May 30, 2009

Pink Saturday

These cards were given me for a birthday several years ago and I just love the picture! Isn't it dreamy? It really gives me the feeling of a good dream where everything is going right and I feel really girly; floating away into a pink sky!

Happy Pink Saturday everyone!

May 28, 2009

Spring Children's Book Parade: The Longitude Prize

Today's book post for the Spring Children's Book Parade (hosted by the six o'clock stitch) is The Longitude Prize by Joan Dash.

This wonderful, informative and exciting book details the life and work of John Harrison who spent himself in the creation of a way to measure longitude while traveling the seas. This plainly written story will have you on the edge of your seat and marveling at the scientific minds which competed for The Longitude Prize, a reward offered by act of Parliament for the discovery of a safe way to measure location when at sea. Though Harrison was not well-to-do, nor formally educated, and though at many times he was scoffed at, children and adult readers alike will find themselves rooting for this man who persevered and changed world travel through his inventions.

This is another one of those gems that comes along every once in awhile which is bound to become a classic! Dash's writing sets out the history of great scientific discovery in a way which gets right to the human element and which is easy to understand. (Another lovely book in this style is How We Found Out About Germs by Isaac Asimov, which is unfortunately out of print, but worth searching out). I highly recommend finding a copy of this book to read, particularly if you have children who show a bent toward the sciences. Happy Reading!

Note: I found out about this excellent book through the Bluedorns, a family in Illinois who also publish homeschooling materials and have a very helpful website, Trivium Pursuit. The Bluedorns have published a book called Hand That Rocks The Cradle. In Hand That Rocks The Cradle, the Bluedorn's son Nathaniel has compiled the pertinent information on over 400 of their family's favourite books from over 25 years of learning and reading aloud as a family.

Please stop by the the six o'clock stitch and check out all the comments on the Spring Children's Book Parade to find out what books are beloved by other readers - maybe you'll find yourself a new family favourite!

Alexander Henry Fabric Giveaway

See Mommy Sew is having a giveaway today (open until Sunday) of some lovely Alexander Henry Fabric as part of the May Giveaway Day hosted by Sew Mama Sew. See Mommy Sew is a great site: she has a tutorial for a Maternity Skirt that I can't wait to try.

So head over to enter the drawing for the fabric, check out the awesome website, and then make sure to check out the list at Sew Mama Sew for all the other amazing Giveaways on the blogosphere today!

May 27, 2009

Breastfeeding DVD Giveaway

Hey all! I'm sure everyone in Bloggy-world knows that today is May Giveaway Day (hosted by Sew Mama Sew!). Well Momma in Flip Flops is participating by hosting a giveaway of this fabulous DVD for all the Mommas out there who are trying to breastfeed their tykes. I'm one of those mommas so I hope I win! The DVD is donated by My Baby Experts and features Sheri Criso, a lactation specialist and allaround awsome mommy and business woman. If you live in Northern NJ, I highly recomend you check out her store, The Birth Boutique in Denville. Beautiful products, great workshops and amazing, dedicated, helpful staff! Anyway, scoot over and enter to win the DVD and then check out My Baby Experts - you'll be glad you did!

Spring Children's Book Parade: Tales of the Kingdom

Today's book post for the Spring Children's Book Parade (hosted by the six o'clock stitch) is Tales of the Kingdom by David and Karen Mains and illustrated by Jack Stockman.

This is a lovely book that I read as a child and remains one of my very favourite books to this day. The story is very consuming, drawing you effortlessly into a world in which an enchanter has turned a city upside-down but where hope persists of a kingdom not ruled by fear, where things will be made right again. The story is told through the eyes of Hero who sets off in search of this kingdom and we find in the book about a dozen chapters, each of which builds upon the last toward the climax of the book, but which may also be read independantly. The book is the first in a trilogy which continues in Tales of the Resistance (also amazing, also illustrated by Stockman), and concludes with Tales of the Restoration.

