21 October 2008

for sale...again

Sorry dear readers, that I have been absent so long... We have put our house back on the market and lost another perfect house we hoped to buy in the last month. We are going to keep our house on the market until it sells this time, so hopefully, by Christmas, we will be in a new house. Now that the initial chaos has worn off, my craft stuff can come out of hiding and I will once again have something to share with you all.

First up a few gifts I made on the sewing machine last week. Two of my favorite ladies had birthdays in the last month and I had not sent anything yet. (Hiding all of my craft stuff to make our 750 sq. ft. house look "roomy" put a damper on things.)

My mom's birthday was in September and she always appreciates my handmade goodness, so I decided to try my hand at patchwork. Taking a cue from Denise Schmidt's quilts, I made a modified log cabin piece that I made into a small pillow. Here is the result, which I am very happy with:

The second was for my favorite friend, Jessica, who we continually try to convince to move in with us. That's how much we love her... Jessica just moved into a new apartment and has been able to pull a bunch of her house stuff out of storage. I wanted to send her something that could double as a housewarming sort of gifty. So, I pulled together a set of quilted potholders in the red and turquoise of her kitchen. The quilting stitches are done in red.

So, again, sorry for the delay and look for more homey goodness in the next few days...

22 September 2008

sewing inspiration in blogland

Last week, I promised I would get out a list of my favorite sewing blogs for your reading pleasure. So, again, in honor of National Sewing Month, here you go...

And one great one if you are looking for a little project to get you started:
That's all for now...

15 September 2008

baby stitches

While putting together the sewing book list to the right, I stumbled upon the newest book offering from the talented Amy Butler. Her beautiful book, In Stitches is a favorite source of inspiration and the place where I found the pattern for Avery's quilt. Her newest book, little stitches for little ones, looks like another winner. Laid out in the same format as the other, it is spiral-bound, with a pocket of patterns in the front cover. It features over 20 patterns from bedding to toys and bibs to jammies. Of course all of the samples are put together in her beautiful fabrics and the photos are fabulous. I can't wait to get my hands on this book to try out some great new patterns for the bean. Here are a few shots to wet your appetite...

(All photos from Amy Butler)

13 September 2008

national sewing month

That's right, September is National Sewing Month. Now I have to say that the "official" website lacks inspiration, but there were a few things that I could glean to share with you all...

Here are a few ways that you can celebrate:

  • "Sew more often. If you haven't been sewing lately, find out what's new in the sewing world at a local fabric or sewing machine store." I have included a list of some of my favorite sewing books and books I want to try on the right. These books have beautiful pictures, really cool projects and a ton of inspiration. Check them out from your local library or buy a copy today. Try a new pattern, learn a new technique.
  • "Create your own sewing circle of friends; it’s fun to sew with others!" Nici and I have talked about doing this, but we can't seem to find the time. Maybe we just need to make time, because sewing with the girls is a great excuse to get together.
In a few days I will try to pass along some of my favorite sewing blogs. Enjoy!

12 September 2008

cover up

One of the many tips in Bend the Rules Sewing was the admonishment to take good care of your machine, keeping it free from dust. Now I know, this is one of the 10 commandments of sewing machine ownership, but I have been very bad about it. My sewing machine has lived uncovered for the last few years, in my basement and on the floor under my desk. It has accumulated layers of dust on the top of the machine that I dutifully wipe off, but I am sure the inside is filled with dust bunnies and thread mice. I need to do better. So, the other night, I went searching for inspiration and found a slew of great ideas from others, who like me had started to realize how valuable that little machine was and wanted to protect it. Here are a few fun examples that I found...

This reversible one over at diynamite

This sweet lined one from craftblog

This patchwork one from spool

And my favorite, a quilted one from julieree

Here is mine, inspired by the last one above, but definitely it's own creation.

I have been working very hard to not buy any fabric right now. Yikes! It is really hard, but I have done several of my last few projects using only fabric I have in my stash. For this project, I used some upholstery fabric leftover from recovering some chairs at work and some scraps from my kitchen curtain project.

