Friday, January 27, 2012

News! I got a new pair of NEWS!

Ok, so I totally stole the inspiration for the title from the song off Yo Gabba Gabba (Shoes! I got a new pair of shoes! Shiny and clean, they're my favorite color green. A new pair of shoes). But it's ok, because I DO have two pieces of news to share!

First, I am happy to finally be able to share that this past December 30, T and I finally tied the knot. It was just a simple, quickie ceremony and we had no family there. My mom lives in MS for work and if one person couldn't make it, we didn't want any people to make it to avoid anyone feeling like we'd planned things so they were excluded. ('d happen). So we asked a couple of friends...and then an extra friend because one of our first choices was due any day then and I hoped if she planned on being there for us, then life would kick in and she'd go into labor. No such luck - she had to be induced a few days later.

Second, life has been tough the past month. When T lost his job, we were already pretty strapped from Christmas. We've spent the past month relying on the grace of God and the love and assistance of our already strapped families. Thankfully, we've already gotten our taxes filed and that wonderful child credit gives us something to float on for a while. Buuuuuut....the REAL second bit of news is *drumroll*
I got a job! Whoo! It's decent hours where I'll still get to see the kids and even make dinner, plus it's close-ish to home and the pay is great!

Unfortunately that last bit means I'll have to slow the crafting (could it really get any slower?) for a bit while I get life balanced back out from the job and whatnot, but I'll still be trying to make stuff in the spare time and on the weekends.

Monday, January 23, 2012

New Year, New Addiction

My mom...she just knows how to enable me.

Last night, she sent me an email asking if I'd seen this site.

I checked it out and I am SO in love with 85% of the clothing on there. And the BEST part? They tell you which pattern/number to use to achieve the look you see in stores! YES! As I'm looking to return to the workforce, I will be needing new work clothes. I've always loved the classic lines and styles of the 50s and 60s (think Mad Men with less overt sexiness), so these are perfect for me. Yay!

Of course, it just adds to my list of fabric store purchases for our tax refund!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Who's Run? Ray's Run!

I'm glad I'm finally getting a chance to post this, though I deeply wish I didn't need to.

When I got pregnant with D, I desperately needed people to talk to that were also pregnant at the same time. I turned to and joined into the discussions with my birth month. During the pregnancy, I grew attached to a few of the hundreds of ladies, and eventually we all formed a private group. It was lovely, though for the first 4 months of D's life, I worked an odd schedule and couldn't join in much. And then, on January 14, I lost my job. I immediately turned to my old friends for comfort, but found myself doing the comforting somewhat.

September 1, 2010 brought the birth of an adorable little boy named Ray. His mommy, Erin, is one of the nicest people I know. She's very diplomatic (which is wonderful, except when you KNOW you're right and you want her on your side!), and she cares so much it's ridiculous. I got to learn more about her and Ray throughout our pregnancies, and we congratulated each other on our births (mine on September 9). Everything was going beautifully with the kids growing and learning more and more each day, with hundreds of pictures being posted to the group daily.

January 11, 2011 brought one of the worst tragedies a parent can ever go through. Ray was at his daycare taking a nap when his care provider realized that he wasn't breathing. She did everything she could, as did the paramedics who arrived insanely fast, but to no avail. Ray Gregory passed that morning due to SIDS. This was one of my biggest and worst fears with D. I still wake sometimes in the night just to make sure he's breathing and his blankets and pillow aren't over his face. I also sometimes prefer he nap on me, despite the inability to get anything done, simply because I revel in the feeling of his breath on my cheek or neck.

Erin and her husband decided that instead of wallowing in their misery and heartache, they were going to do anything they could to prevent this tragedy from happening to any other parent. They organized a charity run called Ray's Run. Last June was the first annual run, and the last I heard they planned another for this year, though their site hasn't been updated yet. I doubt this year that Erin will be participating, though...she's due with another son soon!