I must say that, although the stories are wonderful, the book is not the same if you experience it without the phenomenal watercolor illustrations by Jack Stockman. They so truly express the joys and fears of the world we read about in the stories. As a child I took this book out from the library to read hundreds of times and I would spent hours poring over the full page illustrations wishing I was the princess Amanda or that I knew Mercy and Caretaker. Unfortunately, only the hardcover first edition (1983, Chariot Family Publishing) of the book was so illustrated and newer editions have really mediocre illustrations which would be better left out. However the book itself is worth reading even without the pictues and I really recommend trying to find a copy or borrow or buy!

(You may be interested to note some of Jack Stockman's other work: here, here and here.)

Please stop by the six o'clock stitch and read the comments on the Spring Children's Book Parade to find out what books other readers recommend!

May 26, 2009

Spring Children's Book Parade: The Velveteen Rabbit

Today's book post for the Spring Children's Book Parade (hosted by the six o'clock stitch) is The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams.

Of course this is many, many people's favourite children's book, but I do feel the need to highlight some excellent Velveteen Rabbit products which I've truly enjoyed. The version of the book which I think is really most beautiful (and I've looked at many, many editions) is the large, hard-bound one with illustrations in oil by Donna Green. Her oil paintings are so warm and right at-kid-level; you really feel like you are right there with the Boy. (By-the-by, I've found this poster on of the Donna Green cover art from this edition of the book.)

For those of you who don't know the book, The Velveteen Rabbit is a lovely, sweet (and somewhat sad at times) story about a toy rabbit who loves his boy very, very much and longs to become Real, which of course can only happen to a toy if they are really loved back by their child.

My mother-in-law was over watching my boy yesterday and asked to borrow the book:
"I forgot how good this book was...I'm halfway through...can I borrow it and finish?"

I also highly recommend the audio version of The Velveteen Rabbit which is read beautifully by Meryl Streep and is set to a haunting soundtrack by pianist George Winston (produced by Windham Hill Records). My standard baby shower gift is a copy of the book along with the CD. (Note: the audio version is edited/abridged, I suppose for ease of reading, but it is not butchered).

My mother-in-law was here watching my boy yesterday and asked to borrow the book: "I forgot how good this book was...I'm halfway through...can I barrow it and finish?" I can't wait to read this to my son; why wait - I'll do it tonight!

Please go and check out these versions of a much-beloved classic, and after that, stop by the six o'clock stitch and check in on the Spring Children's Book Parade to get some great book recommendations from other readers!

May 25, 2009

Spring Children's Book Parade: Food Fight!

Today's book post for the Spring Children's Book Parade (hosted by the six o'clock stitch) is Food Fight! by Carol Diggory Shields.

This is a fabulous book!! As I said yesterday, I don't often like "new" books, but this one's an exception. The premise of the story is that all the foods in the fridge just go cuckoo-crazy after we're all in bed at night. The story is in rhyme, with repeating phrases so it's a lot of fun to read with our preschooler and the illustrations are very comical and really, really well executed. Doreen Gay-Kassel did all the illustrations in clay and the personalities of each food are expressed on their "faces". I really do wish I had a picture to show of the illustrations up-close - they are impressive!

This was one of my favourite books to read with my niece before she got too old for it :( I highly recommend that you try to get your hands on a copy of this book!!
Make sure to stop by the six o'clock stitch and look in on the Spring Children's Book Parade to find out what books other readers recommend!

May 24, 2009

Spring Children's Book Parade: Zen Shorts

The six o'clock stitch is hosting the Spring Children's Book Parade and I've decided to participate and post several of my favourite children's books here. I absolutely love children's books and illustrations. I particularly enjoy classics but every now and then some newer books come to my attention which get under my skin and into my psyche just as much as the old standbys. Zen Shorts by Jon J. Muth is just such a one. This book is all about Stillwater the Panda and the friendship and influence he has with the three children who are his neighbors. The book is really a series of interactions with the children as Stillwater tells each one a story to help them understand or cope with something their little minds mulling over (i.e. "And the moral of the story is..."). The book has a very quiet tone, and a sort of lazy-summer-afternoon pace which I happen to really enjoy.

