Thank you for visiting my blog; it is an exciting venture for me and I hope this will become a forum for moms and homemakers of all types to share stories, frustrations, and triumphs. There will be recipes, pictures of my latest and greatest soap creations, and anything I think will be interesting to Enthusiastic Homemakers.....

Monday, January 31, 2011

The greatest thing since...

I've recently been trying to find ways to stretch my grocery budget even further. I've always been very thrifty, but because of the state of the economy in the last few years, I've had a need to keep my grocery budget the same, while at the same time joyfully expanding our family...twice! It was this need to keep costs down that led me to learn the art of soap making; and we all know how that turned out! I also cloth diaper and use cloth wipes, make my own soap (obviously) as well as laundry detergent, buy in bulk, make everything from scratch, and pretty much do everything humanly possible to get the most out of my grocery budget while still providing my family with hearty and (I hope) yummy meals day in and day out. Recently, Elvis began to eat solids, and this has put additional strain on my poor little budget, especially since he absolutely refuses to eat the homemade baby food that I intended  to be his only food, and I'm still working on getting him to eat "regular" food, since I don't believe in giving children purees for any longer than necessary. Because at the moment I am spending something like, eeek! 10 to 20 dollars a week on baby food, I decided to start making all the bread we eat with my own little hands! I've always been an avid baker, making bread to have with dinner several times a week, but I've never felt equal to the task of providing the bread for toast and sandwiches, not to mention the bagels, hamburger buns and hot dog buns that our family uses every week. We can easily go through a loaf of sliced bread a day, and although I shop at a bread "thrift" store, at an extremely reduced cost, it is still triple the cost of homemade bread, and of course, not nearly as delicious. My favorite recipe only uses one pound of flour, and a nominal amount of yeast and salt; costing only 25 cents per loaf, a far cry from the price of bread in stores. It will take some getting used to, since we are all used to eating sandwiches on uniformly sliced, abnormally soft-crusted commercial bread, which as a bonus is filled with sugar or high-fructose corn syrup, dough conditioners and preservatives, and a huge amount of sodium compared to homemade. Before they "invented" pre-sliced bread, people were used to eating toast or a sandwich on a thick, rugged slice of bread, and thought nothing of it. I hope that in my family at least, we can go back to blithely eating a hunk of bread without complaint!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Friday Late Night Burgers.....

Similar to our Sunday Salad tradition, James and I have started really enjoying having late night burgers on Fridays...actually I think the Sunday Salads were adopted as a result of the Friday Burgers! There's something great about putting all your children to bed and enjoying some alone time with each other, as adults...and the great homemade burgers are a bonus! http://www.ecookbooks.com/p-23097-bobby-flays-burgers-fries-and-shakes.aspx About a year and a half ago, when we were footloose and fancy-free parents of four, we bought this cookbook, and started working our way through the recipes. We had so much fun picking out which burger we were going to try that weekend, shopping for the ingredients, and then of course, eating the delicious results! It was a great stay-at-home date night for us, which got a little sidetracked when I became pregnant with Elvis. We are going back to our tradition, although lately we've been coming up with our own burger, based on what we have on hand, which is fun, too! I think it's important to have little things like this to enjoy as a couple, and it doesn't have to be grand, or expensive. I also have my guilty pleasure movie to look forward to...I'm ashamed (a little) to admit that after Elvis was born, when I was looking for a little harmless diversion to distract me from the crushing sleep deprivation and a touch of the baby blues, I decided to give the Twilight movies a whirl. I wasn't terribly impressed, but then I read the books in between feedings. The books were surprisingly engaging and well-written, and I loved the fact that although it was a teenage love story, there was no sex, and the books themselves were written by a mom close to my age! After I read the books, I re-watched the movies, and although they are essentially teenage pieces of fluff, I find them to be entertaining and great to watch while slogging through the endless laundry, or in place of my usual classic movie watching while I sew. You know what? I'm not embarrassed! I'm a hip, happening, mother of five boys, and I can watch whatever I want! So there!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

My high point of the week....

