Basket Case

Well this was a stressful weekend!  Will and I went back to Cornell for our 10 year reunion and spent 5 days in upstate New York with Mister Julius.  The poor guy didn’t get a proper nap for 5 days (it was too hot in the dorm room) and he was getting a bit crazy by the end.  Poor little man.  It was a good lesson that naps make everything better!  He is 9000x easier when we keep him on a regular sleeping/napping schedule!  (Something to consider working on if your child is a terror and doesn’t nap?  Maybe!  I really don’t know!)  I just hope he sleeps properly tonight.

Even before the nap weekend incident Julius has been doing some frustrating things.  Instead of shaking his head vigorously ‘no’ when we ask him to do something he doesn’t want to do, he now shrieks.  It is an ear piecing scream (like a velociraptor) that is enough to make anyone deaf.  We are doing our best to ignore it and show him no reaction, but it is difficult…

Something we aren’t ignoring is his vocabulary!  He’s starting to learn more words!  On top of mama, dada, all done, more, duck, cat, dog plus every animal sound you’ve ever heard (and some others) he’s added car and tree to the list this past weekend.  He no longer says “sit sit bye bye” but now “sit” and “car”.

The project I’m going to show you today is how I revamped an old basket that we use outdoors to hold Dany’s squeaky tennis balls.  The basket has a metal frame and some type of woven material that seemed fairly waterproof.  After a dozen seasons of sun, rain and snow it finally kicked the bucket and the material started disintegrating off the metal frame.  In the interest of saving something from the landfill, I kept the metal frame.  After getting up the motivation I finally finished the project on Easter (it took me several hours to complete) just in time for the Easter bunny!  (The Easter bunny filled Julius’ Easter eggs with stickers and Yogis – the yogurt snacks, not the people!)

The basket on the right is woven from Hannaford’s grocery bags!

Revamped Wire Basket

What you’ll need:

  • A wire basket frame, you could make one yourself out of coat hangers, or get one from the dollar store.
  • plastic bags (mine were brown hannaford bags, and I needed 20 for my 6x10x5 basket)
  1. Lay a bag out flat on a table then cut bag in half down the middle from top to bottom so you have two symmetrical halves.
  2. Slit down the side seams of each half of the bag to form two loops.
  3. Cut the top along each loop to form two long strips.
  4. Tie strips together at one end.
  5. Just tie more strips on when you are running low; I found it was unmanageable to work with more than a couple strips tied together at a time.
  6. Starting at the base, weave in and out of the basket bottom, twisting the plastic bag strip slightly as you go.  When you reach an end of the basket, loop over and return the other way.
  7. When the base is complete, bring your plastic bag strip up the side of the basket slightly and start weaving the walls of the basket.  Push down each full row so plastic bag rows fit tightly together.  They will compress quite a bit.
  8. When you reach the top of the basket, start loops along the top rail to cover it, do NOT twist the plastic bag strip so that the plastic bag overlaps on itself and covers any gaps.
  9. When you reach the end, tie off and trim the excess plastic bag.
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Push Over

So I’m just now coming to terms with the fact that Julius listens to everything we say.  Yesterday when I went to take him out of his crib he kept saying “pop pop ooh ooh aah aah” over and over again.  When I finally figured out that’s what he was saying, I realized he wanted this book that Erin and Mark got him called “Poke a Dot – 10 Little Monkeys” which I sometimes call “Pop Pop Monkeys”.

Today he kept asking for “sit buh bye” which had me completely stumped.  I knew that he wanted to sit in the front seat of the car and pretend to drive (since he was gesturing wildly and frustrated at the front seat), but I had no idea why that was “sit buh bye”.  Later it dawned on me.  The first time I sat him in the driver seat of the car, a couple weeks ago, I closed the door and said “bye bye” (and pretended like he was driving away) which he thought was hilarious.  I completely forgot about it until today.

In other news, he really has started to push my buttons.  Will is the rigid, structured parent while I am the push over who tries to negotiate with her toddler.  Have you ever tried to negotiate with a toddler?  Let me save you some time and tell you it would be easier to teach math to a duck.  How did this happen?!  (I guess duck evolution just didn’t favor algebra skills.)

