Monday, June 25, 2012

Emily and Richard

Several of my dear friends from college are in various stages of the adoption process.  One of these couples just recently adopted a baby boy, and I am beyond thrilled for them!  Another couple is Emily and Richard.  They are still looking for their baby.  So I wanted to do something to maybe help them along the way, by sharing a little here.

A beautiful video to help you get to know Emily and Richard, what amazing parents they will be, and how you can help (have some tissues ready!)

Emily was basically a pseudo-roommate in college - we never actually lived in the same apartment, but we might as well have.  She is truly one of the happiest, kindest, most fun, uplifting, caring, thoughtful, selfless people I have ever been blessed to know.  And she loves kids.  She teaches elementary school.  I don't think I can count the number of times she has done something thoughtful and kind for me, much less everyone else she meets.  She would leave me little notes when I was having a hard time, or come over and keep me company, or make no-bake cookies, or breakfast, or whatever.

We went on an awesome road trip together.  It was epic.  :)

One of the many "theme parties" we had in college

Here's a slightly more recent picture of Richard, Emily, and their cute puppy on their fifth wedding anniversary

Her husband, Richard, I don't know quite as well (they got engaged and married while I was living in Europe), but he is a perfect match for Emily, which says so much about his character and what kind of father he will be.  But in the time I have spent time with him, he is always happy, positive, and fun to be around.

You just can't help but feel happy when you're around these two.

I am so inspired by them and their faith and courage through this whole process.  Instead of complaining or being bitter, they are always looking at the positive in their situation, making the most of it, and looking forward to the day they can hold their baby in their arms.  

If you happen to know of anyone looking to place their baby for adoption, please look at their adoption blog and share the information about this amazing couple.  And if not, please look at their adoption blog anyway, and help spread the word.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

simple baby "quilt"

The sudden realization that I could be having a baby in less than a month has thrown me into somewhat of a whirlwind of baby-prep activity - as much of a whirlwind as you can be with a giant basketball of a stomach, that is!  So I've been hunting out the boxes of baby clothes, and going through lots of junk to try to make room for this kid, and, of course, working on a few sewing projects for the little munchkin.

Here's the first of the sewing projects: a baby quilt!  I use the term quilt rather loosely here.  I tied it like a quilt, but other than that, I'm not really sure it qualifies.  But it sure is cute!

I actually bought this adorable dinosaur fabric to make this blanket for Jack, but, well... I never got around to it.  So I decided this baby needed a blanket of his own, and not just hand-me-downs.

I also decided to make it a bit bigger than a typical baby blanket.  We already have a lot of receiving blankets, and I wanted to make one that would last as he gets bigger.  So I got 2 yards of the dinosaur fabric, and 2 yards of the blue fabric for the back.  I trimmed it down a bit smaller than that, so it ended up about 60" by 42".  But you could make this any size you want - just adjust the amounts of fabric, batting, and binding to fit the size you want.

One of the best things about this project (like most of my projects - I'm lazy, remember?) is that it's easy!  Want to make a super cute and easy blanket?  Well, here's how I made mine.

What you'll need:

2 yards fabric for front
2 yards fabric for back
2 yards thin quilt batting
2 packages of satin blanket binding (4 3/4 yards each)
yarn in matching/coordinating color
thread to match satin binding

1. Lay out your fabric and batting.  I like the lay it out just how it will be when it's done - right sides out, batting in the middle.  Make sure all the layers are nice and smooth so that when you cut it to the right size, there won't be any problems.  I also like to line up the selvages to get a nice, even line.

Jack was "helping" Mommy make a blanket for baby brother.  (By helping I mean: every time I got all three layers nice and smooth, he would walk, sit, or drive his car on the fabric.)

2. Measure and mark where you need to cut.  If some of the pieces are a bit crooked (which tends to happen) even them up first so that you're measuring from a more even point.  Cut all three layers together to the size you want.

I like to cut along a straight edge, like this quilters ruler, to make sure I get straight line.  I'm not very good at cutting straight lines on my own...

3. Pin all three layers together all around the outer edge, making sure the edges line up, especially the batting which might bunch up.

4. Baste or stitch the blanket together.  You don't need to worry about the seams showing because they'll be covered up by the binding.  I did a 5/8" seam just in case any of the edges were somehow not quite lined up, that way I knew I would get all three layers.  Plus, the binding is wider than that and will cover it up.  Stitch all the way around the blanket so all four sides are sewn together.

5. Time for the binding!  First you'll want to iron the creases out - not the center fold, the creases from being wrapped around the piece of cardboard.

