Summer Plans, and How Not to Quilt

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First of all, let’s talk about this quilted table topper. Little Morsels. I only have one last thing to do before it’s finished, and that’s the binding. It is quilted and waiting. Whether it’s waiting for that binding or waiting to be put out of it’s misery–it can go either way.

It’s business in the front…

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…drunken frat party in the back.

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What happened here????

No, it’s the aftermath of a drunken frat party, where everyone is passed out on the floor, on the lawn, and in the bathroom. (I’ve never been to a frat party, but I’ve seen plenty of movies. That’s how the parties end, right?) It is so royally messed up on the back, it ain’t funny. Actually, it is funny, because when I pulled my work out of the sewing machine and flipped it over, the first thing I did was laugh. HA! Christina, you did it again! You’re all bunched up! Your table runner has a wedgie! 

Eh, I need more practice, apparently.

For a moment, I considered grabbing the seam ripper and pulling out the offending stitches. But, this is how it ended up, and this is how it will stay. It will be the yardstick I measure future work against. I will figure out what I did wrong, and, next time, I will do better.

I am resilient.

I also finished the blanket I was knitting. I love it, and I want to keep it (I may have cuddled with it a bit towards the end, when it was long enough to drape over my legs as I knit), but it will be mailed off later today for my new nephew. I feel bad it’s taken this long for me to complete it. I wanted to send his parents a blanket before he was born, but almost two months after? That’s just as good, right?

Anyhow, I took lots of photos of it, and I’ll post them next week, after I’m sure they’ve received their package.:)

Today is the last day of school for the kids. This past week has been crazy. (Hm, have I said that before? I don’t think I’ve ever said that before.) I’m happy it’s over. I’m sure I’ll be crying in my corn flakes in about a week or two, as I adjust to not having the structure their school days give. I hope not, though. I don’t like that feeling.

Last year, to combat the Summer Blues, I wrote out a list of things to do. Some people call them summer bucket lists. I don’t because I don’t plan on us kicking the bucket at the end of the summer. (I’m starting the summer with four kids, and I’m going to end the summer with four kids. I hope.) So, I just call it the “Summer Fun!” list.

I know, I know. I sound like one of those moms that breaks her back to make sure every moment of her child’s life is precious and special.  Yeah. That’s not me. Or, at least, it wasn’t. (Side question, why are some of us so opposed to going overboard when our kids are young? I include myself in this, because I have totally judged others for doing cornball things. Is it because we are afraid of spoiling our kids? Or, is it because we don’t want others to judge us?) I have my moments when I might do something you’ll roll your eyes at on Facebook. But, for each of those moments of corniness, there’s plenty of boredom and inactivity. Facebook really is just a highlight reel of our best moments. (Unless you are an Eeyore and you only post about the things that suck. Don’t be an Eeyore.)

My list is simple, for the most part. It’s filled with dumb stuff I plan on doing anyway. What makes it special is–and, seriously, this is the only magic going on here–IT IS ON A LIST. Put things in list form, slap a title on it, and it looks like you are super-fun-and-insanely-involved-i-love-my-kids-mom. (#blessed) If it’s a list ON PAPER it is official. It is tangible. It is law.

My list is easy things. And my kids think it’s awesome. One item on the list: go to the mall and eat a soft pretzel. Um, how easy is that?? And, it ends with a soft pretzel, which I am definitely going to dip in some delicious cheese sauce.

Another thing on my list: Make root beer floats.

Do you know how easy that is? It’s just ice cream and root beer in a glass. But, checking it off the magical “Summer Fun!” list? I just elevated it. It’s special, now.

Other things on the list:

  • work on a puzzle
  • go to the pool
  • set off fireworks
  • water gun fight

All, very easy things. I also mix in a few bigger things, like “go on road trip” or “go to the zoo.” I’m not sure these things will get done, but I’ll try (it’s on the list, right??), and my kids won’t be disappointed if we don’t get to everything.

