homegrown mama

Archive for November, 2011|Monthly archive page

::Let them eat cake!::

In food, look what I can do! on 20112011-11-25T05:54:13+00:0030 9/11 at 05:54

She answered: chocolate. 

A military wife who’s relatively new to the base recently had her first daughter, Amelia. Wanting to celebrate the birth of this precious child, the fantastic Liz (a mutual friend) decided to throw Sherry (mommy) and Amelia a shower. I was responsible for the cake, among a few other small items. Liz asked Sherry what kind of cake she preferred. She answered: chocolate. She’s my kinda gal.

I have always loved baking but never as an art, just as a hungry girl with a sweet tooth. And let’s face it: cakes are intimidating these days. If it doesn’t have fondant, require cutting and reshaping, or feature moving parts, it comes across as rather juvenile, I find. With Cake Boss, Food Network Challenge, and Ace of Cakes on tv, it’s no wonder the art of cake-making has taken baking to a new, and seemingly unattainable, level.

However, I was armed and ready. I have an already well-loved recipe from Real Simple magazine (fave!) in my collection that provided a deliciously moist chocolate cake. The article is called The Only Cake Story You’ll Ever Need and it’s seriously a no-fail cake-making tutorial. Then, I came across this awesome filling/frosting option from Sweet Paul magazine for Chocolate Layer Cake with Salty Caramel Filling. Who could say no to that?! So I made Real Simple‘s chocolate cake recipe, and added Sweet Paul‘s salted caramel and chocolate ganache andta-da!—chocolate goodness on a plate.

And then! I was pinning one night (you know…as we do) and came across this tutorial for making chocolate leaves. Beautiful! And so sweet. So I asked Safeway’s floral department to box up some leaf discards for me and hubby brought them home so I could make the chocolate leaves. Note: make sure the leaves are considered NON-toxic. All I knew were rose leaves were good to use, and I forgot to ask what the other leaves were, so I had to throw most of them out. I followed the tutorial but ended up cracking about 4 of the leaves when trying to peel them off, leaving me with less than I wanted. But c’est la vie.

Close-up of the chocolate leaves

Full-sized cake.

I sprinkled more sea salt on top of the ganache, and surrounded the base of the cake with homemade chocolate salted caramels. Whoa baby, this was RICH! Also, the recipe for the ganache made WAY too much. Granted, I only put caramel between the cake layers and left the ganache for the outside. But even if I had added ganache between the layers, there still would have been too much. Half this recipe is more than enough!

The beautiful Sherry and her adorable Amelia!

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::Necklace refashion::

In crafting, look what I can do!, military life on 20112011-11-23T09:30:00+00:0030 9/11 at 09:30

I’m pretty stoked that I finally get to attend an Officer’s Mess Dinner on base with hubby. During the first mixed mess dinner (that’s what they call it when spouses attend), I was home in BC with H, and during the second one, I was too pregnant with O to bother finding a “one-time wear” dress and a babysitter. But now that I’m here and NOT pregnant, I’m ready for a fancy night out.

Score #1: brand new bridesmaid gown for $40 at a local thrift shop. In a colour that’s rad for redheads: kiwi green. It’s not the type of dress I was necessarily looking for (I was thinking romantic black lace with a mermaid silhouette and a wide V-neck) but beggars can’t be choosers around here. Check it out!

Score #2: Then I went to Le Chateau looking for a fun and colourful statement necklace to balance the paleness of my bare chest, which comes with a sleeveless dress. I found a great one (on sale, too!), which will go with the magenta satin heels I’ll be wearing with my frock. But when I put it on with the dress, it was actually too much.

Original necklace - just $9.95!

I really didn’t want to bother going back to look again. I’d spent half an hour in the store trying to make a decision, plus I’d already bought matching stud earrings, which aren’t returnable. So, wanting to make the best of what I had, I thought I could use just some of the strands to refashion into one of those trendy ribbon necklaces. And what do I do with the leftover strands? Why, make a matching bracelet and clutch strap, of course!

Pretty ribbon makes a coordinated set!

::Christmas duds::

In kids, look what I can do!, sewing on 20112011-11-22T15:30:46+00:0030 9/11 at 15:30

I guess I could stop sleeping…

Sewing for my littles has been a real treat for me, and I’m always thinking of more things I’d like to make them (which means I’ve been pinning a bunch of things I’d like to make them – haha). Wonder where I can scrape up some more hours in the day? Well, I guess I could stop sleeping…

Here’s a peek at the kids’ Christmas duds, made by yours truly. Thanks to this easy how-to video by Couturier Mommy, I put together H’s Christmas dress, based on the pattern I made from an existing dress in her closet (I love DIY patterns – you never have to wonder whether you missed a step!). I made the pattern and cut and pinned the fabric while watching A River Runs Through It, so honestly, it doesn’t even take that  much brain power. But I wouldn’t have thought to attach all four pieces the way this gal does, so props to her for teaching me something new.