I really, really don’t want Julius to know I’m the push over, but it is already too late.  I have started to dread bath time because getting Julius to come out of the bath always ends in tears or else a 30 minute delayed bed time.  Will is out of town this week; it’s only day one of Mommy daycare and I was a solid 58 minutes late putting him to bed.  But, it wasn’t all dawdling or I (probably) wouldn’t have let it happen.  He accomplished a lot in that extra 58 minutes of time.  For the second day in a row he has done all his business on the potty before his bath AND he ate more vegetables (and way more dinner) than I’ve seen him eat in a week.  (He hasn’t eaten much in the last few days.) As an added bonus I didn’t have to deal with ANY tears.  I know you’re reading this Will, so, yes, I was 58 minutes late, and yes, I really am sorry there is no real excuse.  To make it up to you, I’ll make you some peanut butter bars.

My mom makes these peanut butter kiss cookies that Will has deemed “the best”.  She has tweaked the recipe so they come out perfect.  They are a lot of work.  Not only do you have to unwrap by hand a million Hershey’s Kisses, but you also have to roll the peanut butter batter into balls (these aren’t drop cookies, which are already too much work for me), then after cooking press a kiss into each one.  Who’s got time for that?!  (My mom makes the time for Will, who long ago we deemed the “favorite child” in our family.  For perspective she calls these “Will cookies”.)  I of course tweaked the recipe to make them as easy as possible so I could make them when we weren’t seeing my mom for a while.  While they aren’t quite as light and fluffy as my mom’s cookies they make a pretty mean peanut butter cookie bar in half the time.

Ann Collins’ Peanut Butter Cookie-rip-off bars or Will Cookie Bars


  • 1/2 cup butter softened
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup + 1 heaping Tbsp peanut butter
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 1/3 cup flour
  • 1 cup Hershey’s Kitchens Milk Chocolate Chips

Preheat oven to 375.  Butter/grease a 13″x9″ baking pan. Cream together butter and sugars.  Add egg and mix until combined.  Add peanut butter and combine.  Add baking power, soda and salt and mix thoroughly.  Add flour gradually in 1/3 cup increments.  When thoroughly combined stir in chocolate chips.  Press evenly into the prepared baking pan.  Bake for 13 minutes or until cookies are puffed and a toothpick comes out clean.  Place on a baking rack and let cool in pan for 30 minutes.  Cut into squares and serve.

Cream together butter and sugars

Add egg

Add peanut butter

Stir in chocolate chips

Press batter evenly into prepared pan

Bake for 13 min at 375



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Pots and Pans

This weekend was beautiful, so we finally decided to take Julius to Davis Farmland.  It was great!  We actually enjoyed it so much we decided to buy a season pass and went both Saturday and Monday.  It is ridiculously close to our house, so it is slightly embarrassing that we’ve never been before.  Though I do think Julius is still a bit young for some of the things, he had lots of fun petting the animals, driving a tractor, playing in the water exploration area and sliding down the giant “cowabunga” slide.  (Will and I both liked the last part too because we got to go down with him.)  I wish we’d checked it out earlier!

Speaking of things I should have done earlier – a couple months ago I finally removed the center bar of the pots and pan cabinet.  I’ve wanted to do this for years but was worried maybe it was structural.  I finally got up the nerve to remove it and my counter hasn’t fallen down yet (great news).  I feel like it’s probably a good excuse for me to redo the kitchen if the cabinets do collapse.  The cabinet is so much more functional now!  My original plan was to remove the center bar so I could put pull out drawers in the cabinet.  After some deliberation I decided that wasn’t the optimal use of space so I left up my now fitting pot lid holder and added a stand for my saucepans!  No more lifting out 3 pans to get to the one I want!

Before… slight disaster

After – so much better!!

Remove the Center Bar on Your Cabinets

Note: I was concerned the beam was glued in place, but it was luckily just screwed in.  This gives me further hope that it is decorative and not structural, but do this at your own risk.

Step 1:  Remove the screws holding the center bar in place.  Using a rubber mallet slowly tap the center bar until you can remove it.

The bar removed! Now you can see the messiness of my cabinet in all it’s horror! The lids were constantly falling off the rack because I had to turn the pans to get them out of the cabinet and would knock the lids off in the process. .

Step 2:  Cut the center bar down 1/8″ in length.

Step 3: Attach a piece of wood the same thickness as your center bar a couple inches shorter than the height of your cabinet doors to the side of the center bar.  I used my pocket hole jig to do this!

Using a pocket hole I drilled to attach a piece of wood to the center bar so it is wide enough to attach to the cabinet door.

