Thursday, January 30, 2014

Pillow Project

Last week I had a blissful afternoon when both boys napped at the same time. It doesn't happen often, and I decided to take full advantage of it, diving into a project I've been thinking about for months. While we were in Maine over the summer, I bought a t-shirt with a neat print on the front that I wanted to make into a pillow for Colter. I picked up a pillow form at a craft store at one point, and some fabric for the back somewhere along the way. Then I shoved it all in a box and didn't do a thing with it. Until that afternoon last week.

An afternoon with both boys napping is a good time for a project because I can actually pull out my sewing machine and ironing board, but it is not a time for futzing around with the details, nor apparently for taking pictures along the way. It is evidently a time for winging it, a time for mental math of questionable accuracy, and a mad dash for the finish line before anyone (myself included) starts crying.

So here's the pillow:

The process went something like this:
  • I ironed some fusible interfacing to the t-shirt to make it a bit stiffer and less stretchy, then I cut it to size.
  • I cut two strips of my fabric and sewed them on either side. This is where my dubious math comes in; I should have made them wider because the fit is a little tight end-to-end and the borders ended up not being even all the way around.
  • Then I sewed a piece across the bottom to fold up over the back, and hemmed the edge. I did the same thing at the top.
  • After figuring out how much overlap they needed, I pinned them in place, right sides facing, and sewed up the sides, making a kind of "envelope" for the pillow to fit in.
There you have it. The least-helpful guide to making a pillow case ever.

I considered taking a bit of the stuffing out so it isn't so tight, but Colter plays hard with his pillows so he'll probably beat the fluff out of it.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Feeling Shelf-ish

As you well know, the laundry room is a work in progress. A long, slow progress, but progress nonetheless. The latest changes have been adding a shelf and putting up a drying rack.

We picked up brackets at Lowe's months ago, then got a board from the farm when we were up just after Christmas. We finished it was some spar urethane to seal it up, then installed it.

The placement is a little odd because of the location of the outlets. Ideally, it would have gone right above the top of the washer and dryer, but we had to put it up higher, which is why we sprung for a little fancier brackets since we would see them all the time. We didn't even float the idea of moving the outlets because that just seemed like a lot more bother than it was worth.

Either way, all the laundry supplies are within easy reach and no longer clutter up the top of the dryer. And there is a bit of space for a few plants, since this room gets a lot of light. It took less than a minute to fill up the shelf. Go figure.

Then we finally put up the drying rack my friend gave me for my birthday at least a year ago. Now I'm trying to figure out how we lived without it. It is so handy for drying diaper covers and other delicates I don't want to put in the dryer, and for putting wet mittens, gloves, and hats on when we come in from playing in the snow.

It is high enough that we can walk under it, but really it doesn't stick out so much that it's in the way.

And it folds up nice and flat when we aren't using it. Which has rarely happened since we put it up.

Considering how much laundry I do these days, these little changes make a big difference in my daily routines. Now I don't have to shuffle things around on top of the dryer, or find random places to lay out diaper covers while they dry. And that makes this mama happy. 

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Bourbon Balls

Every year at Christmas, my Mom-mom makes one of Keith's favorite holiday treats: bourbon balls. They are incredibly simple, and pack a bit of a punch. We made a batch to take to our friends' house on New Year's Eve, so Keith actually got to enjoy them twice in one holiday season!

Bourbon Balls

2 1/2 cups finely crushed vanilla wafers (about 10 ounces)
1 1/4 cups confectioners' sugar
2 Tbsp. finely ground hazelnuts
1/4 cup bourbon
2 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
3 Tbsp. corn syrup
1/3 cup granulated sugar

1. Mix crumbs, confectioners' sugar, hazelnuts, bourbon, cocoa, and corn syrup in medium-sized bowl.
(I put the vanilla wafers and hazelnuts in my food processor to crush/grind them.)

2. Press all ingredients in bowl together to form a large ball.

3. Shape into balls, 1 tablespoon each; place on waxed paper.

4. Place granulated sugar in a small, shallow dish. Roll small balls in sugar to coat. Place in a tightly cover container for at least 24 hours for flavors to develop.

Make-ahead tip: Store in tightly covered container in a cool place up to several weeks.

