Wednesday, July 27, 2011

A Tutorial: How to Turn a Mess into Fine Art

I kid. Kind of. Did you know that you can buy a few feet of dinky brown wrapping paper at Target for $3.99 and it will wrap 1 large or 3 small gifts? Well, you can. You can also walk one aisle over to the office supplies and pick up a tube of 70 yards of brown parcel paper for $1. I choose the parcel paper and its infinite possibilities. I used it here to wrap the cupcake display for William's first birthday, and I used it again yesterday to contain a big messy art project.

I don't have photos of this because it's a very dangerous thing to have a running toddler in the front yard of a corner house with a camera in one hand and gobs of paint in your other hand. Much of this project was spent guiding my paint-covered and half-naked child back from the edge of the street.

I laid a huge piece (probably 10 feet long) of parcel paper in our driveway and weighted the corners with rocks. I squirted finger paints in big puddles onto the paper and then stripped my son down to his little cloth-diapered bum. Then I let him make a mess. He dabbled his fingers in the paint, he walked through the paint and made muddy little toe prints, he sat in the paint, fell in the paint, slid in the paint, attempted to eat the paint, and then, finally, there was no room left to smear the paint, and so I carried him inside for a bath in the kitchen sink. He had a blast.

Several hours later, when I remembered I'd left a ginormous child's art project in the driveway, I went to retrieve it. The inferno of the Texas heat had dried the paint and very slightly faded it, and the wet paint had crinkled all of the parchment paper. I kind of liked the way it looked, but I don't know where to find a ten-foot long frame for a decent price.

So I cut it up. 

You know that mom who thinks her child is a genius? Well, I guess that mom is me. I love seeing his bright messy work every time I walk through these rooms. I'm kind of thinking of doing a large grid of framed finger paintings. Does anyone else disguise their kiddos' work as fine art?

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Pardon My French.

Remember yesterday when I said I was feeling crafty? Well, I was. And so I made a pig. A tiny purple paisley pig. I had the grand idea of sewing an awesome little pig with wings and attaching my sister's birthday gift (money! I aim to please) to said piggy. Cute, right? Well...
Check out his snaggle tooth!

I made the piggy. It took me William's entire afternoon nap plus some time after he was in bed, but I can't leave a sewing project unfinished. Through my frustration sweats I chanted, "Must...finish...paisley pig." Does anyone else sweat while using a sewing machine? I love my machine, but I drop the F-bomb more times while sewing than I did while in labor. Go figure.

Needless to say, my piggy did not turn out to be the enchanting creature of my crafty dream. My piggy looked like it might have been a plaything for one of the children of the corn. I wanted him to be so whimsical, I thought with frustration after I finished stuffing him and sewing his piggy patootie closed. And then it hit me.

Have you read this post? Well, please do, otherwise my story will make no sense to you. I am trying to be more resourceful, and the metal wire poking out of my piggy's tail makes him utterly unsuitable to be a baby's plaything (well, the metal wire and his creepy snaggle tooth snout), so I decided to make this little pig my 5 foot tall chicken.

Have I ever mentioned that one of my top five favorite people ever is named Brandi, and she just happens to live directly across the street from me? She'd been trapped inside with a sick kiddo all day yesterday and was exhausted, so I did what any sane and thoughtful person would do. I texted her at 10 p.m., just after I finished my pig, and asked if she was still awake. She was! I grabbed my piggy and a loving handwritten note...

and crept across the street in my yoga shorts and Don's zombie t-shirt to place this fun surprise on her front porch. I thought the eerie mix of detailed sewing by hand mixed with major sewing errors would make her laugh. What's funny is that when I got to her front yard, she was trying to hide behind the huge live oak in her front yard so that she could jump out and scare me! I love having friends like her. We laughed about the pig and swang (it feels so country to say "swang") for a while before I walked back into my house filled with two sleeping boys, one 29 and one 13 months, and went to sleep dreaming of a more refined and whimsical pig, that I just might have time to whip up before my sister's Jersey Shore themed party this Saturday.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Charred Corn Tacos and Baby Bumpers

I've been feeling the urge to make things lately. Maybe it's the stifling heat that has us confined to the house  or other temperature controlled space for 99% of the day. I've been taking William on our daily walk to the park at 7:30 a.m. and we are STILL drenched in sweat by the time we make it home at 8. Lovely.