And, I keep saying how much the kids like the list, but, honestly, it’s just as much for me as it is for them. It gives me things to look forward to, and it is a visual reminder that I AM doing things, even if it feels like every day is the same as the last. During the school year, I’m so busy the weeks fly by. During the summer, time seems to stand still. Not that that’s a bad thing. Especially as the kids get older, I want time to slow down. But, I want to feel like I’m accomplishing something. Sitting around all day, doing nothing, drives me crazy. Probably literally. I get snappy and anxious, and I start getting nutso ideas.

I’d rather inspire eye rolls from my “friends” than endure the downward spiral summer can bring on.

So, that my tip for you. Take a half hour and write (or type) out a list of fun things to do over the summer, and, regardless of how simple or hard those things are, the kids will think they are having the best summer ever. And, mom the way YOU want to mom. If that means tooth fairy sparkles on your kid’s pillow, do it. If it means tossing your kid a buck the next morning and saying, “uh, tooth fairy left this under my pillow by accident. Here you go…” more power to you! I’ve learned, it really doesn’t matter what you do–your kids will remember what they remember. Everything IS magical when you are a kid. These “making memories” moments are more for the mom than it is for the kids. If you don’t believe that, you are in deep denial. I don’t say that in a mean, condescending way. I say it because it is true. As long as you love your kids (and show them you love them) they will have a great childhood. That is good news! It lets you off the hook OR it gives you the freedom to be the super-psycho-make-it-awesome mom you want to be. It’s your choice. I won’t judge you for it. Anymore.😉

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This is what she’s going to remember. The lizards. You know, the important stuff.

 

 

 

Little Morsels Table Runner

Man, it's hard to be precise!

Brain:  I know you’re busy with the end of school, and you have project you’re already working on, buuuut…spur of the moment idea, here…let’s make a table runner!

Me: Okay!

Because, I don’t have enough going on, I decided to start another table runner. (Yep. I still haven’t finished the Autumn one, but I’m sure it’ll be done before the leaves start falling…)

Fons & Porter put out a video tutorial for a Little Morsels table runner, and I thought, “that looks pretty simple.” Ah. Yeah.

I gathered some summertime/patriotic colored fabrics, cut my squares, and got to work. With very little planning, apparently, since I’m out of my background fabric and haven’t finished piecing the top. (And, no, I didn’t cut all my pieces at once. That would make things too easy. Where’s the fun in that?) I have odd bits, and was thinking of sewing those odd bits together to make larger bits, but, it already looks a lot like Frankenstein’s monster…

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Man, it’s hard to be precise!

Everything was measured and lined up, but sadly, things started to look a little off. The only thing I can think of is some of the fabric shrunk (or stretched) while pressing my seams. I tried to amend the situation as best as I could, but I can still see the imperfections, and it’s driving me crazy. Hopefully, once I start quilting the top, the slightly different sized squares will be less noticeable.

And, hopefully, I can match up the background fabric.

And, hopefully, I can finish this runner for this summer.

I’m sure it’ll all look fine in the end. Hopefully.

I’m almost done with the blanket I’ve been knitting. One more stripe to go, so, one, maybe two knitting sessions before it’s complete.

Reading-wise, I’m still on Game of Thrones. I think I’ve been reading it for two weeks now? I’m not sure. I’m enjoying it, but, man, it’s long! Also, my memory, which is usually terrible, actually remembers everything that happens in the first season of the HBO show, so reading the book is not as exciting. On the plus side, I have don’t have to use my imagination to know what the characters look like. HA!

Happy Wednesday!

 

Loaded Puppy Chow Brownies

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Last night our monthly book club meeting! As I mentioned earlier in the week, we read A Dog’s Purpose by W. Bruce Cameron. GREAT book. Not sure if it’s great discussion material, though. We did discuss a lot, but it felt like we were just talking about our pets the entire time, which is okay, if you are really into pets.😀 If you’re looking for discussion questions for this book, these are the ones we used. If you are looking for a fun themed dessert to bring to your book club, may I suggest you keep scrolling down the page for some rich chocolate brownies?

