Saturday, July 30, 2011

Someone should be collecting overtime

This post is all about the hardest working guy in our kitchen. And I'm sure you've all guessed that I'm talking about Chris, and while Chris works hard at his job, the kitchen is one place where he tries his best to not do any work. I'm actually talking about my Cuisinart food processor. This guy has been working awfully hard this week, at times getting so hot that I thought death may be knocking on his door. Today this guy pureed his way through peaches and peas for my sweet P.
You don't find colors like this in jarred baby food!
Then he pulverized his way through almonds making two types of almond butter, maple cinnamon almond butter and chocolate chip cookie dough almond butter

The maple cinnamon butter is for my sister who's coming to visit this week (surprise Meg! leave room in your suitcase) and the chocolate chip cookie dough butter is for my other sweet P's as they wanted a little something to dip their apple slices into this afternoon. The maple cinnamon almond butter is fantastic and turned out really well. The chocolate chip cookie dough butter is really my take on the linked recipe because as I was making it I realized that I was missing almond extract, which is identified as a key ingredient to the recipe. And when I added the chocolate chips to the almond butter the chips melted because the almond butter was still too warm. So my version ended up being a chocolate vanilla almond butter, but the sweet P's still gobbled it down!
Dreaming about the next flavor of nut butter to make
How about you, what's the hardest working appliance in your kitchen? I sure hope you don't say the microwave! 

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Book sling for da boys

The craft bug has bitten again and here's the rundown on what I made. And maybe it wasn't so much as the craft bug bit as I had a buzzing in my ear due to some fortunate circumstances. See last week I received a yard of fabric in the mail that was destined to be a part of some art work that I was putting together for Conner and Nolan' fabulousity room. Only when the fabric arrived there was a dark spot on the fabric. So I immediately contacted the business which I bought the fabric from and informed them of the blemish. The company was awesome and without question sent me another yard of fabric. Well, while waiting on my new yard of fabric I decided to see if I could just work around the dark spot on the fabric to get my art project done, because I'm way too impatient to sit around and wait for the new fabric. And yep, I finished the art project with the blemished fabric (no worries, I'll share this project in the final reveal of Conner and Nolan's room) so when the new fabric arrived I had one yard of fabric and nothing to do. I know, the problems I face are really so tragic.

I have been seeing these fabric book slings popping up in nurseries everywhere and one thing missing in Conner and Nolan's room was any sort of book receptacle. So I found this tutorial for a fabric book sling and as luck would have it, one of these slings only requires 1 yard of fabric. But it did requiring a sewing machine, which I don't have. *sidenote- I would love a sewing machine. And since I know that Santa reads this blog, here's the link to the sewing machine I'm going to be putting on my Christmas list.* But then I looked at the directions and thought that I could probably pull off one of these slings using the heat and bond no-sew hems. I started in using the no-sew hem tape stuff and things were bonding well, and seemed to be holding together. I started to feel a little like Charlie Sheen, because it seemed as though I was winning in the craft world. That is it all went really well until the part where I was trying to fold the fabric over the dowel rod to create a pocket for the rods. It was here that the no-sew tape had met its match as I was trying to bond together about 4 layers of fabric and the tape just couldn't handle it. There might have been some stronger tape at the craft store but again impatience kicked in and I was determined to finish this project before nap time was done. And that's when the super glue was brought out. One tube of super glue later, I had a finished sling. All that was left was to install the brackets on the wall and voila, a fabric book sling to hold all of Conner and Nolan's favorite books!

Fabric: free thanks to super awesome fabric company!
Hem tape: I think this is about $3
Dowels: maybe $5 for both
Brackets: $4 a piece, 2 needed for project
Total: $17
Total time: 3 hours, only because ironing on the no-sew hem tape takes way longer than sewing.

And one thing I've been meaning to share is a list of some of our favorite books that we have for the kids. We've been really blessed to have people find super cool books for the kids and many of them go under the radar of well-known kid's books. So I'm going to put the list together and hope that some kids out there are going to enjoy these books as much as my kids have.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

300 circles of fabric on the lamp, 300 circles of fabric

While I've been focusing a lot of my home decorating thoughts on Conner and Nolan's room lately, I did find time to create a little piece of love for Elizabeth's room last week. When we moved into the new house, Elizabeth's room already had a hook hanging from the corner of her room. And when I suggested to my mom that we hang this old, ugly white Chinese lantern light from that hook my mom gave me a "you're crazy" look. 
ugly old Chinese lantern in desperate need of a make-over

