have other friends go in on orders with me or something.  That one doesn’t seem that hard.  Food packaging is so much more difficult because of this little thing called the Department of Public Health (DPH).  First I tried locating what west coasters refer to as “package free stores”.  I was shocked to find that there is a strange dirth of these, not only around us in rural MA, but also in the more crunchy parts around Boston.  So instead, Will & I tried at multiple grocery stores to purchase bulk food using our own containers.  We were met with resistance due to employees not knowing if this was considered sanitary by the DPH.  Made me happy they are actively thinking about this – but frustrated for the environment!

I was still not twarted!  I decided to contact the DPH myself and find out the deal.  They responded VERY PROMPTLY with a link to the code governing retail food establishments and some key passages: https://www.mass.gov/files/documents/2019/01/04/Merged-Food-Code-11-16-18.pdf.  The bottom line?  Reusable cups provided by the customer are okay for beverages in certain circumstances, but reusable containers provided by the customer are never okay for food*.  Wow.  No wonder there are almost no BYO bag “package free stores” in Massachusetts – they are basically illegal!  On top of that, most food has to be completely covered in plastic to be sell-able.  I thought there might be contingencies for dry food like rice or beans, but the only exclusion I found is that there is no need for packaging for “nuts in the shell and whole, raw fruits and vegetables that are intended for hulling, peeling, or washing by the CONSUMER before consumption”.   Well there goes my plan.  Maybe I misread something?  To be continued… (I hope.)

Don’t let this stop your waste reduction though fellow Massholes!  There are still lots of ways you can make a difference.  For example I gave out reusable bamboo forks, knives and spoons as gifts this year.  Like me, my friends bring their lunch a lot of the time and frequently consume items that require silverware.  Most of the time this means using a disposable fork or spoon from the cafe.  Even if we save 50 forks from the landfill over a year per person I will be delighted.

My homemade Christmas gift this year.

Plus this gift is so economical I could give myself a present!   I have a set in my lunch bag for daily use and in my pocket book for just in case.  Each utensil can be purchased for $1.20 a piece and the pattern for the holder is below.  I hope this will inspire you to make your own little changes to help save the planet.

*from section 3-304.17 entitled “Refilling Returnables”

Reusable Utensil Holder

What you’ll need:

  • Either:
  • Heavyweight scrap fabric such as denim, upholstery weight velvet, canvas etc.
  • Lightweight scrap fabric to be used as contrast/lining
  • Or:
  • Medium weight scrap fabric
  • Single fold bias tape .5″ wide
  • Size 16 dritz snap
  • Pattern here
  1. Cut out pattern pieces as directed.
  2. Pin lining fabric to outer fabric for both pieces.
  3. Along the flat surface of the pocket fabric, open out the bias tape and place along the unfinished edge, outer fabric to right side of bias tape, pining along the bias tape fold line.  Stitch along the fold line.  Fold bias tape over unfinished edge, pin in place and stitch close to the first set of stitching, enclosing the entire edge.
  4. Lay pocket on top of backing, with lining material on the inside.  (Match the marks on the backing with the top of the pocket.)
  5. Open out bias tape as you did in step 3 with the fold 1/2″ from the edge, with unfinished edges parallel to one another.  Fold over the starting edge of the bias tape so the seam looks finished.  Pin all around the perimeter in this fashion, overlapping the start of the tape by half an inch.
  6. Stitch.
  7. Trim the seam to match the unfinished edge of the bias tape then fold the bias tape over the unfinished edge, pin in place and stitch close to the first set of stitching, enclosing the entire edge.
  8. Insert utensils into pouch and fold flap down over them so it holds utensils in snuggly.  Mark location for snap.
  9. Insert snap following manufacturer’s instructions  with the male end on the pocket and female end on the back of the flap so it will snap together when the flap is closed.
  10. Toss in your lunch bag and save the planet!

You may notice I have both a rounded flap and a pointed flap – I included both shapes in the pattern, just choose which you want when adding the bias tape.

 

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The Force is Strong with this Dog

I hope you all had a wonderful holiday season, and have great plans for ringing in the New Year tonight.  (Just so you know great plans can include going to bed early and greeting the new year well rested!)  Will, Julius and I celebrated “Lancaster Christmas” yesterday.  “Lancaster Christmas” is the one in which Santa shows up 6 days late bearing toys for Julius and lottery tickets and way too much half-priced candy for the adults.  Boy is Santa running behind (or he was just being frugal)!  We had a great time opening presents, despite a small disagreement between Dany and Julius over a stuffed llama that Dany received from Santa.  Poor Dany!  She pouted the rest of the day.  Julius and Dany really are like a pair of siblings!

Speaking of Dany, you may have noticed that she was sporting a fancy new lightsaber toy on the back of our Christmas card!  Well I made that lightsaber for her before I took the photo and I think it was a hit!  Since the photo shoot it has been torn in half and its insides have been removed.  That is the highest praise you can get with a dog toy!  If you want to make one yourself the instructions are below.  I used all scrap fabric and recycled components for mine, making it effectively free.

