Framed art for a friend

Butterflies again. I can’t help it. I love them!

More Brotherly Love

I posted some sweetness last week with Bunny and Monkey, so I thought I’d share some photos of Cricket with him. It’s been such a joy watching her blossom in her big sister role. When Bunny was born, she just wasn’t all that interested. Babies don’t do much, so she just went along doing her own thing and mostly ignoring the new little creature in her house. She loved her sister, but wanting  to hold her or play with her just didn’t enter Cricket’s two-year-old mind. Now, at five, she appreciates having a baby sibling a bit more. After all, he doesn’t take her toys (much), doesn’t pick fights with her, and generally thinks she’s pretty amazing. She’s very patient when he pulls her hair,

and at least 4 or 5 times a day, I’ll catch her rubbing his head and saying “You’re so CUTE!”

Sorry for the toes in the bottom of the picture! Sort of detracts from all the cuteness.

Of course, nobody gets to play with the baby by herself for long. Especially not if Mama is taking pictures!

It’s not easy holding a baby brother who’s more than half your size!

But sometimes he’s content to snuggle.

No doubt this boy is loved!

Sunflower Spinner card

I made this card for a birthday card exchange. I have a friend who just loves sunflowers, so I knew I wanted to include one. She’s also the kind to appreciate a bit of whimsy, so I made her this spinner card.

It’s simple, nothing too fancy or girly for this chick. But it has an element of fun. See that little shadow of a string to the top and bottom of the sunflower? That’s so it will do this:

I always twist it up just a tad, so it will spin when opened. The only downside to this card is that having that big hole meant a teeny place to write Birthday greetings. I added a little ribbon bow and a touch of bling to finish it off. It’s not exactly what I originally envisioned, but I think it’s nice. Not super-wonderful-fantastic, but I know she liked it and appreciated the personal touch of a handmade card.

IHS 44

A few weeks ago, I had one of the best weekends of my life. While it doesn’t compare to my wedding, or the births of my children, or anything like that, I was thrilled nonetheless. I got to go to IHS 44!!

I can almost hear you shrugging your shoulders and scratching your head. IHS is the International Horn Symposium. As in french horn. And this was the 44th Annual Symposium. Make sense now?

It was several days dedicated to my beloved instrument, with hundreds of other people who love it as much as I do, many of whom play considerably better than I! I was only able to attend a couple of days, but it was still wonderful. There were lectures, Master Classes, contests, recitals, reading sessions, performance opportunities, concerts, exhibits…it was like french horn heaven…or Comic-Con.

I realize that there are probably only 2 or 3 of my friends who share my interest in this particular instrument, but most of you who know me will understand why this was such an incredible treat for me. I don’t have very many opportunities to play these days, but I still harbor dreams of studying for my Masters in Performance someday. I joke that french horn is my first love, and my husband doesn’t get offended, because he knows I mean it chronologically. (Plus, he’s a musician, too, so he gets what I mean.) I’ve played for almost 18 years now, and I only met him 12 years ago.

I need to take the time to write a whole post about this phenomenal weekend, just to remember how great it was. I’m not sure I’ll make it to another Symposium any time soon, since they are held all over the world. Next year”s is in Tennessee, so it’s not completely out of the question, but what would I do with three little rugrats while I went out there to play?

Anyway, back to the point of this post. I’m not all that big on hero worship. There aren’t many people whose autograph I would care to have. The number of famous people who I really care about  meeting could probably be counted on one hand, two maybe. But this guy? Oh. yeah.

The man in the middle is Barry Tuckwell. (My cousin Chad, who also plays horn, is on the right.) I know you’ve probably never heard of him, but he is a french horn rockstar. He’s in his 80s now, but his career was absolutely full to the brim of  the kinds of things that most hornists live only in their dreams. He had his first professional symphony appointment at age 15. FIFTEEN, people!! (Sorry for yelling, it’s just amazing.) He was one of the first professional horn soloists, and was the first president of the International Horn Society. He is the most recorded hornist of all time, and it’s a good thing, because he is the soloist I always looked for when I needed to listen to a piece on which I was working.  He is also a well-respected author, pedagogue and conductor. And I got to meet him! Shake his hand! Get his autograph! And get a photo with him!

