Saturday, December 17, 2011

On the first day..

..of winter break, the kids were hellions.

B has this habit of waking himself up REALLY early. And then staying up. He's done it as long as I've known him, which is not a good thing. But at least he's stopped waking E up super early...just kinda early.

Because of this habit of making himself tired before the day even begins, thus giving rise to the bully that is Big Brother (no, not the CBS or Orwellian kinds), I've been stressing a bit about what to do to keep the kids occupied during this first week.

Today, I made them come hang out with me and the babe so they could decorate some foam stockings my mom brought at Thanksgiving. They did pretty good for a while, as you can see.
And I don't want to hear anything about the pile of need to be folded towels on the couch behind them. I've been prepping crafts. Get over it.
After this, I sat them down to color their imaginations out onto plain white copy paper. More on the reasons for that tomorrow. I'm thinking we'll do the Scrap Fabric Wreaths on Monday/ stay tuned!
The Babe, during craft time. Mmm...purple plastic baby spoon...

Friday, December 16, 2011

Is that you, Friday?

Is it really Friday already? That last glorious day of school before the long winter holiday?

It is.

But I don't really know what to say for a Friday Five. I feel boring.

At least I have a pretty tree to admire now...though it still has no ornaments. Hopefully I'll be able to remedy that with the kids tomorrow. We'll be attempting this idea, for which I have NOT read a tutorial, and so will hopefully be providing one.

If I can find where my construction paper has wandered off to, the kids and I will be making a paper garland to grace our front windows. And if I can find someone to baby wrangle, I might even get the lined curtains sewn and hung, giving a contrast to the color of the tree and paper garland and an added layer for those chilly breezes...that haven't been lingering. :)

Anyway. I'm going to see if I can keep my mind and heart wrapped around the serenity it seems to have been lulled into by a lazy afternoon spent trapped under a sweetly sleeping babe. I hope you all have a wonderful Friday.

How to make Oh Christmas Tree

Remember these?
Last night, I didn't really have time (ok, so less energy than anything) to put together a tutorial on how I made these little delights. As I said, they were inspired by these...but mine did NOT turn out like them. I still liked them, and boy were they tasty!

Tip #1:
Make certain you have EVERYTHING you need before you start. I discovered I didn't have a mini cupcake pan after I'd already mixed my batter. And also discovered I didn't have any food coloring until I'd already been to the store. Twice.

Ok, start with your mini cupcakes. I chose mini because I was making enough for two classes (50 total), and they were for a holiday party which would have other treats. I made a few big cupcakes, too with the leftover batter and they worked well with the decorations.

Tip #2:
I think it said in the inspiration tutorial that she put pudding mix in her batter just for that added oomph. Do that. It's awesome. I did have to add some milk (which was not called for in the regular cake mix) because the added dry powder made the batter too thick.

While your cupcakes are baking and cooling, scoop your icing into a mixing bowl. I used 1.5 cans of plain vanilla frosting, which was WAY more than I actually needed (I have enough batter leftover for at least 6 more big cupcakes, too). Now, I used what I had around the house to make the green for my cupcakes, which turned out to be a box of 4 colors of cooking writing icing tubes and a can of green icing with different icing tips. I squished all of the green, blue, and yellow writing icings into my frosting and then (after drawing the trees on T's cupcakes) squirted the entire can of green icing into the bowl of frosting. Using a spatula, mix until the color is smooth and even all over. I suppose you could mix less and leave the swirls for a snowy tree look, but I wanted smooth smooth smooth.
 Tip #3
Don't be a moron like me. Remember that the icing tips go INSIDE the bag and out through the hole, not the other way around. Trust me. Your life will be SO much easier for this.

I used the star tip (no clue what the real name is) to do a spiral of frosting on top of the cupcake. I found that it was easier to make a "tree" shape if I did a base of frosting and then started the spiral on top of that. Remember the cookie writing icing? There was a tube of red in that box that didn't make it into the green. I used that to do a quick spiral around the tree as the garland, starting at the bottom and ending at the very tip top. Nothing fancy, just a quick little decoration. **For the full 50+ cupcakes, I did need TWO tubes of the red, but if you can find a larger tube or just make your own red frosting and use a teeny tip you'll be good.**

The final decoration (which in my head during planning would look like snow) was to add some silver sprinkles all over the cupcakes. Just pour some in one palm and sprinkle a pinch at a time over a few cupcakes. I did this while the cupcakes were all lined up on that baking tray, which made the sprinkle cleanup SUPER easy!

