Sunday, January 18, 2015

THRIFTY: Homemade Bath Goodies

Every year for the holidays, the girls and I love making homemade and handmade gifts for our friends and neighbors. Often it's baked goods, like my family-famous pumpkin bread, candy or cookies. Some years, though, we get a bit more ambitious and want to make something new and offbeat, not your traditional Christmas goodies. This past year was one.
 
 
As always, I love to use inexpensive ingredients and reuse and repurpose items. This fall we had harvested our lavender plants, dried the flowers, and put them in the freezer to preserve. I had also saved this bath sachet recipe on a Pinterest board several years ago and knew these would be perfect.


 
 
I had a box of powdered milk in my pantry, as well as oatmeal, rubber bands and twine. I ran to my neighborhood Dollar Tree and grabbed a few boxes of baby washcloths, which were 4 for $1. You could, however, just use any scrap of fabric you have, cheesecloth or muslin.
 



I think the images do justice in place of written explanation on how to make these (read: SO EASY). I typed up these little directions, printed them off, cut them and attached the to the sachets.

OATMEAL LAVENDAR MILK BATH SACHET | Tie the twine to hang the bundle under the faucet as hot water fills the tub. Squeeze the sachet to release the herbal properties into the water, or swirl the sachet around in the tub. The tub is now your giant cup of herbal tea! Once the bath is over, shake the wet herbs into a flowerbed, compost, or other container for disposal. The washcloth is yours to be used again!


In addition to the bath sachets, Alice and I whipped up some brown sugar coffee scrub. Every day after drinking my pot of java, I dump the grinds onto a large tray in the garage to dry. Once dried (this may take a few weeks because you really want them to be very dry), you mix the coffee grinds, brown sugar, olive oil, a tiny bit of vanilla extract, and a few shakes of cinnamon. I used a version of this recipe, but quadrupled it to make a lot more. Having a plethora of baby food jars from Arlo, I spray painted the lids a festive red, filled them with this yummy scrub, and tied on a cute paper tag. This scrub is ideal for dry hands and feet and works really well. It makes a huge mess of coffee grinds if used in the tub, though, just FYI. For this project, I had all the ingredients on hand, and repurposed the jars and paper tags, so it cost me next to nothing. Both projects turned out great, were fun to make in the kitchen, and so easy for the girls to help with. They'd be perfect for Valentine's Day or Mother's Day, too!

Friday, January 9, 2015

STYLE: Chewbeads


My friend Kristyn wore a strand of these really cute large turquoise beads to a party about a year ago and I complimented her on them. She told me they weren't real costume jewelry, but these safe spongy rubber-type beads for teething babies. You guys, this blew my mind. Being pregnant with Arlo at the time and knowing the chewiness that comes with baby territory, I couldn't wait to get my own.


Fast-forward about six months and I had my wee babe in my arms and he was so drooly and trying to eat all my unsafe vintage necklaces. I called around town and found out that both our baby boutiques downtown Boise, Cassis Kids on Idaho and Buns in the Oven in BoDo, carry Chewbeads. They are 100% silicone necklaces that are cute for mom and safe for baby. They come in a variety of styles, but the classic one I'm wearing here is the least expensive, running about $29.99. The colors are fun and funky (I picked bright yellow but they have more muted colors like brown and black if that's more your style) and I can't even tell you how much Arlo loves them. As soon as I put them on in the store, they went straight in his mouth. Worth every penny.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

FOODIE: A New Year's Resolution Revolution, Take Two

Resolution, resosmultion. I don't resolve to do most things, but I can totally get behind the desire to evolve. So I never do New Year Resolutions, but New Year Revolutions.

