Friday, April 30, 2010

Project Spring Clean: Bathroom

Yesterday I cleaned and organized our upstairs bathroom. I thought it was going to be an easy and quick project since it is quite a small room. I didn't take into account of all the stuff that we had stashed in the medicine cabinet and the cabinet underneath the sink that needed to be sorted and organized, though, and it took longer than I expected. It's worth worth it; I find it so satisfying to walk into a sparkling room and to open up a perfectly organized drawer. : )
I am especially delighted with this Martha Stewart-worthy organization scheme for one of my drawers. I used several small glass dishes that I don't use frequently in my kitchen to sort pony-tail holders, clips, earrings, bracelets/anklets, and frequently used necklaces. I like the pretty (and orderly!) touch they add.
I think I'm going to take a break from spring cleaning today for several reasons. First, I need to wash the dishes because, well, they need to be washed. Plus we have a guy coming to measure our kitchen for the new cabinets we hope to get this year, and it would be nice to have a sanitary if not perfectly orderly kitchen. Second, I have a mountain of clean laundry to fold and put away. Third, I'm getting sore and whiny from all the extra scrubbing I've been doing, and my knee hurts. Anyway, all that to say that I'm taking a break.
More will come soon.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

"Shall we plant seedlings?" he asked hopefully.
"Yes, we shall," I answered.
And so we did.

Grow, little seedlings, grow.

Project Spring Clean: Master Bedroom

Well, as I anticipated, my spring cleaning plan was a bit too ambitious. I am planning on stretching it out over two weeks now. I have, however, completed the thorough cleaning and organizing in the master bedroom and the large master bedroom closet area. The curtains are all clean, and the bathroom is underway, so I'm making satisfying progress even though I'm not going as quickly as I hoped I would.

Our house was remodeled before we bought it to have an almost-master-suite. The bedroom connects to a large closet area by a short private hallway. The closet area then connects to the upstairs bathroom by a second bathroom door. The layout it a little odd, but we like it most of the time.

Here is the master bedroom from our doorway. (The lighting in the room makes it impossible to photograph well; I finally gave up on good and settled for reasonable.)
Here is our room from another angle. My parents-in-law gave us the dresser set they purchased early in their marriage, and I like it's substantial, vintage feel. I also like our bold, red accent wall. The red combines nicely with the rest of the walls which are painted "toasted oat" color to make a room that is perhaps the darkest in our house but that isn't drab.
These little shelves are on the wall across from our bed.
In this photo you can see the mirrored doors to our closets on the left and right, and straight ahead is what I call my "baby nook." Even though Brother has outgrown the cradle, I don't feel ready to put it all away yet; after all, it's not really in the way were it is, and I like being able to see it.
I must go and continue to conquer the bathroom. Hopefully there will be more pictures tomorrow.

Recipe Reviews

On Tuesday evening I was battling flu, so we weren't able to go out as we had anticipated. This left a gap in the menu plan, and since I wasn't feeling like cooking, Benjamin did. I think that I've mentioned before that he's an amazing cook, so when he cooks, it's always a treat.

This time he chose to make a new recipe: Cacio e Pepe Pasta. (I think it means Cheese and Pepper pasta.) It was an amazingly easy recipe, and as I recall Benjamin didn't really change anything about it except halving the recipe. It was also amazingly delicious. I expected it to be rather bland but instead found it to be full of rich though subtle flavors. I certainly expect to make this again and think that it would be tasty paired with some lightly lemony fish.

Last week I also tried this recipe for Strawberry Lemonade Bars. I love the combination of the shortbread and the custardy topping. I also love how pretty these cookies are and how each bite just screams "spring." I think that because of their color and unusual flavor, these would make nice bridal or girlie baby shower treats. I suspect that these will become one of those make-once-a-year recipes that are too good to not make again but not good enough to mix up a batch just to satisfy a craving.

