Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy New Year!

It's that time of year again and I am already getting simultaneously nostalgic for 2012 and excited for 2013. 2012 was an amazing year with many ups and downs but most importantly it's the year my sweet daughter was born which makes it amazing! I'm now brimming with hope for the new year and all it has to bring and in the spirit of optimism I have a huge long list of "resolutions" which are really just things I want to keep in mind and try to work on. I always feel that even if I don't stick to half of my resolutions, a start of a new year is always a great time to reset and try try again. Here is my list for the coming year, 2013 is going to be another great one, I have no doubt!

1. Get caught up on all my doctors appointments that I have been putting off forever (such as dentist and eye doctor). Here's to a healthier 2013!

2. Learn how to make my own broth from scratch. I've been wanting to try this and seriously can't believe it's taken me this long.

3. Bake regularly, at least once a week. I enjoy it and it's cheaper and better for me than store bought bread.

4. Try new sewing projects and really improve my sewing skills.

5. Cut waaayyy back on sugar.

6. Walk a few miles at least 2 times a week. Eric, Echo and I have been walking to the grocery store fairly regularly. Not only is it good exercise but it's also good family bonding time.

7. Read more and watch less TV. I've started this already. It makes feel better mentally :-)

8. Eat more local meat and produce.

9. Learn to cut my own hair.

10. Start trying for kid number two. This one is so much fun, I can't wait for her to have a little brother or sister :-)

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Homemade Gifts

Now that Christmas is over I can reveal some of my homemade gifts that I worked very hard on from October onward. I already showed you the sweater kitten that I made for Echo but here are a few others I've been working on.

This first one was a recycled sweater blanket I made for Eric. It's a great, cozy little lap blanket perfect for curling up to watch tv with. I got all the sweaters from a thrift store for 3 to5 dollars each and I used 6 sweaters total. I also sewed a cozy flannel backing on that I got on sale at Joanne's. This one took me a while but it was well worth it and I was pretty pleased with the results.

For Eric's mom, dad and sister I made scarves just like my first project that I did on my sewing machine. These are so easy and fun to make and I knew they would turn out reasonably well so they would make good gifts.

Lastly I made a flower necklace for my mom out of recycled t shirt material. I chose the softest shirt I could find and used fabric glue to add it to a felt backing.

I also made a plastic bag dispenser for my dad but I didn't get a picture of this. They are really easy to sew and help de-clutter your space quite a bit.

In addition to giving homemade gifts this year I also received some pretty great ones. My mother in law sewed some storage bags for us and my sister in law did paintings for everyone. My mom made some soft fabric blocks for Echo and painted a picture for her nursery. Best of all my brother wrote a book of short stories for Echo and had my dad do the cover illustration! I am blessed to have such a talented and thoughtful family!

I also got some new sewing supplies for Christmas so hopefully by next year I'll be a pro and make everyone even better presents :-)

Monday, December 17, 2012

Baby Essentials for the first 3 Months

Echo will be turning 3 months on Christmas day. Crazy! How did that happen? Somewhere between the day she was born and now something magical has happened. Parenting has become easy. I know it will get hard again but for now I'm enjoying the fact that we have figured each other out and have a routine down. It's so much fun! We've come a long way from those excruciatingly hard first two weeks, life is good :-)

In light of me knowing so many girls who are expecting I decided to make a list of list of the products I couldn't have lived without during Echo's first 3 months. Enjoy!

1. A stroller with an infant car seat built in. I went with the Evenflo Journey 200 and love it but you can get any kind you like as long as it has that infant car seat. You need a stroller to get you and baby out of the house so you don't get cabin fever and the car seat enables you to move the baby from car to stroller without waking them up. This kind of infant car seat also rocks so you can sit your baby in it at home and it doubles as a rocker to help keep them calm.

2. I was the mom that said I would never use a pacifier. Guess what? I was wrong!  Of course you don't want to reach for the pacifier first when your baby is crying, but when you are in line at the grocery store and can't attend to that dirty diaper right away you will thank your lucky stars you have one of these. Also, some babies are just comfort suckers (like mine) and this really helps them calm down. I use the Avent Soothie.