Step 4: Use clamps to close one cabinet door and position newly widened center bar to the edge of the closed door.  Close second door to make sure with the  doors closed it still looks like the center bar is fastened to the cabinets.

Use clamps to attach the center bar to the door while adjusting the center bar to make sure it is still centered.

Step 5:  Drill pilot holes through the piece of side wood attached to the center bar and through the cabinet face.  Make sure you don’t drill clean through to the other side of the cabinet face.

Step 6:  Choose screws 1/8″ shorter than combined depth of the side wood and the cabinet face.  Screw side wood to the cabinet face.

Screw through your side extension of wood into the cabinet door to affix the center bar to the cabinet door.

Step 7: Stain and apply wax/polyurethane to the unfinished edges of the center bar and the cabinet where the center bar was removed.



Posted in Crafts & Sewing | 3 Comments

Trash Monster

My little bear is getting bigger every day.  We did a fun photo shoot a couple weeks ago at a tulip farm in RI and the pictures came out SO GREAT.  I have to share them.  Our photographer was great to work with and Julius was so smiley the whole time despite it being past his bedtime.  He fell asleep in the car on the way back because he was so exhausted.  What a little trooper.

Shayna Lee Photography

Shayna Lee Photography

Shayna Lee Photography

You can really tell how quickly he is growing in photos.  From photos just a few weeks apart it seems to me that he is starting to lose those adorable baby cheeks.  Will thinks I’m crazy, but I think he’s starting to lose his round face.  Just compare the photos above to the photos below which were only taken 2.5 weeks apart!  Tell me I’m not crazy (for this particular reason)!?

Julius is a big fan of George!

Either way, the pictures below are from my latest reuse project – a mesh tub toy holder.  I’m proud to say that so far Julius’ toy holder has held up a whole month and is still going strong!  It’s completely made out of trash, so I was skeptical if he would like it, but put googly eyes on it, and it’s a winner!  I’m pretty sure he named it George.

Monster Mesh Tub Toy Holder

What you’ll need:

  • 2 6×4″ pieces of strong plastic that won’t shatter (mine were from a dish washing tablet box)
  • A giant zip tie – or some other piece of plastic or wire at least 25″ long that is firm enough to hold it’s shape when holding up several pounds of toys.  (coat hanger might work, as long as the ends are not sharp!)
  • large bag of plastic netting  (can use produce bags or otherwise – mine was from an Easter ham)
  • thick plastic shopping bag (mine was from express)
  • giant 1″ googly eyes (the only thing I bought)
  • 2 twist ties
  • hot glue gun
  • pattern here
  1. Using pattern, cut out 2 hooks from your pieces of strong plastic.
  2. Using a sharp tool (I used a cork screw) poke holes in the places indicated in the pattern.
  3. Use an Xacto knife to cut a slit in the place indicated.
  4. Insert one hook onto zip tie through slit.
  5. Insert zip tie through top inch of mesh bag.
  6. After you’ve gone 7″, insert second hook onto zip tie.
  7. Continue inserting mesh bag onto zip tie until you reach the starting point.  (I some how don’t have a picture of this.)
  8. Fasten zip tie and hot glue end of zip tie to secure.
  9. Bend zip tie to form a “D” shape with the hooks on either end of the straight edge.
  10. Cut a 1″ strip of ribbon from the plastic bag on the diagonal – strip should be around 5 feet long.
  11. Wrap plastic along the zip tie and through the weave of the mesh, hiding the 1″ selvedge of mesh. (I used clips to hold everything in place.)
  12. When you get back to where you started hot glue start and end of ribbon.
  13. Glue googly eyes in between the two hooks on the straight edge of the zip tie.
  14. Cut 2 pieces of scrap plastic from the leftover hook plastic in roughly the same shape as the googly eyes.  Coat in hot glue and glue to the back of each googly eye, sandwiching the zip tie.
  15. Hang on bath tub rack and insert twist ties through the holes you poked in the hooks to secure.
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I hope all the mothers out there had a wonderful mother’s day!  I certain did!  Will and Julius let me sleep in both days of the weekend, and gave me lots of fun presents!  Julius added a sticker to my card which I knew was his signature.  My favorite present was a necklace that Will got me that says “mama bear”.  I call Julius “little bear” all the time, so I am very proud to be labeled mama bear.  (Sometimes when I call him my little bear he says “roar” in a quiet whisper voice, and it is freaking adorable.)

