Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Photography: Mr. C and Mr. I


I don't do photography as much as I once did. When my son was a wee baby, I attempted to do it nearly full time. I've retired myself, but occasionally I do photos for friends and friends of friends.

I have been friends with Mr C and Mr I's Momma for several years. I did photos way back when Mr C was a baby... now he's four like my guy, I don't know how this happens. I need a Tardis to keep these children from growing up.

We tried to do photos for over a month, but each time someone ended up sick. By the time we could do photos, their Momma just wanted to do something casual and easy. We mostly did them for Mr I's one year photos, but snapped a few of big brother too!



I used to work super hard at turning over 50-100 photos, when in reality, all anyone wants are a couple of photos for their wall! So now I just work at providing around 20-25 good images. Quality not quantity, right? These guys aced it, cooperative and fast.



My friends say my photos have a magical quality... oh I wish I wasn't the photographer so I could see the magic! I'm alway too harsh on myself, always!



This wonderful guy DOES NOT like sweets! I don't think he has forgiven me for making him eat a cake, he freezes every time he sees me like, "Oh my gawd, it's that lady! She made me eat cake! That evil woman!"


I love this one! He's so happy! Probably because he was destroying something without getting in trouble. As you can tell, there isn't any cake on his face.


Evidence that he took one bite.


Let me tell you, this guy is one of the sweetest chunker babies out there, he is loving and cuddly with those beautiful eyes. I'm glad I'm not his momma, I'd spend all day cuddling and giving into whatever the cute eyes demanded of me.



And cute close ups! The only cake on he got on his face and all he ate of it. His poor, older brother sat on the sidelines begging for cake the entire time. Also, props to their Momma for the backdrop, excellent planning on her part. I love the gray zig zag.

Sure, I don't do photos very often, but holding out my talent for super cute kiddos like these is sure worth it!

- Amanda

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Sugar Cookies with FREAKING Sprinkles


I hereby declared this the last post with very poor photo quality. For some reason this is what happens when I post through the app on my iPad instead of using the computer. I thought it would be a great alternative but it makes for horrible photos.

Actually the photos are beautiful... Until I load them into the app. And then they get compressed or something and it makes them super fuzzy. I already had these photos on the iPad, the last ones, so one more horrible picture post. 

Onto the cookies, that is what is important.

Friends have noticed a trend on my Instagram, my son's food is constantly showing up covered in sprinkles. I haven't convinced him that flax seed mill is sprinkles, but I get an E for effort, right? But if it's cookies, cake, cupcakes, ice cream or a sweet strawberry drink his favorite barista, Katie, whips up for him, it's covered in sprinkles.

Actually we just ran out of sprinkles.

Better put that on the "buy in bulk at Sam's club" list.

These cookies came by complete chance and the sprinkles are his brain child. I was just desperate for sweets. My husband had convinced me to military diet with him, it's a terrible 3 day diet that shaves off pounds but leaves you curled in an angry, starving ball by the end of the 3rd day. I lost 4lbs and it wasn't worth it (feed me). Due to this diet, I did not allow the purchase of any sweets or snacks on grocery day because I would inevitably crack and wake up surrounded by empty snack bags on the 3rd day. 

Hangry sleep walking, it happens.

In my desperation for sweets, I found I had everything I needed for sugar cookies... except for vanilla extract. I'm apparently blind, even with my glasses, and I bought vanilla NUT extract. It's actually good but definitely different from vanilla BEAN. I keep using it, regardless.

I set out to make good 'ol classic sugar cookies, rolled in sugar and pressed flat. And then here comes my son, "Momma?" He asked, his big hazel eyes already turned on me, "Can we put sprinkles on the cookies?"

I began to explain how the sprinkles would just fall off and then I thought, "What if we rolled the cookies IN the sprinkles instead of sugar?"

Couldn't hurt to try, right?

I put the sprinkles in a bowl, rolled me a ball of cookie dough and rolled it in the sprinkles.