3. Something that makes white noise. This doesn't have to be a little frog but someone gave me this at one of my baby showers and using the white noise setting is a god send for getting Echo to go to sleep. It also lights up and makes all kinds of other noises and music but I really only use it for the white noise :-) Summer Infant Slumber Buddies.

4. Cloth diapers are amazing and I have talked about the advantages of them in a few other posts. I highly recommend you cloth diaper at least part time. We are using Osocozy prefolds and Thirsties Duo Wrap covers.

5. A portable diaper changing mat. This is a must if you plan to take your baby anywhere. It enables you to change your baby anywhere and even when there are changing tables available you really don't want to put your baby's  bare skin on the nasty bathroom changing tables in public restrooms. I like the Skip Hop Pronto Diaper Changer Kit because it also has storage for diapers and wipes built in.

6. The Boppy! I love the Boppy! It will make life a lot easier when you are breast feeding. It's also great for tummy time. Get one. You won't be sorry. I also recommend getting an extra cover because they get dirty fast.

7. The play mat is something that echo only recently got in to. It can keep her entertained for quite a while now though and it's a great place to put her when I need to get something done or just want to give my arms a break. We have the Bright Start Your Senses Safari Activity Gym.

8. Some kind of breast pump. If you are planning to breast feed it's nice to have a pump. What kind you need depends on how much you will be away from your child. Since I'm not going back to work and only rarely have to be away from Echo I love my little hand powered pump. It's perfect for when I leave her with the grandparents on date night and just need to leave them with a few bottles of milk. It's also great for travel, I used it a lot on my trip to DC. I could pump in the car and then bottle feed Echo so we didn't have to stop to feed. I use the Medela Harmony Manual Pump. 

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Top for Echo

Here is another sewing project along with cute baby pictures. I wanted to expand my sewing horizons and make something that actually had a pattern, ooh! So I followed this tutorial  from Prudent Baby. I didn't have any snaps so I used buttons instead. It was my first attempt at something this complicated so it came out pretty sloppy, but Echo still looks pretty cute in it. I plan to try it again with different materials until I get it perfected.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Christmas Card Photo Shoot

Now that my Christmas cards have all gone out I can release my Christmas photo shoot i did with Echo. I know I sent my cards ridiculously early, I was that crazy person up at 6:30 the day after Thanksgiving addressing my cards. In my defense, having a baby has really changed my sleeping schedule. Also, I am very very excited about Christmas :-)

For a long time I have been illustrating my families Christmas cards (still do) and I have started the tradition of doing photographic cards for Eric and I. This year I had the best subject matter imaginable in our precious daughter. The last picture you see here is the one I ended up using but I also wanted to show some of my other favorites from our shoot.

She was really sleepy and not in a great mood when we took these but they still came out pretty good. I also think she looks so much older since these were taken! To do the shoot I used her bath pillow and surrounded it with Christmas lights, then draped it with a white swaddle blanket and laid her on top.

I'm already scheming about what to do for next year's card. Echo is going to have to put up with being photographed a lot ;-)

Happy Holidays y'all!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Exposed Pantry

Finally! A house post again! I bet you thought we'd never have another of those, it's been a while. This whole baby thing has kind of distracted us from working on the house but in our defense she is really cute and it's hard not to spend a lot of time staring at her :-)

We used to have this really awful, deep dark pantry to the left of the fridge. Seriously, it was horrible. You could never find anything in there and we had to keep a flashlight close by to even have a chance of seeing what was inside. So in the spirit of taking out all our cabinets and replacing them with shelves we (ok, mostly Eric) put in an awesome exposed pantry so that we can actually see what we have.

Eric removing the old pantry

ugly, empty space

painted and supports added



Eric used pine for the shelves and red oak for the vertical beams, the shelves are very solid and fit tons of stuff!

It has freed up so much counter space for us and it's amazing how we can actually see what we have now! It also gives us a nice way to display all the pretty little food canisters we have been collecting. It feels good to be making some progress on the kitchen remodel. Since we spend so much time cooking it's important to have this space be very functional even though it is small. We still have lots of things we want to do in here but this is a huge step in the right direction!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Simple Skirt

This is the first piece of clothing I have sewn that I can actually wear (other than scarves which don't count). I was pretty darn proud of myself even though it's about the simplest thing you can make.

