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In the Bag

The first week of the 2014-15 school year is a thing of the past, and we are officially off to the races! It’s funny how quickly we slide back into the non-summer routine; after the first day, I almost forgot what it was like to still be in bed at six. On the other hand, it’s surprising how exhausted we all were when the week came to a close. Especially me, considering I should be feeling so rested and accomplished, what with both kids on the same schedule now, right? Well, not so. Maybe after a couple more weeks it’ll be a different story, but so far every day has had something new to keep me hopping. That’s not a complaint so much as an observation — it was a great week!

In gearing up for the big first day, I went to the school and purchased the big pallet of supplies for each kid. Sweet fancy Moses! Once the “spirit day” t-shirts and planner (for Mr. 4th Grade) were added on, we were in over a hundred bucks. Now, I know this isn’t any big shocker, because I know how much I’ve paid just for the boy’s stuff every year, and yet…my brain failed to double that and prepare me for the grand total when I stood at the table three minutes after entering the cafeteria.

I’ll say that for buying the supplies from the school: It’s efficient.

All that to lead up to today’s crafty story. Given the expense of all the other stuff, you can imagine how ridiculously pleased I was with myself for saving Joey’s kindergarten tote these past three years. Waste not, want not! Never mind that the savings is a whopping $7.00. Pay no attention to the tiny holes in the bottom (which I failed to notice in my excitement of having found the tote exactly where it belonged and in “perfectly good” condition.) See, every kindergartener is required to carry said tote; no backpacks are allowed. This allows the teachers to quickly identify them…or somethin’. And they encourage you to doll them up and bling ’em out! But for all my craftiness, I’m not one much for bling. And I couldn’t wrap my head around any other ideas, and that spells trouble as far as executing something not totally embarrassing. I know when to holster my glue gun, friends. It was bad enough that I jumped right into this task at the spur of the moment, and promptly cut the fabric without adding the proper seam allowances. Doh! This is why taking several seemingly unnecessary days to plan and ruminate are key. Then again, I managed to skimp a little and still get the job done, so maybe there’s a good middle ground. Who’s to say?

Instead, I took thirty minutes today and killed two birds with one stone:

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Note the addition of the fancy, rainbow-hearted lining, completely non-standard issue*. You may also note that the blue heart totally matches the blue bag — love it when a plan comes together! I remembered Betz White upcycling totes this way, so this bag may even have a third life turned inside out after this year. I don’t have that high of hopes for its durability, but it made it this far so who knows.

Even better?

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I found the iron-on name tags from two years ago, right where they belonged!! Done and done.

 

*Here’s another thing non-standard issue: the bag itself. Yes, sometime in the past three years, they stopped adding the black bottom to the bag, so Bridget’s is the only one not like the others. Oops. She likes that hers is easy to find amongst the twenty other bags hanging there — good enough for me!

Much Better

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As it turns out, there’s a certain amount of getting what you paid for when it comes to those cheap stacks of hand-towels on the end cap in Housewares. Eight years ago, when I was setting up housekeeping here, I grabbed a pack of white ones and figured they’d surely do the trick. Also, since they were white, they could easily be bleached and made good as new whenever I pleased.

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They could become crummy almost immediately, and cause me to want to tell guests to our powder room, “No, really — the towel is clean! I just changed it today!”¬† For the next eight years.

Then I came across this genius idea, and new I had the answer to my problem. Actually, two problems, the other being what to do with the faded chenille-like Shabby Chic bath towel that was losing its chic and heading straight for shabby.

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One short year later, I got down to it. Since it was a bath towel, rather than a beach towel, I was only able to get two generous hand towels out of it. The borders used up a piece of fabric that has been on my shelf FOREVER, just mocking me. You would laugh at the happiness these towels have brought me. Already, they have been completely streaked with markers [why won’t kids rinse their hands properly?!] — seemingly within hours of me hanging the first one — and came out of the wash pristine. They just feel so…fancy…compared to the old thin ones.

We’re nothing if not fancy.

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.

 

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.

 

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!