So obviously I love O dearly. But boy do I envy those friends of mine who have family nearby. Not only to help and babysit but because their kids form great close relationships with them. Both my parents and Aa’s are about 3 hours away in opposite directions, which isn’t that bad distance wise. But we try and see them, or have him see them, as often as we can. I also love the idea of O going by himself because I think it’s great for his independent spirit and his relationship with his grandparents and aunt and uncle all on his own. Although, yes, it does help that he has no separation anxiety whatsoever. The other thing is that Aa works so incredibly hard that we don’t get to spend very much time together just the two of us. I think that is so important for any relationship. So this last weekend, we shipped O off to my parents house on friday and I just picked him back up Monday morning which left us with 2 full days on our own!
I tend to get a little overwhelmed by options in situations like this and also I feel overwhelmed by the feeling that I MUST take the best possible advantage of every. single. second! But we had a good mix of fun and relaxation this weekend and it was a blast. (But wow, was I happy to see my little 3 year old run, arms open, across the highway oasis where I picked him up from my dad!)
On friday we spent the night with some great friends and stayed out waaaaay past our bedtimes, Then on Saturday morning, we went and got some coffee/tea and then did a little drooling over architectural salvage and antiques at two of our favorite places, Salvage One (we almost got married here) and Urban Remains. Both are truly amazing places, but way beyond our budget. Still it’s fun to daydream.
We got some lunch at a nice outdoor cafe and then went to see the new movie Gravity (in 3D!). Talk about an intense movie!! I’m pretty sure Aa’s fingers are still numb from how hard I was gripping them for pretty much the entire thing. Still we both really liked it and I can definitely recommend it. (An aside, since when does a movie in the middle of the day cost $28 for two people?! I know we had to pay more for 3D but seriously?!)
After that we tried out the new Indian restaurant we’ve been dying to check out and it was delicious. The fact that it is basically downstairs from our house was even better since it was totally pouring rain.
On Sunday we woke up (even when O’s gone, I cannot sleep past 6:45, boo!) and drove out to visit Palos Forest Preserve which is the largest natural area in Cook County. It. was. gorgeous. I had no idea this was less than a half hour from the Loop!
We took a nice walk through the woods where leaves are already changing color, saw a woman riding her horse down the path and thoroughly enjoyed some real nature.
After that we decided that, having never been, we should go check out the Logan Square Farmers Market (i.e. Hipster central). We took a break for breakfast, bought some heirloom tomatoes and flowers, ran into some friends we haven’t seen in far too long and I ate the best chocolate croissant I have ever had. Usually we can’t eat baked goods made by other people because they aren’t safe, so I really really enjoyed it.
In the afternoon I did some knitting, Aa watched a little football and then we took a short ride on Divvy bikes, I think it was the first time I’ve ridden a bike since before we had Oliver. (Have you heard of Divvy, Chicago’s new bike sharing program? It’s great, we are big fans.)
All in all it was a really really relaxing weekend. What did you do this weekend, friends?
If you’re looking for a fun fall activity for your kids, here’s another good one that’s pretty cheap and easy. I often take O to storytime at our local library (unfortunately it’s the giant main branch of the Chicago Public Library which is huge and hard to navigate, I miss the cute little library in my hometown!) Anyway, the librarians use Felt Boards a lot to do nursery rhymes and little poems during storytime. Theirs is big easel covered in felt and then they have felt shapes and pictures that stick to the board just from the texture and friction of felt on felt. I had forgotten that felt boards even existed but the minute the librarian got it out and started sticking felt shapes to it I had a total flash back/deja vu moment to kindergarten. It’s so weird how that kind of thing can come back to you out of nowhere!
Anyway, one weekend I whipped up a little Apple Tree Felt Board for O and his friends to play with at an apple themed play date. It was easy and cheap and the kids liked it a lot. It’s great for counting and talking about colors while you “pick apples”. Or if you’re O, you can spend 20 minutes putting all the apples to “bed” in the tree while singing an incredibly adorable song entitled, “Sleep Tight Little Apple.”
