Friday, October 28, 2011

Just EAT It!

I'm sure you guys remember how delighted - and, I'll admit it, slightly smug - I was when my baby girl started eating food? She ate everything I gave her (aside from peas and peaches) and asked for more. It was so exciting! It was so much fun! I made purees and brown rice cereal until my freezer was full.

Well, now she's two, and she wants to be in charge of stuff. One of the few things that she can actually control is what goes in to her mouth... so she does. Because of the variety in what she will actually eat, our pediatrician agrees that this is a control issue and not just picky eating. Unfortunately, control issues can take longer to grow out of :-/

It's hard, ya'll. I love food. I love to cook. I firmly believe in not making a separate meal for children. This means that as a family, we've been eating a lot of boring stuff lately because Lily Ruth's sticking points are spice and stuff that's mixed. I occasionally lose my mind and make something spicy or a soup or spaghetti sauce and give my daughter leftovers from a previous night, but it's getting old.

My redemption may be here. Right as I began to really worry about her food intake, I had several different people mention Deceptively Delicious to me. Around the third time someone referenced it, I finally listened (obviously the Universe is feeling pushy) and grabbed a copy.

Of course, I've had it for two weeks, and just got around to making my first batch or purees... The concept is simple, and sounds foolproof - you add vegetable (and sometimes fruit) purees to almost everything you cook. You also continue to offer veggie and fruits in their un-pureed forms with every meal, but if it takes your kiddo a while to incorporate them into their list of acceptable foods, they'll still be getting all of the benefits on the sly.

Today, I steamed and pureed carrot, butternut squash, calabacita squash (a Mexican name for summer squash - mine was green and white) and cauliflower. I also have broccoli, but I got tired of the process, so I'll do it later... maybe...

Here's what I ended up with:

from left to right:
1 Lb carrots = 1 1/2 cups puree
1 head cauliflower = 3 cups puree
a 3 Lb butternut squash = 3 1/2 cups puree
1 1/2 Lbs calabacitas = 3 cups puree

The only thing that I'm not fond of is the waste involved in using the baggies. By the time I was done with the butternut squash, I felt very guilty. Luckily for my conscience, I had a few containers left from Lily's baby days that hold exactly 1/2 cup (the portion size suggested by the cookbook). 

I'm going to make her Rice Balls recipe tonight. It uses brown rice, chicken, purees and spices made into balls and baked... mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm...  I'll let you know how it goes!

** Update: The Rice Balls were very good! I ended up punting on the final prep because I left half of the recipe at home... typical :-P... The adults loved them. The kids were suspicious, but seemed to like them. Definitely one to try again!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Cowgirl Reveal!

Ya'll, I DID IT! I made a costume! Of course, I had to wait until Lily Ruth was at Parent's Day Out so that I could finish it, so she's not here to model it yet... but I'm too excited to wait!

Here's how it went down:

I made patterns for the yoke and cuffs by tracing the outlines of the onesie directly onto parchment baking paper. Then I added 1/4" seam allowances all of the way around. For the cuffs, I also angled the edges so that they'll stand away from the sleeves.

I spent a while getting the design placed the way that I wanted it. It's a good thing that parchment paper and pencils (and erasers) are so compatible...

I 'bulked up' the yellow fabric for the yoke with heat-n-bond fusible interfacing, then I used a low iron to flatten my pattern onto the fabric. Now it was time to pin then cut out my yoke:

Then I cut notches into the seam allowance so that my edge would lie flat:

After a failed concept, 

- I have no idea what happened there or why I thought it would work. I ended up with 4 small pieces of completely unusable fabric :-/

I cut 2 yellow cuffs:

Then I decided to bulk up the cuffs with yellow crafting felt, so I cut some of that too:

Once I ironed down and stitched all of my edges, I added red puffy fabric paint to the edges:

Now it was time to add the detail to the yoke. I was stumped as to how I could match my painstakingly carefully drawn pattern... until I was struck by genius - I poked the entire line with a sewing pin, placed the pattern back onto the yoke, and followed my now-dotted line with a red marker (red in case any of it showed through the trim...):

It was a huge pain in the ass to hand-guide the trim along the line under my sewing machine foot, but it was totally worth it. I didn't have to hand-stitch the entire thing, AND it is securely attached.