10 September 2008

bend the rules

I have had Amy Carol's "Bend-the-Rules Sewing" checked out from the library for about a month. Amy blogs over at angry chicken, one of my favorites. I had read through all of the tips and hints and the beginning and looked through the projects, but had yet to make anything. Then the notice hit my inbox. It was due back. Dang it! Now I had to scramble, copy the patterns I wanted, glean all of the sewing goodwill I could and then back to the library.

I love the library, I usually have anywhere from 3-12 books out at one time, but I usually hate returning them. I really like checking out sewing or craft books for the same reason I like to check out cookbooks. All of the above can look beautiful and glossy on the shelf, but be completely useless once it is time to actually use it. By using the library copy first, I can see if I should buy my own copy or not.

Bend the Rules will be going on my holiday wishlist this year. It is a great beginners book, and it is full of easy, fun projects that would be great for gifts or for your own house. She adds some of her own fun detail to projects with embroidery, fabric paint, stamps and more. it is a good creative jumpstart for your own projects. Some of my favorite non-project sections of the book include:
  • her detailed and useful list of basic sewing tools, complete with illustrations and descriptions
  • a how to by a sewing machine guide
  • the debunking of "sewing myths"

Feeling panicked about not actually making anything from the book before it was returned, I scanned her bib pattern, blew it up on the computer and went to work. 30 minutes later I had a project that I am unbelievably proud of. Yep, 30 minutes, start to finish. well almost finish. I didn't have any snaps in the house, so I still need to add that. I did however get to use one of the newly-discovered fancy stitches that my machine can do. I was so excited with how well it turned out. So, I will leave you with a few photos ...

09 September 2008

crafty taxidermy

(Image from etsy.com)

I am not a big fan of putting dead animals on the wall. At all. Much to the dismay of my husband the hunter. If we ever find a nice big house with a basement man room, he can hang as many beer signs and deer heads as he would like, but until then...

That being said, I am in love with this warm, fuzzy, sweater striped doe from Rachel Denny. The other option in her shop right now is a nice, quiet, neutral cable knit, but I am much more fond of the fruit stripe version. Now that, I could put in my living room...

08 September 2008

craftroom envy

(photo from MarthaStewart.com)

Martha's Organizing Tip of the Day is becoming an addiction. The ideas are just so good and clever. This week's Living email also featured a whole collection of organizing ideas. The most impressive to me was a photo tour of Martha's craftroom. Is is really Martha's craftroom? Who cares, it is a cool room. Now, obviously the everyday, non-craft maven will have a hard time achieving this level of craft room nirvana, but it is something to strive for.

There are some really creative uses of regular office furniture and office organizers: flat file drawers for fabric samples, a spice rack for bottled glitter, her own school-sized rack and cutter for kraft paper rolls. So much wonderful crafty goodness that feeds my type-a aspirations.

I would love to hear your crafty organizing ideas if you care to share...

07 September 2008

midnight brownies and homemade applesauce

This weekend, I pulled out a few old favorite recipes. There are no pictures however, because I have decided that food pictures just look horrible when taken with a cheap camera that requires the use of flash. Sorry!

First, I had a bunch of red delicious apples left over from an event. I don't really like that variety so I was trying to find a quick, easy way to use them up. I also had 3 or 4 stalks of rhubarb in the fridge that really needed to be used. So, I whipped up a quart of rhubarb-apple sauce. It is sooooo good. I just chopped the 6 apples and rhubarb into small pieces, put them in a saucepan with about a cup of water and a half cup of brown sugar and stirred them all together. I covered them and let them cook for about 25 minutes. Then I pulled down my food processor, dumped in the goodness and blended it all for a minute or so. It is the perfect mixture of tangy and sweet.

Then, as a farewell gift for my friend Becky as she leaves our office, I made my favorite brownie recipe. The recipe I have had since college. In the original description, the author talked about how she called them Midnight Brownies because they were the perfect study break when you were pulling an all-nighter. I used them for this purpose many times in those college days. They are also perfect for rainy afternoons, girls' nights, and just about any other time as far as I'm concerned. The batter is actually chewy, I am not kidding, it is thick and rich and chewy. Yum!

Here is my adaptation (the original author is from Australia so all measurements were metric):

Midnight Brownies
adapted from Loobylu

1/2 c butter
1/2 c cocoa powder
2 c brown sugar, packed
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 c flour

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

2. Melt butter and cocoa powder on low heat in a saucepan. Add the brown sugar and stir on med-low heat until it is all melty goodness.

