Apr 302014
 
My Easter isn't complete without a little knitting.  Here: a rabbit from Debbie Bliss' Toy Knits.

My Easter isn’t complete without a little knitting. Here: a rabbit from Debbie Bliss’ Toy Knits made from a remnant of beige yarn.

Making Easter outfits for my children has been one of my traditions in the last few years.

This year, my Easter outfits were inspired by a treasure trove of yarn samples. I ordered some wonderful hand-dyed yarn from Cheryl Potter this past fall during a terrific sale she was holding and was surprised to find that I was one of the lucky recipients of a free goodie bag for the first 200 orders.

Woohoo!  This was quite the goodie bag!

Woohoo! This was quite the goodie bag!

The exploded bag, full of wonderful yarns, buttons, patterns, stitch holders and crochet hooks and even a free sweater in my size!  I was blown away.  Cheryl Potter has set a new standard for goodie bags.

The exploded bag, full of wonderful yarns, buttons, patterns, stitch holders and crochet hooks and even a free sweater in my size! I was blown away. Cheryl Potter has set a new standard for goodie bags.

The free sweater!  A perfect fit!

The free sweater! A perfect fit!

So, I had all of this really cool yarn. Most of it was much nicer than the stuff I usually knit with. But the only problem was that I had just a random ball here and there to work with. Most knitting patterns need at least 4-5 balls of yarn in the same color. What to do?

Well, I decided that this yarn was just too awesome not to knit with so I decided for the girls that I would make a sort of tunic with knitted accents. Wherever the knitting ran out, I would sew the rest with scraps from my fabric stash.

Scooters

My girls are infatuated with scooter skirts (skirts with shorts attached) lately. They love to wear them alone or with leggings underneath. They add a fun, feminine touch to just about any outfit.

I considered making my own scooter skirts for the Easter outfits but then I saw these for $5 and decided to take the easy route and just buy this part of the outfit. I wanted pink for both but had to settle for one bright peach and one pink in the sizes that were available.

Nothing better than a scooter skirt on sale!

Nothing better than a scooter skirt on sale!

Floral and Lace

The first yarn to inspire me was the purple cotton yarn. It screamed Easter. I looked around for a pattern to work with and I found a free pattern on the Rowan Yarns website from Zoe Mellor that was just perfect.

Of course, I didn’t have enough to make the entire sweater but all I really wanted was the flower motif in the center.

The knitted flower detail.

The knitted flower detail.

For the finished tunic, I created an apron-style tunic, added some lace accents and a tulle hem (inspired by the H&M catalog).  I loved how feminine it came out.

For the finished tunic, I created an apron-style tunic, added some lace accents and a tulle hem (inspired by the H&M catalog). I loved how feminine it came out.

The finished look.

The finished look.

The back full of gathered lace and tied at the neck.

The back full of gathered lace and tied at the neck.

Ruffles

Working with the peach color was a bit trickier than I was expecting. I decided on the yellow cotton yarn to pair with it and was pleased to discover that the yarn had flecks of orange, purple and green in it that worked quite well with the peach.

Generally I don’t do much patterning with variegated color yarns because it doesn’t show up very well. I wasn’t sure quite what to do with this yarn until I came across this pattern.

I loved the ruffle detail and thought I had just enough yarn to make the ruffle top. I had to alter the pattern slightly for my purposes. I changed how much it ruffled and added rows of crochet on the backside to keep the yarn edges from curling the wrong way. I also made the straps cross for more stability.

The finished ruffle dress with white body, gold sequin hem and gold satin accent.

The finished ruffle dress with white body, gold sequin hem and gold satin accent.

This outfit came out a little quirky/Coachella style unintentionally but I just decided to go with it. When paired with bohemian braids, it just seemed to work.

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The tied-back braids pulled this look together.

The tied-back braids pulled this look together.

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The Vest

I was ready to call it all done at this point when it suddenly dawned on me that I have another child to think about . . . my son!

I am so used to making frilly creations for my daughters that I wasn’t sure where to even start for my son. I only had two choices from the yarn stash that weren’t pink: gray with green flecks and beige. I also didn’t think it would work to make him a combination knitted and sewn outfit like the girls.