But, first, I want to share some great things I ate this week. These recipes were not mine, and I have kindly included links.

I’ve been trying to seriously bump up the amount of vegetables in my meals, so I’ve been searching for (and pinning) a lot of veggie-heavy sides. Two sides we tried this week are Black Bean Salsa from Food Network and Spicy Avocado Pesto Pasta from Well Plated. Both were delicious, and both are enough to feed an army, so if you have 20 4 kids like me, or are feeding teenagers, these are great sides to add to your choice of protein.

But, forget about the healthy sides for a moment and feast your eyes on this:

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That, my friends, is the “themed” snack I brought to book club.

(Funny story–I boasted to my book club I was bringing a themed snack ahead of time, so when my friend, Laura, saw it she said, “is that supposed to be dog poop?” My friends are sweet.😛 )

For book club, I made Loaded Puppy Chow Brownies.

(Side question: why is the commercially sold version of Puppy Chow called Muddy Buddies? For liability reasons?)

(Also, that reminds me–DISCLAIMER:  THESE ARE NOT DOG SNACKS. PLEASE DO NOT FEED THESE BROWNIES TO YOUR DOG. If you do, and your dog croaks, I accept NO responsibility, since I have just now told you not to feed these to Rover. It doesn’t contain any actual Puppy Chow, but what it does have  is an enormous amount of chocolate in it.)

(Another side note: I have never added puppy chow to my food, but, once, in middle school, I added cat food to my sandwich after several days of my lunch being stolen out of my cubby. Guess what. It stopped happening after that. True story.)

Okay, I got off track. Back to the brownies:

This snack starts off with basic brownies. If you don’t want to make your brownies from scratch, you could always use boxed and skip ahead to the “embellishing” of the brownies.

After the brownies have been baked (or, actually, slightly before they come out of the oven) you’re going to want to melt your caramel bits. I used a cup of caramel bits, which are the best thing ever. (No unwrapping caramels!)

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If you can’t find the bits, you can always use the regular caramels.

You’re going to pour your melted caramel over top the HOT, right-from-the-oven brownies, then, quickly, sprinkle and press half your Muddy Buddies right on top. Then, using the same method you melted the caramel with (don’t worry, it’s in the printable recipe below), melt your chocolate, then glop it on top of the Muddy Buddies. Sprinkle remaining Muddy Buddies on top.

That’s it!

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Loaded Puppy Chow Brownies

  • Servings: 16
  • Time: Prep: 20 min Bake: 30 min
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Chocolate brownies topped with caramel, Muddy Buddies snack mix and semi-sweet chocolate make a decadent dessert that will wow your friends!

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 cup caramel pieces
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 3 tablespoons half and half, divided
  • 1 10.5 oz package of Muddy Buddies (any variety)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease 8in x 8in pan.
  2. In a sauce pan, melt 1/2 cup butter. Remove from heat and beat in sugar, eggs and vanilla. Carefully mix in cocoa powder, flour, baking powder and salt. Spread into prepared pan.
  3. Bake in preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, before brownies are done baking, prepare caramel. Add one cup of caramel bits to a microwavable bowl, and add 2 tablespoons of half and half. Microwave on high for 30 seconds. Mix bits, and repeat for 30 more seconds. Continue to do this until caramel is completely melted.
  5. When brownies are done, take out of oven and immediately spread melted caramel over top. Sprinkle 2/3rds of the Muddy Buddies on top of the caramel. Melt chocolate in a microwavable bowl with 1 tablespoon of half and half, following the same directions as the caramel. Pour on top of the brownies and sprinkle remaining snack mix on top. Let cool completely before cutting.

Three Weeks Until Summer Break!

