Handmade Christmas Series: Kids Pajamas

I wanted to post this before the hurricane hits us within this next day and we lose power. It looks like we are directly in Sandy’s path! Today I’m sharing a project that I’ve been working on for a couple of weeks–homemade pajamas for my kids and all the other little ones in my life. Several of my kids have worn theirs already, but the rest are for Christmas presents. You know I love a good practical present, and you can’t get much more practical than a new pair of PJ’s. I love how these turned out and am gladly sharing the tutorial on how I made them.

You can probably already tell from the picture that I did not make the shirts. True, I sewed up the pants and found a cool new (and easier) way to make them. The shirts are bought plain T’s that I appliqued a shape on using fabric leftover from the pants.

Here’s a brief how-to on making the pants. I used fleece for some and flannel for the others.

Lay out your fabric and fold one edge in.
Take a pair of your child’s pants and fold them in half. Lay the long edge against the folded edge of fleece/flannel. Use this as a template to mark/cut about 1″ away from the edge of existing pants.
Use the first half as a template to mark and cut a pants half on the other side. Open up both halves and lay them with right sides together.
Sew up the rounded edges on both sides. Do not sew the actual pant legs just yet.
With right sides still together, fold the two halves so they actually resemble pants. Now is the time to sew up along the legs! I did this in one continuous stitch, starting at one bottom, pivoting at the crotch area, and going down the other leg.
Fold up the bottom of each pant leg and sew the hem. (For the fleece I did one fold, for the flannel I folded up @1/2″, then another 1/2″.)
Next you need to create a waistband. Fold top edge down @1″ and sew around the whole thing except leave about 2″ open. Measure your child’s waist and cut an elastic that is 1″ larger. Thread the elastic through the waist casing and sew the overlapping edges. Finish up by sewing the 2″ gap closed. Turn right side out and you’re all done!
Cut out a shape from the same fabric you used for the pants. Iron on fusible interfacing and place on the plain t-shirt. I used a short zig-zag stitch to sew around the edges.

My son Josh has already worn this pair a few nights and is proud of his new PJ’s. It was fun matching different colors/fabrics/shapes to the differing personalities.

These were fun to make and actually pretty easy once I got the pants down pat. I loved the fact that you don’t really need a pattern for these and am contemplating making a comfy pair for myself.

Handmade Christmas Series: Button Bookmarks

Hey there everyone!

I would like to begin a new series on here with ideas for handmade Christmas gifts. (It’s only 2 months away!!) Beginning today, I will be sharing some of my favorite ideas–ones that I’ve already done, plus some new things I have up my sleeve 🙂

To kick us off, I am posting a re-run of one of my favorites from last year.

PS-For all of you fellow bloggers, if you would like to do a guest post featuring one of your ideas, I would love to have you. Just leave me a comment and I will contact you.

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Christmas gift ideas are totally swirling around in my mind. If you, like me, are also thinking of pretty little gifts that you can make ahead, here’s another quick idea for you. Also, if you are familiar at all with my blog, you’ll know that I did another bookmark idea not too long ago. Well, here’s another one, this time for all of you non-sewers out there. These are equally as sweet and completely easy to make.

Thinking of trying to make some for yourself? All the materials you’ll need are: fabric scraps, paperclip, button-cover kit, and hot glue/gun.

All it takes are a few simple steps:

1. Cut out a fabric circle approximately twice the diameter of the button cover.

2. Place the fabric printed side facing down in the button-cover mold.

3. Push the front half of the button rounded side down on top of the fabric.

4. Tuck the edges of the fabric into the center, and then press the button back into it until it is firmly encased.

5. Thread the paperclip through the shank of the button until the button rests at the top rounded edge.

6. Hot glue in place. I dabbed hot glue around the shank area and also where the edges of the button back rest on the paperclip.

Oatmeal Bread

This is one of the best bread recipes I’ve ever tried.

No kidding. It’s awesome.

I found this recipe for oatmeal bread in the latest Penzey’s Spices catalog. Since I’ve been in a bread-making and baking mode, I thought it was worth a shot.

My kids (and man) all gave it a unanimous thumbs-up at dinnertime the other night.

Really, is there anything better than walking into a house that smells like homemade bread?

I think not.

Since this was such a hit with my crowd, I thought I’d pass along the recipe.