The recipe instructs to wait until the cookies are cool to cut them, but I was anxious to try some, so I used a spoon to sample a couple of bites (cook's prerogative, right?). I also gave a bite to Little Man and shortly afterward went into the other room for a couple of minutes. When I came out, Little Man was acting guilty, and I soon realized why. He had pushed a chair over to the counter and helped himself to a generous amount of topping, scraping it off of the crust. Obviously this recipe was a hit with him in spite of its pinkness.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Monday Menu

Here is what I have planned for our dinners this week.

M-Portobello French dip sandwiches and fruit salad (didn't get to it last week)
T-Home group. I have this week off, so I won't have to worry about cooking.
W-Steaks with garlic-lemon roasted potatoes and green salad
Th-Grilled chicken salad (also didn't get to it last week)
F-Pork chops topped with dressing and cream of mushroom soup with a side of carrots

What are you making this week?

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Project Spring Clean: The plan of action

We moved into our house almost exactly two years ago. I did quite a thorough cleaning when we moved in, so I didn't have to worry about spring cleaning. Last spring I was expecting Brother, chasing a 1 1/2 year old and trying to cultivate a garden, and spring cleaning just didn't happen. This year I am determined to do a thorough, spring cleaning of at least the upstairs section of our house. I am hoping to get it all done this week. Here is my optimistic plan of action.

Monday: Wash curtains thoroughly clean bathroom.

Tuesday: Dust, vacuum, de-clutter, and organize master bedroom. Go through clothes and decide which need to be gotten rid of. Put curtains up again, make bed with clean sheets.

Wednesday: Dust, vacuum, de-clutter, and organize boys' room and the bathroom. Put the curtains up again. Work on organization system for boys' clothes.

Thursday: Dust, vacuum, de-clutter, and tidy living room and dining room. Put the curtains back up.

Friday: Sweep/mop the dining room and kitchen. Clean cabinets and drawers, organize and sort what is in them. Clean all the woodwork.

Saturday: Finish any of the jobs that needed to be postponed during the week.

My goal is to take photos of the shiny-clean rooms as I complete them and give a virtual tour through the week. I'm hoping doing so will help keep me motivated and on task. : )

made me smile

Last week Mum shared this clever little bee made of a gumdrop and sliced almonds with Little Man. A lady in her church made them as a garnish for the refreshments at a ladies' meeting, and Mum saved it for Little Man. He was delighted. It made me smile.

Last week we also received the invitation to the wedding of two of my childhood friends. They are so perfect together, and I'm sure their wedding will be a joy to attend. This in itself was enough to make me smile, but the wording of their RSVP card made me smile even more.

Happy Birthday to my Papa

Yesterday was my dad's 50th birthday. Mum and I had hoped to make a grand celebration, but since we've all been unwell so much in the last month it didn't happen. We had to settle for a small family celebration which ended up being just fine.

Mum made a birthday meal of steak and potatoes, and I tried my hand at making pound cake for the first time for dessert. I overcooked it a bit, so it turned out rather dry, but when paired with ice cream and strawberries it was tasty.
I made this calligraphy of Psalm 19:1-6 (one of Papa's favorite psalms ever) as part of our gift to him.
After dinner we enjoyed just hanging out, chatting, and playing with the boys. We also played a round of Scattergories which Benjamin won as usual.
Dear Papa, I am so thankful that you're my dad. I couldn't have chosen a better one. I treasure many memories of you from both my growing up years as well as my grown-up ones. I have memories of everything from travelling and "Daddy and Christina songs" to you performing my wedding ceremony to watching you interact with my boys, and I treasure each one. Thank you for being such an awesome father. I am so glad that we got to share in your birthday celebration and look forward to making many more memories in the future. I love you.

Saturday, April 24, 2010


Little Man has been enjoying rediscovering his art box. He sings as he paints, colors, cuts, and stickers while I cook and clean the kitchen. It brings back so many memories. I used to do the same thing when I was small and my mom was working in the kitchen. I feel like history is repeating itself in the best way.

This particular creation is a mixed media creation using glue, a calligraphy pen, and water colors. I'm quite proud of his experimentation and the cool effects he achieved.
I have been up to my own artsy stuff and will have several upcoming posts documenting some current calligraphy projects. (This photo is of my bottles of calligraphy ink.)
We have been enjoying warmish spring rainstorms this week. I love watching the clouds roll in and experiencing the power of the wind, lighting, and finally of the raindrops falling to the earth.

another baby quilt

Last week I finished yet another baby quilt. This is for some friends who are expecting a second little girl this summer.