3. Remove from heat and add eggs and vanilla, stirring until glossy.

4. Slowly add flour, stirring all together. Taste several times throughout for quality control, of course.

5. Pour into a greased baking dish. (I use 6x9 because I like them a little thinner, you can use 6x6 too.) Bake for 25-30 minutes.

6. Cool for about 15 seconds and then eat. Try not to eat them all...

05 September 2008

a place for everything and everything in its place

(image from domino mag)

I really hope I'm not the only one but I have stacks and stacks of back issue decorating magazines: Real Simple, Martha Stewart, Domino, Cottage Living, and some that aren't even published any more.

I can't part with them, too many great ideas, beautiful photos, things I want to look back at later. Now, most of my mags aren't piled around the house. I did actually put them all in magazine boxes a few years ago. So at least they are organized. But it is a bit much.

So imagine my surprise and glee when browsing the Domino magazine website, I discovered their new feature, my deco file. Here you can scan and upload all of the images you want, pull in images from other members, and catalog your favorite decorating books. It can all be in one glorious place totally accessible, organizable, and free. Yippee!

Head on over and check it out...

03 September 2008

local talent

I love blogs. I love etsy. But more then that, I love when I find a local(ish) blogger who also has an etsy store. And not only that, but she is fast becoming a new favorite. Check out lindamade, a New Yorker transplanted to Montana, creating some beautiful things...

I want to try making these potholders soon, very soon...

life in a cottage

A few years ago, I discovered a little magazine that quickly became one of my favorites. I love "Cottage Living" magazine. It is filled with smaller houses, like our cute little bungalow. No McMansions, no sprawling, expansive, over built homes. Just livable, lived-in homes in every shape and size. While the majority of the homes have sort of "traditional" style, some like the shingle-sided beauty in this month's article, "Historic Exterior meets Modern Interior" article. This is why I love this publication. It is not about a certain style, it is about the simplicity of living a "cottage" lifestyle. No room for excess, just what is really important. I love, love, love the chalkboard wall in the second photo. If you have never checked out this magazine, get yourself to your nearest bookstore or super market and get your copy, right now...

(All photos from Cottage Living magazine)

01 September 2008

kids handmade

I love handmade things in general, but kid's clothes, toys and accessories that are handmade are some of my favorite things. I love making toys and I can't wait to sew clothes for Avery. I also think it is so much more special when you get or give a gift that was made with love, rather then just bought at the store. Later this week, I will be posting a collection of handmade gifts that Avery has received, but until then, you can check out the Handmade Kids Sweepstakes on etsy.com. You can look through a great selection of handmade goods in categories such as "furniture", "toys" and "accessories". If you have an etsy account, you can even vote for the finalists in the contest. So get on over there and check out the handmade goodness...

31 August 2008

this weekend's big score

We spent most of the weekend in my home town visiting family and introducing Avery Charlotte to her great grand parents, her great, great aunt Charlotte (who she is named for) and a whole slew of other friends and family. I come from a small town in the more conservative part of the state, with a strong Scandinavian heritage, where sheep, cattle, hay and horses abound. On Sunday we drove down the road to an even smaller dot on the map for their annual Sheep Drive. Started as a joke 20 years ago, it is a community party with food, bands and vendors. At one of the many tables set up along main street, we found this cute little fisher price horse...$12. It should be no time before this little one is scooting around the house on it.

30 August 2008

the homestead

A few years ago, my parent's sold their house in town and settled on 12 acres about 15 miles from town. They built a little cabin, a shop and a barn, rounding it out with the original homestead cabin from my dad's family ranch, which they moved from down the road. It has names and dates and cattle brands carved into the square-hewn logs. Here are a few shots from our visit this weekend...

27 August 2008

release your inner decorator

(image from marthastewart.com)

I am on the Martha Stewart Organizing Tip of the Day list. This one came through yesterday and I for one think it is pure genius. Taking a cue from obsessively organized decorator types, she (I know it isn't really Martha who sends these emails, but I am keeping things simple) suggests creating a Decorator's Pouch. This is a simple collection of all of the particulars of your home or current project, pulled together in a zipper pouch. This includes paint chips, fabric swatches, dimensions of all of the furniture and the rooms. Add to it a list of what you still need to find, some photos of trouble spots or or perhaps some magazine clippings of inspiration. Then, the next time you are out thrifting and you find what could be the perfect coffee table, there is no guess work. I think I would also keep a small measuring tape and a pen and paper pad in my pack. A system like this would have made my life so much easier, so many times. Check out the comments for even more good ideas...

