Monday, July 20, 2009

Roughing it

As these beautiful, busy summer days pass, I am shocked to realize how long it has been since I blogged!! The warm weather has pushed us along in our many (outdoor) home improvement projects. I am happy to say that my *new* patio and driveway are soon coming! If the weather cooperates, the patio should be poured on Saturday ☺☺☺ I have been taking plenty of before/in progress/(and soon) after photos to share with you all.

This past weekend was unseasonably cool for this time of year. Matt and I used to go camping often...but we have not been, even ONCE, since the girls were born. So, we decided to take a trip to a sweet little lake/camp ground only about 40 minutes from home. It was a nice opprotunity to get away from the stresses of home for a couple of days.

After we arrived Friday night, it became rather windy. That, combined with the slightly-not-dry-enough firewood, made firemaking a little difficult. Eventually we had enough to make something to eat.

A "cowboy meal", consisting of baked beans and brats over the open fire.

Matt's family has a tradition of making homemade potato chips when they camp. I sliced some thin-skinned potatoes very thinly and deep-fried them over the fire until they were golden brown.

I think I made about 4 or 5 plate-fulls of chips, but they never lasted long at all!

I felt a bit like a Pioneer woman as I heated water over the fire to wash dishes. (Note to self: grab paper plates next time).

I brought some Jiffy Pop along, which the girls refer to as "magic popcorn". Bella tore into it! She didn't eat much for supper that night after all of that popcorn.

Someone had carved a heart into the tree that was right in the middle of our campsite. My husband took it upon himself to Sharpie our initials into it. How romantic ;-)

Little Mr. Tiffin had an amazing time being outside with us (and sleeping in the tent with us). He is always a happy little boy, but this weekend he was just so relaxed. On Saturday evening, we decided to make the 2-mile trek around the lake. He was revved and ready to go!

This photo is sort of an optical illusion. At first, it appears that you are looking up at the sky between the trees. ACTUALLY.... I was looking down a bluff and into the water, where the clouds and blue sky were perfectly reflected by the setting sun.

It was such a nice evening. Many people were still on the lake fishing.

I didn't bring my "good camera" camping, so my picture quality isn't what I would have hoped. But I think this is a nice silhouette of Matt and the girls.

We were up by 6 a.m. on Sunday. Matt started packing up our things as I cooked a campfire breakfast of bacon, sausage, and scrambled eggs. Then we loaded everything up and went home, just in time to get ready for church and back to reality. The girls were asleep in their seats before we were too far down the road. Poor Tiffin! He always gets the headlock, but he doesn't seem to mind.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Rock-star Friends + Getaways

You, my amazing e-friends, helped to make my birthday wish a reality!! Pygmy marmoset won the vote and is the newest animal in the Berkley menagerie . Doesn't he look dapper? I really love his lapel button ☺

I cannot believe it is June already. Wow, time really flies fast once the weather gets nice. We have had a lot of rain...a LOT.... and so I have been dealing with leaking-issues in my basement for the first time. Consequently, I am in currently taking a quick break from carpet shampooing. So many projects to do, so little time. I feel bad about neglecting the blog last week, but I have a feeling many of you all are in the same situation that I am!

Last week, we decided to do a mini-getaway and go down to St. Louis with the girls. We did Chuck E. Cheese, The Mills mall, and the zoo. The most AMAZING thing was feeding the sting rays, which is a new exhibit called Caribbean Cove. I highly recommend doing this if you never have:

I hope to be back soon to share a really special handmade project I have in the works!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Bowl of comfort

Hey, thanks for the doll-love! I posted her over on Craftster, and everyone over there was so warm and welcoming to this former "lurker." The pattern is just so versatile... I saw someone alter the head and actually make a horse doll with it! My next doll project will, hopefully, be based on "Coraline." There are some pretty amazing adaptations of her into doll-form on Craftster! I loved the book, and can't wait to see the movie when it comes out on DVD...but not until July!

I am finally starting to feel better and get my energy back, thankfully. Yesterday was spent doing my LEAST favorite thing, which is switching the girls' summer/winter clothes out. Since they are so close in age, I have to decide what won't fit Brianna anymore and what WILL fit Bella. Then there is the putting away of old and new. I am not done yet!

My e-friend, Rebecca, shared a delicious potato soup recipe with me, which she got from her sister. I made this about a week ago on a rainy, yucky day, and it was really good! The girls asked for 2nds and 3rds!