6. (If you're making a bigger quilt that needs more than one package of binding, follow this step.  If not, skip to the next step.)   
          a) Open out the end of both pieces of binding, and line up, right sides together, making sure the         center folds align.  Pin.
        b) Stitch together, then trim the excess so it isn't too bulky.
        c) Open it back out, and fold down along the center fold.  Now it's ready to use!

7. Starting at least 12" from a corner, pin binding around the edge of the blanket.  The binding should have one side that's a little longer - this goes on the back.  Just tuck the blanket right up into the fold of the binding, and pin to hold it in place.

8. When you get to a corner, pin it, then turn it at a right angle, and continue pinning.  There will be a pucker in the binding, but you will make it into a mitered corner when you stitch it.

9. When you get back to where you started, leave a few extra inches, and cut off the extra.  Don't pin down the very end where it overlaps yet.

10.  Using a zig-zag stitch, stitch binding onto blanket along the edge.

11.  When you get to a corner, tuck one side of the binding up under the other to form a pointed corner and pin it.  Make sure you tuck both the top and bottom.

11.  With the needle in the fabric at the corner, lift the foot and turn the quilt, then continue stitching.  

12.  Continue stitching all the way around the quilt until you get a few inches from where you started.  Fold the edge of the binding under to hide the raw edge.  Then line it up with the binding that's already sewn on, and finish sewing.  Be sure to backstitch a little to make sure it holds.

From here you could be done if you want to be.  Or you could tie it with yarn or embroidery floss to give it that hand tied quilt look.  I'll be honest - I'm not an expert at this part, so I'm not going to give you the step by step, because I'd probably explain at least some of it wrong!  But I will share a few tips and tricks that I've picked up on the few blankets I've tied.

Tip #1: Put pins at the top and bottom of each "column" as guide markers

Tip #2: Cut out a square of paper the size you want the knots to be spaced.  So if you want them 6" apart, cut out a 6" square.  (That's the size I used)

Tip #3: Don't cut the yarn until the end.  Just keep it all connected, and keep going.  Then cut between each stitch, knot them, trim them, and you're done!


Wednesday, June 13, 2012

"sneaky" muffins

Jack has gotten super picky lately, especially when it comes to eating vegetables.  He used to eat just about anything we gave him, but now foods he loved a few weeks ago he refuses to eat.  I've been told this is really common with toddlers, but it's still rather frustrating at times.  So I've had to get a bit more sneaky.
(I thought this was a good picture for being sneaky since the muffin kind of blends in with the counter!)  :)

He already loves green smoothies, but I don't make them everyday (pregnancy has made me lazy) and I wanted to branch out a bit.  So I did some searching for recipes, and found this one at for some muffins that looked pretty good.  But there were a few things I changed a bit, and here's what I came up with:

Sneaky Muffins (banana-vegie-bran muffins)

1/2 cup butter, softened
1/4 - 1/3 cup brown sugar (or substitute agave nectar)
2 large, very ripe bananas
1 small zucchini, shredded
2 medium carrots, shredded
2 eggs
1 cup flour
1/2 cup oat or wheat bran
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt

1. Preheat oven to 375 F.

2. Mix butter and sugar together until smooth.  Add bananas, zucchini, carrots, and eggs, and mix well, until the bananas are smoothly mashed into the dough.

3. Add remaining ingredients, and mix until just combined.

4. Spoon batter into greased muffin or mini muffin pan.  Fill each muffin 2/3 to 3/4 full.

5. Bake for 13-15 minutes for mini muffins, or 15-18 minutes for regular muffins.  Cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling.

*Adapted from

One of the things I really like about these muffins is that they freeze well!  So if you have lots of zucchini in your garden this summer, make a few batches and freeze them.  Or if you know they won't get eaten fast enough, just pop them in a ziploc freezer bag and stick them in the freezer.

Some other things I like about these - they're actually quite tasty.  So they're definitely not just for toddlers.  And they're healthy: vegetables, bran, and only a little sugar since the bananas naturally sweeten them.

Update: I recently decided to start a separate blog for recipes and food/cooking tips and ideas. Check out more recipes like this over at Modern Mommy's Kitchen!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

car cake

This past weekend was Jack's birthday, and since he is completely obsessed with cars, I decided to make him a car cake!

Want to make one too?  It's really not too difficult.  Here's how to make it!

What you'll need:

1 box of cake mix, prepared according to directions on package
1 9 inch round pan
1 6 inch round pan
2 mini bunt cake pans
1 batch/container vanilla frosting
1/2 batch/container chocolate frosting
black gel icing
black food coloring
red (or other color) food coloring

1. Trace around the cake pans to make a template for your car cake.  This makes it easier to cut the pieces the right size later.  I traced the full circles first, then drew the lines across the bottom where I wanted the bottom of the car to be, and erased the rest.  