I am a reformed disposable diaper user; after years of scoffing openly at those who chose cloth (sorry, guys!) and went into the cloth diapering gung-ho and determined to not use so much as a diaper wipe. I've stuck to that, using "reusable" wipes and only using one disposable diaper a day (for nighttime, and even then using only chlorine-free disposables). I got into a great routine of washing/folding/washing/folding and all was well. Until a few weeks ago, when our baby E was introduced to solids. EEEEWW. My sweet little Elvish One turned quite messy and stinky! Then I remembered way back when I was a hormonal pregnant lady, frantically researching and buying the best possible items for my precious baby-to-be; I found out about the product above; a flushable liner to lay into the cloth diaper that allows you to easier remove the...uh, soil and flush all your cares away! I ordered two rolls from Cotton Babies (a great shop), one roll for our bedroom where we change the majority of diapers and the other for the living room, where we often are for first and last changes of the day. They are awesome! Makes a cloth diapering mama's life much, much easier!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Midnight Madness

Well, it's midnight...and as usual, I have just finished the laundry, and was thinking of taking time to unwind, since all my boys and men are asleep and I can do as I please. I always have such a conflict, I have so many projects I'm dying to work on, but part of me feels guilty for staying up half the night, because I don't want to be tired and grumpy tomorrow. It's always a difficult choice for me, the back and forth of wanting some time for myself, yet feeling like I can't completely enjoy it because there are so many, many things that need to be done at all times, and I feel like I should not allow myself to become too sleep-deprived. I've been testing my limits for some time, seeing how little sleep I can not only survive on, but feel well all day on. I've found that I can do very nicely on five hours, any less and I feel tired all day long. It doesn't leave me with much time in the evenings, though; by the time we get the boys truly settled for the night it's usually around 9pm, then I watch a little TV with James, return e-mails and manage my etsy shop. All in all, it's never sooner than 10pm when I have a little "me time", and often it's not until closer to midnight. So here I am, at midnight, a little tired, but planning on finishing the romper I started for Elvis; it's so close to being finished and I hope to have it done and have pictures posted tomorrow. It does have buttonholes, however....pray for me!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

I'd rather be......

This great piece of art was forwarded to me by my sister-in-law who said it reminded her of me...ain't that the truth! It pretty much sums up the way I've been feeling the past few weeks, dealing with sick kids, the ubiquitous laundry and the housework I can never seem to finish. Add to that the worry about what my etsy shop is doing (or not doing, to be precise), the grey wintry weather, and you've got a pretty desperate housewife! I know that I'm doing the best I can, but at the end of the day, I still feel a sense of failure at all the things left undone, projects that sit unworked on, and the fog that seems to have made it's way from outside and come to settle over my psyche. I have a plan though (besides waiting for spring). I need to find something to do for myself that energizes me, maybe I'll finally take that dance class I've been wanting to take ever since I was 8 and got a pink tutu. I have a wonderful stack of vintage fabric just waiting to be cut, and two projects in the works, so I need to make time for my sewing, since it is something that leaves me energized, even if I stay up until 2 AM (as I often do when caught up in a project). Above all, I need to learn to pace myself, not start the day with a list of tasks that would be difficult to accomplish even if I were home alone; let alone with three little ones, getting over being sick, and two hours a day spent dropping off and picking up older children from school. I think I will go back to "triage"; focusing on a few things that really make a difference, regardless of what order I think a house "ought" to be cleaned. For example, daily I struggle with keeping the kitchen clean, and in my head, the floor is the last thing that should be done. But this leads me to constantly have a sticky floor, often it doesn't get cleaned until before dinnertime, which bothers me immensely. I'm going to start cleaning that floor early and often; in spite of the condition of the counters! And I know this to be true : As Goes The Bed, So Goes the House. If I can just spend two minutes a day making my bed, it seems to greatly affect my state of mind and my ability to finish the other tasks I have set my mind to. I think it's because every time I go into my room (often, because that's where the diapers are kept) I think to myself "Wow, I'm really on top of things, just look at that bed!". Baby steps!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Where is Anne of Green Gables when you need her?

