Friday, December 19, 2008

A Day of Firsts

The other day I was getting ready to send some pictures to be developed, and realized I'd never posted many of them--GASP!!! So in the next couple days I'll try to get caught up :-)

These were from this past Veteran's Day, when David had the day off, and we decided to go to the beach. Usually we go to Manzanita or Cannon Beach, and avoid the more touristy places like Seaside. But I'd heard from some friends that the Aquarium at Seaside was a good place to take little kids, as they could feed the sea lions, as well as see lots of things, and it was indoors---the weather didn't look very promising so this was a good thing.

On the way, we stopped at a park which used to have the tallest Sitka Spruce tree in the world, because we wanted to see what it looked like after last year's storm--we had heard it'd been split in two by a lightning strike. If it's any indication, they no longer advertise it as the tallest Sitka Spruce, but as a Heritage tree. This was the first of our Firsts that day, because Kyra had never seen trees that tall before, or walked underneath a tree (see below).

We continued on to Seaside, with it raining most of the way. However, when we got there, the sun was shining, which was a very nice surprise.

Then we headed to the aquarium, where Kyra wanted nothing to do with feeding the sea lions, so I got the smelly task--yuck! But she loved looking at all the fish, the octopus was really cool, and she got to touch the sea anemones and other animals in the touch tank, which was a big hit.

Afterwards, we walked on the beach a little bit, and then we decided to go ride the Carousel, as this was also something Kyra had never done (#2 of the Firsts). I've always liked carousels as I remember riding them with my grandma when I was Kyra's age. My great uncle George (my grandma's brother) either worked with, or was the owner of Rainier Shows, a traveling carnival--I'm not sure which. Anyway, at the time, Rainier Shows were set up at the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle Washington, and I remember Uncle George letting us ride the carousel. Good times.

At first Kyra was a little reluctant to get on the carousel, but by the end of the ride, I could hardly get her off her horse. David tried to take a couple pictures, and as you can see below, Kyra is hanging on for dear life :-)

After the carousel ride, we were starting to get hungry. We had packed a picnic lunch, so we decided to drive down to Ecola State Park and eat there. This was another First, as I had never been there before. The weather was beautiful, but really windy. While we ate, a herd of elk came and grazed right by the parking lot, which was really cool, and Kyra got to hold her first--yep, #4--woolly bear caterpillar. There were tons of them everywhere, so of course, we had to stop and pick up each one of them.

This one's my favorite...
She's so excited about the caterpillars!

After that, we headed into Cannon Beach, stopped at the yummy bakery for some sweet treats and coffee, and then headed for home. It was a great day, and one we'll remember for a long time!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Cute Christmas Craft Project--Homemade Advent Calendar

On my previous post, I mentioned that I have a Craft Disorder, so the fact that I was able to pull this next thing together, which was from the Queen of All Crafts, Martha--yes, that Martha, still amazes me. And I realize we're already 17 days into December, so you might want to wait until next year to try it. Or if you have more than one child, you could have them catch up by taking turns opening up multiple days. Anyway, I apologize for posting this so late, but if any of you are just dying for something to cure your Cabin Fever, you could try it.

Like my friend Allison has been posting, it's often hard to help children get the concept of waiting until Christmas Day for all the presents. So this year since Kyra is old enough to understand presents, but doesn't quite get the waiting, I thought it might be nice to have an Advent Calendar. That way, we can count down the days until Christmas, as well as practice counting numbers, and if we're very lucky, even get a little sweet or treat as well.

So around November 29th or so--nothing like planning ahead, right???--I started looking in the stores for an Advent Calendar, but never found just the right one. Either they were way too old for our 2 yr old, or really, really expensive.

I decided to search online for "homemade advent calendars" because you can find anything on the internet, and lo and behold, hundreds of sites popped up. Some were so beyond me though, I thought, "Yikes, that would take me the whole month just to complete"--remember NOT crafty!

But then I stumbled onto a mom-friendly site that had lots of different calendar options, one of which was a link to an old Martha Stewart article, which used baby socks, ribbon, mini-clothespins, and stickers to make the most adorable advent calendar. Finally, something I could do! And best of all, the only things I had to go out and buy were the mini-clothespins (found them at Michael's), and the ribbon. And amazingly enough, I still had 24 baby socks of Kyra's that she'd outgrown, and that hadn't found their way to the consignment shop!!!

This was a great family project, because David hung the ribbon for us, using a few small nails every so often along the length, and Kyra helped me put the number stickers on each sock--good counting practice! Then we attached each sock to the ribbon, using the little clothes pins.

Now what would an advent calendar be, without a treat for each day??? When we were growing up, ours always had chocolate behind every door. This was my intent as well, so I went to Costco and bought their bag of truffles, because I knew everyone liked them. Then during Kyra's nap, I filled each sock with a truffle, and we were set.

December 1st came, and Kyra opened Sock #1. She squealed with delight as she found the chocolate inside. Then the practical Mommy side of me woke up, and said, "Do I really want to give this child 24 days of chocolate?" So the following day we needed to go to Fred Meyer anyway for some groceries, and there I bought some small candy canes, little hair barrettes and a couple of cute bracelets to mix things up a little bit.

Day 2 came, and Kyra was again so excited to open up that day's sock. However, this time it was a set of hair barrettes. You should have seen her little face...."Where's the chocolate?!?!", as the tears were rolling down her face. So I explained that not every day will have chocolate; some days there will be other really fun stuff. I don't think she bought it.

Anyway, here we are at Day 17, and the Advent Calendar fun is still going strong--today was a Chocolate day, so we were especially excited :-) I've posted a couple pictures below so you can see our little calendar. And the best thing is you can use it year after year.

Check out the frown...
No more pictures, Mom, just let me eat the chocolate!