But I assured her that I had big plans for that Chinese lantern and it wouldn't be an eyesore in the room. Via pinterest (the coolest website ever), I found a tutorial for jazzing up an old paper lantern. The tutorial was perfect for giving enough directions to make this little project but really, it wasn't hard at all. Get some fabric (and in my case, go back to the fabric store three more times because you totally underestimated the amount of fabric it would take), cut circles out of the fabric, and then hot glue those circles onto the lantern.
fabric circles
Mindless work really. I thought this would be a project that I could knock out during one nap time but in the end it took me about three nights to finish it (roughly 6 hours). And I'm not over exaggerating when I say that I glued probably at least 300 circles onto the lantern (which meant lots of burned fingers from the hot glue!). The finished product turned out really cute and Elizabeth loves it (so the burned fingers were worthwhile). And this is one project that I don't think you could mess up!
The finished product

And how it looks with the light turned on

Cost breakdown:
Chinese lantern lamp= already had so free, but I imagine you could pick one up for $10 or so
Fabric= 5.5 yards * $3 a yard (on clearance) = $16.50
Ribbon to hang light from= $1.50
Hot glue= already had it on hand
Total cost= $18.00

And this morning I had the pleasure of partaking in tea time with this princess under the light of the new lamp.

Friday, July 15, 2011

All you need is love

I don't post much about the joys and pains of being a mother (or father for that matter), mostly because I am just like the majority of parents out there- clueless about the right way to raise kids. And many times I get slapped in the face with the reality that raising kids is hard, really hard. Today was certainly one of those days. Remember how I mentioned earlier this week that Conner and Elizabeth started camp this week? Well, they started on Monday and I think they might have ended it on Friday. In summary, camp didn't go as well as expected. Monday was good. Positive reports from the teachers and excitement about returning on Wednesday. Wednesday was bad and a slight warning from the teachers that things needed to improve to continue on. Friday, bad again, and this time a more severe warning about improvement being needed for the kids to come back next week. And a few jabs at my parenting. Needless to say, we won't be going back for any more summer camp. I know when my kids aren't wanted.

Now, I know that my kids are a handful. And yes, my boy is trying. But, the reasons given for the kids being less than welcome are pretty much behaviors that are very common among 3 year olds. And I have to question the teachers in the classroom who were unable to find ways to deal with these behaviors. For example, do you know what the favorite word is for a 3 year old? I'm sure most of you do but in case you don't- it's NO! That was one of the offenses cited by the teachers, that Conner kept saying no when asked to do things. Of course I don't encourage Conner to take this stance when asked to do something but I'm kind of surprised that the teachers seemed so incapable of dealing with it. Umm, ever heard of distraction? The thing I realized today though, is that you really have to love a 3 year old to put up with their antics. And, these teachers didn't love my kids. How could they? They only knew them for three days and two of those days they acted like Satan's children walked in the door when we arrived. We were so blessed in North Carolina to have two teachers that truly loved the kids and man how I wish I could fly them out here this minute! And so this thought of love needed to live with a toddler made me realize something- maybe this is the universe speaking to me.

You see, I've really been struggling the past few weeks with the realization that I have no job out here in Fort Collins and that I am now a stay-at-home mom. It just isn't what I ever imagined for myself. While slaving away over my dissertation I never thought that my science skills would take a backseat to changing diapers, wiping snotty noses, and slathering peanut butter and jelly on bread every day. But what I was failing to see was that maybe being a stay-at-home mom was now my job. Like I said, you've got to love a three year old to work with them everyday. And who better is there to fill this job than a mom- a person who loves them unconditionally. All along when people ask me if I'm working I respond that I'm staying home to take care of Nolan because he needs me and I want to cherish every moment of his reliance upon me. What I failed to see was that Conner and Elizabeth need me just as much right now. They've just been moved across the country, put into a new house, without a complete understanding of it all. Yes, on the surface they seem fine but then you look harder and see more thumb sucking, more tantrums, and more requests for cuddling in the middle of the night. No wonder they didn't transition into a new school without problems. So all of this rambling is to say that I have now decided to take on this job of being stay-at-home mom, and I know that this is exactly what I'm supposed to be doing- at least at this very moment. And with this new job comes new commitments- less blog reading during the day, more story times with the kids. And instead of thinking about home improvements, we are going to work on family improvements. Finding out more about how to parent so that we can look back on these days and feel confident that we truly did the best we good. And in the end, there is going to be a lot of love and really what more do you need?