I made this quilt from various scraps of feminine pastel fabrics. Some of the pieces I had to work with were 5 1/2 inch squares left over from other quilts, so I pieced other squares from the remaining scraps in a variety of combinations of smaller squares and rectangle stripes to make more 5 1/2 inch squares. I then laid them out randomly.

I finished the quilt by backing it with lavender fabric and loosely stippling it. I am more convinced than ever that learning to free motion quilt was a good idea. I just love how this quilt turned out. The colors and prints tie together amazingly well, and the quilting just helps unify it even more.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Recipe Review

This week I made these carrot cake cookies to share with friends from church with whom we get together every week. I've been wanting to make these for a while since I love and always have loved carrot cake. The idea of carrot cake cookies seemed like a fun twist on my traditional favorite. I am happy to report that these cookies tasted just as good as I had hoped they would. They were tasty piping hot from the over, they were fabulous after they had been glazed and cooled, but they were most delicious on the second day. I gobbled down more than I care to admit.

The only complaint that I have about these cookies is that the glaze never really firmed up but rather stayed a gooey, creamy consistency. The gooey glaze was perfect when the cookies were put faces together for a cookie sandwich, but I wanted them for transporting un-sandwiched to share with friends. The glaze stuck to the plastic wrap, leaving a somewhat sticky mess. Don't get me wrong, everyone still loved them, but when I make them again I'll either sandwich them or use a firmer glaze. In fact, I think it's safe to say that I'll just sandwich them because that cream cheese glaze is the perfect flavor.

When swamped by laundry--craft!

Since indulging in the crafting I'm talking about here and coming up with the title for this post, I have conquered the mountains of laundry and am as caught up on it as I ever will be. The day I made these I was indeed swamped by laundry. However, I had a perfectly legitimate excuse of needing a gift for a friend's birthday party. I love how it works out like that. : )

[As a side note, I love these little Chinese food take out box style gift boxes. They are so much fun to use for small gifts and look festive when adorned with curly ribbon.]
The friend whose birthday we will be celebrating loves the ocean and anything sea-creature related. While brainstorming for a thoughtful and pretty gift to make for her, I remembered that some seashells have natural perforations that would be perfect for making a necklace. When I rummaged through my collections of seashells, I found this beautiful pearly shell. Paired with some sheer ribbon and a few shiny beads it makes a simple yet beautiful necklace. I think she'll like it.
While I was rummaging, I found this limpet shell that I picked up on one of our trips to the Oregon coast. I couldn't resist stringing it on some ribbon and adding a some wooden beads for a necklace for myself.
I finished my crafting session by doing some good, practical mending on a couple of items that needed to be washed. I love taking a tear and closing it up sturdily with tiny stitches, trying to make it look as neat as possible. There's just something very satisfying about it.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

new instrument

When we were in the "big city" visiting my in-laws last weekend, Benjamin took the opportunity to visit Guitar Center while I went to the Wal-Mart sized Joann's across the parking lot. We had been considering a couple of music purchases, and he enjoyed the opportunity to try equipment and do research that's just not possible when shopping on-line.

After much debating and discussing, we decided to purchase an acoustic-electric bass. Benjamin has been wanting a bass for using in recordings, and I have been wanting to learn to play the bass too. I am enjoying learning a new instrument and hope to keep steadily improving.

gardeny thoughts

A couple of weekends ago, Benjamin and Little Man took advantage of the beautiful weather (and of my need for a nap) and went outside and dug up about half of my garden area for me. I was delighted.

When the weather starts warming up after the long, long winter, I just can't wait to get my fingers and toes into some nice garden dirt and start planting. (Incidentally, Little Man is watching me write and is excitedly exclaiming about this photo of me "playing in the dirt.") I am eagerly watching for greenhouses to be erected outside of our little town stores and can't wait to start buying little plants.