But the real kicker about this book is the illustrations (Jon J Muth is the authour and illustrator). The watercolors are gorgeous - I mean really, I could sit and turn the pages for hours staring at each illustration. The colors are soft but rich, the washes sweeping and simple (complimenting the slow pace), and the layout is very well-done. The full-colour, full-page layouts make me want to rip the pages out and hang them all over my walls!

Please check out this and other books by Jon J Muth. He has also written a sequal called Zen Ties (which I have not read) and The Three Questions (a recrafting of Tolstoy), but Zen Shorts is by far my very favourite of his books! So head to your local bookstore or library and check them out!!

Please stop by the six o'clock stitch and to see the Spring Children's Book Parade and check out the books other readers recommend!

May 23, 2009

Pink Saturday

Here's my addition to Beverly's Pink Saturday over at How Sweet the Sound.

How's this for pink?

I bought this fabric a couple of weeks ago - only a quarter yard - just because it was SO PINK and so happy and bright. I have no idea what I'm going to do with it, but I'm glad it's part of my stash now! Happy (Pink) Saturday!

May 16, 2009

Pink Saturday

How's that for a little bit of pink perfection?

Gabriel James
born May 11, 2009
at 8 lbs even
to the happiest parents in the world!!

To see lots of other nice pink thoughts today, check out all the posts for Beverly's Pink Saturday over at How Sweet the Sound.

May 15, 2009

Spring Swap

Last Saturday I posted part of a painting I'd been working on. It had barely taken form then, but I've since finished it and put it in the mail, as it was an item for a swap. Here's the (completed) 8x10 piece I sent my partner as part of the Spring Swap hosted by the 6 o'clock stitch:
I hope Corinna will enjoy the little bit of Spring sunshine I made for her!

May 14, 2009

Rice Heat Therapy Bag

I made a rice-filled heat therapy bag tonight to take with me to the hospital whenever my baby decides he or she is ready to come meet us. We have a heat pack already, but it's one of those hot/cold ones, so I decided to put that in the freezer and just make a heat pack so I'll have both if I need 'em. I followed this great tutorial at Sew, Mama, Sew! and these are the results.

It kind of looks like a Neopolitan cookie to me. Is that weird?

I really only looked at the pictures and briefly glanced at the instructions because I (stupidly) didn't feel like following the directions and I already had a piece of muslin for the inner bag but it wasn't the size called for so I went and figured it out as I went.

Note to self: you stink at math, and you always under-estimate how long and hard things are going to be. Self, next time, follow the directions and save yourself the trouble, okay?

May 13, 2009

Easy Fudgy Poached Pears Desert

I wanted to make a special desert (not just packaged cookies or ice cream) for my DH the other day but I had very little time to put into it (so no baking). I used a recipe from Rachael Ray which turned out really well...and kinda pretty too!

Isn't the dish funny? I love these - they were my grandmother's banana split dishes. Who knew they even made a dish for that purpose?! Anyway, I was pretty surprised how easy the recipe was to make and how good it tasted for only having a handful of ingredients. This isn't one you'll want to make for health reasons, but it was delicious, quick and special , which fit the bill for the night!

Easy Fudgy Poached Pears

This literally took 20 minutes tops and almost no work at all! Rachael says it serves 4, but we're cafoni, so hubs and I had no problem eating the whole thing!
  • 2 cans pears in heavy syrup, 15 ounces
  • 4 tablespoons amaretto or dark rum
  • 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate chips or, chop up a bar
  • 1 pint ice cream
1. Open cans of pears, and drain syrup into a small saucepan. Reduce the syrup (boil, stirring over med-high heat) for 15 minutes or so. At the end, at the liquor and continue heating another minute or two (or you could pull it off the heat and add extract of almond or amaretto flavouring if you don't have liquor). Stir in the chocolate until it's melted - the thick syrup will make it fudgy!

2. Slice up the pears into dishes and pour the chocolate over top. Top with ice cream. Rachael suggests french vanilla - I used chunky monkey, I think.

