When it comes to crafting, I never shy away from a challenge. I have tried pretty much every craft out there. Ok, not stained glass, I haven’t tried that. (It’s sharp and scary!) But, Ukranian egg decorating using melted wax? Yep. Heat embossing? Sure! DIY lip gloss. No big deal! So when I noticed that at our friends’ houses, O always headed straight for the play kitchens, I decided I should make him one. And the internet is full of great play kitchens. I briefly thought I should maybe just buy him one but that wouldn’t be any fun, would it? (Plus we had some old Ikea nightstands in our bedroom that I secretly hated and this was a PERFECT excuse to exchange them for something else! Shhh, don’t tell AA!) Overall it took about a month with an hour here and an hour there, mostly on the weekends, and was probably one of the most fun projects I’ve done in a long time.
Here’s what I started with:
I think it was part of the Aneboda family (don’t you just love Ikea names?!). This was “birch” veneer and although pretty sturdy it was tall and thin instead of short and wide. Unfortunately I did this last fall so I don’t have picture of the process but basically, first I turned it sideways, then took off the legs and screwed them to the side. Then I removed the drawer and its tracks, moved the shelf and screwed it into place so that it was now vertical. Then I added a “backsplash”, installed the sink, added a piece across the front where the knobs go, and finally, used a wooden panel from the oil painting department of Michaels with a hole cut in the middle as the oven door. And then I, patched, sanded, and primed and primed and primed (that “birch” is tough to cover!) and painted and added knobs etc. Here’s the result!
I got the letter hooks at Michaels in the dollar section and painted them to match so O has a place to hang his pots and pans.
The “burners” are round wooden plaques from the craft store that I painted and then attached to the top from underneath.
The sink knobs were cabinet pulls from Home Depot and I just drilled the hole for them a little big so they would spin. The faucet is an upside-down letter J from the paper mache section of the craft store. I would have LOVED to use a real faucet but I didn’t manage to find an old one that would work. But so far this is just fine. And the sink was once our cats’ water dish, it happened to be the perfect size and depth for this!
The oven door opens out and has a handle that keeps it from crashing into the floor and the stovetop knobs were just cheap wooden knobs from Home Depot that I painted and put through the front.
Inside the oven I used the rack from an old toaster oven and put in two small pieces of wood on either side so it actually pulls in and out just like a real oven! (Cleaning that old toaster oven rack was a project in itself! Let me tell you, a lot of those Pinterest tips on cleaning your oven with things like cream of tartar? They don’t work. Trust me.)
I don’t have an accurate tally but I think with coupons and sales, the cost came in somewhere around $30 (I already had primer and paint). Not bad, right?
We put it out Christmas morning and it has been a big hit ever since!
I still have one more of these horrible nightstands taking up space in my spare room. Should it just be more counter space? A fridge? Microwave? What do you think?
So to my eternal sadness, I am not Italian at all. Not even a tiny little bit. But I loooove pasta. I mean, who doesn’t really? (One of the saddest times of my life was then I did the South Beach diet before my wedding and couldn’t eat it. It was rough.) I have many good pasta recipes but this is the one my husband and toddler both inhale. In fact, recently AA said it was one of his favorite things I cook. And if you ignore all the no-carb people (all things in moderation!), it’s pretty healthy (lots of colorful veggies!)
I don’t know about you, but I have kind of a love/hate relationship with eggplant. As a vegetarian I’ve had a lot of bad eggplant wedding dishes and greasy eggplant parmesan. It can be rubbery or flavorless or just not good. Eventually I discovered it’s best roasted (or grilled) until it almost dissolves and gets sweet. You could add any other veggies you happen to have on hand, it’s a flexible recipe. Bell peppers or a dark leafy green like kale would be good. Or mushrooms if you like that sort of thing (not me!). It’s a great way to deal with a CSA box that’s a little too full and an excellent way to get veggies into kids!
