Friday, October 26, 2012

The Littlest Mermaid Infant Costume

So big sis and dad found a costume... a mermaid costume, all ready to go for a not so bad price of $17.  So I gave in and told her she could get it.  But that meant I didn't get to play and create like I love to do.  That is until I realized I now have a little sis who is too little to voice an opinion and tell mom no!  And since big sis loves to match little sis, the decision was made that mom {that's me!} got to make little sis a matching mermaid costume, yay!

{Disclaimer: I have no clue what I am doing... I have never taken any sort of a formal sewing class and to be perfectly honest, every time I sew, I spend at least a third of the time cursing my mother-in-law's sewing machine, which I stole and won't return!  Please feel free to comment and leave me tips or ideas if you actually KNOW how to do things correctly... I won't take offense- I love too learn new things!  For those of you that don't know what your doing either... hopefully I can inspire you to go for it and try something new!}

First things first- we hit up our local JoAnn's.  Since it is close to Halloween, they had lots of cool fabrics all on clearance including the fun scale fabric you see here.  Since little sis is, well, tiny, we didn't need much fabric at all.  We got 2 feet of the scale fabric, 1/2 yard of the crazy purple fabric (which I am not really sure what it is- which got me into trouble later on... I bought it on it's looks: learned my lesson there!), 1/2 yard of 1/2 inch foam, and a 3 ft. roll of elastic.  In total, I paid just over $10. 

Next I measured little sis around the waist and around the widest part of her hips.  The scale fabric had some stretch to it, so I knew I had some playing room, but I wanted to make sure it wasn't too small!  Since the tail would have a front and a back sewn together, I took her waist measurement, cut it in half then added an extra inch to get the widths I needed for the tail.  { (waist/2) + 1 }  Little sis was a 16 inch waist, so { (16/2) + 1 }, I used 9 inches for her waist then did the same for her hips.  I used these two measurements to draw then cut out a mermaid shaped tail on a mail advertisement I had laying around.  To make it symmetrical I folded it in half before cutting, like you did with hearts when you were little!  I also held it up to little sis before tracing it onto the fabric and cutting out the fabric.  When you cut the fabric out keep in mind you will have your fabric folded in half so you will be cutting out the front and the back at the same time.
Now I may not know much about sewing, but two things my mom taught me when I was young that stuck are 1. keep your fabric inside out, good sides together and 2. use pins!  Every once in a while I think I am going to sew without pinning- it's not worth it- just pin the fabric together before you ever start cutting!!

Next we tackled the sewing machine to sew down both sides leaving the top and bottom open.  This is where you always try some test stitching on a scrap piece of fabric first and then curse and turn knobs until the stitches come out like you want... unless you know what your doing, of course.  I have found the sewing machine manuals to be your best friend!  Use yours if you get stuck :)

To make the waist, fold over the top about an inch and sew leaving room for the elastic.  Do not completely sew up the seam until you have threaded your elastic through the waist band.  To do this, use a large safety pin to help you out.

{Reminder: Keep your little one by and continually try on if possible!  The sooner you catch something that may be off, the sooner you can fix!}

Next we sketched out our tail fins.  I used big sis' costume to help me with the shape, but you can type into google images and see lots of different options.  I laid the fabric part out on top of the foam to help get a proportional size.

Then we cut out the foam fins and traced that same shape onto the fabric that will cover it, leaving about 1 inch extra space all the way around for the seam and width of the foam.  Make sure your good sides are together, pin, cut out, and sew the fin fabric leaving the top open for stuffing.

{This is where I got into trouble... my pretty purple fabric just started fraying apart, and quick.  Keep this in mind when buying a fabric- are the ends easily frayed??? If so it may be difficult to work with, hence the giant pile of purple glitter laying on the table in this last tail photo!}

After I stuffed the foam into the sewn tail, I went around and sewed about 1/2 inch in to give the tail some depth and some extra support for my disintegrating fabric!  I was going to go in and add a few more "fin" lines, but this fabric was just way too delicate to do so.

The last step was to stuff the foam tail fins up into the end of the scale fabric tail.  Once in I sewed a triangle pattern into the foam and scale fabric to hold it securely in place.