So far, so good, the sprinkles stuck! Now I was worried they'd melt onto the pan and we'd never get the cookies off.

We baked them, I was holding my breath the entire time, and the cookies came out looking out amazing. 

Gave them five minutes to cool and they popped off the pan with ease, didn't even need my spatula.

Holy cow, ya'll, it worked.

The idea of a sprinkle obsessed four year old boy worked!

The sprinkles are obviously crunchy on the outside, but it gave way to a wonderful, soft sugar cookie inside. 

Now, to explain why I named them as I did.

My son loves to watch videos on YouTube of people playing through games. He actually figured out over a year ago that he could watch people play levels on YouTube and then return to his game with the solutions to the level he was facing. In particular he enjoys watching Angry Birds and Bad Piggies, but not all gamers are "Mom Approved" and on occasion I have to tell him to choose a new video due to language.

Well, one must have slipped past me.

He was playing Angry Birds Star Wars II when I hear it, "Freaking red bird! Stupid red bird!"

Eeeek!

I quickly corrected him and explained it just was not a kind way to talk. I mean, "freaking" isn't a bad word, but I flinch at the word it implies, especially coming out of a four year old's mouth. I do not like zee f-bomb at all, to me it implies a lack of vocabulary when used too frequently. Just my humble opinion.

So, since he can't say it, I'll pass it to you all. 

Enjoy our sugar cookie recipe, with freaking sprinkles.

(We could do fraking sprinkles and go all BSG about it... But I think fraking sounds even worse than freaking. No one teach him frakking!) 


Sugar Cookies with Freaking Sprinkles.
  • 2 Sticks of Unsalted Butter, Softened
  • 1 1/2 Cups Sugar
  • 1 Egg
  • 2 1/4 Cups Flour
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Baking Powder
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Salt
  • 1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
  • Sprinkles or Extra Sugar to Roll Dough In

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 F (It's important to preheat so the entire oven can warm)
  2. Cream the butter and sugar together, until it becomes fluffy, this takes a couple of minutes. 
  3. Add the egg and stir until it is combined.
  4. Add in the flour, baking powder, salt and vanilla. Stir until well combined.
  5. Using a cookie scoop or a tablespoon to scoop out a small portion of dough, enough to roll about a 1 inch ball.
  6. Add sprinkles to a separate bowl (or just sugar if you prefer) and roll the dough ball until it is completely covered in sprinkles. The sprinkles should stick on their own.
  7. Place on a greased or lined cookie sheet, repeat, spacing balls about 2 inches apart.
  8. Lightly press each cookie down, I used a heavy bottomed pub glass, careful not to flatten it too much.
  9. Place cookies into oven and bake for 8-10 minutes. Don't bake them longer than 10 minutes or they'll get hard!
  10. Remove from oven, let cool for 5 minutes and then move them to a cooling rack.
  11. Allow to cool completely and store in an air tight container.
  12. And try not to eat them all at once!

Monday, June 23, 2014

Diamonds for Izabella - A Baby Quilt


My husband has learned my secret, my dark little secret. And now I'm going to tell you.

I can't resist making quilts for babies.

It may seem like the biggest waste of time, making something so beautiful for someone who while ultimate pee and poop on your gift but it brings me so much joy.

Also, I just genuinely enjoy quilting. I like that it takes time and I slowly see my creation coming into being.

I have even reached that nutty point of DOING THINGS BY HAND. I do all my piecing on the machine, but I quilt my lines and designs by hand now. I love the appearance of hand stitches!

So back to my husband knowing my secret.

He knew I could not resist making a baby quilt, even if I hardly knew the recipient. I know his friend from work, I did photos for their family a very long time ago and I occasionally see them at company parties. But we're not good friends, just acquaintances.

BUT, he was right. He asked, I acted like maybe I was too busy with housewife duties like not cleaning the baseboards, avoiding dishes and letting laundry pile up. And then my face lit up and I asked how soon I could go to the fabric store! I started plotting my design, looking through magazines and books I own to see what I wanted to do.