Roasted Eggplant Pasta 1 large or three small eggplants
3 tomatoes (4-5 Roma tomatoes or a container of cherry tomatoes would also work)
1 large onion
4-5 cloves of garlic
1 box of whole wheat pasta
grated Parmesan cheese
a handful of fresh basil
1. Preheat your oven to 375, slice your eggplant and onion into 1/2 inch slices and quarter your tomatoes. Spray a baking sheet with olive oil, arrange them all, including the garlic cloves, and then spray the vegetables with oil again.
2. Roast approx. 30-45 minutes until the veggies are soft and carmelized. I had to take the eggplant out before the onions and tomatoes. Flip the veggies over halfway through. When they are done they will look delicious!
3. Let them cool until you can handle them and then chop into small pieces. At the same time, start boiling your pasta water. When the veggies are chopped, put them in a large saute pan.
4. If you tomatoes aren’t very sweet, add a little squirt of honey. Add some salt and pepper to taste and then cook slowly over medium heat until they kind of dissolve and mix together into a chunky sauce. If the veggies get dry, add a ladle full of pasta water.
5. When the water is boiling, make sure to salt it liberally. (I heard somewhere once that pasta water should taste like the sea. If your pasta recipes always seem like they’re missing something, this is probably it.) Then add your dry pasta.
6. While the pasta is cooking, get your basil. I had to pick mine from our balcony (why yes, I do live on the 13th floor and still have a vegetable garden!) I love basil so I picked a large handful.
7. When the pasta is al dente, drain it. (Whole wheat pasta takes a little longer to cook than white pasta, just so you know.)
8. Add the pasta to the sauce and stir. Let is sit for a couple minutes to absorb any liquid. Then add a biiiiiig handful of grated parmesan. (I’m from Wisconsin, you can never have enough cheese!) I like grated parmesan instead of shredded because it almost dissolves and makes the pasta all creamy. (But not the grated kind in the green can. I don’t even think that’s really cheese…)
About a year ago I ran across these gorgeous quilts by a Emily Fischer of Haptic Lab.
Quilt detail from Haptic Lab Studio
She’s also a designer with architectural background I just totally loved the idea of a quilted map. I wanted to create my own versions but while hers are beautifully hand-quilted, I knew I didn’t have the time to do that. I wanted to go with machine quilting and my machine can’t handle a bed sized quilt so I made a set of quilted city throw pillows. Yeah, maybe white is a little risky with a toddler but so far they’re still looking pretty good!
A friend of mine had been ogling them since I finished them and for her birthday this weekend, I thought I’d make one just for her and document my process.
I started out by deciding what size pillow I wanted (16″ x 16″) and cutting one 16″ square out of white quilting fabric, two squares of natural cotton batting, and two rectangles of my backing fabric (16″ x 10″) to form an envelope back for my pillow cover. Envelope backs are great because they are easy to make and easy to remove for washing (essential for a white pillow!).
I also cut strips of my backing fabric to use as binding for my pillow cover. I cut mine 2.5″ wide.
The next step was to decide what I was going to map. This was for a childhood friend of mine so I went with our hometown. My original pillows for our house have maps showing where my husband I met (Milwaukee), where we started dating (Kyoto, Japan), where we got married (Madison), and where we live now with O (downtown Chicago). I looked up a map of our hometown on Google maps, and sized it to print 16″ x 16″ in Photoshop. I had to piece together screen shots to get the whole city in the view. I printed it out in 4 pieces on my home printer and taped them together. Then I taped the map to a window in our living room, taped the white fabric square over it and got to tracing with a disappearing ink fabric pen–the ink goes away with just water. Here’s a pic of the map with fabric over it, taped up on my window:
Once the whole map was traced (I’ll be honest, it took a while), I was ready to start quilting! The first step is to layer the white square of fabric with the map on it with two pieces of quilt batting (I use two layers to make it puffier), usually when you’re quilting you want the batting to be a little bigger in dimension than the quilt top because it can move and pull a little as you’re sewing. Then when you’re done with the quilting step you trim it down. If you’re familiar with natural cotton quilt batting, you’ll also know that it sometimes has little brown specs in it which are just normal tiny pieces of stem and leaves; because it’s natural batting they don’t bleach that out. Usually one side of the batting has the specs and one side is cleaner. I have found that sometimes with white quilting fabric, the specs can show through, so make sure you put the cleaner side of your batting against the white fabric. Normally for a quilt, there would be another piece of fabric behind the quilt batting making what they call a “quilt sandwich” but because that would be inside the pillow I didn’t add it. Just make sure to clean the batting lint out of your sewing machine when you’re done. Pin in a few places with safety pins and start sewing!