I know you are thinking... what about that bow!?  For the bow I created a little sleeve of the green fabric and ran the extra elastic through it similar to the waistband.  Luckily I had pinned several fabric flower ideas on Pinterest (love that place!) and I just picked one that I thought would work well with my quickly fraying purple fabric and went for it!  A hot glue gun and a couple great websites later, we had ourselves a pretty cute bow!  Check out these great sites that I used to help get some great ideas for yourself!

The Crafty Blog Stalker- How to Make 20 Different Fabric Flowers
Being Brook- Fabric Flowers 2 Different Ways (The style I used)

Overall, I love the way the costume turned out!  She flips and plays with the tail and it is just adorable.  I also love the fact that she can wear something mama made her... instead of something China made her!

What do you think?  Do you like to make costumes???  I would love to see some of your custom costume creations, so please share!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Super Veggie Scramble

I have a new "go to" super breakfast for those mornings when you know you need a good jump on the day.  I love the chocolate pancake - strawberry covered waffle - cream cheese stuffed french toast mornings, but sometimes you need something that will leave you feeling, well, healthier!  This Super Veggie Scramble is quick, easy and packed full of all the good stuff your body needs!

Super Veggie Scramble
{serves 2 main courses OR 4 sides}

1 lg. broccoli crown cut into small bite sized florets
1 lg. handful of fresh spinach, stems cut off, sliced thin
2 med. carrots, grated
1 sm. onion, diced
4 eggs, scrambled
1 spoonful ground flax
Olive Oil
garlic salt
1/4-1/2 c. of cheese {grated Parmesan, feta, or your favorite!}

Begin by prepping all of your veggies and scrambling your eggs.   Heat some olive oil to a medium high temperature in a large skillet.  Saute your onion for about a minute then add the broccoli and carrot.  Saute until the broccoli begins to soften and the carrot begins to caramelize.

 Add in the spinach and garlic salt and pepper to taste.  Saute for a minute more.  Reduce your heat to a medium low temperature.  Sprinkle in your cheese and allow to begin to melt.  Fold in a spoonful of ground flax {a great source of Omega 3s and fiber!  I add it to everything!} to your scrambled eggs and pour the egg mixture over your veggies and cheese.  Gently stir to coat all of the veggies in the egg mixture.  Continue to stir until all the egg is cooked through. 

This is great served with a piece of toast or muffin and some fresh fruit!  Enjoy your Super Veggie breakfast and start your morning off right!

Monday, October 15, 2012

The Latest Challenge... Sandhill Cranes!

I love to paint... but really just don't do it as much as I would like.  To remedy this, I have decided to pick a handful of juried art shows that are local and submit pieces.  The first of these happens to be the art show at the Sandhill Crane Festival.  But I ran into an immediate challenge; I needed a picture of a Sandhill Crane to paint!  Unfortunately almost everything I found online was done by professional photographers and I am not about to "steal" their images!  So... I drug the hubby, the 3 year old, and yes, even the 5 month old out to the flooded farmers' fields on an old country road to try and get some pictures of the cranes.  And, of course, all of the cranes we found were nowhere near the road.  Eventually we ended up with a few images that we thought we may be able to crop once we got home... and after a lot of editing and some major zoomed in cropping, this is the image I came up with..

I love the composition but the detail and clarity are, well, not so good!  Since I am painting it however, all of that can easily be fixed.  I love watching a painting emerge from a blank canvas and it was the same with this painting!

And my final product... I can't say that I am exstatict with it... but happy enough for my perfectionist self.  Wish me luck at the art show!

A Sandhill Social Hour

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Not Your Ordi-soggy Eggplant Parm

I was so excited the first time I made Eggplant Parmesan... I got the eggplant all nice and fried up, then I poured a yummy sauce all over it, dumped some cheese on, and threw it in the oven.  15 minutes later I was biting into a rather soggy eggplant!  What went wrong!?  Well apparently Eggplant Parmesan is really more like a casserole type of a dish.  Fooey!  No more... well at least not if you do it this way!  Enjoy!