**Note that pear IN HEAVY SYRUP are necessary for the success of the fudgy sauce - if they're in juice it won't thicken up right.

**You can probably use milk chocolate chips too if you don't have dark or bittersweet (though I strongly suggest you stick to the darker chocolate - it goes really well with the pears). I used semi-sweet baking chocolate squares.

May 12, 2009

The Baby Blanket is done!!

I set about to make this baby blanket for one of DH's expecting co-workers ages ago: and was actually off to a great start. I got three quarters of the way done in two days and then just ran out of knitting-steam. Somehow it took me another two or three weeks to finish knitting, another 2 weeks to block it, and now, a month after blocking, I've just finally made the card with care instructions (no fancy labels for me) and wrapped it up. Good grief!

Well, I think she'll like it just the same. I used a pattern from one of the S'n'B books, this one I think. It's so easy, I don't even use the pattern anymore, but it is beautiful in it's simplicity. Also it's very masculine for a knitted blanket and well suited to bold colors. It's definitely my go-to for handmade baby gifts.

This picture shows the pattern well...

But the color of the yarn is much accurate in this one.

Congratulations Maureen on the birth of little Charlie!!

May 11, 2009

Take Out Menu Folder

This is a great idea from A Spoonful of sugar. I found the take out menu tutorial to be more of a jumping off point and inspiration.

I ended up using a regular 1/2 inch binder for 8 1/2 x 11 paper (not the A4 the tute called for which would fit paper about 5 1/2 x 8 1/2) just because that's what I had laying around and because my takeout menus are large.

  • I also used plastic pockets instead of the clear plastic cases; again, I just had them in the house. They happened to match my paper color scheme too!

May 10, 2009

Baby Shower photos

Like I said awhile back, my DH had a surprise baby shower thrown for him by the other teachers at his school. This is the amazing cake someone made for him:

He's sort of known as "the tech guy" at school mostly because he's young and comfortable with technology but also because he recently obtained his master's degree in technology in education.

This diaper cake is adorable too:

It must have taken so long to make!

I'm so glad they threw him a shower. He wasn't expecting it at all and it meant a lot to him, dear man.

May 9, 2009

Pink Saturday

Well this is my first Saturday posting as a part of Beverly's Pink Saturday over at How Sweet the Sound. Thanks to Beverly for organizing this and for allowing me to participate! Make sure to go over to How Sweet the Sound and check out everyone else's posts today! Here's my addition to Beverly's Pink Saturday this week:

This is a watercolor I had been working on. At this point the poppies were pink, but later they became red and yellow! I sent it to my swap partner for the Spring Swap hosted by the 6 o'clock stitch. I really like poppies and always have. They are a wonderfully graceful, yet unpretentious flower.

(Have you ever driven through Washington, DC or through Virginia in the spring? If you haven't, you should. The highways are lined with poppies and it makes for a lovely road trip.)

Have a happy Pink Saturday!

May 8, 2009

Mother's Day

I finally got our Mother's Day cards and gifts taken care of! Whew! I always put these things off until the last minute but this year with the baby coming, I can't be sure that last minute will even be an option. I thing the wrapping turned out nice (except that I ran out of double sided tape though so you can see the scotch tape on the sides - I'm OCD about that). Of course it turned out nice! I reused the wrapping from the package I received from Kimberly in the Pink and Green Swap! Let's call it my late contribution to Earth Day.

I am messing about with my camera some more, and I like how I was able to get the back to fade out in this picture using the lowest aperture. I can't believe how amazing our camera is - what a great investment!

I also (almost) finished the cards for my mom and my mother-in-law. I used this great message gift box tutorial (and free template download!) created by Cathe Holden and hosted by Amy at Living Locurto. As you can see there are two different template themes...this manila one:

And this Victorian/Shabby Chic style:

Now all I have to do is sit down with hubby and write "reasons I love you" on the little cards to stuff in the boxes. That's the easy part! The template download for each style includes at elast one card (sized about 2x3 inches) but instead of using it as a template to cut out more, I used these lined notes from A Print A Day.