Baked Potato Soup

-5 large baking potatoes, baked
-1/4 cup butter
-1 medium onion, chopped
-1/3 cup flour
-4 cups half-and-half
-3 cups milk
-1 tsp salt
-dash pepper
-2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
-8 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled

Peel the baked potatoes and coarsely mash with a fork. Melt butter in soup pot and add onion. Saute until tender. Add flour, stirring until smooth. Stir in potatoes, milks, salt and pepper. Cook over low heat until heated through. Top each serving with shredded cheese and bacon bits. Yield: 12 cups.

(Randi's Notes: I only made a half-batch, like usual, and it was a lot of soup! I decided to mix half of the bacon and cheese directly into the soup, and it was good. If it gets too thick, just add some more milk to thin it out to your liking.)

I made The Amish Cook's Whole Wheat Batter Bread to go along with it. Following my friend Jessica's advice, I increase the amount of honey to 3 Tbsp. It is perfect everytime, and NO kneading involved!

I hope everyone has a nice, relaxing long weekend! The only planned thing we have is Brianna's dance recital tomorrow afternoon. HOPEFULLY we can get some things done around our house!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Sew me a friend

Last weekend, Matt and I took a solo-journey to Quincy to run some errands and have a little alone time. I was convinced that I was going to make a Poppet, so I was on a mission to find the specific suede fabric that is called for in the pattern. Wow... apparently, Jo-Ann Fabrics considers anything "suede" to be a fall/seasonal fabric. Finally, I was able to find some in the clearance aisle, and it was the perfect peachy-brown shade of skin...the only caveat was that it had a subtle animal-stripe pattern in it. Due to the price (cheap!) I went ahead and bought it. It could be a practice piece, if nothing else.

I am so glad that I did! I think that print gives it character and makes it look even more skin-like. Although the doll looks hard to make, it was actually very straight-forward...and dare I say... easy! I have been dealing with a nasty head cold and case of the "tireds" this last week. Didn't really feel like doing much. But I had the interest and the energy to work on this doll, and it was so fun!

This is the first time I have used freezer-paper to make an iron-on of a pattern. What a fantastic thing... much less cutting and pinning than usual.

I followed the lead of other Poppet-makers and glued fake lashes (found in the cosmetic area) onto the eyes, as well as a scrap of fabric for the eyelid. These little touches were so easy and gave so much character and personality to the doll!

Another technique, which I would NEVER have done in a million years, was to place a bit of Sculpey clay into the tiny "nose nook" of the unfinished/unstuffed head and baked it in the oven! You just follow the directions (which is 275 degrees for 15 minutes for Sculpey), and then allow to cool. You do this BEFORE adding the eyes, or they would melt, and before stuffing. It really helped poof out such a hard-to-stuff area and give it definition.

I made my Poppet a strapless dress with the dress pattern/tutorial, and I think it looks really good! I added some pearlized snaps in the back to help her get in/out better. The arms/legs are made with buttons inside, and then are jointed onto the body, so that they are fully movable. Luckily, I was able to track down the required doll-making needles to assist in the jointing, as well as the sculpting. The sculpting is what helped give the fingers and toes their definition.

So...while on the subject of sculpting, I decided to follow the directions in making my doll more anatomically correct. Being a nurse, this sort of stuff doesn't faze me, but I did feel a bit peculiar applying the principle's to doll-making ;-) Anyway, I thought I would forewarn you before showing you the following photos, which I originally took to better illustrate her jointedness:

I tried posing her a little, to show the movement of the joints, but it just looked too perverted... sorry! ☺

This is such a great project to become familarized with many different techniques, as I mentioned, that you might never have tried. If you would like to try your hand at one of these fun dolls, check out the Poppet thread on Craftster. Just send pattern-creator, "ghilie" a private message with your email address, and she will email the pattern to you! Also, on this thread there are many links to tutorials on making clothing, jointing, hair wefting, etc. that I found very useful. Next on my list is to make her a proper pair of shoes ☺

Monday, May 11, 2009

The birds in the trees

Last Friday after lunch, Brianna and I were in the front yard playing with Tiffin. I heard a strange whistle coming from up in the tree. It didn't sound like anything I had ever heard. As I looked up, it swooped over my head and landed in another tree. This is what I saw:

I couldn't believe my eyes! A parrot, flying around here in Iowa??!! I just found out he is an Eastern Rosella, which is a native parrot to Australia. I assume he is a lost pet... he has been sticking around here pretty close since Friday. Anyone that sees him thinks they are hallucinating!