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So, it’s almost summer break, here, which is why it might get a little quiet on this blog. Well, that, and I’m kind of a flake. But, let’s blame last-month-of-school-craziness.

To prove it, here’s some of what I did over the last two weeks:

Maggie got her high yellow belt in taekwondo, which, actually, has absolutely nothing to do with it being the end of the school year.

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She also was chosen to have a painting displayed at our local hospital’s art show.

And, Aaron was invited to the DukeTIP State Recognition Ceremony, three hours away in the middle of no where.

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Meanwhile, I caught up on some neglected appointments, like eye exams…

Okay, none of this really has anything to do with the end of the year.

BUT…

Summer is coming…

So, over the next three weeks there will be end of year parties, awards ceremonies, band concert, etc. I’m just riding this wave on to summer. Then it’ll all be free time, knitting, and margaritas on the beach.

HA!

Summer looks like it’s going to be busy, too, but that’s cool. Better than dealing with months of boredom.

I have been knitting. The blanket. It’s coming along nicely. Pictures will be posted. But, later.

I’m also reading a few books right now AND my book club is meeting this Wednesday. (Yay!) We’re discussing A Dog’s Purpose by W. Bruce Cameron, and, thankfully, I’ve found discussion questions online for it.

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I’m making a themed snack this Wednesday, and I will definitely share it.

Also, I have another recipe I want to post. It’s a favorite in my house, but when I uploaded the pictures to my computer the photo of the dish was blurry, so, boo. I’ll just have to take a photo next time I make it. (Steam gets in the way of photographing food–something they don’t teach you in food blogging school. Because there is no food blogging school.) It’s a classic comfort food, and something that people usually make with condensed cream of mushroom soup, but I make it from scratch, which makes it a little better for you. (Okay, it’s tuna noodle casserole. And, it’s awesome. If you don’t like tuna noodle casserole, it’s probably because you’ve had the condensed soup version.) (Okay. That’s a bold statement. But, really, it’s one of my kids’ favorite meals.)

That’s all I have for now. I hope your Monday has been good, and your week is better!

 

It’s Okay!

After a deep breath and taking a step back, I decided I’m not ready for paid web hosting, monetizing, etc, etc.  Like I mentioned in my last post, I had made a rash decision, which resulted in a mistake. Instead of charging through the next THREE years with this monkey on my back, I decided to give Bluehost a call and see if I can take advantage of their money back guarantee. I could, and thank god! (Also, I should mention, they were super nice about it.) I downloaded the few posts I made on the other blog and am in the process of uploading them here. (I still have this blog, so this is NOT good bye!)

It’s not the blogging I have a problem with, rather, the pressure I put on myself by taking something fun and trying to turn it into “a business.” Because, yeah. I’ll make money off a blog that only six or so people see. A week. Ha! And, really, I don’t want a specific niche. I like to bake and cook, but I don’t want to only talk about that. I like to knit and sew and read, too, but I don’t want to just talk about those things, either. Also, maybe I want to write a blog post today, but, maybe, next week is crazy and I have no time? These are all things that matter when you are trying to build web traffic. Instead, I’d rather go back to the way things were. I’ll type something here. Maybe share a photo, or two, and if you see it, great. If you comment? Wonderful. But if you don’t, that’s fine, too.

Funny thing I learned when I called Bluehoast–I signed up for the wrong package, anyway. I signed up for “webhosting plus” which is actually for multiple websites. So, uh, yeah. Totally not ready for doing this on my own. I’ll keep my nice, free, I can write anything or nothing and not feel guilty because I’m not paying for anything.

I haven’t decided if I’m going to hold onto the Facebook Page, or not.

Anyhow, “phew!” (That’s the “phew” I would’ve said two weeks ago, had I not accidentally purchased webhosting.)