25 August 2008

this weekend's big score

Got around to a little garage sale madness this weekend. Not the best run, but I found a few treasures. Here are the goods:

- two small metal pails, 10 cents each (I am always looking for things like this to organize little things)
- one vintage seltzer bottle with all working parts, 50 cents (I love buying seltzer water, but I hate all of the waste)
- one cute little penguin ice bucket, 50 cents (I have seen this design several times before at yard sales or antique stores, but never at a price this good. I couldn't pass it up)
- one pair of vintage cat eye glasses, 25 cents (with leather case)
- one floral coin purse, 25 cents

So that comes to a grand total of $1.70. Good deals...

23 August 2008

a few changes

So, I have been thinking about making some changes and additions for awhile now and here are a few of the first steps.

1) a new header - I am still not totally set on this one, but I am going to put it up for awhile to see if it grows on me. The background is fabric from a vintage apron. (my new toy is my printer/scanner, wee!)

2) an expansion of The Hip Homemaker, as indicated by the small "^the blog" in the header. I am exploring some new incarnations of the hip homemaker ideal and lifestyle. Keep your eyes glued here for more updates...

3) for all of you Google geeks, the chance to put your Hip Homemaker feed on your personalized google homepage. If you have not found this wonderful feature, I would encourage you to check out igoogle. The initial set up is a little bland, but once you are set up, you can choose from dozens of beautiful artist's themes and add a ton of fun and useful gadgets. You can have your email inbox, your google calendar, feeds from some of your favorite blogs (including hip homemaker, just use the button on the top left of this page) and more all in one place. Then you just make it your home page and everytime you open your web browser, all of your favorites are right there. Here is a screen shot of my current page:

On the home tab, I have my calendar (which can be synced with your outlook calendar) the date and time, my todo list from toodledo.com (one of my new favorite tools) and my gmail inbox. Under the "Fun" tab, I have my blog feeds, recipes, and HGTV tips. I also store all of my bookmarks with google bookmarks so that I can access them from any computer.

Aahhhh, now that I am finished pimping Google, I will continue with my updates...

You can also get ready for some new blogs in my blog roll, more consistent posts, website reviews, and maybe some other fabulousness I haven't even thought of yet.

Now, I am off to enjoy a "girls night" while J is out BBQing, setting up a Fantasy football league and playing poker. Avery, Champ (the girl dog) and I are watching Breakfast at Tiffany's, eating Spicy Chicken & mushroom pizza with garlic white sauce from Pizza Pipeline (J won't eat it, so we get it when he is gone. BTW: if you have a PP close buy, i would highly recommned this option for high brow taste on a kegger budget) and drinking some cool white wine (well, I will be, everyone else is too young).

22 August 2008

covering the bean's bum (or cloth diapering 101)

I have been planning to use cloth diapers since long before we got pregnant. To me, it just makes sense; for the baby's bum, the environment and my bank account. The thing is, cloth diapers, while they are making a come back, they are not exactly mainstream. When you say "cloth diapers" most people have visions of those giant plastic pants of 30 years ago. Luckily I have a few friends who ventured down this path ahead of me and we live in a nice progressive community where you can find diapers locally and attend workshops on the cloth diapering options. The web is also a great resource to find more info then you could ever need.

Despite my good intentions and all of my planning, we did get off to a shaky start. Our little bean was, well, little... and those first few weeks were pretty hectic. I just couldn't get the diaper covers tight enough around her skinny little thighs to prevent leaks and the prefold diapers, while cheap, were really bulky and unwieldy. So, for 3 weeks, we used disposables and took out more trash then I ever imagined. We used the disposables for about 2 more weeks for nighttime diapering, because that took a little longer to figure out. The amount of trash helped to solidify my commitment to cloth. It just took a little tweaking to get everything to work best for us.

