Hats off to Julius

Julius was baptized this weekend in his grandparents’ church in Nashville.  Of course, we hadn’t realized it was daylight savings time and his second nursing session of the day fell right in the middle of the service.  Oops.  (Not that his timing is 100% accurate anyway.)  Luckily he only cried for a short while during the time he was in the chapel…and once the pastor held him he was a little angel!

Slight non-sequitur, but last week I discovered that there is a renaissance festival in our hometown!  What!?  They just moved it from its previous home in Connecticut… to 5 minutes from our house.  Fortuitous?  We’ll see.  When I closed the doors of Whimsical Brims, I instructed Will to remind me how tiring it was if I ever said I wanted to do it again.  Well, last week I proposed that I sell the rest of my supply of hats at a short running festival, and then I brought up the Faire in Lancaster.  Will actually said it was a good idea!   So much for convincing me not to do it again!

Well I decided that I should at least attempt to satisfy my urge to make more hats in a benign way and with Julius’ Christening I had an excuse!  I had seen lots of adorable pictures of these baby boys in dapper little pant suits complete with tiny flat caps.  I’ve never made a flat cap before, but they didn’t look too difficult, and the miniscule amount of fabric required made any attempt basically free.  I made the hat entirely from material from my enormous scrap bin (including the interfacing).  You may recognize the blue seersucker material from my seersucker maternity shirt!  (What better fabric choice for a Nashville baptism?!)

The pattern below is for a 3-6 month old.  (Julius’ head is 16.5″, but there is elastic to accommodate a larger or smaller head.)

Baby Flat Cap

What You’ll Need

  • lining material (~1/4 of a yard)
  • outside material (~1/4 of a yard)
  • peltex 70 interfacing (a few inches)
  • 2.5 inches elastic
  • Pattern here
  1. Cut out all pattern pieces from lining and outside material. Make sure to leave 1/2″ seam allowance on all pieces.  Make sure to include darts, center and overhang markings.

    Cut out all pattern pieces. Be sure to transfer markings for brim location.

  2. Cut out two brims from peltex.
  3. Pin lining top of hat to lining front of hat along the curved portion of the hat front.  Stitch.
  4. Pin and stitch dart in back of cap in the lining.

    Pin and stitch hat top to hat front.

  5. Pin the lining brim overhang to the lining front of the hat, lining up centers and markings.

    Pin lining brim overhang to the hat front.

  6. Repeat steps 2 through 5 for the outside material.
  7. Stitch brim interfacing together.

    Stitch two piece of brim interfacing together

  8. Stitch brim pieces (outside material) together along the convex curved portion of the hat.

    Pin brim covering together and stitch.

  9. Clip curves, trim seams to 1/8″ and turn right side out.  Insert brim interfacing inside.

    Insert brim interfacing inside

  10. Baste along the inner (concave) curve close to the interfacing.

    Baste brim close to interfacing

  11. With hat inside out, place brim into hat, on to of overhang.  Line up edges of the brim with edges of the overhang.  Brim will curve slightly to fit.

    Pin brim to hat, right sides together.

  12. Baste.
  13. Right sides together pin lining to outside of hat. Stitch leaving the portion from side seam to side seam opened.

    Pin hat lining to outside of hat., right sides together. Brim should be sandwiched between the layers.

  14. Stitch the end of a piece of elastic to the outer material on each side.

    Stitch ends of a piece of elastic inside hat.

  15. Stitch back of hat close to the seam to close.

    Stitch back of hat close to the edge to close.

  16. Hand stitch a couple of stitches on the top of the hat to the brim if desired.

    Finished cap.

    Tummy time champion of the world in his hat.

    Rockin’ the flat cap.

    Look at that happy gent!

    Side view of hat (while Julius eats the blanket)

Posted in Crafts & Sewing | 2 Comments

Something Fishy

So I think Julius is camera shy. He’ll be smiling and laughing for me for hours, and as soon as I take the cell phone out he freezes up and stops. It is almost impossible to make him smile on camera! I really have no idea why.

Last week we took Julius to JcPenney portrait studio to get his pictures taken and he would not smile AT ALL.  Not one real smile – a couple half smiles or smirks but that’s it. The photographer tried so hard too – making ridiculous noises and voices and faces. No smile. It seemed as if he was thinking, “what is this lady doing? She must be crazy. Perhaps it would be rude to laugh at her insanity”. Of course as soon as we left the room he started smiling.

Trust us – his lack of huge smile didn’t stop us from buying lots of photos!

Speaking of smiling on command, my sister-in-law (who is currently pregnant) recently recalled a situation that also happened to me. When she went for her regularly scheduled baby check up, the OB checked the baby’s heart rate using a fetal doppler. If you haven’t seen one before the fetal doppler is basically a small microphone that they lube up and rub over your belly. When they find the right spot on your belly to hear the baby’s heartbeat it sounds like a scratchy whirring dishwasher.  After a few seconds you can recognize that all the dishwashing noise (hopefully) has a regular pattern, which you then conclude might be a fast tiny heartbeat. The first time it happens, all that train of thought goes through your head and you are a bit confused for a while.  Once you realize it is the baby’s heartbeat it is a relief that the baby is indeed in there and doing well.  After the first time, you just cut straight to the latter feeling of relief.