Julius is definitely working to improve his linguistic skills.  The cutest thing he started to do recently is pick up exclamatory statements.  He’ll say “wow” or “oh, wow” or “oooh” in his cute little serious voice when he is looking at something he finds exciting.  Today I heard Julius exclaim, “wow, oh wow” while I was throwing the ball for Dany and I asked him what was so interesting.  He kept saying “oh, wow” and pointing at the ground so I went over to take a look.  It was raining and he had found a sandy ant hill and was mushing the wet sand between his fingers.  Pretty exciting.  Later he exclaimed “wow” about a dandelion that had no more seeds attached.  I really love his enthusiasm for everything, it is quite refreshing.            You know what else Julius loves?  These Yoda ears I made!  He refuses to wear hats, but he wouldn’t let us take the Yoda ears off him.  They’re very simple to make so you could outfit a whole party with them.  You should know that the wookie cookies are also Julius approved.  As promised, here are those tutorials from last week.

Yoda Ears

What you’ll need:

  • scrap green felt
  • a headband
  • hot glue gun
  • pattern here

Cut out two of the ear patterns of felt, making sure to flip the pattern for one of the ears so you have both a left and right.

Fold loosely along the fold lines marked and lightly hot glue in a couple spots to keep the shape.

Hot glue gun the base of one ear to the side of the headband, wrapping around the headband so it does not show.  Repeat for second ear on other side of headband.

Wookie Cookies

This recipe is from smitten kitchen.  The recipe is really delicious, but I think the name “Brownie roll out cookies” is extremely misleading.  They are not at all soft and brownie like.  They are really great, sturdy chocolate sugar cookies that are great for cutting and frosting.  They are nearly impossible to roll if they are cold, so I recommend ignoring her recommendation to chill them.  I first used this recipe to make chocolate mustaches for the PAX cookie brigade.

What you’ll need:

  • Recipe above
  • Semi sweet chocolate (I use Ghiradelli)
  • White chocolate
  • a piping bag and  Ateco #1 and #00 round tips (very fine).

Roll out dough and cut out cookie using a basic gingerbread man cutter.  Transfer to parchment lined baking sheet.   To make fur use a fork to swipe across the dough in short swipes.  Turn 45 degrees and swipe again across the cookie.

Bake cookies as directed and let cool completely.  When cookies are completely cool, melt 1/2 cup of semisweet chocolate in a double boiler.   Let cool slightly (about 10 minutes) until slightly warm to the touch then scoop into piping bag fit with #1 round tip.

Pipe ammo belt from under right arm of gingerbread man to above left arm, making it about 1 cm thick.

Pipe two large dots and a smaller dot for the nose.

Let set.  If you’re in a rush you can place them in the fridge for about 5 minutes but no more than 10 minutes to set quickly.

After chocolate has set, melt 1/4 cup of white chocolate in a double boiler.  Let cool slightly (about 10 minutes) until slightly warm to the touch then scoop into a piping bag fit with #00 round tip.

Pipe ammo on ammo belt as two slightly sloppy, connected dots per piece of ammo.  This really doesn’t take as long as it looks.  All the piping (white and dark chocolate) took me around 30 minutes total.

Rebel Napkins

I made these napkins so I could use plain napkins and add a non toxic stamp for a pop of color so I could compost the napkins afterwards.

What you’ll need:

  • plain white napkins
  • red non-toxic stamp pad
  • rubber stamp (Or rubber eraser and linoleum cutters)

Create your stamp by drawing the alliance symbol on a large rubber eraser and outlining it with progressively larger linoleum cutters.   Remove all the negative space around the symbol to a depth of 1/8″.

Ink your stamp on red stamp pad.  Press firmly onto napkin on a flat surface.

Let napkin dry 48 hours.


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May the Force be with You…

I’m going to start this one at with a sappy story (fair warning).  The other day Julius was sorting through a box of stuff I had in the basement and he came across Yellow Bunny and Michael (tiger), Will & my childhood “lovies”.  He pointed to them and asked “this?” (Which is his way of asking, “what is this?”)  I explained that they were Dada and Mama’s Sheepy and Chris the bunny (Julius’ favorite stuffed animals) and that they would be very happy if he played with them.  He picked them both out of the box and gave each of them a big hug.  I burst out crying.  Later, when I was recounting the story to Will, I had to start the story three times before I got through it.  By the end we were both crying.  I think we have the plot of Toy Story 4.  (Though if we don’t, I want some royalties, Disney, for Toy Story 5.)