He is an absolutely kind and gracious man, with a wonderful sense of humor. I am so glad that I was able to watch him conduct a concert, and be conducted by him. I’ll be telling my grandchildren about this. And when they say “Who?” I’ll just pull out whatever audio media we have by then and let them take a listen to his exceptional artistry. I recommend you do the same. Start with Richard Strauss’s first horn concerto. It’s my favorite.

Haircuts!

It’s haircut time at our house!

Cricket has very long hair, and it grows super fast. I wish mine grew as quickly as hers! She loves it long, but there is a point at which it is hard to take care of properly. Once she can almost sit on it, it needs a trim. Sorry for the lousy before shots. I forgot to get them until she was already up in the chair, and no way was I going to get her back down and start that whole thing again once I had her excited about the idea. She did a pretty good job holding still while I cut it!

After. I just trimmed the ends. I took off several inches, since I probably won’t get back to this for several weeks.

Years ago, Cricket was in the hospital on a ventilator. When they took off the vent tape from around her head, they were patiently removing it from her hair with alcohol. Meanwhile, she was coming out of sedation and starting to resist the vent. I told them thank you, because I appreciated that they were trying to save her beautiful hair, but I really wanted them to just chop it off and get her off of that machine! After some reassurance that I really would be okay if they did it, out came the scissors. I saw them cut it, so I know they were not trying to style it at all, but the angle that it made when they were done was super cute! It created perfect soft layers around her face. I’ve always just kept the same general idea as it’s gotten longer and longer.

Bunny’s turn. Hers doesn’t grow anywhere near as quickly as Cricket’s, but it had gotten fairly long.

This what it looks like when Bunny starts banging her backside against the door! Oops! Never a dull moment around here.

This is what it looks like when she then tells me the very exciting story of how she fell through the door.

I decided to hack it off do a shorter bob for Bunny. I generally prefer long hair, but I have to admit, I love it on her. It highlights her expressive little face! These are not the best pics of the haircut. I’ll try to get some once it shakes out a bit and looks better instead of this still-damp look. It is not nearly as crooked as this appears; she kept raising one shoulder in anticipation of the flash. Kind of like when I was cutting it, and she was all over the place. Between her case of wiggles and Mr. Monkey doing gymnastics while tied to my back, it’s kind of amazing that I didn’t lop off an ear!

I swear that this girl has a range of facial expressions to rival Cary Grant in Arsenic and Old Lace. I’ll never be able to capture half of her faces with a camera.

Well, not sure Cary Grant ever made that one!

Okay, a day or two later, I got this one. it’s an awful shot of her face, but it shows the hair cut quite a bit better.

Not to be left out, Monkey wanted to show off his temporary new hairstyle: the after-bath fauxhawk

Brotherly Love

Bunny and Monkey have had a special bond since before he was born. Her voice was the thing most likely to cause him to kick and wiggle. His first laugh was for her. Within days of bringing him home from the hospital, she was telling me “He’s my boy!” She is still likely to pray “Thank you for letting Mama bring him home from the hospital!” She spends a good part of her day narrating her activities for him and telling him all of the fun things he’ll be able to do when he is big like she is.

One morning last week, she was barely out of bed before she was begging to hold him. He’s pretty mobile now, and more than half her size, so it’s not easy! But he loves her and will stay still for her snuggles for a little while.

Of course Cricket wanted to join them, and she thought that Monkey needed some toys.

He was much more interested in playing with them. Got your nose!

My sisters love me!

I can just see him thinking. “Little do they know…one day I will tease them mercilessly. I will embarrass them completely. I will refuse to watch their girly movies, and I will insist on light saber duels instead of tea parties!”