All I did was sketch the shape and then use an exacto knife to cut it out of regular old white foam board from the craft store. Then I covered it with plain craft felt! That’s it! And no, it’s not wonderful lovely real wool felt, it’s the cheap 20 cents a sheet stuff from Michael’s. I hope you know by now that I firmly adhere to the rule that stuff I make for kids should never be too precious to use. There’d be nothing worse than spending a ton of time and money on something like this and then have it be destroyed (or even worse, have it be unloved!)
If you read my post about freezer paper stenciling, I said nothing dulls an exacto blade faster than paper. I totally lied. Nothing dulls an exacto blade faster than foam. So if you want nice clean edges on your felt board, start with a new blade and change it if the edges get at all ragged.
Anyway, once I had the tree covered in felt, I made some cute little apples. All I did was cut the shape out of felt and add the stem with hot glue. Hot glue (despite the annoying strings) works great with this kind of felt ( I think the felt is made from recycled plastic).
And then, of course, I thought the tree needed a few happy little friends (anyone else a Bob Ross fan?)
First a cute little bluebird:
A wise old owl:
And last but not least, a frisky little squirrel with his acorn:
After conquering eggplant, I started to wonder if there were other vegetables out there that maybe I wasn’t giving a fair shake. I have a definite aversion to mushrooms (a vegetarian that doesn’t like mushrooms?!?!) but I’m not ready to take that on yet. So next I thought I’d try cauliflower. I roasted it a bunch of different ways and was definitely on the cauliflower bandwagon when I started seeing recipes for cauliflower pizza crust on Pinterest. Maybe I’ve been reading too much Pintester, but I thought, is it crazy enough to work?? I mean, it sounds weird and too good to be true. A pizza crust that’s low-carb but still tastes good?! Turns out it’s delicious and not too hard. It’s so popular at our house that Aa asked for it for his birthday dinner last week (and he is decidedly NOT a vegetarian!)! Even O eats it which is saying something!
It is not going to be the kind of pizza you can pick up (that’s the part of the Pinterest pins that’s too good to be true) but after a lot of trials and some error I’ve come up with a recipe that holds together pretty well and tastes great!
Cauliflower Pizza Crust
1 head of cauliflower
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp dried thyme
1/8 tsp dried rosemary
1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese
1/4 tsp kosher salt
Pizza sauce and toppings
1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Cut your cauliflower up into small florets. (Does anyone have a way to cut up cauliflower without making a giant mess? Seriously! No matter how careful I am it always looks like it snowed in my kitchen when I’m done!) Don’t use precut bagged cauliflower, I don’t think it tastes as good.
2. Pulse it in the food processor until it’s roughly the size of rice.
3. Put it in a microwave safe container and microwave for about six minutes. When it’s cool enough to touch, pour it into a clean kitchen towel, and twist to get out as much liquid as you can.
4. Put the cauliflower in a bowl and add the dried herbs, salt and cheese.
5. Add the eggs and mix well.
6. Add a few tablespoons of olive oil to a cookie sheet and form the cauliflower mixture into small circles (4-6 inches in diameter). Make sure they are even thicknesses. Most recipes like this make just one pizza but I found that that smaller pizzas are a lot easier to get onto a plate in one piece. Plus individually sized food is always more fun!
7. Bake for about 20 minutes until it starts to get golden brown on top.
8. Add your topping and put it back until the oven. We like cheese, kalamata olives and fresh basil.
9. Bake until the cheese is melty and bubbly. Use two spatulas, one on either side, to carefully move the pizzas to a plate.
So, of course, if you’ve visited before, you know that my real “job” is over at Little Red Window Design where I design and sell hand-drawn printable artwork. I thought today that I would talk a little bit about what Printables are and why they are so awesome! I share a little bit of my process over on Facebook but here’s a peek at some of my works in progress:
But the question I get most often, because they’re kind of a new thing, is, what exactly are printable prints?