Joanne's had their flannel prints on sale for half off and I couldn't resist this cute bicycle pattern. After I finished the initial elastic waist skirt I decided to be even more ambitious and add pockets! 

I'm thrilled with how it came out and how easy it was to make. I'll probably be making more in the future since it only takes a yard of fabric to make and is quick and fun. Plus it boosts my confidence as a sewer!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Homemade Sweater Kitten

I'm making an effort to do homemade Christmas presents for all my family members this year in addition to a store bought gift. I can't post about most of them yet but this one is for Echo and she doesn't read my blog so it's ok :-)

I keep seeing these really cute stuffed animals on etsy made from recycled sweaters and thinking, hey, I could make that. So I went to the thrift store and got the softest, most cuddly sweater I could find to make this little guy. It was really very easy, I just cut out the pieces and embroidered on the face, then I hand stitched the whole thing together. I stuffed him with poly fill and added a little rice at the bottom for stability. I finished him off with a polkadot ribbon for his neck.

I plan on giving it to Echo for Christmas as her homemade gift. It will be a great baby toy because it has no small pieces that can fall off and it's so soft and huggable!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Pumpkin Black Bean Tostadas

So in the wake of my post Thanksgiving food coma I am trying to eat healthier and watch what I'm putting in my body a bit more. While I was pregnant I got in the habit of eating exactly what I wanted and not worrying about gaining weight. Now that Echo has turned two months I feel like it's time to get back on track.

Today I came up with a creative recipe using ingredients I already had on hand and it turned out to be really tasty (healthy too)! You might think pumpkin is a weird ingredient to use on tostadas but pumpkin is actually used a lot in Mexican cooking and works surprisingly well. Here is the recipe:

1/2 cup canned pumpkin
1/4 cup queso fresco
1/2 canned black beans
4 corn tortillas
hot sauce to taste
a spritz of olive oil

Spritz tortillas with a little olive oil and broil in the oven until slightly browned and crispy. Top with canned pumpkin, black beans and queso fresco and pop back in the oven until cheese is slightly melted and ingredients are heated through. Remove from oven and top with hot sauce. Enjoy!

Sunday, November 25, 2012


I opted not to host Thanksgiving this year since I knew I would have a newborn. Instead We let our parents take the lead and had a mini Thanksgiving in Knoxville with Eric's folks last weekend and spent actual Thanksgiving at my parent's house so Logan would get to spend some time with his new niece Echo! It was fab as usual and everyone stuffed themselves, here are some pictures from the day.

Echo sleeps through the preparations 

There were games of course

Mom's Pfaltzgraff dishes and leftover wedding napkins (which we will be using until we die)

We found the best recipe for turkey ever this year, it's basted in bacon grease!

This blend ov herbs, bacon and butter gets rubbed under the skin of the turkey. I thought it was WAY better than the brined turkey we made last year, we will be making this one again.

Logan's vintage recipe for Bishops Punch

Gravy and cranberry relish

Pass the turkey!

After lunch we went to the park for family photos. Here's a picture of Eric and I with the thing we are most Thankful for :-)
It was a great weekend of food, family and fun! What a wonderful way to kick off the holiday season!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

No Knead Bread

I was turned on to no knead bread by a friend of mine and it has changed my life!

You see I'm kind of a bread snob, I've gotten to the point where I just don't like the bagged bread you buy at the store, it has to come from the bakery. Of course it's even better if it's home made. I was baking quite a bit this Summer before Echo was born but now that she's here I have very little time for baking. I've thought about getting a bread machine but somehow bread machine bread just doesn't do it for me. It doesn't taste the same as the real from scratch stuff.

Enter no knead bread! It's just as easy as bread machine bread, all you have to do is whip it up the night before, let it sit for 12 to 18 hours and bake in the morning. Yum! Hot, fresh bread for breakfast!

Plus I get to cook it in my enameled cast iron dutch oven, possibly the best piece of cook ware known to man.

Here is the recipe I used, enjoy!

