Sunday, July 29, 2012

{the simple things} apricot jam

Ahhh, summer. I know I've been a little absent here lately, but hey, summer is finally here. Some years that is a big deal in these parts of the world.

So there are other things to do than sit in front of a computer and type.

Like watering the garden. Cutting lavender. Cooking pizza on the grill. Sitting outside on the porch doing nothing at all. Maybe having some grilled white peaches with vanilla ice cream and biscotti for dessert. Watching the sunset at 10pm. Getting up early the next day, looking out and just knowing it's going to be another wonderful, sunny day. Getting kids dressed in 10 seconds flat. Eating tomatoes right off the plant.

Or cooking apricot jam.

Fresh, ripe and fragrant French apricots from the Friday market. I bought enough for two batches of jam but since I ended up, uhm, trying a few, at the end I had to throw in two peaches to make it work. The peaches gracefully agreed to mingle with the apricots, triple sec and vanilla and work together. Yum.

I usually cut my fruit for jam up the day before, let it sit covered with sugar overnight and then cook jam the next morning.

There is nothing that says summer to be more than this bright and deep yellow little glass of sunshine, bursting with flavor and eaten on a freshly baked roll with lots of butter on a very, very cold Sunday morning in the middle of winter.

Isn't that one of the best things about making jam? To know that you preserve all this flavor, all this sunshine for darker and colder days.

Hope you enjoy this week's simple things as much as I do.


Saturday, July 14, 2012

{the simple things} clear skies

Another week just went by? Really?

I refuse to believe that. But tomorrow is Sunday, time for the simple things. So it's got to be true. Still it seems that week went by awfully quickly. It's somewhat of a blur, with too many places to be and too many things to do. I did not get another post in. At night I was too tired to write even two words. Or edit a photo. Let alone take a photo or think about something to write.

Anyhow. It was a good week. We got lots of errands done and things crossed off the list. There were some good news. And the brothers got a new haircut, fairly short for the first time in their lives and they look so cool, so much older. So cute. Oh sorry, I'm not supposed to say cute anymore.

And then today we went to pick out glasses for big brother. Yup, just like mommy and daddy he needs glasses. We have three different models to try out over the weekend and we'll have to take our pick on Monday. Big brother wants the green ones. Bright green ones. A little bit too bright and too green if you ask me. I'm still trying to convince him, but since he's somewhat sick today with a mysterious fever, he's also cranky and not easily convinced. Hm.

So it's been a crazy week, and the weather has been equally crazy. From summery and warm too rainy and cold enough to wear a jacket. We did get to spend some time outside, catching our breaths as the kids were in bed and the skies cleared up. Ahhh. Peace and quiet.

Watching the sunset does put things into perspective. At least until the next day, next errand, next thing to do...

Happy Sunday!


Sunday, July 8, 2012

{the simple things} summer blossoms

Every year I forget how lush my garden gets once summer is here. It looks so bleak in the winter, and even worse when you cut the perennials back and take out all the dead leaves in the spring. There's so much space in between the plants. The geranium and catnip are barely visible, just tiny, tiny green leaves peaking from underneath last year's cut-back brown stems. The grasses are a sad mess and I always have to resist the urge to go out and buy new plants to fill in the gap.

At first, the daffodils come and fill the gaps. Then the white catnip and geraniums (I have a about seven different kinds and I love the all) show and start to bloom. The grasses get taller and greener again.

And all of a sudden, it's summer. The roses are in full bloom. The oleander come back from the greenhouse where they were all winter. The lavender, gaura, hemerocallis, alchemilla... everything gets huge all of a sudden. There is not an inch of space in any flower beds, they are overflowing.

Every year I remind myself I really don't need any more plants.

What are your garden favorites at this time of year or any other?

Linking up with Rebecca at the simple things sunday.

Happy Sunday!

Friday, July 6, 2012

{embrace the camera} family sunday part 2: funny carts & kitten whiskers

I still can't quite believe it, but it looks like I'm actually doing embrace the camera two weeks in a row. Amazing. Of course I cheated and just had lots of pictures taken on one day. But since we went to two events that day, it sort of counts, don't you think?

Well, after spending the morning watching tractors, we went to little brother's new preschool in the afternoon. When I say new I mean it's been around for almost a year now, but the building is new. And huge. So they did an open house last Sunday and invited everyone to have a look around. 

And what do preschool teachers do when they invite people? Right. They play games. Preferably in a way that makes all visiting parents and other adults look a bit silly. Not sure if this is a habit or just comes with the job, but whenever you go to a preschool event, you have to be prepared. You can't just chat with other parents, have some coffee and watch the kids play, no, you'll be likely to join the fun.

So we tried to ride these funny little things - you just push your feet against the handle and they go. You also steer them the same way. What looks easy when the kids do it (even little brother), actually takes a few minutes practice when I do it. And even then I ran into all the traffic signs. Oh well. The brothers thought it was pretty funny.

So. Preschool teachers. They set up this circuit that the kids had to do, getting stamps for each station they did. So far, so good. Here's the catch: mommy and daddy got one of those cards, too. Yay. And while I did duck quickly enough, pointing at my camera, daddy got a card. 

So we built block towers against each other, raced those funny little carts and he painted with the brothers. At the end, there was only one thing left on his card: getting his face painted. The brothers and big brother's best buddy had all gotten kitten whiskers. So yeah, of course I suggested I'll do that part and he'd get my stamp. And yes, of course I was the only adult there doing that. So since the entire town saw me with my face painted, I figured it doesn't make much of a difference if I show it to the world. My pleasure. 