I also found out that a friend from high school lost her niece of 3 months to SIDS in 2011, too. Ms. Imogen Riley was very very loved, from the pictures I've seen (and really, how could you NOT love a little baby?) and is missed more every day. SIDS has hit me close to home, though thankfully not IN my home, so I wanted to take the time today to remember these two special babies, as well as all of the other lives lost to this syndrome.

Take a moment to snuggle your little ones, no matter how not little they are these days, and stop by Ray's Run to show your support.

Helena Hekiphump

When I was a kid, I had a hard time saying the word 'elephant', as I hear most kids do. My word for elephant was 'hekiphump' (pronounced heck-ee-fump). 

A couple of years ago, I gave my mom a small gift box from Barnes and Noble that was simple cross stitch projects. She needed something small and simple should could easily do while relaxing on weekends, or when work was slow (she used to work from home). Unfortunately, she never really got around to doing any of them, partly because she has rheumatoid arthritis and her hands hurt. So a few days ago, I was sitting in the living room and realized that D had pulled it off the shelf and it had just been sitting there with him walking all over it and the dog playing soccer with it. I picked it up, dusted it off, and decided I'd finally give cross stitch a good try. If I couldn't do it this time, well...there may have been no hope.

The first project I chose was the most adorable little elephant - and I don't even like elephants! The book names her Ella Elephant, and she's shown with grass and spraying water from her trunk. But me? I took one look and just knew she was a Helena. I must say, I'm very proud of myself. :)

Next I tried to do a zombie bride and groom (I LOVELOVELOVE zombies) from a kit T gave me last Christmas. Well...they only provide materials for the first three projects, and mine is like the second to last. So...I have to wait til I can make it out to get the thread colors I need to finish. Oh well, I needed to go out to get stuff to teach the kids basic cross stitch. We're going to make their mom book marks for Mother's Day. 

And today....I finished up the second animal: Darius Hutihu (pronounced hoo-tee-hoo). Why Darius? Because he's a Hootie (and the Blowfish) of course! :D You can thank T for that one. **pause here for shower due to D's seriously huge poosplosion**

I'm thinking I'll keep up with the cross-stitching...for now.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Boy, that Jeopardy sure is hard!

Tonight was the east coast online test for Jeopardy! I wanted to do it last year, but with the working and the new baby, things just didn't time out for me. So this year I registered in plenty of time and managed to take the test on time.

Boy is it hard! I'm sure I didn't do so well, but you'll never know unless they call you for an audition. But I can say that the test made me realize just how much I don't know...and how much I needed a nap and a quiet room.

Oh well. Veggie and Roast Soup for dinner and kidlets sleeping early tonight has left some time for T and I, which is a rarity. He's working on his research for his vlog since Wikipedia will be down all day tomorrow, and I'm helping him research and giving myself a much needed semi mani/pedi. Oh, and listening to the rain come down before it turns all too cold again tomorrow.

A little bit of hope on the job front...but my superstitions force me to remain quiet for a little longer.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Personalized Birthday Shirt for Girls

This past September brought the celebration of Baby D's first birthday (eep!), and like every other new parent (B and E are steps, so I'm a first timer with D), I wanted him to have an adorable birthday outfit. Back when he was only 4 or 5 months old, my mom and I were shopping in Target and ran across their adorable appliqued onesies that just had a cutely boyish 1 on the front, and then the soft blue stretchy crowns for the birthday boy. So he was set.

Then when it got closer to E's birthday, my head cleared from the new mom clouds and I had sudden inspiration for a birthday shirt to make her day special for her.

First I grabbed a hot pink tshirt from Hobby Lobby (I think it was $3.99 and then I had a coupon from the newspaper for 40% off one item. Sweet!). Then I took a section of the newspaper that I wasn't going to read (sports?). Keeping the pages together, I unfolded the section top to bottom, so it looks like a closed book. Using the top half, I free handed a large 5, making sure to keep it's sizing within the size of her shirt (for E, the newspaper allowed the perfect amount of space for a 5 to cover her shirt without being too big).