Speaking of Disney, I hope you all got to celebrate May the Fourth!  Since the date fell on a Saturday this year Will and I hosted an impromptu May the Fourth celebration!  I really have way too much Star Wars stuff.  Aside from food and drinks the only thing I purchased for the party was a gingerbread man cookie cutter.  I was planning to make wookie cookies and I really thought I had a gingerbread man cookie cutter, because who doesn’t have a gingerbread man cookie cutter? It turns out I don’t.  I have 50+ hand picked cookie cutters of different shapes (including all the states my sister in law Erin has ever lived in), but no gingerbread man.  I almost gave up, but then I found out Peter Mayhew had died and I felt I HAD to make them.  It turns out, finding a gingerbread man cookie cutter in May is more difficult than you may imagine.  I even got laughed off the phone by an employee of Party City!  (At least I made someone laugh!)

Star Wars Open House


I used Evite (as always) which has some great free “star fantasy theme” cards.  We chose this one which seemed to be the closest rip off to Star Wars that we could find.  The text for the card is pasted below so you can peruse the links at your convenience. ;) 

May the fourth be with you as we celebrate the eminent defeat of the Galactic Empire at the Colton Cantina.  Drinks and appetizers will be served; merriment will ensue.  Trust me it will be better than a dance party at Bright Tree Village.  Feel free to swing by anytime 4-10pm or stay the whole time.  Younglings welcome.  Costumes strongly encouraged.

The response text was:

Join the Rebellion?

  • Yes!
  • Do or do not…
  • No, rebel scum.


We would never be part of the empire, so obviously the theme was the rebel alliance.  The rebels are a rag tag bunch who are not much united in uniforms with the exception of the red alliance starbird.  For this reason we chose to use red and white elements throughout the party (red and white M&Ms, red plates and tablecloth, white napkins with the starbird etc).

The napkins were very simple to make and color fast.  There will be a tutorial next week with instructions.


Laser Tag

We planned to have Laser tag but unfortunately (this whole month) it rained.  We have a dozen of the old Laser Challenge Team Force sets from my childhood.  Someday we will have a laser tag party.  I’m adding this to the activity list because it is an awesome idea if you can find these old sets at a yard sale.


I used the Photobooth Mini Full App** with my husband’s old phone and a tripod to create a photobooth.  For props I used a bunch of light sabers we already owned, my meditation cloak/jedi robe, the Chewbacca ears, and these easy to make Yoda ears (which Julius loved wearing – tutorial next week).  For the background, I cut out the rebel symbol in red felt (which I already had on hand) and tacked it up onto one of our white walls.

photo: Joe Kerekes

photo: Joe Kerekes

Star Wars movies

What is a Star Wars party without Star Wars movies?!  We of course own all of them (mostly in blu ray) so we prepared to have a movie playing in the man cave and on a small tv in the living room.  At the end of the night, everyone still around watched Return of the Jedi in the man cave(with a lot of audience commentary).

Everyone is enthralled with RotJ


We had a lot of fun with the food.  I made the appetizers as simple as possible – almost no prep work – but we had a lot of fun naming them.  Here are the print outs for the labels.  I got to use almost all my Star Wars themed cooking equipment with the exception of some cookie cutters and my Star Wars pancake molds…

(Devoured) Roast “porg”     photo: Joe Kerekes


  • Roast Porg (rotisserie chicken I reheated in the oven -slightly morbid)
  • Poe’s pizza (frozen omnivore pizza)
  • Finn’s Flatbread (frozen vegetarian pizza)

    From left to right: Nerf fodder, Ackbar’s delight and Thala Siren Cheese

  • Thala-siren Cheese (assorted cheeses & crackers)

    photo: Joe Kerekes

  • Nerf Fodder (Assorted veggies and ranch dip)

    Jabba the Hummus & Pita Ships

  • Jabba The Hummus (I piped the hummus into a bowl in the shape of Jabba and added olive eyes and mouth)
  • Pita Ships (Just store bought pita bread cut into ship shapes with these sandwich cutters I apparently own – I honestly thought they were cookie cutters when I got them.)
  • Ackbar’s Delight (these are just shrimp & cocktail sauce but because I’m concerned about global welfare I had to buy the USA sustainably fished shrimp that were slightly varying in size and didn’t have any tails and were slightly ground up because they must be mechanically separated.)