The blue lines in the photo above are the map lines I traced with my disappearing ink pen and you can see in the lower right a few blocks and roads I have already sewed along. This part of quilting will take the longest and my only advice is to be patient and go slowly, especially if you have curvy lines. (And set up something good to watch on Netflix!)
When you’re all done quilting along all of your traced map lines, cut any loose threads (I usually do them all at the end) and then put your quilt top through the washer and dryer. You can handwash if you prefer. This gets rid of the pen lines and gives your map quilt top that cozy crinkly quilty look. When it’s dry, cut the batting to match the edge of your white quilted map fabric. Then lay your quilt top right side down on a table, and put the envelope back, right side up on top of it and pin.
Next, make your quilt binding and attach it by machine. If you haven’t done this before, here is my favorite tutorial for quilt binding. After you have attached it my machine to one side of the pillow cover, turn the pillow over and hand stitch it to the front using an invisible ladder stitch. Normally I would do the hand sewing on the back of the quilt or pillow cover but I spaced out and did it on the front this time, it was fine.
We came to my hometown this weekend to visit with friends and go to the local fireworks and festival. Our town has a little carnival down by the community center that I went to every year when I was growing up. It’s no state fair, just a tilt-a-whirl, a tiny ferris wheel, a few other rides and some games to lose money on. Oh and a giant beer tent. Which I’m sure is where they make most of their money. Anyway, we didn’t really do the carnival this year, just walked down from my parents’ house to find a good place to watch the fireworks with a couple of my best friends from childhood and have a picnic (and enjoy free grandparental babysitting!) It turned out that a friend of ours from high school was sitting a few blankets over and she came to say hello. It was nice to catch up–I don’t think I’ve seen her since high school although we are Facebook friends. One of the first questions she asked me was, “so what are you up to? are you still painting furniture?” (apparently I haven’t changed much, ha!)
Well the answer is yes, yes I am. Although now I have to figure out how to do it in my small, poorly ventilated condo instead of my parents’ driveway. But before I share some of my more recent projects I wanted to show you one of the first pieces of furniture I ever transformed and how it’s holding up.
My mom and dad have always been my biggest supporters in my crafty endeavors. They have seen a ton of crazy projects over the years (I’m sure not all were so great) and in the way parents do, they have kept just about everything I ever made. But when I was in Eighth grade (I think) I decided my bedroom was just WAY too boring. You know how middle schoolers are, I just could not stand it one more second. I had this old four poster double bed that I think had once been our old neighbor’s Grandma’s bed or something. It had a thick brown finish, was kind of creaky and in my middle school mind was just not cool. I decide to paint it. Perhaps heavily influenced by Claudia, the fashionista from the Babysitters Club books, I went with a black, white and red color scheme. There were polka dots and splatter paint (it was the 90’s after all) and I loved it.
At some point after I went to college they got a new bed frame, turned my room into a guest room and the old rickety (and colorful) bed went down in the basement. But now the footboard of the bed has found a new life. My mom, in advance of our most recent visit, asked my dad to put up a baby gate outside so that O could play on their deck without them worrying about the steep stairs that go down to the yard. When we got here, this is what I saw:
(Clearly my dad is where I get my ability to think outside the box!) It’s actually holding up just fine outside and in a quirky Madison-y kind of way I kind of think it works! If nothing else, it’s a great pop of color and a fond memory.
No one in my family or my husband’s family has any food allergies. The standard recommendation for the big food allergens is wait until kids are 1 to try things like eggs, strawberries, cow’s milk, nuts etc. So when I took O in to our pediatrician, who we like very much, for his 1 yr. appointment, I asked if it was safe to try peanut butter. (I am a peanut butter fanatic!) The doctor said, “sure, go ahead.” So a few days later at lunchtime I spread a little peanut butter on some toast and gave it to O on his high chair tray. I tried to feed him a piece but he wasn’t interested. He did touch it though and in typical baby fashion, soon he had touched his face and near his eyes while he ate the rest of his lunch.