I decided to go with diamonds, something new to give me a challenge. And then I decided I wanted to quilt a design into each diamond, to make life easier for myself. [sarcasm]

I had my husband relay messages and ask what kind of colors they liked and they picked pinks, blues and greens. I found a wonderful mix of fabrics at Joanns to pull it all together.


I also had the grand idea to quilt her name into the blanket. It really was a grand idea, it makes it personal.



I actually impressed myself with my stitches, they're not bad at all, the size stays nearly the same through most of it. It's impressive when I impress myself, friends.


For the backing, I chose this blue fabric with cherry blossoms on it. It coordinates with the front of the quilt without being matchy, matchy.


The quilting carries through to the back and you can see the designs on that side. It makes it more evident that I not only quilted flowers on but I went around every single diamond.


And a little milestone for me, I made my own binding for the first time. Now if only I was really good at putting it on. Practice makes perfect. I didn't buy the fabric for my binding when I purchased everything for my quilt. I was pretty excited to find a pink with cherry blossoms that matched the blue on back. I had actually been considering using purple, there was very little purple in the quilt, but I could not find anything I liked. I think it may have been that the purple really did not set well with the rest of my quilt.


And here she is! Tada!

The diamonds aren't arranged in any particular order, but I think, if I ever did diamonds again I would want at least six different patterns if not more. I kept mixing it up so that the same color would not touch but it ended up partially making a pattern of the blue and polka dots. It would have been easier to mix up with more colors.


Here is another view so you can see more of the quilt. It's so hard to display these and show the entire quilt at once.


A full view of the back.


And one last look at that beautiful quilting.


I always use a super puffy quilting batting inside my baby quilts. I want them to be soft and cushy, so baby can lay on it and play on it. I actually forgot to throw this in the dryer to give it a fluff, ah well.

I folded it like this so her name will be displayed when the box is opened.


Like this! I just happened to have these wrapping supplies on hand, perfect and girly, which is why I probably had it. I mean, I wrap more boy presents than I do girl presents so I have girl supplies waiting to be used.


In case you are wondering, it goes into the box like so.


And then I put an extra sheet of tissue paper on top and tuck it into the sides.


And then I fold the rest of the paper in like this before closing the box.


And then I close the box.

Ignore the classy Dick's Sporting Goods box, I have a ton left over from Christmas and I'm recycling. 


I wrap it up proper.


And stick a big, fat tulle bow on top.

I'm known for my "pretty packaging" because I like a gift to be special from the moment it arrives [A friend suggested I put that on my tombstone, "Wrapped Pretty Packages"]. Plus, at a baby shower, everyone sees that big bow and starts telling them to open the one with the BOW. Once they manage to get my bow off, they unwrap it, confront the mass amounts of tissue paper and find their gift. Handmade and shiny inside.

And that, folks, is how you properly wrap a quilt.

Of course, this post was about the quilt, not the wrapping. But I got carried away taking photos and thought I would over share. Yay, over sharing!

I actually documented making this entire quilt, so hopefully in the next few weeks I can compile it all together and share my experience with you.

Until then!

- Amanda

Friday, June 20, 2014

Garden Update - 6/17-6/20


Its another garden update, two in one week! I hope you like my garden because it's taking over.

Not really.

This is about to peak, as you can see above we have our first ripe tomato. I'm going to make him play an intense game of Texas Hold 'Em to decide who gets to eat it. Or, since I'm the mom, I'll find something to send him to his room for and eat it while he's in faux trouble.

But most likely, I'll let him have the darn tomato.


I mean, look how excited he is about that thing, how could I deny him?

Once the tomatoes and jalapenos start ripening I won't have much to talk about garden wise. We have begun our first attempts at pickling, I have a jar of banana peppers in my refrigerator right now yet I have my doubts about a recipe that pickles in 72 hours. But my husband liked that idea the most, waiting a month was going to be hard on him.

We shall see.

Into the garden!