    Wookie Cookies (left) and ship cookies (right – made by Ka)
    photo: Joe Kerekes

  • Wookie cookies (chocolate sugar cookies, assembly instructions next week)

    photo: Joe Kerekes

  • Rebel velvet cakes (red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese frosting.  I had to make them when I discovered I had these in the back of the closet)


We had just as much fun coming up with drink names as we did food names.  We thought the drinks you’d find at an upscale galactic establishment would be neon in color so I found a couple that I thought fit the bill.  On top of that, I used my Star Wars ice/chocolate molds to make ice cubes using the top down freezing method which worked incredibly well to make clear ice!!  I made each of the drinks for a crowd by changing the “oz” to “cups” and serving from a pitcher.

Crazy colored cocktails

Is that Han Solo frozen in carbonite? Why yes, it’s clear as ice!

Dagobah Drink

  • 1 oz. Midori Melon Liqueur
  • 2 oz. sweet and sour mix
  • 1 oz. lemon juice
  • lemon wedge

Pour all ingredients into a glass filled with ice, stir, and garnish with a lemon wedge.

Electric Elephant

  • 1½ oz. gold tequila
  • 1½ oz. lime juice
  • ½ oz. Blue Curacao
  • ¾ oz. simple syrup
  • lime wedge

Pour all ingredients into a glass filled with ice, stir, and garnish with a lime wedge.

I found these at Job Lot a few weeks before the party! How timely!
photo: Joe Kerekes


Who can resist giving out party favors?!  I bought a pack of Star Wars valentines after Valentine’s day for like a nickle.  I replaced the candy (which was some nasty Sweetarts knock off) with red and white M&Ms (Will painstakingly picked the blue M&Ms out of USA themed M&Ms we found at BJ’s – who was getting ready for Memorial day I guess?).

Danielle hands down won best costume. Her hair was perfect!!

  • **A note on Photobooth Mini Full… Some of you may remember that for our prom party 8 years ago I made my own photobooth using an open source photobooth GUI connected to a webcam on my computer and I wrote a shell script to process the photos into strips and send them to the printer.  The photostrips actually looked really cute and the whole thing only took me a couple of hours to set up.  Of course now every device already has a camera on it so I figured there must be an app to do the same thing.  Of course there is!  After reading lots of reviews  I decided to purchase the number one rated photobooth app on the play store “Photobooth Mini Full”.  It sort of works out of the box, but took me at least 2 hours to get something to look halfway decent and do approximately what I wanted it to do (there is no option to auto print the photos like I did at the prom party and no way to select a photostrip size) since there are WAY too many options and no instructions on what any of them do!  Yes, you read that right, it took me the same amount of time to figure out how to use this app for my purposes than it did for me to hack together my own photobooth from scratch in 2011.  Good news, there is an option to save off your “photo montage” including settings, so you can just buy the app and upload this one so you won’t have to waste 2 hours figuring out settings!  It was only $6, so I really shouldn’t complain so much, but figured since I don’t get paid by anyone for my opinions, I can give you my honest ones.


Posted in Culinary Delights, Parties | 1 Comment

Impossible Task

Well I hope your Earth week was wonderful.  I discovered Impossible meat this Earth week.  As you may or may not know, Will and I have been trying to eat vegetarian more this year (specifically 2 days a week minimum).  It’s going pretty well so far, but I got into a rut over the last month by making the same 4 things over and over again because they’re quick and easy and I have most of the ingredients on hand.  So back to the impossible meat scenario – while I am cutting down animal meat consumption, I’m really not sure I can give meat up forever right now and succeed (unless forced to).  I have an attachment to food.  Eating comfort foods from my childhood and cooking Will’s favorite meals to perfection are two of the reasons I don’t think I could become a full blown vegetarian.  Something like impossible meat could help me here.  The main thing I’ll have to get over is that I pride myself on being a fairly daring, non-picky eater.  On the days of the week when I eat vegetarian, I get that FOMO feeling when someone orders an exotic sushi dish and offers me a bite.  On top of all that, sometimes the way I do vegetarian is not particularly healthy!  I really hate when manufacturers of a vegetarian product replace a natural ingredient with partially hydrogenated so and so or more sugar to replace the meat flavor.  Gross.

All that being said I salute all of you who have gone full vegetarian!  Thank you for saving the world.  Someday I’ll need some advice on how to make the transition myself, but I’m not there yet.  Meanwhile if any of you vegetarians or non-vegetarians want to try a meat lover approved version of vegan lentil soup, please give the below a try.  The best part of the recipe below is it’s one of those “fix and forget” recipes that you can throw in the crockpot in the morning, and come home to for dinner in the evening.

