The Pantry Project :: Truth Telling Time

A few weeks, erm, uh, months ago, I  wrote to one of my friends, Heather, to ask beg for help with a project that needed some attention :: My pantry. I am lucky enough to have a friend who loves to organize, even though I thought such a person only lived in rainbow-land with the unicorns.

These are the pictures I sent her, which I will present to you, without comment.

Pantry Right

Pantry Left

Under the Window

Under Left Side Shelves

Second Detail

Junk Drawer Stuff

Glass Jars

Far Left of Shelves

Details Of Shelves

Back Of Door

That’s my pantry in all its glorious, hideous, excess of mess. She took pity on me, and this week I’m going to tackle this disaster (which has only gotten worse since I wrote the email, I can no longer see the floor) with her help. I’m gathering up all my resources and motivation now because she’s coming at the end of the week for a visit, and I want to get the pantry looking as close to those photos as I can, so I have some work to do. I am so thankful that I will be able to corral this into something that works better and I’m not embarrassed to be seen in. This is my project for the week; I hope you’ll stick around and chide me when I fall behind and offer your brilliant ideas and laugh when I spill lentils all over the floor.

Please, tell me I’m not the only one with a pantry like this?

Food on Friday :: Ode to Omelettes

We eat quite a number of omelettes in this house.

Lovely Eggy Omelette

It hasn’t always been that way. I used to be terrified of making them and only pulled out my recipe during weekends when we had company. And really, who isn’t scared of making a fool out of themselves in front of others and who isn’t terrified that the eggs won’t stick and make a mess out of your lovingly prepared masterpiece and causing the aforementioned fool-making/feeling behavior?

Humble Beginnings

The reality is, omelettes are a humble food, perfectly suited for those moments when you need something to eat, have tons of leftovers you’re not sure what to do with, and don’t want to spend hours in the kitchen. If you’re really short on time and patience there is nothing quite so satisfying as a warm cheese omelette whipped up in less than ten minutes. And while everyone is familiar with the lovely “Western” omelette of ham, cheese, peppers, and onions, two eggs slightly whipped make the perfect envelope for almost anything you have in your fridge. It’s incredibly freeing to think of omelettes as “only scrambled eggs with stuff inside” which is really what they are. Who cares that it’s folded half instead of perfect thirds, or if it breaks a little in the center, or there are holes here and there? It’s scrambled eggs with stuff in the middle! It will be delicious! And if not, start over again; you’ll have another, better version in five minutes or less.

Preparing the Mise

I am not a pro by any means, so don’t think this is something that is beyond your capabilities. I will offer a few tips that have helped me out ::

  • Use a non-stick pan that’s not scratched or beaten up
  • Take the time to heat-up your fillings, whatever they may be, well, except for the cheese as that’s just messy
  • Get everything set up ahead of time because the eggs cook quickly
  • Two eggs, beaten lightly (streaks are just fine!) with salt and pepper, added to melted butter in a low-heated pan is all you need
  • Once the edges of the eggs start to set ever-so-slightly, push them toward the center and let the rest of the runny egg flow to the edges
  • Place your fillings on one half of your eggs now, and allow the eggs to set
  • Let the whole omelette slide off your pan and then gentle flip the last empty half over the fillings
  • Sprinkle with a bit of chopped herbs

Non Stick Pan

I like to heat the plates up in the microwave to keep the eggs warm just a bit longer. It’s easy to do, but not at all necessary. I place a damp paper towel on top of each pate before stacking the next, then run it for three minutes or so. You don’t want the plates too hot to handle, and three minutes in our microwave gets them to just the perfect temperature. As an added bonus, your plates are all ready to go, which is always always the last thing I scramble for once I realize the first omelette is done.

Warming the Plates

And really, many times the omelettes are eaten faster than they can cool, so there’s another strike against wasting the microwave energy!

All Plated Up

We’ve had omelettes filled with leftover greens; omelettes made from butter braised radishes straight from the garden; and although this one is super fancy and qualifies as “company food” last week we had omelettes made from leftover lobster and potatoes with a touch of raclette cheese, this one right here below…

Omelette Almost Gone

…which I almost forgot to take a picture of before I demolished it entirely.

We’ve had a slight snag in omelette making recently, when one of our children was diagnosed with a bit of an egg allergy, and I have to admit it curtailed many a quick dinner plan for us. Recently, I realized that I could substitue a quick crepe instead of the scrambled eggs, which has made it a great deal easier to pull together an super fast meal for us all.

So, yes, omelettes and me are back on again, and I couldn’t be happier! I’d love to hear what kind of omelettes you’re making!

Sibling Gifts :: Fleecy Winter Wear

To round out the parade of handmade sibling gifts of the Christmas 2012 season, I have this one last post with a project I worked on with our oldest :: Fleecy Winter Wear.