Lightsaber Dog Toy

  • 1 sq foot of thick grey fabric
  • 1/3 yard of 20″ or wider fabric in purple
  • 1/3 yard of 20″ or wider iridescent shimmer fabric (optional, but makes it look neat)
  • 1 party size potato chip bag
  • Squeaker 
  • Stuffing
  • The handle pattern here – note it is zipped, please unzip the .pes file before using.
  1. Take your thick grey fabric and embroider the handle pattern above using a 5″x8″ hoop.
  2. Cut around the embroidery to form an 8″x10″ square (the center line will be parallel to the short 8″ edge.
  3. Fold in half with the right side inside and stitch along the long edge.
  4. Using the scrap fabric leftover from the handle, cut out a 3″ diameter circle.
  5. Pin the circle (right side facing in) to end of the handle (closer to the shorter, thicker stripes).  Stitch.
  6. Turn right side out, stuff with stuffing and a squeaker and set aside.
  7. Take your iridescent fabric and your purple fabric and cut two 20″x5″ piece of each.
  8. Place the iridescent fabric pieces are sandwiched inside the two pieces of purple fabric.  
  9. Pin along the long end of the rectangle,over the end of the lightsaber and back down the other side, curving at the top. Stitch.
  10. Turn right side out and stuff with the potato chip bag.
  11. Hand stitch the handle to the purple saber.
  12. Remember this is a dog toy that is meant to be destroyed so don’t worry about getting it perfect.
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Merry Christmas to All

Merry Christmas!  Whether you celebrate or not I hope your day is fabulous!  We’re celebrating with my in-laws this year and I’m writing this minutes before we leave for the children’s church service.  We took Julius to see Santa earlier in the week, and though he doesn’t seem to understand that he is coming tonight, he does seem to recognize him and points him out on lots of different objects and pictures.

Yesterday we drove to see Julius’ great grandparents and on the way back he was getting a bit fussy.  Luckily his aunt Lauren had brought along a silly dog toy for him that barks Jingle Bells.  At some point during the drive I had to call Walmart customer service (longer story) and Julius listened intently to the call.  They were on speaker phone and asked for my order number, to which I responded with a brief pause and “umm, one moment” followed up immediately by a choir of dog barks which I guess Julius decided was the perfect hold music.  I could not keep it together after that.

This year we decided to go all in on Star Wars for our Christmas card after seeing Julius as an ewok on Halloween.  Here’s what we came up with:

Julius and I wore the same costume as Halloween, but I thought Will’s costume looked a bit too manufactured.  I didn’t have time to do too much so I kept the shirt and vest and focused on the bottom half of his outfit only (ironic since it is the only half that doesn’t show in the Christmas cards). I bought some navy blue pants at the thrift store and added a red and black striped piece of trim along the seam of each leg for the Corellian blood stripes.  I didn’t want to invest in real black riding boots, so instead I bought a piece of pleather and threw together some boot covers.  They took me less than half an hour to make and with his black dress shoes they worked really well.

Han Solo Knee High Boot Covers

  • 1 yard of black pleather fabric
  • 12 inches of black elastic
  • Waxed paper (optional – see note below)
  • pattern here

** NOTE: If you have any issues with the pleather sticking to your presser foot, simply place waxed paper above and below the pleather to surround it and stitch right through it.  After you are done sewing you can just rip away the waxed paper. 

  1. Cut out two pieces of pleather using the pattern here
  2. Fold one boot cover in half and pin along the unfinished edge.  Stitch.
  3. Fold the top of the boot cover down 1/2″ and stitch along the edge to finish it.
  4. Finish the bottom of the boots on the “stirrup” side by folding under 1/2″.  Stitch.
  5. Turn boot inside out.
  6. Attach a 6″ piece of elastic to the inside of one of the boot covers at the stirrup end.
  7. Attach other end of elastic to other stirrup.
  8. Repeat steps 2 through 7 for other boot. 
  9. Grab your ewok and wear with pride.
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King for a Day

Today is going to be the last post I do about projects for Julius’ first birthday unless someone requests I post another tutorial.  First though, I have some stories about Julius.

Our friends gave Julius an alphabet puzzle for Christmas which he was extremely excited about.  It came packaged in shrink wrap so after he was done carrying it around for a while I helped him open it up.  He immediately picked it up and held it vertically and the pieces all fell out.  He handed me pieces while I put it back together for him.  When the puzzle was complete he handed me the shrink wrap.  I realized what he wanted, but with no way to give it to him, I just sort of laid it on top of the puzzle and said “all done!”  Satisfied, he picked up the puzzle again to resume carrying it around the house.  Immediately he held it vertically again, dumping the pieces to the floor.  He looked down, saw what happened and then threw the plastic shrink wrap as if to say “well this was garbage”.  I thought it was pretty much the cutest thing ever.

