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The Stuff that Daddy Built

Now that I’ve been blogging regularly for over a year, I can look back and see trends in my posts. For instance, anything mentioning my kids will immediately get 50 views once I hit “publish”. No one will read recipes when I post them, but over time, the posts get views as they pop up in google searches. Mostly I’ve noticed that  the two most viewed posts are those on our laundry room table and the wooden cornice board board in Reuben’s room. They are both consistently viewed a few times a week.

That inspired me. Both the laundry table and the cornice board were built and designed by my dad. I came to him with pinterest pictures and dimensions and he hammered out the best way to make them. It has only been in the past year or so that I’ve shared these projects, but my dad has been building beautiful furniture for as long as I can remember. Walking through my house, I can point out at least two pieces of furniture per room that he’s made. So I thought I’d show off some of my dad’s work on display in our house!

Grandma’s Cabinet

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This is one of the most sentimental pieces of furniture in our house. My dad built this back in his beginner days for his grandmother. She needed more counter space and storage for her kitchen. Enter this deep, heavy, tile topped cabinet. One shelf runs the length of the cabinet with four door openings. One of these days, I’d like to refinish the cabinet with a similar color stain. The door fronts are plywood, I might like to update them as well.

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This is the most useful and versatile cabinet. Right now it holds all of my table cloths\place mats, serving dishes, candle sticks and picture albums! It has become the center point of our seasonal and party decorations. In a few weeks it will serve again as an altar to St. Joseph.

Grandma's Cabinet

Hope Chest

Speaking of sentimental, this is the cedar chest my dad made for me for my 16th (18th?) birthday. I got to help in the shop as my dad put it together which only  makes it that much more special to me. I never did fill it with samples of my needle work to impress my future husband and furnish our future home, but now it sits at the end of our bed housing all of our linens.

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My favorite part of this piece is the beautiful blonde streak that runs across it. There are a few worm holes on the base as well; little winks to custom woodwork

Ladder Bookcase

At the end of high school, I asked my dad for a desk. He had just come across plans for a ladder style bookcase, and made this instead.

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For a few years it served well as a desk (he built an ottoman to go with it), then as my sole bookcase. In the townhouse Ryan and I first lived in, it was used in the kitchen for cookbooks and miscellaneous kitchen gadget storage.  It spent sometime outside at our last house as a plant stand and now it’s back inside as a display shelf.

Ladder Bookcase

Obviously, I’m still working on “staging” this bookcase. It’s part practical, part decorative. With all the little toddler hands in the house, practical uses are over ruling my decorative hopes.

Kneeler

This is a new addition to our home and one of Ryan’s favorites. For a few years Ryan’s been hoping to pair up with my dad to make a simple prayer kneeler. Ryan’s Christmas gift this year was, surprise, this beautiful kneeler! In our living room we have a prayer corner with floating shelves and a collection of icons. The kneeler fits perfectly in front further setting the corner aside for this specific purpose.

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Kneeler

Living Room Furniture

I’ve posted about these before, but they’re still beautiful so they’re worth mentioning again! Earlier last year, we got a new dining room table and chairs. It was exciting because it was the first time Ryan and I picked something out to fit our taste. A few months after that, my dad asked if we would like a new coffee table and end tables (He had built our old one years before out of some scrap wood he had. It was useful, but was now too small for our space). Of course we said yes and after talking with my dad about it for a little bit, decided on a simple plan. Come to find out, my dad scrapped the simple, easy plan and went for a slightly more elaborate, detailed beautiful plan to match with the dining room table Ryan and I picked out.

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We still drool a little over these tables because they are just so  beautiful! I think next time though, I’m going to have him add 50 pound weights to the underside to keep the kids from moving them around. As is, Felicity can fit inside the end tables and use it as her special hide out. The coffee table is perfect too for rainy day forts 😉

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I love all of the special touches around our house that have come out of my dad’s workshop. We joke that we’ve never had to buy furniture before between all of the hand-me-downs and pieces my dad has built. But I like it that way. Everything in our house has a little story attached to it, a special meaning. I hope our children grow up appreciating the warmth this adds to our home.

It is worth mentioning too, that my dad has been busy in the shop working on my long list of want-needs before baby #4 comes along. I have one piece on the carport I’ve just about finished painting and another fresh out of the shop waiting to be finished. So stick around as our house becomes just a little more personalized and just a little more organized!

Cormoran Strike Sequel Due This Summer!