It took a lot of creative thinking but eventually I stumbled across this pattern

I matched up the gray and green yarn with a few other balls of remnant yarn from my grandmother’s collection: a green cotton, navy wool and another ball of similarly shaded gray yarn. I had to alter the pattern to fit my random yarns and to resize it for a toddler. Knitting like this requires a leap of faith. I didn’t know exactly how far I was going to get with the yarn I had and had to make several impropmtu adjustments to the pattern as I went. Amazingly, it all seemed to work!

The bottom ribbing and the extent of the gray-green yarn.

The bottom ribbing and the extent of the gray-green yarn.

The coordinating gray yarn I found from my grandmother's collection.  It wasn't an exact match but in most lights it was close enough.  I though the effect was kind of like the way the stone on the Washington Monument doesn't match exactly but it coordinates.

The coordinating gray yarn I found from my grandmother’s collection. It wasn’t an exact match but in most lights it was close enough. I though the effect was kind of like the way the stone on the Washington Monument doesn’t match exactly but it coordinates.

The finished vest.

The finished vest.

Ideally, I would have made the vest a few inches longer but I just didn’t have enough yarn.

The finished vest on my son.

The finished vest on my son.

My husband I thought that the vest was perfectly cute on my son. It took some convincing to get my son to put the vest on for pictures but after he had it on for a while he stopped tugging at it to get it off. Next year with a little more planning I hope to make him another that fits better.

So, now we were all dressed up with noplace to go . . . except we did have someplace to go . . . and I’ll tell you about it in the next post!

 Posted by on April 30, 2014 General Tagged with: , , , ,
Apr 282014
 
Time to celebrate!

Time to celebrate!

Thank you for all the great comments and questions on my last post about the end of my Lenten healthy eating experiment! I will be getting to your questions soon. First, I need to take a short mental break from dieting to catch up on all the other things we have been doing.

First, I think it is only necessary to comment on all the wonderful foods we enjoyed on Easter. Just as “work hard, play hard” is a maxim many people aspire to, “diet hard, feast hard” is probably the corollary.

I spent almost all day on Saturday in the kitchen preparing for Easter.

Easter Egg Dyeing

Earlier in the week, my children decorated hard boiled eggs.  I found these egg painting kits at the dollar store and bought one for each of them.  It was a little hard to get the eggs in and out but other than that, they were easy to use and the paints washed off of skin easily with soap and water.

Earlier in the week, my children decorated hard boiled eggs. I found these egg painting kits at the dollar store and bought one for each of them. It was a little hard to get the eggs in and out but other than that, they were easy to use and the paints washed off of skin easily with soap and water.

Each child had a unique egg painting technique: here fingerpainting,

Each child had a unique egg painting technique: here fingerpainting,

My son prefers to mix all the paints together into mud-like colors and paint the eggs with that.  His brown eggs were actually quite beautiful.  My daughter said they looked like dinosaur eggs.

My son prefers to mix all the paints together into mud-like colors and paint the eggs with that. His brown eggs were actually quite beautiful. My daughter said they looked like dinosaur eggs.

This daughter preferred to paint in bold stripes.

This daughter preferred to paint in bold stripes.

The gorgeous finished eggs!

The gorgeous finished eggs!

Menu

My menu of Easter foods was eclectic. The children had some sweets picked out that they wanted. I wanted to make a traditional Greek Easter bread as a reminder of my heritage. For the main courses, however, I tried to choose clean eating recipes so that we would have at least a few healthy things among all the treats. Some of the recipes I had been eyeing during my diet.

Greek Easter Bread

I used this recipe from Chow for my Greek Easter bread:

Two spices used in Greek Easter bread are mahlepi (mahlab in Arabic), an aromatic spice made from the seeds of a cherry and mastic, the sap of the mastic tree, known as the "tears of Chios."  I found them at our local Mediterranean foods shop called "Nile Market."

Two spices used in Greek Easter bread are mahlepi (mahlab in Arabic), an aromatic spice made from the seeds of a cherry and mastic, the sap of the mastic tree, known as the “tears of Chios.” I found them at our local Mediterranean foods shop called “Nile Market.”

Zesting an orange for the Easter bread.

Zesting an orange for the Easter bread.

Kneading the dough with my daughter.

Kneading the dough with my daughter.

The braided dough awaiting final rising.

The braided dough awaiting final rising.