Well, the interesting thing that my sister-in-law mentioned to me is that when they finally found the heartbeat the first time the OB looked up at her expectantly.  And I don’t mean a glance, they looked right into her face and didn’t say anything, just waiting for a reaction. She said she felt the need to put on a show and act exceedingly happy or maybe break down crying to show how grateful she was to be hearing this tiny dishwasher.  Obviously after the initial “what am I listening to” confusion she was happy, but her “oh is that is the heartbeat” smile didn’t seem like what they were expecting.  The same situation (find heartbeat, look expectantly at your face for a reaction) happened to me every single time I went to the OB for a prenatal checkup. Even when I was 9 months pregnant and Julius was kicking me while they were looking for his heartbeat, they looked up at me and patiently waited for my reaction. Don’t get me wrong, I was relieved every time they told me the heartbeat was normal, but I never felt like I gave them the face they wanted. Which leads me to wonder, what exactly are they looking for, and what percentage of the female population give it that they watch you every time?  Perhaps (as usual) we’re the weird ones and it’s the reaction of two engineers that’s just atypical.  Anyone else have this experience?  Or did you cry tears of joy?

On a lighter note, this recipe will have you crying tears of joy with how easy it is to make (okay, maybe only if you get really emotional about tuna fish). This is a quick version of Tuna Casserole that you can stick in the crock pot and forget about until lunch. While delicious, it is extremely filling, so you may want to consider splitting it with a friend. But it is easy to prepare and as a bonus for all you mamas, it’s meal you can eat with just one hand!

Crock pot tuna casserole


  • ½ tsp onion powder
  • ¼ cup water
  • ¾ cup egg noodles
  • ½ cup frozen green beans
  • ½ 12 oz can chunk light tuna, drained
  • ½ 10.5 oz can cream of mushroom soup
  • ¼ cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • ½ cup crunched potato chips

Combine everything except chips in the little dipper crock pot.  Cook for 2-3 hours.  Top with crushed potato chips right before serving.

It’s difficult to make Tuna Casserole very attractive… but trust me it is tasty!

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Crockin’ n’ Rockin’

Wow, it seems like so much has happened since last week.  First Julius had to go to the doctor’s to check into some issues he’s been having.  Poor little guy.  He was SO GOOD at the doctor’s office and didn’t cry or fuss once, and we spent TWO HOURS there (practically torturing him for much of that time).

Then on Saturday we spent the night out on the town while my parents watched Julius.  My grandparents also came over (we know who everyone really wants to see), and Julius could not get enough of his great grandpa.  Apparently he laughed at everything he said.  Will and I of course had a marvelous time and saw Waitress – part of our Broadway in Boston subscription.

On top of that I’ve been burning the midnight oil doing some projects.  (Maybe that is why the week felt extra long…)  As you may or may not know, I’ve owned an embroidery machine for a few years now with the intention of making my own embroidery patterns.  It didn’t really go anywhere but recently I have been toying around with applique.  Keep your eyes out for a post on that soon (I hope)!

Oh, right, probably the real reason this week felt so full was because I finished Crytonomicon by Neal Stephenson.  Will read this book a few years ago, and I kid you not, the book took him at least 6 months to read.  I made fun of him gratuitously during that time period, saying that no book should take that long, and that it must be really really awful.  Well after reading and loving Snow Crash (one of Will’s favorites) I decided to take the plunge into Stephenson’s magnum opus Crytonomicon.  But based on how long Snow Crash took me, and how ridiculously slow a reader I believed Will to be because of the six month thing, I thought I could finish it in a couple weeks.  I took the book out from the digital library collection so I could read it on my kindle and as proof of how confident I was that I’d finish it quickly, I spent a few days finishing a Miss Marple mystery before I even downloaded Crytonomicon.  Let me tell you, that book is DENSE.  Definitely a tome, but thoroughly entertaining and the technical scenes hold up surprisingly well, given it was written 10 years ago.  I really enjoyed it, but 18 days was almost not enough time… and days before my loan was about to end, I had to practically speed read to finish the thing.  So naturally it feels like I’ve lived 50 years in the last week via that book alone.

Well all this running around during the day and entertaining Julius makes it really difficult to get in a square meal at lunch.  Frequently I’ve been eating a meal of peanut butter crackers (not homemade) and an apple.  I find that is incredibly unsatisfying and instead turns into a meal of 4 packages of peanut butter crackers, 2 granola bars and an apple.  Not the greatest way to eat healthy.  Instead, I’ve been playing around with crock pot meals in my tiny crock pot.  I’ve come up with a few meals that simply involve measuring and dumping into the crock pot.  No chopping required.  This means I can assemble them in the morning during his nap (no matter how short) and then forget about them until lunch time.  This first recipe was a combination between a chili and a tortilla soup recipe my mother in law makes – it is quite yummy and filling for a winter afternoon!