Swaddled In Fleece

Have you seen the insanity that is Joann’s Fabrics when it’s time to roll out the winter fleece? I didn’t know it was possible for one store to offer such a huge variety of different fleece styles. They had it in three separate aisles, along the tops of displays, and all along the top shelves on the outer walls in the store. Crazy.

I wanted to take the eldest with me to pick out fabrics, but due to an outbreak of flu and other illnesses in our home, I had to run out last minute to grab something quick so we could at least get something made and under the tree. This was almost as last minute as you could get; we finished the last bit right before dinner and bed-time Christmas Eve.

Sock Monkey Fleece

There aren’t an enormous number of images showing how we made these. Since I significant portion of this involved the sewing machine, and I’m not very proficient and my daughter was quite out of her comfort zone, I didn’t feel like I should be snapping photos while we’re both sweating bullets.

Fleecy Supplies

But overall, The scarves were an easy project, even for us sewing machine neophytes! Pick some fleece, cut it, pin it, sew it together except for a few inches at either end, flip it inside out, top stitch on either side, then cut a fringe on the ends, and tie it in knots.

Fun Fringe

The hat was a bit more tricky, and it didn’t work quite the way I had envisioned (didn’t mean for the ugly seam to be exposed, but alas, perfection wasn’t the goal, done was!), so I’m going to spare you any attempt to explain what I did, although I will say I took a measurement of the baby’s head to use when cutting out the rectangles, and that worked well.

Fleecy Hat With Fringe

And even though it is rough around the edges and not at all finessed, the baby loves it so very dearly. Dearly enough that once I put it on her head, I can’t take it off. And since she doesn’t stand still for photos, I needed to throw it on the four year old’s head in order to get a few snaps.

So there you have it… a round-up of all the sibling created handmades under the tree this year. But wait… there’s more!

Even though the littlest one isn’t quite old enough to partake of the making, she does manage to find someone to help her purchase a few small tokens to give out, namely fun band-aids!

Fun Bandages

So there you have her contribution, and now, I swear, we’re all done!

Sibling Gifts :: Pencil Cups

To continue on our theme, I present the third-born daughter’s contribution to this year’s sibling gifts :: Up-cycled Pencil Cups.

Another easy, low investment craft that was completely age appropriate and quite useful, as each kid got their own set of personalized pencils in their stockings this year. Thank you Oriental Trading Company for your customizable pencils for my kids that don’t have names often (read :: ever) found on store shelves!

Pretty in Pink

We collected a few cans from the recycling bin—two bean cans and one for tuna—made sure they were nice and clean and dry, then I painted each with two coats of primer before setting the four year old loose on them. She got to go through the paint bins and pick out whatever shade she thought they might like. I know she’s at least partly my child because she went for the extra-shiny metallic paints.

It Aint Easy Bein Green

After she painted each can, we picked out different scrapbook papers, one for each can, and then dug out our old alphabet stamps. She helped me find the letters and she stamped—with a teeny bit of guidance—the names of her sisters and brother onto individual white labels. I cut down the scrapbook paper into strips, then used double sided tape to adhere the paper to the can. The finishing touch, of course, were the name labels!

Alphabet Stamps

The awesome thing about this project is that it doesn’t need to be perfect to look great! Little brush strokes here and there and a bit of primer showing through gives it a touch more character, a feature if you will, not a flaw.

Tuna Tin For Ties

The littlest one doesn’t use pencils, but the tuna can was the perfect size to hold her hair bands and, conveniently, a few barrettes.

Pencil Cups

And the older kids cups were put to immediate use after they found their pencils.

It really is amazing how much they all love both making and receiving these gifts. I hope this is something we’ll continue for quite a few more years.

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Sharing with These Fabulous Sites ::
Under the Table and Dreaming, Today’s Creative Blog

Sibling Gifts :: Glittery Barrettes

We have finally reached that glorious day, Epiphany, the last of the twelve days of Christmas, when we pull down the tree and most of the Christmas decorations get wrapped back up, placed lovingly in their box, and put away in a corner of the basement for next year’s festivities. It is normally not a task I look forward to, but this year, for the first time I can remember, I was anxious to get the tree down and everything put away and tidied up. Granted, there are still a few things hanging around, but for the most part we’ve moved on. I suspect come the first heavy snowfall that I will miss my twinkle lights and glass balls, but now that we have internet radio, I feel assured that I can sneak in some time on the window seat with a hot cuppa somethin’ and get my fix of carols. Keep your fingers crossed for me; I am desperate for some good snow.

