Tuesday, October 18, 2016

All About My Crafting (and an Etsy shop coupon code!)

(All photos in this post are items that are currently available in my 
Etsy shop, Ordinary Lovely.  
You can click RIGHT HERE to check it out!)

Blogging has sort of taken a back seat for me lately...  I may have a few posts up my sleeve for this fall and winter, but I've been blogging long enough though to know that I should never write that out loud ;)  Those posts in my head, or up my sleeve... whatever... may never happen and I'm mostly ok with that.  I miss blogging a lot, but can't make it a priority right now since it's not one of my priorities. Hmm...  Family life, homeschooling, and dealing with all the produce we get from our CSA every week have been almost all-consuming.

Crocheting and sewing - that's what I've been doing in my snippets of free time lately.  And I wanted to tell you a little about it :)

I've had an Etsy shop since 2011, I think?   I was inspired to start it while on an Opus Dei retreat, when the name/concept came to me during a quiet moment.  Well, all the moments were quiet because it was a silent retreat, but you know what I mean.  I prayerfully considered the name "Ordinary Lovely" not only as a way of life, but as a vision for a shop that sold Catholic Saint dolls (that's what I started with) as a way to make the Faith an everyday encounter for young people.  

My shop is still "Ordinary Lovely," and the name and idea has obviously grown to include my blog and Instagram account.  The concept is the same though - we are called to sanctity and life in Christ through even our most ordinary efforts and moments.  

For me, spending time sewing, crafting, and crocheting is just me being me.  It's always been a part of who I am and what I love.  It's one of the interests and skills I've been given.  I think God expects me to use it - to delight myself, to spread cheer, to serve and celebrate others, and to glorify Him in small, ordinary ways.  

I recently answered some questions for a short "interview" about me and my craft... I thought I'd share some of it here with you :)

How did you start/learn your craft?  I've literally been "making" things for as long as I can remember, and I have this "embroidery" project from 1986 as proof.  (I was 7.)  

My mother sewed clothes and was an avid cross-stitcher, so there was always fabric, floss, and needles around the house that I could use.  She taught me how to use a sewing machine and I remember making stuffed toys and easy skirts when I was in middle school.   I also recall having unfettered access to the family glue gun, which I used for all manner of projects.  

I learned to crochet while I was a Residence Director at Franciscan University.  Some of my staff would host learn-to-crochet programs in my apartment for our dorm residents and I guess I picked it up!  It sort of fell by the wayside until I was expecting my fourth child and nesting manifested itself in a need to do something with yarn.  Now.  So I started making baby hats, and after that learned quite a bit more about special stitched and following patterns from YouTube and trial and error!

I still enjoy both sewing on my machine and crocheting.  I tend to crochet more though, since it's a craft that I can take with me on the go, and that I can do in the living room, in the midst of family life (as opposed to squirreled away in my attic sewing room.)

What inspires you in your work?  Where do you get your ideas?  I typically get ideas based on what I'd like to see or use in my own home or what I'd like my children to have among their own playthings and keepsakes.  Growing up we had so many handmade items in our home from both of my grandmothers and my own mother (clothes, crocheted sweaters, toys, wall hangings, ornaments, etc...)  Living with so many handmade things made ordinary items more meaningful.  It made everyday, practical items lovely to behold and use.  Now that I have my own home and family, if I need or want anything (a kitchen apron, a baby bib, a child's toy, etc...) I tend to think, "I'd love to have one around that's handmade and meaningful, rather than a generic one from a big box store."  My heart smiles when I see my kids play with their handmade toys, wear the aprons I made,  or clean up a spill with a crocheted dishcloth.  I  wouldn't experience that same enjoyment over a factory-made/store-bought toy, apron, or dishcloth.  

What distinguishes your product from others that are similar to it?  What makes your product unique?  My products are unique because they are always changing.  I tend to have a short attention span when it comes to crafting, so I'll really dig into something and produce a lot of it, and then I'll get interested in something else and move on.  I've tried mass producing one particular product for sale, but for me, that lack of variety and creativity makes me very weary and grumpy.   I LOVE creating, but NOT under those circumstances.  Earlier this year I relaunched my Etsy shop as a way to supplement our income after a job change for my husband.  But my work isn't serving my family if it makes me a grumpy wife and mom, a distracted home schooler, or a neglectful housekeeper, so I'm often trying something new to keep my skills and attitude fresh (I'm hoping to teach myself knitting via YouTube after the first of the year!).  

The items I offer are perhaps distinguished from other like them for two reasons.  First, I usually only sell things that that have been a hit in my own home or with my family and friends.  Most of what I sell has been "field-tested" so to speak!  Secondly, and I do not intend for this to sound smug (!), I love everything I make!  I feel like it's a good sign for my business when I'd happily keep everything I've made.  When I send something off to a customer, I'm confident it's a good product - one that's been tested in my own home (often by rough and rowdy kids) and one that I'd happily keep and use if no one else wants it ;)  

Where do you sell your product?  Items currently for sale are listed at OrdinaryLovely.etsy.com .  I also accept customer requests/orders as busy life allows.  You can see snippets of what I'm working on and items listed in my shop on my Instagram account, Ordinary Lovely.  

Please feel free to browse my shop!  Blog readers get a special discount until the end of October because I love you guys!  Use coupon code READERSSAVE10 to take 10% off your order.  Coupon is good until October 31.  
Happy crafting!  

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Inexpensive Toddler Activities You Can Make (with old coffee cans....)