Chicken Black Bean Chili

Chicken Black Bean Chili


  • ½ 15.5 oz can of black beans (drained and rinsed)
  • ½ 14.5 oz can of tomatoes with green chilies (not drained)
  • ½ 12.5 oz can of chicken (drained)
  • ¼ cup frozen corn
  • ⅛ tsp onion powder
  • ⅛ tsp garlic powder
  • ½ tsp cumin
  • Big pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)
  • Cheddar cheese and sour cream for serving

Combine everything in a little dipper crockpot and cook for at least 3 hours.  Top with cheddar cheese and sour cream if desired. 




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Galentine’s Truffle Party

Every year for Valentine’s Day I cook something fun for dinner and try to make a craft or treat as a present for Will.  (I guess basically I boycott consumerism to the dismay of Hallmark.)  Last year I made him some Han Solo in Carbonite Reese’s.  Will usually just buys me fancy chocolates but this year Will tried to be extra nice and watched Julius for a whole night, which unfortunately for Will ended up being a bit of a disaster.  When he sticks with his usual gift, our favorite chocolates are the crazy concoctions they come up with at Hedonist Chocolates in Rochester.  We like them so much that we even made a pilgrimage to Hedonist last time we drove up to Niagara Falls for the Gathering.

My favorite of their chocolates are the lavender truffles which are white chocolate centers flavored with lavender and dipped into a heavenly compliment of dark chocolate and cocoa powder.  Since I wasn’t getting these chocolates this year I thought I’d create some truffles myself.  Not only that, but I’d do one better and host a truffle making Galentine’s Day party!

The party was a huge success (in my humble opinion) and one of my favorites so far.  I will definitely be doing it again!


The day before the party I made three types of ganache fillings; white chocolate lavender, dark chocolate (this recipe minus the liquor) and dark chocolate mint (same recipe but add 1/2 tsp peppermint extract in place of liquor); and stored them in the fridge.  I also prepared Shepherd’s Pie and a Garden Salad for dinner (both gluten free since we were expecting someone with a gluten allergy this time around).  Lastly I printed out a couple dozen of my Chinese take-out box truffle boxes on fancy paper.  (See the link here for full instructions.)


On the day of the party I removed the ganache fillings from the fridge several hours before and did some additional setup.  I laid out 6 cookie trays covered in waxed paper, dark and white chocolate chips for melting and en-robing, bowls and spoons for toppings and a station for do-it-yourself packaging and box setup.   I also, at the last minute, realized that I don’t own a normal double boiler and candy thermometer setup and spent the better part of an hour creating what I thought was a very clever contraption to melt and monitor chocolate.  Will told me the device should be featured on redneck contraptions on reddit which was both flattering and insulting.  Finally I put the Shepherd’s Pie in the oven 30 minutes before guests were supposed to arrive.

Truffle making station on the island – waxed paper lined trays and chocolate ganache fillings.

My box making and wrapping setup with heavyweight paper box templates, scissors, rulers and decorations in the basket. In the bowl I have truffle wrappers, foil and waxed paper.

Dining room set up for Galentine’s day dinner.

Since the kitchen was prepared for truffle making, I set up the dinner buffet on the bar. Dinner was simple: salad and shepherd’s pie.

My redneck double boiler apparatus – I drilled a hole in a cork to insert the candy thermometer so it wouldn’t touch the side of my curved mixing bowl.

Party Procedure

We ate dinner as soon as the guests arrived and then got down to business.  Two guests had bought truffle fillings, and others brought items to decorate the truffles with including sanding sugar, nonpareils, coffee beans and nuts.

First we put on aprons, rolled all the fillings into tiny balls, placed them on the waxed paper lined trays and then chilled them in the fridge and outside on the porch (it was 30 degrees out).  Next we tempered chocolate for dipping using my redneck invention.  Using plastic forks with the two center tines removed we dipped the chilled filling balls in the tempered chocolate and set them back on the waxed paper lined trays.  Before the chocolate set someone sprinkled on decorations.  With so many hands (7 people!) the process went fairly quickly and we made a couple hundred truffles in less than 3 hours.  Whenever anyone needed a break they went over to the wrapping station and made themselves a box.  I think the party was a huge success and I can’t wait to do it again!  I can even imagine adapting this for a kid’s birthday party (assuming a parent does the chocolate melting). Frankly the only problem with the whole party was that the next day Will and I ate 20 truffles between us and were nearly ill from chocolate overload.

Here is the small army of ladies rolling truffles.

Ka the chemical engineer took over chocolate tempering duties.

Here I am tempering chocolate.  I look a wee bit crazy.

A box of truffles.

Look at how shiny that chocolate is! It was worth tempering it!

Being a hippie I wash and save plastic take out containers. I gave everyone a container to fill with chocolates.

Finished Truffles

Finished Truffle boxes.

Here’s the inside view of a mint truffle!  Nom!