After all, what are brothers for?

Apple print Father’s Day cards

ETA: I like to give credit where credit is due. Since we made these last year, I didn’t remember finding them anywhere specific. We did apple prints as a part of another school activity, so I thought this might have just come out of that idea. But I recently saw this page, and I think it must have been my inspiration for this idea. (Scroll down a bit for this particular card.) I apologize for not linking it sooner!

http://www.daniellesplace.com/html/mengifts.html

 

I’m always on the lookout for holiday card, decoration, and gift ideas that my littles can enjoy making. The girls and I made this last year, and I thought I’d pass the idea along. We had a blast making it, and their Papa really appreciated the effort that they put into it. It’s my idea, but may have been influenced by others, and I’m not one to think I am so terribly original that no one else could have come up with the same thing. Use it freely!

We started with apple printing. I will hardly eat a Red Delicious apple any more, because I find them terribly flavorless , but they are inexpensive and a beautiful shape for this! Any apple with a characteristic cross-section will work just fine. I just spread a little puddle of red tempera paint on a paper plate, laid out a big sheet of craft paper, and let the girls stamp away. I let them do several, knowing that some would be better than others. When they were dry, we picked the print we liked the best, added leaves and seeds with markers, and cut it out to paste on the front. My little Cricket could write words, but in order to help her with spacing, I printed out the phrases using the tools here: http://www.handwritingworksheets.com/ I use this tool all the time! It is great for practicing things like name and address that need to be personalized. We use them for days of the week, months of the year and any letters that need a little more practice. In this case, I printed out the sentiment that I wanted for the card, Cricket traced them with a colored pencil, and we cut and pasted them into the right places. Letter stickers helped to highlight the key words.

For the inside, I helped each girl make a caterpillar out of their fingerprints. (I find the index finger easier for them to manipulate than the thumb.) I used a thin layer of tempera paint for this, too. When they were dry, the girls added details like legs, antennae and faces with a marker. They signed their pictures and the card, but I edited them to show their blog names instead.

I hope this helps you think of some other ideas for helping your little ones to express their love and appreciation for their Father! What other themes do you think would be nice for a Father’s Day card?

New Attempt: Chicken Lo Mein

My family enjoys typical Chinese takeout food. Fried Rice. Sweet and Sour Chicken. Egg Rolls. Because we don’t eat out often, it’s a rare treat. One of our favorites is Lo Mein. Those delicious savory noodles with a sprinkle of crunchy veggies and chunks of juicy meat, at least that’s what it’s like when it’s done well. Makes my mouth water just thinking about it!

My girls will eat about anything with noodles, and I don’t know why it never occurred to me to try this dish at home! I mentioned on facebook that it was a success and was asked for the recipe. Here’s where I hit a snag that is common for me: I rarely use recipes when I cook. Recipes are about precision, and I use them when I bake. (Though I often tweak them! My husband knows what I will say the first time I try a new one. “I can make this better next time!”) Cooking is much more fluid for me. I add things depending on what we like, what mood I’m in, what I have handy. So, this isn’t technically a recipe, but it’s an idea. It can give you a good start and you can add things to taste until you’re happy with the result.

Once again, no photos. Sorry about that! I know exactly how photos are supposed to go for a proper food blog, but I can’t imagine taking the time to shoot them in the middle of weekday dinner prep with three small, hungry children around.  I will never make it as a food blogger.

So…Lo Mein.

*Imagine lovely photo of all ingredients on an empty  tabletop completely absent of scratches and stray crayon and marker scribbles*

I started boiling a pot of salted water for the pasta. I used Ronzoni’s Garden Delight spaghetti. It’s a beautiful color and is made with spinach, tomato and carrot, so I’m sneaking in extra vegetables. First time I’ve used it, but it will definitely go on my grocery list again. (No, they did not pay me to endorse it. But if someone were to want to send me products to try, I’d be happy to give them an honest review!)

