Sunday, January 24, 2010

What's for Dinner?: Stuffed Acorn Squash Boats

This recipe is from The Petite Appetite Cookbook. When the bug first started eating solids, I made all of her food. I can honestly say that she's never had baby food from a jar. Now that she's bigger and eats mainly what we eat, her diet is pretty good, but none of us eat as well as I'd like. We've talked a lot about going vegetarian around here, and I at least try to cook two or three meat-free dinners a week. I don't know if we'll ever totally make the switch (I don't know if I can!), but it is nice not dealing with raw meat, which is one of my least favorite things to do.

Also, as one of my 50 Projects
(really many, but I'm mostly counting it as one), I'd like to try at least one new recipe each week. I really do like to cook. I know my food will never look like the picture in the cookbook, but I'd like to have as big a recipe repertoire as possible. I'm also trying to expand our list of "What's for Dinner?" foods. I grew up with parents who enjoyed cooking, and we almost always ate at home. We had a pretty good international mix of meals, but at a certain point, my parents quit forcing me to eat things that I didn't like. Now I'm realizing that a lot of things that I didn't like as a kid are actually pretty good (squash, for example. Oh, and onions. I used to leave them out, but now I know that I do miss them from most recipes, at least when they're well cooked). So I'm really trying to step outside of my comfort zone with the recipes and ingredients I choose.

Here are my four acorn squash boats, already to be baked and then stuffed.

The rest of the veggies. The bug's not too sure about mushrooms yet, but she loves squash, so I was hoping she would approve of this. I also added garlic after I took the picture. It wasn't called for in the recipe, but I do love garlic and add it to just about everything (I just don't love the perma-garlic smell on the tips of my fingers these days).

I have to say, I really would like to improve my knife skills. I'm a very cautious chopper, which is good, because I still have all my fingers, but recipes with lots of chopped vegetables usually take me at least double the time they should, because I'm super slow.

Sautéing the veggies. Smells good!

Stuffed and sprinkled with mozzarella cheese (see? Tomato, zucchini, oregano, mushrooms and mozzarella, but no garlic?)

And four little stuffed squash boats. The recipe says it's four servings, but I only ate half of one and was quite full (I'm going to try freezing two. I think they'll be a good lazy night reheat meal).

The verdict: I will definitely be adding this recipe to the "What's for Dinner?" jar. The bug wasn't crazy about the veggie filling, but she ate the cheese and most of the squash, so I would stay it's still a success. And, as a definite plus, it's pretty much a meal within itself. Next time I'll try to figure out the best kind of bread to go with, but I don't think it's really even necessary.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Swap Goodies: The Random Swap

The last big crafting swap I did was the Random Swap. I got a whole boat load of random goodness from my fabulous partner, dinosaur.collective:

If I picked favorites in swap packages, these would be way at the top of the list. They're small hand painted pieces of Max making mischief of one kind and another! I loved Where The Wild Things Are as a kid (not only because my mom is one of the best read-alouders ever), and now I love reading it to the bug. She's starting to get into it and roars her terrible roar right along with the wild things. Honestly, I would have been completely happy if these were the only thing she sent!

But of course, those weren't all that she sent. The bug sleeps with this elephant every night. I love his musical ears!

And she carved me a lino block jellyfish. I'm pretty ashamed to admit that I haven't had a chance to use it yet.

And, a matryoshka pin cushion. I almost feel bad to poke pins into it, but it's great to get things that I love and that are usable.

I have to say, I'm super impressed with the folks on Craftster who organize craft swaps like this. I have absolutely loved all of my partners, I feel like I couldn't ask for better matches. Everything I made in this swap, I could have just as easily made to keep for myself, and some of it I almost couldn't bear to part with (like my very first completed altered book), but knowing that it was going to someone who would love it as much as I did made it a lot easier.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

I spy with my little eye...

An Eye Spy Bag!

So, I've been doing horrible the past couple months at posting at least once a week, but this year I joined the 50 Projects a Year 2010 on Craftster. 50 projects means pretty much one project every week, so I'm hoping this will motivate me to get some things that have been sitting around my work space finished (and give me some projects to post on this here crafty blog, so win/win).

It's basically a bag full of trinkets and whimsies and poly pellets (usually used to stuff dolls and things that need a little weight). I tried to pick things she loves, like a ladybug, a bumblebee, a butterfly (see why I call her my bug??), various animals, stars, hearts, green leafs, altogether there are 55 things in this puppy! I'm hoping it will be a great thing to have in airports, doctors' offices, road trips, to keep her busy.

I think at this point, I like playing with it more than the bug. She'll play for a minute or two, but then she really wants me to open it so she can get at all the goodies inside! And who wouldn't? Look at this treasure trove!
The back of the card has all of the items in the bag written out, just in case a child (or grown up) who can read wants to play.

Part of the fun was picking out the fabric. I must have spent at least half an hour looking for the perfect ones, putting things back, matching things up. I'm quite happy with my choices though, because this owl fabric was my favorite! And the bug does a mean owl impression.
Now I want to make one for every kid I know! (Ok, that's a lie, but now that I know how easy it is, I'm really excited to have some hand made gifts ideas for the kids in my life, especially since another goal of mine is a completely hand made Christmas!)

Friday, November 20, 2009

Deep In the Forest

I just finished the second round of the Random Swap. One of the random things I sent my partner was a forest/woodland creature altered board book. It was my first finished altered book, and it was really hard to send off, because I kind of loved it! My pictures aren't the best, because I finished everything at around 4:45 on the day it was due to be sent out, and the post office closes at 5:30! I usually do my best work under pressure, but I really went down to the wire on this one.