Posted in Crafts & Sewing, Culinary Delights, Parties | 4 Comments

Trail Map Recycling

The last couple months we’ve been going up to my parent’s condo at Sunday River.  It has been amazing because Will, my dad and I will ski while my mom watches the little guy.  It is technically our chance to dip our toes into the whole babysitting/childcare situation.  And I really mean dip our toes in since I’m honestly not sure our scenario really counts.  You see we’re a bit spoiled in that we get to leave Julius in the capable hands of Grandma who is also conveniently a licensed and practicing R.N. currently working in postnatal/postpartum.  While others lament that they worry about their baby’s well-being the whole time they’re out, I really only miss snuggling with him.

Due to all these baby qualifications, Julius must feel the need to pull out all the stops and go the extra mile to impress.  As an example let me tell you about Julius’ latest development.  Julius recently hung out with a 7 month old baby who was quite adept at getting around via army crawling on his stomach.  Until this point in time, Julius would tolerate tummy time for approximately 12 seconds before either proceeding to lie there like a slug or screaming.  (Unless of course he was asked to do it at the doctor’s office where he shows off gratuitously to the point where the doctor deems his tummy time efforts “wonderful” and she thinks I made the whole aforementioned slug/screaming scenario up for comedic affect.)  Either way, after seeing this 7 month old baby moving around like a champ, Julius’ life was changed!  For the next several days he put in heroic tummy time efforts of several minutes at a time and looked (as close as a 3 month old baby can look) like an olympic gymnast!  Several days later he hangs out with Grandma, puts in that extra mile, and boom he rolls over!  He hasn’t repeated it since but at least he put in the extra effort for Grandma’s birthday.

Well I couldn’t compete with that sort of present but I decided to make Mom/Grandma something anyway!  Since we’re always at the condo Will had the great idea to get her a framed map of the mountain.  I thought I’d add to that gift and make her some Sunday River map coasters from old trail maps!  Many of the “DIY coaster” posts you see on Pinterest involve using a ceramic tile as the base.  I started out by looking for ceramic tiles at every single hardware store in the area, and then online.  The smallest square tiles that these stores sell are 4.25″x4.25″, which make comically huge coasters.  After several stores, and several hours online I gave up on ceramic tiles and invented my own DIY coasters based on some wooden coasters I actually own.  This method is a bit more time consuming, but I think the coasters look quite professional and they are the proper size.  You could use this technique with any paper goods.

Trail Map Coasters

What You’ll Need:

  • old trail maps
  • hardboard (only about 1 sq ft)
  • thin cork sheet (from the scrapbook section in your craft store)
  • acrylic spray enamel
  • wood glue
  • mod podge
  • foam brush
  • x-acto knife
  • waxed paper
  1. Cut hardboard into 3.5×3.5” squares.  I made 6 coasters.  I did this using the combination of a circular saw and a hacksaw with fine tooth blade since those were the tools at my disposal.

    Cut squares from hardboard

  2. Clamp all coasters together using a vice and sand all four sides using coarse and then fine sandpaper until they are smooth to the touch.

    Sand edges of coasters

  3. Gently iron your map on a low setting under a piece of parchment paper to smooth out wrinkles.

    Iron wrinkles from map on low setting.

  4. Place coasters on the map in locations you desire. Using an x-acto knife cut out pictures from the map using each coaster as a template (since they may each vary slightly).

    Cut out map using coaster as a template.

  5. Using a foam brush, coat the face of each hardboard square with mod podge and place the corresponding map cutout on top, right side up. Center and press down firmly, smoothing out any air bubbles.  Repeat for other coasters.

    Apply mod podge to face of hardboard using a foam brush

  6. Place a piece of waxed paper and a heavy book on top of the coasters. Let dry 30 – 45 minutes.
  7. Coat the face of each coaster with a thin coat of mod podge.  Let dry 15-20 minutes and then apply a second coat.

    Apply mod podge over face of coaster

  8. After the coaster is completely dry, flip over and lightly coat the bottom side with wood glue using a foam brush.

    Apply wood glue to bottom of coaster

  9. Place the cork sheet on a sheet of waxed paper then press the wood glued side of the coaster on top.  Repeat for other coasters, then place a book on top.

    Firmly press coasters on top of cork

  10. When cork adhesion is dry (approximately 30 minutes), trim the cork around the coaster using an X-acto knife like you did in step 4 for the map pictures.

    Trim cork

  11. Apply spray enamel according to bottle instructions.

    Spray with acrylic enamel.

Posted in Crafts & Sewing | 2 Comments

Nobody Likes a Wet Bum

Julius is becoming much, much less of a squish and much, much more of a tiny person.  In fact, I’ve almost entirely stopped calling him “squish”.  Not only because he is less squishy but also because it seems he is now listening to me very attentively.  I don’t want him to grow up thinking his name is Squish – I think that’s a name I’d better erase from existence before he learns to talk.  Instead, I’ve been calling him mostly Juli-ouli-us.  In addition I’ve recently discovered that he likes his name.  Whenever I refer to him as Julius he puts on a huge smile, especially when it becomes the lyric in a song.

