Saturday, December 31, 2011

Looking Ahead to 2012

2011 retrospectives and New Year's resolutions seem to be the order of the day, and maybe getting mine written out and in the stark light of cyberspace will help me accomplish some of them - at least it's worth a try!

For 2012, I would like to:

  • Establish a regular prayer time and routine - Nothing elaborate, but I need to find a few minutes each day.  Most days this past year, I think my prayers consisted of counting how many Hail Mary's it took for Elizabeth to go to sleep or praying, "Please God, let her sleep until morning now."
  • Finish projects - I have a great fear of actually finishing things, especially for myself, because they never turn out exactly as I build them up in my mind.  I want to do some new things, birthday and Easter dresses for Elizabeth, something for the boys, etc. but blue sweater, grey sweater, and coat, you're on notice! 
  • Create a home for our family - I have come to the realization over the last few months, that what I need to do is not "decorate" precisely, but create a home where my kids and husband feel comfortable and where they feel good about having friends come visit.  Yes, this means I need to put some paint on the walls, but I also need pictures of us and preschool art masterpieces.  Not every closet must be organized within an inch of its life, but things must have a place and go there regularly.  The house will never be spotless and glossy like a magazine, but it must be reasonably clean most of the time.
  • Parent more consistently - I need to stop giving a warning, walking away, coming back, giving another warning, moving the wash, giving another warning, etc.  I need to get to one warning and then consequences.  I also need to be consistent with expectations regarding help around the house - toys will be picked up EVERY night, not just when they make me so crazy I can't stand it any longer.

Well, that's as much deep thinking as I've done in a while.  Hopefully some of these things will actually happen!  I hope everyone has a wonderful New Year's Day.  Don't forget your pork and sauerkraut or you'll be left hopelessly in 2011.

2011 - The Year of Elizabeth

2011 retrospectives and New Year's resolutions seem to be the order of the day, and maybe getting mine written out and in the stark light of cyberspace will help me accomplish some of them - at least it's worth a try!

I'm not going to give any lengthy retrospective to 2011 - it was pretty much the year of Elizabeth.  From this in late February

to this a few days ago

with probably fewer than two dozen full nights of sleep in between.  I think that about sums it up.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Christmas Angel

In the nick of time, noon on Christmas Eve, I finished Elizabeth's dress.  I had it all ready to hem the night of the 23rd, but when I looked at it, it looked way too long.  Thinking it would be down around her ankles, I left it for the morning when I could try it on.  Of course, it was perfect - just below her knees.  I didn't get any really good pictures of the dress, since it was being modeled by a perpetual motion machine.  I felt like I had gone 10 rounds in the ring walking out of Mass, between her and boys with visions of Transformers, not Baby Jesus, dancing in their heads.  Here she is after Mass with her brothers.

And here is an OK crop of the dress.

I ended up using my second idea for a smocking design, but in black and white.  I was afraid all black would be too heavy, and I think the white showed up well and lightened it up a bit.  Definitely not a dainty, frothy heirloom creation like the original shoulder button bishop, but it worked great.  There are definitely things I would like to improve upon for next time.  I think the cable row at the top should be MUCH more even, and the join between the smocking and placket could be tighter, but all in all, I'm pleased with it.  Elizabeth didn't mind it too much, except that the length made it difficult to crawl around under the table and eat things, which we all know is her favorite pastime.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Only Snow We'll See This Christmas

Yeah, so the only way we'll see snow this year is to put it on pajamas!  Here are the kids Christmas jammies, just in the nick of time.  The boys just got pants from Butterick 4222, although I fancied them up a little with a cuff.  It's quick and easy and as an added benefit, it gives a little weight to the pantlegs so they don't stick to them in our uber-staticky 10% humidity climate.

Princess Elizabeth got a shirt from The Handmade Dress' Miss Violet.  It is a straight 6-12 month size with the sleeve made long and larger elastic around the neck, but that's our secret, right Miss Butterball?!  The pants are McCalls 6152 made in the largest size with some of the excessive rise cut out.

All in all, I like how they turned out - now on to finishing Elizabeth's Christmas dress.  I'm getting there - the smocking is done and the placket is in.  I "just" have to bind the neckline and sleeves and sew up the sides and hem.  It'll get done, it always does!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Smocking Suggestions

So this post is mostly for my mom, who I'm going to call soon and beg for help getting started with this.  I smocked a few repeats of some candidate patterns for Elizabeth's dress.  Now I just have to decide what to do.

Option 1: Red and black only - this was my first idea based on the smocking design that came with the pattern

Option 2: Red, Black, and White

Here they are on the larger field of the dress.