Enjoy the snow, and stay dry & warm!


Thursday, December 11, 2008

Double-Sided No Sew Tied Fleece Blanket

I will be the first to admit I have a Craft Disorder. Now don't get me wrong, I've tried on many occasions to "catch the bug" by hanging out with my good buddies who live for scrapbooking, or make their own cards or jewelry, or anything else that would make Martha Stewart proud. Even my own mother has tried to help me get over my craft shortcomings, as she makes beautiful homemade cards & sews like you wouldn't believe.

So last year when I was wracking my brain trying to come up with thoughtful Christmas gifts for people--I was ahead of the curve for the
Advent Conspiracy :-), I remembered we had received one of those No Sew Tied Fleece blankets as a shower gift for Kyra from David's cousin, and I thought, "Now that's something even someone like me can do!"

So I went online, and after much searching, I found a pattern published by a fabric store in Illinois called
Vogue Fabrics. Needless to say, I was very excited, but still a little nervous. I decided to call one of my very good friends, Diane, who sews beautiful quilts, and begged her to go with me to the fabric store. She was a great help, and soon I was on my way, with fleece in hand, and ready to conquer my fear/disorder.

After it was all said and done, my SEVEN blankets turned out rather well, and everyone loved them! I've also just recently made another one, a baby blanket, for an upcoming silent auction, which is really cute--it's yellow, blue & green, with little frogs & ducks.

So if you're looking for a great homemade gift for this Christmas, I'd highly recommend making one (or two or five) of these wonderful blankets. And once you get the hang of it, you can complete the whole thing (minus the pre-washing/drying of the fabric time), in just a couple short hours.

Double Sided No Sew Fleece Tied Blanket

Materials Needed:

2 pieces of fleece (see below)
sharp scissors
large safety pins

Choose two 1 1/2 - 2 1/2 yard pieces of fleece
---For an adult sized blanket, use 2 1/2 yards for each piece of fleece. If you're making a baby's blanket, use 1 1/2 yards for each piece of fleece. Also try to find anti-pill fleece as the blanket tends to hold up better. I also tend to use one patterned piece, and one coordinating solid color, so as to cut down on any pattern clashes. Of course, you can use any fleece color/pattern combination you wish--it's your choice!

Prewash & dry the material before starting---This ensures your material is clean, and you'll have your final blanket size to work with, without worrying about shrinking.

Cut selvage from edges of fleece---For those of you who aren't familiar with sewing terms, the selvage is the rough part along the left and right-hand edges where the pattern or weave may be different, often making it unusable. Sometimes the selvage will also have the pattern name, or dye color examples, or may be all white, which will get in the way of your solid color or fleece pattern.

Place the two pieces of fleece back to back, with the Right sides out---This took me awhile to figure out what the "right" side of the fleece was. The right side of your fleece fabric can be the one you like best. But if you want to use the true right side of the fabric, it is the one that the selvage naturally rolls towards when lightly stretched.

Trim up any excess on all sides so both pieces of fleece are the same width & length---This will be important when you go to tie the strips, as it's easier to tie them if they are both the same length.

Pin the two pieces of fleece together---I use large safety pins, because they are easier to use than stick pins. Also by pinning the fleece together, this helps to keep the two pieces in place when you are cutting the strips. I also like to place my patterned fleece on the bottom, and my solid piece on the top, so when I'm cutting, I don't get distracted by the pattern---this is just my preference.

Cut a square out of each corner of the fabric---If you're making an adult sized blanket, cut a 5" square. For a baby blanket, cut a 4" square. This will make things easier when tying the strips.

Cut strips into the sides that are 2" wide by 5" deep, like you're making fringe---Don't worry if they're not exactly 2" wide, or 5" deep. The key is to make them long enough to tie. There's nothing worse than trying to tie a strip that's too short.

Tie one of the strips from the top fabric to the coordinating strip of the bottom fabric---If you search online, you will find many opinions as to the best kind of knot or tie. I've found a double knot works best. Also if you tie every other fringe, then flip the blanket over to tie the remaining strips, it tends to look cleaner.

There you have it. As I mentioned before, these make great gifts for Christmas, or baby showers, or just for yourself, during these long cold winter nights. And if you're lucky enough to catch a sale on fleece, they can be made for around $20! Enjoy friends~k

Easy Chocolate Peanut Butter Truffles

I'm back! I'm sorry it's been so long since I've last blogged, but I blame it on the fact we recently got a new photo software program, and I'm still trying to figure out how it works...And since I'm still not 100% comfortable with it, I'll follow through with my promise to my friend, Heather K, and post my super easy, absolutely delicious truffle recipe :-) Also I have to give credit to Kraft's Food & Family magazine for these yummy treats, as they were the ones who originally published it. So without further ado, here it is:

Easy Chocolate Peanut Butter Truffles
Prep: 20 min. Total: 1 hour, 20 min. (including refrigerating)


1 package (8 squares) semi-sweet baking chocolate

1/2 cup peanut butter

1 container (8 oz) Cool Whip whipped topping, thawed

Truffle topping options--You can make all the truffles the same with just one topping, or mix & match for variety:
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup finely chopped nuts
1/4 cup toasted coconut
1/4 cup grated white baking chocolate
1/4 cup finely crushed Nabisco cookies


Microwave chocolate in large microwavable bowl on HIGH 2 minutes or until chocolate is almost melted, stirring after 1 minute. Stir until chocolate is completely melted. Stir in peanut butter until well blended. Cool to room temperature. Gently stir in whipped topping. Refrigerate 1 hour. Scoop peanut butter mixture with melon baller or teaspoon, then shape into 1-inch balls--be prepared to get your hands messy! Roll in preferred topping. Store in refrigerator.

Makes 3 dozen
These make great hostess gifts or holiday desserts. Enjoy!