Category Archives: Homemade

Prince Charming

On our first anniversary (almost eight years ago), we decided to spend a few days at Disneyland. In the shop that now is home to the Bippity Boppity Boutique in Fantasyland, there used to be a shop that had costumes and things for princesses AND princes. I remember thinking that the Prince Charming costume and other boy costumes they had there were so adorable. I remember seeing a couple siblings dressed up in the park that day as well as little boys all on their own as their favorite prince (and a couple dragons). Since then everything has become princess-only for girls and the boy stuff revolves around Cars. The boy fairytale costumes are non-existent. Obviously this decision is profitable or Disney wouldn’t do it, but it bums me out.

A couple weeks ago I decided I wanted to make Sprout a Prince Charming costume. I realized I pretty much had almost everything I would need. I kind of had an idea of what I would do and how it would work, but looked around on the Internet for some tutorials as a reference and came across this great one by Ashley at Make It and Love it. I read through it, headed to the craft store for all of our embellishments and then got to work cutting out the pieces right away.

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My advantage for this project was that I already had a suit that fit Sprout to use as a pattern guide (Thanks Cara for all your great hand-me-downs, as always). I used cream colored felt for the jacket because I had a ton of it from when I thought I was going to make hand embroidered Norweigan slippers for all the girls in my family one year. I also had a bunch of red fabric that I had been planning to use for various boy sewing projects, some of which I used for the cape and hat in the Prince Philip costume.

I did decide to do some slightly different things than she did in the tutorial. I backed all my gold stripes with some of the blue sparkly fabric I had leftover from the Cinderella costume. It was kind of a way to tie the two character costumes together, which is an old theater/movie trick where two characters that the viewers are supposed to associate together wear similar tones or the same colors. I also used some pre-made “frog” closures for the front of the coat (notions were on sale that day at JoAnn’s and I took full advantage). I also had trouble making the epaulets the way she described and wound up reading a few different tutorials on the subject in order to make mine.

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All the thick fabric layers and notions definitely gave the machine quite a workout. I don’t even know how many different needles broke during the course of the project. Sometimes it seemed like one every few minutes. I was getting pretty frustrated. I finally found some heavy duty needles and stopped having so many problems.

Sprout and his cousin were fighting over who got to be Prince Charming this morning so we did photo shoots with both of them in between wiping noses 500 times due to our second round of summer colds. Fun times.

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Banana Nut Oatmeal

When I was growing up, as a quick breakfast for us girls, my parents often bought the instant oatmeal flavor variety pack. Cinnamon raisin and brown sugar were usually the first flavors gone followed by plain which we would doctor up with a ton of additions and then the banana nut/banana bread (depending on which company you bought it from), would sit and sit and sit. Nobody liked that flavor. I don’t know about my sisters, but for me it was the fake banana taste. I still hate that taste. I used to think I hated bananas because I hated banana flavor.

Anyway, the last few times I’ve had some overripe bananas I’ve made this much more natural (and way better tasting) version of those instant oatmeal flavor packs.

Ingredients:
-1 over-ripe banana
-1 cup rolled oats
-2 cups water
-1 or two handfuls chopped nuts (I used almonds and hazelnuts)
-1 handful of raisins or dried fruit (optional, I like the golden raisin and berry blend from TJs)
-couple large spoonfuls of yogurt
-couple dashes of cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice
-1 tsp brown sugar
-squirt of honey

Place oats, nuts, honey, cinnamon, sugar and water in a small saucepan and heat over medium low, stirring occasionally until water is absorbed into oats.

Meanwhile mash your banana in a medium bowl. Add in the yogurt and dried fruit. When the oatmeal mixture is ready stir that in too.

Top with fresh fruit, if desired.

Enjoy.

If you really want to splurge and make it sinful, add in a spoonful of Nutella. Just do it when the kids aren’t looking.

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Lisa’s Gluten-Free All Purpose Flour Mix

When it comes to gluten-free baking everyone has an opinion about the right combination of flours because no one other grain seems to be able to mimic the elasticity, texture, flavor, etc. of wheat. The Internet is a really great resource for those with Celiac’s, wheat allergy or gluten intolerance. There are tons and tons of websites, blogs, gluten-free stores, cookbooks, and recipes to be found. And behind all of them is an opinion on this subject.