H's Christmas dress

Bonus: I got to use this fantastic vintage-style Christmas fabric I picked up at the January sales last year. It’s less vibrant than in the photo, but my camera’s a little…lacking. I’ll be using this fabric for her new stocking, too. Note: the straps will have buttons on them but I hadn’t measured H for placement at the time I took the photos.

A sophisticated print for the reverse side will prolong the wearability of the garment

And I just love this line of fabric (I have three of the different prints) and I have kept it for something special. Now H can wear the dress in January and beyond.

As for Baby O, the suit I made for his dedication will definitely be too small by Christmas, so I needed to whip up something more. I still plan to use the scraps of his suit fabric for a bow-tie bib, but I wanted to make him something festive, too (girls seem to get all the cute stuff! It’s just not fair). So I bought a plain white tee at Walmart for $5 and dug out my Christmas scraps to see what I could do. Here’s the result:

A holiday shirt for the little guy

Ric-rac and Christmas scraps = Christmas shirt!

I also had grand plans to make a reusable Advent calendar for the year but I think I’ve left it too late to put real thought and care into it. Next year I guess! Gotta wait for the Christmas fabrics to go on sale in January anyway.

“Let the little children come to me…”

In family, look what I can do!, sewing on 20112011-11-20T20:55:54+00:0030 9/11 at 20:55

“And [Jesus] took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them.” Mark 10:16

Today our son was dedicated to the Lord at Calvary Temple in Brandon. His spirit was joyful and the decision was easy. Special friends were in attendance and we are delighted to be parents to our little son. Our commitment to train up our boy in the way he should go, so that when he is old, he will not depart from it (Proverbs 22:6), has now been witnessed by our brothers and sisters at church, and in life. We do not take this task lightly.

Here are some photos from the day. Unfortunately, only one from the actual dedication turned out (somewhat) on my silly camera.

Getting ready to go

Happy boy

H in her refashioned jean skirt and magic pocket(less) blouse

A clearer image

Our one half-decent shot of the dedication. Note to self - must buy GOOD camera

An ambush in the car seat

Another attempt to get her standing still

Happy to move around

Thanks for a great day, friends!

As you can see, this suit is quite…tailored (yeah, that’s it). The bottom snap kept popping open. Next time I make him a vest, I’ll leave more room for him to move around. And grow. Cuz that’s what babies do. I guess this ensemble will go straight into his baby box. But it was still worth it for the significance of the day.

::dedication suit::

In look what I can do!, sewing on 20112011-11-20T09:30:47+00:0030 9/11 at 09:30

I wanted O to have his own ensemble to wear…

Today, we’re having baby O dedicated to the Lord at church. While we know this city will not be our home forever, Calvary Temple has been a home church to us since our arrival two years ago (!) in January. Last Mother’s Day, we had baby H dedicated wearing my Christening dress, made for me by my nana in 1982. It’s a beautiful white satin and it fit her perfectly.

H at 8 months old

I know it’s the 21st Century and no one would think it odd if O were to wear the same gown, being that it’s supposed to be a gender neutral tradition. However, I just didn’t think it would fly. So I wanted O to have his own ensemble to wear but I didn’t want it to be just something I found at Zellers, Walmart or Children’s Place. I didn’t want anyone else to have the same outfit. So when I stumbled upon this online tutorial for a boy’s vest, I thought it looked easy enough to try myself, along with some pants to match.

Off I went to Fabricland and, wouldn’t you know it, I found an entire metre of herringbone suiting fabric in the bargain bin for $5! Score! I picked up two very manly buttons for the front and two sheets of felt for the embellishment.

I didn’t have high hopes for the professionalism of this project; I’m not a perfectionist when it comes to sewing. I get bored easily and just want my projects done. I just needed it to look good for photos and on the day. But even after considering an unlined, thrown together vest, I realized lining it would be much easier; instead of turning and sewing all the edges, I could simply sew two vests together (like the tutorial instructs) and one would instantly become the liner. Perfect. The best part is that I had one of hubby’s dress shirts in my “upcycle” pile in my closet, just because it had a few small stains. I decided to use that for the lining, which makes it extra special.

It quickly took off from there, and while I decided on the embellishments and snaps after I’d already flipped the vest right side out (which means the stitching can be seen on the inside), I must say the whole thing turned out quite well!

A smashing suit for a dashing young man

As you can see below, the buttons are not functional. I am a little too lazy, and scared, to do buttonholes right now (I know, I know, I should practice on scraps. Again, I’m lazy, remember?). So I hand-stitched snaps inside to make a quick fastening.

Tricked you, didn't I?

Lastly, instead of neatly finishing the hem, I left the extra fabric in the seam to let the pants down at Christmastime. I’m certain baby O will grow enough in two months to need some extra length.

extra fabric for growth

Of course, I did splurge on some adorable suede shoes for this special occasion. They’re too big but it’s not like he has to walk to the alter or anything. And hey, for $7, I’m not too worried.

