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The Little Things: Canning Jar Sleeve

I have so many little projects on my mental to-do list. Big ones, too, but mostly small ones, which have turned into brain clutter. When I winnowed down my collection of sewing/d.i.y. magazines, I came across the instructions for a few of those, and even found a couple of new ones. These projects are currently taking up residence in my lovely new works-in-progress basket (which is appropriate, seeing as how there haven’t been any actual works around here lately), and I’m going to do my best to burn through them in a quick fashion.

First up, the canning jar sleeve:

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So, I’m driving the kids to school a couple of weeks ago, and I brought along my trusty mason jar of ginger tea. No biggie, right? I pull up to the stop sign, take a sip, and had a sudden flash: what with the jar and all, it sure might look like Mama needs a little “eye-opener” to get popping in the morning. And then when I mentioned this to my husband, he laughed and laughed, and right then I knew it was time to dress my favorite drink vessel with some respect.

That, and it pleased me to no end to use up a couple of pretty remnants.

 

Nice and Easy

A couple of posts back, I made mention of my recent adventures cooking with the kids. Now, if you’re someone who naturally digs cooking with your little ones, you are not going to be impressed; trust me on this one.

However, if you — like me — tend to get a little frazzled, and were not born with that super useful ability to unclench a little because they’re just kids and this is supposed to be fun for all, well, this post is for you.

Also: if you like delicious chocolate, this post is for you. We’ll be covering both.

So, my kids love to go through this book and make their requests. I like that, since I’m all too happy for new lunch ammo, and the recipes we’ve sampled have been hits. This time around, my son lit on the oatmeal bars. I told him that we’d give them a shot one day. Ah, that mythical day, when we have some free time, and I’m in the mood to get everyone into the kitchen with me and the table is clear….

It just doesn’t happen that often. And why? Because I totally overthink it! This time, after he went to school, I looked at the recipe again, and realized that we had everything in the cupboards. And the table was 80% cleared off. And we had free time in the afternoon. Oh, and it is a super easy recipe. Why not just make the darn cookies? No reason not to. I did, however, try to think of a way to make it less stress-inducing for me, because it just makes sense.

Brace yourself — here it is:

  1. Prep all the ingredients and have them all set up before calling the kids into the kitchen. Yes, this takes some of the fun learning out of it, but it’s a process. We’ll get to more fun hands-on stuff down the road. Probably way down the road.
  2. Pick something easy!

I can’t stress that second one enough. The oatmeal bars were as easy as they read, not to mention delicious, and took about ten minutes to put together. I thought it might have been too easy, and they’d be kind of let down by the experience, but no! They were happy to have cooked, happy to be done, and didn’t fight for the rest of the afternoon.

Oh yes. Best ten minutes ever! I could not believe the difference.

Fast forward to yesterday. I love a couple bites of tasty chocolate at the end of the day, but always feel a little guilty when I throw the “good” bars into the cart (especially since I don’t like to share. Shhhh.) Also, we have been eating A LOT of dessert lately, so I thought that having a nice nibble of something sweet at the end of the meal might wean us off somewhat without all the ruckus. What about chocolate bark? I found this recipe on Pinterest and figured that it would be a good one to try sometime. Doh! Here we go again! See how ingrained this tendency has become? So my little buddy and I stopped at the store for a bag of Ghirardelli chips, rummaged through the pantry for fancy add-ons, and made us some bark.

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(I meant to take fancier step-by-step pics, but then I forgot, what with all of the excitement over actually doing something.)

We added chopped salted almonds and flaked coconut to our chocolate. I spread out the chocolate puddle, and Bridget rained down the toppings. And then I rained down some more, because she totally refused to get out to the corners. Teamwork!

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Here it is after it’s chill time, all nice and shard-y. It’s quite delish, and it sure has done the trick as far as making everyone forget their nightly cries for ice cream cones (mine included), but next time I think I’ll stir some of the toppings into the chocolate to add more flavor. We’ll see.

I’m going to need a lot more of these quick little projects before the summer is upon us.

 

Seriously — Out With the Old

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My mom gave me a lovely set of metal mixing bowls for Christmas. (Thanks again, Mom! And it’s an old photo — the tongs are no longer wrapped, although you know I do like to savor a gift fully before putting it into use.) Metal totally trumps plastic in a lot of ways, but the key to me is that it’s so much easier to clean when you’ve used any kind of grease. Have you tried washing a plastic bowl after eating buttery popcorn? Ugh! Drives me bonkers. Also, they look nice in an industrial way when used as serving bowls, especially considering that they’re replacing a bunch of mismatched green ones.

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I mean, they are all green, so they can be considered a “collection”, I guess? But they weren’t making me particularly happy. Yet, when it came time to swap them out for the shiny new ones…that was a little hard.

Might they come in handy some day?

Don’t I have some little smidgen of space in the pantry where they could be stashed? You know — in case of a bowl emergency?

What constitutes a bowl emergency?

Am I my own grandma? Because I hold onto things like someone raised in an orphanage during the Depression.

The Greens headed out the door to Goodwill this morning, along with a few other beautiful, perfectly good things. The load is lightening every day, friends!