Not sure where to go from here.  I'm not overjoyed with either of them, so I may end up with an option 3, but I REALLY need to get started!  Suggestions, anyone?

Oh yeah, for a little bonus cuteness, here are Shepherd Christopher and Angel Patrick (really?!) at their Christmas program at school yesterday.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Finally Getting to Christmas Sewing!

I'm finally getting a start on my Christmas sewing.  I know, no time like the present, right?!  I mean, I still have 17 days to make three pairs of pajamas and smock and finish Elizabeth's dress.  Not to mention the cookies to bake, a few presents left to buy, all the presents left to wrap and ship, etc. etc. etc.  Yeah, I'm going to stop thinking about that now.

Here is Elizabeth's dress blocked and ready to smock.

Now I just have to decide what colors to use and put needle to fabric.  Tonight.  I'm going to bind the neck and sleeves in black to match her brothers red, black, and white vests.  Looking at the thread, though, I wonder if I should just use black and white for the smocking.  The red looks like it will get lost.

Here is the cute flannel I found for pajama pants for the boys and pajamas for Elizabeth.  She'll get the shirt version of The Handmade Dress Miss Violet (below) and some long pants.  The boys will just get pants and purchased shirts - the one year I made them button up tops, they complained about the collars.

I suppose I'd best get out of here and clean up the kitchen and finish the laundry so I can get down to it tonight.  Wish me luck!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

{Pretty, Happy, Funny, Real}

This week's offering is a complete hodge-podge, but has only one kid pic.  That must be some sort of record for me!

Advent started this past Sunday, so we got out our Jesse Tree and started reading all about the Old Testament figures that lead us to Jesus.  The boys were very excited to read about Noah the other night - let's see what sort of interesting questions come from reading about Abraham and Isaac tonight!

The Saturday before Thanksgiving I rode the 42 mile length of the Tour de Tucson.  I finished in just over 4 hours, which was my goal.  Read more about that adventure here.

{Funny} {Real} 
Every one of my kids has gone through a stage where they are fascinated with watching the laundry go around, and Elizabeth is no exception.  Of course in true "the third kid has it easier than the first"fashion, we now have our own front-loading washer and dryer.  Poor deprived Christopher and Patrick had to watch Grammy and Grandad's when we went back to PA.

The {real} here is the ridiculous collection of stuff on top of the washer and dryer.  Where did all that come from?  I have such big plans for the two weeks Mike is off work around Christmas.  Maybe I should make another calendar for that!

round button chicken

Alpe d'Huez Here I Come!

OK, maybe not quite, but I DID manage to ride the 42-mile leg of the Tour de Tucson about a week and a half ago.  I finished in 4 hours 12 minutes, which was about what I expected.  Since I only started riding bike about 6 months ago and couldn't ride a whole lot through the hottest parts of the summer, I'm going to call it good. 

As I was telling my husband, so much of my life is very short term tasks (cleaning needs to be done every week (in theory), dinner needs to be cooked every night, kids are hungry ALL. THE. TIME). It was really nice to have a longer-term goal for a change. I do need to lay off now until E is weaned, though. The combination of nursing and riding 40+ miles did a real number on me and it's taken well over a week to feel like myself again.

Papa and Patrick waiting for Mommy to come by.

My cheering section came to see Mommy at about the 28 mile mark.  I was still doing pretty well then.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Sour Cream Cookies

These are my great-grandmother's recipe and they are fabulous!  They are quite possibly the world's best cookie dunked in milk or especially coffee :-)  I decided to make them the other day since we had large quantities of sour cream in our fridge, but not much butter.  Why - who knows?  I suggested to the kids that it would be fun to color the frosting orange and put chocolate sprinkles on them to make them look "fall".  They told me that their favorite colors were blue and pink (yes, my 3 year old son loves pink) and in no way was it acceptable to make the frosting any other color :-)  They taste just as good either way!

Sour Cream Cookies

3 c flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 c shortening
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 c granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 c sour cream

Preheat oven to 375 deg.

Sift flour, salt, baking soda, and baking powder together.  (Note that I measure the flour first and then sift, unlike many other recipes).  Mix shortening, vanilla, and sugar until fluffy.  Add eggs one at a time.  Add sifted ingredients alternately with sour cream.

Drop by rounded teaspoon (silverware spoon, not actual teaspoon) about 2 inches apart onto greased pan (shortening, nonstick spray, parchment paper - it all works).

Bake 10-12  minutes until they just begin to brown around the edges.

Cool and frost with your favorite buttercream frosting.

Linked up at Around My Family Table.  Hope you enjoy!