I don’t know if this is *new* news, but I couldn’t sleep last night and checked Robert Galbraith’s website (Robert-Galbraith.com) and what to my weary eyes should appear, but a very exciting announcement!

The sequel to The Cuckoo’s Calling is due to be released June 19th this year, titled The Silkworm!! From the website:

When novelist Owen Quine goes missing, his wife calls in private detective Cormoran Strike. At first, she just thinks he has gone off by himself for a few days – as he has done before – and she wants Strike to find him and bring him home.

But as Strike investigates, it becomes clear that there is more to Quine’s disappearance than his wife realises. The novelist has just completed a manuscript featuring poisonous pen-portraits of almost everyone he knows. If the novel were published it would ruin lives – so there are a lot of people who might want to silence him.

And when Quine is found brutally murdered in bizarre circumstances, it becomes a race against time to understand the motivation of a ruthless killer, a killer unlike any he has encountered before…

I’ve mentioned my utter enjoyment with The Cuckoo’s Calling before. I was just excited to hear another book was in the works. Now knowing J. K. Rowling is writing a Cormoran Strike novel about a novelist just makes me giddy! I didn’t see any info on the website about UK vs USA release dates, but Barnes and Nobel have the book up for pre-order. The website says the hardback book will be available November 1 and June 24th for NOOK. Not really sure if that discrepancy is for real or what, but I know I’d like to get my hands on a copy as soon as possible!

Kiwi Crate — Referral Link

I’ve written before about the Kiwi Crate subscription Evangeline got for Christmas. She just received her third box in the mail this morning. She got all pouty when I told her we couldn’t do the crafts yet because she was going to the movies with her dad. Ha! We have both been having a lot of fun with the boxes and talking about all the new things we’re learning. So far we’ve colored pictures of the Southern Lights, made a polar bear costume, went penguin bowling and made arctic shaped window clings and snowflakes. I peeked in the new box after Evangeline left, and we’re going to get to make a bird costume and a bird’s nest with bird eggs!

Evangeline painting the Southern Lights
Evangeline painting the Southern Lights

Anyone thinking about joining Kiwi Crate for their kids? Each month of your subscription, your child gets a box in the mail with 2-3 crafts — all materials included, boxes are themed and informative. Age ranges are 3-10. Evie is just three, but she loves loves loves getting her boxes in the mail and doing everything in them.

Felicity the polar bear -- she likes the boxes too!
Felicity the polar bear — she likes the boxes too!

The link below is a referral link to my account. If you join through this link, we both get $10 off. Of course I wouldn’t mind getting $10 off for myself, but I also think this is a really great program that kids will enjoy.

http://www.kiwicrate.com/Refer?i=KelliC7

Make Way for Baby: Phase One

This pregnancy is giving us a lot of opportunities to accept the things we cannot change, to put it nicely. In preparation for a new newborn, we’ve begun shuffling furniture all about in and out. I keep telling myself that we have plenty of space and it will all work out with some strategic planning. This house was huge when we bought it, now that we’ve added two more babies (and baby stuff), suddenly things seem different.

My once peaceful, serene bedroom is now the library :/

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Reuben’s room is in flux, but is the most put together.

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The girls’ room is in limbo, as though holding it’s breath for the next phase of kids.

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The plan is to move Reuben into the girls’ room before new baby comes, have both girls in a twin bed, or each in a toddler bed (depending on Felicity’s preference) and for new baby to have what is now Reuben’s room to his or  herself for a few months. The best laid plans…

But we do have some to-do’s on the list to help get everything ready for the summer. We bought our first piece of furniture as a married couple. We made it through 5 years and 3 kids decorating off the generosity of family and friends’ hand-me-downs which is amazing and we’re so thankful (mostly because our family and friends have such great taste!) Finally, though, Ryan is getting a big boy dresser which will match the rest of our bedroom set. The chest of drawers he’s currently using will go into new baby’s room for their and Reuben’s clothes. Phase one of baby prep is:

  • move bookshelves to master bedroom
  • move changing table to Reuben’s room
  • set up children’s library
  • install shelves in hall closet
  • install shelf in Reuben’s closet
  • move chest of drawers to Reuben’s room

and just for fun:

  • install cornice board in girls’ room
  • build in kitchen banquet

After that, I think we’ll have a bit of a break until after Reuben and Felicity’s birthdays. Phase two will include more shuffling  of furniture, fitting as many beds in one room as possible and getting ready to bring baby home. Wish us luck. In the meantime, we have plans for a St. Joseph’s altar next month, so stay tuned for more on that!