Vegan Lentil Soup


  • 1 14.5oz can tomato sauce + 4 cans water
  • 2 tsp dried oregano 
  • 3 bay leaves (remember not to eat these)
  • 3 tsp of veggie better than boullion or 3 veggie boullion cubes (better than boullion imparts a very tomato-ey flavor to the soup.  
  • 1 lb bag of lentils, soaked overnight then rinsed.  
  • 5 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 4 sticks celery, chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped

Mix all ingredients into a crock pot.  Cook on low for 10 hours.  Stir then add salt and pepper to taste.  Serve with crusty rolls topped with butter (or earth balance vegan butter spread). 

After I wrote this blog post I somehow can’t find any pictures of my lentil soup, even though I am positive I took some.  I will update with some photos in the future.  In the meantime, here’s little bear:

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Snack Attack

Happy Earth Day!

Julius was dancing to the Captain Planet theme song this afternoon and it made me smile.  I think we all need to channel our inner Greta Thurnberg and more openly speak out for our planet, not just today but every day!  I want my child to be able to experience the same wonderful world I did with the same assortment of beautiful plants and wildlife, abundance of food and clean water and safe breathable air.  Oh and bees, did I mention bees?!

Among everyone I talk to on a daily basis there is a strong opinion that “my actions won’t offset the actions of the rest of the world.”  To that comment I always respond, “if everyone thinks that way, they certainly won’t.”  We all have to stop thinking in such defeatist terms.  Just one person role modeling small actions to save the planet can set off a cascade of others becoming green, even if it is in small ways.  For example, just last week one of the parents at daycare asked about Julius’ diapers.  They are having another child and wanted to know what kind of diapers we use and where we got them.  Whether or not they choose to go cloth, you cannot believe the joy I had in sharing that note about diapers!  Then this morning my co-worker told me he uses the reusable snack bag I made him for Christmas every single day.  I gave him a high five (and probably would have given him a bear hug if there wasn’t a crowd in the hallway).  I can’t make this stuff up, you really can make a difference.  Think of what you do to reduce your impact on our beautiful planet and spread the word!  No action is too small!

So that snack bag I mentioned?  You may remember that I mentioned after Christmas that I made my friends at work reusable utensil sets!  Well I also made them matching reusable snack bags to go along with them!  They are similar to the lunch skins sandwich sized bags and are made with food safe PUL (I used Eco PUL).

The utensil/bag set I made for Roger and Amy!

Reusable Snack Bag

What you’ll need:

  • 16″x7″ Eco PUL or other food safe PUL
  • 16×7″ cotton fabric of your choice
  • 7″ of 3/4″ velcro hook and loop fastener
  1. Fold cotton fabric, right sides together, into a 7×7″ pocket with a 2″ flap.  Pin along sides of pocket.  Repeat for PUL (shiny side in).
  2. Using a size 10 needle, stitch sides of bag (not the flap side) using 1/4″ seam allowance.
  3. Turn the cotton pocket right side out and place inside the PUL pocket.  Pin along the top front of the bag.  Stitch.
  4. Turn the bag right side out (cotton outside, PUL inside).  Mark where the velcro needs to go.
  5. Open the bag out again, stitch hook side of the velcro in place (only through cotton).  Turn bag right side out again.
  6. Fold the sides of the flap under 1/4″ on the cotton and the PUL  so the unfinished edges of PUL and cotton are sandwiched inside.  Pin and stitch.
  7. Pin the top front of the bag.  Stitch.
  8. Fold the unfinished edge of the flap down twice to form a double fold hem.  Pin and stitch.
  9. Stitch the loop tape portion of the velcro to the edge of the flap.
  10. Snack away!

Thanks for reading. I hope you’ll think about all the ways you can help lower your environmental impact this Earth day and every day.  Please tell me in the comments below what you do to reduce your impact to Mother Earth and you will be entered into a random drawing to win a reusable utensil and sandwich bag set!  Drawing will be held on May 20th.

