Thursday, October 31, 2013

Making Loveys

I've been in a blanket mood recently.  I wanted to try something I've seen online, but was a little nervous about trying it full size.  Solution?  Loveys!

A lovey (or blankie) is a small blanket perfect for babies and toddlers to sleep with, cuddle, drag around and refuse to let go in time for kindergarten.  I made these with cotton fabric on one side with minky on the other, all surrounded by a contrasting ruffle.

They were easy to make.  Decide on the size of lovey you want to make.  There is no uniform size for a lovey.  Mine are 18" x 21".  I wanted the lovey to fit a number of purposes - a doll or infant blanket, a small pet blanket or (mostly) a lovey to love.  I cut the two middle pieces 18 1/2" x 15" - one in cotton and one in minky.  

I wanted my ruffles to be about 2" wide finished, so I cut the contrasting fabric in two strips, each 5" wide x 36" long.  Those measurements assume 1/2" seams and 4" extra length for the ruffle.  


I hate taking pictures while I'm sewing, so while I describe the (easy) process, I'll intersperse the beautiful pictures taken by my friend Kate Eschbach (of Kate Eschbach Photography).

I began with the fun part - the ruffles.  I am estranged from my ruffler attachment and I did attempt a reconciliation for this project, but it just was not to be.  That left me with the old fashioned way.  First, sew the ends of the two strips together to form one long strip.  Fold in half and iron.

Using the longest stitch on your machine, sew long raw edges together with a 1/2" or less seam, leaving extra length of thread hanging after you cut it.  I would not recommend trying to ruffle the entire length at once - your thread will break (several times).  I only did about 12" or less at a time because I'm a ruffle weenie.  I also would go back after each section and sew the ruffles down with a normal length stitch instead of waiting until I ruffled the whole thing.  That doesn't leave a lot of room to adjust before you sew it to the main pieces, but as I said, I'm a ruffle weenie.

Once the long nightmare ruffle is done, take the 3 pieces - cotton rectangle, minky rectangle and long ruffle and make a sandwich lining up the edges - cotton rectangle, right side facing DOWN; ruffle with raw edge matching raw edges of the rectangles in the middle; and on the bottom, the minty with right side facing UP.  Sew a 1/2" (or deeper) seam, catching all three.  Sew all the way around the blanket. Be generous in gathering ruffles at the corners so you don't have to go tight around them.  Leave the last 4-5" on the side open so you can turn it inside out.

Turn the blanket inside out and hand-sew the remaining opening closed.  After I turned the blanket right side out, I went back and removes some of the visible extra threads on the finished product from the places where I initially sewed the ruffles.

And there you have it - easy, right?  (If this looks a little different than the other pictures, this is a second lovey I made.)  You can find both of these lovies for sale in my Etsy store, Pretty Pretty Cindy

You can't have too many loveys.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Try It Tuesday - Butter-Flavored Brickle Drizzles

Recently, my daughter-who-no-longer-wants-to-be-mentioned-by-name brought home an old cookbook, "365 Favorite Brand Name Cookie Recipes."  In the spirit of autumn, we chose recipe #95, Butter-Flavored Brickle Drizzles.  It wasn't clear when this cookbook was written, but I would guess the 1980s.  There's no gluten-free, fat-free, "healthy" ingredients involved here.  I am writing the recipe exactly as it appears in the book, including references to things like "shortening"


1 cup BUTTER FLAVOR CRISCO all-vegetable shortening (this was the brand name part)
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 14 ounce can sweetened condensed milk (not evaporated milk)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3 cups quick-cooking oats uncooked
1 cup almond brickle chips (Heath Bar chips)

Drizzle:  1 cup milk chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease cookie sheet with shortening

Combine shortening, granulated sugar and brown sugar in large bowl.  Stir until well blended and creamy.  Stir in condensed milk and vanilla.  Mix well.

