Friday, October 28, 2011

Trick or Treat

Last post I mentioned that the boys decided not to wear the costumes we had planned on.  Maybe deciding to find and open the toy box full of our costumes and pretend play items two days before Red Oak's Trick or Treat on the Square night was not mom's best decision.

Clark's Darth Vader costume that we bought last year at the consignment store (on sale) fit perfectly but I think Clark has a thing with masks and decided he didn't want to wear the costume.  Grant's dragon costume from last year was a bit too small and the dragon/dinosaur costume Clark has worn the past two years is still too big for Grant.  The vast majority of the other costumes are rather female in nature (witch, mouse, prairie girl dress and bonnet, etc.).  Luckily I did this before our monthly trip to Council Bluffs (to go to Walmart, Target and Sam's Club).  The boys were immediately drawn to the knight's sword, shield, and helmut in the toy box.  Both decided they wanted to be knights and fight dragons. (They also thought Addie should be a princess but I wasn't going there this year).

Picked up a new sword and shield for Grant for under $5.00 that actually had the exact same dragon insignia as the items we already had at home. We luckily found some great fabric for $13.00 at Walmart. 

That worked its way into awesome knight's suits on Wednesday.  Two costumes done before 4:30 PM and the Trick or Treat night.  Good thing Addie had me up at 4:30 AM for her morning feeding.  I have enough fabric left over that I could also make "chain mail" pants but ran out of time yesterday.  I also have the black fabric to make "boots" and belts. 

It's hard to see in the photo but the sleeves and hood look like chain mail.   I used a shiny silver lamine under a shiny grey sports apparel fabric (like used for shorts) that has holes built in.  It looked pretty neat and actually shined in the sun.
Addie went in her little kitty outfit.

And later when it cooled off more we tucked her into the traditional baby hot dog costume.

Better view of the "chain mail" effect on the boys' costumes.
Happy Halloween!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Turning 2 Months Old

Busy, busy week!  Last week we were in Indianapolis for the National FFA Convention. 

To catch you up - yes I finished two new kids FFA jackets just in time for the convention and completed my Kids Clothing Week Challenge!  Addie's jacket went together in 2 hours!  Getting lots better at sewing jackets.  I'll put the FFA Convention in a seperate post.

This week Addie turned 2 months old!  Here's a video of what she's up to now.

And Addie's 2 month picture.

Other than that we've been working hard getting everything shored up outside before colder and more inclimate weather sets in.

This has also been a busy work week prepping sponsorship materials and preparing info for teachers.  To top it all off the boys completely changed their minds on Halloween costumes so I have $13.00 worth of fabric we picked up today ready to sew into Knight's tunics.  Luckily we had the swords and shields in the pretend play toy box so no cost there. (What were they going to be? Clark was set to be Darth Vader - a costume we bought last year but he didn't want to wear and Grant was going to be a dinosaur/dragon.  But Clark decided he wanted to be a knight after seeing the stuff in our pretend play box.  Thought it would be neat if Clark was a knight and Grant was a dragon - but no, Grant also wants to be a knight.)

Friday, October 14, 2011

Test Kitchen Thursday - Pear Pie Bars

Like last week's post this recipe again comes from one of those pesky special interest magazines that seem to grab my interest.  This time it is the Better Homes and Gardens 2011 Fall Baking magazine.

Due to some issues with ingredients I did have to modify the recipe - I'll make those designations in the recipe itself.  All in all I didn't actually enjoy these bars as much as I thought I would.  Good for my waistline I guess.  However, Grant, my husband and my father-in-law thought they were great.  Clark left some on his plate so I take that to mean he wasn't a fan either.  So, you may just have to try them yourself to decide.  (Note:  they seem to get better if left to sit overnight)

I think part of my reasoning for not enjoying them as much was the recipe reminded me very much of my mom's Apple Slices.  Very similar look and method but maybe the apples just add the right amount of sweet/tart that the pear's didn't provide.  Everything about the recipe technically turned out just right - good consistency, ate like a bar as stated, good aroma, pretty appearance. 

Before moving on to the recipe I just have to tell this little story.  Clark was helping me with the recipe this afternoon and he would ask me what the instructions said to do next.  At one point he asked, "Mommy, does it say next to take a picture?"  Observant boy - he's so used to the camera in the kitchen I didn't think he noticed it anymore.  I explained that the pictures were a step mommy added for fun.  His 4 year old response, "Well, we would get it in the oven a lot faster without those steps."  So true my boy, so true!

Five Spice Pear Pie Bars from the 2011 Better Homes and Gardens Fall Baking magazine.