Oatmeal Bread

1 cup regular oats

2 cups boiling water

2 TB yeast

1/3 cup warm water

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp salt

1/2 cup honey

2 TB canola oil

2 cups wheat flour

2 cups white flour

Put oats in a bowl and add the boiling water. Let these sit for @30 minutes. In a different bowl, combine the yeast with the warm water and let sit until it gets bubbly. Add the yeast mixture to the oats and stir. Add in the cinnamon, salt, honey, and oil and mix well. Gradually add in the wheat and white flour. (You may need to add a little more white flour to get the consistency you prefer.) Knead for at least 5 minutes. Place the dough in an oiled bowl, cover, and allow to rise in a warm location for 2 hours. Punch down and shape into 2 loaves. Cover these and allow to rise for another 30-40 minutes. They may have more of a bumpy/rustic look to the top, but this is as it should be. Bake for 30 minutes at 350 F. Remove from oven and let cool.

Once a Month Grocery Shopping (Part 2)

I’m back…..this time with tips for making once a month grocery shopping work for you and your family. Again, I am not claiming to be some kind of expert in this area, just someone who’s tried it and liked it. I have lots of fine tuning to do yet, but I believe there is a real learning curve with this concept. With that being said, here are my personal tips for once a month grocery shopping:

*Go alone. Yes, I realize this isn’t too feasible for some of you. However, if you can snatch a few hours to yourself, take advantage. I am not one of those people who claim to just love hauling their kids with them everywhere. Knowing myself, I have realized that I shop much smarter and can focus more if I am by my lonesome. You can get it done so much faster too!

*Time it well. While shopping just once a month for a majority of your groceries does save money, you do have to lay out more $$$ in one go. Time it so you’re not going on a week where your finances feel extremely slim.

*Know what you use. Have a good idea of what your family goes through in one month. I did a little experiment this summer to see how much of certain items we use in a month. Am I a big nerd? Yes I am, but I also got a good feel for what we consume  in a month’s time.

*Keep a master list. Post it on your fridge, bulletin board, wherever. Keep a running list of what you’ve run out of, than add to it what you anticipate using this next month. Literally go through every pantry shelf, freezer, refrigerator,  and see what needs replenished. I also stock up on our paper goods, trash bags, etc on my grocery run, so take a look at those as well.

*Meal plan. I have never done a post on meal planning, but this is something I’ve really depended on as my kids get bigger and busier. Granted, I don’t plan out for the whole month, which would be even more helpful. (I usually do a week at a time.) Looking ahead for the whole month would really help with amounts of what’s needed.

*Buy in bulk. Large amounts don’t always yield the best deal, but sometimes they truly are a good deal–especially if it’s something you know you’ll use. Last month I went ahead and bought a huge bag of flour just because I knew I’d be baking more often this fall.

*Do your homework. Have your coupons ready with possible match-ups for the stores you want to hit. Know what’s on sale that week and any loss-leader items you may want to stock up on.

*Hit multiple stores. I don’t get all crazy with this and usually just go to two. It all depends on where you live and your store preferences.

*Unload and put away the same day. No, you may not feel like it. However, when you get home, just get it over with and put everything away where it belongs. If anything needs divided up into smaller packages or cut up, now is the time.

And last but certainly not least….

*Go easy on yourself. As I mentioned earlier, there is a learning curve with this and it takes time to fine-tune what works for your own family. I still do a “milk run” and have ended up going for a couple things that I thought we truly needed before my next grocery run. (Like butter–this family wasn’t going to do without real butter! We’re not that hard core.) Maybe you want to even start by going to the store every other week and work from there.

Cozy Knit Baby Blanket

After the end of a busy week, I thought I’d share a project that I had finished up probably a month or so ago.

A super soft, cuddly, knit baby blanket.

Perfect for a little one to snuggle up with.

Quite honestly, after these last few chilly nights and mornings, I would like a bigger version for ME to snuggle up with.

This is a pretty simple knitting project. I’ll give the basics of this particular blanket.

For starters, I found this squishy yarn (which feels like chenille) at JoAnn’s and snatched it up with the intent to do a baby blanket with it.

I loved this blanket so much after I finished it that I picked up the girly-colored version to make another one for a baby gift.

I used size 13 knitting needles that are fairly long.

Cast on 35 stitches. Knit and purl, just making row after row of stockinette stitches.

That’s pretty much it. Do that until you reach the desired length of your blanket. Mine measures @24″ by 32″ and it only used up a little over half of my yarn.

As far as casting off, or binding off, I would recommend not doing it too tightly. (Mine ended up just a little tight at the one end.)

