Friday, December 31, 2010

The Good [Handmade] Stuff: Fall Projects


Hooray! Today I just set up my brand new scanner! Aha, now my techno year is 2003 instead of 1998!

Anyway, I thought I'd catch up on a few old projects that I wanted to record (to quote my mother, "did you write that down?"), so I'll remember that I wasn't eating bonbons all day during the fall of 2010.

Above is Peter's birthday party invitation, designed by my talented friend, Kari. You can see that I hid the address there, but don't you love it?! I love it all! Thanks, Kari! Another fun thing that I made for the party were the favor bags

We had these waiting at the end of a Peter Pan treasure hunt in our backyard. Just a quick little burlap pouch with a leather tie and button. We filled them with these cool mermaid whistles, and pirate's spyglasses, feathers, candy rocks, and other candy. Pixie sticks would have been perfect, too. The best ideas always come after, don't they?
I love October in New England, because Peter's party is usually ok outside. Shane designed the Neverland cake, which was both awesome and not photographed.


I ended up making the boys' costumes for Halloween, and Nathan's turned out pretty cute. His snowy owl costume was often mistaken for an angel, and how can you not think that this curly blond head with tights could be anything else? But, he really was an owl. Once again, I borrowed this costume idea from Brooke at Inchmark.

Peter's bat costume had mixed results. I think it looked pretty cool and I liked that he could bundle up without covering his costume. The umbrellas were pretty pokey and limiting, though. I got the instructions for the wings and that hat from marthastewart.com. The fleece pants that I made are still in use as pajamas.


And, finally, I made Jill's awesome leaf garland. Such an easy, pretty project! We also hung some leaves from our chandelier and put the most colorful ones in vases on our mantel. We are lucky to have a huge supply of beautiful leaves in our backyard.
Next up: Christmas projects! Almost caught up!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Good Taste: Moroccan-Spiced Chicken with Olive, Apricot, and Pistachio Couscous

From February 2009 Martha Stewart Living

Chicken
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground tumeric
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 whole chicken (4 pounds), quartered, skin on
1 lemon, quartered

1. Place a rimmed baking sheet on the center rack of oven and preheat oven to 450 degrees. Mix spices, 2 teaspoons salt, 3/4 teaspoons pepper, and the oil in a small bowl. Rub spice paste all over chicken.
2. Carefully arrange chicken in a single layer on hot sheet, and arrange lemon wedges around chicken. Back until chicken registers 165 degrees on an instant-read thermometer and juices run clear, 30 to 35 minutes. Let stand from 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper,and serve with pan juices and lemon wedges on the side.

Thoughts: This is a sensational dish! It has a long ingredient list, but, ah, once I bit into the chicken, it took me to another place. I quartered the chicken myself, with great trepidation and a pair of poultry scissors from a neighbor. To my utter disbelief, it was a low-drama, 5-minute procedure. I intend to buy whole chickens from here on out, because I prefer the dark meat on the bone and I'm inching my way to buying only organic meat and poultry. For now, I'll avoid the boneless/skinless chicken breasts that tragically belong to those birds we saw on Food Inc. This dish was eagerly devoured by every member of the Lloyd family: both 30 year-olds, the four year-old, and the 15-month old.

Couscous:
1 1/4 cups water
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1/2 ounce (1 tablespoon) unsalted butter
1/4 cup dried apricots, preferably Turkish, chopped
3 tablespoons coarsely chopped green olives (about 6 large olives)
1 cup couscous
2 tablespoons shelled pistachios, toasted and coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Bring water, salt, and butter to a boil in a small saucepan. Add apricots, olives, and couscous, swirling pan to submerge ingredients. Cover, remove from heat, and let stand for 5 minutes. Stir with fork, then fold in pistachios and lemon juice. Serve immediately.

Thoughts: A great accompaniment to the chicken, soaking up all the pan juices in the best, absorbent way. Peter was not a fan of the "goosegoose," but we adults didn't really notice, because we were snarfing it down.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Be Prepared: Keeping the Boys Clothed


After a weekend of celebrating Christmas, today is Monday. Beautiful Monday, December 27! I love all that comes with Christmas, and then...I love the days after Christmas, when we return to normal bedtimes, decreased sugar intake, and our daily routines (which is not entirely true, since we were hit with a nor'easter yesterday and we're happily snowed in. Let's just say, we're easing back in).