Within less than five minutes I started noticing that he was rubbing his eyes pretty vigorously. And soon after that, little bumps started appearing on his face. I took him over to the sink to wash his hands and while holding him up, I grabbed the phone. It turned out the only way I could stop him from almost clawing at his eyes was to keep the water on and let him play with it. At this point I was completely freaking out, as I’m sure you can imagine. But I had heard enough about food allergies to know that as long as there were no breathing problems, it was ok. I frantically called our pediatrician, and let me tell you, nothing gets a pediatrician out of their office and on the phone faster than when you call and say, I just gave my child peanut butter and they’re having a reaction to it! He agreed, as long as there was no swelling of the lips or tongue or difficulty breathing, we didn’t need to call an ambulance or go to the ER. The Pediatrician told me to do two things right away:
1: Put him in the bathtub. I had thought to wash his hands and face as best I could but the doctor pointed out that at that point he could have it all over his body and I needed to make sure the allergen was completely gone. So I put him in the tub and rinsed him repeatedly. The tub also was a great distraction to stop him from scratching his irritated face.
2: Give him Benadryl. (Now this is where I give new parent advice!) Generally allergy medicines like Benadryl are labeled not to be given to children under the age of 4 or 2. So of course, we didn’t have any in the house. But under a doctor’s orders and supervision (do not give your baby medicine without consulting a doctor first!!) it can be used in the event of an allergic reaction like this as long as a doctor monitors the dose. So my advice to new parents is: buy baby/child Benadryl just to have it in the house. If you need it, you will be so glad it’s there. In my case, I frantically called my husband at work, luckily he was at lunch, and he raced home after stopping at the pharmacy.
At this point, O’s eyes had started swelling and his face was red, bumpy and splotchy. It was truly terrifying. The Pediatrician called us back about every ten minutes for the first hour until we had given him the Benadryl and then after that, he started looking better pretty quickly.
The other important thing to know, is that an allergic reaction to food doesn’t always show up as itchy hives and swelling. Here is an excellent graphic showing possible symptoms of a food allergy:
After it was clear that he was getting better, I thoroughly cleaned the high chair, table and anywhere else peanut butter may have come in contact with, put all of our clothes through the wash, we talked one more time with the pediatrician, and I then called and made an appointment with their recommended allergist. I’ll talk more about what happens at an allergist appointment, the testing, diagnoses, and how we deal with food allergies in our daily life another time. But I will answer the question I get most often when people find out O has food allergies, “well, he’ll probably grow out of it, right?” I am sure this question is intended to make me feel better but unfortunately the answer is, no, he probably won’t. Of the eight major allergens: eggs, dairy, soy, wheat, peanuts, tree nuts, fish and shellfish, people are the least likely to grow out of of peanut, tree nut, and shellfish allergies. Somewhere around 80% of people with those allergies do not.
Although it was very scary, I managed to remain calm and am glad that even though it looked terrible, this reaction was on the more mild side and didn’t involve anaphylaxis. But here’s a little disclaimer, if you feel like your child is having an allergic reaction to food, DO NOT hesitate to call for help. Food allergies can be very dangerous and can escalate quickly. Also do not take my advice as medical advice, always talk to your doctor before giving your baby or child any medication.
Does anyone else deal with food allergies? How did you find out?
I think we all have a love/hate relationship with Pinterest. I mostly love it. But I know a lot of people think it puts too much pressure on us to have unrealistically perfect parties and outfits and living rooms. I totally get that. I’ve had a lot of luck finding great recipes and good craft ideas but I try to remind myself often that not all those ideas really are, “Genius!” (It helps that I am a fan of both The Pintester and Pinterest Fail; seriously don’t ever try the dehydrated strawberries pin!) And anyway, I’ve always had a kind of Pinterest, it just used to be the bookmarks folder of my browser. It was unorganized and hard to edit and of course there were no pictures. So for that reason alone, Pinterest makes me very happy. Recently there’s been lots of jewelry that caught my eye and here are a few of my favorites!