This year I'm taking on an old favorite. In 2010, I made the pledge to cook every single recipe in the Pioneer Woman's brand new, and first, cookbook, a la Julie & Julia. I've been a fan of Ree Drummond since way back in her beginning blogging days, and now she's a full-fledged celebrity chef. Five years ago I was super successful in making all fifty-something recipes in her book and it was a treasure and a treat. Many of those recipes are now mainstays in our culinary repertoire. I'm a bit of a Food Network Fangirl (see the Food Network Cookoff I've hosted every year for the past five years). I'm also a bit of a cookbook hoarder. Combine the two and you've got a kitchen revolution in the making.

For 2015, I decided to take on the challenge of making every single recipe in one of my newer cookbooks. I lobbied for Smitten Kitchen, or maybe Paula Deen's classic, but Eric won me over with his profound love of PW, so I hearby announce that I'll be making all the recipes in her second cookbook, The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Food From My Frontier (2012).

I'm really excited. But also a bit worried. Because there are 109 recipes in this book. ONE. HUNDRED. AND. NINE.


Rest assured, I'm aware that means I have to make at least two recipes a week for the entire year. Or have several parties where I make, like, ten of them. A handful of recipes are cocktails, and some are side dishes, so that should help. But, STILL. And, if you've ever made PW's recipes before, you know they can be massive, home-cooking, comfort food undertakings. And so, so worth every minute and ingredient.

A few recipes from this book are tried and true family favorites already, so I'm scratching those from the list: Simple Sesame Noodles, Restaurant Style Salsa, and her Apple Dumplings. Not because they aren't amazing, but that they are SO AMAZING that we make the all the time already. They've been a staple in our house for years, as I first discovered the recipes on her blog. (In fact, the year I took on the Pioneer Woman in my Food Network Cookoff I won first place with those Apple Dumplings in the dessert category because MOUNTAIN DEW is the secret ingredient.) Also, two recipes at the end are canning recipes and while canning pushes me outside my comfort zone in a good way, the recipes are for sweet pickles and strawberry jam, two things I do not love. So, 104 recipes it is.

Wish me luck.


(PS I'll be grammin' all this over here and posting regular updates on the blog. Last night I made the Roasted Cauliflower and it was truly the best cauliflower I've ever eaten. Eric agrees. And, yes, I always write notes in my cookbooks for future chefs and memories sake.)

Saturday, December 27, 2014

A Death in the Family

I'd just moved from Portland to Corvallis, Oregon, to move in with my boyfriend. I loved him, but I'd left a museum career and friends to go to a small town where I knew no one but him. This boyfriend was in graduate school and working as a teaching assistant and doing research and never home. I had a shitty job I hated at the county mental health clinic. One day in the staff newsletter of the shitty job I saw another county employee had posted an ad for a bunch of feral kittens she'd rescued at her farmhouse and that they were free to a good home. She'd had them spayed and neutered and they were healthy. I drove out immediately after I got off work at 5pm. As a champion for the underdog, when faced with selecting a pet, I will always, always defer to the least pretty/likeable/difficult. (As a child, when presented with a litter of purebred miniature poodles I selected the runt born with only three legs and loved him to death.) So, I picked the tiny gray and white kitty, hiding under a chair. Oh, honey, you probably don't want her, the kind-hearted woman said. She hates other people and other animals, she's been picked on here by all the other cats.

She's perfect, I said.

I took her home in a cardboard box and she crawled behind the stove and hid there for days. Eventually, she snuck out to pee and we named her Zooey, after a character in one of my most favorite J.D. Salinger novels. She puked 35 times in one hour after getting vaccinations to move across the country from Oregon to Minnesota. We popped tiny anti-anxiety pills into her throat with tweezers. Zooey slept on my belly every single night for seventeen years. Her purrs were the soundtrack all of my babies grew to in utero. She loved chirping at birds and drinking the water from under the Christmas tree. I cleaned up her cat puke every day for seventeen years. She hated my children, but loved Eric fiercely. She never once climbed on our countertops or peed outside her litter box.