This is my favorite spread. I used acrylic paint for the background and paint chips (hurray for free crafting supplies!) to make the trees and leaves.
The text says "When autumn comes...the leaves change from lush green to fiery red and gold."

Here's the cover of the book. I had the idea for the autumn leaves spread for my own altered journal, and then found this Discovery children's forest book with great pictures. My partner had mentioned that woodland creatures was one of her favorite themes, and requested an altered book, so I decided that this was the perfect project. All that I actually ended up using from the original forest book were the background of forest trees on the cover and a mushroom that shows on a later page.
I love these thumbprint owls! I totally borrowed inspiration from another talented crafter. All the text on this page is dictionary and thesaurus entries for various woodsy words.

More thesaurus/dictionary entries and some random foresty paper bits I dug out of my stash.

Nearly every forest kids' book I had went into the making of this background. The blurry little creatures are from a Russian picture dictionary. They include the Russian spelling and phonetic pronunciation guide.
A series of inchies made on some woodgrain cardboard that came with a set of notecards and old sheet music, plus a couple leftover autumn trees. The little kindergarten creatures are made with puffy fabric paint, which I have recently loved working with because it gives really nice texture. I also used some buttons, one of my other favorite things to embellish with.

I really enjoyed this project, and I definitely want to make more altered board books. They're the perfect size, and not too many pages to plan. I don't know if I'll do another one for a swap though, because they're too hard to give up!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Ladybug, Ladybug Fly Away Home

This year was the bug's first big Halloween. She had a play group Halloween costume party, and we decided she was big enough for some light trick-or-treating. The last two Halloweens she was a lobster, because the boy had to have a lobster costume. A very privileged few actually saw Lobster Baby, since she was really too little to enjoy the Halloween festivities. This year, I wanted to make her Halloween costume, and since lately she's been all about bugs, a bug she had to be. The original plan was a plain red or yellow sweat shirt (like the ones that covered an entire wall at Target back in the day) and some black leggings, and she would be either a ladybug or a bumblebee depending on what color we could get. So I looked, and looked, and looked. Apparently, toddlers these days are way too cool for the sweatsuits we wore when I was a kid, because it was impossible to find one! Finally at the last minute, we found a red turtleneck. The finished costume was a collaboration between myself and my mommy, because I can't sew in a circle and I'm the slowest ever hand sewer. She made a pretty cute little ladybug, if I do say so myself.
PS - The wings, they sparkle. So do some of her spots.

Here's a front view, I was going to do dots on the front, but ladybugs don't really have on their bellies, so I did stripes instead. I went with piggy tail antennae, because I didn't know how long a headband would last. And yes, she's trick-or-treating with an apple, it was the only way we could get her out of the house without a tantrum.
All told, the costume probably cost about $5. We already had the leggings and shoes, the turtleneck was about $3, and the felt was 79-99 cents a sheet for 4 sheets. And in my opinion, way cuter than any of the ladybug costumes we found online. Trick-or-treating was pretty successful, and even though she didn't say thank you at every house, she at least gave them a good ladybug buzz of gratitude.

Gratuitous Lobster Baby photo. She was only 10 days old and this was the smallest size available. It's stuffed full of towels so she wasn't lost in it.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!

Halloween has come and gone, and since it's a pretty crafty holiday, here are a couple Halloweeny projects: Jack-o-lanterns, of course (hey, I'm not trying to reinvent the wheel here).My moon and stars. Anyone who saw how I decorated my room in high school should not be surprised that this is a fairly common theme for me (bonus, moons and stars are fairly hard to screw up, even for someone with kindergarten drawing skills such as myself).

The boy's Sumirian Sun God (what?) I thought it looked like a three-eyed-alien.

Oh, no! Pumpkin on pumpkin violence! (Actually, I think the bug is just helping clean the pumpkin pre-carving. She wasn't really as into the whole messy scooping part as I thought she would be. Maybe next year).

And, just cause, the mini pumpkin pies I took to our play group's Halloween costume party. You can see some much cuter, more photogenic versions over at Bakerella, where I got the recipe. I even forgot the sugar (health conscious and all, but not really, I mostly just forgot) and they were still a hit.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Ghosts of Projects Past: Garden Party Cupcakes

This summer I got a book from the library called Hello, Cupcake, just for fun. I didn't have any special occasions, but the boy loves desserts, so I decided to get crafty and make him some fancy-schmancy cupcakes. My favorites in the book were the Garden Party Cupcakes. The tiny radishes! The peas! The cookie crumb soil! I had to make them.

And here they are:
I liked this book because they use things that are easy to find and for the most part easy to work with for their decorations. I know fondant looks pretty, and I've seen some really awesome cakes made with it, but I think it tastes gross. And I think it's kind of difficult to work with. I want to make something that looks and tastes good. My little pea pod twirlies aren't as good as the ones in the book because I couldn't find green licorice strands. I had to buy a package of Airheads, a package of Jolly Rancher Fruit Chews, a package of M&Ms and a box of corn flakes for these, and somehow I ended up with no orange chewies! I was going to do tomatoes instead of carrots, but I only had enough reds for the radishes (and I loved them so!) so even though my piping skills are not fabulous, I piped on the carrots. They were delicious (another great thing about the book, pretty easy but oh-so-yummy from-scratch cupcake recipes. These are vanilla, and we also tried the almond, delicious), but the fruit chews and chocolate and pretzels made for some strange flavor combinations. Chocolate on graham crackers, however, mmm mmm good.

I also made petit fours with mini almond cupcakes for some neighbors who took care of things around the house while we were away, but I forgot to take pictures before I delivered them. Oops. They were very pretty and delicious.


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