Tip #4
If transporting mini cupcakes, a cake box is NOT enough. 3/4 of the cupcakes flipped, rolled, and smushed on the way from the dining room to the car and then to the kids' classrooms. Save your egg cartons and cut the lids off. Each egg "cup" will hold your mini cupcake well enough without them slipping and sliding and smushing all over.

Serve and enjoy!
 My cupcake baking helper...covered in chocolate milk

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Steaming Mug of Comfort

Look up at that header at the top of the page. Isn't it pretty? Why thank you.

I didn't take a single one of those photos myself. Not that I couldn't. It was just nice to look around at the beauty available at my fingertips on the web.

I emailed the lovely blog owner of that mug of pepperminty goodness, asking for permission to use her photo, offering to do a post thanking her for her kindness if she agreed. Last week, I received a short but oh so sweet yes you may! So here's my heartfelt thank you to Ms. Jessica for allowing me to use her photo.

Hot drinks are my weakness. They are my comfort, so much so that even just thinking of a Venti Triple Caramel Macchiato makes my shoulders relax and my eyes droop (That much caffeine and it makes me sleepy?! Yup..since I was a baby.) So when tasked with finding a picture of comfort, I knew just what I was looking for.

Ms. Jessica's post on Homemade Peppermint Hot Cocoa popped up in my google image search, and I was hooked. Now I just need to follow her post and make some. Have I mentioned how much I LOVE the peppermint lattes (I don't like them with mocha) from Starbucks this time of year? Hint hint.

Now go check out the blog and share the love!

Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree...

What are these?
A whole forest of these! (Ahahahahah...I crack myself up)

Late last week, I received a call from the room mom for E's kindergarten class. She was looking for volunteers to help with the holiday party on the last day of school before break (TOMORROW!!!). Well, unfortunately, I couldn't guarantee that I'd have a babysitter. But I COULD give something to the class, like cupcakes. Then, on Monday while cooking dinner, I got a call from the class mom for B's class wondering if I could give something for their holiday party. "Well, I can do cupcakes." "Are you sure? That's a lot!" "Nah, I'm already doing some for E and it won't be much more for B's class."

So, being the over-ambitious person I am, I decided to do 50 mini cupcakes. I saw this tutorial online, purely by chance. Mine didn't turn all like hers. Haha...but who cares? They're nearly pure sugar (I know. I think I ate more frosting than made it onto the cupcakes) and they're cute enough for Kindergartners and First Graders.

Also, I had LOTS of leftover stuff, so I made some for T's shift at work. They're...well. You can see. But they're guys and they thought they were deliciously unexpected. Winning!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Are you ready?

For Christmas, I mean.
We aren't. Not even close.
No tree yet.
Nativity still packed in the attic.
I didn't think about the advent bandwagon until too late...I should remedy this for next year.
But I did get a gift this morning.

A good friend of mine, met through my dad at work, has a son that is 2 years older than D and a 6 month old daughter. She works and she LOVES her kids, and is a wonderful caring soul.

She knows our situation with money and clothes and everything, and to help (both us and her) she's been clearing out her son's closet as he grows and sending giant bags of designer clothes home to us. This morning was the latest installment.

10 prs of jeans from Children's Place, Oshgosh, etc.
4 or so prs of lounge pants, with a matching sweatshirt for one pair
1 Oshgosh winter coat
2 prs of mittens
a gazillion hats, including an awesome one with ear flaps!
and a pack of overnight diapers!

She's the awesomesauce. And she loves that I pay it forward by saving the clothes (and E's) for Sam's mommy (see this post to meet Sam).

Friday, December 9, 2011

Let the wackiness ensue!

This week was Spirit Week at the kids' school. Wednesday was Wacky Day.
B has an orange and blue striped polo turned backwards under his tshirt. And a fly down. :D
E came home a bit unhappy :( But her hot pink leggings were so cute. Made from an old shirt with stretch lace at the hems. 
D wanted to come wait for the bus, too. Like his Halloween shirt? :)

Friday Five

I just realized that today is Friday. Thank the Heavens above! Actually, today is like T's Tuesday with his work schedule, so that part stinks. But I maybe, just maybe, will have the chance to get some presents made while the big kids are at their mom's. Anyway, on to the getting to know me!

1. I was a vegetarian for a while, and would have no problems going back to it....if it weren't for meatball subs and bacon. Mmm...bacon.