About a year ago, at the age of sixteen, Zooey started peeing blood, her fur was matting, she was puking more than normal, all classic signs of kidney failure in older cats. She was still eating, drinking and purring, until she wasn't anymore. We loved her so much and waited and watched as it got worse and worse and this past July our beloved Zooey died. We came home from a camping trip in Atlanta, Idaho, to find her bleeding from the mouth, eyes sunken in, and barely moving. Eric wrapped her in an old towel and we placed her in the cat carrier she'd ridden in to move across the country with us two times, for her very last car ride. The girls and I sobbed goodbyes and sent Eric off by himself to the Idaho Humane Society to euthanize our very first baby. He held her and cried with the kind technicians and brought her home in a handmade baby quilt and dug a hole in our backyard under the lilac tree. We handmade a headstone with a garden marker kit from Jo-Ann Craft Store.

Everyone cried for days, weeks. Lucy kept hearing her meow for food, Eric kept picking her hair off everything, I kept feeling her clawing at the side of our bed. Alice helped pack up all her things to gift to a friend in Utah, another young girl, bringing home her very first kitten. It was a joy to gift her our precious Zooey's items.

It's been five months now, and I don't think of her every day any more. Her picture still resides on our fridge and clumps of her hair still get swept up from underneath furniture, but it's becoming less and less. A few weeks ago when we pulled out the Christmas boxes everything, all the emotions of loss, came rushing back when Lucy pulled out Zooey's stocking. It hung by our fireplace every year and Santa never forgot to stock it with some toys or special cans of soft food. She burst into tears that wouldn't stop, my girl.


We came up with a plan for that stocking and that grief. Lucy and I decided to donate a portion of the monies we earned with our artsy crafts we sold at Wintry Market and the Boise MADE Pop Up Shop to the Idaho Humane Society in memory of our dear cat. Today, with friends in tow, we made the trip to donate $30 in cash to the place where we our sweet Zooey took her last breath and was able to be euthanized with kindness and love. A place that gives so much honor to the animals in our lives, through living and dying. It's a small gesture and the cash isn't really that much, but to our family, to Lucy, it was huge. And so important. Sometimes to best way to grieve a death is through living a good life, in moments big and small.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Sexy Time


Soon, I'll be saying goodbye to these old friends. And I have to say, good riddance. While you've saved my life, probably hundreds of times, and I appreciate all you've done for me, sayonara.
 
Well, soon.
 
Like sometime after, oh, 27 MORE TIMES THAT I HAVE TO INVITE YOU TO ALL OUR PARTIES. Sigh.


You see, my husband, Eric, had a vasectomy a few weeks ago. It was traumatic and terrifying, wonderful and worth it. After giving birth to three beautiful babies over the course of the last decade, we were done making more, but WAIT MAYBE WE AREN'T BECAUSE I LOOK AT THIS AND MY OVARIES ACHE. AND, my heart:


It wasn't so bad, the vasectomy, Eric says. Scheduling it on a Friday afternoon for a long weekend of pajama pants and laying on the couch watching football with icy nutties works pretty well.

(Yes, since we had a baby boy we've come to charmingly referring to his - and his daddy's - testicles as nutties. I know, I know.)

What sucks, I hear, is going back to work the next week and standing all the livelong day on concrete working in a lab, and walking across campus, and teaching classes. It's then that the pain gets a wee bit worse.

But that, too, dissipated within about a week and soon we were on our way to, ahem, "completing at least sixteen ejaculations" before sending in the first cup of semen to be tested. Until then, condoms, you'll be standing bedside. (Double sigh.) And even AFTER THEN, I learned when reading the paperwork, because we have to commit sixteen MORE ejaculations for test cup #2 and to get the clear that the little sperm are truly dead ending in there.


And we've already had two broken condoms (whoa, WHOOPS) and I can't wait to toss a little plastic cup full of my husband's semen into the diaper bag some morning eleven or so more times from now.

But, I still get a little teary-eyed about the whole thing.