Julius still doesn’t talk, but he is definitely better at getting his intentions across than ever before.  For the first time ever I felt like I really understood what he wanted.  After he woke up this morning, I changed his diaper and gave him a bottle of milk while we sat in the chair in his bedroom.  When he had finished the milk he pointed to his crib.  Sheepy was lying in his crib so I picked him up and gave him his stuffed animal.  But then he looked right back at the crib expectantly.  So I put him down in the crib and he immediately rolled over and went back to sleep!  He NEVER goes back to sleep after he wakes up for the day, but he’s recovering from a cold, so it is not surprising he needed some extra z’s.  But this is the first time he has pretty much asked to go to sleep.  Amazing!

You know what else is amazing?  This craft!  The crown is SUPER EASY to make – with just some basic cutting and sewing skills and some cheap felt you can make crowns for all your tiny royalty!  I modeled these crowns after the invitation I found on evite, and if you’re feeling so inclined you can bejewel them with decorations, or for older guests, let them decorate their own.  Since our guests were all less than one year old I decided to minimize choking hazards and leave them unadorned.   These should fit most princes and princesses from 0 to 3 years old.

Of course the owner of Whimsical Brims had a son who dislikes hats… He only will wear his crown for about 5 seconds. So here’s a picture of the king of the vacuum.

Royal Prince and Princess Crown

What you’ll need (per crown):

  1. Print out crown pattern and trace onto felt.
  2. Cut (I cut a couple crowns at once by pinning two pieces of felt together).
  3. Place one end of crown over the other end, overlapping.
  4. Pin a piece of velcro along the bottom of the crown where the two edges overlap, one on each side, so when the velcro overlaps it will form a crown.  (Note I used a slightly different sized piece of velcro for the loop portion of velcro since I always need more length of loop tape.  But you can make them both 5″ as I mention in the directions.)
  5. Stitch along the border of each piece of velcro.
  6. When placing the hat on the child’s head make sure the hook side (the scratchy side) of the velcro faces out.  Adjust sizing by velcro to fit child’s head.

    Finn is testing the crown out!

    Please, no photos, the king insists.

    Vicky modeling her crown.

    Joanna is being shy with her crown.

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The Main Dish

I just want to take a quick minute to say something to all my readers out there.  Thank you for reading!  Your support and continued cheery comments, or remarks on my projects when I see you in person, are the reason I haven’t given up on this blog endeavor.  Do you know how much I love hearing from you, readers?  Well, every few days I manually go through the comments on my blog.  99.6% of them are spam from Russian bots or ads for penis enhancements, but for every 249 disturbing spam comments I find that one real comment from you, dear readers, that puts a smile on my face.  That one real comment is the reason I continue to manually weed through my comments day in day out.  “Why don’t you just get a better plugin to weed out the spam comments?” I hear you ask.    Well, that’s a good question.

As promised, this week and next week I’m going to show you how to make another craft from Julius’ first birthday party.  After the birthday segment concludes I’ll show you some of the Christmas crafts that I’m making for folks this year.  (This is partially because I don’t want to give any family reading my blog any spoilers, but mostly because I haven’t made anything yet.  Oops.)

This week I’m going to show you how I did the “Hey Diddle Diddle” dish ran away with the spoon plates.  For this project, I had a lot of help from my brother and sister in law when they should have been sleeping while their son slept!  Thank you both!  For this craft you’ll need two plates per place setting, one in clear and one in an opaque color scheme.  Ideally two plates that fit inside one another like these are the best choice.  I know, I know, the environmentalist in me is kicking herself for doubling the trash.  If you’re like me you’ll get plates that are at least recyclable or compostable…

Dish-Ran-Away-with-the-Spoon Plate

What you’ll need (per plate):

  • 1 clear plastic plate (see note above)
  • 1 opaque plate (see note above)
  • 1 plastic spoon
  • 1 sheet of cardstock
  • black sharpie
  • acrylic paint
  • Glue tape or Advanced tape glider or even a glue gun would work
  • arm pattern and face templates here
  1. Take one of your clear plates and flip is so the back side is facing you.
  2. Draw a cartoon face on the back of the plate in sharpie (Can’t draw?  Print these sheets out then trace one of these designs my brother created instead!)
  3. Using a paintbrush, color in any areas where you don’t want the plate color to show through.  For instance – the whites of eyes, mustaches, teeth, tongues etc.  Let dry.
  4. When the paint has dried, apply a bit of glue tape around the top edge of the opaque plate and press the clear plate on top.  (My plates didn’t quite fit within each other so I couldn’t quite do this.)
  5. Next, cut out two arms on your cardstock using the template provided.
  6. Arrange the arms on a table under your plate as you’d like them to appear.  The arms must be under the base of the plate by at least an inch.
  7. Make sure the thumbs are facing the correct direction, then remove the plate and put a bit of tape glue on the base of each arm.  Firmly press the plate on top of the arms, fixing them in place.
  8. Take your spoon and place it in the palm of one of the hands you just glued.  Apply glue tape to the side of the spoon closer to the wrist.  Gently curve the mitten portion of the hand over the spoon and into the blob of glue tape, pressing firmly to secure.

 

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