Pastry Crust:
3 Cups all-purpose flour
2 Tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 Cup shortening (used butter flavored shortening)
1/2 Cup cold butter (used unsalted butter)
2 egg yolks, beaten
1/3 Cup milk
2 Tablespoons water

6 Cups peeled, cored, and thinly sliced ripe pears (about 6 - 7 medium)
1 Cup sugar
1 Cup crushed cornflakes (if I try again might use oatmeal instead)
1 teaspoon five-spice powder (was unable to find this so used 1/2 t cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves and 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg)

Orange Icing:
1 1/2 Cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon grated orange peel
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
1 - 2 Tablespoons milk

For pastry, in a large bowl combine flour, sugar and salt.  Using a pastry blender, cut in shortening and butter until pieces are pea sized.  In small bowl whisk together the yolks and milk.  Gradually stir the egg yolk mixture into the flour mixture, tossing with a fork to moisten.  Sprinkle 1 - 2 tablespoons of the water over the mixture, gently tossing until all of the mixture is moistened.  Gather mixture together.  Divide pastry into two portions, making one portion slightly larger than the other.  Wrap and chill until needed.

For filling, in an extra large bowl combine pears, sugar, cornflakes and the five-spice powder (or other spices).  Set aside.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Use your hands to pat the larger portion of pastry into the bottom (sprayed with baking spray first) of a 15 x 10 x 1 inch pan. 

Spoon filling evenly into pastry-lined pan.

  Roll the remaining pastry portion between two sheets of waxed paper to a 15 x 10 inch rectangle.  Carefully peel off top sheet of waxed paper.  Invert the rectangle, pastry side down, over the filling.  Carefully peel off waxed paper. 

Press over top.  Make sure there are a few slits in the top pastry and brush lightly with egg white.

Bake in preheated oven for 45 - 50 minutes or until pastry is golden, fruit is tender and filling is bubbly.  Cool completely in pan on a wire rack. 

Drizzle with the Orange Icing.  Let stand until icing is set. Cut into bars.  Yield: 32 bars.

For icing:  in a medium bowl stir together powdered sugar, orange peel, vanilla and enough of the milk to make icing a drizzling consistency.


My goal was to make these on Tuesday so I could have the post pre written and ready to go on Thursday morning.  However, the boys ate all the pears I had bought for the recipe so I had Alan purchase some pears to bring home Monday night but should have specified they needed to be ripe.  Then my internet connection broke down on Thursday when trying to post.  So, finally its up and ready! 

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

kcwc - Days 2 & 3

Time slipped away from me yesterday (Tuesday) - so didn't get to blog about little Addie's skirt.

Since it was for a newborn it didn't take long at all - pretty much just an hour.  I am however considering adding a little ruffle embellishment to the bottom but I'm just not convinced.  Tried it on her this morning before sewing the elastic shut and it fit perfectly!  Well, as perfectly as anything fits a 7 week old.

And below is a photo of today's work:

This is Clark's new blue cordouroy jacket being laid out.  Since I'm doing a replica of a 1940's jacket there is no perfect pattern.  Most of the time today was spent figuring out how to alter/modify the pattern.  Once that was accomplished I remeasured my son (which took bribes and conjoling) to make sure I had the fit right.  Before cutting into this fabric I wanted to make sure there would be no mistakes/regrets.  Everything is now cut out and ready for the sewing machine.  And before I get comments on the look of the fabric - yes, I did cut it out with wrinkles in the fabric.  This fabric is so stiff and unwieldy it isn't funny.  Rather than struggle with such a large piece on the ironing board I cut it this way smoothing as I went and now that the pieces are cut I will steam them all and reassess the cut before stitching everything together.  This is not my first dance with this fabric - I have found this works better than other methods.

Hopefully I will have power to my machine tomorrow.  The house we're renting is getting an electrical makeover.  The electrician is actually adding a second box and moving some of the wires.  After I told the landlords about the potential dryer problem with double wires going to the fuse for our dryer they brought out an electrician that verified my find and noticed other similar problems throughout the box.  Whew - I'll feel safer when it's all fixed but somewhat of a nuisance while parts of my house go dark throughout the day.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Day 1 - Kids Clothing Week Challenge

Pajama pants were on my list for getting some items done for the boys.  These pants were made from an old t-shirt out of our t-shirt bag.  I was actually just wanting to try out the pattern I had made to make sure everything fit right.  You know - before cutting into the fabric I bought and messing it all up.

Once Grant had them on he didn't want to take them off!  So I guess they passed the comfort test.  The emblem was cut out of the middle of the t-shirt and just zigzag stitched onto the bottom.  They should go over well when he wears them on our trip to the National FFA Convention later this month.

 A view of the front (old paint splatters and all).