Presto

Slowly but surely, I’ve set out to change or fix every thing about this house that’s not working for me. Superficially speaking — there are waaaay too many things that need fixing which I’m not equipped to take on. But the other stuff that’s been making me twitchy? Yeah, it’s time for it to go.

Have you ever noticed how much mental energy gets sapped by something that bugs you? Here’s an example, and it’s a really dumb one, but here it is:

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See that ridiculous tiny shelving thing in the corner? The one that doesn’t actually fit on the wall, and is way too short to make sense? Well, this is where I store napkins and tablecloths. It made sense at the time: The cube had been tossed out of another room, and it was convenient to have the linens right next to the table. Since it was out of the way, it didn’t really have to be perfect.

Unfortunately, it bothered me every time I came into the kitchen. Sometimes I didn’t even notice it was bothering me, but the way it cluttered up that corner aggravated me more than you would believe. It just made the whole space feel cluttered (which it usually is anyway, but this made it way worse.) Then, just the other day, a radical thought occurred to me:

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MOVE THE DARN THING!

Actually, it was more convoluted than that. I was trying to shoehorn a different cupboard from a different room [a story for another day] into this nook. In the process, I moved the recycling bin out of the space — and over into no man’s land, so that still needs to be addressed — and realized that this cube fit perfectly. And with the plant on top, there’s no way for me to crap it all up with stuff from the table!

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So much better.

What you can’t tell from this angle is that I also moved the table over closer to the door, which makes the space feel way roomier. That was a surprise, seeing as how it was only about a foot, but now the table is centered more on one of the overhead lights (which I hate, but that’s one of the “unfixables” for the moment) rather than the wall, and it feels much cleaner. Plus, Kevin no longer hits his head on the stupid swinging light, so he’s happy, too.

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I’m working on one last add-on project from last year, which has also been zapping me mentally. But! I think I can finish it this week, and then there are so very many things I’d like to get cracking on. Too many! Clearly, I need a good system for attacking them as well; working on that, too. Also, I’ve been baking with the kids. There’s more to that story, also. Oddly enough, it’s all interrelated.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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Romantic plans for the evening: Chick Fil A dinner; Olympic viewing; tasty raspberry pie cookies*. Wishing you love this Valentine’s Day!

 

*Yes, I totally cheated and Pillsbury-ed the crust. There’s still plenty of love baked into these little beauties!

Love is In The Air

The second her teacher said, “Wear your prettiest Valentine dress on Thursday!”, I could tell by the look on my girl’s face that I was hosed. See, she does not have a Valentine dress — not a specific one, at least. Silly me, I thought that her favorite red and gold sweater dress would do just fine. It’s red, it’s gold — it has short sleeves! Short sleeves rule!

But no.

“Mom, I need a dress for my party.”

The next morning:

“Mom, don’t forget my pretty dress. Oh, I can’t wait to wear my pretty dress for the Valentine party!”

Oh boy.

Okay, so a mom who is not super cheap would just mosey on down to Target and get whatever glittered heart madness they’re churning out this year, but I’m not always that mom. It was cold yesterday. So, so cold. Better to hit the fabric shelf and see what I could come up with…except I didn’t want to make a dress. More importantly, I don’t know how to make a dress. My only trick is attaching a skirt to a t-shirt, and I didn’t like any of the options on hand.

And then

I took one more look in her closet and found this:

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A $6.00 H&M dress with a spot on the front. Well! This looked promising! After a quick peek at the Pinterest files, I came across some reverse applique instructions, cut a sleeve off of one of my old shirts, and was off to the races. A couple of hours later, voila!

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Best of all, the young boss loved it! (I wasn’t sure it was going to fly, since she’d already said that the red and pink tunic she was wearing would be “crazy” for her to wear, due to the black and grey in the color scheme. Imagine!)

Bolstered by this success, and drunk with ideas after the whole Pinterest perusal, I also cranked these out for the kids at my AWANA table:

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They were…well, less than enthused, but I bet they’ll use them sometime. Or leave them to get smushed up at the bottom of their bag. I really am trying not to overthink these things. They certainly weren’t going to be any more excited over the stuff that I’d thought about doing two weeks ago and never did, so there we go.

Two more bookmarks are in the works today for the two at my breakfast table. Theirs will be stuffed into new books, so that ought to be worth something. Not that they wouldn’t prefer them to be sticking out of the top of a Lego box, but come on. Speaking of Legos, we saw the movie on Saturday and thought it was terrific. I think Kevin and I laughed more than the kids. Anyway, one of the great points the movie makes [spoiler alert, but not really] is that there are so many creative things to make with those little bricks that aren’t on the instruction pages. True! But then what’s with all the movie tie-in sets? I mean, I know what’s with it — cha ching! — but it really offended my sensibilities.

 

SuperbOwl Weekend

[Tip of the hat to Mr. Colbert for the title of this post.]

As usual, by ten o’clock Monday morning, I’ve all but forgotten what all took place over the weekend. There was a basketball game…I relented and went back into the kitchen…church on Sunday…yeah. More along those lines.