2. My family used to have a reunion every year. We all had names that started with F, unless you weren't blood/marriage related. Then your name started with a Ph. Except me...I was F until I was 12 or 13 and decided I needed an actual name. So I became Sparkle.

3. One of my favorite books is The Dead Don't Dance by Charles Martin. It's so beautifully written, and so heartbreaking, but I love it all the same. It's written by a southerner and set in the south, and I have visited many of the areas where the book takes place, so it was even easier to picture. Be forewarned, it's a VERY difficult read if you have a hard time with familial loss.

4. Every year I buy, write, and even partially address Christmas cards to send out. And every year, I'm lucky to have half of them make it to the mailbox.

5. I hate hate hate rollercoasters because of the up part. It's the only time I'm afraid of heights...and it exacerbates my fear of falling. One exception is the Maus Trap ride at Busch Gardens Williamsburg, which goes up so fast that you don't have that clankclankclank as you climb ever so slowly.


I've been trying to post about Spirit Week at the kids' school for 2 days now, but Blogger won't let me post pictures. Why? No clue. Stay tuned and we'll see what I can make happen.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

BIB - Just because I can

I figured I would try to share a few more pictures of things I created Before I Blogged. And then (fingers crossed) it's naptime for the babe who's battling the tooth farmer.
 Plush Camera from this tutorial by seekatesew.
Hat for Baby Adam
Blanket for Baby Jordan
Emily modeling her dress and matching hat.
Horribly craptastic cell phone pic of a wrap shawl crocheted for my sister. I can't find the book I got this pattern from, but it is an amazing book. Architectural crochet?

Saturday, December 3, 2011

I'm back in black! ( elephants, rather)

A few years ago, when I was still a little VERY delusional about my size in clothing, I bought an adorable Nick and Nora night shirt from Target. It was on sale, like one of their blink and it's gone because it's only pennies sales. That probably contributed to me buying a small when I haven't been a small since...middle school. But buy it I did, and love it I do.

Over Thanksgiving, my mom came home and cleaned out her closet and dresser, and lo and behold! There was my night shirt. She thoughtfully put it into the "turn into more clothes for E" pile currently taking over the dining room. The past few days I've been stuck in the doldrums, possibly because it seems there are more expenses than money coming in, and possibly because my little baby D has learned to climb. I'm thrilled that he's learning new things, and that he can get up and down himself (with the help of a two step stool) with the love seat. But with this new skill has come new clinginess, too. Which means no sewing or crafting for this mama. :(

And then...I rearranged the toys in the living room today. It's like a whole new play room for him! I got to sew! I wanted to make some shirt sleeve pajama pants for E using this shirt, but I also knew it would make an excellent shirt. The shirt won out...and while sad that she doesn't have any pants yet to match, I do love the shirt's new life.

PS - For anyone wondering why T hasn't been helping with the kids...he works third shift on the weekends with 10 hour shifts. So he pretty much gets up, goes to work, comes home and sleeps. Lather, rinse, repeat. Four days each week. The rest of the time, he's helping do anything my heart desires :)

Baby D fell asleep this afternoon halfway up his stairs onto the couch. Forgive the messy floor (he's a tornado) and the chipped toenail leg was partially holding him up. CUUUUTE!

Friday, December 2, 2011

BIB - A Crisis of Faith

Today, I'm not really sure why, but I'm having a crisis of faith in myself. I don't feel particularly good at being a mom, I don't feel good at crafting (it's been 2 weeks since I last sewed, since Baby D decided he was a climber), I don't feel good at...well, anything. I'm sure it'll pass soon enough, perhaps after I Tom Sawyer the kids into cleaning the living room tomorrow and have a clean area again. (*EDIT* Shortly after typing that I don't feel like a good mother, I apparently redeemed myself with "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" and popcorn/m&ms)

Anyway, in lieu of the Friday Five, I thought I would showcase some of the crafts I did before I blogged (BIB). I'm hoping that seeing these would kick me out of my slump. Check them out, and if you have any questions, feel free to ask. Oh, and I didn't make the child in these pictures, but she sure is cute!
Model Emily with her citrus slice dress.
Front cover of a wedding photo album/scrapbook for Sarah and Jansen
Purple hat with white snowflake for Baby Autumn.

Well that's enough for tonight. More to come later!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

You know... live in the country when you see this blocking the road in front of the elementary school.
Yep. That's a turkey in the road.

Welcome to the country, folks.