Being VERY careful while cutting out, making sure to keep the pages together, I taped around the edges to make sure the pages stayed together and the shape stayed put. Can you tell I could only find painters tape when I needed it? :)
Using the number as a template, I used the bottom half (ok, so in the picture it's the top half) of the newspaper to create the number again. This one I am NOT cutting out, but instead using it to get the shape and size of my letters. I drew these in pencil first so I could erase, but then had to go over in permanent marker so I could see to cut them out. And so you could see them in the picture :)
Tape the edges of the letters, too so they stay together. I did this because I prefer a thicker pattern piece to trace and cut versus the tissue paper thin ones. If you're good with the thin paper patterns, feel free to skip the multi layers and the taping.
 **Ok, I appear to have stopped taking pictures for a while. But next I used the pattern pieces I just made to cut out the letters and number from the fabrics I'd purchased. I chose a pretty white material with a tiny white flower pattern for the number and then a fat quarter stack that luckily had 5 coordinating fabrics for the letters. Once those were cut out, I used iron on interfacing to attach the number to the shirt and then the letters on top of the number the way I had drawn them on the newspaper.**
Using thin black ribbon and Aileen's Fabric Glue Pen, I carefully outlined each letter to make them pop. I also outlined the 5, in order to cover the raw edges (it was a woven cotton and wanted to fray a bit). For the curvy pieces of letters, I had to cut teeny tiny little slits partially through the ribbon, allowing for the bends without the ribbon sticking up funny. Sometimes that meant sitting there holding the ribbon down on the curve for 3-5 minutes before carefully peeling my finger off. :)
You can see above where I had multiple ribbons going so that I could get it done quicker. The glue takes very little to stick and less time to set, so I ran several ribbons at once so I could alternate.

Finally, deliver to the birthday girl and go have some fun!
PS - E still wears her shirt to school on occasion, and it's gotten a few compliments from class moms.
PPS - I also sketched out numbers/names for a friend of mine, but I don't have pictures to share, and no permission yet to share them if I had pics! If I ever get pictures/permission, I'll share her work with you, too!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Peenybudder Cookies

I recently posted a recipe for my version of my mother-in-law's banana pudding cookies. The other cookie I remember her making (and disappearing first) were her PB&J cookies. They were delicious, like eating the best PB&J ever. Her cookies were thick and full of nutty goodness, and sandwiched in the middle was the Goober jelly spread - you know, the one where the PB and J are swirled together in the jar, so the J is a little thicker.

These were T's FAVORITE that his mom made, and I know he's been missing them. So I decided to take up the challenge to make my own version of these awesome treats. First I made the PB cookie batter and then decided to mix the J right in so it would cook together and be like a sandwich all in one bite. The way I did it turned out well, and I like them the more I ate them, but I think next time I'll follow the recipe I'm about to share and then sandwich some jelly between the cookies for a sandwich. Either way works wonderfully, but the recipe below is the best PB cookie I've ever tried. It stands on it's own.

Peenybudder Cookies
3 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1  cup granulated sugar
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 large eggs
2 giant scoops of PB, creamy or crunchy (I used approximately 12 oz of creamy PB)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Combine dry ingredients in a bowl: flour, baking powder, salt, sugar, brown sugar, and blend well.
3. Whisk wet ingredients in another bowl until creamy: butter, vanilla, eggs.
4. Combine wet and dry ingredients until mixed well. Add PB and blend throughout.
5. Refrigerate batter until firm (you CAN bake immediately at this point, but cookies hold shape and tend to bake better if refrigerated first), then spoon onto an ungreased cookie sheet.
6. Bake for 13-16 minutes, or until edges appear dark brown and top appears golden brown.
7. Loosen cookies from cookie sheet with spatula, but do not move to cooling rack (can move to a plate to use cookie sheet for more cookies) as the cookies will sag between the slats of the rack. Let rest at least 5 minutes.