Combine flour, salt and baking soda in a separate bowl.  Stir into creamed mixture and stir in oats.

Shape dough into 1" balls.  Press tops into brickle chips.  Place, brickle side up on cookie sheet, 2" apart

Bake for 9-10 minutes until set but not brownd.  Remove to wire rack and cool.

For drizzle, place chocolate chips in resealable ziploc bag.  Microwave at medium (50%).  Knead bag after 1 minute.  Repeat until smooth.  (You can also do this by dipping the bag into hot water until the chocolate melts).  Cut tip of plastic bag and squeeze out chocolate in drizzles on the cookies.

These are really tasty cookies.  They are thin and crunchy and the combination of oatmeal and brickle chips reminds me of cold autumn days with the sweetness of pralines.  We didn't get to the drizzle, but they were good without them too.

A crunchy treat on an autumn kinda day.


Thursday, October 17, 2013

I've Been Booed! Free Printables

Over the weekend I noticed something on our front porch.  It wasn't a mail package, but a cute Halloween box full of Halloween goodies!  Attached to the box was a small sign saying "You've Been Booed!"  Inside the box was lots of candy, Halloween stuff (eyeball salt and pepper shakers, a solar dancing pumpkin, a growing zombie, cookie cutters, a kitchen towel - you get the idea).  I wish I could say I had a picture of the box, but my kids (and me) tore it apart looking for all the goodies.  How fun!

Turns out, this is the idea of Tricia at Nola Mommy from 2011.  It's a fun way to get to know your neighbors - even if it is a bit anonymously - and a fun activity for your kids who are either too young to trick or treat or can't in the neighborhood.  This is like the reverse trick or treat!  Here is the original "You've Been Booed" sign along with the complete instructions and free printables from Nola Mommy:

We couldn't wait to put our own "boo baskets" together for two of our neighbors.  It wasn't very expensive - we used some cool metal pails we've had for a while for containers and then added little items from the Dollar Store and Target.  It was fun to find ring pop eyeballs and bloody vampire teeth.  The dish towels from Target are a cute addition too!  Here's what our finished products look like, all ready for "booing":

Don't these pumpkins look like little waiters?

I really love this idea, but I can't take credit for starting it in my neighborhood.  Some nice anonymous neighbor did that!  These would be great for a lot of holidays - Thanksgiving, Christmas, Valentine's Day and St. Patrick's Day.  The possibilities are endless and you can never get too much community going on, especially when you live in an area where neighbors don't tend to know each other.

Don't forget to check out the full directions at Nola Mommy and happy booing!


Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Kitties - Blanca and LuLu

Earlier this year I wrote about Mackenzie's new cat, Lulu.  Lulu is all settled in now.  She's such a pretty cat and very sweet - from a distance.

She has a great relationship with our dogs (sometimes I think she thinks she IS a dog), and she definitely loves us from that distance.  Please don't touch me.  She loves when we feed her, when we play with her and when she can follow us around like a dog.  She is also pretty good at coming when you call her.

My husband likes Lulu, but misses the cuddly cats we had before the kids were born.  Lulu will never be the "I-love-to-sit-in-your-lap-and-sleep-next-to-your-head-at-night" kind of cat.  So when he heard of a lovable, guaranteed kissable cat who needed a new home, he volunteered.  This was HUGE - the idea that we would bring a fourth animal into the house, especially coming from Kent, was crazy.  (Mackenzie and I would be cat ladies if allowed.)  Enter Blanca:

Blanca is so different from Lulu.  She's an Oriental, so her body is longer and sleeker, she's a talker and she's a lover.  She does give genuine kisses, but she does stay on the move.  You can see her here drinking from the faucet - Lulu wouldn't get caught dead near water.  And yes, she is pure white (hence the name).

