Friday, January 28, 2011

Baby Shower & a Diaper Cake

Baby Maira is set to arrive any day! I recently threw a diaper shower for Mama Bex (my younger sis, Becky) to help prepare her for the big event. Malena has been practicing her big sister skills and even has a shirt to show off her new roll.

I made this banner with the baby's name as a simple way to decorate our party space and celebrate the little one on the way. It's made out of paper and fabric ribbon but would be super cute made entirely on fabric. It was a super fast and easy project.

Following the diaper theme of the shower, I decided to make a diaper cake to play double duty as a center piece and my baby gift. I was pretty happy with how it turned out. I even used the extra diapers to make a little decoration for the gift table.

I had never made a diaper cake, so I took a look at a few tutorials online to get some ideas. I personally prefer to keep the diapers as flat as possible, rather than rolling each one individually as many cakes do. The first couple layers were made of size 2 diapers while the top two layers were size 1. I used a ribbon with a slip knot to keep the diapers from falling all over while putting it together. Another great idea for the cake is to hide little gifts inside, which also gives it some internal stability. Wipes and big bottles of baby lotion work well.

However, after really considering the mama who would be using the cake, I replaced the wipes with a bottle of Diet Dew. It is, after all, the staple of every home in the Scott/Johnson family. I know Mama Bex will put that Diet Dew to good use after Maira arrives.

Here is the nearly finished product. There are endless ways to decorate these babies. (Well, no, they're for the babies, actually.) Anyway, I bought my ribbon on major clearance at Michaels after Christmas. I've seen pictures of other cakes covered with baby toys and travel-size lotions.

Ella & I are getting excited for a sleepover with Malena when Becky heads to the hospital. It won't be long before Maira is here!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Miss Ella's New Dress

I've always wanted to be able to sew a dress for my little girl. It's true. This was long before I even knew I would have a little girl. So this year I braved my pattern-reading insecurities and attempted to make a Christmas dress for my little Ella.

As you can see above, it worked! I didn't tell anyone I was working on a dress for her just in case it didn't work. I didn't even tell Pete. No one knew until the moment I put it on her at Grandma & Grandpa Olsen's house at Christmas. That's how unsure I was that it would turn out. But there it is! All one piece with a closure on the back and enough material in the skirt to twirl. Score one for this mama. Yay!

While making the dress, I followed a pattern for the first part but took plenty of liberties after I could see that the dress really was coming together. I fit the top to Ella's frame and, instead of putting in a zipper along the side, I gave it more of a homespun feel by sewing in a natural ribbon on the back near her neck. I'm pretty happy with how it turned out. And, as you can see, I didn't choose a Christmas fabric so that she can continue to wear the dress for other occasions. The picture above was taken at Mama Bex baby shower a week ago. I think I'll make a few more before spring arrives!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Recipe: Pumpkin Chiffon Pie

Happy Pie Day!

What? You didn't realize today was pie day? Or did you not know that a pie day even existed? If you're of the latter party, no worries, I was in that boat, too. While listening to public radio this morning before class, I heard the amazing announcement. Silly me thought there were no major holidays between New Years and Valentine's Day. Why do they not sell cards for such an occasion? At least they sell PIE!

If you're looking for a fun change to a predictable dessert, you simply must try this recipe. This pumpkin pie variation tastes like a classic but has a surprising and pleasing twist. The secret is in the eggs. They are carefully beaten to create a light-as-air texture. Although it is perfect throughout the fall season, it also fits quite nicely on any chilly day. (And heaven knows we have plenty of those around here!)

The recipe originally came from a Martha Stewart Living magazine a couple years ago. It can be found here on her website.

Start with a gingersnap crust.

32 gingersnaps, coarsely broken
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons unsalted butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350.

If you have a food processor: Process gingersnaps, sugar, and salt until finely ground. Add butter, and process until combined.