I wanted to give you my formula for cloth diapering. It continues to evolve, especially the nighttime system, but I am pretty happy with our current arrangement. So here you go...

First, I took the prefolds and cut them down to a more "fitted" shape. Actually, our wonderful friend Shelley offered to use her serger to make this transition more finished and smooth. This helped to eliminate the bulk. I saved all of the pieces that we cut off to use for doublers when needed.

For now, I don't need extra absorption during the day, so I haven't made too many doublers yet, but I have made a few for nighttime diapering. This allows me to leave them on for a longer period of time. I made them by sewing two of the scraps together with a little bit of overlap in the middle. Then to help keep the moisture away from her sensitive bum and to provide a little bit more absorbency, I sewed a piece of fleece over the top by stitching around the edge about a half inch in. For those of you who don't know, fleece is moisture resistant, which is why it helps keep the bum dry. After using them at night for a few weeks, I think I am going to find an old towel to cut up and sew to the back of the doublers to add a little bit more absorbency. Most of the time, these have been sufficient, but a couple times, I had to change her in the middle of the night because she had soaked it through.

The other thing that I did to help with nighttime diapering was to find/make some different covers. Modern diaper covers are light years ahead of the plastic pants of yore, but there are a few different varieties. The most common covers are made from a waterproof fabric called PUL (polyurethane laminate) . The fabric is water proof, but still allows for some breathability, but not as much as I wanted for nighttime. I didn't want to have to change her diaper all night long, but I also wanted to avoid any sort of horrible diaper rash. So, I needed to find something even more breathable. The options included wool and fleece, which are both water resistant but breathe very well. These covers are referred to as "soakers". The problem was that wool covers can be as much as $35 each and fleece were not much cheaper. After doing a bit of research, I found a fabulous pattern from Wired Up Designs that could be used to sew your own fleece or even wool covers. It includes 4 different sizes and even the option to make a "skirty", a diaper cover with a built in skirt. She also gives you some good tips and hints for using different qualities of fleece and wool. Oh, and she is really wonderful and helpful, emailing me to thank me for my purchase and later sharing her diaper rash woes in response to my comments. So, I have made 4 of these and they work really well at night.

So, here is my complete set up: (from top right) PUL covers for day, fleece covers for night, snappis to secure my new "fitted" prefolds, fleece lined doublers for night and a fitted prefold.

I realized that I forgot to get a picture of the diaper on the baby, which may be helpful for non-cloth users. I will add that tomorrow.

19 August 2008

jeepers, creepers, what's an EPer?

I had this post ready to go all day, but I have been unsure about posting it. It is much "heavier" then the usual hiphomemaker content. But then I decided that because it has become a defining aspect of my life as a homemaker, I would go ahead and hit publish...

One of the many new and unexpected things about motherhood is how completely challenging and sometimes impossible, breastfeeding can be. Avery was just too small when she was born to get a good latch and as she has grown, she has never quite figured out how to work the whole breastfeeding gig. That, with the fact that I started back to work yesterday, has changed our entire plan for good newborn nutrition.

At first, I was devastated that I couldn't breastfeed. Every attempt to get her to latch ended in frustration and typically tears from at least one of us. The pumping regimen was brutal, every 2 hours, even at night and I wasn't sure how long I could keep it up. I had planned for so many things for motherhood, but I had never anticipated this as a challenge. On top of that, I thought that everyone else could figure it out and we were just a little slow, but then I started doing a little research. The internet is a beautiful tool, connecting people, providing information. I found whole communities of women who for one reason or another couldn't breastfeed in the traditional sense but had chosen instead to become an Exclusive Pumper (EPer). These women understand the value of breastmilk and choose to sacrifice time and sometimes comfort to continue to supply their babies with this natural nutrition. Some of them had been able to pump and bottle feed for a year. Besides the realization that we weren't alone and it was hard for A LOT of women and babies, I found some inspiration and information to keep going and make the pumping thing work.

Now, 8 weeks into motherhood, I too am an EPer. I am down to pumping every 5-6 hours and way out producing our now pleasantly plump bean. I also have accepted that I can only do what I can do and if it becomes overwhelming and we end up switching to formula at some point, we will still have a healthy baby who has a great family.

So, despite the challenges, we are all growing and thriving here at our house...