As a child, I read that wonderful series of books by Lucy Maud Montgomery, and loved them! Little did I know that twenty years later, I would, like Anne, be continually plagued with croupy babies. Whenever I tell anyone that one of my children has croup; the typical response is "I didn't know babies got croup anymore". Well, neither did I. Each one of my children has had several bouts with it, some mild, dealt with by a trip to a steamy bathroom, and then the big Kahuna; last March my little four-year-old had a life-threatening bout with croup that led to a hospital stay; and scared the living daylights out of both James and I. So this week, when we started hearing that tell-tale bark, from my same little Callan, no less, it led to two sleepless nights for both James and I, nights spent on the couch next to Callan, monitoring his breathing and making trips both into the bathroom for steam and outside for the cold night air. After the second night, after stumbling to bed at 5 am once I made sure the evil croup was under control, and slept like the dead. When I woke up, I was pleasantly surprised to find sunlight streaming across my bed; then realized why....it was 8:40 in the morning, and only one boy was dressed, two were asleep, and none had eaten breakfast...now, I can pull myself and the boys together pretty fast, but even I am not that talented. Needless to say, we did not make it to school! Finally, last night, which was the third night, we all managed to sleep all night with no croup...and I was too tired to appreciate that Elvis slept ten hours in a row! I hope that this sickness leaves our house, and we can enjoy life again....

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Buttonholes and Buttermilk....

I've had such little time to work on my sewing lately, but finally on Sunday afternoon, I was able to at last sit down at my machine. I did have one little boy sitting beside me tracing the revolutions of the needle carriage wheel with his finger, and another little boy underneath the table pushing my foot down on the pedal, but it was still great to get going on my little trusty Singer! I'm still laboriously working on a dress that would be a simple project, if I were able to work on it for more than 20 minutes at a time, but; alas! The life of a mama! This pattern (the one I have pictured in an earlier post atop the vintage black and white check fabric) has a hidden button placket, which is perfect for me; since I have a rather embarrassing secret....I am the worst buttonhole maker in the world! It is silly, I know, for a person who has done as much sewing as I have, to produce such terrible, shaky, crooked buttonholes, and the fact that my machine has a semi-auto buttonhole setting makes it even more embarrassing. I don't know what it is about the thought of making presentable buttonholes that makes me go all to pieces; but there it is! I have also given up on marking dark fabrics with the typical white or silver dressmaking pencil, and so my other embarrassing secret is that I use Crayola colored pencils....not professional, I know, although the markings are either covered or they are fairly easily removed. After my usual trial buttonholes, my first was still fairly shaky, although I was able to cover up the deficiencies by reinforcing it; then just when I was about to succumb to buttonhole despair; I produced a quite presentable, straight buttonhole! I'm so proud of it, I may post a picture! I hope I am able to finish this particular dress in the next few days, since I'm so excited to begin my swimsuit pattern, and I've promised myself I will do all my projects in order, start to finish, for once! You may be wondering where my buttermilk reference comes from; I had a rather strange soap making experience involving adding buttermilk to lye; it changed to the strangest reddish-brown; I had heard of a similar reaction, but never had I seen it before, normally when I use buttermilk for soap it turns a orange-y color, but never this! And when the search box in your google search has the words "buttermilk in lye; reddish brown color", you know it's going to be an interesting day!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Great new shop on Etsy!

It's not often I find and favorite a shop that makes jewelry; since I'm not one to wear a lot of jewelry; in fact I only own two pairs of earrings, both gifts from James; a pair of tiny white gold closed hoops, which I've had for ten years; and a pair of pearl studs which were my tenth anniversary present. I also have a sadly outdated charm necklace that I no longer wear because it has two little boy charms, and I fear if I added the three more I would look like a rapper! So those items,  along with a white gold bracelet I don't wear because...I just never think of putting it on, concludes my jewelry stash. Not impressive! I've always admired people who put together accessories daily, but I just don't have the knack for it, and would rather wear something that expressed my personality and was meaningful that I don't have to think about or fuss with. So, every morning I put on my pearl stud earrings and call it good. But the jewelry in this shop may make me decide to change that. Such wonderful, delicate and affordable earrings! I also loved the pearl charm bracelet I have pictured. Such a great new shop, I had to share! And the owner favorites my shop, too! Check it out! Pier 12

Friday, January 14, 2011

"Let's Just Keep An Eye On It"......