I bet Mom-mom likes this recipe because she can make it ahead of time and get it crossed off her holiday list early!

Ok, I think that officially wraps up posts regarding the holidays...

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Cuteness Overload

A slow, snowy day seemed perfect to throw a little cuteness overload your way. Not that I'm biased towards my handsome boys or anything...

Colter worked so hard at getting his finger puppets on his toes. I do believe there will be another toe-pincher in the family!

Stay warm!

Monday, January 20, 2014

Light My Fire

In talking with Keith's parents late in the fall, they mentioned that they were enjoying using their fireplace on chilly evenings. While kicking around ideas for their Christmas gift, we settled on a bucket of items to enjoy a fire on winter evenings: a new lighter, a chimney-cleaning log, some snacks and hot cider K-cups, and pinecone fire starters. Keith was pretty excited about making the fire starters, and gathered pinecones from a nearby tree almost immediately. Then all we needed was some wax and a free afternoon.

We followed these directions and were thrilled with how they came out.

You will need pinecones, string or yarn, wax (we used beeswax but paraffin is even more flammable), and crayons if you want to add some color, and we used an old metal coffee can as a double boiler.

Keith chopped the wax up for quicker melting...

...while I tied yarn around each pinecone for dipping and lighting.

I would suggest adding your wax a little at a time or you get a big glob that takes awhile to melt. We'll know for next time...

We had an old pot around that we used for this so we didn't have to worry about dripping wax on it.

A paint stirrer came in handy to use in the melting wax.

Let the dipping begin! We dipped each pinecone a couple times, lifting it out and letting it harden a bit between dips, before setting it in a pan lined with waxed paper.


After we did the first round of dipping about 30 pinecones, we went back and re-dipped them. We dipped them each a few additional times, but this time around, we hooked up a little fan to harden them even more between dips. This helped us to get a really good coat on each pinecone.

Before gifting them, we trimmed down the strings to about a little better than an inch to use as a wick. We weren't sure how many we would need to fill out the bucket for Keith's parents, but we ended up have enough leftover to share with our next-door neighbors and some friends. I hope they are actually coming in handy for starting fires, or at least giving off the lovely scent of warm beeswax!

Oh, and a certain someone enjoyed the pinecones and yarn when he got up from his nap...

He told me he was building bridges. I don't see it, but I'm just glad his imagination is going full throttle!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Chicken Little

Do you remember the story of Chicken Little? "Who will help me bake the bread" and all that? Well, bread-baking last week went kind of like that, and Colter was the creature who wouldn't help with anything, except for eating it. Though he was sure to tell Daddy he baked it when he got home.

I put some dough in his little loaf pan he got for Christmas from Memere and Popper, and he was thrilled with "his" bread.

Which is good, because it kept him away from mine.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

The Second Time Around

I haven't been very good about writing anything on how we are managing with two lately. In short, we're managing. Most days, I think quite well. Others, well, some days seem very long. Colter went through a phase of ultra-defiance, over every little thing, and "No!" was pretty much the only thing he seemed to say. It can wear a person down. But he seems to have come through that, for the most part anyway and has been much more agreeable lately. (Insert big sigh of relief.)

As for Elliott and how he's doing, he's doing pretty well. For the past week or so, he has been getting up twice a night, every night. Which is a big change from sleeping through the night most nights or only getting up once. Is it because we stopped swaddling? (He was Houdini-ing his way out of them in the night.) Is it a growth spurt? Is he teething? I honestly don't know but I'm really trying to just roll with it. In the late hours of the night and wee hours of the morning, I just remind myself that it won't last forever. On the upside, he is going down for naps fairly easily during the day and often has a several hour nap at least once a day, giving me time to do things around the house or have some one-on-one time with Colter. Of course, maybe it's the more regular napping and less frequent feeding that are wrecking havoc with our nights. If there's anything I learned from Colter though, it's that these things eventually sort themselves out with very little help from me. (I do let him cry it out at night though if it has been less two hours since he ate last. The little man can do better than that!)