He has developed a lot more control over his hands and arms, and is now happily grabbings things and putting them in his mouth.  On top of that, he has been smiling and laughing!  I discovered a couple weeks ago that he is extremely ticklish.  He also ‘talks’ a lot more.  My favorite thing that he does lately is he babbles and coos quietly to me while looking at me in the eye.  I call it whispering sweet nothings.  It is completely adorable.

Frequently he’ll do a lot of these adorable things while he’s on the changing table.  He seems to almost always be in a good mood when we’re changing his diaper.  I guess it’s because (as we frequently tell him) nobody likes a wet bum.  The changing table itself was given to us by my co-worker since his grandson has outgrown it.  It has been great for us to store all our diapers, diaper covers, wipes, diaper pail liners, etc.  Plus is really saves our backs when we’re changing him all the time!  My only complaint with the table is that I’d like a space to store diaper rash cream or spray for our cloth wipes on the top of the table for easy access.

To solve this problem, I decided to make a little fabric box to add on the side of the changing table.  The velcro and ribbon additions are used specifically to mount the box onto a changing table, but these can easily be omitted to form a basic storage container.  It was so easy to make I will probably create more of these in different sizes for other forms of storage!  The canvas really works nicely to stiffen the sides so they stand up on their own without interfacing.

Changing Table Organizer

What You’ll Need:

  • 1/2 yard of canvas
  • 1 foot of 1.5″ velcro**
  • Piece of heavy cardboard
  • 4 feet Milliner’s wire
  • 7 feet of ribbon**
  1. Cut out fabric rectangles. 2 – 16″x11″, 2 – 6″x11″, 3 – 16″x6″.

    Cut out fabric rectangles.

  2. Stitch each side of a wide 16″x11″ wide rectangle to one thin 6″x11″ wide rectangle.

    Pin 11″ end of narrow rectangles to either end of a wide rectangle.

  3. Stitch the other wide 16″x11″ rectangle to the other side of the thin 6″ rectangles to form a box.

    Pin another wide rectangle to other end of narrow rectangles together to form a box.

  4. Fold the box in half so it is half its height and the seams are on the inside. The fold will form the top of the box.

    Fold box in half so the seams are inside. Pin

  5. Press.  (**This is where I added some embroidery, but it is not necessary at all!)

    Press along fold to form top of box.

  6. Cut the strip of velcro into two 6″ pieces.  Pin the center of each Velcro piece on either edge of the longer panel, just below the fold.

    Stitch velcro just below the fold on either end of the long side.

  7. Unfold the box and stitch the center of the Velcro to the panel. Re-fold, so the Velcro is on the outside of the box. This will be the back of the box. **
  8. Take your wire and bend to form a 5″x15″ rectangle starting with the 5″ segment. Let the wire finish with a 5″ segment overlapping the first segment for strength then trim the wire.

    Fold milliner’s wire into a rectangle.

  9. Place the wire rectangle inside the box, moving it all the way up to the fold.
  10. Stitch a few stitches just below the wire in the center of every face of the box to tack the wire in place.  Be careful not to hit the wire when you sew.
  11. Turn box inside out then pin a 16″x6″ rectangle to the bottom of the box, right sides together.

    Pin base rectangle to box.

  12. Attach the rectangle by stitching the long sides first.  Stitch the short sides second.

    Stitch the two long sides first followed by the two short sides.

  13. Turn the box right side out.
  14. Pin the last two 16″x6″ rectangles together to form the box bottom.  Stitch three sides together, leaving one of the short sides opened.

    Pin two 16″x6″ rectangles together.

  15. Clip the corners and turn right side out.
  16. Cut a piece of cardboard 14.75″x4.75″.

    Cut rectangle from cardboard

  17. Slip the piece of cardboard inside the box bottom.  It will fit snugly.

    Insert cardboard rectangle into box bottom.

  18. Fold the seam allowance on the open side to the inside.

    Turn seam allowance inside.

  19. Stitch close to the edge to seal the box bottom closed.

    Stitch close to edge to seal box bottom.

  20. Place the bottom of the box into the box.

    Place box bottom into box.

  21. Cut two pieces of ribbon 42″ wide. Pin the center of each ribbon to either end of the front panel on the inside, just below the top.  Stitch.**

    Attach ribbon to the inside front of the box, just below the wire.

    To mount the changing table organizer, place the Velcro around one of the beams of the changing table.  Tie the ribbon to the top most bar of the changing table, to keep the box level. Fill with rash cream, wipes, etc.**

** Skip this step for an ordinary box that you don’t intend to mount on a changing table.

Here’s what the box looks like without being mounted.  Julioulius wouldn’t fit so I had to use his real name.

Here’s the finished box organizing our most-reached-for changing table supplies!