Not Your Ordi-soggy Eggplant Parm
(Serves 4)

1  large Eggplant, peeled, cut into 8 even slices
1/4 c. flour
1/2 c. breadcrumbs
1/2 c. grated Parmesan
Italian Seasonings or fresh herbs
1  large egg, beaten
1  Tbs. water
Olive Oil for frying
Additional Parmesan and/or mozzarella for topping

1 Jar of Spaghetti Sauce {or see recipe below}
1 Box of Whole Wheat Thin Spaghetti, or pasta of choice

First things first... peel that eggplant!  You may ask why, but I will just respond with why not?  The skin is not nice, just get rid of it!  Then you will need to cut off each end and do the best you can to slice the eggplant into 8 equal rounds, usually about 1/2" in width.  Larger eggplants usually need to be degorged (soaked in salt to get rid of the bitter flavor) but if you have young, fresh eggplant, you may want to skip this step and go directly to the breading and frying.  To degorge you will layer the eggplant slices in a strainer, salting between each piece and weight down for 20-30 minutes.  Notice our rock???  One of the Food Network chefs once mentioned using a brick as a weight for the kitchen... I went and grabbed a rock out of our little dry bed out back.  You could also just use a bowl or glass dish as well.

While your eggplant soaks get your spaghetti sauce simmering in a large pan.  Need a good Spaghetti sauce recipe??? See below!

Begin to prep your breading station as well; mix together your flour, breadcrumbs, and Parmesan cheese.  You can use Italian style bread crumbs, add some Italian seasonings to the mix or even add some fresh herbs.  I added fresh basil and it turned out amazing! Beat the egg up with the water and place near your frying pan with your breading mixture.

Now is a great time to put on your water for your pasta too!

After your salt soak, rinse the eggplant well and pat dry with paper towels.  Get a nice amount of olive oil heated to a medium high temp in a frying pan.  Dip each eggplant round into the egg mixture then into the breading mixture.  Press it into the breading to get all that yummy Parmesan cheese to stick, flip over so both sides get a healthy coating.  Fry in the oil until golden browned on both sides then place on a cookie sheet.

Start that pasta boiling!

Once all of your rounds are fried and placed onto the cookie sheet, place a dollop of sauce in the center of each eggplant round then sprinkle with additional Parmesan, mozzarella, or both!  Place under the broiler till the cheese is melty and beginning to brown.

Take the cooked pasta directly from the pasta water and mix it in with remaining sauce.  To build your plate, take a serving of pasta and place two nice, crunchy eggplant parm rounds right on top!  Yum... that eggplant parm will crunch as you cut into it... combined with that yummy pasta ~ perfection!

Need a go-to Spaghetti recipe...
{Warning: I don't measure when I make spaghetti sauce... and really, you don't need to either!}

1 small onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, diced or mashed
1 small can tomato paste
2 medium cans petite diced, diced, or stewed italian tomatoes
1 large can petite diced, diced, or stewed italian tomatoes
Use whatever tomato products you have on hand, resorting to plain tomato sauce last!
Palm-ful of Italian seasonings (you can get a bulk, generic Italian seasoning or add thyme, rosemary, parsley, basil all separately... I don't think you can mess it up, honestly!!)
A nice dusting of garlic salt and pepper
Red wine for deglazing
Olive Oil for sauteeing
A spoonful of sugar {just do it!}

Dice up your onion and garlic and throw them in a medium high heat sauce pan with a drizzle of olive oil.  Stir occasionally until your onions are softened and sweet!

* A fun trick to quickly dicing a whole onion... cut the non-root end off then cut a checkerboard pattern down into the sliced off end then slice the onion as if you would normally do for rounds.  Perfectly diced onion! *

At this point, feel free to add any of the following if you wish: sliced mushrooms, diced zucchini, broccoli, grated carrot, ground beef, ground pork, ground turkey (I don't recommend ground lamb however!!!), Italian sausage, ground or precooked and sliced into rounds. Saute it all up to a nice caramelized place.  The kiddos won't even know the veggies are there... if you diced them small enough that is ;-)

This next step is what makes the spaghetti sauce have it's nice rich flavor!  Add the tomato paste to the sauteed onion and add all of your seasonings... including a spoonful of sugar!  Stir over a medium heat and let the paste cook down and become a bit caramelized itself.  When you feel like the paste may start to burn, deglaze the pan with a pour of red wine and let the red wine boil off.  Quickly add your remaining tomato products and stir all together till well mixed.  Give it a taste and adjust any seasonings to your preferences!  Let simmer...