17 August 2008

a room for the bean

I have been meaning for quite some time now to post pictures of the finished baby's room, but for a while it was filled with gifts that hadn't been put away and the crib was in our room, so it just ended up having to wait.

The walls are a sweet robin's egg blue peppered with fabric flowers and bird silhouettes. Everything is in order at long last and so, here are some pics of my new favorite room in the house:

(The crib, including the beautiful quilt my grandma made, hanging over the end, the matching bumper I made and the whoozit, who Avery loves to chat with. The two shadow box frames above the crib are waiting to be filled with old family photos and keepsakes, one for mom's family and one for dad's.)

(The crib also acts as our changing area, so I have arranged supplies at one end. The green basket includes diaper covers, lotion, diaper rash treatments, and vintage juice glasses filled with cotton balls, q-tips and snappis. Next to that,I have recycled an old wipes box to hold my flannel wipes and a spray bottle filled with water. Above that end of the crib hangs the mobile that hung over my crib, which just happens to match the colors of the bird lamp I bought perfectly.)

(In the corner, we have a great old wicker rocker that had belonged to my great-aunt Vera. We used to visit her often when was a child and her house was filled with porcelain knick knacks and afghan-covered furniture. When she died, my dad got this chair and my grandma sent me one of her porcelain tea cups. over the back of the chair is a quilt that the women in my office secretly knit over the winter. It came with a knitted pillow filled with lavender and a map that outlines who made which squares and what type of stitches it entailed.)

(In the closet, because her clothes are so tiny and storage is limited, I took down the clothes rod on the left side and put up the shelves. I put a basket on each shelf (these baskets come from Walmart (I know, BAD), but they are only $3 each and they look very nice and not too "country" like the one on the floor) and filled them with clothes, diapers, and blankets, sheets and towels. The closet doesn't have a door yet, so I arranged some of her toys in on the shelves, along with some containers to hold shoes, pacifiers and random things and two toys that were my mom's that are super fragile. The chrome step can is the diaper pail and the basket on the floor is for her tiny laundry.)

(Finally, here is her bookshelf, painted pale yellow. Along with a variety of new and vintage children's books, it holds a basket of extra lotions, first aid kit and fish food on the bottom. The middle shelf is the home of our very resiliant goldfish and a few guppies. On the top is the bird lamp I bought from the lovely Sylvie (which I love), a picture that hung above my dad's crib and our Mr. Potatohead, sporting a Chicago Cubs uniform (Avery's dad's favorite team).)

16 August 2008

custom onesies

Because our little been was pretty small for the first month or so, we didn't have a ton of "outfits" that fit. She spent most of her time in various onesies, many of them hand me downs from our friend Margot.

I am all for simplicity, but onesies aren't the most exciting apparel. So, taking a cue from Margot's mom, Nici, we did some easy embellishment with fabric appliqu├ęs. Nici has created some really wonderful elaborate designs including our favorite chicken shirt, but I kept it simple with basic squares and geometric cutouts. Using Heat-n-bond, a fabulous product I discovered through my sewing class, I would iron the pieces too the onesie. Then I secured them with stitching, either a simple border or a coordinating zigzag over the whole piece.

(the inspiration)

The result are some not-so-basic basics.

13 August 2008

green & clean

Since the birth of the bean, I have become even more interested in all things green, especially cleaning products. I am trying to banish all of those nasty chemicals from our house. It is just safer for the baby and the planet.

My favorite natural cleaners include baking soda and vinegar. There is not too much you can't do with those two and some elbow grease. However, I have been looking for some more ideas and tips for healthier cleaning and I found a couple of resources I wanted to share.

First, I checked out a great book, organic housekeeping, from the library. The author, Ellen Sandbeck not only covers the basics of healthy cleaners and household products, she tackles basic organization, how to design your house so it is easy to clean and dealing with clutter. She deals with things that I never expected to find in this book, including choosing and maintaining a healthy mattress, air quality issues and fire safety. The book is extremely thorough and even if you aren't quite ready to overhaul all of these areas of your life, you get some great information and ideas for the future.

Next, I found a few great blogs:

The Not Quite Crunchy Parent - She has some great reviews of eco-cleaning products along with a ton of other great ideas and information.