Lack of Focus and a Really Big Mistake

Full disclosure:  the reason I suddenly kicked my blogging into high gear is I accidentally signed up for web hosting for three years. And, paid for it all at once. (I think I might have had a mini-heart attack when I realized my mistake.) You see, I thought I was signing up for a small, monthly payment I’d barely notice. I thought, “eh, the small monthly payment will be motivation for me to take my blogging seriously.” Instead, I purchased this panic attack in full. I hit submit, saw my summary and immediately started to spiral. I actually don’t even know how or why I made such a mistake. How does a person sign up for three years of something and think, “eh, it’s just a small payment.” Even if it had been as I thought, I would be making payments for web hosting for three years. And, I’m sure, it’s my cheapness that led to that mistake. I clicked on whichever deal will cost me the less in the long run. “Three years at only 6 dollars a month? Yeah, that’s for me! I’m saving a dollar a month!” Every day since then, I’m thinking of that money, and wondering, “what in the hell was I thinking??”

When I started blogging (ahem, eleven years ago), I did it because I was just learning how to knit, and, simultaneously, use the internet. Blogging was a relatively new thing. There weren’t many out there–especially knitting blogs–and it was easier to get noticed and get feedback. I look back at those very early posts and laugh because they are TERRIBLE. Bad photos. Bad writing. COMPLETELY boring. But…they make me happy when I reread them. I love seeing the kids when they were little, and reading the little snippets of my daily life during that time. Sometimes it feels like I’m reading another woman’s diary. I’m not that same young mom. But I love looking at her life. She looked happy.

On again, off again, I’ve gone to my blog. Sometimes I switched blogging platforms. Sometimes I change the layout and types of posts I’d write. I’ve “tried on” many different styles. And, even though I kept the blog going, my content was sparse–especially in the later years when I started to make friends IRL (or In Real Life for those of you who don’t speak in acronyms.) Suddenly, I didn’t need to reach out with my blog anymore, since I had living, breathing people to talk to directly.

But, I still kept the blog and sometimes I’d look at my non-existent site traffic and think, “I should post more.”

Meanwhile, many of the bloggers that started about the same time I did continued with and committed to their “hobby.” Enter Pinterest. Enter Foodgawker. Enter Facebook and Twitter. Suddenly EVERYONE is living on the internet. Those blogs got popular. Famous. They turned from “hobbies” into “businesses,” with actual income.

I’m the type of person that dwells on the road not travelled. I see all of this and I wonder, what if I had put more effort into my blog? What if I had treated it like a job?  Then, I go to my blog. Bang out a post, or two, of absolutely nothing. Vow to be better. Vow to focus. Then, when the day is over, I go to sleep. And, that night, my ambitions and ideas are washed away, like I have some sort of strange amnesia. (Think, 50 First Dates.) I go to sleep and forget it all.

And I’m fine with that. Usually. I wipe my brow, mutter a relieved “phew!” and get back to what’s safe–being a mom. Just a mom. I pick up my broom, sweep my cares away, and am satisfied.

Until the next time I’m on Pinterest and I see something amazing someone else did. Question:  if you knit an amazing tea cozy, and no one is there to see it? Does it actually exist? Apparently, my brain doesn’t think so. Pictures, or it didn’t happen. I start fretting again about that neglected blog and all the stuff I could be–should be–putting on it.

So, this was my frame of mind a week ago when I was sitting at my computer. I was wondering, “what can I do to be relevant.” Those may not have been the exact words going through my head, but pretty close. I’m sure there were other words banging around my head, like, “I could do that,” or “I have things to say and/or teach people, too!” But, the main idea was “I am relevant. I need just need someone see that I am relevant, too.”

So, here I am. A blog I’ve paid three years in advance for. A blog, and zero focus. As you can tell from my last several posts, I’m thinking my blog is a food blog. Only, is it? Is that what I want? I mean, I love to eat, but do I love it enough to want to photograph every stage of the food making process? More importantly, do I even know what I’m doing? Sure, I can follow a recipe, but creating my own? That’s hard! And, food staging? But, I only have one style of dinnerware!

