Sunday, February 8, 2009

Animal Magnetism

Behold...Page 197. Well, not so much exactly what's on page 197, but more of a combination of page 197, page 32, and something I saw written on page 61. Incidentally, these are not my first glass blob projects inspired by the Crafty Mama book, they just happen to be the only eight remaining blobs left of my 87-blob Crafty Marathon.

So, where are the other 79 blobs, you ask? And, what's so special about this project? Sure, it only took a simple glass blob, a glue gun, and a few other things to make each one, but that's not really the point; after all, pi is just an infinite value lying around on its numerical bum all day, but it's what we DO with it that counts. The same goes for a Crafty Mama's glass blob project. What sent my mind reeling that first day wasn't the fact that it had never dawned on me to glue two things together, it was that even though I had seen all of these supplies before--the glass blobs in the vase, the blank barnyard thank-you card that I never sent to anyone-- I had never thought about getting Crafty with them, and in quite that way.

That day when I first saw Page 197, it was like a big, energy-star, motion-activated light bulb went on in my head. Think of what I could do with this idea: magnets with Shakespeare quotes, drawer pulls with glitter stars and sequins...the possibilities were endless. I made Valentine's Day glitter hearts for my crew. I made Kids With Food Allergies' logo magnets for myself. My son is an exceptional artist, so I made hand-drawn Wall-e magnets for Grandma. Bible verse magnets for Nana (no, silly...I printed them out) and alphabet magnets for some young friends. And then there were these animal magnets.

My daughter was so taken with these animagnets that I took it one step further and designed a checkerboard fridge game for her. Which animal starts with "P"? Which ones live in the water? How awesome is Mama? What else can we glue Crafty glass blobs to?

The possibilities are, well, kinda like pi.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Gluten-free Berry Cake

We're actually not a gluten-free family;
on the contrary, gluten is found in wheat, which happens to be the only "top eight" food my children can eat, so we enjoy consuming gluten in copious amounts and usually dipped in something liquid and full of barley. But for a brief period of time I did eliminate gluten from my kids' diets on the advice of my doctor, and it awarded me a fabulous opportunity to try out some new recipes.

Many businesses have been launched and bazillions of dollars spent in an effort to offer Gluten-free Mamas tasty, prepackaged foods comparable to those that are not gluten-free. In my experience, a handful of those foods are excellent and most are quite good, but just like with chocolate chip cookies, hot cocoa, and presumably pecan pie (I wouldn't know), they are a hundred times better when they are homemade. The same goes for gluten-free foods.

Alas, gluten-free baking is not easy as pie. It takes some practice, and some mentors, and usually considerably longer than the recipe states, since no recipe seems to account for the time spent crying and yelling at your bakeware, but maybe that's just me. Then, I discovered Kids With Food Allergies' Gluten-free Berry Cake, and I was blown away.

If you're a Gluten-free Mama who hasn't the free time to shop around for obscure ingredients like Eye of Newt but you still like to make knock-your-socks-off treats, this is the recipe for you. In fact, if you're NOT a Gluten-free Mama, you can make this, as well--you can replace the gluten-free flour with wheat flour and eliminate the xanthan gum. I have actually made both a gluten-free version and a version with wheat flour, and both were quite tasty!

Calling All Crafty Mamas...

I love This Book.
Do you have This Book?
Go get This Book.

Two weeks ago a friend showed me This Book, which she had just bought the day before. She seemed quite excited about it, so as we chatted I flipped it open to take a look. Suddenly, there it was, on page 197. My friend saw the look on my face and immediately asked, "Which one?"

"Which one?" I asked.
"Yeah," she said. "Which project are you looking at? There are about a million cool ideas in there, and I can’t decide which to do first."

My inner Crafty Self became giddy, and as I continued to flip through This Book the most delightful words floated out at me; words like, "glass blob", "schmancy", and, "whaddya know?" True, the first two words of This Book’s title are "Crafty Mama" --which should have been my first clue that the Mama who wrote it was my kind of Mama-- but I could tell rather quickly that This Book was also my kind of clever, and that it quite possibly held the secrets to Absolute Craftiness.

For four long days I thought about This Book. I simply had to make the project I saw on page 197, but recreating what I saw based on my own intuition wasn’t enough; I wanted to experience this project the way the author did, to know how she had dreamed up this project. I wanted to know what happens on pages 198 and 199. I had to buy this book.

It was the best fifteen dollars and ninety-five cents, minus Borders rewards points, minus fifteen percent coupon, plus California state tax that I have ever spent in my life. As it turns out, there are 254 other pages in this book! Forty-eight of these pages introduce fast & clever projects equally as awesome as the one on page 197, and the remaining ones offer insider Crafty Mama tips, easy-(for-tired-brains) to-follow instructions, and a ton of clever uses for your new mad skills.

Months before, I had felt my inner Crafty Self starting to fight for stretching room, and now I had finally found the ultimate instruction manual to make that happen. Ladies, Mama has a new favorite tool: a glue gun. Oh, and forty-eight more projects to make...