Don't you love that phrase? Uttered continually by doctors the world over, that is the phrase that most drives me crazy. Either tell me to worry or not worry; not to worry, then worry, then worry more if "it" gets worse! The phrase pretty much sums up the job of a stay-at-home-mom; we're always "keeping an eye on" things, from the cake in the oven, to that rash on the baby, to the prices of butter (bad!), to the social development of our children. I think I hate that phrase so much because it reduces me to not only a shriveled up nub of worry, but also that it underscores a reality that none of us want to face; we have no control...no control over whether our children get sick or hurt, or the economy gets better or worse, or if the dryer breaks or the dog bites or the bee stings....so, yes, I will refrain from blindfolding myself; and continue to simply keep an eye on it.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Borax...good for Everything?

I can't believe I lived thirty years before I discovered the wonder that is Borax. I have memories of my mom using it for....something; I guess I never bothered to figure out what, but I remember seeing the 20 mule team box under the kitchen sink. When I got my first soap making book and started soaping, I found a recipe for Borax soap, and at the time it seemed pretty strange to me, because I associated Borax with cleaning. How little I knew....I got a request from Maggie at http://vintagecorepatterns/blogspot.com to make Borax soap, because she said she used to buy some from a woman who called it Mineral Sparkle Soap. I had recently discovered what a versatile product Borax is; I make my own laundry detergent, and it's the star ingredient, along with washing soda and a few others things. I was thinking, OK, sure...I'll make you soap with that. Then I did some research and found Borax is widely used in the cosmetic and beauty industry and is actually very good at allowing troubled skin to heal itself. So I plunged in and made the Borax soap, and it turned out beautiful and sparkly.  I was packing a few boxes to send out tonight, including Maggie's Mineral Soap, and as I always do, I tested the soap on my very own sensitive skin. It was nice and lathery; I was quite impressed, and then I realized that I had just used the same star ingredient to clean my bathroom; it works, so, so well at hard water stains and makes the best chemical-free cleaner! So, it's pretty much the BEST mineral around; I need to buy it in bulk at this point, it's completely eliminated my need to buy household cleaners, since it works at everything from kitchen cleaning to laundry stain removal, and yes, even skin care! I can't believe I just wrote a love post to a product that sells at a grocery store for under three dollars....I mean, I thought I had standards!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Peppermint Mocha and Patterns Galore!

I have had a crazy busy week year; and have been really stressed about getting all these gorgeous patterns resized and made into garments. I hate to be stressful about things I really love, but when you have a house, five children, an etsy shop, and mountains of laundry; it's hard to fit anything in, especially if it's "just for me". I went to my favorite fabric store these weekend, and in the bargain bin found some great quality, spring-y fabric on clearance plus 50% off! So I ended up paying $2 a yard for the great linen blend, and $1.50 a yard for the adorable rayon blend pink and white check. I also had to figure out what material to use for the pattern resizing, and since I'm cheap, I gulped and bought three yards of a product with one-inch grids printed on it for $1.99 a yard. I'm not totally sold, I wish I could have just bought a roll of butcher paper or something, although I'm finding the grids are very handy. I'm also finding that although I'm a fairly advanced sewer, the whole pattern concept does not come easy to me. I read an article about pattern resizing, but I must say I'm not totally convinced that method works. It's the whole "the-leg-bone-connected-to-the-thigh-bone" thing that I keep messing up on, it's hard for me to comprehend how when I adjust one piece, it affects several other pieces. I hope I erred on the side of largeness with the black and white I have cut out, or make it work somehow if I haven't. I also had plenty of fabric left over to cut out a 1956 sun suit for Elvis. In the pattern envelope was some notes someone had written to themselves on a piece of scrap paper which was the back a political donation request letter; so funny to find these original musings of a housewife somewhere who presumably made this very sun suit for her baby boy, who is by now a grandfather! That's why I love sewing vintage so much, it's a connection to the past like nothing else. My next project is my hard-won swimsuit pattern, the coral-y red in the center is the famous authentic vintage rayon, which I received this week from http://etsy.com/shops/vintagetreasurehuntn it's so gorgeous and lightweight, perfect for a vintage swimsuit! I had to laugh when I compared the pattern piece for the bra top, which is a girls (juniors) size to my ample bust line; there is going to be a whole lot of resizing going on there! The piece that is supposed to represent half the bra top is basically the size of a dinner napkin; by the time I'm done with it, it'll be unrecognizable! The rest of the patterns I bought will be fairly easy, most are close to my size and are things like skirts and shorts, which just need to be widened, and a house dress which is just four pieces plus sleeves, belted. I'm so excited to get going on all this...if I only had a spare day or two!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Sunday Salads...