People are always asking me how I homeschool with a toddler around.  This post does not address that question nor the lack of an adequate answer.  

But this post will give you a few ideas on how to inexpensively keep a toddler occupied for ten minutes.  What you do during that time is up to you (homeschooling or otherwise...)  

Several years ago I made a whole bunch of busy-bag-type, quiet, manipulative activities for Ruth.  All of the kids enjoyed them and eventually the pieces were scattered to the four winds.  It recently occurred to me that James would probably like something similar and I pulled some supplies together and did these while Russ had the kids out for a morning.  

These activities are so simple it hardly seems worth typing out actual instructions. Consider this post more of an invitation for you to take a look at what I've done and to use (and probably improve upon) these ideas.  I'll give you a couple ideas on supplies and how-to's, but I'm pretty certain the photos will mostly speak for themselves here :)

Collect and wash out food storage cans - the kind that have a rubber lid 
(Like the cans from ground coffee, cocoa mix, and mixed nuts.  I even let my kids share a mini can of Pringles because I wanted that size can...)

Cover in colored paper, contact paper, craft felt, or fleece using a glue gun.  I love using fleece because it's a fun texture for little hands to hold :)

For a pompom push activity, use Dollar Tree pompoms and cut a hole in the plastic lid slightly smaller than the pompoms. (I used a craft knife.)  There is immense satisfaction in setting those pompoms on the hole and popping them down :)

This "tweezers" and bow ties activity is, hands down, everyone's favorite.  To make the ties, I cut two strips of craft felt, lay them one on the other, tie them in a knot, and trim the ends.  Doubling up the strips just gives them a little more body and they're easier for little hands to grab with the tweezers.  They are actually wooden toaster tongs, but they're perfect for little hands learning to pinch and grasp things :) 

To make a craft stick color sorter, I used colored sticks from the dollar store and coordinating Sharpie markers.  I used the craft knife to cut slits in the lid (again, not so big that the sticks slide right through, but a little tight so that there's some tension and the sticks have to be pushed nearly all the way).  Then I colored around the openings on both the top and underside of the lid. 

This button drop activity is self explanatory.  My only suggestions are that you use chunky buttons (easier for little fingers to pick up and are less of a choking hazard) and line the bottom of your can with fleece or other fabric to absorb the sound of the falling buttons.  Otherwise, that repetitive clanking sound can get very... repetitive.  And awful.

So, there you go!  Four super simple ideas that may not keep the toddler busy during all the homeschool lessons, but it will probably keep him busy and quiet for a few minutes when you really, really need it.  In my experience, it's best to keep things like these packed away (not on the regular toy shelf) because then when they come out they're more "novel."  And also - maybe only use one at a time.  Otherwise, there will be buttons and pompoms and bow ties and craft sticks all mixed up all over your my floor.  Ok?  Don't forget!

Monday, August 15, 2016

Easy Roasted Tomato Sauce (low fat and sugar free)

It's almost tomato time...  So far, we've gotten a dozen here and there from our CSA, but soon we'll be getting tons and tons and tons of tomatoes.  So I thought it was time to dig out this recipe again...  

My family doesn't eat a lot of tomatoes.  I'm not a super-fan myself, but I can handle them in salads and on sandwiches.  The rest of my family pretty much only consumes tomatoes when they're deep inside an egg frittata and overpowered by cheddar cheese and sausage, or when they're on a BLT.  So you can imagine how worried I was when we started receiving bushels of tomatoes week after week from our CSA last summer.  I knew I'd have to come up with a plan quick so that they wouldn't go to waste.

I hopped on Pinterest and found an "easy" recipe for tomato sauce that turned out to be not my kind of easy.  I spend an entire day boiling, ice-bathing, and skinning tomatoes... The sauce turned out well, but at the end of the day my kitchen was a wreck, my kids had been totally ignored for 8 hours, and I had a very. short. fuse.  

Blessedly, the social network came to my rescue.  Charlotte witnessed my fiasco via Instagram, contacted me via email, and sent me a recipe from another blog.  Bam.  Problem solved.  Thank you, Charlotte!  Had you not sent Elizabeth's recipe, I might have drown myself, along with my sorrows, in the vegetable juices covering my kitchen counters, cupboards, and floors.  

I tweaked the recipe and added a few "extras" but it's still super easy and very delicious.  Click on over to In the Heart of My Home for the original recipe, and then you can check back here to see what I did a little differently :)

When roasting my tomatoes, I added some chopped onion and omitted the olive oil.  I actually forgot the oil one time and liked the results, so after that I just left it out so that this would be sauce with no fat besides the negligible amount found in tomatoes.  

I used my heavy duty Ninja blender to blend up the tomatoes, juices, onions, garlic, and basil.  I also added other fresh herbs from our garden - parsley, thyme, and oregano, as well as fresh-squeezed lemon juice, salt and pepper. 

For the sauce that I was planning to keep in the fridge to use right away, I whisked in a few shakes of xanthan gum to thicken it up.  For the sauce that I bagged for the freezer, I left out the xanthan gum, and I added it when I defrosted and heated the sauce.  

I ended up freezing enough sauce last summer that it almost lasted us all year, but not quite.   I wasn't sure if my kiddos would love it, but it turns out they did.  They don't even mind the seeds one bit.  If you think the seeds are going to be a major problem with your family, you might consider using a food mill to process it as opposed to a blender.  The blender is so quick (and relatively clean, compared to a food mill), it's my first choice for this sauce :) 

So what are you doing with your tomatoes this year??

Bon appetite!  
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