Next, I used embroidery thread to tack cow print 'chaps' to her jeans:

For her belt, I used scrapbook specialty paper. I actually SEWED paper, ya'll. I cut 2 strips of suede-feel paper that were just under 2" wide (her belt loops are right at 1"). I connected the strips, used a low iron to turn both edges in, then sewed them down with red thread. I cut a cardboard oval, sewed 2 loops to the back and used a hot glue gun to cover it with gold paper - voila! belt:

Then is was just the tedious business of taking the yoke and cuffs to the onesie. I decided to go with snaps on the shoulders (I now hate snaps) and quick stitches at the bottom (corner points only) because I want to be able to detach this stuff after Halloween and use the onesie for the rest of winter. The cuffs are stitched with embroidery thread, and will come of easily... Oh, and I added white lacing to the awesome cowboy hat that our friends found for us... *need a minute to catch my breath* *WHEW!*

Enough talk - here it is!!!

Don't look too closely - it is far from perfect. Fabric paint is HARD, ya'll... but I love the way that it turned out :-) and my little cowgirl is pretty excited too...

I picked her up early from Parent's Day Out, and plopped her on the kitchen table to check it out. 'Is foe ME?!':

And approximately .05 seconds later 'I a COWGIRL! Ee-HAW!!!!':

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

A Day to Remember

Warning: If you are tired of looking at pictures of my daughter playing with animals, then you should skip this post!

We went to the aquarium again, ya'll! Lily Ruth's daddy had to work down there one day last week, so we went with him. Poor Daddy. We get to play, and he gets to sit in depositions...

Lily Ruth and I arrived just after they opened. It was very cool. Some of the trainers were cleaning the dolphin tank, and we got to wave at them and watch them use the same vacuum that we have for our pool. Then we wandered over to the amphitheater where they have the bird show. We watched an anteater take a sunbath for a while:

We wandered over and made silly faces at otters and pet a few rays. Then we went back to the dolphin enclosure just in time to see them come out for the morning! Lily Ruth ran along the window with them yelling 'Mama! My FRIENDS are HERE!'

Then the four of them shared a quiet moment:

THEN one of them came over by himself to smile at her!

She was terrified and ecstatic all at once. It was so exciting that we had to stay down there for a while...

We wandered back out to the bird theater in time for the show so that we could see our friend the anteater again. Lily Ruth actually ran down the steps in the middle of the show, and almost made it on stage to see her friend again! We stayed after the show, and got to know a bird:

But here's the best part - we asked nicely, and the trainers brought our friend back out for us! We got to pet her!!!

She was looking right at the camera with her darling face until I pressed the button :-/ That's Lily Ruth's hand in the bottom left corner. She's approaching an animal just like I taught her - slowly, quietly and with the back of her hand :-) Our anteater friend has an unbelievably soft nose, really rough, scratchy fur and she smelled like a ferret. It. was. awesome.

We did lots of other stuff like watching hermit crabs, yelling at otters, walking out on the boardwalk and melting down in the gift shop but our quiet, solo encounters with the dolphins and the anteater blew all of that away.

I love you, Lily Ruth. I can't wait until the day we can get in the dolphin tank together!

Monday, October 24, 2011

... crud.

Ya'll, I've been documenting the cowgirl-costume-creation process with my camera... and now I can't find my camera. Fingers crossed that it's over at my friend's house. We threw a small party to go along with the 20 year high school reunion. I may or may not have left my heels, a cd of a another good friend playing the guitar, my camera and my dignity over there. *sigh* I'll call him later and find out.


I found the camera - buried under the costume pieces on the dining room table. Apparently it never made it over to the reunion party. It's for the best :-P

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Almost a Cowgirl

Ya'll, I have everything that I need to start le costume!

I've even started my paper templates!!! After much thought and a discussion with my mama (who has made MANY costumes for me over the years), I decided to use a onesie instead of a button-down shirt or a T-shirt as the base for the top. The onesie is soft, and will stay tucked in to her pants. It will also help keep her pants up since her tiny hips are so dang narrow!

The shirt yoke will be yellow cotton. I bought clear snaps so that the shoulders can be straight across instead of following the shoulder line of the onesie. My plan is to cut a paper pattern for the yoke by tracing straight off the onesie (here is my rough draft).