Excuse my laziness, no one else is ever in my backyard, so I just left the watering hose out.

Changes since just a few days ago... My rickety setup to attempt to keep the birds out and support the cherry tomato plant. That darn plant has nearly pulled it down already, I'll just have to go get him a special support, all for himself.

I put up the bird netting because we have a pet grackle. 

[Image via Wikipedia]

There, that's a grackle, in case you were wondering. My "pet" doesn't stick around long enough for photos and his friends always fly away and leave him.

He stays because he bummed up his wing trying to fly through my closed window, not exactly the sharpest tool in the shed, this one.

He decided living in my garden would be a great idea, I didn't mind because he kept the finches away. And then I discovered he has a taste for tomato buds, you know, those pretty yellow flowers that come before a tomato.

Well, he was eating them! Despite advice to off the bird, mafia style, I decided bird netting was more my style... I'm a lover, not a fighter... heck, I considered buying him bird seed, just so he'd stay away.

And then he started pooping on everything, so I had to shut down his party.

I'm also running an experiment to see how much birds really are like velociraptors.

See, I barely had enough net to cover my garden, so there are a couple of weak spots on the north and south sides. Velociraptors are always checking the fences to find a weakness so they can get out and hunt everyone in the park down [even creepier in the book]. If he finds the weakness in my netting, he can wreak havoc on my plants.

But I did say he's not the sharpest tool in the shed.

He sure does remind me of a velociraptor though.

The way he cocks his head side to side, staring at you with that eye.

Maybe he's just fooling me into thinking he's not very sharp.

Maybe he's plotting my downfall.

Oh man. Let's just go look at the vegetables now.


Sweet peppers being sweet peppers. The kiddo and I just harvested two more of them.


Banana peppers, banana peppering. [We need more of these!]


Jalapenos being straight up jalapenos. They're so close to being ripe that I can almost feel the burn on my tongue.


Orange bell peppers peppering it up. Yet, they're still green, come on guys!


Skipping the cherry tomatoes and going straight to the big boys. I found another one! I'm about to be in tomato heaven!


Here's the one I showed earlier this week, he's getting fat... I mean, he's just a bit husky.


And then there is that ONE ripe cherry tomato, what a terrible tease that plant is. I didn't even take her picture because she's so big, she's falling over. And covered in little green tomatoes.

That is it for the garden this week, I'll wait until next Friday to show her off again. Maybe I'll have jalapenos and tons of tomatoes by then.

Or, I could be gone and the grackle will be running the blog. Only time will tell.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Geo Romper - McCalls #M6083


I've been wanting to make my own romper for quite some time. Rompers are a big trend this year, I love them because they look nice but they're so very comfortable. I had shopped around and came to the conclusion the ones I was finding were never in a print I liked, too expensive or just not functional for my everyday life. Plus I suffer from "nice butt syndrome" meaning, it's not flat so most rompers were made short and did not cover my booty well enough!

So I set out to make my own! 

I found pattern M6083 from McCall's, it has several variations to choose from, including a jumpsuit. I only paid $1 for mine on sale at Hancock's, they normally have patterns on sale. If what you want is not on sale, give it a week and check back!


Once I had my pattern, it was just an issue of finding the right fabric. I knew I wanted a nice jersey knit so the romper would be soft and have that wonderful give t-shirt quality fabrics have. I looked at my nearby fabric stores and did not find anything I liked, nor did I like the prices, at about $14-$20 a yard for fashionable prints. 

So I set about online and finally landed on Girl Charlee fabrics, I waited a few days while I continued to shop around but ultimately came back to Girl Charlee because they had the prints I wanted and at great prices (between $6-$8 a yard). I picked this blue geo fabric and fell in love when it came in, it's super soft! They don't carry this print anymore, it sold out, but they have many amazing prints as well as solids.

Some things I love about this pattern:


The cinched elastic waist, it's a small enough detail to be wearable just as it is or place a belt over. Plus, making it myself, I was able to measure my elastic out to fit my shape, no uncomfortably tight elastic!


