Sunday, October 31, 2010

Menu Planning Attempt

Are you all like me and try to figure out what you have ingredients for at about 4pm most nights?  Well, I am getting a little tired of bean burritos, so I am going to attempt to make a weekly meal plan every Sunday before I do grocery shopping.  Further, I am going to try to use up what we already have in the pantry/freezer/back of the fridge.

So, here is the plan for this week:
  • Sunday:  Crock Pot Potatoes Au Gratin with Steamed Broccoli (how else am I going to get through the 100# of potatoes that Jeremy just dug out of the garden - and I use the term garden loosely).
  • Monday:  White Chili with Cheese Quesadillas
  • Tuesday:  Veggie Calzones (using up that homemade marinara sauce in the freezer) with Spinach and Pear Salad
  • Wednesday: Leftovers or Pancakes
  • Thursday:  Pesto and Goat Cheese Paninis with homemade Tomato Soup
  • Friday:  Thai Curry with Tofu and Green Pepper with Cucumber Salad
  • Saturday:  Go out or leftovers
Do y'all think I can stick to it?  I hope so.  It was surprisingly simple to do the grocery shopping when everything was all planned out.  I bought a lot fewer groceries too.  Maybe I'll save myself some money, too!

Do you have any genius meal planning tips?  If so, I'd love to hear them!

Happy Cooking!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Elephant Softy Party Favors Tutorial

Wow, that title is a mouthful.

For Layla's birthday party, I had planned on a purple theme, since that appears to be her favorite color.  It was either that or Lady Gaga..and I wasn't sure how to pull that off for a two year old.  I always have to order my's an uptightl thing and I totally acknowledge that it's a problem.  So, here are the invitations that I found that seemed just perfect.

Enter the elephants...

So, naturally, everything else followed.  And instead of getting cute purple treat bags and filling them with inexpensive toys and candy, I thought "Hey, I could make each kid an elephant."  When I decided to do this, I sort of forgot about siblings.  So, I did end up needing 12 of these little guys...but it wasn't really all that bad.

Here is a look at the final product.

Looks so pretty with all the different fabrics, don't you think?
I definitely simplified this project in order to make so many of them.  If I were just making one for a gift or for Little Bean, I would probably do it a little differently, and I will make notes as I go on what that might be.

Supplies needed:
  • Fabric for elephants (I got 3 elephants out of one fat quarter)
  • Complimentary fabric for ears (small scraps will probably work just fine)
  • Scraps of white (or black) for the eyes
  • Medium weight fusible interfacing (optional)
  • Double sided lite fusible web
  • Coordinating thread
  • Stuffing
  • Pattern (see below)
First, you need your pattern.  I just free handed an elephant (using the invitation as a guide) on a sheet of paper.  Feel free to blow it up as needed.

To make this project super easy and inexpensive, as I mentioned above, I used fat quarters.  They happened to be on sale for $1 at JoAnn Fabrics.  Now, it's no secret that these fabrics are poorer quality.  So, you can save yourself some grief later by adhering some medium weight fusible interfacing to the backside of the fabric before you cut out your pieces. I learned this by mistake once I was almost done.  I have to say, I did like the result much better.  It's worth the extra cost and time.

So, to start, I folded my fabric in half and then laid the template on top so that I could cut the front and the back simultaneously.  This is super important.  You want both pieces to be identical.

Here are your pieces:

Once your elephants are all cut, lets stitch them together.  Here is the MAJOR shortcut.  Instead of putting the right sides together and stitching on the inside (which would require you to flip the elephant inside out later), I put the wrong sides together and used a zig-zag stitch all the way around the outside edge (leaving a hole to put your stuffing in...I found that the back leg worked the best).  This saves so much time, I can't even tell you.  If you use interfacing, you won't have much fraying here at all.  If you don't, you may need to go back and trim the edges once you are complete.

Here is what you will have...

Now, it's time to plug in the iron on steam setting.  Here is a pic of the double sided fusible web that I used and it worked really well.

Follow the instructions on the package you buy.  This brand has you peel off one side and stick it to the will REALLY help if you iron out your fabric first.  Now stop with the iron.

Draw out all of your ear and eye pieces on their respective fabrics.


Once you have this done.  Cut out ear and eye pieces for one elephant.  Peel off the paper from the web.  Align them where you would like them and iron them on for about 15 seconds.  Flip the elephant over and repeat on the other side - you should be able to feel the existing ear/eye so that they will be in the same place.

Isn't he cute?

 They look so impressive as a group...

Now, invite your mother over for tea and put her to work.  Just kidding Mom...but thank you over and over for your stuffing help!  Use a chopstick to get the stuffing into the trunk and the front leg.

Once your elephants are stuffed, stitch them up with a zig-zag on the machine.  Yep, NO hand sewing!  If you are only doing one, your stitches are all hidden, so you would want to do a slip stitch here to polish it off nicely.

Last step:  get your scissors out and snip the loose threads around the edges to make them look polished.

I added a beaded necklace around each trunk and tucked in a purple sucker to round out the party favors.  Here is how they came together:

You could really do this with any animal party theme.  Just remember to simplify what you are doing and it is all very possible.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Little Bean Turns Two!

Thank you to all of our amazing family and friends who came out to share Layla's 2nd birthday with us this morning.  It could not have been a gloomier day weather wise, but we had a great time!

It was a major hustle to get everything ready for the party, but with the help of my husband and my mother, we managed to pull it all out.  Here are a few pics.  In case, it's not obvious, the theme was purple.  There will be tutorials to come for the dress, the banner, and the elephant favors.  Also, recipe to come for the pumpkin cake with cream cheese filling.


Happy Birthday Banner

Purple elephant cake

Front view

Purple birthday dress

Trying to get a pic of this girl is almost impossible!