3 cups all purpose flour
1 3/4 tsp salt
1 tsp active dry yeast
1 1/2 cups water (room temperature)

In a big bowl mix flour, salt and yeast together. Pour water into the bowl and using a spatula mix it until it's all incorporated. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it sit on your counter for 12 to 18 hours.
Preheat oven to 450 F degrees. Add your cast iron pot to the oven and heat it as well until it's at 450 F degrees.
Remove pot from oven and remove the lid from it.
Flour your work surface really well and make sure you flour your hands really well. With your floured hands gently remove the dough from the bowl and roughly shape it into a ball. Take the ball of dough and drop it into the pot. Cover the pot with the lid and place it back in the oven.
Bake for 30 minutes with the lid on, after which remove the lid and bake for another 15 minutes until golden brown.
Remove from the oven and let cool.

Monday, November 12, 2012

A Stocking For Echo

As some of you know, Christmas is my absolute favorite Holiday. I look forward to it all year and start planning gifts and decorations ridiculously early. The Christmas season brings me true delight, there's nothing quite like it. This will be my first Christmas with my daughter and even though she is too young to really get much out of it I still plan to make the most of having a kid at Christmas.

It's kind of tradition in my family that you have to have a homemade stocking, it's just what we do. So even though Eric and I still have store bought stockings at our house (we have homemade ones at my parent's place) I wanted Echo to have something special for her first Christmas.

So with my newfound sewing skills I whipped up this little number. I'm pretty proud of it even though it came out smaller than what I really wanted, it will at least be fine for a baby stocking though.

I used the little logo I designed for Echo before she was born and screen printed her name on to the stocking

I added extra stars and used a metallic raspberry color for the designs

I used a piece of scrap ribbon and some white embroidery thread for the loop to hang the stocking

More stars and dots on the top of the stocking

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Cloth Baby Wipes

And we're back to baby stuff, for now anyway ;-)

One of the things Eric and have found since we started making a concerted effort to save money is that it's nice how often being frugal overlaps with being environmentally conscious. I've already mentioned how much we love our cloth diapers and after using those we decided to try cloth wipes as well. Initially I just ordered some online to try them out. It cost about $11 for a pack of 15 flannel wipes. I liked how soft and durable they were but we go through 15 wipes in nothing flat so we definitely needed more. They are just little squares of flannel so instead of buying more I decided to make them out of scraps of flannel from (you guessed it) the remnant bin at Joanne's! For $3 I got enough to make about 20 wipes.

At first I triend just cutting the edges with pinking shears but they didn't stand up to multiple washings.
So I had to hem them

Here they are with my home made wipe solution
 They get softer with every wash and I bet they feel great on the little one's bum :-)

Now when you use cloth wipes you have to use them with a wipe solution to help get the bum area clean and not irritate the skin. My recipe for wipe solution is 2 cups water, 2 tbs baby oil and 2 tbs baby wash. I like Burts Bees brand because it smells so great but any will do. Just mix the ingredients in a spray bottle and spray some on the wipe before each use. I plan to make a bunch more of these wipes once all my Christmas projects are done :-)

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Layered Infinity Scarf

Finally! A non baby related post! Of course I could talk all day about my little one (I think she's the greatest) but I will give you all a break and write about something else for a change. So here is another sewing post. I've really been enjoying my sewing machine so far, I try to make a little time every week to sew and I'm even attempting some hand made gifts for Christmas (I can't blog about those, they're a secret). My skills are still very limited but I have moved on from making scarves to making infinity scarves. Here is my first attempt, I hope to make more soon.

Close up of the pretty fabrics

wrapped once

wrapped twice
This infinity scarf has two layers, one for the backing and then a pretty lace to go over it, it's more of a fancy scarf and would go great with a little black dress. Once again I got my fabric from the remnant bin (really the only way I buy fabric) so it cost me next to nothing to make. The only problem with this is that my selection was limited so the only lace I could find was covered in glitter. I would normally be ok with this since I kind of love glitter but as soon as I started handling the fabric the glitter got all over me and soon all over everything I touched including my daughter. Sigh, oh well, a little sparkle never hurt anyone. That being said I would recommend non glittery lace to anyone who wants to try this project.