At first we were very nervous about introducing our little kitty ladies, but it turns out they have something in common - they BOTH think they are dogs.  They sniff each other (both noses and butts) and there is no hissing or growling involved.  There are a few swipes, but they are getting playful more than aggressive.  What may be even more remarkable is that they both are very comfortable with the dogs.  (I guess that shouldn't be surprising from cats that act like dogs.)

The other thing we've noticed is that each cat is getting to be a little more like the other.  Unfortunately, the small improvements we've seen with Lulu being close to us have come at the expense of Blanca becoming a little more distant.  We're still looking for the happy medium.

So now we are a family of 8 and the pets are close to outnumbering the humans.  I don't think we'll let that happen - we need to get the 8 we have comfortable under one roof.


Sunday, October 6, 2013

Illness, Isolation and Despair

Last week, a co-worker of mine committed suicide.  There's no explanation.  (Is there ever an explanation?)  It was especially shocking because this man was well known and a friend to all.  He was so joyous and knew everyone's name.  So what happened?  What did everyone miss?  Could it have been prevented?  That's impossible to say, but the experts at Help Guide have suggested several ways you can help or determine whether someone is suicidal:

1.  Speak up if you're worried.  Don't assume someone else will do this, even if the depressed person has family or friends that might be "closer".

2.  Respond quickly.  If a person shares that he or she is contemplating suicide, take them seriously.  If they describe a plan, call 911 and don't let them out of your sight.

3.  Offer help and support.  I had to read this one a couple of times because it seems overly simplistic.  However, when I read "help" I think that means "fix".  You can't fix, but you can offer to be a sympathetic ear that can facilitate the person to get professional help.

When someone dies, the inevitable "could I have done anything . . ." comes to mind.  It's not clear that it would have made a difference for my co-worker, as he did his best to isolate himself in the months leading up to him taking his own life.  However, he would be relieved to have his tragic death provide some incentive  or insight into helping others climb out of the pit of depression and despair.

Let's hope so.


Saturday, October 5, 2013

All About Arizona - National Park Shutdown

Probably one of the best parts of Arizona (as in most Western states) is the vastness of its natural beauty.  Historically, the federal government had enough foresight to preserve these national treasures and Arizona has 22 of these.  Unfortunately, with the government shutdown (as of this posting), the national parks, monuments and recreation areas are closed (including the roads into them if you're thinking about driving in).  It's sad that national parks (and their employees and local businesses) are out of business, especially since most of the money to operate them comes from private donations with limited federal funding.  Please come to visit when the government gets back to work, but in the meantime, here's a small sample of what you're missing:

The Grand Canyon - Governor Brewer offered to operate the Grand Canyon a few days ago, but that offer was rejected by the Park Service.  This gorgeous picture from the Sierra Club shows what is now hidden from view.

Petrified Forest National Park - During our recent vacation we stamped our passport in the Arizona Painted Desert where quartz dazzles in giant trees.  It's closed.  In fact, nearly all of the places we visited on our vacation - Bryce Canyon (and nearby Zion National Park), Grand Teton National Park, Yellowstone National Park, Devil's Tower, Battle of Little Bighorn Battlefield, the Badlands, Mount Rushmore, Fort Laramie, Rocky Mountain National Park, Pecos National Historic Park and Minuteman Missile National Historic Site - are closed.

Saguaro National Park - Located near Tuscon, this is a great park for driving or riding a bicycle.  Although we live in the Sonoran Desert and see saguaro cactus all around us, I must say the Saguaro National Park was still visually stunning for me.

Lee's Ferry - This was another one of our stops during our vacation before we left Arizona.  It's the place where the Colorado River comes into Arizona and it is a stunning view north of the Grand Canyon.

Canyon de Chelly - Pronounced "Canyon du Shay"  This is a place on my bucket list.  You need some hiking boots for this place to see the optimal sites.  Gorgeous slot canyons, hieroglyphics and ancient ruins are hidden from view until the federal government opens for business.

As I mentioned previously, there are 17 more sites owned by us that are closed.  Let's hope we can visit our national treasures soon.