I'll add a small seam allowance then cut it out of yellow. Add a hem all the way around for nice edges, then red trim for the decoration across the front. Red fabric paint for the scallop along the bottom. I'll actually attach the yoke on the sides and bottom, but the shoulders will have the snaps.

The cuffs will be the same yellow fabric with the design in red paint. The collar will be white felt. I have no idea how I'm going to attach it. Perhaps my mom will have a genius idea... she usually does.

The cow print is for the chaps - those will be tacked onto her jeans with a loose, long stitch that I can easily remove after Halloween. The brown and gold in the bottom right corner are actually specialty scrapbook paper. The brown is suede texture and the gold is a dusky metallic. Those will become her belt.

Crud. I still don't have the white lacing for her hat. They only had HUGE spools of it at JoAnn, so I decided to try Michael's... and I forgot to stop there on the way home :-( My blood sugar must be low.

I'M SO EXCITED! I can't wait to really get started! Can you come over and help me?

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

What Are YOU Going to Be?

Lily Ruth has made her decision, and it's final. She wants to be Jessie - the cowgirl from Toy Story 3.

We spent some time talking about what a costume is and looking at pictures from last year when she was my little (crying) imp... (notice how miserable all 3 kids are :-P the moms had to step in and hold them just to get one picture!)

Once I felt like she had the concept of what a costume is, I sat her on the floor with a costume catalog to do some serious research. She was intrigued by the fuzzy infant outfits, but as soon as she saw Jessie, she was hooked. Even after perusing the rest of the pages, she remained firm in her decision. She does not want to be an dog or a cat or a dinosaur. She does not want to be a fairy or a princess or a ballerina. She wants to be Jesse. Period.

I looked around a little bit on line, but it seems that all of the Jesse costumes start at size 3T. Well, Lily Ruth is not a 3T yet... soooooooooo... I'm going to make her costume. If I catch even the smallest break, it should be pretty easy. I bought the yellow for her yoke and cuffs, big pearly buttons and the red braid for trim. A friend found the hat - it just needs white accents:

(She loves the hat. It may not make it until Halloween.) So, really all I need is a white shirt and some felt to make 'chaps' with! Easy peasy, right? We'll see.

*sigh* Now I just need to figure out what I can be with the least amount of effort and cash. I'll keep you posted.

Oh - I almost forgot to tell you! Remember the awesome flower throw pillow? Well, I still need to take the plunge and finish the red one, but I also have the stuff to make another one! Should it be turquoise or hot pink?

Oh, AND my twenty year high school reunion is this weekend. If anything outrageous happens... well, I won't post it here ;-)

Friday, October 7, 2011

Flower Power


Ya'll, check it out:

I MADE THAT! Me! I followed directions and they worked so now I have the cool part of a new throw pillow done! Now I just need to assemble the pillow and attach my very first zipper (:-/). If it goes well, I'll let you know. If it is a patheti-sad failure, you'll never hear of this again... but for now:

*sigh* :-)

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Bleary-Eyed Yet Happy

Last night was one of those True Test of Your Mettle nights. I had a hard time settling in. Pretty much the instant that my body relaxed, Lily Ruth woke up crying and really hot to the touch. Those who have been or currently are mothers of toddlers know that administering any sort of fever-reducer is usually an experience that is pretty closely akin to wrestling a cranky alligator. I wasn't about to try it in the middle of the night unless she was unable to sleep. Luckily for me, moving into mama's bed with her pillow and blanket was enough to put her back to sleep. Me, not so much.

It was constant, and it was ALL NIGHT. Every 30 minutes or so, the baby would jerk herself awake and yell 'WHAT HAPPENED?' or the dog would use her clickiest toenails and pokiest nose to force me into letting her (and the cat) out or I would snore myself awake or the dog (and the cat) wanted back in or the baby kicked off all of her covers and now wants mine... all. night. long. Add in periodic Mama Checks to see what the fever situation was, and the total is No Rest For Mama.

Due to the sleep (or lack thereof) situation, I did not have high expectations of today. I knew that I couldn't take Lily in to Parent's Day Out, and I assumed that her fever would last most of today. I pictured a fairly whine-y, low-key day on the couch. I pictured wrong.

