Monday, March 28, 2011

Spring Break Projects

I wasn't planning on writing at the moment since I sat down to work on homework, but I'm losing the battle to stay awake, so I'm hoping this will help. I feel like I have so much to write from the last two weeks, but I don't really know how to say any of it. Could it be due to all the academic writing I've been doing lately? Sometimes it's hard to switch from sounding somewhat scholarly to my own voice.

Two weeks ago I had spring break. No classes all week meant I got to do all fun projects. I made a list at the beginning of the week and made it a decent part of the way through by the end. There was no way I could have actually done everything I wrote down. It was merely a way to make sure that each time I checked the list something would catch my eye and fit my mood.

Ella was my creative motivation.

Project One: Miss Ella's Rocking Chair

I bought this chair at Good Will in Minneapolis at least a year ago. I had high hopes for it but never took the time to work on it. You know how it is. You'd love to work on that special little project but something else comes to mind that actually has some sort of due date, so the project gets postponed. Anyway, the chair cost just $5.

I found the paint in a storage room in the basement when we moved into this house. It was only after I finished the chair that I could tell which room it came from. It's the basement bathroom. I think it's a good fit for the chair.

I bought the white paint at Michaels for 88 cents along with a little brush for $1 and the little wooden ELLA letters for something like 50 cents each. I don't actually remember. I bought them a while ago.

Project one is completed. I do think it's a little silly that I waited this long to paint it since I finished nearly the entire thing in one afternoon nap time. I'm so happy to have it done. I hope it will be a cozy reading spot for my little girl as she grows.

Project Two: Baby Doll Dress

My grandma on my mom's side did a lot of sewing when my mom was growing up and continued while I was a little girl. I have a stack of adorable doll clothes that she made for my Cabbage Patch. For as long as I can remember I've wanted to do as my grandma did. I've imagined making a dress for my little girl and sewing a miniature, matching dress for her doll.

After finishing the doll dress, I felt an incredible sense of accomplishment and happiness. It was as though I had a connection from myself all the way back to the woman my grandma was when she was my age. I thought about her a lot while I was piecing everything together and stitching each seam. I wish I could go back to the time when she sat at her own sewing machine and watch her. Each stitch and snap and zipper carefully placed. I imagine we would talk about teaching and music and books and baking, all things that we both enjoy. And then we would sit and drink coffee and eat cookies, something we tend to do during each visit. Maybe it's being a mom and feeling like we have so many things in common that I've felt closer to my grandma lately. I need to tell her that. I haven't. She lives only four hours from me. Maybe I can take Ella for a visit so she can soak up some Grandma J lovin'.

As I was going to mention, I made this little dress for Ella's doll to match the one I made for her at Christmas. I purposely didn't use Christmasy fabric so that she could continue wearing it for a while. I'm so glad I did!

I did do other things during break, but these are the two most notable projects. I actually felt like I spent my time well that week. Usually I get to the end of break and think about all the time I wasted. Not this one, though. I'll be going straight on to May term followed by a summer class, so my next break won't be until the first week of July. I'm already making a list of projects!

Thursday, March 24, 2011


My mama dreams are coming true. My dear little Ella is now old enough to splash through the puddles and completely enjoy it. Last week we went on our first puddle excursion. We started in the yard and stomped through every puddle. Then we moved on to the sidewalk and down the street. We even included mud puddles!

Ella discovered a drain in the alley behind our house. She kept saying, "agua, agua" in her little voice. We spent a good amount of time just watching the water rushing down the street into the drain. Such discoveries really are exciting!

Now we've entered the adventure of trying to find rain boots that will fit Miss Ella's little feet. Not an easy task so far. Every place around here is sold out or doesn't carry a size 4. I think we'll end up ordering them online. It'll be worth it not to have soaking wet feet after each tromp through the puddles. And I know there will be many more tromps. She's been asking every day since our first.

Nana & Bapa Olsen are here to stay the night with Ella while Pete & I enjoy a night up the shore. I don't even care what we do so long as it doesn't involve talk of diapers or timeouts. We're ready for a little time away.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Today Is World Water Day

water changes everything.

