sewn bunnies

March 26, 2012 § 2 Comments

This week we’ve been busy sewing adorably abstract little bunnies (our own homage to the Ugly Doll craze) for Bella to “sell” at her upcoming school Marketplace. I loved the way they turned out and the fact that this was a really simple project that my beginning sewer could definitely be successful with. We made a template of our bunny shape out of paper and traced it onto a cute assortment of Spring fabrics (folded in half so we could trace and cut both sides of the bunny at once). Then we sewed them together inside out on the machine, leaving a little opening at the bottom. After turning the bunny right-side out, stuffing and hand-sewing closed, we added button eyes. I have to say that choosing the fun fabric and button combos was my favorite part. I collect buttons so we had a lot to choose from. Our funny little bunnies are so cute that we are sad to part with them this week. “That’s OK,” said Bella, “we can always make more!”

memory jars

March 19, 2012 § 1 Comment

I love collecting seashells, driftwood and sand from the beautiful places I’ve been to and keeping them displayed in glass jars throughout the house as reminders. There’s something so simple, yet perfect, about a glass jar and the way it makes the treasures within stand out. Recently, I’ve been creating “memory jars” by putting some my collections into labeled Mason jars; I’m loving the idea of a row of these jars lining my mantle – such a personal way to decorate!

tomato soup

March 16, 2012 § 2 Comments

The weather in Seattle this week has been so rainy that serious comfort food was in order. This is a great tomato soup recipe that I got from my friend Erin. I also found the original recipe online from Fine Cooking magazine. This simple recipe makes a lot of soup and believe me, you’ll want leftovers. My family loves it with grilled cheese sandwiches. I think that an immersion blender is key to getting everything mixed smoothly. Interestingly, the recipe calls for balsamic vinegar, which gives a distinctive taste that is fantastic for a grown-up palate. That said, I often leave it out when making the soup for kiddos. The weather’s getting warmer (fingers crossed), but in this house comfort food always hits the spot.

Tomato Soup

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
6 sprigs fresh basil, tied together with kitchen twine
4 large (30-ounce) cans of whole tomatoes
4 cups low-salt chicken broth
salt and pepper
1 cup heavy cream
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar (optional)

In a large soup pot, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook until softened, about 7 minutes. Add to the onions the tied basil sprigs, tomatoes, chicken broth, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for about 20 minutes. Puree the soup (in small batches once cooled in a blender or still hot using an immersion blender) until very smooth. Again, bring to a simmer over medium heat. Remove from heat; stir in the cream and balsamic vinegar and add salt and pepper, if needed. Serve hot, garnished with fresh basil or grated cheese.

easter jars

March 14, 2012 § 3 Comments

I am loving this sweet, and incredibly simple, Easter craft I just discovered in my new Martha Stewart’s Handmade Holiday Crafts book. I’ve saved most of my back issues of Martha’s holiday editions, but with this book so many great projects (225 to be exact) are all in one place. Martha Stewart always has great ideas – even the over-the-top ones get my creative juices flowing – but it’s the easy-to-perfect, simple projects that really make me happy. And with this one, what could be easier? I put small chocolate bunnies in Mason jars with a few Easter M&Ms and some edible candy grass, and I added a couple of pretty ribbons. These make great centerpieces and would be perfect for gifts. I made one for each of my girls. We will leave them out as decorations for the rest of the month, and then they can get to the absolute best part of this project: eating it. Yum!!

mad hatter tea party

March 11, 2012 § 5 Comments

With the girls’ birthdays exactly six months apart, I am almost always in party planning mode. There’s usually a month or two lull when I’m happily basking in the post-party glow of our latest soiree, but then the itch comes, and once again I excitedly start gearing up. As our next party’s planning begins, a luau for Sophie’s 8th birthday, I can’t help but remember her 7th: a lovely Mad Hatter tea party.

The girls had been in an Alice In Wonderland phase for a while, loving the book and the movies, so an Alice-themed party seemed perfect. The invitation was a fun project. And inspiration struck when I got the idea of designing one crazy-long table in the backyard for all the children to sit together for the tea party; plywood on boxes, covered with pretty Land of Nod polka-dot sheets as a tablecloth, worked perfectly to make cozy seating for 18! I love industrial elements and decided to use galvanized metal buckets and mason jars as containers, brown craft paper and office supply tags. We had so much fun making “Eat Me,” “Drink Me,” “Enjoy Me,” and “Play Me” labels to attach to everything. I picked up lots of inexpensive mismatched tea cups – one for each guest – which made great party favors.

When the children arrived, we had a table set up to make your own Mad Hatter fascinator (I’d been inspired by the Royal Wedding), quite a hit. In the backyard, kids could play croquet, go on a key-finding treasure hunt or take part in “Painting the Roses Red” at an art table. Everyone had so much fun – I loved watching the little ones practicing raising their pinky fingers and giggling their way through our fancy tea party. It was a magical day for my special Alice.

bento lunches

March 7, 2012 § 6 Comments

I had two goals when I started to get more creative with our school day lunches a few weeks ago: first, to find another little way to show the girls that I’m thinking about them during the day and second – more immediately – to get my sweet Sophie to actually eat her lunch. Almost everything I made seemed to be coming home untouched.

Bento is a single-portion, boxed meal popularized in Japan that has really taken off in the kid-food arena. There are thousands of great ideas on the Internet, and some of them are visually amazing. I’ve stuck with simple and pretty food that I know my girls will eat. Sistema makes perfect little containers for bento lunches; I bought their lunch cubes which allow the girls to see all the choices at once. The key is to keep the portions small and varied.

My plan is working. The buzz generated in the mornings around the lunches makes me smile. The girls enjoy watching me put it together, and I love hearing them say: “What’s in the lunch today?” or “I can’t wait for lunch!” And the kicker is that my picky little one is actually eating. This morning Sophie yelled out, “Bella, guess what we get to have for lunch?!?” That made me a happy girl.

vacation scrapbooking

March 1, 2012 § 2 Comments

While I am by no means an expert at parenting, I do believe that I am quite skilled in the tricky art of entertaining my children in public. I’ve never been caught out at a restaurant without my little bag of tricks: games, toys, books and other activities to keep my little ones happy. Now that they’re older it’s the same story, although the books and games have gotten far more advanced and take up a lot less room. We started traveling with our girls when they were very young, both out of necessity – having moved here from the East Coast and desperately needing sun and a little family time – and out of pleasure. Drew and I love to travel and wanted to share that love with the girls.

I have figured out a perfect way to make our travels fun, keeping the children busy while creating a perfect souvenir. Before our trips, I assemble everything we need for vacation scrapbooks. My usual go-to items include a 6×6 scrapbook for each girl (Making Memories, SEI and American Crafts all sell great ones) and a pad of coordinating 6×6 papers. I bring stickers, markers and colored pencils, glue sticks and cute-patterned tapes. Head’s up: do not pack any scissors in your carry-on, even those cute little shaped ones, unless you want major drama and crying at airport security when they are confiscated. Along the way, we collect business cards, postcards, menus, brochures – anything we can find – and the girls go to work. They love putting everything in their books, and it definitely keeps them busy. Once we return, I print out photos we’ve taken, and we spend a few days adding them in. The results are incredible. Even scrapbooks from years ago are constantly revisited; we all love seeing the old pictures, drawings and scribble scrabble. And it’s so cute to see the memories the girls chose to include from a trip – moments I might not have even remembered. I know that we will always treasure these precious little books, reminders of the amazing times we spent lost in the world together.

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