Lily Ruth woke up feeling a bit tender-hearted, but was fever-free. I mixed some tylenol into her juice anyway. Aside from forgoing breakfast, she seemed to feel great. When our play time erupted into a full-blown game of chase around 10 am, I decided to see how much we could do.

First, a trip to Payless for shoes. A friend had purchased a pair of cute baby sneakers there, and we have almost zero fall/winter shoes, so I needed to scope it out. Damn them. Princess shoes. Everywhere. Instead of sneakers with cool stripes and brown suede Mary Janes (my first choices for her), we ended up with these:

The camera doesn't lie, my friend. You really do see pink glitter Disney Princess shoes. There are no princess pictures on the outside of the shoes (I have to draw the line somewhere, right?). Just glitter, rhinestones and bows. She is in hooooog heaven. "I pick out dese shoes fo ME!"

After a quick bite to eat at Jimmy John's that included showing off her shoes to everyone in line and a light spot of chair dancing, we proceeded to the zoo. The weather is finally changing here. A week or two ago, we wouldn't have made it through the zoo at noon. Today was humid, but nice...

You know what? Today was a gift. A giant, bow-wrapped gift. The flamingos didn't stink. The otters were out playing. The Nile crocodile swam STRAIGHT AT US (giving us the ol' stink-eye the entire time) and then turned and floated (still with the stink-eye) so that we could see him up close. The Loris were fairly polite and only one of them landed on Lily Ruth's head (and she didn't panic!). We got a cool lesson in goat behavior from a keeper and a hormonal 4-year-old goat. The female hippo hung out with us and even pressed up to the glass for several moments of 'kissing':

Lily Ruth told her about the new shoes! Then the Nile Crocodile swam up to us AGAIN. A 'Sneaky Chicken' (Guinea Hen) walked up to us, but did not (for once) bite Lily Ruth. The African Wild Dogs were frisky and silly. We got to see the sharks eat... *WHEW* It was amazing. We've never had such an incredible day at the zoo. A true blessing. The kind of experience that refills your well.

I really needed that. I don't even care that I'm tired. I feel good.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Make Some Stuff, Eat Some Stuff

Today's recipes: Baked Chicken Bites and Buffalo Ranch Chicken Sandwiches (mmmmmmmmmmmmmm...)

My burst of energy continues! I have interviewed for a job, have lined up a 'discussion' regarding another position, and have gone in to work at my current (on-call) job all in the last week! I have also made something and purchased (most of) the supplies to make a few more things. Oh, and I've been cooking. WHEW!

Let's talk crafts first. I (finally) finished Lily Ruth's blanket. I bought new needles for my sewing machine, and adjusted the bobbin tension yet again (I had tinkered with it when I was shirring, and hadn't been able to get it back to regular :-/), and now it sews like new again! Here's Lily Ruth's Daddy modeling how the blanket works:

And here is a very subdued Lily Ruth with her Lucy and her 'FOG BANKET!'


Jess at Craftiness Is Not Optional shared a tutorial link that I am soooo excited to try. It's a flower petal pillow that may or may not change my life. Alright, fine. Pillows don't change your life, but wrapping your brain around a tutorial then completing a project sure is good for the soul... if you're me... if you're you, you should probably find your own bliss. Since I happen to be me (and not you), I purchased supplies to make said pillow and change my life refresh my couch. The red and pink are for the flowers (duh). The beige is an indoor-outdoor fabric that I hope will hold up well as a pillow. The circle templates are 3 1/2 and 2 1/2 inches. Once the circles are cut out, you cut them in half, and voila - petals.

Now I just have to find time to cut out 50 felt circles and start sewing... Wait, I bought enough stuff for TWO pillows. That means 100 felt circles! Gack. I'll pay you ten bucks to come over and cut out circles for me. *edit: I buckled down and started cutting circles. It went super-duper fast!*


While I was waiting in line for the cutting counter at JoAnn, I got sucked into buying more stuff. I'm pretty sure that's their plan. Those ladies move like they're wading through molasses, and if the line starts to move too fast, several of them will stop assisting customers and wander off to restock shelves or bundle up remnants. *sigh* SO, during my 45 minute wait (!!!), I found 2 new pieces of flannel to make into pillow cases for Lily Ruth. I also found coordinating trim and thread.