Printable Prints (or Printables) are pieces of artwork you can buy online and then download right away and print yourself. You get a high resolution jpg file that you can print on your home printer, at work, at your local copy shop or FedEx store or at your favorite photo counter at places like Walgreens or Target. There are even some really great printing companies online. And in this day and age, home printers have reached a stage where their quality can really be quite good. This leads me to to the first reason Printables are awesome!
#1 Printables are Instant!
We live in a world of instant gratification, who doesn’t want things right away? You can have your new hand-drawn art as soon as you hit the pay now button on Paypal or Etsy. Download the file and you can have it ready to frame in minutes. When I was pregnant with O and had crazy nesting hormones, I would have killed to have the art I wanted to finish his nursery RIGHT THAT VERY SECOND!
And even better, I can think of lots of times when Instant is not only amazing but is essential. Forgot you had a baby shower to go to this afternoon? Print off some art, pop it in an 8 x 10 frame and you’re all set!
Having a holiday party tonight and your house isn’t looking very festive? I have lots of Holiday Printables! And Printables are cheap enough that you can change it up frequently without breaking the bank.
This leads me to the next reason Printables are awesome!
#2 Printables save YOU money!
Printables are cheaper than pre-printed prints for two reasons, First, I don’t have the overhead of supplies, printing and packaging so the price is much less than art that someone prints for you and then mails to you.
Secondly, you don’t have to pay shipping! Yay! Is there anything better than a free shipping deal? I always feel like I won the lottery when I find a coupon code for free shipping when I’m shopping online. With instant downloads, not only do you get your art fast, you don’t have to pay extra for its quick arrival.
(Hot air balloon delivery is expensive!)
And along with not paying for shipping, here is my favorite reason Printables are awesome:
#3 Printables are green and eco-friendly!
Because you’re printing your own print, you’re eliminating all the packaging that pre-printed art needs to make it look nice and protect it in transit. Usually pre-printed art comes with a cardboard board to keep it flat, a plastic sleeve to protect it and then all of that is all inside some kind of envelope which often is lined in protective (and plastic) bubble wrap. All of that stuff is terrible for the environment when you throw it out.
But it’s not just the packaging, Printables are also good for the environment because, as digital files, there is no truck or plane required to transport them to you. No gas is used to move a package, and no pollution or greenhouse gas is produced by those trucks and planes carrying your mail.
Take a peek at my Etsy shop and give Printables a try. Once you try printables, you’ll be totally hooked, trust me!
When it gets to be chilly outside and fall finally shows up, I become a soup fiend. There is nothing I like better at that time of year. Plus soup is one of those things that is pretty easy to adapt to be vegetarian (even if it almost never is in restaurants) so I have a lot of recipes. Today I thought I’d share my all-time favorite soup recipe. I know it originally came from a cookbook somewhere, but I changed a lot until it ended up as this Caramelized Onion & Barley Soup. It’s a great recipe because it’s hearty and really flavorful but doesn’t have a lot of ingredients. I love it so much I even brought it to some friends when this little guy was born and they loved it too!
Caramelized Onion & Barley Soup
2 large onions, chopped small
2 Tb tomato paste
1 tsp dried rosemary
1 cup pearled barley
10 cups water
2 tsp KOSHER salt
1. Chop your onions and start carmelizing them with some olive oil in a wide stock pot.
If you haven’t caramelized onions before, the key is to be really really patient. Start them on medium heat and then when they start to brown turn them down and stir frequently. I usually add a squirt of honey and splash of red wine vinegar. Sounds weird but tastes amazing. The other thing you can do to speed things along and cook your onions at a higher heat, is to add a little water if the pan gets dry.
Be patient and let them get as dark as you can without burning. I cooked them even longer after this.
2. When they are really caramelized, add the tomato paste and cook, stirring frequently for a few minutes.
3. Add the dried rosemary. (I am, generally speaking, not a big rosemary fan, it can be kind of strong and I know this seems like a lot of dried rosemary but for some reason in this recipe, it isn’t strong at all. Trust me!)
4. Add the water, salt and some chopped carrots, stir thoroughly and taste to make sure you have enough salt. If you decide to use stock instead of water, use a lot less salt! If you substitute regular salt for Kosher salt, same thing, use less or it will be too salty!