{Pretty, Happy, Funny, Real}

These last two weeks have been a little crazy, with sick kids on and off and a baby who doesn't want to sleep (what's new?!).  I have found a few pictures to include for PHFR, though.


I indulged my inner geek and made a calendar to schedule Christmas-related activities around here.  Yes, it's color coded. It makes me happy, OK?!? There is one for November, too, but I won't torture you with that.  My goal a few months ago was to get all the shopping done before Advent starts so that I could properly prepare for Christmas this year, but that's clearly not going to happen.  The new goal is half the shopping done and all the lists ready.


Big girl is SOO excited to get in the bathtub with her big brothers.  As soon as she hears the water running, she crawls as fast as her chubby legs will go to the tub, stands up, and bangs on it until you let her get in.

Sometimes it's just too much work to stay awake the whole way through dinner.

These are the favorite toys in our house right now.  WHY, oh WHY??  I don't understand the allure of Transformers, except that the other kids in kindergarten like them.  Furthermore, the movies are nowhere near age-appropriate, so the boys have been watching old cartoon episodes on YouTube.  I can transform the big one without the instructions, though.  Oh the crazy things you learn when you have boys.

round button chicken

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

What Happened Here?

I'm working like crazy on Christmas planning, but this caught my eye as I was downloading pictures.  Miss E fell asleep after dinner the  other night and we put her in the bouncy seat (which is still sitting in the living room despite the fact that she is now crawling.

How is it that just 2 weeks 8 months ago, she looked like this! Where has that time gone?

Stop getting so big, Baby Girl!  Start sleeping, but stop getting so big!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011


I've been running around like a chicken with my head cut off lately trying to get Halloween costumes done and then having three sick kids and a teething baby.  Never mind that Christmas is bearing down on us with amazing speed, which is great if you're five - less time to wait for Transformers - but not if you're Mommy.  So of course, what have I been doing in my spare time - knitting on a sweater I started at least 3 years ago.  I decided this morning I'd post a few UFO's (unfinished objects) so I can get them out of my mind and move on for now.  There will be ample time after Christmas to knit away, but there are so many things to be done between now and then.

UFO #1 - Navy sweater
This yarn is cursed with being in between a sport and fingering weight and it took me forever to find a pattern I like.  It only needs one sleeve and a neckband, though, so its almost done.

UFO #2 - Gray Shrug
It will eventually be a lightweight drapey shrug, when it gets past the boring rectangle phase.

UFO #3 - Winter Coat
This probably goes in the category of "Yes, I can make it, but do I need to?"  I mean, there are a million gray coats in the stores, but I got it into my head last year that I would make one.  Never mind that I only got as far as the lining before I was too pregnant with Elizabeth to fit myself any further.

And then there's my current obsession - laying laminate floor somewhere, anywhere.  Maybe even by myself.  I just measured the master closet and it's only 78 square feet.  I could do that in an afternoon, right?!  From the interwebz, it doesn't look that hard and we have a nice chop saw to make square cuts.  I'm so tired of nasty carpet and Elizabeth trying to eat nasty carpet.

I think I need to get some Christmas fabric and start on the kids pajamas.  Maybe that will help me move on from all this.  Yeah, just buy more fabric and start something else.  That's a great idea, right...

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Pretty, Happy, Funny, Real - The Spooktacular Edition

We were in Halloween mode here last week (along with everyone else it seems).  In true procrastinating fashion, I only completely finished the costumes on Monday afternoon, a few hours before trick-or-treating.

Of course the pretty for this week is Princess Prissypants all dressed up for her rookie year trick-or-treating.  She was happy here, although not so happy about not being able to crawl in her dress.

Two big kids very happy to be setting out on their adventure.


This is from a few days before Halloween.  Even ninjas and SuperWhy have to do schoolwork when Mommy says its time!

The princess just cut her first tooth and got a cold from her big brother.  Neither of us has slept well the last few days.  But, a teething biscuit makes it better for a little while.  Speaking of real, apparently her nap was only a half hour...again.  I'd best get upstairs.

round button chicken

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Hamburger Sour Cream Casserole

I thought I'd post a recipe to enter in this week's Turning the Tables over at Around My Family Table.  Most of my cooking is from cookbooks - I'm not really that creative - but this is one of the recipes from my box of oldies we used to eat when I was a kid.  Both of my kids with teeth love it and it's really easy.   As you may notice, my food photography skills could use some improvement, but then all my photography skills could use some improvement :-)

Sour Cream Hamburger Casserole

2 lb. ground beef
1 onion, chopped
30 oz. tomato sauce (2 small cans or one large one)
2 tsp chili powder
2 bay leaves
2-3 tbsp brown sugar
16 oz box shell noodles (you could also use penne, wagon wheels, etc)
8 oz. cream cheese
2 c sour cream
1/4 c milk
1/2-1 c shredded cheese

1. Brown ground beef with onions.  Drain fat if desired.  Add tomato sauce, chili powder, bay leaves, and brown sugar.  Simmer at least 10 minutes or until ready to assemble.