At least you can mostly see the dress :)

Birthday song time

Elephant favors

Elephant party favor with beads

Added some beads and suckers to finish off the favors

 All in all, I think it was a great party.  Layla had a great time and got such wonderful presents.  Thank you to all who came.  And stay tuned...

Monday, October 18, 2010

Batman Cake

Sam's party takes the cake (no pun intended) for fancy toddler parties.  There was a petting zoo, pony rides, and delicious catered Mexican food.  I am a little intimidated since Layla's party is next weekend - I don't like following such a big act.

Needless to say, the animals were a huge hit.  Here are a few pics:
The goat is trying to escape!

I swear she didn't really kick the chicken

Pony ride!

Could she be any happier?

Nice pic with Daddy!
Back to the cake.  Believe it or not there was a Batman theme to this party too.  I didn't get any pictures of the decorations because I was too busy chasing around Little Bean.  So, Sam had requested a Batman cake from me.  Here it is:

Obviously, I went with the Gotham City/bat signal theme.  The birthday boy really liked it and even stuck his hand in it to show approval.  Hey, I'll take it!  Unfortunately, I had to leave before the cake was cut so I didn't get any pics with candles or the birthday boy.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Etsy Shop Open

Well, I am so far behind where I thought that I would be.  But, I at least have the store up and running.  And in fact, have even made my first sale!  Yeah, it was a friend...but it counts (Thanks Jen!)!

Here is a look at what I have so far:

Vintage Mod Bag - Love, love, love

Amy Butler bag - on it's way Jen!

Amy Butler bag #2
This is a simple, reversible tote bag that I have been working on.  Great for just about anything.  And such an easy way to add a splash of color to your wardrobe.

The Little Bean Boutique (cute, right?) can be found at

And of course, I will do just about anything custom order.  If you see fabric you love and think "Hey, that would be awesome for throw pillows" (or a dress, or whatever), please let me know.  I am happy to oblige.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Playroom Progress

Slowly but surely, Layla's playroom is becoming her own after sharing it with me as an office/sewing room.  I have officially moved into one of the basement rooms that are being finished (even though the trim isn't up yet).

I just finished sewing and hanging her curtains.  I got this super cute fabric - the whole bolt - for about $20.  It should have been about $70, but due to some lazy store arrangements (it was placed in a section marked 40% off, even though it wasn't) and an error at the checkout, I got a great deal.  Add a few yards of muslin, and voila, curtains!

The table and chairs I just picked up at IKEA for a steal.  Absolutely love them!

And the pattern on the curtains with the birds and the trees goes oh so perfectly with the trees and owls that were already up on the walls:

More changes (and hopefully some better pictures) to come!  Next week is Little Bean's second birthday and I know some fun things are on their way.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Dinner...On The Cheap (Beans and Rice Made Fantastic)

I get a little thrill when I can cook dinner for the family (that the whole family is willing to eat!) for just a couple of bucks.  Last night I came up with this little concoction:

I call it Revamped Beans and Rice

3 c. cooked black beans (I cook my own in the crock pot at one time and store them in individual bags in the freezer)
1 14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes
1 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. coriander
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
~2 c. white rice (raw)
sour cream and guacamole for serving

  1. Throw the beans, tomatoes with the juices, and spices in a pot and bring to a simmer.
  2. Meanwhile, bring several quarts of water to a boil (no need to measure).  Once it is at a rolling boil, add your rice to the pot (yes, seriously).  Boil rice for exactly 13 minutes.  Drain.
  3. Um, well, that's it.  Serve beans over rice.  Add sour cream and guac.

And, isn't that the best rice you've ever had?  It comes out perfect every time!  No sticky mess, just flaky delicious rice.  Who knew?

Jeremy's Granola

My husband has become a foodie.  Unless I am out of town, then he eats turkey dogs and mac and cheese from the box.  But the point is, he has high expectations when it comes to my cooking.  He now won't eat boxed granola, so I make it for him.  I really don't mind though, because it ends up being less expensive and it is definitely a healthier option.  It took me a while to get the proportions of what he/the budget like.

Jeremy's Granola

1/2 c. light brown sugar
1/2 c. pure maple syrup
1/2 c. vegetable oil
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
9 c. oats (not the quick cooking kind)
1 c. almonds
1 c. craisins

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Whisk together the brown sugar, syrup, and oil in a large bowl.  Add cinnamon and vanilla.
  3. Stir in oats.
  4. Spread over two sheet pans in an even layer.
  5. Bake for 20 minutes, rotating half way through to ensure even cooking.
  6. Stir the granola around with a spatula when it is still hot to prevent it from sticking to the sheet pan.  Allow to cool completely.
  7. Once cooled, add almonds and craisins (Jeremy prefers the almonds to be raw because they are healthier that way, but if you prefer to have them roasted, then mix in with the granola in step 3.
Of course, you can add just about anything you want to the basic recipe to cater it to your needs.  My favorite part - the super cute jar that I found to store it in.  Doesn't that look so much nicer than a cereal box?

Oh - one last thing...your house will smell AMAZING all day when you make this!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Tote Bag Fever

Well, I have been busy trying to make birthday gifts and get some stock for my new up and coming Etsy store.  Tote bags seem to be my favorite item of the week.  They are so useful and the possibilities are absolutely endless.  Designs, fabric combinations, pockets, no pockets, etc.

Here is a sneak preview:
These bags have some great Amy Butler and Robert Kaufman fabrics that I have been hoarding (yes, I admit, I am a fabric hoarder).  These are bothe reversible with more beautiful fabric on the inside.  I have made several now and I feel that this design is getting really close to perfect (or as perfect as homemade should be).
Look for my etsy shop soon (not yet) here.