The last thing I made today was the best: I made THESE TACOS from Smitten Kitchen. Maybe you've already made them because, like me, you impatiently check Smitten Kitchen's site on a daily basis, even though she regularly posts a couple of times a week, and when you see a recipe, you immediately print it and run to the market because you know her food is good. I love her recipes because she's so REAL and it comes across in her writing. In this recipe, she says to clear toddlers from the kitchen before grilling the corn on the stove. As I write this, there are charred corn kernels stuck to my heels, but I so don't mind. We devoured these tacos in like 5 minutes flat. Amazing. Bright tasting. Easy to make, even if they take a bit more time than a regular week night meal. Don't mind the lighting in the first picture; full manual is still hating me in our kitchen.

The other things I made today included a tiny stuffed pig (yes, really) and a pair of earrings. But I also made a new crib bumper for William over the weekend. I'm updating his nursery since we're starting to spend a little bit of play and quiet time in there each day. We're repainting, which probably surprises no one, and I'm changing out a few things. I know some people don't like bumpers. We've used the mesh kind until now, but he's started doing crib acrobatics and I want a little padding in there to protect his little head.

A handmade crib bumper may not seem like a big deal to most people, but y'all, I am so proud of it! Sewing STRESSES me out sometimes and I was so ecstatic when my measurements turned out right and the bumper actually FIT inside the crib!

 I was feeling so brave I made my first ever baby blanket. It has only light lining since it's so hot out, but it's a nice cover over bare shoulders and feet during nap time. I basically just used the same measurements as our stroller blanket to cut two pieces of fabric. I laid them right sides together and laid the same size of quilt batting on top. I pinned in place, sewed three sides, then turned right side out before tucking the last side in and sewing it closed. Then I free-hand (is that even a sewing word?) stitched lines through all three layers to hold them in place. It took all of 30 minutes, and I am definitely a brand new sewer. If I can do it, really and truly, ANYONE can.
 We went overboard as new parents (imagine that) and bought one of the fancy convertible cribs. I will never do that again, mostly because I'm not going to convert this crib into a bed because we'll just use it as a crib for any future babies in our household. It turns out my son is part beaver. Those are his bottom middle teeth marks on the crib railing. I love them, though, and will never repair that wood.

So that's what I've been making lately. Does the heat have anyone else feeling crafty?

Monday, July 11, 2011

I Heart My Messy Boy

I found Crayola finger paints (the good kind in the big tubes) for $5 at HEB today. Holla! I thought it was about time for William to have his first painting lesson.
I stuck him in our bathtub and squeezed paint all over the sides of the tub. He literally squealed in delight and immediately went to work on his masterpiece.
 Don came in and found us and got a little OCD at first. "Are you SURE that stuff is going to come off?" But then he joined in the fun, too.

 The picture above kind of makes me think of a baby zombie on the prowl.
 He had so much fun dabbing color on EVERYthing in sight. He did suck all of the red paint off of his fingers in one fast motion. Luckily, it's non-toxic. But not organic.

 See the pic above? He was looking at my white towels trying to figure out a way to get a hold of them.

 Don't worry. We bathed him right afterwards and the paint came off with just water. Here he is after his bath. Good as new!

Random Monday: Peaches & Rainclouds

This weekend was a little bit crazy. We were all over the place. I didn't take any pictures until Sunday afternoon. Don, William, and I stopped at a farmer's stand and bought peaches, tomatoes, and okra. As soon as we got home after being in the blazing heat, the sky darkened and rainclouds filled the sky. They were beautiful, heavy and gray, but practically empty.

The peaches were beautiful and bruised. The farmer told us they were "stooped over" variety peaches, as in, you better eat them stooped over the kitchen sink. They were a huge hit. William ate two by himself and cried when I wouldn't let him suck on the pit.