A couple years ago, someone mentioned to me that simply learning more about a specific topic can open your eyes and heart to it. At that time I felt that I cared about the issue of clean water around the world. I had seen first hand the impact that water can have on a community after living in a small village in Honduras, but after reading articles, searching websites, and talking with people directly involved in clean water projects, I've been amazed at how my heart has really opened to the incredible need around our world.

In light of World Water Day, I want to encourage you to take a look at a few notable resources to simply become more aware of the problem our world is facing. It's not to get you down or push you to donate to projects. I'm only posting these resources so that you can learn the facts. They've really changed my own thinking.

A great place to start for very quick numbers is at the charity:water website. Today they've posted a page that shows how water changes everything. You may remember that a year and a half ago for my 28th birthday, Pete set up a charity:water page so that friends could donate money to build new wells in Africa. We raised nearly $200 that went directly to clean water projects. Sweet!

A quick fact sheet of water numbers is available from Compassion.

If after reading these resources, you feel like you do want to help on World Water Day, I encourage you to check out this page on the Compassion website. Compassion is a very trustworthy organization that operates around the world to provide care for children and communities in Jesus' name. Pete, Ella & I have been supporting a little girl in Tanzania for a little over a year and have been incredibly blessed through letters we've received from 6 year-old Esther. The page I've posted above tells how you can help bring clean water to communities in Tanzania.

As I mentioned, none of this is to make you feel bad or push you to donate to a water cause. Rather, it's a way to share the importance of the issue. Simply knowing more makes a huge difference.

Top image is from charity:water.

Welcome to the Annex

Welcome to the Annex! This little room in the basement was a big project that I'm happy to say is now finished. Most of it was done before I started grad school at the end of January, but I'm only now posting pictures. (Grad school is a busy thing!)

I was excited to transform this oddly-shaped storage room in the depths of the basement into a usable, inspiring space. When I went into it, I had basically one thing in mind - make it MINE. I've wanted a place I can hide away to work, keep my projects out of the reach of little hands, and decorate in any way I please.

Once I got going on the painting and decorating, it didn't take long to get it to a comfortable point. I found a lot of the last pieces at Target, my go-to for just about everything. My pens and scissors are in a rotating utensil container while the tray works for easily carrying projects from the annex to the dinning room. The lamp, joy cut out, and glass bowls are also from Target. The pewter frame was something I bought in Honduras when I was living there in 2002.

This spice rack was a wedding gift that is now keeping my assorted button collection in order.

Once a place for delivered milk, this box was transformed into a mail box, which is where we found it when we moved into our house. Now it is used to store extra bits of fabric.

I made this mask in my college costuming class in 2001. I've always been somewhat proud of it. It was cast to my own face and is completely wearable. Now it has a place in my art space. Maybe I love it so much because it reminds me of my college theatre days. Yup, that's probably it. The butterfly is a wall sticker from the Dollar Tree. They fit together nicely.

Randomness collected through the years. One of my faves: the green pitcher. I bought it at a market in Honduras in 2005.

The wedding picture is of my great-grandparents. I wore her wedding ring as my engagement ring and am now saving it to give to Ella someday. The two bowls belonged to another one of my great-grandmothers.

I put the hooks up to hang current projects and display little pieces of inspiration. The pink apron was handmade by one of my great-grandmothers. The painting is something we bought shortly after getting married, and the curtain is something I found at GoodWill (originally from Target).

Lots of supplies hidden behind the curtain on a shelving unit we bought at Target a couple years ago. It was a perfect fit for the space since the ceiling is a little higher there.

Miss Ella's hand print on an extension of one wall.

This shelving unit is a fun way that I can store many of my supplies and still display them. The glass jars and two wreaths came from Target at different times. The silver photo boxes and black magazine keepers all came from Ikea.

The "rubies" sign was a Christmas gift this year from Pete. I absolutely love it. Pete used part of Proverbs 31 that speaks of a wife of noble character being more valuable than rubies in his vows and made my wedding ring with a ruby. (He's incredibly thoughtful!) The sign came from this great shop on Etsy.

Who isn't inspired by a red door? I've always been, so I painted this door between the annex and a storage room with paint remaining from our dining room.