If you don't have a food processor: (This is the way I make it.) Put the gingersnaps in a gallon-sized Ziploc bag. Using a rolling pin or wine bottle, roll over the cookies until they are finely ground. Pour the crumbs into a medium bowl and stir in sugar and salt. Pour the butter over the crumb mixture and stir with a fork until evenly coated.

Press the crust into the bottom and sides of a pie pan. Bake until darkened and firm, 11-13 minutes. Let cool.

And now for the pumpkin filling.

1 envelope unflavored gelatin
1/4 cup cold water
1 1/4 cups canned pumpkin (from a 15-ounce can)
3 large eggs, separated
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup whole milk
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Sprinkle the gelatin over the cold water in a small bowl and set aside for about 5 minutes.

Combine the pumpkin, egg yolks, 1/4 cup granulated sugar, milk, salt, and spices in a saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring until mixture begins to thicken, about 8 minutes. Do not boil. Remove from heat and stir in gelatin mixture until dissolved. Let the pumpkin mixture cool completely.

In the bowl of an electric mixer (or in a bowl using a hand-held electric mixer...this is much more time-consuming and can be challenging), beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. (Soft peaks means that you can still see a mark when the beater is taken out of the eggs but it soon disappears.) Gradually (MUST be done very slowly or the eggs won't turn out) add remaining sugar, beating until stiff peaks form. (Stiff peaks remain well after the beater is lifted out of the egg mixture.)

Whisk 1/3 of the beaten egg whites into cooled pumpkin mixture. Gently fold in remaining whites.

Spoon into pie shell and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

If you don't plan to serve the pie the day it is made, I recommend refrigerating the filling in a bowl rather than in the crust. The crust tends to get mushy otherwise. Just before serving, spoon the chilled filling into the crust and smooth the top.

Let me know if you have any questions. This really is a treat!


Thursday, January 20, 2011

Caleb's Cookies

Nearly every Friday for the past few months, Caleb & Owen have spent the day at our house. Their mom, Jenny, and I were swapping child care. Ella was spending Thursdays with them while I was at school. When the boys are here, we find all kinds of fun things to do. We've baked cupcakes and cookies, played games, and even sewed a purse for their older sister, Sophia. Caleb & I save the more intense projects for nap time so Owen & Ella don't distract us from the details. It's been a huge shift for me to get used to having a 5 year-old boy around. His energy is far different from Ella's! We've had a great time finding fun projects, though. Here's a glimpse...

Caleb was ready to bake with one of my old aprons and the step stool.

We pretended he was a French baker with that apron.

Rolling out the sugar cookie dough.

We were all excited for the cookies to be ready.

This was Caleb's special cookie for Pete. Can you tell what it is? Take a sideways glance. It's a motorcycle!

Sadly, we have only one more month of Fridays with the boys. Then they will be moving to Colorado. Their dad will be the new lead pastor of a Vineyard church out there. Ella is losing her boyfriend! (Remember the kissing photo?) Happily, Ella & I are planning to visit them in August when we trek out that way on a trip with my parents. We'll miss them a whole lot!

I feel like I should explain why I haven't been posting much lately. First, we were all quite sick last week. Pete had strep like you wouldn't believe and missed a good number of days of work. I wasn't on top of my game, but I was still somewhat functional. Good thing, since Ella had no intention of slowing down, sick or not. Following the sickness, Pete was busy busy busy studying for his third board test, which is today and tomorrow. He's needed the computer for that. On top of that, I've been filling my time with play dates, projects, and lots of sewing. School starts this weekend (yeehaw!) so my time won't exactly be opening up, but I will try to post more often. I love having all of our adventures documented so that I can someday have them for Ella.

So that's that! If you're in Minnesota...stay warm! It's -4 at the moment and that doesn't factor in windchill. Yikes. See? Perfect time for sewing.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Photo Ketchup ... Make that Catch Up

I could sit and make each of these photos into their own little post, but that might hinder the creation of further posts that would actually be up-to-date, so here are blips of all those posts rolled into one. And...go!

We bundled up just before Thanksgiving for the annual Christmas City of the North parade in downtown Duluth. We didn't quite make it long enough to see the big guy in red make his way into town.