May 7, 2009

Nikon D60

I love having these little plants on my window sills. It helps me forget that I don't have a yard or a garden! I can just sit by the window and stare at my two pansies and pretend they're bigger and healthier than they actually are!

Does anyone else think it's amazing what digital cameras can do these days? I can't believe the photos my Nikon D60 can take. This flower here is no bigger than a dime and it's so clear!

I know that for people who actually know how to use a camera, this is probably not earth shattering. But I can't get over it! For someone like me, who as a kid would use an entire roll of film (remember that stuff) taking close ups of flowers with her Mickey Mouse Camera, only to find the pictures were a Blurry Mess, this is pretty exciting stuff!

May 6, 2009

Lunch Bots Giveaway

Go Graham Go is hosting a giveaway for these lunch boxes, but it closes today so you've gotta get your hurry on if you're going to enter. Even if the giveaway is closed the time you read this, please check out Lunch Bots. Their product is really quite fabulous. I'm trying right now to eliminate any plastic (particularly any than might end up heating in the microwave) from hubby's lunch. These containers are ALL metal (even the colorful lid) so they're perfect for storing sammies and snackies. and they come in a single (the Uno) or double (the Duo) compartment style. I think I'm going to get one of the Unos to put DH's sandwiches in. Right now I use waxed paper, but that's pretty wasteful :(

I do wish SOMEONE would invent a container that is safe to use in the microwave (lets face it - the microwave is here to stay) and is transportable. It could be a glass container like this Pyrex one, but would fit inside a removable, sealed rubber or plastic compartment to cushion the glass - like a thermos, but sized for a meal of regular solid food. Hey maybe I should invent that! Don't anyone be stealing my ideas and making zillions without me!

Green & White Swap

Well, I finally got my package put together, wrapped and mailed out yesterday for the Crisp & Clean White & Green Swap jointly hosted by Foxgloves, Fabric &Folly and Mommy Holly. I sure hope Sherri enjoys her package!

May 4, 2009

Spring Swap

Yet another fun swap, hosted by the 6 o'clock stitch: everyone is swapping an 8x10 inch art piece in the medium of their choice. The only parameters are the size and that it must be spring themed and include the colors red & yellow somewhere in it. I love the openness of this one: follow 3 little rules and let your creativity run wild. I'm looking forward to seeing the diverse ideas everyone will bring to life!

Care Package - Hugs In A Box

So a girlfriend of mine who lives out of state was having a rough time a while back (I think things are starting to look up now though!) and so I put together a care package for her. I hope she knows how very much she is loved and missed around here! I think these kind of little things help so much to cheer people up: an unexpected email or card, cookies in the mail, someone dropping by just to give you a hug. Personally, those are the things that mean the most to me when I'm blue or discouraged and I've been so blessed to have friends who've shown me love like that in the past.

One dear friend sent me an arrangement of roses in a mug one Valentine's Day with a note from her and newborn boy. It was such a God-send that year: the first year when all my closest friends were married or paired off and I wasn't yet. I soooo needed that and we hadn't even spoken recently; she just seemed to know!

How do you help a friend who is down in the dumps?

May 2, 2009

Patriotic Swap

Foxgloves, Fabric and Folly is hosting another great swap and I can't help myself - the idea is too good! Her "Very Vintage Fourth Of July Swap" sounds like such a good time! And it puts me in the mood for summer americana and lemonade and cherry pie...Oooh I'm getting tingly. I just love long summer days and I think this will be a really fun way to get in the spirit ahead of time. The swap is set to close on May 15th and then the mailing date is set for June 15th, so everyone will get their packages in time to enjoy them before Independence Day. Make sure you sign up soon to get in on the fun!

Speaking of all the things of summer that I long for during the bleak months of winter, I made a cherry pie yesterday. I am very "frugal" so, when cherries (which I love and can't get enough of when they're fresh) are in season and are at their lowest price for the season at my local farmer's market, I purchase scads of them and spends hours pitting them to freeze for the winter.

