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Happy Valentine’s Day!


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!

3…2…1…Blast Off!

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The last day of school is finally upon us. I don’t care what the calendar says — summer is here!

Of course, not before we cart a few more tokens of our appreciation out the door.

For the “main” teachers:


A patchwork bookmark with a gift card tucked in. The design was very much inspired by this one, but I like bookmarks to be really thin, so I stitched patchwork to card stock instead. Oh, and I very fancily made a buttonhole at the top for the ribbon.

For the many other wonderful teachers, assistants, and our wonderful neighborhood crossing guard, cookies!


Apparently, I lost count in the wee hours of the morning when I was bagging them up, because he was giving them to any teacher he met in the hall on his way out. Hey, fine by me — better than coming home with a bag full of gifts like last year!

And, finally, a little something for his one teacher who is expecting a late summer baby:


I already had some bibs made up, but they needed snaps. This will show you how much I hate attaching snaps: rather than just hammer a couple in, I made up a whole new diaper clutch instead. Yes, last night. Or maybe that just shows how much I like making these, and how quickly they come together. Actually, it’s totally the sum of those parts.

Halfway through construction, I remembered that this was the fabric I’d used to make this same teacher a tissue pack cover at Christmas. Well, won’t she just be voted Most Coordinated Mom!

Also, once it was finished, the square of stitching where the Velcro is attached to the closure was bothering me so much that I couldn’t leave it alone. In the end, I just cut out a tiny patch and glued it right on.



Easy peasy.


And that, as they say, is a wrap. Come on, summer!

No Big Deal

One of my more unfortunate tendencies is to treat every little thing like it’s major. Creatures of habit can be that way, and I’m nothing if not routine-driven. On the one hand, I’ve come to accept that I need to take a minute to really spin things around in my mind for a while before committing to an answer. I’m okay with that. But I’m not okay with constantly leading with a “no” (just ask my kids if you didn’t know this about me, but I’m pretty sure you know it, too), or completely blowing things out of proportion when it comes to timing.

For example:

Last week was the AWANA Grand Prix at church. I bought some cupcakes to add to the dessert table, and was really thrilled with myself for dropping them off early in the day so that I could check it off of my list of obligations. Really, anything I can do to reduce the noise level in my head is a good thing, and I already told you that the last few weeks have left me feeling a little out of control. (Not that I have control issues. Surely not.) Anyway, as the afternoon went on, I thought about making some cookies or something. Ooh, but would there be time? And then I spied the lovely jar that had been sitting on my counter for a whole week (after I spied it in the pantry and decided that there was no way I was wasting such a sweet gift…and then promoted it to the counter to wile away a few more days.)


Really, how long does it take to add butter and eggs to pre-mixed dry ingredients? And then to drop and bake the cookies?


Not long at all, as it turns out. They were delicious, by the way, and we were all sad that there was only one left when we got home. I’m kind of becoming a fan of small batch baking; it’s so much more manageable! Anyway, I’m trying very hard to adopt more of a new “just do it” attitude, and pop-ups like this won’t be such a shock to those who live here.

Here’s hoping.

Guess I’ll Just Go On Anyway

When one of the kids gets sick — which was Monday afternoon’s special surprise — I find it hard to re-group. At the almost eight year point, I’ve finally stopped completely freaking out every single time, which is saying something. (Just ask my husband.) Sure, I still blow a gasket, but only in my head.

Well, sort of. I should probably say that I don’t immediately blow a gasket anywhere but inside my head. Still a significant improvement; I used to do everything but run hot laps around the living room. The second kid broke me of that to a certain extent. She got sick a lot more often, and I just couldn’t keep up with the number of breakdowns required by her frequent mystery fevers.

Here’s a couple of things I managed to accomplish today:

  • prepped the Children’s Church materials for Sunday
  • made my first but definitely not last pot of congee, which is probably the most awesome sick day food ever. Why didn’t I know about this when I was pregnant?!
  • baked bread and made a nice pot of vegetable soup for dinner012

The soup is from this book, which I highly recommend — both the soup and the book. I will tell you that I chose the moment for snapping a picture of this soup deliberately. Once you blend it, well, it’s not pretty. Not at all. In fact, the first time I made it, I was pretty sure that I wouldn’t even like it, let alone the kids. Everyone LOVES this soup! It’s really tasty and feels like you’re doing something healthy for your body. Of course, I like to mess that up a little by sprinkling some feta on top before serving it, but that’s just me.

Oh, and there was laundry. Blessedly little, considering.

Really, this is just a way for me to remind myself that I didn’t do nothing today. It only felt that way, but I’m okay with that.

31 Days: Trickery

It’s sad that, at my age, I still need to trick myself into doing chores. See, I really really hate doing the dishes. I try very hard to clean as I go and all that, but —

Okay, actually, I guess I don’t try all that hard, or I’d be cleaning as I go all the time. That’s pretty much one of those Yoda “there is no try” kind of situations. So, in theory, I believe in cleaning as I go, but it rarely works out that way. Hence, dishes begin to pile up super quickly. You miss one meal’s worth of dishes, and the counter’s covered.