For the past three years I have managed to get the kids together to make a little something for their siblings for Christmas. With so many children and as many birthdays, more shopping trips for toys is not exactly what we need, but I treasure the time I get to spend with each kid planning and making gifts for their siblings to open. And the kids are the perfect age to enjoy this right now, so I am making hay. This year, due to all our right-before-the-holiday-viruses passed around and me down and out with the flu, we got it in right under the wire, but we still finished in time to have something wrapped from each sibling to the others.

The first project I’ll show you is one from our son to his sisters. This was originally his idea, whispered into my ear before a birthday, and remembered by this addle-brained mother just in time. He wanted to get barrettes for the girl’s because they could never find matching ones when they needed them. So one day when we were in the pharmacy filling yet another prescription, we grabbed a few sets for each girl along with a few bottles of glittery nail polish carefully selected by our five year old guy.

BarrettesSupplies

It only took a few minutes to get one coat on each set; four pair of large for the biggest sister, four pair of small for each of the littler ones.

BarrettesConcentration

There was a whole lot of concentration and not much chatter during craft time, and he also started with the color he believed his biggest sister would like the best.

BarrettesLinedUp

I placed the barrettes onto the back of two index cards that I cut, so he could more easily see where the paint was, and I could more easily run my nail around the edge of the wet polish so it would release from the card when it dried. That turned out to be a good idea, the running if the nail around the edge. It took a few coats each for every set and the black barrettes looked better and needed less than the simulated tortoise shell, but overall, it was simple enough that a five year old could do it mostly on his own.

BarrettesFinis

I think the results were simply spectacular!

The girls have certainly enjoyed them, and the baby has even kept hers in her hair without tossing them off in less than ten minutes as she does any type of clothing we put on her.

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Sharing with These Fabulous Sites ::
Under the Table and Dreaming, Today’s Creative Blog

Endings and Beginnings

Yesterday was the first of the new year. I have mixed feelings about New Year’s day. I’m not one to make resolutions, but I appreciate the “clean slate” feeling that often accompanies January first. There is a hopefulness for what might come, an excitement for plan-making, a brightness to the dreams that take shape as we think about how to get things just right in these next twelve months. But I’m always sad when the hubbub of the holidays close and it’s time to put away the decorations and sweep up the needles from the tree one last time. I love the waning daylight of Autumn and Winter, and the solstice always seems to arrive so much more quickly every year we travel around the sun. Often we don’t get snow until after Christmas, and that’s when I really want to listen to all those classic carols, wrapped up in my blanket on the window seat sipping hot cocoa and watching the lights glow under a blanket of the fresh white stuff. I wish I could leave the Christmas lights up until after March—without feeling like a lazy neighbor—so I can get my glowing snow fix. And I might be in the gross minority, but I am sad when it’s time for the kids to go back to school.

Last year’s New Year’s Day was, shall we say, overly eventful, with two separate trips to the hospital for two different children, one who had to stay overnight. Overall, that day was a pretty good indicator of how the year would proceed. This year all I asked is not that we avoid all trips to the ER (we do, after all, have four children, so that would be a bit unreasonable, no?) but that they be spread out a bit further apart, be a bit less frightening, and that none might require the assistance of an ambulance. I am happy to say that even with the sick little kidlets, we were able to avoid any trip to the hospital, which I will call a success.

There was one single, and rather large snag in our new year request and plans, however, and that happened because our beloved Barclay, who is getting older and crankier, bit one of the kids.

Barclay Dog 2013

As I wrote about before, we knew that he was sick, wasn’t likely to get better, and as good and amazing as a companion as he has been, was on his last chance watch. So when he bit our son in another unprovoked incident, it was clear that he could no longer be trusted around the kids and that a very hard decision had to be made. After taking our son to the pediatrician to make sure his wound was cared for (no stitches for dog bites but he is on a course of antibiotics), and taking Barclay to the vet to look for obvious/acute illness (there was none to be identified), we had a heartbreaking discussion for several days while Barclay rested up in our room, away from the littles. Thankfully, so very thankfully, our in-laws took Barclay in to care for him in a home he is familiar with and people that he knows and loves. Our son’s wound is not so serious, but the lack of predictability in Barclay’s behavior in a house full of small, boisterous children is more so and too risky to continue. There is no better solution that I could imagine for him, even as sad as we are that he is no longer here in our home.

So, this is how our 2013 began, with a not-as-bad-as-last year’s day at home, ending with a difficult farewell as Barclay was driven off to his new home.

Endings and beginnings, sweet and bitter, two sides of the same coin, and an appropriate reminder that this coming year, as every year is, will be a mixed bag and what we take away from it will be determined by our decisions and reactions to the situations handed us. It may not be all shiny and sparkly and catch-phrase-y, but it’s appropriate… and somehow reassuring.

Happy Travels to you and yours in this new year 2013.