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Acorn Squash Soup

Well, our oven was broken for a few weeks surrounding Christmas.  To get around the oven issue we pulled out one of the extra large countertop ovens we have in the basement.  I have a confession to make.  I own 3 toaster ovens.  The first one we got for our wedding and we love and use every day.  It is nice and compact and fits on our countertop.  I have discovered that in a pinch you can cook a small pie in this toaster oven if needed for, say, a renaissance party.  The second countertop oven is a really nice Breville oven that my in-laws got me for Christmas a few years back.  That oven is nice and roomy and can fit a large pie in it.  We have used it for several parties.  The third oven is a GIANT Hamilton Beach oven that our friends Andrew and Emma gave to us. I used to covet this giant oven that sat on Andrew’s countertop.  They must have noticed because when they moved into a new apartment they brought it over to us.  This is the oven we took out of the basement to use while our other oven was dead.  This oven can fit not one, but TWO full sized frozen pizzas in it!!!

After I fixed the oven (it turned out the bottom coil was no longer conductive – only cost $60 to replace it!) I made lots of things that involved roasting.  I still had several acorn squash that I needed to use up from the farm share last fall so I decided to experiment with a soup.  My favorite way of preparing acorn squash is to cut it up into rings then roast with butter and brown sugar.  I adapted that method into a soup.  It was very simple.  Will deemed it “excellent” and he ate almost all of it by himself.  I consider that a triumph!  Let me know what you think of it if you try it!

Acorn Squash Soup

Serves 4


  • 2 medium acorn squash
  • 2 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 2 celery, diced
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 2 tbsp lt brown sugar
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • ¼ cup whole milk or heavy cream
  1. Cut acorn squash in half, scoop and discard insides.
  2. Place cut side down on a pan drizzled with olive oil, poke holes in skin of squash with a fork.
  3. Roast at 400 for 35 minutes or until soft. Let cool then scrape squash from its shell into a bowl.  Set aside, discarding shell.
  4. While the squash is roasting, chop your veggies.  Saute the veggies in 2 tbsp butter in a heavy bottomed stockpot until soft.
  5. Add in 2 cups chicken broth and squash from step 2.  Bring to a simmer.  Simmer for 20 minutes.
  6. Remove pot from heat and puree with an immersion blender until smooth.  (Or puree in batches in a blender).
  7. Stir in 2 tbsp brown sugar and salt and pepper to taste.
  8. Finally stir in milk or cream and serve.  Garnish with a swirl of heavy cream if desired.


Posted in Culinary Delights | 3 Comments

Breastmilk Saga or ‘Why My New Nickname is Garelick Farms’

You may remember that a couple weeks ago I mentioned that nursing was hard!  Well for me, the hardest part was that we had to exclusively bottle feed Julius for the first few weeks of his life because I couldn’t get him to latch!  This meant I pumped milk to feed Julius starting from day one!  Lucky for me I didn’t have any supply problems – the first time I pumped, I pumped 4 oz of milk in fifteen minutes!  For reference, many moms are happy to express just a few drops to feed their baby for the first feed.

Baby Julius is hungry!

After this happened I found out that my great grandmother had been a nursing surrogate during WWII, providing milk for babies whose mothers couldn’t produce.  In exchange she received extra food rations during the war.  Apparently I got her genes (which was lucky for me)!  Well by the end of the first week I was pumping 8 oz in a sitting and the milk was accumulating in the fridge.  I started looking into freezing milk and milk storage since I didn’t have nearly enough bottles to store milk.  I have a Medela Pump in Style pump, so my mom bought me some Medela milk storage bags to try out.  I really liked that when they were full of milk, they’d stand up on their own.  Plus the bags come with adapters so you can pump directly into them!

After using a whole box of medela pump and save bags, I went to buy another set of them and balked at the price.  They are $.27 a bag!  That doesn’t sound like much, but in the beginning I was going through around 25 bags a week. 25 bags!  Not to mention the bags are only 5 oz each, so frequently I’d have to use 4 bags in one sitting.  Another problem is storage.  You have to freeze the bags standing up, so they take up a TON of room in the freezer.  Given all these problems, I looked for another solution.

What I decided to purchase after trying several bags and reading hundreds of reviews were the Philips Avent breastmilk storage bags.  They are half the price of the Medela bags, they hold 6 oz and they have a double zipper so you can freeze them flat.  In addition, they are a very stiff material like the Medela bags, so they will stand on their own after you pour milk in them.  Oh, and they are recyclable!  It doesn’t say it on the packaging, but I called Philips directly (and asked them on amazon) and they responded that they are indeed recyclable.  So the only real problem with the bags is that you can’t pump into them directly.  That is, you can’t pump directly into them, without my hack below!  I have used the following procedure to modify the label portion of all the bags to pump into them.  It takes only a few seconds to modify each bag, and I’ve never had a bag fall off while pumping (and I’ve gone through around 200 bags at this point).

After I found a suitable freezing solution, I started throwing bag after bag into the freezer right after pumping.  This was when things really got ridiculous.  My family started referring to me as “Garelick Farms”  and Will would burst out laughing anytime he opened the freezer.  For perspective, these were my freezers (upstairs and downstairs) at 5 weeks postpartum.  Things were getting a bit ridiculous, so I googled online for storage solutions.  Some forums mentioned that the Philips Avent bags fit PERFECTLY in gallon storage bags after they are frozen.  Unfortunately I had been throwing bags all over the place by this point and bags from different weeks were all mixed together.  Not to mention if I took them out of the freezer they’d immediately start thawing before I could sort them.