Gathers on the shoulders, they give it that wonderful drape. It makes the garment look more put together and gives it some dimension so it doesn't look flat.


Pockets! And they're big pockets, you can actually carry more than pennies in them, unlike most of my jeans. Or little gold dinosaurs can ride around in them.

The pattern is easy to follow, it takes a little extra work due to the pockets, gathers and attatching the top to the bottom. It's worth it to take this one slow and make sure you line everything up properly. I chose to leave my top a little more open, so it's drapery and not tight. I just wear a bandeau or tank underneath, but it could also be used for a swimsuit cover up, if desired.

I have fabric waiting to be made into the strapless version! I just have to make the time to, you know, sit down and make it.




Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Garden Update 6/02 - 6/16


Time for a garden update! I decided to space it out by two weeks this time because there really wasn't much to show last week. I would have posted this YESTERDAY but my memory card corrupted, sob, and I had to go out and reshoot the garden in the incredible Oklahoma wind. 

Changes since last time? 

Well the day after my post, a big storm blew through and snapped one of my tomato plants [He's the short one all the way to the right] which prompted me to decide to just put them in the ground, right off the side of the patio. I was only planning to put the one guy down in the ground but my husband wanted to go ahead and put them all in, I agree, why not? They have all loved it, the tomatoes have grown like crazy since being put in the ground. 

The plant that snapped looked terrible, all his lush leaves wilted and browned, all the pretty yellow flowers fell off and I thought he was dead for sure. I asked my mom, she's my garden lady, and she said to go ahead and cut all the dead off. If he's dead, he'll go ahead and die, but there is a chance that cutting it will force it to thrive. And it did! He's making a come back, he won't be as gorgeous as his brothers, but I'm sure we'll have some tomatoes from him by the end of the season.

Let's go visit the veggies!


Sweet pepper plant! Or the plant that the birds and bugs love to nibble on, sad face. But he's trying! I have harvested one pepper from him so far and look forward to having many more. I love sweet peppers, my only regret is picking up just one of these plants. I need a couple of more helping out with production.


Banana peppers! If I had the photos from the day before, it would have been full of all the peppers we just harvested. This plant is going crazy and I don't even know what he plans to do with all these peppers. We've been discussing a plan...


Jalapenos, tons of them on there but nothing is ripe just yet. 


Come on, grow baby, grow! I want some fresh salsa.


These are our orange bell peppers. We only did one to see how well they would grow, I wish we had picked up another plant now. He looks like he's nearly full grown, just waiting for him to ripen.


And these are the cherry tomatoes!


And so are these...


And these...


As well as these. Last time I had just a couple of them but now we have a ton, all over the plant. Just nothing ripe just yet. The cherry tomato plant was picked specifically for my son, he devours small tomatoes. So he makes sure this plant gets a check up everyday and a thorough look over.


Finally, THIS is my first Big Boy tomato... I have four plants and this is my first one. And before anyone asks, heck no, I am not making fried green tomatoes. Not at this point anyway. I am dying to have ripe, red tomatoes.

Slice them, add a little salt.

Heck, don't slice them and eat them like apples.

Yes, please.


Lastly, we have our harvest so far. See all those banana peppers? And one sweet pepper.

Now, referring back to the discussion I mentioned about the fate of the banana peppers. My husband wanted these so bad, I let him pick them up, it really did not matter to me. [Heck, he's much more involved in this garden than I thought, he goes out to check them everyday when he gets home!] So with it looking like we may have a ton of banana peppers, we are discussing pickling them.

I've already done my research on pinterest.

But I also have Grandma K. and Grandma A. I can be asking questions too.

Honestly, it does not look very difficult, so hopefully... it's not. I'm mostly afraid of exploding jars.

Yep.

Exploding jars.

That's it for my garden update! I might go ahead and update Friday, because I wanted Friday to be my garden day and it never works out like that. But I may go ahead and skip this one and catch up on the next, we will see!

Till next time!