Solarkat's Eco blog - She has great information on DIY cleaning products as well as make-up, skin care and more.

The Green Leaflet - This blog was started by a friend of mine just a little while ago. All things eco for the beginner, including a few great eco-cleaning product reviews like chemical free dryer balls.

Lastly, I received an email from a locally-based national non-profit about their new program, Green Cleaning Parties. It's like a hip, eco-friendly tupperwear party and you leave with some healthy safe cleaning products that you made yourself. You can download the free kit from their website or just find more information. I think some friends, good wine, and these green cleaners makes for a fun, interesting evening.

So, its out with the chemicals and in with the healthy, happy cleaners at my house...

11 August 2008

My vegi garden...the baby version

Last year my vegetable garden consisted of tomatoes and herbs in pots. While successful and fun, I had big plans to expand that into a few raised beds around the shed this year. However, that was long before I found out I was pregnant and we decided we were going to try and sell our house.

This year, I almost didn't do anything, but I was able to score some incredible deals on starts from a few gardening friends, so at 8 1/2 months huge, I put together my little garden of pots. So again, I stuck with pots of herbs and tomatoes, but I did add an eggplant because it was such a good deal and I had never grown eggplant. It was worth a try. So, here are a few pics of the pots in progress...

(my most prolific tomato plant)

(sage and rosemary)

(tomatoes, basil, eggplant and rosemary)

(my first ripe tomatoes)

(a close-up of the eggplantling)

10 August 2008


This year, my flower garden has been running on minimal attention and upkeep with the pregnancy and the new babe. Despite the borderline neglect, I actually got some of the day lilies that were here when we moved in to bloom this year for the first time, but of course forgot to take pictures. I did however get few shots of some of the other pretties this year. Here you go...

09 August 2008

Orange Blueberry Yogurt Cake

I don't blog a lot about cooking and food, but I should do more, because it is something I love to enjoy when I have the time. One of my favorite cooking celebrities is Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa. I love her cookbooks, her laid back style and her great recipes. I am completely addicted to the fabulous foodie blog, Smitten Kitchen. I love Deb's writing, her sense of humor and the tantalizing recipes that she shares with all of her devotees. So, this week when I found my self with a few too many oranges, I was delighted to find this posting about this Contessa recipe, modified superbly in the Smitten Kitchen.

I really enjoy citrus desserts, but they absolutely cannot be overly sweet. Nothing is more frustrating then biting into a soft lemon bar, expecting that tart bite and getting only overly sweetened yellow goo. Blech! So, I was immensely pleased with this recipe. The perfect balance of flavors, most on the inside but almost crispy on the outside. Yum, yum, yummy!

I went ahead a made a few modifications of my own, using a bundt pan instead of a loaf and using my wilting oranges in place of the lemons. The final product was wonderful and look at and quite tasty as well. I think in the future, I will try to add some sliced almonds.

Here's the recipe for those of you too lazy to follow the link...

Orange-Blueberry Yogurt Cake

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen's adaption of Ina Garten...

1 1/2 cups + 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour (if you’re skipping the fruit, you can also skip the last tablespoon of flour)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup plain whole-milk yogurt
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
3 extra-large eggs
2 teaspoons grated orange zest (approximately 1 1/2 oranges)
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen, thawed and rinsed (miniature wild blueberries are great for this, and pose the least risk of sinking)
1/3 cup freshly squeezed orange juice

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a bundt pan.

Sift together 1 1/2 cups flour, baking powder, and salt into 1 bowl. In another bowl, whisk together the yogurt, 1 cup sugar, the eggs, orange zest, vanilla and oil. Slowly whisk the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. Mix the blueberries with the remaining tablespoon of flour, and fold them very gently into the batter. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 50 (+) minutes, or until a cake tester placed in the center of the loaf comes out clean.

Meanwhile, cook the 1/3 cup orange juice and remaining 1 tablespoon sugar in a small pan until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is clear. Set aside.

When the cake is done, allow it to cool in the pan for 10 minutes before flipping out onto a cooling rack. Carefully place on a baking rack over a sheet pan. While the cake is still warm, pour the orange-sugar mixture over the cake and allow it to soak in (a pastry brush works great for this, as does using a toothpick to make tiny holes that draw the syrup in better). Cool.