To make into PB&J cookies, spread jelly on the bottom of one cookie and press another cookie bottom onto the jelly.

Otherwise, sit back with a big cold glass of milk and enjoy the best PB cookie EVER. Of course, I'm a little biased :)

**This recipe is also initially based off the Nestle Tollhouse recipe on the back of the chocolate chip bag**

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Gum. Bo. Gumbo!

I've know T since I was 9 and he was 11. We dated in high school, lost touch for 8 years, and have now been together for just shy of 2 1/2 years. In all the time I've known him, I had no idea he LOVES gumbo. Until now.

As I said a few days ago, I'm trying to use up the food in our pantry before going on the big haul shopping trip again. I had the andouille sausage left from the chili, and I had a 2 lb bag of shrimp in the freezer. What to make? At first I thought about making a yummy shrimp and grits dish with a chocolate red eye gravy (don't act like you're not interested!), but T turned up his nose at the red eye gravy. And then he suggested gumbo. Why didn't I think of that?!?

T's Infamous Gumbo
1 half link of andouille sausage, chopped small (by link, I mean the u shaped package in the meat section)
2 lbs 21-30 count shrimp (use whatever and however much you like! I say the more the better)
30 oz. V8 juice, spicy if you like...we used regular low sodium
2 cups of water
celery, diced or rough chopped
carrots, diced or rough chopped
onion, diced or rough chopped
garlic, rough chopped or pressed (I feel like I don't get all of the garlic when I press it, so I just rough chop)
Texas Pete
Ms. Dash hot and spicy seasoning
Knorr Chicken Stock
2 cans veggies (we used 1 can of corn and 1 can of green beans)

**T did the broth part of the soup, and honestly he just went through the cabinet and grabbed what he thought would be good. I encourage you to do the same, just to see what you come up with for YOUR tastes**
1. Start with garlic and your holy trinity: diced celery, carrots, onion. Get them sizzling in the pan and then add in your sausage and brown.
2. In your big pot, mix in the V8, chicken stock, 2 cups water, and all seasonings to your liking (obviously the spicier you want it, the more Texas Pete and spicy seasonings you add). When the sausage is browned, add to the pot.
3. While the soup is simmering, get your rice cooking.
4. In the pan you browned the sausage in, add more garlic (you can never have too much vampire protection!) and more of your holy trinity. Get those sizzling and starting to get a little translucent. Add in your shrimp, a little salt and pepper. If you have lemon or lime juice, throw in a splash of that, too. Once the shrimp are nice and pink, toss them into the simmering soup.
5. Let the soup simmer while you wait for your rice to finish cooking, stirring occasionally. Then serve over rice.

***DISCLAIMER: I know that this is probably the least concise recipe I've posted yet, but that's the thing about my cooking, especially when it comes to soups, stews and gumbos. I almost never measure, and I think that my cooking comes from my heart. I hope you can go into your kitchen and pantry and come up with some great soup for your family, based off my loose recipe here. And if you come up with something super awesome, shoot me an email so I can try it, too!***

Monday, January 9, 2012

Our New Years Resolution

I hate looking for a new job.

A few days before New Years, T's contract ended abruptly (he works through an agency at the moment). Yay! It's such a good way to start our new year off, right? It especially stinks because T was working to allow me to stay home and see D's first stuff, like first steps, first words, etc. He got to see those things with B and E, but I didn't meet them until they were almost 5 and barely 3, respectively. Now, it's back to whoever gets a job first, at least until Gramma moves back to NC.

So we're back to the drawing board and just trying to make it til one of us finds a job. I just finished updating completely redoing both of our resumes, and I'll be scouring the online sites again later this afternoon.

Do you know of a good site to look for jobs? Share it in my comments! Especially if you know of any work-at-home or telecommuting positions.

If anyone is looking for work right now, GOOD LUCK! And if you're in a stable position with work in your household, count your blessings!