Monday, October 8, 2012

Eggs Christys!

So, the hubby has been making me the most dynamite breakfast... his take on an Eggs Benedict.  What makes it even better??? Most of the ingredients are from our garden.  And isn't it just gorgeous?  I truly am in love!  And when I asked him what he calls his amazing creation, his response, so sweetly, is to name it after me... since he makes it, well, for me :-)  So, here it is, the Eggs Christys, lol!  Hope you enjoy!

Eggs Christys
(Makes 2, so please multiply accordingly for how many mouths you are feeding)
1  English Muffin, divided, toasted
2  Eggs, poached
1  Large heirloom tomato, sliced into 4 large slices
4  Large Basil leaves, julienned
1/4 c. Aged White Cheddar, thinnly grated
dash of salt and pepper (to taste)
drizzle of Olive Oil and Balsamic Vinegar (to taste)

First prepare the tomato by slicing thick, meaty slices.  We use the large heirloom tomatoes from our garden which are thin skinned and extremely sweet.  Julienne the basil and set both aside.

Next you will poach your two eggs and get the muffin toasted.  To assemble, start with your muffin, add the slices of tomato (notice we used two for each muffin half), gently add your poached eggs (one per muffin half), grate your cheese directly onto your egg (or grate ahead of time and add now), sprinkle with the basil, salt, pepper, and drizzle with the Olive Oil and Balsamic Vinegar. 

Simple as that, a beautiful Eggs Christys (still trying to get use to the name without laughing)!  I personally love omitting the hollandaise sauce and replacing it with the cheese and the drizzle of oil and vinegar.  This is such a light and refreshing breakfast that leaves you feeling ready and energized for the day.  Thanks for your creation hunny!

Do you have any great takes on Eggs Benedict?  I'd love to hear what they are!

Saturday, October 6, 2012

A Nature Hunt & Fall Collage

With the beautiful fall weather we have been having, it was time to get outside and enjoy!  We hit up our local park for the day and went on a Nature Hunt with big sis running on foot and little sis happily strapped onto mama.  With a canvas tote in hand we did a little exploring in the oak covered "wild" area in the park.  Any fun little artifact we found, we collected!  When we got home with our bag of goodies, it was time to make our collage!

We started by grabbing any old piece of construction paper and big sis laid everything out where she wanted it to go.  I showed her how to glob the glue on heavily and place her item first, then let her go at it!

Once everything was glued on (well glopped on!), we gave it overnight to dry.  When we woke up this morning, big sis had a beautiful collage to show off to daddy.  She was so proud of her creation!

Have you ever done a Nature Hunt or Collage with your kiddos???  We enjoyed our little project and may make it an annual fall Nature Hunt!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

The Girls' Focal Wall

So my sweet baby girl is now 4 months old and I am finally getting around to finishing her and big sissy's room.  When big sis was born, the room was custom designed just for her... but when sweet little sis came along, we made the big decision to have the girls share... which was great; less work for me to do to prepare for baby #2, but at the same time very sad, well, because there was less work that I got to do!  So... with a few furniture changes (big sis got a new bed!), I was left with a wall to decorate- woo hoo!

Of course, I started this whole process when I was 8 months pregnant... why not, right!?

I, the always frugal and thinking how can I make do with what I have, scrounged through a box of old frames and begged one very willing father in law for some ugly old black mirrors that once hung in my hubby's garage.  I came up with a general layout and knew I wanted to add in some sisterly quotes and other fun projects I have seen on Pinterest as well.  Yes... that belly was crawling around on our living room floor to do this!
After prepping all the frames, I begged the hubby to please, please, please spray paint this stack white, this stack blue, and this stack pink, and he obliged because that's just the kind of awesomeness he is.... and we turned that into this!

And the longer I thought about this wall piece, the more things I realized we already had that would work perfectly... like the random canvas picture of our first daughter, some clay handprints, and some other random frames gathered from around the house.  One of the mirrors I decided to leave a mirror while the second frames I used to create a much needed bow holder.

And then everything just sat.... baby girl came and everything just sat!  The world just seems to spin on without you when you have a newborn.  But now, four moths later, tadah!  The focal wall is up.

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