The pants went together so quick I even had time to do some sewing for baby girl.  Well - this skirt was mainly cutting and knotting - but there was sewing involved in finishing the elastic and adding the grossgrain waistband.  I left extra elastic and tucked it under the tulle so as she grows there is some room to let it out.  Again - great colors for the FFA Convention. 

This is so new to me - the high school kids are actually EXCITED that the kids and I are going along.  In fact, there are arguments among the high school kids going as to who will get to watch over/hang out with which of my boys.  Ahh - I can't tell you what a happy place we're in right now!  Although the Alumni at the school are all afraid we might pull up stakes if we aren't happy.  Many of the concerns due to the fact that we are renting our home.  We are always being informed of acreages in the area for sale! 

Finally, at the end of the evening I put together the pattern for Addie's black skirt that she'll need.  I am using the XS size but didn't want to cut the original Simplicity pattern down that far (since I'll probably make the skirt again in a larger size next year).  Transferred it onto freezer paper and now am ready to cut and hopefully sew today.  And yes, for those that know what I'm up to this week - I am procrastinating on the jackets.  Mainly because cutting into that thick cordouroy is almost a painful experience.

Alright - off to work I go - have a great day!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Test Kitchen Thursday - Pumpkin Cupcakes

Finally back on track with Test Kitchen Thursdays!

Once it starts to feel like fall there's nothing like baking with pumpkin (for me anyway).  Once again I was suckered into purchasing the newest Taste of Home Fall Baking Magazine at the check out stand.  My husband said he has no problem with this as long as I actually bake some of the yummy looking recipes. (my mom on the other hand is a complete enabler - but I love the Christmas magazine you gave me :) - thank mom!)  So, this works perfectly with trying out new recipes to blog about (and potentially find something good for the 2012 Iowa State Fair).

These cupcakes remind me a lot of my absolute favorite cupcakes growing up - those chocolate ones with the cream cheese filling and chocolate chips.  Wow - mom made the best ones.  Same principal just pumpkin cake with cream cheese filling.  I did experiment with the recipe and added those little caramel bits to a few cupcakes - so worth the experiment.

Without further ado - the recipe:

Yield: 2 dozen

Cake Batter:
1 can (15 oz) solid pack pumpkin
2 Cups sugar
1 Cup canola oil
4 eggs
2 Cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon (I used my vietnamese cinnamon - yum)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

1 pkg (8 oz) cream cheese, softened
1/3 Cup sugar
1 egg
Caramel chips (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large bowl, beat the pumpkin, sugar, oil and eggs until well blended.  In small bowl, combine rest of the batter ingredients - whisk together.

For filling, in another small bowl, beat cream cheese and sugar until smooth.  Add egg; beat on low just until combined.

Batter and Filling

Fill paper-lined muffin cups 1/3 full.  Drop filling by tablespoonfuls into center of each cupcake.

Sprinkle with a few caramel chips at this point if desired. 

 Cover with remaining batter.

For some reason I had loads of batter left so put the rest in my two pumpkin ramekins.  My cupcakes did sink after cooling so I probably should have added more batter; I didn't add the rest of the batter because my cups were over 2/3 full and I didn't want them spreading all over the place - but this batter doesn't seem to do that.

Bake at 350 degree F for 20 - 25 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.  Cool for 10 minutes in pan on wire rack before removing from pans to racks to cool completely.  Refrigerate leftovers.

Grant and Clark both loved the cupcakes!  Although Grant ate completely around the cheesecake center on the first one he ate.  I told him it would be better once it was cool - after all you can't leave the best part!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Kids Week Clothes Challenge

It seems like it's been forever since I've joined in an on-line challenge.  But this one came at just the right time.  The boys need some new jammies (fabric already purchased) and both need new blue cordouroy jackets for the National FFA Convention coming up later this month.  Addie also needs a black skirt and blue cordouroy jacket (although she could use a hand me down jacket if needs be).  Those are the highest needs on my children's clothing list.  I have some patterns and fun fabrics for a couple other small projects if time allows.

Monster fabric for Halloween pajamas.

Robot fabric for some soft pajamas.

So this challenge works out great - hopefully it will give me the motivation to keep going and finish some clothes for the kiddos.  The hostess is so right - it's amazing what you can accomplish with sewing if you can find an hour a day to devote.

And no, I don't have a sewing room yet - however, I have set up a temporary sewing area in the massive dining room.  The sewing/craft room will eventually go up in the 3rd floor attic (can't wait - such a great space but at this point not completely climate controlled).  But for right now I have a great view.  Thank you to my husband for cleaning out the invading Asian Beetles that were streaming into the room last night!

Want the details?  Go to HERE to Elsie Marley's blog.  She always has great sewing ideas for kids.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

What Would We Do Without Dads?