Posted in Crafts & Sewing | 9 Comments

Towering Tots

I am so excited to share this project with you today!  It is a project that I have been planning for a while now, and I’m really happy with how it came out.  Of course, it all started with a habit of Julius’.  Julius just LOVES to be part of the action (who doesn’t?).  He wants to help me clean the house, put away dishes, wash the high chair, put on makeup (yes really, so next time my make up looks like a 2 year old did it, maybe don’t judge too harshly).  Especially, he wants to help me cook and work in the kitchen.  The biggest issue with this desire is that he is far too short to reach the countertops or frankly even see the countertops.  This means he is constantly whining to be picked up and held while I am doing any task in the kitchen.  Enter the tot tower.

The “tot tower” or “learning tower” is basically a step stool with a railing surrounding the second step so your toddler doesn’t accidentally topple off it.  Some of them are simply modified Ikea step stools.  Others allow you to adjust the second step depending on the child’s height so it can be used for many years.  While I’m not sure the step stool option is less stable since it should be resting against a cabinet anyway, I wanted the option of the adjustable second step.  Except for the dowels and the screws, I did not purchase a single piece of wood for this project.  I did attempt to put the whole thing on locking casters so it would be easier to move around the kitchen, but the casters were a pain to lock and made the whole thing feel less secure so I scrapped them.

Julius LOVES the tot tower.  I demonstrated how to use it and he had no problem getting up and down from the tower.  Most often we bring it in the bathroom for him to wash his hands and then I move it to the kitchen for him to help me make food or watch me cook.  The funniest use of the tower I’ve seen yet is when Julius was eating some goldfish, a favorite snack of Dany.  In the past Julius has had issues with Dany stealing snacks right from his hands while he is walking around.  Last week, Julius climbed his tot tower and ate his goldfish from the tower, laughing at Dany.  (Poor Dany.)

Julius avoiding Dany the snack stealer.

Check out this dance

The tower took me 4 or 5 days after work to complete (including drawing up the plans), but I’m by no means an experienced woodworker.  Someone with more skill would probably be able to complete the project in less time.

Tot Tower

What you’ll need:

  • #8 1 1/2″ wood screws
  • 4 – 30″ 1×4’s
  • 4 – 15.5″ 1×3’s
  • 2 – 10″ 1×3’s
  • 4 – 17″ 2×2’s
  • 1 – 7″x13.75″x3/4″
  • 1 – 7.75″x13.75″x3/4″
  • 1 – 10″x15.5″x3/4″
  1. Cut all pieces to size as mentioned above.  If you were smart, you’d probably sand all pieces first and round edges. I was not smart, so I didn’t do this until much later.
  2. Assemble each side of the tot tower following the diagram above.  You’ll want to keep the two 1×4’s parallel while you screw on the 10″ 1×3 to the top, followed by the 17″ 2×2 at the bottom (make sure the 1×4’s only span 10″ on one end of the 17″ 2×2).  Finally attach the second 2×2 in a similar manner but below the 7″ line.
  3. Repeat for second side of tot tower, making sure to make it a mirror image of the first.
  4. Attach the two sides of the tot tower together using the 4 15.5″ 1×3’s.  3 will be attached to the back (see diagram portion marked back view) and the 4th will be attached to the top front to complete the railing (see diagram portion marked top view of railing).
  5. (Note I did it in this order, but if I were to do this again, I might do this step before the next step because it was very difficult to screw the unattached tot tower pieces together). Attach the 7″x13.75″x3/4″ step to the 7″ extension of the 2×2’s.
  6. Attach the 7.75″x13.75″x3/4″ riser to front of the 4 2×2’x.
  7. Using a 1 1/8″ auger bit, drill 3 holes on each of the 4 30″ 1×4’s at 11″, 14″ and 17″ from the floor.
  8. Using a band saw, remove 3/16ths of wood from the dowel along it’s length to create a flat surface.  Cut the dowel into 2 15.5″ segments.
  9. Also using a band saw, cut corners out of the 10″x15.5″x3/4″ platform board to specifications marked in diagram labeled “platform”.
  10. Sand everything, making sure to round corners everywhere.
  11. If desired, stain and finish with wax/poly or paint.
  12. Insert dowels into holes at desired height, with flat portion up.
  13. Place platform board on top of dowels.
  14. Drill a pilot hole through the top of the platform board into the center of the dowel below.  Use screw to secure.  Repeat with second dowel.

I filled the empty 1 1/8″ holes with champagne corks!  My co-worker gave me a bunch of champagne corks and I finally found something to do with them!  They fit perfect and don’t fall out, and I can move them once I move the dowels down.

Watch Julius climb the tot tower!

Posted in Home Improvement | 2 Comments

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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