If you’ve never knit before, here are some links to a little mini-series I did on knitting last winter:

Part 1:Casting On

Part 2: The Knit Stitch

Part 3: The Purl Stitch

Part 4: Casting Off

Once a Month Grocery Shopping (Part 1)

For starters, I am not claiming to be any kind of expert in this. However, I am excited to share it with people because I believe there are many benefits to doing your grocery shopping once a month. I know it’s not exactly a new concept and you’ve probably heard all these things before. For myself, I have tried it out the last couple of months and have really, really liked it. I had been toying with the idea for a little bit and decided to give it a go this summer when lugging 5 kids to the store every week didn’t seem like my definition of fun. So, I gave it a test run one month and have been learning more and getting better at it since. If you’ve ever thought about it, or even read about it and thought it may be a good idea, here are what I see to be great benefits to doing once a month grocery shopping…

Benefits of Once a Month Grocery Shopping

*Saves time. Yes, that one shopping trip will be longer than normal, but I can almost guarantee you that it takes much less time than venturing to the stores every week or so. Even a “quick trip” for me used to take awhile–time I could be spending doing other things.

*Saves gas. I don’t know about the area in which you live, but where I live it’s about 10 miles just to get to any store at all. 20 miles for a round trip. Consolidating all of your running in one go can really add up when it comes to gas.

*Saves money. This isn’t just for the gas you just saved. I believe that with good, proper, once a month planning, you can end up spending far less than those weekly grocery runs. Just as a quick aside, the last time I was at Wal Mart there was a man in front of me chatting to the cashier as he unloaded his full cart. Apparently he was a stay at home father of 3 who was in charge of doing all the grocery shopping for his family. He was complaining about how much they spent  on groceries–a whopping $240 a week! I do not have a good poker face, so I tried to disguise my look of shock as best as I could. “Yeah,” he said,” I’m here all the time. It seems like we’re always running out of something.” To be honest with you, I really wanted to tell him that I barely spend that much per month, and I have a couple more children to feed. (Don’t worry, I kept my mouth shut!)

*Forces you to use what you have. You know those lingering boxes and cans in your pantry? The ones that you have a tendency to push to the back because you don’t know what to do with them? This is a great time to be creative and use those babies up. If you use most of your favorite ingredients up and still have some days left, give it a try! You may be surprised at what you come up with.

*Helps you know what you actually use. If you start out the month with 5 pounds of pasta and it’s gone by week 3, then you know to either buy more next month (or not cook pasta as often). On the other hand, if you bought 10 pounds of flour and by the end of the month half of it is still languishing in your pantry, then you know not to go buy such a large amount next time. It also helps you keep a good tally of how much $ is going towards groceries each month.

*Keeps you out of the stores. Unless you have really good self-discipline, most people end up with a number of impulse purchases. I just read a quote that says as much as 50-60% of purchases are based on impulse, not what’s been planned on a list. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been guilty of this one! This concept is simple–if you’re not going to the store, you’re not doing unplanned spending.

Well, those are the main things that I see as beneficial. I want to also clarify that I do make a mini-trip or two in between just to restock our milk and fresh produce. Next time I will share with you my own personal tips for making once a month shopping successful.

Homemade Candy Corn

Today I’m sharing a recipe from my archives that is perfectly suited for the beginning of October. I loved this one and can tell you that my family really enjoyed devouring these!

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Okay, so I do realize that candy corn can be bought pretty cheaply, and I did use bought candy corn for my Butterfingers recipe last week, but I just had to try the homemade version of candy corn once I saw some on Pinterest. Hey, it’s worth trying once, right? So, I looked up the recipe from dessertfirstgirl.com, rolled up my sleeves, and got busy with my ingredients. Here’s what I used:

2 1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar
1/4 cup powdered milk
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup light corn syrup
1/3 cup unsalted butter
1 tsp vanilla
food coloring

1. Combine the first 3 ingredients in a bowl and set aside.

2. In a medium saucepan, bring granulated sugar, corn syrup, and butter to a boil over medium heat. Reduce to low and cook an additional 4-5 minutes, stirring constantly.

3. Remove from heat and add vanilla. Add in the dry milk, salt, and 10X sugar mixture and mix well.

4. Let the dough cool for a few minutes until it’s just cool enough to handle. (Don’t let it sit too long or it will be harder to handle in the next steps.)

5. Divide into 3 parts. Add a few drops of food coloring to desired portions and knead well by hand.

6. Roll each portion into long ropes. Once ropes are formed, push one of each color together so you have 3 stripes.

7. Cut into triangle shapes and let sit out for @1 hour.

8. Store in an airtight container for up to 2 months.

As you can see, they do look a bit different than the store-bought variety. They’re definitely not all perfect and uniform looking, but that’s the beauty of things made by hand, isn’t it? I do have to say that the texture is softer and the taste is nicer (less artificial maybe?) than the bought kind. This is also a fun one for kids to help with!