(ps - a word of hope: I read an article last night about the national unemployment rate having dropped to 8.7%...that's WAY down from where it has been!)

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Project Run and Play - Pattern Remix

Hi! Voting is still open over at Project Run and Play for the first week's projects. I voted yesterday and WHEW! There are so many great ideas out there. I LOVE the little tartan dress and how the pattern was turned backwards to achieve an awesome look. And remember when my little blog here started back in October and I spoke about Jessica with Running with Scissors? She's a contestant, too! Check out her adorable little plaid overcoat inspired by the top of the dress.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Whatever You Have Chili

Last week, when the babe and I were so sick, T stayed home one night from work to help out and possibly take us to the ER (we wound up going a few days later instead). His managers decided that they no longer needed his services, and because he was not yet rolled over to permanent from the staffing agency, we're between a rock and a hard place. Yay!

Anyway, I've been trying to stretch the food we already have in the house as long as I can, and buying only a few things like the meats to fill out a meal if necessary. Last night I used some chicken tenders, broccoli from the fridge, and a Pad Thai kit. Pretty good...but what about tonight? CHILI!

I already knew that I DID have dark red kidney beans, great northern beans, taco seasoning mix, and sour cream. I did NOT have meat, tomatoes, or Fritos. After a quick survey of our pantry and a run to the butcher (it's like a quarter mile, instead of the 4 miles to the grocery store), I came up with this recipe. Enjoy, and feel free to try it with variations you might have in your own pantry!

Chili Whatever
1 large can dark red kidney beans, drained and rinsed lightly
1 small can great northern beans, drained and rinsed lightly
1 pack taco seasoning
1 can tomato soup
30ish oz. V8 vegetable juice
Cheddar Cheese, shredded
Sour Cream

1. In a skillet, brown your ground meat with whatever seasonings you like to use. If you have fresh garlic and onion, USE IT. I used garlic powder, onion powder, seasoned salt, pepper, smoked paprika, cumin, and chipotle powder. Also brown the andouille sausage (I did this after, without adding spices since andouille can be a little spicy on it's own).
2. Combine meats, V8, tomato soup, taco seasoning and beans in the crock pot. Stir, and set to high (3+ hours) or low (6+ hours). You want the beans to be a little softer than when you first opened the cans, and to give the flavors time to meld. Stir occasionally.
3. Serve over Fritos, topped with cheese and sour cream.

It's always interesting to me to see what I can come up with using just food we already have here. It's neat to figure out what will/can work together. So far it's been successful.

What can you make with the food already stocked in your pantry?

Nanner Pudding Cakies

T's mom passed at the beginning of July, last year. We had a rocky start, but she eventually came around to love me (ha!). I love her very much, and I miss her, wish she'd taught me some of her signature recipes. One of those recipes were her Banana Pudding Cookies. Oh. My. G.... They were so delicious, to the point that I could never eat a whole one (she made them nearly 1/2" thick!).

Before Christmas, I was doing some baking for the boys on T's shift at work, and T reminded me of his mom's cookies. I decided that I'd try my hand at those Banana Pudding Cookies once at for all.

Two things to remember:
1. Cakies was not a typo. :) My cookies have always and will always be cake-like. I like them that way.
2. These are my version of Miss Dianne's cookies, not her actual recipe. Still yummy and a good send up, but not the same.

Nanner Pudding Cakies
2 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder (it's supposed to be soda, but I somehow don't have any!)
1 tsp. salt
2 sticks unsalted butter or margarine, softened (I tend to have my at least half liquid)
1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract (we're all fancy with our Madagascar Vanilla)
2 large eggs
2 boxes instant banana cream pudding
2 bananas, slightly overripe and mashed chunky
1/2 cup milk

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. In a large mixing bowl, combine dry ingredients: flour, baking powder, salt, granulated sugar, and pudding.
3. In a smaller bowl, combine wet ingredients: brown sugar, butter, eggs, and milk.
4. Combine wet and dry ingredients in larger mixing bowl and fold until wet. If your mixture is too wet and runny, add equal amounts of flour and granulated sugar slowly until you get a better consistency. Add in the bananas.
5. Spoon onto a cookie sheet and toss into the oven (ok, don't "toss". Place gently) for roughly 10-15 minutes. I didn't time mine very well, and wound up having to turn the sheets around halfway-ish through, so keep an eye on your cookies for the first round.