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Blackberry sorbet

Its summertime and the livin' is easy. At least it felt that way this past week. Yep, I survived a week at home with three kids and even found time to whip up something delicious to share with y'all. I made this sorbet last summer for my trifecta of red, white, and blue ice creams for our Fourth of July party. And though technically its more purple than blue don't let that minor detail deter you from making this yourself. It is so crazy good, way healthier than ice cream, and really easy to make (as long as you have an ice cream maker- which really you should). I adapted a recipe from David Lebowitz's book The Perfect Scoop. Only adapted because I actually don't own the book but did take some photos of recipes from the book when I borrowed it from a friend. The recipe photo I had was for blackberry lime sorbet, which I had made before but found that the lime was a bit overpowering and I prefer just the blackberry sorbet. I know, such nitpicking! Anyways, here is the recipe:
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup water
4 cups blackberries
juice from one lime (blackberry lime recipe calls for 3/4 cup lime juice)

Heat sugar and water together until sugar dissolves. Let sugar water cool. In a food processor combine blackberries and sugar water (aka- simple syrup). Process until berries are all mushed up. Strain berry mixture through a sieve to leave behind delicious blackberry syrup without any of those seeds that will remain in your teeth and drive you crazy.
Squeeze juice from one lime into the blackberry syrup. Put syrup into the frozen bowl of your ice cream maker and spin until desired consistency (mine took about 25-30 min).
Then hurry upstairs because your little man has heard cooking going on in the kitchen and now is screaming for you to come and feed him something yummy too!
I like to freeze my sorbet a bit further after it comes out of the ice cream machine because I think it is too soft when it first comes out. I served mine with a few lemon cookies, which nicely complimented the blackberry flavor. Yummy, yummy- especially refreshing after a 18 mile bike ride!

Smoothies just got a whole lot smoother

Dear Mr. Postman,

Thank you for bringing a box of joy to my house today. You see, the heavy box you delivered contained a very special item. Inside that box was the blender of all blenders- yes it was a Vitamix! My blender died after I put too many strawberries inside so my lovely sister sent me her Vitamix. She hadn't been using it enough and a Vitamix is something to be cherished, loved, and used. So I gave my V-machine a quick cleaning and immediately decided to test it out with a very berry smoothie. Seriously, I made a smoothie probably only 5 minutes after opening the box! As you can see, this smoothie was full of good stuff and Lizzie kept asking why I put salad in the smoothie :).

Uh oh, my secret of stashing spinach or other greens in there might have gotten out. Man oh man, the V-machine did its job and it did it well! This smoothie was smooth and creamy and I think it might have even crushed the smallest of seeds from the berries. And this little girl gave the smoothie 2 mustaches up!
That is until she spilled half of it on my jute rug :(.
Speaking of Mr. Postman, do you have any tips for getting smoothie out of a jute rug?

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

4 months

A few days late posting but here is Nolan looking ever so cute at 4 months old (the pictures were taken on his 4 month mark). He's still just about as happy and healthy as anyone could hope for. This month he has truly discovered his thumb, even at times deciding he would rather have his thumb than oh say, the boob!

I know, way to offend your mother Nolan! We go to the doctor in a week so I can update y'all on the stats for this growing guy.

Chevron dresser

Today the kids went to their first day of summer camp at their new school. They were uber-excited which made me feel good as I dropped them off. It was hard to even get them to say good-bye to me and a kiss or a hug, forget about it! I'm always amazed at how well they adapt to new situations and their lack of attachment to me, which maybe isn't such a good thing. Anyways, now that the kids are away and its just Nolan and I kicking it, I decided that it was time for some home improvement! And first up is the makeover of the dresser that is in Conner and Nolan's room. I laid awake last night thinking about this project and how in the world was I going to get chevron stripes that were even and geometric. I read many tutorials online but they all just confused me so I decided just to wing it myself using some painter's tape and a tape measure. In the end I decided to do a vertical chevron stripe (mainly because it seemed easier and I also saw a dresser done that way in this month's House Beautiful). Now this isn't the first time this dresser has been changed up. Before we moved into our first house we painted it white and added some silver hardware to it.

Yep, pretty boring but it was going into a room in which I wanted a very clear contrast between the wall color (a bright Carolina blue) and the white furniture and bedding. I know, very basic design but it was our first house so you must cut me some slack. And that was before there were all these design blogs out there to inspire creative furniture make-overs.