I love her pillow cases. She seems to, too. I think that having special Just For Lily Ruth pillows helped with the transition from crib to mattress-on-the-floor. I am hoping that their familiarity will also help with the transition from mattress-on-the-floor to Big Girl Bed.


That's kind-of it for the crafting. Let's talk food!

I stumbled across a recipe on the back of a Progresso bread crumbs can, and actually loved it. Since I used all of those crumbs and didn't remember to copy it down, I no longer have the recipe. Sad story, right? Well, don't start crying into your soup just yet. There was a similar recipe on the back of my new can, and I just modified it to suit my needs - big surprise. These little bites are tastier than any chicken nugget I've ever had. My friend June says that they're 'like butter' and she couldn't stop eating them. Our kids thought they were 'o.k.', and will like the next batch better as I will cut back on the amount of seasoning. Crummy kids and their kid palates. :-P

Baked Chicken Bites

2 Lbs boneless skinless chicken thighs (use white meat if you prefer)
1 cup bread crumbs (I used garlic and herb - not a hit with the kids)
1/2 cup shredded Parmesean cheese
3 Tbsp melted butter

Remove any excess fat from the chicken, and cut into tiny (1 inch or so) pieces.

Mix the breadcrumbs and cheese in a  shallow bowl or dish. Mix in the butter.

Dredge the chicken in the breadcrumb/cheese/butter mixture, then place the coated pieces on a baking sheet. I foil-line my (cheap) baking sheets then spray the foil with cooking spray. Bake in a 425 degree oven for 15-20 minutes. Bites should be golden brown and cooked completely through.


This next recipe is simmering away in my crockpot as we speak. Emily at My Pajama Days was a high school classmate of mine. We weren't close friends, but I always liked her open, adorable smile and all-inclusive nature. She was always sweet to me. Being shy by nature, this was a big deal. I even have a wallet-sized copy of her senior picture in my scrap book - goofy high school inscription from her and all.

When she blogs about mothering a pre-teen and a newly-teen, I hyperventilate. I am 98% certain that I will not handle myself with her wisdom when presented with the same situations. Hopefully, she'll open a Parent of Teen Girls hotline and allow me to call frequently.

At any rate, her version of this sandwich was up on her blog yesterday, and being a lover of Buffalo wing sauce, I decided to try it out. The original is here. My version follows...

Slow Cooker Buffalo Ranch Chicken Sandwiches

1 pkg boneless, skinless chicken thighs (my package was 1.75 Lbs)
1 bottle Buffalo wing sauce (my favorite is Frank's) - divided
1 pkg ranch dressing seasonings
sour cream
bleu cheese
whole grain rolls
Muenster cheese

Mix 1/2 of the bottle of wing sauce with 1/2 of the pkg of ranch seasoning. Pour into the bottom of your crockpot. Lay the chicken over the sauce, and pour 1/4 of the bottle of wing sauce over the top (you now have 1/4 of the bottle left... in case you're math challenged...). Cover and cook on 'low' for 6-7 hours. Once the chicken is cooked, remove it from the crockpot and place it in a shallow dish. Shred the meat, and gradually mix in the remaining wing sauce - tasting as you go - until you have the right amount of 'kick' for you.

Mix the remaining 1/2 packet of ranch seasoning with sour cream. I have approx. 2 Tbsp left, so I'm using 8 oz of sour cream. Use the resulting concoction as a sandwich spread or veggie/chip dip. My plan is to serve raw carrots with dinner and trick Lily Ruth into eating them 'like a bunny'. Maybe the dip will help. *edit: it did not. She ate exactly one bit of 'cway-ot' then pronounced it 'yucky'.*

If you go in for this sort of thing, you can mix bleu cheese into your meat before piling it onto the rolls. My husband adores bleu cheese. I loathe it. Whatever floats your boat. I'm not here to judge... except that I really don't like bleu cheese, so I may judge a little bit...

**By the by, we just finished dinner, and these sammies were WONDERFUL. Definitely part of my rotation from now on!**


That's all for today, folks! Remember - always surround yourself with things that make you smile (like giant flower pillows and soft, cuddly blankets) and eat things that make your tummy smile (like spicy chicken and NOT bleu cheese). Love you!