These cakies are not super sweet like you'd expect from cookies, but they're surprisingly addicting AND I think they'd be delicious as the base for a Strawberry Shortcake style dessert.

*This recipe was adapted from the Original Nestle Toll House Milk Chocolate Morsel Cookies recipe listed on the back of my chocolate chip bag.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Last Words

Tonight while making dinner, I had "How I Met Your Mother" on. I like having the noise in the background...or else I watch my pots try to boil. :)

It was the episode for Marshall's dad's funeral. The pastor that was to perform the ceremony left everything in his son's hands (Marshall's former bully), and the question is posed about the last words that his dad said. After several memories of the last words, and a pocket dial, Marshall settled on what he would share as the last words from his dad.

Every time I see this episode, it gets me thinking about what the last words would be from my parents, or my last words to T.

That brings me to a rule that I grew up with in my house. No matter what, even if you're so angry you can't speak, ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS say I love you before you leave the house or hang up the phone. If you follow that rule, you never have to worry if something should happen, you'll never have a regret about saying something mean as the last words.

I'm not sure how long before this started, but the event in my life that solidified the rule in my head (and carried over into my relationships with boyfriends and even friends) was the car accident my sister and I were in when I was 8. We had just moved from the city to the country and she'd brought a friend home after school (we were finishing the year at our old school) and she'd only had her license for a month. On the way back into town to drop her friend off at home, she lost control of the vehicle and we slammed into a tree. She shouldn't have survived (thank Heaven she did), and took a lot of rehab. I had surgery, and have had some issues ever since. Scared that I almost lost my sister, I tell my loved ones I love you every time I leave the house or end a call.

Is there a rule like this that your family follows?

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Merry Christmas?

This is how I spent my Christmas Morning.
Poor baby D woke up gasping for breath, super congested, and running a fever. After a few cough and some back rubs from Daddy, he was feeling better, but an ER visit was still in our future. I felt craptastic, too, but at least I could cough normally.
Then we drove across town (Mommy had car troubles) to get the big kids and take them home to open presents. Yay! E was so tired she couldn't resist a nap in the car. My sister spoiled all three of them with presents, as did Gramma and Grampa, but Daddy won with the most loved gifts for ALL THREE. Good job, Daddy!
Did you know that D made it all the way to his second Christmas without having his own stocking?! Crazy! So I "whipped" this one up with reverse applique using this amazing glorious green velvet that I bought when I was in 8th grade (I had just seen Gone With the Wind) and one of my dad's old shirts for the liner. This was NOT easy, but totally worth it. I think next year I'll find a different color velvet and do one for another kid, and so on until we all have matching stockings.

After all of these shenanigans, the bigs went back to Mommy for a few days before school. I missed them, but it was a welcome break since D and I weren't getting better. Friday, the day before New Years Eve, T and I spent some time with his cousin and his wife. It was fun...except D was snotty and fussy, and I was coughy and couldn't hear out of my right ear. I woke up early on NYE because my ear hurt and was making my jaw hurt. D and I drove into town to the new ER...O. M. G. We were in and out in under and hour and the staff was super nice. Come to find out, we both had ear infections and sinus infections. YAY! So we're both still healing, VERY slowly, and now I'm trying to nurse T back to health since he decided to join the sicko club.

I see lots of other bloggers out there spent the holidays sick, too. So if you're still sick, I hope you feel better. And if you're not sick, count yourself lucky!