*Picture of spaghetti package in foreground, boiling water in background. Pot of water is perfectly shiny, stove top is spotless.* 

Meanwhile, I drizzled some oil in a large, heavy skillet. Sometimes I usually use olive oil, but I prefer peanut oil for the few Asian dishes I’ve tried. A few drops of sesame seed oil added here makes a huge difference. Huge. It seems really pricey until you find out how little of it you need to use for a major boost in flavor. I used less than a teaspoon in this dish, but I truly think it makes an enormous impact on the gobble-it-up factor. If you’re not allergic, and you think that you might make some Asian-inspired dishes in the future, it’s worth picking up. Into the oil I added about 2 Tbsp of leftover finely chopped onion and about a cup of frozen peas and carrots. I finely chopped a couple of stalks of celery and threw that in, too. Then I just sprinkled on salt and pepper, stirred it occasionally and watched the colors brighten while I cut up the meat.

*Photo of skillet with beautifully bright vegetables, bottle of sesame seed oil to the side, label turned toward camera for easy reading*

I had 3 leftover Asian glazed chicken thighs. (Recipe coming soon…it’s a new favorite here!) I cut the meat off of the bone and diced it. I loved knowing that it would already have an Asian flavor, but I’m sure that regular grilled chicken or rotisserie chicken would still be delicious.  I think it was about a cup and a half total, but less would be fine. I added about 3 cloves of crushed garlic to the pan of veggies and tossed in the meat. Since it was coming from the fridge, I wanted to give it a chance to get nice and hot.

*One-handed action shot of garlic being squeezed out of the press over the simmering pan by a hand that does not have a week old polish job or stray bits of glue and glitter from a preschool art project*

When the pasta was done, I drained it in a colander in the sink. We like it tender, even though I know that is technically overdone. My apologies to Italians everywhere.

*Photo of beautifully golden pasta in 1970’s mustard yellow colander inside a pristine stainless steel sink. And did I mention? The lighting is perfect.*

Before adding the pasta, I made the sauce. I wanted a lot of flavor, but not a lot of liquid, since there isn’t much to absorb it at this point. I poured in about 3 Tbsp of soy sauce and a Tablespoon of hoisin sauce. Hoisin sauce is a thick sauce made of fermented soybeans. It tastes much better than that description sounds. It’s worth having on hand to add to marinades or glazes for meats, or for dishes like this one. I also sprinkled in some onion powder and just a pinch of powdered ginger. Yes, I know, I should use fresh ginger. I don’t much care for ginger, so I can’t be bothered to have it on hand. Now you know one of my deep, dark secrets. See why I’ll never be a legitimate food blogger? You can use fresh ginger and tell me how much better your lo mein is than mine. I can take it.

*Photo of designer pan full of delicious food, soy sauce in the background, hoisin sauce and a stick of fresh ginger in the foreground. Since we’re pretending, let’s pretend big.*

I should have tasted at this point, but I didn’t, rebel that I am. (Or I just forgot.) I added the pasta back to the pan and tossed it all together. I had used a spoon up to this point, but tossing the chunky meats and veggies with the pasta required tongs. (In reading that sentence, I think perhaps I should not have had the words “tossing” and “chunky” so close together, but it makes me laugh now, so I’m leaving it. This is what you get when I write blog posts at midnight – no quality control!

*Action photo of tossing chunkiness. Bet you’re glad I don’t take pictures now, cause nobody wants to see that.*

I did taste it at this point, and added a bit of salt, a little more soy sauce, but mostly it was good! I let it simmer for a few minutes to allow the flavors to meld, then I served it up in bowls. Wish I knew where my chopsticks are!

*Photo of stylish, black, square bowl full of lo mein, chopsticks perfectly perched on one corner, artfully arranged on a hand-stitched lotus blossom place mat*

I might try more hoisin next time. I’m still learning to work with it, so I’m a little conservative.  I think that a tiny bit of sriracha would give it a bit of kick if you like that idea. (More about sriracha in the upcoming Asian glazed chicken recipe.) I think a little strong chicken stock would be good, too. I love Better than Bouillon, and it would be easy to mix that up to add a lot of flavor without a lot of liquid. If I didn’t have chunks of chicken to toss in, I’d definitely want to add that.