One baker will tell you that millet is a gluten-free bread baker’s dream. Another will say sorghum flour has a great texture. A lot of people are not fans of rice flour because of the grainy texture, which is funny because so many pre-made mixes are mostly made with rice flour (you’d think the makers of these mixes would listen, but I suspect it probably has more to do with the fact that rice is cheap). Certified gluten-free oat flour, I’ve heard numerous times, is the closest thing to wheat. Almond meal is perfect to bake with and produces the fluffiest baked goods. Some prefer to add things like flax seed meal or garbanzo bean flour to their mixes for extra protein and fiber (though just like eating regular garbanzo beans you might want to grab some Beano before enjoying a baked good that contains this flour). These are all things I’ve read on numerous websites and books dedicated to making the gluten-free life a little easier.

It has been nice having all these resources to go to since several family members have discovered varying levels of allergy and intolerance to wheat. Most recently my husband has gone gluten-free and about 6 weeks in now he is definitely noticing some benefits including the loss of 7lbs and a little pooch he’s never been able to get rid of (what some people refer to as “wheat belly”) no matter how hard he worked out or watched what he ate. I still have a stash of a few things I am holding onto and when we eat out I indulge, but for the most part our house is gluten-free now.

So the creative wheels have been turning. I needed a good mix of flours because one of the biggest obstacles, at least for me, to gluten-free baking is having to pull out several different bags of flours and pull a little from each bag. It takes up a lot of space on your counter and in your cupboards and it’s just annoying having to measure out that many ingredients.

The best stuff on the market that most people I know with wheat allergies use is probably Pamela’s mix. Unfortunately, it contains cultured buttermilk so Bean and Sprout can’t have anything that is made with it. I have had some seriously yummy treats baked with that stuff and so it is really a bummer that it won’t work for our family.

I decided today that I would take the opinions that I’ve read plus my own experience with gluten-free baking and try to come up with my very own all purpose mix that could be used as a cup for cup substitute in any recipe calling for flour that I tried. I am finally pretty happy with the result. No grainy textures, no bitter aftertaste, something that is somewhere between whole wheat and white in texture and taste, and a great elasticity in doughs and batter. So here it is, I am throwing my hat in the ring of gluten-free flour combo opinions:

Lisa’s Gluten Free All Purpose Flour Mix
-1 cup arrowroot starch/flour
-1 cup sorghum flour
-1 cup millet flour
-1 cup almond meal (I do like the blanched Bob’s Red Mill stuff better than the “Just Almond Meal” from TJ’s)
-1 cup oat flour
-1 cup potato starch
-1 cup sweet rice flour
-3 tbsp xanthan gum

Sift ingredients together (the almond meal and the oat flour had quite a few chunks, so this is important for a smooth end product) into a large bowl then use a wire whisk to combine thoroughly.

This made enough flour for a batch of muffins and a loaf of bread with some leftover. I made a second batch just before I put things away to keep in my big flour jar and have on hand for the next time I feel like baking. That way I can just take out the jar and measure out the amount of flour I need without a big production.


Gluten-free bread dough rising.


The finished loaf. I just found a simple bread recipe that used regular flour and substituted my flour mix.


Strawberry banana muffins using strawberries we got at the farmer’s market yesterday. Again, I just found a strawberry muffin recipe online and used my mix for the flour, a combo of hemp and coconut milk for the milk, and a banana instead of the egg it called for.

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I better hurry up and get Christmas behind me, hello 2011

Um hi. It has been awhile. Quite frankly I just haven’t much felt like sitting down to write and edit photos.

I decided today though that my list of things I should be posting about was getting much too long and so I decided to throw together this massive post full of updates and photos of things that have happened since before Christmas when I dropped off the blogging map.

Here goes…

Handmade Christmas and a shower gift

I had big ambitions for Handmade Christmas this year. Almost everyone I knew was supposed to get something handmade. And then I lost all motivation. This pregnancy has been so exhausting. I have barely been sick, I mean a little, but nothing like the other two. Instead I sleep all the time. 3-4 hour naps in the afternoon and I go to bed at like 8:30pm most nights. Also, I wasn’t a super awesome planner and tried to cram all my handmade gifts into November and December. Honestly, not usually a problem for me because I am fast like that. But yeah. So tired.

So here is what I did manage to accomplish:


Embroidered Scandinavian slippers for my sister in Korea. You can follow her super cool blog about her adventures over there by clicking here.


I also made a mini pair for Bean, but they were a tad too mini. So now they are sittng in my craft room and I am trying to figure out what to do with them.

Then my friend Sarah is having a baby boy this month so I made him a set of aviator themed onesies, a faux leather vintage pilot hat and a matching bib. I don’t have finished pictures of all the onesies because I accidentally went on a deleting spree on my camera. They are all based on some Pottery Barn bedding that she got as a handmedown from a friend.