How's that for embracing the camera?


Thursday, July 5, 2012

Sewing a changing pad. First time.

No idea what ever happened this past month. Where did June go? I know I was busy but for some reason I didn't really make any progress on my sewing projects. Oh well. I did however finish two projects for a friend's birthday, and I was in so much of a hurry that I'm just going to blame that for the poor quality of the photos. You'll just have to use your imagination here. Ready?

What I wanted to do was a simple reversible bag like the ones I did before (using this free tutorial), but this time add a changing pad and case for some diapers and wipes. Because my friend is pregnant with her third, and as we all know, that means she's busy. So for those mornings when you just run out to get the big kids to preschool/school and don't want to bring a full diaper bag, this should be enough to cover the basics.

I ended up using this tutorial here. I'll be honest, I just fell in love with the elephant fabric. What I used though was some floral fabric I had on hand because it happened to match the leftover fabric I had from sewing my oilcloth Easter baskets - which are actually made from an Ikea tablecloth. The only thing I did buy was some brown bias tape.

The tutorial is great and so, so easy. Since both of my fabrics were rather thin, I used a cut up mattress protector from Ikea's children's department in the middle, sewed all the way around through all three layers and then adding the bias tape in a second step. It might not be perfect, but I love it.

One side of the changing pad is the washable, wipeable tablecloth, the other one regular fabric, matching the bag. The pouch is made from the same fabric with some contrasting brown fabric for the little pocket that the changing pad slips into.

The bag itself uses the same fabrics, and since it's reversible she'll be able to stuff something less than clean in there or turn it inside out to be carried around in less than perfect weather (not that we ever get that here in Germany, mind you).

Other than a few orders for sun hats and some little ties I want to make for my boys to wear to their uncle's wedding this summer, this will pretty much be it in terms of sewing for a while. I have so many photos to catch up with and edit, put into my photo books... oh, and right, it's summer. Time to be spent outside...

Any sewing projects you finished lately?

Monday, July 2, 2012

{kid craft} bookmarks

We haven't done any kid craft posts in a while now. Actually, there are a couple of reasons. There's things like summer and big brother going to school soon. But also it just got too much to do, photograph and post every week - and I realized I wasn't really doing this for the kids anymore. So we do some school prep instead these days, and just head out a whole lot, enjoying the time we don't have to do something while we still can.

Every once in a while we still sit down to do something though. This week big brother went to a friend's birthday party and since we bought a book as gift, we figured we'd do some of our tried-and-true bookmarks to go with it. Little brother did these as sibling gifts for Christmas, and we also made dog-themed ones as party favors.

This time, I marked a simple sheet of paper with lines every 5cm, showing big brother where the bookmarks would be cut. He then just colored using pencils and drawing all kinds of things for his best friends, carefully writing their names as well. There's the birthday boy in soccer uniform with a soccer ball, another friend with a cat and then one with his dog (no, that yellow thing is not a bee, it's Sammy the dog...). He took it very seriously.

The finished picture. With the, er, enthusiasm and frequency that my big boy likes to draw, I'm surprised you can actually see what it's supposed to be. No, make that amazed. I know, others draw the most gorgeous pictures at age almost 6, but hey, for my boy this is truly great. And I love that he took the time to pay attention to detail, think about what each of his friends would like and try his best in getting there.

Little brother on the other hand was busy being cranky. Sharpening pencils, getting in the way, whining and just being a general nuisance. Until he remembered he could take several pencils at once for coloring.

Am I the only one who thinks we have a tired little artist here?

Big brother joining the fun.

Once finished, I cut the paper into strips and laminated them, punched holes and tied on matching ribbon. Easy.

We also made some from the other drawings they did, which turned out rather cute, too.

Seems like we'll have enough bookmarks over here to last us the next few weeks...

Happy crafting,

Sunday, July 1, 2012

{embrace the camera} family sunday part 1: tractors

I really loved participating in embrace the camera for the first time a few weeks ago (thank you for all the sweet comments!), and I really want to do this more often. I even got a remote for my camera, thinking I'd do some everyday or creative shots while the kids were at preschool. Oh well. I didn't really have much spare time recently.

Anyhow, since today was a busy family Sunday with both the annual local tractor pulling event (it's loud, it involves dirt and tractors - of course my boys love that! All three of them...) and an open house in little brother's brand-new preschool. Of course I take my camera with me on days like that.

Except this time I was pretty determined to just hand it to my dearest and ask for a few pictures of mommy, too. And I did. And he took some pretty good ones. Oh, and I took a few photos today, too. You l know, just a couple hundred or so.

Here's the first batch from the tractor pulling event. Yeah, I know. We live in the countryside, what can I say... We did have a really great time though.

My men watching big machines making lots of noise and smoke.

Did I mention smoke?

Little brother was too busy and mesmerized to even talk. He could have stayed there all day.

The brothers.

And this isn't even a really big tractor... Oh my.

There was a carousel, too. With a race car. That came pretty close to the tractors, but not quite. Notice his chubby little finger pushing the horn. All. the. time.

We had a great Sunday morning!

More photos to follow next week - including mommy getting face painting just like her boys (for the record I was a cat. Meow.) . Stay tuned...

Off to check out some of the other entries this week and so excited to participate again!