Meatballs

I was trying to think of a healthy family-friendly dish that we could all eat. Meatballs were an easy choice. I used this recipe for turkey meatballs from actress Jessica Alba that was posted on Martha Stewart’s website. I liked that they had some vegetables snuck inside of them.

I used a bit more vegetables than the recipe called for.  My children saw me making these and vowed that they would not eat them.  Fortunately, once they tasted the finished product they changed their minds.

I used a bit more vegetables than the recipe called for. My children saw me making these and vowed that they would not eat them. Fortunately, once they tasted the finished product they changed their minds.

Bunny Cupcakes

I saw an adorable picture for cupcakes decorated like rabbits on a recipe website. It seemed that it was just a piece of clip art and there were no specific instructions how to make them. I used a store-bought package of carrot cake and made it into mini-cupcakes. We decorated them with store bought cream cheese frosting, marshmallows, colored sugar and mini Reeses pieces. The children helped and loved this project!

The girls worked hard on the decorating while their brother worked hard on tasting all of the candy toppings.

The girls worked hard on the decorating while their brother worked hard on tasting all of the candy toppings.

The bunny cupcakes in progress.

The bunny cupcakes in progress.

The Cake

Just after I started my healthy eating diet, my daughter requested that we make a rainbow layered cake. I looked up some ideas online and found that we would have to make 7 layers of cake all tinted the colors of the rainbow. I was not thrilled with this idea. Soon after, we were shopping at the grocery store and my daughter found a “spring” cake with two different colored layers: one pink and one yellow. This seemed to satisfy her rainbow cake notions so we bought the cake mix to make for Easter. It sat on the counter for weeks and my daughter continually reminded me that we needed to make it. When finally the day came, she was so excited!

The cake mix!

The cake mix!

Frosting the layers.  We didn't go to the trouble of properly leveling the cake so the layers were even.  We just did our best to frost it and put it together the best we could.

Frosting the layers. We didn’t go to the trouble of properly leveling the cake so the layers were even. We just did our best to frost it and put it together the best we could.

My daughter's decoration for the top of the cake.

My daughter’s decoration for the top of the cake.

This caked ended up being quite a source of hilarity (and stress) for me. This cake went through several iterations before it was eaten.

What happens when you leave a 2-year old alone with a cake.  He put his fingers all over the top!

What happens when you leave a 2-year old alone with a cake. He put his fingers all over the top!

My attempt to repair the cake before my daughter saw her brother's damage.

My attempt to repair the cake before my daughter saw her brother’s damage.

The Meals

Breakfast: preparing for the sugar infusion to follow with a mango smoothie and grain-free granola.

Breakfast: preparing for the sugar infusion to follow with a mango smoothie and grain-free granola.

For breakfast, I used two recipes from Dr. Sandra Cabot’s website:

The mango smoothie is delicious and the granola smells awesome but tastes a bit bland. Still, if you are doing clean eating, you just crave the fats in the nuts and it has a nice crunch.

Then, it was time to indulge!  We had so much candy it looked like a candy factory exploded in our house!  Here, an Easter bunny Kit Kat for my Kit Kat loving daughter.

Then, it was time to indulge! We had so much candy it looked like a candy factory exploded in our house! Here, an Easter bunny Kit Kat for my Kit Kat loving daughter.

Easter isn't complete without Peeps!  Here: party cake Peeps for my marshmallow loving daughter.

Easter isn’t complete without Peeps! Here: party cake Peeps for my marshmallow loving daughter.

We sliced into the finished Greek Easter bread.  It has the same dense crumb I remember from my grandmother's recipe but a totally different flavor.  This bread was more citrus-inspired with the orange zest.  It was very delicious, though!  My grandmother used anise (a licorice flavor) which I will have to try next time.

We sliced into the finished Greek Easter bread. It has the same dense crumb I remember from my grandmother’s recipe but a totally different flavor. This bread was more citrus-inspired with the orange zest. It was very delicious, though! My grandmother used anise (a licorice flavor) which I will have to try next time.

The bunny cupcakes were delightful treats.  They were small and it was shockingly easy to devour handfuls of them.

The bunny cupcakes were delightful treats. They were small and it was shockingly easy to devour handfuls of them.

For lunch, my husband and I were both ready for a break from sugar.  All of these are clean eating recipes.  We had lamb chops with two types of salad.