James and I have recently started a new tradition; Sunday salads. We put the boys to bed at 8pm, and then James makes one of his fabulous salads which we leisurely eat while watching one of our favorite movies. We have discovered in the past few months how enjoyable it is to be able to eat our food without wrangling four boys and juggling a baby. I know "they" say it's absolutely crucial to always eat dinner with your children, lest they turn to a life of crime; but I believe it's equally crucial for a husband and wife to keep their friendship and marriage strong, and that won't happen unless they get some time to sit back, relax, and be together. I think the whole concept of feeling guilty unless you're watching your children while they eat actually started when family life changed to the extent that mothers were no longer connected to the day to day tedium of their children's lives, and needed this time at the end of the day to reconnect. For myself, I am with my children from the moment they wake up in the morning, I drop the older boys off at school myself, and spend every waking moment with my younger three, until 3:30, when I am there to greet my boys after school and deal with the homework, fights with friends, and daily trials and tribulations of an elementary school student. I find that I learn the most about my children in the 10 minutes after I pick them up at school than any other time, because any problems they may be having are still fresh, and I wouldn't miss that time for the world. I strongly doubt that 60 years ago parents ate dinner with their children for any reason other than that there was dinner, and also hungry people. Before that, for generations, children were given dinner very early, and tucked away safely in bed before Mother and Father ate their meals alone, and I don't see what's so very wrong with that concept. I think the Sunday Salads and the Friday Late Burgers will be a tradition we will carry on, regardless of what "they" say!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Vintage pattern heaven!

Whew! I've had a really busy week, several new orders from my etsy shop (Yay) and <drum roll please>, my vintage patterns from Vintage Core Patterns arrived! http://www.vintagecorepatterns.com It was so exciting, I love vintage patterns, but I've never had such a wealth of vintage goodness at once! I love looking through them marveling at how this little envelope full of tissue paper has survived for 50+ years, and how it's a time capsule to how my counterparts lived, once upon a time. The fancy antiques never move me, when I go to an antique store I love to look at the unopened beauty products and magazines, the minutia of life; what life is all about. I think that is why I love vintage patterns so much. It's not an interpretation or a reproduction of what women wore, it's the real deal, with priceless fabric suggestions that allow you to truly recreate an outfit. I also received as a gift from Maggie a wonderful dress pattern; factory folded; such an amazing gift! I'm also trying to do better at balancing my new interests with my family life, therefore, after this post I am going to "close up shop" and spend some time with my poor husband over California burgers!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Where does the time go?

I have been so, so, busy these last few days! Getting my boys back on a school schedule has been a little challenging (and for me too!). I have been dying to cut into my first vintage pattern, and over the last day or two I have been slowly cutting out the pattern. It's almost my size, but I need a couple extra inches in the bust line and my five-babies waistline. I found a great article on resizing patterns, and although I found that I had virtually none of the needed supplies, I figured I was an experienced enough seamstress to draw out the re sized bodice directly on the fabric. Even I would not have attempted this except that the pattern was very nearly the right size...it would not have worked at all on a pattern that was a few sizes too small. I think I did all right, I guess I'll see once it starts going together, I went on the premise that you can always make something smaller, so I added ample room, thinking I could take it in easily. The skirt then had to be re sized along the side seams, which is a no-brainer, but this skirt pattern has soft pleats along the waistband, and I had a mental block where I couldn't figure out whether I needed to move the pleats or enlarge the pleats to the measurement I added to the bodice. Eventually I moved the markings, but I may just have to redistribute them once I get started on the skirt; I've found that often pleats have to be moved, anyway, even if the pattern is the right size. Also, tonight, I remedied my sad lack of dessert making by making oatmeal chocolate-and-vanilla-chip cookies, my boys will be thrilled, since they've been bereft of "treats" lately! On the agenda tonight, lots of laundry, fabric cutting, soapmaking (Briny Depths Sea Kelp Soap), and a glass of Riesling wine (my fave!).