Finally, for our family’s favorite little hip-hop head:

I made a series of embroidery meets hip-hop onesies:

And then a couple days ago, once the madness had died down a bit, I made myself this little hot drink sleeve:

The fair isle pattern is from a Debbie Bliss toddler dress that I had been trying to finish for Bean to wear for Christmas, but when the exhaustion set in that just wasn’t going to be possible. One day I was working on it with one of my favorite hot drinks and I figured out that the motif was just the right size for a hot drink sleeve. So I ripped out the dress and made the sleeve. Selfish, I know.

Sprout hit the 11 month mark, I forgot to take pictures until we visited a petting zoo on Christmas Eve

But hey, it turned out OK, because seriously can it get any cuter than a boy and a bunny? I think not.

Or a boy pinching a guinea pig?

Hehehe.

And this one is just to make my sister mad:

She was pretty pissed that I let him put the hay in his mouth. But she lets her baby listen to ear buds. So we are even. Or something.

There was also a train ride involved. And if you didn’t know, I have a certain affinity for trains. Something I share with my daughter. Love!

Bean had tons of fun at the petting zoo. She did a very good job of making sure all the rabbits, goats, and guinea pigs got just a little bit fatter.

And we had a lovely Christmas thank you for asking.

So there you have it. That about sums things up for the end of 2010. Happy New Year everyone!

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Turning a girl sized pattern to American Girl sized

If you remember, back in July I made my niece a dress.

Well, when I found out she was getting an American Girl doll for Christmas (Shhh… it’s a surprise), I decided that I would try to make a matching dress for her doll. Her mom agreed that she would probably love it. I had a bunch of fabric leftover from my niece’s dress, so no need to buy anything new. However, I did not have a pattern. I tried to see if I could find one online, but did not encounter much luck.

So. I did math.

I was never really all that great at math. I do think part of it stems from some pretty terrible teachers in junior high and high school. Because some of the equations that I did figure out have definitely stuck with me. Like the proportional equation. And some geometry stuff that helped us out when we put in our own hardwood floors.

Give me a few minutes and I may be able to explain some math to you AND help you figure out some pattern making skills.

I still had the pattern pieces from the dress I made from “Project Runway Inspired” Simplicity Pattern 3510. I also still had my niece’s measurements and I found a few different websites that listed the dressmaker’s measurements for the American Girl doll.

So, I took all my measurements and the pattern pieces and started doing math and some drawing.

In order to do this I would measure a portion of the pattern piece, say the width of the armhole, and then plug it into my proportional equation (I am really not sure if that is the correct name for this equation, just go with it) along with some of the other measurements. This is the kind of math where there are knowns and unknowns and you have to do a little figuring to find out what the unknowns are (X).

So let’s go with the armhole example (FS = Full size, AG = American Girl):

FS armhole width               X (AG armhole width)
—————–            =       ———————
FS chest width                     AG chest width

So to find X you have to break down the equation until X is left by itself on one side of the equal sign.

2 1/8″           X
—–       =    —–
25″              11.25″

Now I’m not really sure the whole theory behind this, but you multiply in an X across the equal sign.

(2 1/8″) * (11.25″) = (25″) * X

Then to get the X by itself you have to divide both sides by 25 which eliminates the 25 on the X side.

(2 1/8″) * (11.25″)
——————       =        X
            25″

In this case X = 0.956″

So, then you know that when you are drawing the armhole, that it needs to be about an inch wide for the American Girl dress.

So, like I said when I was doing the equation I was also taking into consideration where on the body the measurements occured and using corresponding measurements. You wouldn’t for example, use the dolls height in the above equation over the chest measurement. And you want to use the width measurements with other width measurements and height measurements with other heigh measurements.

Or, if you were making a dress with sleeves, you would want to use the wrist and arm measurements when figuring out how wide and long to make the sleeves.

Does that make sense? I hope it does.

Here were my final pattern pieces:

I actually cut out the matching mini pockets for the American Doll dress too, but when it came down to actually sewing them, it was much too hard, even hand sewing them. They were soooo tiny. The dress isn’t an exact match, but I think it turned out pretty good.

I was also concerned about whether the doll version would fit over the doll’s head, so I decided to put a snap in at the back to give more room for pulling it over the doll’s head.

A few of the sites I found that talked about making doll clothes to match big kid clothes said to make it more accurate you should find coordinating fabrics with scaled down versions of the pattern (quilting cottons are a good place to look for this). I just wanted to use up some of the extra fabric I had on hand, so I didn’t do this. I think it looks alright. I did, however, scale down the size of the binding around the armhole to 1/4″ binding. I think on my niece’s dress I used 3/4″.

Anyway, it really is just a matter of knowing a little math, maybe having a calculator on hand if you can’t do math in your head like me, some blank paper, a ruler, measuring tape and a bit of drawing skills. Or if you are not super impressed with your drawing skills, you could make a rough drawn version by hand, scan it and clean it up in a program like Adobe Illustrator.