I love the Coral, I love the shape, love everything about it. Actually I never used to be much of a gold fan, but lately I can’t get enough. (And plus, TrueBlood just started back up and it kind of feels a little vampire-y!)
Look more Gold! I like the mixture of shapes here and I think they look great all together or separately. I always want to be a bracelet person but the fact that I have a grabby toddler and skinny wrists makes them hard to wear in real life. But I might make an exception for these. Plus proceeds go to a really good cause.
These are so made for an architect and I have been totally coveting them for months. My only question, would they really be as cool in real life when you’re not seeing them up close like this? Or would they just look like gray spheres?
If you’re here from Wine & Glue, welcome to Little Red Window! You probably already know and love Lisa and guess what? So do I! Except I actually know her in real life. We grew up in the same small-ish town and got to be good friends when we did yearbook together in high school. Look here we are!
What she probably doesn’t even know is that she’s totally been an inspiration to me to get off my butt and just do an etsy store and blog already. If I’m a third as successful at this Internet thing as she is, I will be a happy girl.
Anyway, I hope you’ll follow me and stick around, I promise I have lots of great things to share including how I hacked an old seen-better-days IKEA nightstand to turn it into a play kitchen for O without any major power tools,
and how I like living and creating in a small condo smack in the middle of downtown Chicago (hint: I love it!). In the meantime please visit me at my shop, Little Red Window Design and check out my hand-drawn printables available now for instant download!
Recently a good friend of mine/my downstairs neighbor had a baby. He’s pretty much the cutest baby ever. And when my baby O was born we only had one friend bring us anything to eat. Since our parents don’t live super close, we were kind of on our own. I would have killed for someone else to cook for us. So I decided to make her a couple meals worth of food instead of just my standard new baby pan of lasagna. And honestly, I was excited because she and her husband are vegan and I don’t often get to cook for other people who love veggies as much as I do. So I Pinterested for a while until I came across this southwestern quinoa salad with avocado and black beans from Cooking Quinoa. Here’s my version:
Try not to drool on your computer.
It turned out to be my new favorite recipe, one of those ones I know I will keep making over and over and I think it will be my go-to for potlucks and picnics. I’ve made it three times since then and even my husband, a notorious leftover hater, has been taking it to work for lunch. I only made a couple changes, I added cucumber for crunch, I used lemon juice instead of lime because that’s what I had, and I left out the pine nuts because my son is allergic to tree nuts. I brought it to her with a ripe avocado and instructions to add the avocado right before eating and she said even her toddler loved it.
I’m Cassie, mom to one extremely cute and very busy toddler, DIY addict, artist, and former architectural illustrator.
Me and aforementioned very busy toddler
Despite the fact that my father is an excellent writer I don’t generally put that high on my list of skills. (Unless you want an analytical paper about art history or architecture, then I’m your girl!) But writing for an audience? Actually, doing anything for an audience? Maybe not my forte. That being said, maybe some of you have experienced this, when you’re the kind of person who routinely gives hand-made gifts and/or is a reasonably good cook, you hear two things A LOT. #1: You should have an etsy store! ( I do! I do!) and #2: You should have a blog! (I guess I do! I do!) So here I am. What will I write about? I guess I’ll go with “write what you know”: crafts, art, cooking, books, architecture, life with a toddler, and how we cope with life threatening food allergies in our home (got serious on you there, didn’t I? There can never be enough good information out there about food allergies!)
Another thing not so high on my list of skills? photography. I always take a hundred pictures and hope one of them is ok. My husband is one of those people who never uses our fancy camera and then picks it up, and in terrible lighting, manages to get the perfect, composed photo. How does he DO that?! I am always working on learning to use my DSLR better, I actually used to work with animated computer simulated cameras at work, but I’m still no expert. I will however, claim to be pretty good at instagram. So I’ll probably use a lot of instagram. sorry. (not really sorry.)
Anyway, thanks for visiting, hope to see you again soon!