Today, I am refocusing on my early New Year's Resolution to be better prepared for my life. Prior to our two cross-country moves this last year, I used to be vigilant at buying the next year's clothes at clearance sales. When we were moving so much, I got out of the habit, since I couldn't stomach the idea of moving around clothes that were too big to be worn. Now that we're settled in, I am trying to stay ahead of my growing boys, which is quite a feat, I assure you.

An old friend of mine, Kalee, is a master of collecting a good, affordable wardrobe for her kids ahead of time. Years ago, she gave me her list of items that she looks out for when she's running errands. I like this size of wardrobe, because I can go a week without having to do laundry, but it's not so big that I end up with outgrown clothes that have never been worn. In years past, I have printed out this list, taken inventory of the clothes that we already have, and carried the list with me while keeping my eye out for these items at various places around town. And, of course, there a few things that I make myself (because $15 is way too much for fleece pants, when I can make some in 30 seconds for free.). So, without further ado,

THE LIST THAT KEEPS THE BOYS CLOTHED


LITTLE BOY'S WARDROBE
Cold Months:
8-12 long-sleeve tshirts/henley-type shirts
3-4 rugby/button-down shirts
1-2 hoodie sweatshirts
1 turtleneck

3 pairs of fleece pants
3 pairs of jeans
2 pairs of other pants

1 fleece jacket
1 winter coat
1 pair of snowpants
1 pair ski socks
snow boots
snow accessories: ski mittens, neck gator, hat

Warm Months:
8-12 short sleeve shirts
8-12 pairs of shorts
1 swimsuit and shirt
crocs
leather sandals

Church Clothes
2 pairs chinos for church
3 dress shirts
3 sweaters for church or nice places
a couple belts
a couple ties
church shoes

Pajamas, Underwear, etc:
7-8 pairs of pjs
10 pairs of socks (a mix of athletic, dressy, fun)
15 pairs of underpants

BABY'S WARDROBE (15 months)
Same, with the addition of
9 long-sleeve white onesies
9 short-sleeve white onesies
2 pairs of Robeez shoes
And no underpants, of course.
(when he starts to walk, a pair of my favorite See Kai Run shoes)

Both boys need cowboy boots in their different sizes, because, who can resist a four-year-old and a fifteen-month-old in cowboy boots?

There are some pretty fierce sales out there today, so I'm off to print off my list and hunt for some cozy winter clothes for next winter!

image: Wiener Werkst├Ątte, Woman with Packages. Metropolitan Museum of Art

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Early New Year's Resolution

Maybe no one else is interested in setting goals, say, the week before Christmas, but I feel urgently compelled to begin my new resolution now. My resolution follows the Boy Scouts' motto:
be prepared

A few weeks ago, I went into the Beinecke Library, where I used to work. I was chatting with a few old colleagues and a woman who began working there after I had left. I introduced myself, and added as a joke, "I'm the one who put the books back in the wrong places." One of my colleagues immediately responded, "Oh, not you, Becca. You would never misshelve a book. You are much too organized and focused to do that!" I stood there. I blinked. I said a silent prayer that this woman would always remember me in this way. I tried to think back to then, that time a millennium ago before kids...and, yes! I do believe I was organized. I do believe I planned ahead, set goals, had a predictable routine. I know now that in this particular phase in life, I can never expect the same sort of efficiency and productivity that I had then. And thank goodness for that, right?! I'm happy to live in a way that is so unlike a robot and so full of life.

However, a lot of things happened last summer. Most notably, our big move. And, after feeling pretty settled in my Utah routine, I haven't felt totally comfortable with my Connecticut groove. I find myself stuck with dreary, unplanned afternoons with the kids, thinking that if only I had taken a minute the night before to make a few plans, or find myself without my camera at the most beautiful moments of my day. My phone does not have a home, which is extremely dangerous. I am wishing for a better long-term planning system, so that next time Shane has a vacation week, we can go on vacation! Imagine that! I find that my information is in different places throughout the house, and I don't love having information that I need for the day to be on my laptop, since Nathan is so fixated on destroying the computer.