(DH constantly asks, "Is this really worth it?" To which I respond, "Pooh...merely a trifle", as I wipe the gathering beads of sweat from my brow when he's not looking. I know he's probably right...but still!)

In theory these frozen goods will be used for delectable pies and mouth-watering cobblers throughout the year, but in practice I inevitably end up making loads of baked goods just in time for the sweet red things to come in season again. Oh well. Whenever we end up eating them, they still taste good, so who's really keeping track? (DH, that's who.) Anyway, here's the pie I made:

It was good but not great. I used suggestions from The Joy of Cooking (ed. circa 1970), which usually hits it out of the park, but I think on pies, they're off. Those little white flecks on the fruit peaking through the vents- that's not sugar. It's undissolved instant tapioca. And, hey, maybe you like your pies gummy and solid like they just came out of the display case at the diner. Some people do. I'm just not one of them.

I like the juice from the fruit to remain juice, just a little thicker. I think next time, instead of tapioca, I'll just stir 1 T sugar (not with fresh fruit - only frozen), 3 T flour, and 2 T lemon juice into the fruit before I put it into the pie shell. And there will definitely be a next time: I still have 8 cups of cherries left in the freezer!!

May 1, 2009

Pink and Green Swap

I didn't get time to write about it yesterday, but I received my Pink & Green Swap package from my wonderful swap-partner, Kimberly, over at Serendipit-Us. Sarah at Blue Castle hosted this nifty swap in conjunction with Melody at Three Boys and a Dog. When I was sent my info I was so pleased to find Kimberly was my partner for my first swap; it was really fun exploring her blog and exchanging emails. And boy did she get my style down to a pat!

Here's what I sent Kimberly:

These earrings were from a great little art-jewelry shop in
Burlington, VT. I wish I could remember the name of that place!

I hope she enjoyed her package as much as I did mine because when I opened mine, I was like a kid in a candy store. Look how cute the packaging is! The little pearly white flowers were such a nice touch and she sent a sweet note too:

Kimberly sent me these lovely shabby-chic stationary items: note cards, sweet tiny gift tags, pretty pens, a pretty clipboard and covered note pad and, my favourite, flowered file folders.
I also received these really cool oink and green "takeout boxes" and lots of scrapbook embellishments. Kimberly is sooooo thoughtful; see the embellishments on the left? They're baby stickers for me to use when my little one comes this week (I hope)!

Last, but certainly not least, she made this art piece for me:

I can't believe how chock-full of goodies my box was and the care my partner put into choosing them. Thank you, Kimberly! My first swap was definitely a great experience!

Update: If yo want to check out all the other great swap packages, check them out here.

Finally, Spring is here to stay!

I know because even after our "heat wave" of 90 degree weather for 5 days straight, it steel feels comfortable at 60 and the flowers and trees continue to thrive (not shrivel up in shock at the drop in temperature). And these are everywhere:

As big and wobbly as I am, when I saw their happy purple faces greeting me outside the kitchen window, I knew I had to have them inside with me. So I got out my scissors, went outside, got into my best squat (my Bradley instructor would be so proud) and cut away. And let me tell you - it was a workout! But totally worth it!

After admiring my little violet friends on the table, I decided to put to good use the information I gleaned from Whip Up yesterday. I've always struggled with how to put a camera to good use; I feel like I should just hand it to someone who knows what they're doing and yet I want to learn! You can take a million shots, but I hate just snapping away and hoping that, maybe, one will come out well. Well I wouldn't say I'm now an expert or even a little bit good, but the tips I read (and links I followed) were tremendously helpful. E.g. "Well, of course, good lighting is key, but what does that mean, and how do I achieve it? Ohhh...that's how!" I hope to get better and better over time! One trick I used this morning was to bounce light back into the composition from opposite the light source in order to soften the shadows. This is what I used:

You like? It's a plastic dough board for rolling out crusts! I used the other side which is flat and white and you know worked!! My white sheet could have been a little more wrinkle-free though...