Just after the rain stopped, the sky cleared and I went on a run. It was almost cool outside; I think it got below 90 last night. It felt so good to run. More on that later. I love random peaches and rainclouds together on a Sunday evening.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

After a Nap

My sister Catherine and her son Rhys, after waking from a nap on Saturday. It's a really close photo, but that's what I love.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Homemade Croutons and Blackberry & Roasted Shrimp Salad

There is something magical about the setting sunlight that falls through our dining room windows each evening. It settles and stretches across the table in waves and casts a bright golden glow. It makes me miss my grandmother and the sun rays that pierced the window in her front door and lit up the dust in the air. My little sister and I would pretend that fairy snowflakes twirled in that beam of sunshine. Excuse me for rambling, but bread resting in natural light makes my heart skip a beat.

Especially when that bread has been dressed in olive oil and butter and tossed with freshly minced garlic cloves and their juices, red pepper flakes, sea salt, rosemary, and oregano, and then baked at 375 degrees for 15 minutes, tossed once half-way through  baking. The result is a crouton that's crunchy on the outside with a bit of chewiness in the middle. You could add these croutons to salads or soup (though it's way too hot for soup right now), but I don't see anything wrong with serving these croutons in a bowl next to some creamy cheese and olives. In fact, I plan on doing that as soon as I can come up with a reason.

I don't have an exact recipe for these, but you can definitely find one online. I just melted a couple of tablespoons of butter, added a tablespoon or two of olive oil and big pinches of all of the herbs mentioned above, and then poured this dressing over cubed ciabatta loaves, leftover from when I made these sandwiches. Then I baked them until the smell of garlic and toasting bread was enough to entice Don to remove them from the oven, since I was nursing William to sleep after a long day of fussiness and skipped naps.

I tossed some thawed shrimp with the exact same ingredients and roasted them at 375 for 10ish minutes, and then I tossed the shrimp and croutons onto a big fat bed of mixed greens and blackberries. We didn't need any dressing since the bread and shrimp were well-seasoned. I love a straightforward, basic meal like this.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Funny Face

William, prince of sweetness, is toying with the idea of being a fussy and demanding toddler. In the matter of seconds that it took me to change my camera settings from color to black and white, he went from happily munching on dinner to acting like a possessed child. I was almost tempted to call a priest. See for yourself. Does anyone else's child like to act like Sybil?

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Texas is HOT

It's hot out. Not warm, or even muggy. It's hill country hot, with mercury rising past the 100 mark well before noon and river levels so low that floating boat docks lay still on dry river beds. I can hear the cicadas singing their summer song, and if you're from Texas and the shrill of the cicadas has been the soundtrack to every one of your childhood summers and baseball games and barbecues, then you know the heat I'm talking about.

Still, it's beautiful, heat and all. We went to Don's parents' river house and drank in the green and blue, a small oasis in this months-long drought.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Gossip & A Hot Mess

Recently, my mom gave me a book she read in the '80s and found useful. I've been reading the book intermittently, and even though it can be cheesy and a little dated sounding, the advice and insight is totally relevant to me today.

I was reading it today and feeling hurt by a friend who said some critical things about me to someone else, and I came across this passage: ...When I look into the Bible and do not apply it, I am like a person beholding my face in a mirror and immediately forgetting the mess I see.

So true! And such a great visual for me. I am no better than my friend. Don't I gossip, too?

Lord, help me be less of a hot mess. Amen.

Rhys, my sweet nephew, who is totally content to be a hot mess.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Marinated Mozzarella, Tomato, and Pesto Toasted Sandwich

Today was one of those days.

It was a fun day, with many sweet moments, but there was also a big tumble, a scraped chin and a fat lip. Boo for little boy acrobatics.

Kisses from Miss Lilia
On days like this, I don't want to mess with a big production of a dinner. Bring on the toasted sandwich.

Take some fresh ciabatta loaves from the deli, cut in half, stick under the broiler for a few minutes. Rub fresh cut garlic on the OUTSIDE of the bread slices, so that you get a subtle lick of garlic when you bite into the sandwich. So good.

Slather with pesto, layer with marinated mozzarella, thick tomato slices, lettuce leaves, and avocado.

 It's a thick sandwich, so you have to squish it to eat it. Squish it. Devour.

Even little boys with scraped chins will stop fussing long enough to chew.
And maybe even smile for a minute or two.