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My food journey, part 2: Teens and young-adulthood

My vegetarianism stints throughout junior high and high school never really lasted long and when they did I often cheated. The thing is that despite growing up around food and to a certain extent, farming, I really knew very little about preparing food well.

My sister, Andrea, recently said to me that she never could understand why anyone would want to be a vegetarian until she started learning how to prepare good food. When you grow up eating vegetables that are frozen or canned and then microwaved, it’s pretty easy to see why.

Processed food was a huge staple of my family’s diet. I don’t blame my parents for this at all. I know that they did the best they could with the knowledge they had and the resources they had to work with. If you’ve seen Food Inc., you know all about how basically junk food is subsidised by our government. Hamburger Helper is cheap and easy to prepare. So please don’t judge my parents for “ruining” what was mainly grass-fed beef with these meals in a box.

When my parents split up, maintaining the ranch became pretty much impossible. So we moved and my dad got a Costco membership. Enter in even more processed food. We still consumed large amounts of meat that we bought in bulk there, but this was accompanied by the same staples. He also started getting a lot of pre-prepared meals there like the skillet meal in a bag types, frozen lasagna, pasta to be topped with sauces from a jar, chicken pot pies, Hot Pockets, and other things that he knew would be easy for my sisters and I to prepare on our own.

Cable television had always been seen as somewhat of a necessity in our home growing up. I don’t even really remember a time when we didn’t have it. In some ways though, I say thank God for cable television because that is how and where I learned to cook. Watching Emeril started out as a fun thing to do with my dad. For the first time I realized, “Whoa, cooking can be so much fun and so interesting. It doesn’t have to be this awful hard chore.” When they added the Food Network to our channel lineup I was so excited. I quickly had several favorites shows.

Soon after that something just snapped in me and I knew that I could not stand to eat another pot pie or Hot Pocket ever again (OK, well lets be honest here I did when I was desperate and there was nothing else to eat in the house, but still). I remember one day I just got online and started printing off recipe after recipe that I wanted to try on little notecards to fill the little recipe box I purchased at  the drugstore that was around the corner (which sits to this day in my kitchen). Some of my recipes were total flops. For instance, the first time I tried to make alfredo sauce I burned the rue three times (darn old electric stove!) before giving up and making a box of Pasta Roni instead. Other things were really good though, like after one of my dad’s annual fishing trips when I made a seared tuna steak topped with a mixture of tomatoes, garlic and olives in a white wine sauce.  

Processed food didn’t just go away though. Even though I knew freshly prepared food was fairly easy to make and tasted better, I still ate fast food and convenience food when I got too busy or when I was just tired and didn’t feel like cooking. Plus, my sisters were often very critical of my food or because of being guinea pigs were afraid to try new things I would make in case it was a flop.

Then, I married Stephen who basically grew up the same way I did eating lots of processed food and veggies prepared the same microwaved way. It took me a long time to convince him that veggies could be good because of this. In our first apartment, we had the pot pies and Hot Pockets right there in the freezer to be had when I was too busy with school to cook or nights when we had church activities immediately after work/school and no time to cook. We ate a lot of fast food too. Some of it was better than others, but a lot of it was the really cheap gross stuff like McDonalds and Taco Bell.

However, it was a “fast food” trip to Jamba Juice on my way to school one morning that would completely change my life with regards to food. In addition to their smoothies, Jamba usually has a shelf or two of other items available including biking apparel, juicers (of course), blenders, cookbooks and other literature that fit with the Jamba lifestyle. While waiting in line to place my order for a smoothie in the late fall of 2003, I decided to pick up a couple books, they were Consumer Joe (very funny, but not the life changing one) and Fast Food Nation.

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Bean’s First Sandwich

Because of her food allergies, Bean has yet to experience a sandwich. I had made one batch of gluten-free bread from a mix before this, but it was much to dense, dry and crumbly to be any good for sandwiches.

Then I tried out a recipe from scratch and this bread is awesome. We all keep eating it and it is supposed to just be for Bean.

So today she had her first sandwich and being the slightly photo-obsessed mom that I am there is tons of pictoral proof.


Isn’t that the cutest little sandwich you’ve ever seen? Of course it didn’t stay that way for very long.


Yeah, she pretty much had it all taken apart in a matter of seconds.


Yummy nitrate/nitrite-free turkey lunch meat from Trader Joe’s


Mmmm…


Pudgy little hands holding homemade bread. Does it get any better than this?


She loves that bread!


Especially with mustard and vegan mayonaise spread on it!

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