The first step was to give the dresser a fresh coat of a white glossy paint. The color I chose was Summer Gray by Valspar which turned out to be a white with a tint of gray to it. The dresser was already pure white but it was a flat finish and over the years had just taken on a very grubby finish. It didn't help when the movers got their dirty little fingerprints all over it. But this time I was smart and decided to use a high gloss paint on the dresser, so I can wipe off everything left by dirty little paws :).

The glossy, glossy drawers (really not so glossy in these pictures)
One coat of paint later, this guy was looking like a glossy, glossy version of his old-self. He now looked like the George Clooney of dressers- all sleek and sexy. So after the white base coat dried, it was time to figure out the chevron stripes. The stripes are in Tempered Gray by Valspar, which was about the lightest gray I could find that still seemed to look gray without undertones of blue or beige. *update: after two coats of Tempered Gray I realized that this color was just too light and didn't provide enough contrast against the white base coat. So I took the paint back to Lowe's and had them darken it about 1 1/2 shades so the color that you see in the finished product isn't a true representation of Tempered Gray.*To make the stripes I used 1.41 inch wide Frogtape (seriously guys, why not just make it 1.5 inches wide?). And here is where I must mention how much I hate measuring. Seriously, I HATE it! If you've ever seen me hang pictures you'll know that I will go to any distance to avoid measuring (which is why I generally make at least 3 nail holes for every 1 picture I hang). So for me to choose chevron stripes for this dresser just testifies to either how bored I am or how crazy I am for these stripes to take 90 minutes of my day and dedicate it to measuring! For the top drawer I stuck a piece of tape of one corner so that the width of the tape made a little triangle in the corner. Then, I measured 2 inches from edge of the tape on the top and bottom and made two marks on the dresser. I then connected the two marks with a straight line and that served as the left edge of the next piece of tape that I put down. I continued this for the rest of the drawer and I ended up with stripes that were roughly 1.5 inches apart. For the next drawer, I lined up the bottom of the taped drawer with the next drawer and marked on the new drawer where the stripes should go to meet up with the top drawer (y'all lost yet?).
Lining up the taped drawer with the next drawer to mark off where the stripes should meet
So then I knew where the stripes would start on the top of the drawer and I just had to figure out where the stripe should go to on the bottom of the drawer (using 2 inch increments again). I know these are terrible explanations and it really is one of those things that you just have to try yourself. I first practiced on a piece of paper before I went marking up my George Clooney dresser.
All the drawers taped off and ready for the stripes to be painted
After taping off the stripes I put on 2 coats of the Tempered Gray and hoped that this Frogtape lived up to its reputation and wouldn't let the gray color bleed onto the white base coat. Bleeds are to chevron stripes what K Fed was to Britney- a total downer. After the gray dried then came the point where the following thoughts rushed through my head-  please work, please live up to your hype Frogtape, please leave beautifully defined lines when I pull this tape off. And after a few deep breaths I begin pulling away the tape and ta da, chevron stripes! The Frogtape really did live up to its more expensive price point as I didn't have any bleeding. There were a few spots where the tape pulled off the white base coat so touch-ups were needed. Add on the chrome knobs and there you have it!

Overall though I'm really happy with the dresser and just know that my boys will look at that dresser everyday and remember how much their mom loved them to make them such a stylin' clothes receptacle :). And I must say to my George Clooney dresser, you're looking pretty sleek and sexy, as always.

Cost breakdown:
2 quarts paint: $21.13 (-$10 discount) = $10.13!
In reality, you could do this project with the tester sizes of paint. Maybe for the base coat you would need a quart if the piece is big or is going to need multiple coats, but for the stripe color you really only need the tester size. The one caveat is that the testers only come in a satin finish so if you want a glossy glossy finish then you'll have to get a quart of paint.

  • Paint: $21.13
  • Frog tape: $5.67
  • Knobs: $26.80
  • Brushes and rollers: free, already had them
  • Total: $53.60*
*You could bring down this price by finding cheaper knobs, or just using a handle in the middle of the drawers.

Total time: 3 hours* (of which a good 1 1/2 hours was spent taping off the stripes)
*doesn't include the hours I laid in bed and thought about this project.