So, maybe it should be a craft blog. But, which one? Knitting? Crochet? Sewing? Weaving? Painting? Should I make patterns? Just share what I’m doing? Wait, what am I doing? I have one blanket I’m knitting, and about four sewing projects I gave up on before finishing…

Momming! (Yes, mom, as a verb.) I spend my days momming. I could talk about that! But…who wants to hear about how I dragged the kitchen chair back to the table for the 50th time today, or how, when I put one coloring book back in the basket, three suddenly appear in it’s place on the floor?

Just look at my categories, and you’ll see how incredibly unfocused I am. And that’s the pared down version! There were more categories, if you can believe it!

So, I have a dilemma. I have this blog. For three long years. I need to get my money’s worth out of it. What do I do? What will make it worth my time? What will make it authentic and interesting? If it’s not authentic, I’m just a pretender. And, seriously, that’s how I feel right now. I’m pretending to be a cooker, or a baker. (Candlestick maker?) I’m pretending to know what I’m doing. I have no flipping clue what I’m doing. Imposter Syndrome? Maybe. More likely, I really and truly don’t know what I want. I never have. That’s why I’m a mom in her late-30s, trying to find purpose by…blogging. See how silly that sounds? See why I’m having a panic attack?

So, for my friends and family (pretty much the only ones who are reading this) there is your explanation for why I’ve suddenly picked this blog back up. If you’re wondering, yes, I feel foolish. No, I don’t feel like it’s “me” blogging those recipes, but a silly stranger who needs better props if she’s going to be staging food. It doesn’t feel right, and it doesn’t feel sincere. But, I’ve got three more years to work on this mediocre blog and try to figure out what it’s going to be about.

Greek-Style Baked Tilapia

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A favorite meal in my household is Greek-style Baked Tilapia. It’s a good meal for when you want something light and flavorful, and is especially nice when the weather is getting warmer and you need a break from the heavy foods we tend to eat during the winter.

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I started making this particular dish last summer when my friend, Cathy, was giving me bags and bags of sweet cherry tomatoes from her garden. (She, unlike me, is good at growing things!) I found a recipe on the Food Network website for roasted tomatoes and white fish, and, since I had a few banana peppers from my own modest vegetable garden (banana peppers were the only thing that seemed to grow, and, even then, my “harvest” was embarrassingly tiny), I decided to slice and toss them in with the tomatoes and garlic. Each time I made this dish, the recipe evolved.

I now make my Greek-style Baked Tilapia with two pints of cherry tomatoes, a head of garlic, a quarter cup of pepperoncini peppers (it’s about three peppers), and a quarter cup of kalamata olives.

I serve this over steamed white rice, but it would also work nicely along side some roasted potatoes.

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Greek-style Baked Tilapia

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Time: 30 min
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Greek-style Baked Tilapia

Ingredients:

  • 2 pints cherry tomatoes
  • 1 head of garlic, peeled
  • 1/4 cup pepperoncini peppers
  • 1/4 cup kalamata olives,  pitted
  • 1/2 tablespoon oregano, dried
  • 1/2 tablespoon basil, dried
  • 1-2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 1/2 pounds tilapia (or, other white fish)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
In a 9 by 13-inch baking pan, combine tomatoes, pepperoncini peppers, kalamata olives, oil, garlic, salt, pepper, oregano and basil. Mix to coat. Roast for 15 minutes. Remove from oven, gently stir. Nestle fish in pan with tomatoes, place back in oven and continue roasting 7 to 15 minutes more or until fish is no longer translucent and tomatoes are just beginning to burst. Remove from oven. Divide fish among serving plates, atop steamed rice, if using. Spoon tomato, peppers and olives over fish in equal portions.

Adapted from: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/oven-roasted-cherry-tomatoes-with-basil-and-whitefish-recipe.html

Greek-style Baked Tilapia