Happy Birthday Dad!  This post is for you! 

Thanks for all the years of help you've given me and my family (you and mom both). 

Thank you also for all the things you've taught me - from my fine electrical skills (and the ability to call you for advice when I hit a road block) to my "we can fix it or remodel it" attitude and so many other things.  I loved helping you when I was little (even if it was moving/hiding the tools) and being your tool "gopher" later in life. I picked up lots of skills and abilities from you that I'm glad I have.  I'm proud to be able to teach my boys the names of loads of different tools because you weren't afraid to have me around them.  That I'm not scared to use a welder was because you took the time in high school to give me private lessons so I wouldn't feel intimidated by all the guys in ag class.  Growing up I loved being in the milk house with you and grandma and riding in the tractor with you (singing lots of little kid songs) and helping you work on equipment.  Of course, the time you had me working the levers of the cultivator and nearly took your thumb off made me cry and cry.  But your were quick to take the blame and tell me you were the one with your thumb in the wrong place and that I had done everything that you asked me to at exactly the right time.

These are just a few small memories but I'm so glad you're my dad. 

Happy Birthday!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Sometimes it's the Little Things

Sometimes it really is the little things that take your day or week from good to awesome.  Sunday we fixed our dryer - no repair person needed, no major problems (we thought a bearing or the belt was bad - but found out when we opened it up all it needed was a good cleaning).  Yay - I did loads and loads of laundry today!  Clean floors - clean clothes - so happy!  Before this we either took it all over to grandpa's to wash and dry OR washed what we needed and hung it out on the line.  Not that I mind hanging laundry on the line; however, with three little ones and the amount of laundry they go through the speed of a dryer is so very welcome!

Last time I blogged about my $1.00 dresser.  It's now all cleaned up and has the first coat of primer on.  I found this great (and cheap) attachment you put on the spray can to act more as a trigger. 

I LOVE it.  Mine isn't exactly like the photo above but it's close.  No spray paint finger, my hands stayed clean, and it provides much better control and coverage.  I will never spray paint without it again.

But the best little thing today was Addie smiling at me for the first time!  She only did it once but I know it was a directed smile.  I made some popping sounds which she seems to like and her face lit up and she smiled right at me.  I don't have a picture of her smiling (yet) but I thought this picture was sweet.

Those were my happy little moments today - hoping all of you have some happy little moments throughout your day as well!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Band Day

Today we headed down to the Clarinda Band Jamboree.  This was the band event my husband participated in when he was in school.  It reminded me a lot of Algona Band Day which was the band event my family participated in growing up.  We were all members of the Algona Scarlet Regiment Marching Band.  This year they were both on the same weekend.  I miss going up to Band Day so we thought it would be fun to go Clarinda's event (plus they give out the Glenn Miller trophy to the best band - how cool is that).  There were a lot of good bands!  Years later I have come to appreciate my band instructors for the perfection, hard work and practice they demanded from us.  I may not have been a great musician but I LOVED marching band and I learned a lot of life lessons from being a band member.

It was a little cold this morning.  We had a great spot for parade watching but it wasn't in the sun.  Luckily we brought along plenty of blankets.

Grant enjoyed being wrapped up like a little "burrito."  Grant really enjoyed the music and the marching.  Hopefully both boys will want to play an instrument.  Clark's favorite game today was playing "find the piccolo."  Every band that went by he'd try to find the piccolo or ask us where it was.  We had to explain that not every band has a piccolo.  For those who don't know, I played the piccolo and Alan played the saxophone. 

We decided not to attend the field shows since the kiddos were pretty much done with watching bands.  Although they did catch a second wind after getting some yummy kettle corn!

So we headed home.  Today there was a big auction in Red Oak - we decided to swing by and have a look.  I haven't been to an auction in such a long time - it was a lot of fun.  We actually need some storage furniture so we can finish putting away items.  We took the kids home and I ran back to town (thank you to my wonderful hubby for a couple hours off :).  Ended up finding a high boy dresser for the boys room and picked it up for a whole $1.00.  Yes, it needs a little work but with a hammer (to fix up the slides for the drawers) and some paint it should fix up pretty well.

Clark was excited and wanted to start painting right away (he has requested a red dresser).  So like his mother - however, over the years I have learned that following the proper steps in the right order leads to a better finish (and yes, I am contemplating the red request).  I worked on cleaning it up tonight after the boys went to bed and hubby went to chaperone the Homecoming Dance (hee hee).  Now, I am just looking at some of my favorite furniture blogs to get some good painting ideas (in between Addie feedings).

UPDATE - to see photos and a story on the Algona Band Day Parade go to my friend's blog HERE.