Stay tuned for more updates to Conner and Nolan's bedroom including new bedding for the boys and some new colors on the walls!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Adventures in Fort Collins

Well, we made it! It was a fairly uneventful move out here. I think everything made it though there are still many boxes sitting in the basement that need to be unpacked. And along with the old, a new item made its way out here with us. Chris got a new car in Nebraska- a Honda Pilot. It's a pretty sweet ride I must say. And best of all, he can fit all the kids in the car but it still is nowhere as convenient as the minivan for getting kids in and out. We've spent the good part of the last week getting things unpacked and setting up the house. We have decided to rent out here for at least a year and the house we are renting is really great! We actually didn't see the inside of the house before we signed the lease but I must say was got really lucky. I'll try and get some pictures up of the house once things are in order. The kids seem to be taking to the new house and Fort Collins really well. The neighborhood is filled with kids and the town has great parks. We went to Fossil Creek park this morning and it was pretty incredible. I snapped this picture of Long's Peak as we walked up to the park.
The play equipment was so cool but definitely different than what we are used to. All equipment was made from recycled materials and there were lots of places to climb ropes and I swear they had something that looked like a snowboard. And of course the huge wooly mammoth in the middle was a surprise.

And I put Nolan in a swing for the first time and it was so cute! He giggled and smiled the whole time, except for when I got my camera out to try and capture his happiness. Look at those chubby arms, so cute!
I still am amazed at how many people I see riding their bikes out here. I can't wait to get back on my bike and start exploring the city via two wheels. The weather has been pretty warm, in the upper 90's but without humidity it is much more bearable than North Carolina 90 degree days. And most afternoons a thunderstorm rolls in to help cool things down. So one week in, I'd say we are pretty happy with our new town. And this week I'm home with all three kids by myself so if you don't notice any new posts on here by next week you'd be wise to assume that I have indeed gone crazy. 

Way more than corn fields

While the movers were busy driving to Florida, Texas, and then to Colorado, we were busy enjoying a week at Grandma's house. Its funny, many may think that there isn't anything to do in Nebraska but it seems that each time I come back there is never enough time to do everything we want to. But here are a few highlights from our trip:
A quick trip to the Henry Doorly Zoo

Elizabeth loved the giraffes

The meltdown over popcorn begins

Loved catching up with old college friends and meeting their new little ones!

I want to go fast!

Boat ride on Wagner's lake

This is fun!

Roasting marshmallows in Grandma's backyard

A serious face cleaning 

Just in case you were wondering if Nolan was present. He was and he was as cute as ever!

Taming the whales in the pool

And how can you argue with Nebraska, where a boy's dream of driving a tractor comes true

Father's Day 2011

Poor Chris, as if Father's Day doesn't already get the shaft compared to Mother's Day but this year Father's Day fell on our moving weekend. I didn't totally forget to plan a few surprises for Chris but poor guy had to start off the morning of Father's Day by taking Conner and Elizabeth to breakfast. And some may say that seems like a perfect Father's Day outing but obviously those people have never taken my kids out to eat by themselves. I did manage to snap a picture of Daddy with his three sweeties before the movers packed up my camera.
And just as the movers were finishing loading up the van, I brought out Chris' gift- a new bike! Chris quickly jumped on the bike and road around the block before it was time to pack it up. But I'm hoping he will get to ride it much more out here in Colorado.

Moving Day (err, weekend)!

Sooner then we thought, moving weekend was upon us. Seriously, I can't believe how fast June went after so many sleepless nights stressing out about this whole picking up the house and moving cross country thing. But early Saturday morning this beauty rolled up to our house and the time had officially arrived.
And before you accuse me of being a secret hoarder, this truck wasn't for just our house. The movers had already moved two families from Fort Collins to the Northeast when they arrived at our house and they still had one lady's apartment on the van (which they were going to deliver to Florida). And then they were also going to put another family in Texas on the van. But our house (plus minivan) did take up about 60% of the van. The kids had fun watching the moving men pack everything up and made sure to get a front row seat for the show.
The whole weekend was pretty bittersweet. Saying goodbye to our awesome neighbors was so hard. I just hope we can be so lucky to find another set of neighbors as great in Colorado. I know we will especially miss the Brown family. This family was so caring and always let our kids come over and play or let us come hang out when our house was being shown. And sweet little Olivia- she cried and cried when we left which only made me cry more!
The kids with Mama and Olivia Brown
But, in the end we know this move is a really good thing for us. Chris has a great job and we are so excited to live in such a great town. Fort Collins boasts great public schools, bike trails galore, and some really fantastic beer. People there are seriously outdoorsy and active- which hopefully will rub off on us. And eco-friendly is an understatement- in this town green really is the new black. And so our North Carolina chapter has come to an end but stay tuned for more on our new adventures in Colorado!
So long house- we'll miss you! But please have someone buy you soon!

Loved these birch trees in the front yard
The split in this tree is the perfect frame for cute fishy faces
I think this might be our first picture with all the kids and the dogs!