As eager as I am to get started, I do have to wait. A couple of days after enjoying that day of beautiful, sunny gardening weather, we woke up to about six inches of snow. That's spring in Montana for you. I am hoping, though, to be able to start planing in the middle of May.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Mum's variation on the Elinor bag

Last week I made this bag for my mom. It is based on the pattern that I use for making my Elinor bags. She wanted a simpler version using some of the fabric left over from her living room curtains. I was happy to help her make it one day, and she helped me make quick progress by helping me with the boys.

The outside of the bag and the handles are made from the beautiful heavier fabric from the curtains. The print was so pretty that outside pockets would have been too cluttery so we left them off. We also decided to skip the ties for the sides. Another change was to make the handles longer since she's taller than I am. The simple muslin interior has custom pockets made just for the things she likes to carry around. An antique button and button loop finish it off.

This was a fun, quick project with lovely, elegant results. I like seeing Mum use and enjoy it.


Last weekend we made the 360 mile drive south to visit my parents- and sister-in-law. We left on Friday after Benjamin got off of work and came back on Sunday evening.

As we were driving through Idaho on Friday night, we hit our first deer (which is good considering that we've lived in Montana for over five years). It was already dead and was in the very center of our lane. Thankfully Benjamin's response was perfect, and he didn't try to swerve. We skimmed right over the top of the deer taking with us some skin and gore but getting no damage to our car. Even as we complained about the unbearable stench, we rejoiced at God's protection and thanked Him for His protection. It is sobering to think of how much worse it could have been. We were very happy when we all arrived in one piece to be welcomed by our family.

Here are just a few photos of the highlights of the trip.

We enjoyed the beautiful sunny and warm weather. My mother-in-law's flowers were stunningly beautiful. She had fun letting Little Man pick bouquets, and I had fun borrowing some of my sister-in-law's nice lenses and experimenting with photography. We all enjoyed basking in the sunshine in their big yard.
We re-visited one of the best oriental food restaurant ever, in my opinion. It is a little mom-and-pop restaurant near the neighborhood in which I grew up. I used to teach the owners' children piano lessons, and we always receive the welcome of friends. Benjamin especially enjoyed the relatively new addition of sushi, and we also had some of their pot-stickers and classic lemon-grass chicken.
As I mentioned above, we enjoyed spending quite a bit of time outside. Here Benjamin's mom is smelling flowers with Little Man.
Benjamin's dad works at a train yard fixing the cars as they come through. Apparently he's been looking forward to showing his grandchildren the trains since before they were born. We finally made it to the train yard, and he took his lunch break to come outside the restricted area to show Little Man the big train. We arrived just in time to hear its loud whistle and see it take off for California. Little Man, though tired, was impressed.
Benjamin's parent's neighbor made this little train. He delights in giving the neighborhood children rides, and my sister-in-law was excited to take both boys on a ride on the little train. Little Man, of course, chose to sit in the blue car, and Auntie Rachel and Brother sat in the yellow one.
Brother enjoyed exploring Nonna and Grandpa's house and getting to know them better. While he did have some fussy, tired times, in general he was his usual charming self.
We enjoyed the beautiful scenery on the way there and back (at least before it got dark). This photo was taken on our way home.
We enjoyed our trip, but it is good to be home.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

eight months

Brother's eighth month birthday slipped by without me even noticing! Suddenly I realized three days after the fact that he was eight months old and that neither the baby book nor the blog were updated and there had been no eight month photoshoot.

Right now Brother is:

scooting around exploring all the rooms in our house
eating, eating, and eating
picking up and eating small pieces of finger food
finding and eating treasures on the floor
enjoying being outside and exploring the yard
eating grass and leaves
playing with Little Man and following at a fast scoot as he runs around
trying to eat Little Man's toys
waving "hi"
pulling up into a standing position on the dishwasher
chewing on the silverware he pulls out of the dishwasher
sitting up all by himself
taking baths in the big tub
saying "ma-ma" more frequently
rattling off long strings of adorable yet unintelligible communications
being a sweet snuggler when tired or unwell
sleeping longer and longer stretches through the night