For lunch, my husband and I were both ready for a break from sugar. All of these are clean eating recipes. We had lamb chops with two types of salad.

For lunch, I chose all clean eating recipes. For me, it was important psychologically to associate clean eating with celebration and not just as a sort of dieting punishment. Clean food can be extraordinarily delicious.

All of these lunch recipes were winners. We enjoyed them all!

For dinner, we had Jessica Alba's meatballs along with a simple salad of kale, cabbage and carrots with the leftover balsamic lime vinaigrette.  Everyone devoured the meatballs, including the children!

For dinner, we had Jessica Alba’s meatballs along with a simple salad of kale, cabbage and carrots with the leftover balsamic lime vinaigrette. Everyone devoured the meatballs, including the children!

After asking me about it all day, it was finally time to cut into the Easter cake.  By this time, the cake had gone through another decorating iteration.  My daughter (the chef) decided that it should be covered in Peeps and chocolate eggs.

After asking me about it all day, it was finally time to cut into the Easter cake. By this time, the cake had gone through another decorating iteration. My daughter (the chef) decided that it should be covered in Peeps and chocolate eggs.

As I was cutting the cake, my daughter kept saying, "Please let it come out right!  Please!"  When she saw the slice had the layers just like the picture on the box, she was elated!  The Peeps made it even better too!

As I was cutting the cake, my daughter kept saying, “Please let it come out right! Please!” When she saw the slice had the layers just like the picture on the box, she was elated! The Peeps made it even better too!

As you can see, our Easter was thoroughly delicious!

Did you make anything special for your Easter celebration? Please share in the comments.

 Posted by on April 28, 2014 General Tagged with: , , , ,
Apr 052013
 
This year's "Touch of Gold" easter egg dye kit came from The Dollar Store.

This year’s “Touch of Gold” easter egg dye kit came from Dollar Tree.

We hard boiled a mixture of brown and white eggs--probably the healthiest foods we eat at Easter.

We hard boiled a mixture of brown and white eggs.

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Sometimes silly....

Sometimes silly….

The finishing touch . . . "14 carrot gold egg glaze"

The finishing touch . . . “14 carrot gold egg glaze”

The gilding process.

The gilding process.

The finished masterpieces.

The finished masterpieces.

After Easter, I loved having extra dyed eggs in the fridge.  They made for such a happy breakfast.

After Easter, I loved having extra dyed eggs in the fridge. They made for such a happy breakfast.



*I have no affiliation with Dollar Tree.

 Posted by on April 5, 2013 General Tagged with: , ,
Dec 282011
 

O Christmas Tree! Better late than never!

For those who were wondering, yes, we did manage to get that tree up!

It was around 7:00 p.m. on Christmas Eve but we got it done.  We listened to Mozart and shared a big bowl of French Onion soup.

French Onion Soup for Two

And then of course Santa came to visit . . .

Post-Santa.

but now Santa is tired.

Christmas aftermath.

We wanted to spend a few days relaxing but a perfectly timed Christmas cold virus has come to visit instead.  The children are affected worse than the adults but it is no fun for anyone.

So, between nursing care and cleaning up and getting a little stir-crazy at home, we are not yet rejuvenated from our celebrations but hope to be soon.

Christmas/the holiday season is always so busy and when it is over we tend to want to stop thinking about it completely and move on to something else.  However, I encourage you to take just 5 minutes to create a list of the best and worst things about your celebration this year.  What would you do again next year?  What will you definitely scratch off the list or improve next year?  For me, the list includes:

Best:

  • Warm(ish) weather!
  • Attending the Nutcracker with my daughters.
  • Mozart on Christmas Eve.  A surprising CD pick by one of my children fit the mood of the evening just perfectly.
  • Surprised children on Christmas morning.

Worst:

  • Too many activities every weekend.  It got too exhausting.  Next year we will definitely scale back.  One big event per weekend is about our limit.
  • Hunting down last-minute gifts.  Updating our gift spreadsheet for next year with the missing recipients so we will plan ahead next year.
  • Would have liked to have done more charity initiatives.

In the meantime, I wanted to share two of the homemade gifts I made this year.  (It is now time to share them since my family are such devoted readers of my blog.)

How did your holiday celebrations fare?  Please share in the comments.

 Posted by on December 28, 2011 General Tagged with: , ,