2. Make the cake mix, and pour into each of the pans.  I sprayed them with baking spray first, the kind with flour in it, to make sure they would come out easily.  I also didn't fill the bigger pans quite as high as I might normally, to keep them all relatively even and have enough for each pan.

3. Bake the cakes (it will probably take less time than suggested on the package because they're smaller), then let them cool completely.

4. Place the 9 inch round cake (the biggest one) on your template, and cut off the bottom section to the appropriate size.

5. Place the 6 inch round cake on your template, and cut it for the front and back of the car.  It's basically just 1/4 of the cake.

6. Place all the pieces on whatever surface you plan to serve it on.  I just used a foil-lined cookie sheet.  This will help you see where you may need to trim and adjust.  For instance, my bumper pieces were taller than the main piece, so I trimmed a bit off the bottom to make them more even.  

Don't worry too much if the front and back don't perfectly follow the curve of the bigger piece.  Some of that won't matter once you fit the wheels in, and the rest can mostly be hidden with frosting.

7. Time to cut out a spot for the wheels.  Hold one of the bunt cakes where you want it to fit into the cake, and cut out the cake around it.

Ta-da!  All the pieces are assembled!  Time for frosting!

Here are all my cake "remnants."  Looks a bit creepy with the knife sitting there...

8. Dye about 2/3 to 3/4 of the vanilla frosting red with the red food coloring (or whatever color you want the car to be).  To get it this bright of a red, and not pink, it took more than half a bottle of food coloring.  You could use the food coloring paste - I hear it's better for deeper colors.  But I've never tried it.  Dye the chocolate frosting black with the black food coloring.  (The reason I used chocolate is that it takes way less food coloring, and is less likely to end up looking gray.)  Save the last 1/3 or so of the vanilla for the windows.

9. Frost the main body of the car with the red frosting.  I took the wheels out for this part so it was easier to frost.

10. Frost the wheels with the black frosting.  I found the easiest way to do this was to just hold it in your hand and frost it, then place it back in the cake.

11. To do the windows and lights, I traced the shape with a toothpick, then filled it in with the white frosting.  Then I traced around it with the black gel icing.  

And it was done!  A car cake for my little boy!

He definitely enjoyed it!  He got to eat one of the wheels, and was covered in black frosting by the time he was done! I love the crazy look on his face here.  What a goof, my little two year old!

Update: I recently decided to start a separate food blog for recipes and food/cooking tips and ideas. See more ideas like this and lots of quick and healthy recipes over at Modern Mommy's Kitchen!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

pirate quiet book - the finished product

Here's the full, complete, finished book!

For the cover, I used some of the borders and the shark from the fabric that inspired the book.

Pages 1 and 2

All the little pirates in the boat on the first page are individual pieces that you can move throughout the story.  And the boat is a big pocket so they can all fit inside.

Pages 3 and 4

The sail goes up and down
This was a little tricky for me to figure out how to make it work - but I decided the easiest/best way was to sew button holes at the top and bottom of the mast, and put a loop of twine through.  It's long enough that it's just a big circle - it goes all the way across the back of the mast on the back side of the page.  Then I attached the twine to the top of the sail, and attached the bottom of the sail to the page, so it would just move up and down along the mast.

This is one of my favorite pages in the book.  The little fish are made of felt, and have little magnets glued to the back.  There are also magnets attached under the waves so they'll stay in the water.  The net is made of a piece of tulle, and I just sewed it on kind of like a little pocket.  I sewed the back part on first, then the top over it, but pulled the sides in just a little bit so it would stick up and be easier to put the fish in.

Pages 5 and 6

For the steering wheel on page 5, I cut out an extra wheel from the fabric, and attached a stiff interfacing to the back to make it stronger.  Then I used a snap to attach it to the page and make it able to turn.  I just sewed one half of the snap onto the page, and the other onto the wheel.
The boat on page six is a pocket, so the anchor can go in and out of the boat.  And you can put the pirates in the boat.  There's also a magnet in the waves to hold the anchor in place once you "drop anchor."

Pages 7 and 8

The treasure map!  You can move the pirates along the path to find the treasure.

Pages 9 and 10

They find the treasure!

The lid lifts up to show the jewels and gold coins in the treasure chest.  A magnet holds it closed.

And the coins are numbered to help with counting!

Well, there you have it friends.  The quiet book that took 8 months to finish!  But I'm pretty happy with how it turned out, and that I actually finished the project!  It was a lot of work, but hopefully Jack will actually like the book (and not just destroy it!) so it will all be worth it.