So one day in the middle of a snowstorm I filled two laundry baskets with all the bags of frozen milk and moved them onto the porch.   I spent nearly 2 hours in 12 degree weather sorting all the milk and putting it into gallon bags.  Somehow I didn’t get a picture of this, but I assure you it was as ridiculous as you are imagining.   The good news is that now all that milk fits neatly into my freezer downstairs, ready for Julius.

BEFORE: Downstairs freezer before organizing…

BEFORE: Upstairs freezer before organizing

AFTER: Downstairs freezer full of gallon bags of organized breastmilk

AFTER: I now keep my frozen milk in a narrow bin that perfectly fits the frozen Avent bags. It fits about as many as will fit in one gallon bag. I move them to a gallon bag in the basement freezer when the bin fills up.

Direct Pump Philips Avent Breastmilk Storage Bag Adaptation for Medela

What you’ll need:

Cut along the lines in red.

  1. You’ll want to cut along the lines shown in red on the diagram.  First, cut along the line marked with the calendar icon.

    Cut along the line marked with a calendar icon.

  2. Next fold the bag in half lengthwise and cut a 1cm cut on the fold along the line marked with the smiley face.

    Fold bag lengthwise and cut a 1cm slit along line with smiley face.

  3. To pump into the bag, attach adapter to pump setup, open the bag and insert adapter into the bag.  Hang bag off the tabs on the adapter by inserting through the 2cm slit.

    Finished bag modifications. There is still plenty of room to label!

Insert adapter into bag, with arms through slit along smiley face line.

Finished bag after pumping. There is still plenty of room to label, and the bags lie flat to optimize storage.




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Botanical Prints

The dining room was the very first room in the house that Will & I painted.  Yet somehow it is one of the last rooms where I have put up wall decor or curtains.  I don’t really have an excuse for why except that I couldn’t find anything I liked to put on the walls, and I haven’t found a style of curtains I like yet.  About a year ago I decided that I really liked the look of framed botanical prints and thought that edible plants would be cute to put up on the wall.  There are many sets of these you can buy online, like these for instance, but the price is exorbitant – $200 for one framed print??  This discouraged me and I forgot about the wall decor for a while.

I gave up the search until one day I went with my mom to an estate sale furnishing store and found an original watercolor by Rosalind Oesterle with the perfect gold frame to compliment my dining room (which was much less than the framed prints!).  I was convinced it would go beautifully with some botanical prints on the opposing wall so this kicked off the hunt again.  I couldn’t find anything I liked in a reasonable price range until a trip to the Brimfield Fair with Ka & Joe gave me an idea.  We had stopped by a booth that was selling botanical prints.  They were perfect and exactly what I was looking for!  I asked the owner some questions about the prints and he answered every question I asked him rudely and sarcastically.  He was a complete JERK!  I have never had such an awful experience talking to someone for so short an amount of time!  Even though the prints were exactly what was looking for, I couldn’t justify giving this awful, rude man my money so I promptly thanked him and about faced out of the booth.  It was so hard to do considering I had been searching for so long for these prints and here they were, imprisoned by this rude man!

Dining Room all set up, you can see the watercolor on the left that re-sparked my interest in decorating the walls.

When I left the booth Joe commented that he had clearly cut them out of books and were selling each for the price of many times that of a whole book (the prints were $30-$50 each depending on size).  Genius observation Joe!  So when I returned home I scoured the internet for large format books of botanical prints.  I found the best reviewed one was this one with prints by Basilius Besler.  I purchased the book used for $38 and then searched through the entire thing when it arrived for pictures of edible plants.  I found around 20 large format pages of edible plants.  I decided I would pick 4 edible herbs, since the color schemes of these were complimentary.   My final choices included mint, pennyroyale, feverfew and basil that were on the same plates as some other edible plants like edible marigolds.

Next I cut each page out as close as I could to the spine using an Xacto-knife.

Carefully cut each page out with an Xacto knife.

I waited until Michaels had a sale on frames and purchased 4 16″x20″gold frames for half price ($25 a piece).  Then I waited for another sale and purchased 4 16″x20″ cream colored mats with 10″x13″ openings.  The mats cost me $7.50 a piece.  I then matted and framed each picture.

Matted and framed prints.

After I matted and framed each print I enlisted Will to help me hang them.  I measured the size of each frame and cut out 4 rectangles from scrap paper.  On the papers I drew a line down the center and marked an “x” where the wire hanger would hit the center line when pulled taunt.  Because each frame’s hanger tension could be slightly different, I did this separately for each frame.

Next I taped up a piece of string from the ceiling to represent the halfway point of the wall.  I would center my frames around this line.  After I adjusted the rectangles where I wanted them I simply hammered in hangers at the “x” markings and hung the paintings.

Scrap paper templates to represent each frame. I have centered them around the center string on the wall. The hooks have already been nailed into the walls in this photo.