On the morning of my birthday (Sunday), I went outside and found him singing for me:

(Pardon my horrible attempts to "talk" to him).
I really wish we could try to catch him, especially before a hawk does. I may have to take a friend's advice and call the Conservation Agency...not sure if they can do anything to help him or not.


After 3 weeks of waiting, I finally received my huge, 8 ft tall tree wall-decal last week. (This was the first wonky transaction I ever had on Etsy... not impressed with the seller on so many levels.)

The wall behind the dining room table before....

Matt, helping me get the first of four parts centered....

And here it is, after 2 days of rubbing/peeling, all done! I added the cardinal decals that I bought from a different seller, and I think it looks good ☺ I am definitely all about the birds in the trees, aren't I?

Ps... Thanks to all of you who took the time to pop over to the Berkley's blog and cast a vote for the adorable pygmy marmoset. Last time I checked, there were 8 votes for him, which is amazing! If you would also like to give him you allegiance, you can vote through Thursday (I think) HERE .

Friday, May 8, 2009

My Birthday Wish...

(The fabulous Mr. & Mrs. Cardinal prints I gave to Matt for Valentines Day)

This Sunday, something will happen for only the 2nd time that I can remember in my life... my birthday and Mother's Day fall on the same exact day. It is kind of neat in a way, but I also have to share my "special day" with 50 million other people. I suppose at 29, birthdays are getting over-rated anyway ☺

Today, I noticed that one of my favorite Etsy shops, Berkley Illustration , has their ballot-casting going on for a new animal to be drawn in May. Ryan Berkley draws these amazing, lifelike drawings of all kinds of different animals wearing clothes. There is usually a little back story that goes behind each one. They are hilarious and classy, all at the same time. (PLUS, they give amazing service to their customers...I was highly impressed!).

For as long as I have known about these ballot-castings, I have voted for pygmy marmoset. It has been my favorite animal since I saw a little video on Sesame Street featuring them, back when I was just a sprout. I want one for a pet soooo bad, but they are around $3000. I think a full-grown one is about the size of a bird. The babies are just teeny-weeny:

The thing is, try as I might, I cannot get anyone else to give up a vote for the regal little marmoset. As a last ditch effort, I am going to exploit my birthday situation and ask for help for my lovely blog-friends ☺ If you go to THIS LINK and leave a comment voting for the pygmy marmoset, I will love you forever and ever. (Okay, I will love you even if you don't...).

On that note, I hope everyone has a fantastic weekend and Mother's Day. Tonight Matt and I are going to see one of my favorite comedians, who is often on the Bob & Tom Radio Show, Costaki Economopolous. I think it should be a good time, and I am sooo looking forward to it!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Poppet to me!

I first heard about, and joined, Craftster about a year or so ago. It is an amazing site chock-full to the max with awesome crafty bits of this'n'that related to sewing, knitting/crocheting, and needlework. My intentions are always good, but I just haven't taken the time to sit down and really get involved. I do watch the Craftster blog in my sidebar, and their blog title caught my attention a couple of days ago: Featured Craftalong: The Poppet-along!

What the heck is a Poppet?? Is it some kind of puppet? Since I LOVE puppets and thought it might be some sort of tutorial aiming in that direction, I had to check it out.

Well, apparently this is a Poppet:

(photo borrowed from, posted by the creator of the pattern, "ghilie")

...but so are these:

(photos borrowed from, posted there by the masters behind the sewing machines!)

Poppets tend to look human, but they do have animal-like ears and tails. They sort of remind me of those little people off of "The Littles" cartoon I watched as a kid. Depending on the person making them, and the bounds of their imagination, a Poppet could really turn into anything!

This is a great opportunity for any of us (me included!) who haven't tried making a jointed-doll to give it a go. It really is no wonder that this thread has been active on Craftster since November of 2007!! Check out The Poppet-Along Thread for information how to get the pattern emailed to you ☺

This is one craft that, for once, I am going to make for me to keep. It might be slow-going, but I will document my progress here in the blog. If anyone of my blog-friends decide to join in, too, let me know!