So.

I am taking steps today to prepare myself for life. After reading the inspiring book, Steady Days, I am trying to help our little life here at the Lloyd household. As I am not a member of the cool phone club, I am not technologically equipped for amazing organizing apps. However, I am managing to organize my life by simply putting a 3-ring binder to use (nicknamed "the coach"). The binder has several sections --one section for daily "plan", a monthly calendar, a weekly meal plan with a plastic sleeve for the week's recipes, bills and a plastic sleeve that holds tithing slips, and a checkbook and stamps for those pesky bills that I still pay by mail, and the last section is named "braindump", which is my most invaluable resource. Every time I think of something that is bouncing around in my brain, I write it down in the braindump section; I also take a minute first thing in the morning to sit and think if there is anything that should be written down there. Ah, it's a relief to have one place to be able to write these things down. I do much better when I have this information for me on paper in one place. I can't keep track of things on the computer. The screen just doesn't quite work.

The plan is to have a big meeting with myself on Sunday evenings, planning meals, activities, and appointments. Then, throughout the week, I take a minute every night directly after putting the boys down and plot out plans for the next day. If I just spend from 7:00 to 7:30 packing a lunch, getting out supplies for a fun activity, putting away shoes and mittens so they can be found instantly, and just thinking about it, the next day has a destination. I feel like I'm taking advantage of these precious moments with my little guys, rather than wishing away the minutes until they go to [insert: kindergarten, high school, college!]. I've got my kids' attention right now and I want to make the most of it!

With the basics planned out, I've had a chance to think longer term--what can I help the boys learn this next year? What kinds of fun things do we want to do this summer? What kinds of activities do Nathan and Peter like to do together? I'm excited to really think about mothering on a broader level. I must add one major caveat here, however: with all the plans that I've been making, I continue to be a soft as putty when the realities of life with tiny kids hit. I don't care if the plans don't work out. I find that being spontaneous is easier for me when there is a plan, because I have a choice of plan a and (new) plan b. Hey, let's get crazy and do the unexpected. I just don't care for large expanses of unplanned time with preschoolers. That is not spontaneous fun, that is torturous negotiating about why we don't eat ice cream for lunch and why we can't jump off the couch onto our baby brother. What I really want as a mom right now is to have A LOT OF FUN. I want to enjoy being with my boys. If I can think ahead about how to do this, I'm hoping to increase the odds.

Other things I need to do to be prepared: make a diaper bag that works. I have 3 diaper bags at the moment that have zero functionality. I actually feel mad when I look at them. I am going to design and sew my dream diaper bag! Yay! With enough room for my massive camera, special pockets for my keys, my phone, and (safe) storage for knitting, and, of course, enough room for diapers, wipes, and little packages of tissues. Ah, I need those tissues. Does anyone have a good place to buy them? What would you think of me if I told you that the last time we went to the park, I resorted to wiping Nathan's nose with a leaf? Pretty classy.

And, as the busy season of birthdays, Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas winds down, I'd like to plan ahead and use the barren months (January, February, March) to get ahead. I love Christmas so much, and there are many things that I'd love to do for next year. Planning ahead! Being prepared!

I'd also like to dedicate some of my resolution for food storage to prepare for any eminent danger or disaster that might come our way. I'm dedicating the first FHE of the month to being prepared, with food storage planning, 72-hour kit assembling, and escape-route plotting. Peter even asked me the other day, "Mom, if there was a fire on the stairs and we were in bed, how would we get out?" Ummmm, good question, Peter. Let's figure that out!

So. anybody there [crickets chirping]? I'd like to post more on this blog, and report specifically about my progress. It's a sensational way to feel accountable for all that goes on around here. I know that being a mom at home who writes a blog could not be more cliche, but I love the support I feel from you friends out there. There are very few adult voices in my life, simply because I don't have the luxury of talking on the phone much or meeting up for lunch (imagine: meeting up with friends for lunch without kids! dreamy...) So, I'll be posting more....and if you leave a comment, I will love you for it.

Wish me luck!