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Rockin' Robyn

My friend Robyn made this awesome flip-book for my daughter the Christmas of 2007. Robyn is such a crafty marvel. That's my darling daughter, right there on the "chin" page, long before she had much hair or Very Strong Opinions. Our other friends' angels are featured in the flip-book, as well, on pages that highlight such features as "forehead" "eyes", and my personal favorite, "cheek".

This gift had me gaga over the idea of crafting again. So many things had completely disappeared after I had children--manicures, imported beer, abdominal crunches--that I suppose I'd assumed there was little room for much creativity, either. It is Robyn's unconditional embrace of Motherhood, the way she weaves it seamlessly into who she's always been, that has had one of the biggest impacts on me as a Mama. If I were to make Robyn her very own flip-book, I would probably have a page for "really cool eyewear", a page for "awesome fabrics", and about ten pages for "thank you".

Mock Buckeyes

I know. Look at those...

If 2007 was the Season of the Sides & Dressings, then 2008 was definitely the Era of the Expanding Waistline, because I allowed my mind to wrap around recipes I would have normally never considered making, given my kids' restricted diet. In all honesty, these were made with soy nut butter (unsafe for my set) rather than sunflower butter (safe but "eeiwy", according to my son), but since soy is one of my staples and something my husband has grown accustomed to in the absence of peanut butter, I thought I'd give them a shot. They were so. flippin'. good.

The recipe is Kids With Food Allergies' Peanut-free Buckeyes, and it is delish. The recipe calls for sunflower seed butter (but I used soy nut butter), and also calls for butter or margarine but Mama, don't let that stop you! I used Spectrum organic 100% palm oil shortening in mine and it was an excellent sub. If you think you can't bake yummy treats because you don't have a safe margarine, think again! Spectrum + a small amount of water can be used as a direct sub for almost any recipe that calls for butter or margarine. So go, quick like a bunny, and get some Spectrum so you can bake yourself silly!

Emily Hearts Me!

Emily is a friend who is a part of my Mama Sewing Circle, and the other day we exchanged Moving Away gifts. No, she's not moving away, I am. To Texas. Yeah, I know...Texas. She assured me that everything is bigger in Texas, and that this fact must also apply to fabric & craft stores, which is good news because pickins have been rather slim here in the California Desert.

Anywho, using the first fabric she ever bought-- for a sewing project she started at my house--she made me a darling personalized tea canister and this, a fabric heart charm. I almost cried.

Why now? Why Not!

Years ago when I pictured the kind of Mama I would be, I imagined myself trendy and hip, wearing clothes I'd designed and carrying an angel-faced wee bairne or two in one hand and a low-fat iced mocha in the other. It would be as though I'd transitioned seamlessly from hip grad student to trendy designer to multi-tasking wife, pausing only briefly once or twice to give birth, then picking right back up and sprinting off with kids in tow. Man, I'm glad I didn't bet money on that one.

Don't misunderstand me-- I totally enjoy Mamahood, but to say it's been a roller coaster ride is a serious understatement. When my first child was diagnosed with severe food allergies, that roller coaster began to feel more like a centrifuge than a carnival ride as I was tossed into the sea of other Mamas who were also learning to read labels, RAST results, and food allergy cookbooks. So much for that mocha...

It has been almost three years since my son was diagnosed, and I am just now feeling like I have time for normal Mama stuff. The first three Food Allergy Years were spent on high alert as I learned to navigate through the world while keeping my children safe—which, come to find out, has more to do with reading the labels of shampoo bottles and finger paint than you’d ever imagine. It felt like I had more moments of panic than I did moments of normalcy, until I joined KFA (Kids With Food Allergies, Inc.), a national nonprofit food allergy organization for which I am now a dedicated volunteer, avid supporter, frequent donor and eternal cheerleader. At KFA I learned how to cook and bake, substitute ingredients, ask smart questions, keep a food diary, and generally embrace the life of an allergy mama. Then, a very strange thing started to happen: I began to think about things other than food allergies.


I started to feel as though I had gained enough food allergy management skills that I could pause ever so briefly to do some crafting, design a dress, shop for makeup, or read a novel…okay, a page in a novel, but you get my drift. At the request of some awesome Mama friends—the kind of friends who will gladly forgo the PB& J because they enjoy spending time with you in your home—I began hosting an occasional Mama’s sewing night, teaching some sewing basics. These Mama’s Sewing Nights rekindled the creative fire inside of me, and I started to recall how fulfilling it was to create things simply because my soul wanted to. Remember that scene in National Treasure, when they open the door to discover bling beyond their wildest dreams? Yeah, it felt like that.

I’ve been reading blogs for years now, and had always planned to start one of my own. My original goal was to go the, “Look-at-My-Beautiful-Family”-blog route, but then I began some projects that I thought I might journal blog-style. I was a bit concerned about taking on too much--especially with my Inner Mocha Mama starting to rock so hard--but then I considered blogging about the things that inspire me, excite me, impress me, and matter to me. Why? Because Mama says, that’s why.