5. When the water comes up to a boil, add the pearled barley and cook over low heat for about 20 minutes until the barley is soft like al dente pasta.
This soup gets even better as leftovers. And it may seem like a lot of liquid but, in the fridge, the barley absorbs even more water and it will definitely thicken up.
What’s your favorite kind of soup?
A couple of weeks ago, a friend of mine was telling me she wanted to make a baby gift for her cousin, a onesie with a cute design that she thought up, but she wasn’t sure how to make it or if she should try and have it printed somewhere. I suggested freezer paper stenciling which she had never heard of, but it’s a quick, cheap and easy way to stencil on fabric. She and I had a fun little craft session and she ended up with a super cute onesie for her cousin within about an hour. Most recently I did freezer paper stenciling for O’s 3rd Birthday Tshirt. Did you see it in my post about his Very Hungry Caterpillar Birthday Party? I made him a personalized birthday shirt for his 1st birthday and it’s become kind of a tradition.
The key to freezer paper stenciling is not to have to let your design get too complicated (but if you have a Silhouette or a Cricut or something, this would be even easier!)
Here’s what you need:
Freezer Paper (affiliate link)(Freezer paper is white paper that is matte and one side and plastic coated on the other, DO NOT use wax paper!)
I got my freezer paper in the grocery store by the saran wrap and tinfoil, it came in a HUGE box that I will probably be using until O goes to college!
First, draw your design onto the matte side of the freezer paper with a pencil or pen. Unlike other kinds of stencils or iron-ons, you don’t have to draw it backwards! I think it’s best to keep the design simple and avoid a lot of text or you’ll be cutting all day.
Next, use your Exacto knife to carefully cut out the parts you want to paint. A word of advice, when people have trouble with jagged edges or cuts that don’t look nice, 99% of the time it’s because you need a new blade in your knife. Paper and paper products dull blades really fast (also why you should never cut paper with sewing scissors!) When I was in architecture school, we bought Exacto blades in boxes of 100 and would change the blade at least once a day often a lot more. Trust me, when you change to a brand new blade, you will immediately see the difference.
If you have letters like O or A that have center solid pieces, make sure you save them so you can iron them on as well.
If you don’t do a lot of cutting with an Exacto knife, here are two things to know, go slow, especially on curves, and keep your fingers and other hand out of the way. I got four stiches in my left hand from learning that second lesson the hard way.
When you are done, lay out your shirt on a flat surface. Take another blank piece of freezer paper and put it, shiny plastic side UP inside the tshirt so that paint doesn’t bleed through to the other side (this is a craft fail mistake you only make once! ) Then lay out your design, and any extra pieces, like the insides of O’s or D’s and iron them carefully to the shirt. I would use a medium temperature and press more than rub. Pay extra attention to thin points, they don’t always stick well.
When the stencil is stuck to the fabric, go ahead and start painting. You can use a regular brush or for larger areas, a foam brush. Like most stencils, you should always push paint from the edge of the stencil toward the center or the design, not out towards the edge of the stencil because then it is much more likely to bleed under. Be extra gentle around corners and point because those areas don’t always stick as well. Use a dabbing motion for those parts.
Here’s what my stencil looked like after I painted it.
I painted the caterpillar with a small brush and did his eyes and nose freehand. I added the feet with an even tinier brush, after I removed the stencil. When the paint is starting to dry, but is still wet, CAREFULLY peel off the stencil. Make sure that it doesn’t fold back on itself and get paint anywhere you don’t want it. Don’t forget to peel off the tiny parts inside letters if you have any. I use the tip of my exacto knife or clean tweezers for that.
When you get the stencil off you can add anything else you want, in my case, the caterpillar’s feet, and then you’re done. Follow the instructions on your fabric paint to set the paint and for drying and washing. My paint did not require setting with an iron but it did say to wait 72 hours before washing.
I love this for kids’ clothes because it’s cheap and easy. Have you tried freezer paper stencils before?