Monday, January 3, 2011

Back to School and MORE vintage finds....

Today was the ever-anticipated (with dread) return to school after two idyllic weeks spent largely in jammies, with lots of free play time and movie afternoons. I was afraid it would be difficult for me to keep up with my etsy shop, blog, even leaving aside the whole five-boys-and-a-house issue. However, after a late night spent with James, filling lotion bottles, and packing boxes for a last-minute etsy order, I got up, determined to take on the world, applied a thick coat of under-eye concealer, drank some scalding hot black coffee, and actually pulled myself and the boys together for an on-time school arrival! I had a great day with what I call my "tiny boys", and was surprised at how calm it seemed without the biggest boys (sorry guys!), and how quickly we returned to our regularly scheduled program. I made a nice beef stew and some hot oatmeal bread, and actually had a surprisingly neat home and five surprisingly calm and cheerful boys for James to come home to! Then, for an added bonus, I was able to negotiate with a wonderul etsy shop owner for a discount on some fabulous authentic vintage fabric to make my famous swimsuit with! A great vintage pattern, it's a slinky fabric, more in keeping with the era than modern swimwear fabric would have been. I was so afraid that after all my hunting, I was going to be forced to settle for a spandex that would have screamed "NOT VINTAGE". In return for the really awesome deal Vintage Treasure Hunt gave me, I promised to send some of my new laundry fizzes, along with whatever goodies I can stuff into the box, I'm really pleased I was able to get a great stock of vintage fabric! Back at it again tommorrow!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Why e-bay? Part Two; or Why not?....

I knew I shouldn't give up so easily! I always tell my children that anything is possible; little did I know that it was possible to find a darling vintage swimsuit pattern.....for $3.99!!!; further that it was possible to win a bid on e-bay without breaking the bank! I was perusing every website know to creation for that elusive vintage pattern, and decided to try e-bay again. Lo and behold! There was a pattern described as a "Mid-century 3-piece bathing suit", which piqued my interest; then I noticed that the auction was ending in less than an hour and there were no bids. I learned yesterday that being the first bidder does not put you in a strong position, so I just kept the window open and waited until it counted down to two minutes; still no bids, so I bid at the starting price, and boom! I am the proud owner of a vintage swimsuit pattern! Now in life, nothing perfect, so it's true that this pattern is uh..a few..sizes too small, but I read an article the other day about resizing, and I think I can handle it. It is also strangely considered a "girl's" pattern, although it is a misses size; but I can pull off "girl", right? Also, I have to decide if the world is ready to see approximately 3 inches of the upper portion of my midriff; since this is one of those extremely high-waisted two pieces, that has full shorts for a bottom. I have been going to the gym, and while the lower portion of my abdomen looks like a train wreck, the top portion is relatively unscathed, though I wouldn't call it particularly attractive. I think I may be able to handle it, and I hope the rest of the world isn't too upset by the sight! Pictures to come!

Why e-bay? Why?

I've been on the hunt for an adorable vintage swimsuit pattern since we made plans for our vacation in March. I knew that vintage swimwear patterns were rare, and many were expensive, but I really had no idea what I was getting into. I've scoured the Internet for patterns that will look good on my less than swimsuit-ready body, and found a few adorable ones on e-bay. I bid on one, reluctantly, since I've never used e-bay and am not thrilled with the concept...if I'm going to buy something, I'd like to know about it!...and was swiftly and terribly outbid. It seems it is impossible to spend less than $15 on a swimsuit pattern, and many go as high as $50; Yikes! If I have to buy the fabric and make the darn thing, I'm not spending that much on just the pattern! Not to mention the fact that my budget for this is between $0 and $5, so it appears it will be me, San Diego beaches, and my tired old tankini, which I've had for five years, and can and do wear through the ninth month of my pregnancies. Yawn. If only I knew how and where to obtain these same fabulous patterns that others sell for extraordinary sums of money on e-bay! If only I knew how to make my own pattern! If only I looked halfway decent in modern bathing suits! I still haven't given up; except on the last wish, so maybe I'll still get lucky! A girl can hope!