You can read more about the big V-DAY at Mamalode where I wrote a little story about it. Click on over and give it a read - I think you'll like it. The theme during November at the mag was MEN, and I've sure got a special one.

Monday, November 10, 2014

ARTSY: Needlework for Wintry Market

We're celebrating our fourth year putting on Wintry Market | Handmade for the Holidays, an upscale and inventive indie art/craft holiday fair. I'm co-creator and co-organizer with my friend and local interior designer, Kristin Montgomery.
 
This year's Market will consist of innovative and original items produced using traditional art/craft methods created by 48 vendors from around the Treasure Valley. Also part of the Market will be a Kid's Craft Workshop by Bricolage, coffee by Joe 2U, baked goods by Boise's Bakery, food truck by P. Ditty's Wrap Wagon, local live music curated by Go Listen Boise and a winter-themed photo booth. For the locals, Wintry Market will be held Saturday Nov 22 (10am-5pm) and Sunday Nov 23, 2014 (10am-3pm) at the El Korah Shrine on the corner 11th and Idaho Streets in downtown Boise. Admission is free to the public.
 
In addition to organizing the event, I also operate a little vintage booth called Ticky-Tacky. I typically sell mid-century home wares and quirky items, and this year I'm adding some hand-stitched artworks to my usual fare.




As an artist, my work blurs the boundaries between fine art and craft. For me, the repurposing of found materials adds both tactile and historical elements integral to the contemporary story each piece tells. I learned needlework and cross-stitch from my mother as a girl.  My foundations with fabric, combined with my academic background, have allowed me to explore traditional women’s handiwork in a non-traditional way. Needlepoint has been an important part of America's past and a recent resurgence in the art/craft has proved its duration and importance in our lives. 

As a writer, words and storytelling are also ways I express myself. Combining contemporary text, often song lyrics from female pop stars like Katy Perry, the Dixie Chicks, and Taylor Swift, with stitching can be both playful and powerful. It speaks to history and generations, telling stories of women throughout the years - the (presumably) older ones who lovingly hand-crafted the vintage tea towels and linen napkins in the 1950s with the pop star girl power of twentysomethings today.


 
I've also made a handful of these lovelies, of course, inspired by Julie Jackson of Subversive Cross Stitch, of which I've been a fan FOR YEARS.
 

This year my ten-year-old daughter, Lucy, will be joining me. I've taught her how to embroider as well, passing along the craft, and she's decided to have a little booth called Embroidery by Lucy. She's making these darling little initials, some Christmas tree ornament sized and some larger to hang on a wall. Be sure to stop by our booth, as she'll have all 26 letters of the alphabet.


Monday, October 27, 2014

ARTSY: Dia de los Muertos Skulls

I'm a huge fan of the Dollar Tree just a few blocks from my house in Vista Village shopping center here in Boise, especially around the holidays. Their d├ęcor is killer, and so much fun to be creative with without costing much at all.


 Last year I saw (too late) these large felt skulls, probably 18" tall by 12" wide in both white and black for a dollar a piece. By the time I thought about crafting them up to make darling Dia de los Muertos skulls and went back to the store, they were all snatched up.


This year I bought three, one each for Lucy, Alice and I to try our hand at. While I originally thought I'd get out my embroidery thread and needles for some cute stitching, I quickly changed my mind because, um, crafting with kids is sometimes hard enough without making it harder (am I right or am I right?). A faster, easier method of getting the same colorful details as thread? Brightly colored Sharpies.


Pull up some sugar skull and face painting images of Day of the Dead from the Internets for inspiration. Add in a few tubes of glitter glue, sequins and leftover Mardi Gras mask making feathers. Voila! Cutest decorations to grace our front window during any Halloween season we've had. (Pro Tip: the plastic hanging hook that the price tag was attached to? Don't rip it off. Use it to hang your skulls on a tiny suction cup hook on your window!) I even ran back to the Dollar Tree to snatch up three of the black skulls to craft up next year before they ran out. Again.