I’m really happy with how they came out, and the grand total for the project was $168!  That’s less than just a single matted botanical print from Ballard Designs!  Now I just need to work on window treatments…

Finished botanical prints on my wall!

Look how well the frames match my chandelier!

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Eight Maids a Milking

I really don’t want to harp on more things that make child-rearing difficult, so I’ll try and make this the last one (though I have a sneaking suspicion it won’t be).  For the record, I am honestly not trying to complain about or dissuade anyone from parenting, just trying to document all the things that have been surprising to me as a new mom.  What can I say?  I’m an engineer so I’m taking the analytical approach.  Maybe it will make it easier to look back and empathize when my other friends are raising children and I’ve forgotten everything.

Anyway, today’s topic is breastfeeding.  All I’m going to say is that it is difficult, and I was warned it was difficult by pretty much everyone I know.  You’d think something that humans have been doing for hundreds of thousands of years would be pretty innate by now.  Unfortunately it seems that even if you don’t have any problems with latching or supply, it is still a learning experience for both mom and baby.  And once you do get the hang of it there are still times where things are frustrating for one reason or another.

But luckily, because we live in the 21st century, there are many products created to make things easier!  I can tell you that my #1 favorite is the “My Brest Friend” nursing pillow – affectionately referred to as “the shelf” by my family.  The thing is amazing for positioning baby – and since it is strapped to you, it doesn’t move around when baby squirms unlike the Boppy type pillows.  In fact, you can even walk around with the thing on!  It’s great.  If you plan to breastfeed you need to put one on your registry.

Another useful item for nursing is a nursing journal.  Its sort of a pain in the butt, but up until recently I wrote down the time of every feeding, soiled diaper or pumping session.  In addition I would record the side Julius nursed on.  Early on it was very helpful to make sure Julius was eating enough.  Over the last couple weeks I’ve finally stopped recording the soiled diapers, because its pretty obvious if there are enough or not during a day.  I only record nursing and pumping sessions now, since it is still very useful to know when the last time he ate was.  At night though its not as important that I track the time – I just hope he goes as long as possible without eating!  So I don’t bother waking him every three hours like I do during the day (that would be crazy!)  So all I need to know at night is what side I need to nurse him on.  My co-worker gave me a set of magnetic nursing side indicators that address this problem.

Unfortunately, while they stay on well during the day, I find that they frequently fall off in my sleep, defeating the purpose.  To solve this problem I created a version that uses snaps instead of magnets to hook over your bra strap.  These worked better than the originals (and I almost posted about them a couple weeks ago – so if you want the instructions, shoot me a message) but after using them for a while they still had some problems.  Frequently I’d forget to switch the indicator over to the other bra strap until after I was done nursing, which means I would need to lift up my shirt and fiddle around under there to fix it.  This makes using them in public iffy.  Then I realized, why not just wear a bracelet?  It’s not under your clothes so you can switch it easily from hand to hand after a nursing session without awkwardly groping around under your shirt if you forget.  Of course, any old bracelet will do, but preferably one that is easy to slip on and off.  Well, that wasn’t good enough for me, so I created one that solves one additional nursing problem!

My version of the under shirt nursing indicator using snaps instead of magnets (let me know if you want my instructions).

Another problem I have is that if I’m not wearing a nursing friendly shirt (think buttons, or big pull down collar) I have to lift my shirt up to nurse.  The shirt inevitably falls down on baby and annoys him and/or gets covered in milk.  This bracelet doubles as a way to hold up your shirt while you’re nursing!

Nursing Bracelet

What you’ll need

  • 1 coat hook from a package of “Dritz 4 Coat Hooks and Eyes”

and either

  • 10″ of elastic
  • small glass beads
  • Beading wire
  • Bead tip or to cover knot in elastic*
  • bead glue


To make the beaded bracelet

  1. Cut a 3″ piece of beading wire, fold in half and twist around one end of the elastic to form a needle.

    Thread wire around end of elastic to form a needle.

  2. Thread 4″ of beads onto the elastic.

    Thread 4″ of beads onto elastic .

  3. Thread coat hook onto elastic.

    Thread coat hook onto elastic

  4. Thread another 4″ of beads onto the elastic.

    Thread rest of beads onto elastic.

  5. *Add a crimp bead or tube if desired.
  6. Knot the ends of the elastic together.

    Knot ends of elastic.

  7. Trim the ends of the elastic then put a drop of glue on the knot.

    Trim ends of elastic then put a drop of glue on the knot

  8. Cover knot with a bead or crimp tube.

    Cover elastic with crimp bead or tube

  9. ** Note if your beads are too large, you may have to open the hook part of the coat hook slightly so it will fit over your beads when using.

    Finished bracelet

To make the hair tie bracelet

  1. Unknot hair tie.
  2. Thread coat hook onto hair tie.
  3. Re-tie hair tie.

    Finished bracelet from hair tie

To use – simply loop the bracelet around your neckline and the bottom of your shirt. Hook the coat hook onto the opposite end of the bracelet.

Bracelet holding up shirt for nursing access.

Loop bracelet around shirt and hook onto other end of bracelet to hold shirt in place.


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