The Mini Mama loves playing with her baby.

And reading her books.

Plush Pooh is not meant for the bath, but these things happen faster than a mama can react.

Since little Pooh was soaked through & through, we decided to get him all squeaky clean.

Ella helped me whip up a few batches of Scandinavian krumkake for Christmas gatherings.

My taste tester gave the official eating three!

Ella's first bike ride at a friend's house.

Stirring up our own bubble recipe.

Apparently they tasted yummy too!

A winter visit to Betty's Pies, an incredibly popular summer destination for locals & tourists alike, was a quiet way to spend an afternoon.

The perfect winter treat - a warm pasty at Betty's Pies.

We enjoyed the company of a few truckers while we had our pie.

Oh, that Dr. Seuss.

Daddy, I'm so glad you're home from work! Mmmmwah!

Mama Bex, Malena, Ella & I hangin' out at Uncle Jake's place on a sunny afternoon. Malena shared her Goldfish with her cuz.

The girls are in love with Uncle Jake's guitar.

And that is that! Now we can move on to the last of the Christmas pictures, including the Scott family Christmas and Christmas Day festivities. Then it's on to 2011!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

A Letter From Ella

gHVvvv assjkJKZnn,jhsjdhdsjjhdasdhjssfffaa cma nsjjnnmmz nddd,,lff,lflfl, gß


hy g 8okkkl . bg hg; l l jh jhcfh jn mo j


I'm unable to translate, but Ella seemed to think you'd understand.
-the mama

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Hand Print Art

This is one of the gifts that Ella & I made for the grandparents & godparents for Christmas. I bought unfinished frames and paint at Michaels and used heavy scrapbook paper for the black background. We had to do about twice as many hand prints as we had frames since e kept curling her fingers. Today we might make another one for her bedroom. If I don't do it today, I'll have to get a different shape frame since Ella's hand definitely won't fit in that little square window for more than another week!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Back to It

The holiday season has passed, the decorations are being packed away for another year, and things are getting back to the regular routine in the Olsen house. I loved all the hustle and bustle of the season, but I'll readily admit that I'm glad it only lasts about six weeks. With all the hosting and baking and traveling and gifting, it can be quite exhilarating while being just as exhausting. I've been surprised with how easily I neglected piles of laundry and mail in order to have more time to finish making Christmas presents and bake mounds of cookies. Would I have done it any differently? Not at all. Isn't that what January is for? Getting life back in order? After all, what's the fun of keeping things in order if we can't throw it all off every now and then?

So here we are, sitting at the beginning of a new year. We've all had a week to reconsider our New Year's resolutions, dive into them, tweak them a little or drop them entirely. Through the past few years I've leaned more toward goals than resolutions. They seem more achievable. In my late-20s, I've gotten better at making realistic goals and actually figuring out how to go about reaching them. I owe a lot of that to Pete. If you know him, you know that he's huge into setting goals - big goals - and doing anything necessary to reach them. It's helped me dream bigger and that's pretty exciting.

This year I had no idea what my biggest goal would be until sometime on New Year's Day. I hadn't really thought about it until then. It took a few days to completely evolve and become something more than just surfacy. (I may have just made up that word.) Through lots of prayer and thought, it simply boiled down to love people. I think I could spend an entire year just learning what that means, but I also want to learn to live it out. Definitely a challenge I feel I'm ready to take on.

Besides that, we've had a great week. Pete's back at work and is also studying for the third step of the boards. He'll take the exam at the end of the month. As previously mentioned, we're catching up on laundry and the like. Ella is a great help. (My whole idea of "great help" has changed over the last year, as I'm sure it does for every parent.) Yesterday she even helped me paint my office! I can't wait to finish it and post pictures. I'm loving it even though I've still got lots of work to do before my classes start January 22.

(I am often inspired by art or great photos. I feel like I can see things around me in a fresh way. Today I was inspired by these prints by Sascalia out of the UK.)


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