Beginning of the Children's Library
Beginning of the Children’s Library

French Onion Soup: I Caramelize Because I Care

Oh the French. Apparently they had a lot of time to sit around cooking onions. And we’re reaping all the benefits! French Onion Soup is a favorite of mine and Ryan’s. I took some time experimenting and trying different recipes, and finally landed on what we like the best. It is light and simple, but full of savory onion flavor.

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The trick to any onion soup I found was caramelizing the onions. This can be a labor of love, but oh boy is it worth it! If you look around the internet, you’ll find different tutorials: some add salt and pepper, some add stock. I just use onions and water.

I did some research for you. I like to think of this as a place you can cook and learn. Caramelizing is the process of drawing out sugar. Onions have a high sugar content that gives them that sweet savory flavor. Different verities have different amounts of sugar. For my soup, I usually a yellow or Vidalea onion if I can find it.

Start by slicing two medium onions thinly. Pile it all in a sauce pan (ultimately you’ll have about 4 cups of liquid, so take that into account when choosing your pot). Pour enough water to cover the bottom of the pot and put over medium to high heat. And wait.

As the water evaporates, it draws the moisture out of the onion, cooking it. When you let all of the water cook out, the sugar is pulled out of the onion. This is where the patience and diligence kicks in. You want all of the water too cook out, but you don’t want to burn your onions.

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You’ll notice the onions will start to stick to the bottom — this is good, the sugar is coming out. Move the onions around a little just to keep them from burning. You’ll notice a sticky residue forming on the bottom (there’s a technical term that I can’t remember). Let this residue darken, paying attention to the smell to keep it from burning. Once it’s a good dark brown, add more water, again just enough to fill the bottom of the pot.

This is where you start drooling. The residue will flavor the liquid and the onions will reabsorb the amazing savory sweet bliss. The darker you let the reside get and the more times you add water and let it cook out again, the more flavor you’ll get. Each time the onions will get darker and savorier. Caramelized onions are to die for on top of…well just about anything: burgers, roast beef, eggs etc. For soup, however, the onions are just the beginning.

French Onion Soup

I caramelized three times then added 4 cups of broth. I used half beef broth and half chicken. If you were wanting to make this truly vegetarian, go for vegetable stock. Let the soup simmer about 20 minutes and in the mean time pop some bread under the broiler to crisp up.

To serve, put a slice of toasted bread in the bottom of a bowl, pour over the soup and top with shredded Swiss cheese and enjoy!

French Onion Soup Serve

Picking Your Battles

We are up to our eyeballs in toddler over here. We thought Evangeline was bad after we brought home Reuben. I don’t know if it’s the knowledge that yet another new baby is coming or if she’s just entering a new phase, but her irrational toddler behavior has definitely reached a new level!

I feel like my whole day now is closely monitoring and adjusting her environment trying to keep her in her happy place. But the thing is, there’s no telling what will make her upset. We try to be consistent with what’s expected and what consequences and reactions we give. I’ve mentioned before that I’ve switched up her eating schedule to help her mood swings. We’re also trying to re-incorporate nap time because “rest time” just ain’t cutting it anymore. More than that, though, I’m finding that I just gotta ease up sometimes.

I think remaining consistent is one of the best things a parent can do, especially for a toddler who is figuring out how the world works. Being that 4 of us are shut up at home all day most days, having a routine and order helps everyone’s mental health. The girls know what’s going to happen each day and they know what they’ll be expected and allowed to do. I try not to let one thing be ok today, but not ok tomorrow unless it’s a “treat”. But when we’ve been crying and screaming for an hour because Evangeline wants to eat her lunch in the living room and I don’t want peanut butter or jelly on my new rug, sometimes it’s just better to let her eat in the living room.

There are somethings that just can’t be compromised on — no you cannot eat glue, no you cannot sit on Reuben — but the day to day stuff is becoming more flexible. There is a new theory that says “toddler behavior” is due to the literal development of the brain. When a child is two to three years old the part of their brain that filters impulses is still developing. Their rationality or ability to process their reality isn’t fully formed yet. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but it becomes pretty clear when Evangeline’s not in a rational mind; she has one idea fixated in her head and can’t get off of it. It’s those times that I can tell a compromise may be in order.

Hopefully we can get the kinks worked out with Evangeline, so by the time Felicity gets to this point we’ll already be rockstar parents and have all the answers. Oh who am I kidding, Evangeline is the compliant one! I shutter to think what challenges little-miss-independent Felicity has in store for us! In the mean time…

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This stuff is cheap and worth the peace of mind of a toddler.