The big thing we have been dealing with for Elliott is that he has a condition called torticollis, which is a shortening or tightening of the neck muscles that makes him turn his head to one side. When he was just about a month old, we noticed that the one side of his head was looking a bit flat. When we had his one-month appointment, the doctor recommended with have an evaluation to see if he would need physical therapy. Turns out he does, so each week an early-intervention physical therapist comes to the house and works with him and shows us stretches and techniques to help strengthen his neck muscles. We are lucky in that I know a therapist through the group of moms I sometimes get together with and I was able to request her, so it has been really nice to have someone here that I feel comfortable asking questions and working with. Slowly, his head is rounding out (you might not have even noticed it if you didn't know, but now you will all be looking for his flat spot) and we can hopefully avoid needing a helmet to reshape it. Torticollis is a fairly common and easily addressable things, especially when it is identified and treated early.

Also, Elliott is battling some eczema, which is worst on his face (you probably saw it in the weekly pictures). It comes and goes, flaring up in the cold, dry weather and calming down when we have a few warmer, damp days. So we are constantly putting lotion on during the day, and slathering him up with Aquaphor before naps and bedtime. He has some scaly cradle cap too, which I remember Colter having as his newborn hair fell out, but that seems manageable with some baby oil and frequent washing. Both boys seem to have my sensitive skin, poor things.

Two relatively minor health things make me realize how very lucky we are to have the healthy, happy boys we do. It's hard to imagine how families deal with really serious conditions; finding out Elliott needed physical therapy and treating his sore little face are enough to make me feel stressed and fretful.

It's hard to believe how quickly Elliott is growing, as he gains more personality and becomes more expressive each day. I have to stop myself sometimes from comparing him to Colter (Wasn't Colter rolling over already? Colter liked tummy time more. Was Colter this spitty?) and remember that Elliott is and always will be his own person and do things in his own time. He is certainly a more relaxed baby than Colter ever was, and that is a relief. He is often entranced by his brother's antics (actually, that goes both ways these days) and it is a joy to watch them interact.

Update: Elliott rolled over! Belly to back, and Keith and I both got to see this first!

Whoever said that two is more than twice the work of one was absolutely right, and sometimes I can't believe the amount of things that don't get done. Getting out the door for something simple like story time at the library can seem daunting, and going to the grocery store with both of them? Once was enough; now I go on the weekends or evenings when Keith is home. But for the most part, we are all quite content to be at home and so that's what we do. And it is certainly these two boys that make this house a home.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Little Fixes

I say these are little fixes, but then I'm not the one who had to make them. Keith would tell you they were a pain in the neck (literally) and he knows why people hire professionals.

First, our kitchen faucet has been leaking for a long time. We had a plumber here nearly a year ago to do some other work (work that was truly to be left to a professional) and he looked at it and told Keith it was a simple fix that Keith could do and gave him a part number for the replacement piece. Finally, finally, Keith got around to replacing the cartridge, which was causing the leak. He wanted to wait for a day he could do it all in one shot since the faucet didn't have shut off valves and he would have to turn the water off to the whole house. Well, the better part of a day later, the faucet was leaking worse than ever and it was evident we needed a new faucet (apparently, our hard water build-up was all that was keeping the old faucet together). So he rigged something up to stop the leaking since we were headed to my parents' for the weekend, and while there, we left the boys with my mom for a bit and picked out a new faucet. While we were out, we also picked up a new light for over the sink, since ours has been on the fritz for a long time. Then, after talking over the project with my dad, he decided he could install shut off valves as well and the men made a return trip to Lowe's to get the parts for that.

We left the farm Sunday morning so that Keith could fix the faucet when we got back. After a couple of hours and two more trips to Lowe's for the right parts (and our Lowe's is 20 minutes away), and a whole lot of this:

We finally had this:

And it doesn't leak at all! Also, we gained a sprayer so that is handy too.

The second fix was that light above the sink. When I could get the old one to turn on, it would flicker rapidly, which I called disco dishes because it was like doing dishes under a disco ball. Finally, I gave up using it at all. Replacing the light was a much simpler job than the faucet, only taking an hour or so and no runs for additional parts. I am almost looking forward to doing dishes with it. Almost.

We joked when we got the faucet and then moseyed over to pick out a light that this would be the leaky faucet that spawned a kitchen renovation. That will wait though. It was tough enough to be without my sink for a day, let alone weeks and weeks. But a couple little improvements certainly go a long way!
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