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Somewhere in the midst of all that excitement, I managed to finish up a couple of more baby gifts. As much as I love pink — and I do love pink — it is a lot of fun to break out of the blush and bashful color scheme when sewing for little girls. Yes, the second owl has some pink worked in, but note that the dominant color is none other than a close relative of THE color for 2014! How could I resist the tying that in? That alone makes it an important memento. All that’s left is to wrap these up and launch them from the nest.

 

Whatever

What day is it? With all the crazy “snow” days interrupting our regular schedule, and all of the other stuff making our days a little cuckoo, I’m feeling even more scattered than usual. But that’s winter for you.

Still, we press on! This weekend we made ninjabread cookies (thanks, Ms. Heather!):

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Later, I gave new life to one of Bridget’s old faves, thanks for this tutorial:

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She was so happy. I, of course, spent the next hour wildly looking for more ruined long-sleeved shirts in my stash to try that trick again.

And then yesterday we had Cold Day (which is when they close the schools on account of the weather, and then it doesn’t actually do anything), so I decided to make good on the beef bones in the freezer and whip up another batch of stock. Oh, it simmered away all afternoon, and I had big plans for french dip sandwiches and pot pies in our future. Finally, I lovingly strained it into my largest bowl, and caught the bottom of the pan on the edge of said bowl, tipping it over and dumping the entire contents down the drain. I mean straight down the drain, as though it were being vacuumed down the disposal. AGH!! It was just disgusting. So I washed the nasty, greasy dishes and closed the kitchen for the night. Or maybe FOREVER! Ugh.

 

Cinchy

So, when I do go ahead and try to take pictures, it surely must be on the most dreary day of the month. Well, sure.

It felt so nice to finally have my cutting table cleared enough to start a brand new project, even a small one. This time, the occasion was a baby shower. Since one of my main goals was to use up some of the supplies on hand, I went with these cute quick change bags (which were inspired by these, as you will surely be able to tell):

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[The little pinwheel tag is also handmade, but not by my hands -- that would be thanks to my sister, Michele.]

It was fun and super-quick to put together. I think my next project may also be a baby gift, but not the same one. Or it may be a little re-fashioning project that I should really get a jump on before I blink and the cooler weather is nothing but a fading memory. (I say that, but I think we all know that we Houstonians will be referring to this years big SNOW DAY — now with 99% less snow — for many days to come.)

As for the rest of this weekend  we have (Lord willing) basketball, Children’s Church, and maybe some fun baking. Wishing you a great weekend!

 

Kitchen Wiz

Right off the bat, let me apologize for the lack of pretty pictures, or — more accurately — any pictures. I meant to take one of the beautiful bowl of chopped veggies waiting to go into tonight’s soup, and then I got to talking on the phone, which caused me to completely forget about snapping a shot before making said soup.

You’re not missing much. Imagine a square quart-sized glass bowl filled with a chopped rainbow of vegetable goodness. Ahhhh. There you go!

Now — back to business. This week, I have been killing it in the kitchen! Now, to put that in perspective, I’ve not yet broken even with those who actually cook all their meals at home and swear off all things processed. Oh my, no. However, by merely putting on my apron and bossing myself around a bit, so far I’ve:

  • caramelized a big batch of onions (because that’s the only way anything onion-y is going to make it into any of my food)
  • baked three loaves of artisan bread
  • cooked up a pot of applesauce*
  • made a half-batch of jambalaya
  • roasted tomatoes and garlic for sauce, thus salvaging the tomatoes that I could almost watch going soft on the counter
  • froze some chocolate covered banana bites for snack
  • baked up a tray of Coconut Granola Bark

Dinner was a pot of creamy any veggie soup [scroll down - it's the second recipe on the page]. I make this soup about once every two weeks or so, and it really is a little bit magical. It looks absolutely terrible, though, but everyone at my table slurps it down. Tonight’s combo was pretty wild — broccoli, carrot, tomatoes, Swiss chard, black radish, and golden beet — and it still worked. Our youngest member complained about the spice, but that wasn’t until the last bite. (It wasn’t spicy.) This soup is a terrific way to clean out the crisper and any other annoying leftover drips and dabs in the fridge, including any last cups of stock you might have.

Speaking of stock, I loved reading this post, especially the part about the chicken stock hanging over her head. I can relate! A couple of weeks ago, my mom and I were talking and I was telling her that I just couldn’t stand the thought of fooling around making a pot of stock and having to mess with straining it and all that. She agreed, but then she said, “It’s really not that hard.” What just happened? Totally the opposite of agreeing! But she was right, and just hearing her say that made me think, “Oh yeah! It isn’t that hard”, so I put on the pot and — four hours later — froze several quarts of stock.

The hard part is facing how often I’m just unwilling to put in the time, and how easy it is to sit and think for hours on end about how hard “it” is. Yikes.

But that’s not today! Today we dined at home!

 

*I didn’t have any apple juice in the house, and as a result almost didn’t make the applesauce for the third week in a row. Then, I remembered that we do have running water, and subbed that. Still delicious. The key to kitchen success: Know when not to be a slave to your recipe!

 

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