*Picture of Better than Bouillon, mostly so I can look at it to remember how to spell that word. I’m a good speller in general. I can even remember to spell sriracha correctly, so why can I never remember where the ‘i’ goes in bouillon?*

I love versatile recipes like this! Toss in whatever leftover veggies you have, or whatever fresh ones are on sale. Add some leftover meat and a few ingredients from your cupboards. Sprinkle in some of your favorite flavors and cook it until it all tastes fabulous. Serve it with love, and watch everyone devour it and ask for more!

I hope that this little “tutorial” gives you enough to go on to try this out. If you get lost, refer to the pictures. They should help clear things up.

All Aflutter

 I made this card for a sweet, wonderful woman who is battling breast cancer. She and her husband were my Sunday School teachers for a year or two in high school *mumble, mumble* years ago. They are dear to me, and I wanted to do something to let them know how much I care about their family. I hope she can put this somewhere where she will see it and have a tangible encouragement and reminder that people are praying for her, and that God upholds her.

I’m discovering that I have an affinity for butterflies. They are so beautiful, and I think they are a very versatile embellishment. They work in a wide variety of colors and moods. The colors on this aren’t quite right in the photo. I’m still working on my editing skills. They’re a bit softer, particularly the batik-y piece with the sentiment.

I have not been in the habit of keeping track of the specific papers, inks and embellishments that I use. I am new to sharing my work with others in the online community, so it may take me a while to get the hang of it. Please bear with me! Here’s what I do know: For this card, I used solid lavender cardstock for the base. I cut all of the shapes with my Silhouette.  The swirls are in a very thick metallic silver canvas textured cardstock. The background oval is a purple-tone on-tone scroll print. The sentiment and background of the butterflies is in a lovely watercolor/batik print. The matte for the sentiment and the butterfly details are in solid black cardstock. I embossed the black part of the butterflies by rubbing Versamark all over them with a sponge and adding clear glitter embossing powder that I have from like 20 years ago when I bought my first embossing kit at the buy it barn at the Stock Show! I added brads to the sentiment and clear rhinestones.

I think this is my favorite card that I have ever made. I plan to make more, and other variations of it. I think it would be a nice one to have on hand. It would be easy to make it up with a variety of sentiments and color combinations, and I think it’s really quite nice without taking immense amounts of work with specialty techniques.

What other sentiments or occasions do you think would fit this card? What sentiments do you recommend to encourage someone in the midst of a serious illness?

New Baby Door Hanger

My sister recently had a sweet, beautiful baby girl! She works at the hospital where she delivered, and their gift shop sells cute mums for hanging on the doors of hospital rooms to announce the new arrivals – think homecoming mums if you’re from a place with that tradition. When our little Mr. Monkey was born, she made one for me, and I loved it! We hung it on our home door and got a lot of compliments from people coming to bring meals or meet the new baby. I wanted to make her one, too.

Here’s the problem: Mr. Monkey was born in October – prime time for mums. My darling little niece was born in April. No mums to be found. No problem! I had an idea. My sister is possibly the biggest Snoopy fan ever, and her nursery is full of adorable baby Snoopy things. I have a Silhouette machine, and I love all of the amazing things it can do. Here’s what I came up with:

A close up of the top:

Yes, those black dots in the scallops are rhinestones. Even the smallest girl can use a little bling in her life! At home, she can hang it on a wall, behind a door or in a closet, and clip hair bows to the ribbons for an easy storage idea.

Until my sister brought me the mum for Mr. Monkey, I’d never heard of this idea. I think it is a really cute one, and I think I might try something similar to welcome other new babies.

Previous Older Entries Next Newer Entries