In order to compel myself to get in there and get the job done, I’ve found two excellent tools:

  1. Keep some music in the kitchen, and turn it UP.
  2. Put on an apron.

Easy. Clearly, neither one of these tips is rocket science, but they have made a big difference in my routine. The minute I slip the apron over my head, I know it’s time to Work. Also, I know I can work without soaking myself at the sink ten minutes before I’m due to pick up the kids; one more excuse gone. Then, if I can just make myself walk to the back and turn on the iPod, I’m more than happy to stay put for at least a few tunes. The little things really do add up!

Right now, the dishwasher is waiting to be emptied and I have two loaves of bread rising on the table. (The dough has been in the fridge for over a week, so time was getting to be of the essence, there.) Seeing as how I have no desire to have anything at all to do with the kitchen today, an apron will definitely be in order.

31 Days: More Better

The one good thing about trying to make every day more productive is that I find myself feeling like it’s actually possible to get more done. Usually, on even the most non-productive Saturday, I am through by the time five o’clock rolls around. Through. This week, though, I managed to actually cook dinner — despite the fact that the grill ran out of gas as I was heating it up to cook the pork chops, which would normally be a total deal-breaker — AND make a dessert for the fellowship after church on Sunday.

Two things of note, there: I opted to try a new recipe instead of something tried and true, and I didn’t wait until Sunday afternoon to do it.

Another important note:

These brownies are completely delicious, and not at all complicated. The delicious part is not even 1% surprising, considering that  you can’t go wrong with Smitten Kitchen, but when I see homemade anything and swirling involved, well, I’m pretty sure it’s going to end badly. Not so! [But I would totally make these the day before and let them get good and cold before cutting them. It made a huge difference, at least for me.]

31 Days: Catching My Breath

Last night, my sewing machine started phantom stitching. That may not be the technical term, but it’s when I take my foot off the pedal, and it the needle goes right on sewing. Hasn’t done that for at least a year; I’m hoping that it stops again soon.

Therefore, today is not a day for sewing.

The kitchen looks like a very small but effective bomb went off in the night.

Today is not a day for baking. If it were, then right now I’d be deciding between making a batch of these or maybe some of these. Why not both? But not today.

No, today is a day for frelaxing (as we like to call it) — between spending the morning teaching/entertaining the 4 and 5 year-olds at church and an evening of chasing and being entertained by the 1’s tonight — and planning. List-making? But, of course. Reading? Sounds good!

And when I’ve had my fill of that (as if there were such a thing, but you know), I’ll take ten and fold the clothes that are patiently awaiting me in the laundry room. That’ll be just enough to get the week started off right.

Enjoy your Sundays, friends!

31 Days: Break It Down

As much as I love a good list, to-do lists can get overwhelming. That having been said, I’m a fan of making a long list impossibly long by breaking down certain tasks into manageable, realistic steps.

For example, yesterday I knew that I needed to bake up some biscuits.

Since I was up about an hour earlier than I needed to be, I knew I had a little extra time, but not necessarily enough to finish the task. Rather than put the whole thing off until later in the day, I figured I might as well mix up the dry ingredients.  (That in and of itself makes every baking task so much more feasible, mentally, in my book. If the dry ingredients are measured and waiting for me, it’s almost as good as done.) Once that was done, well, only five minutes had passed; plenty of time to at least mix up the dough and cut the biscuits. They could sit on their cookie sheets in the fridge for a couple of hours if need be, and baking them off later would be a breeze!

Except, as it turns out, there was still enough time to get them into the oven before lunch-packing began. How ’bout that? It didn’t take nearly as long as I’d thought! On top of that, if I’d waited until later in the day, it probably would have ended up lumped in with a bunch of other stuff that absolutely had to get done right that minute and would’ve been much more stressful than it needed to be.

I’m very guilty of letting things get out of hand until they’re much more stressful than they need to be.

So, friends, that is my encouragement to you today: Break it down, chip away at it, and you’ll be done before you know it.


Olympic Fever

It’s really all I can do not to hunker down in our cave of a house and watch Olympic coverage all day every day. I love the Olympics!

In the spirit of the games, I finally got around to setting up the pool noodle target station that I pinned many weeks ago. To give you an idea, I actually made the rings on July 4th; that was as far as that went til now. (We actually had a blast with just the rings, so it wasn’t a total loss.)

Yeah — it’s far from perfect. Getting the rings to stay rings is no small feat. Lucky for me, the kids are still young enough not to care. Since they only play with it for about ten minutes at a time, the attention I gave to “perfection” was just about right.

After our special Opening Ceremonies dinner [what’s more American than a grilled hot dog, I ask you?], the torches made their appearance in Cooper Arena:


Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go see what’s on. I’m hoping that it’s more water polo or rowing or something horsey, because I have a lot of other things to do today.

And If You Like That, You’ll Love This

Wondering what to do with the strawberries leftover from yesterday’s pops? Did you find yourself digging the magically delicious combo of  berries and cardamom? Then get thee back into the kitchen to bake up a Strawberry Upside-down Cake!

[Joy’s looks so much prettier. She’s such a pro!]

While it’s baking, brew up a pot of coffee or ice yourself some sweet tea. When snack time rolls around, you’ll be glad you did; trust me on this one.