2.  Cook noodles in boiling water to 1 minute shy of time on box (so that as they heat in the oven they won't get mushy).  Drain noodles and combine with cream cheese, sour cream, and milk.

3.  Layer noodle mixture, then hamburger mixture, then top with shredded cheese to taste.  Bake at 350 F for 30 minutes or until casserole is bubbly and cheese is melted.

Serves at least 8

This recipe will fill one 9x13 pan or, like I usually make it, 2 8x8-ish pans.  We are not big eaters around here, so I usually make one square casserole and one foil pan for the freezer (as seen below).  Each will feed us about twice. 

Also, you can adjust the chili powder and brown sugar amounts to your taste.  The original recipe I have calls for 1 tsp chili powder and 4-5 tbsp brown sugar, but we think that's too sweet.

Halloween Costumes and Changing Gears

At 4:00 Monday afternoon, I finally finished the Halloween sewing!

I made Elizabeth's princess dress from Simplicity 2569, size 1, and it fit reasonably well after I cut off 4 inches at the hem.  Apparently the girl is the width of a 1, but the height of a 1/2, but I sort of already knew that!  I didn't put on the crazy layers of tulle, figuring that she would hate me enough for putting her in a long skirt that was hard to crawl in.  I learned that I hate costume satin, and that I need A LOT more practice inserting zippers (really just the topstitching - it worked just fine, it was just ugly).

I also made Christopher's Lego Ninja costume after his favorite Ninjago ninja, Jay.  Because, really, how many blue ninja costumes have you seen lately?  It was made from Butterick 4222, a pajama pattern that I've made a bunch of times.  I used the shirt back to draft a crossover front and put ribbon to tie it shut.  This costume was easier to construct, but it took forever, owing to the fact that he kept reminding me of more parts he just had to have.  I made a shirt and pants, then had to make a black belt, then had to make a sword-holder strap (with gold "lightning guy" buckle), and then he just had to have a blue ninja mask to go with it.  But, it was all finished in time and he was the happiest ninja on the block.  For those of you wondering, Patrick was SuperWhy from PBS, courtesy of the internet and a $5 off coupon.  I wasn't about to figure out how to do that book on the front.

Now to change gears and figure out what to do next.  I always seem to have trouble switching to the next project, maybe because I have too many ideas and not enough time.  I think this week I'm going to work on getting the house cleaned up, getting the sewing area cleaned up, and planning/ordering for Christmas sewing.  I'm hoping for pajamas for all, a bishop dress for Elizabeth, and ties or something to coordinate for the boys.

Halloween is fun for the kids, but I'm getting excited about Advent and Christmas.  I can't wait to get out the Jesse Tree I made last year and start our (liturgical) new year - there's just such a hopeful feeling about Advent.

Friday, October 28, 2011

{pretty, happy, funny, real}

Over at Like Mother, Like Daughter, they have a great weekly feature called, you guessed it, {pretty, happy, funny, real}.  The point of this little exercise is to find contentment and joy in the everyday things we pass by so quickly.  So Wednesday afternoon, instead of thinking about all the other things left to be done, I spent a few minutes taking a few pictures of everyday here.


This rosebush fell over while we were in Delaware this summer.  When we got back it looked like a goner, but a little water and cooler weather and it has perked up.


It's finally gotten cooler outside (down in the 80s for highs this week!) so the ninjas have been able to take their martial arts prowess outside.  Yes, those are golf clubs...I don't really understand either.


I wished for a girl and finally got one, and now she frequently dresses like a boy (mostly because she's so darn fat she keeps outgrowing her clothes).  Except for the pink socks, she could be Patrick in his "My cape and tights are in the wash" shirt and borrowing her brother's dinosaur picnic blanket.


My chore chart as of Wednesday evening.  Yes, Wednesday, even though there's nothing marked as done for Wednesday and no cleaning done at all.  Sadly, yesterday and today were no better.  Maybe after I finish sewing Halloween costumes, I'll get around to digging out the house.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Gotta Start Somewhere, Right?

So after almost two years in the house, I finally thought it was time to put up a picture or two.  Don't want to rush into these things, you know...  I put up a big 8x10 of each kid in the stairwell. 

It doesn't make the light look any better or the carpet on the steps any less nasty, but it does make me smile when I go up and down the steps approximately 97,000 times a day.  And the kids love seeing themselves.