On the other side of the door I hung this clear shoe organizer to hold all of my office supplies. It's a very easy way to keep everything in an easy-to-access place and still be able to see everything. The organizer came from Target.

I do have before pictures as well, but I'm determined not to continue putting off posting these pictures, so I'll add them soon. Ella helped out a bit with the painting and was completely adorable. Like I to come.

So now I have a very comfy, cozy place to study and work. I don't have to pack everything away after each use and I can decorate however I please. I've already added quite a few pictures to the bulletin board above the table and have framed others for the adjacent wall. The annex is exactly what I hoped it would be!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Recipe: Irish Soda Bread

It's nearly St Patrick's Day, so what could be more fun than making something Irish? I love that it doesn't really matter if a person is Irish or not, we all get to celebrate together. Good thing for me, since I'm pretty sure I don't have an ounce of Irish in me. Pete spent a month in Ireland during college, so he's told me that someday he'll take me trekking there as well. Tomorrow maybe? To celebrate the memorable saint? I'll dream of it.

Okay, the bread. This stuff if delish and super easy. Basically, it's mixing everything together in a bowl, plopping it on a cookie sheet, and baking it. Simple! And then you can say you've eaten something Irish. Actually, soda bread comes from lots of countries. I did a little reading (I'm on spring break so I've got the time!) and found a few things about the Irish version. One, it doesn't use yeast because the weather in Ireland doesn't allow for the kind of wheat to grow that mixes well with yeast. Therefore, soda bread uses soda, which we know as baking soda. Second, Irish soda bread doesn't contain fruit. They call it something different when it has fruit. I'm not sure why Martha's recipe (below) has raisins, but it does make it pretty tasty, so I left them in. Third, the cross is cut into the top to allow the bread to stretch while it's baking. If you want to learn more, this soda bread site is a good one to start with.

As I mentioned, this is a recipe from Martha. I found it in her baking handbook, but it can also be found here on her website.

4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons caraway seeds
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold, cut into small pieces
2 cups golden or dark raisins
1 large whole egg, plus 1 large egg yolk
1 1/2 scant cups buttermilk
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon heavy cream

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, caraway seeds, baking powder and salt until well combined. Using a pastry blender, cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs with a few larger clumps remaining Fold in the raisins.

In a bowl, whisk together the whole egg, buttermilk, and baking soda until combined. Pour egg mixture into the flour mixture; using a rubber spatula, fold in, working in all directions and incorporating crumbs at the bottom of the bowl, until the dough just comes together. With your hands, form dough into a round, domed loaf, about 8 inches in diameter. Gently lift dough from the bowl, and place on the prepared sheet.

In a small bowl, lightly beat the egg yolk with the cream; brush over the loaf. With a sharp knife, cut a cross, about 3/4 inch deep, in the center of the top of the loaf. Bake, rotating the sheet halfway through, until deep golden brown and a cake tester (toothpick) inserted in the center of the loaf comes out clean, about 1 hour 10 minutes. Transfer the bread to a wire rack to cool completely. Irish Soda Bread is best eaten the day it is baked, but it can be kept at room temperature, wrapped well in plastic.


Sunday, March 13, 2011

Happy Birthday, Daddy!

Today is Pete's birthday! He happens to be on 24-hour call today, so we celebrated last night. First, Ella colored a card and was very happy to present it to him. Then she went to play at her friend Ava's house while Pete and I went on a date. Yes, a date! We started at Thirsty Pagan Brewery in Superior for pizza and to see our friend play music. We nearly had the opportunity to try a pheasant pizza, but they were out of the sauce. That would have been a memory. Afterward, we had ice cream and drove around Canal Park. Tonight Ella & I will be visiting him at the hospital for dinner. We'll be taking the chocolate cake with almond frosting you see below. Hope he likes it!

Happy birthday, Pete! Your girls love you very much!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

At the Foot of the Cross

This has been Ella's favorite place to sit at church ever since she was able to walk.

I like to think we're teaching her early on how to rest at the foot of the cross, but I know it has more to do with it being the perfect size for her little bottom.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...