Shoes for my stylin' dude

Photos of O in his getup to come!

***

I’ve recently discovered the website Craftsy.com, an online sewing and crafting community, and have started uploading my projects on there. Have a peek!

::Never say never::

In kids, parenting on 20112011-11-16T09:30:41+00:0030 9/11 at 09:30

I recently watched the documentary Never Say Never. This film follows teen pop sensation (and Canadian boy) Justin Bieber on his rise to fame via YouTube and other social networking platforms. An “impressive and whirlwind experience” is probably an understatement in describing the journey that catapulted him from his modest home in small-town Stratford, Ontario, to popularity virtually unfathomable to any regular teen.

According to the film, which culminates in his first sold-out concert at New York’s Madison Square Garden last summer, the now 17-year-old never had a voice lesson before he became famous. He also plays a host of instruments (guitar, piano, trumpet and, most notably, the drums). He’s what you’d call “a natural,” and he is a very blessed kid indeed to have supportive family and friends who encouraged his musical development at an early age. I have to admit, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that he wasn’t just another manufactured pop act, created by record executives and bigwig producers to make money off of young teen girls.

After viewing the entire show, I couldn’t stop thinking how the most poignant moment for me in the entire 1h 45m of footage was a fleeting shot of his parents in the audience at the featured concert. Though they split shortly after Justin’s birth, they stood together watching their son sing and dance to a crowd of 20,000 fans, tears in both their eyes, and awe on their faces. What a mind-blowing experience!

While a lot of parents would think their kid was wildly successful for these achievements, I am curious: would his parents be as proud and excited if he stood before them in uniform, boots shined, white gloves on, and beret perfectly perched upon his head? If Justin Bieber had decided instead to enlist himself in the Armed Forces, would his mother have cried tears of disappointment and fear instead of tears of joy? Would his father have shaken his hand and wished him good luck as he headed off to Basic Training, or would he have been letdown, thinking he must have thrown away his dreams?

Being a parent sure changes the way the world looks. Risks seem riskier, decisions carry more weight, and character-building is the key to ensuring the “success” of our kids as they grow into adults. And I’m not saying Bieber’s family hasn’t worked their hardest to build on a solid foundation of love, faith and trust (the show clearly reveals that they have!). But part of me feels like it would be quite easy to accept these types of blessings for your child. After all, doesn’t every parent wonder, at some point, “Maybe my kid will be the next [insert favourite celebrity here]”?

I didn’t grow up with much knowledge of Canada’s Armed Forces. And I’m sad to say this is the case for many people I know. But being a part of the military family now means that it also may remain part of my family in the future. If Heidi or Oren want to serve Canada in the Forces, I’d like to have enough faith, and confidence in their character, to wholeheartedly support them for choosing a path with a higher purpose, even if the cost could be their lives. (Of course, if one of them turns out to be a musical prodigy and tours the world selling out major venues, I’d be elated!) But in my heart, I know it takes a special type of person to say, “Yes, I will lay down my life for freedom, and for my country.” And while it may not be what I want to hear as a mother, it certainly stems from the kind of selfless and justice-driven character I want to instill in them as a parent. So no matter what ambitions, hopes and dreams we may have for our children, just remember: never say never.

::On motherhood: we can’t do it all::

In family, military life on 20112011-11-14T16:02:21+00:0030 9/11 at 16:02

Being a SAHM (stay-at-home-mom) has been a popular topic lately. Some of my friends with babies are just beginning to go back to work, either part- or full-time. One thing I hear a lot from women who are going back to work is that they just aren’t “cut out” to be a SAHM. Some of these gals satiate their urge for adult interaction and a second income through home-based businesses, which allow them to earn money as a representative for direct sales companies (Tupperware, Mary Kay, Pampered Chef, etc.). But many worked long and hard to get to a certain place in their career, and can’t bear the thought of giving that up. This is true especially if their absence from the workforce would cause them to fall back in their field while their co-workers excel.

Having been raised in a “me” society, where we all concentrate on bettering ourselves and our futures for the first 20 years of life, the sacrificial nature of motherhood seems alien, and downright self-destructive. After spending years in college, then doing the bottom-of-the-totem-pole jobs at work so we could move our way up to more influential positions, quitting to raise children doesn’t exactly make sense. After all, we were brought up to believe in ourselves, dream big, and aim for the stars! So while feminism has opened up a world of possibilities to women, the requirements of motherhood have not changed at all. And with the drive and determination we have been raised to employ, we think we can do it ALL!

Funny, before I had Heidi, I ignorantly assumed that staying home with my babies would be fun and full of laughter, and come naturally. And once she arrived, I had little energy to make myself a hot meal, let alone be concerned about how my team at work was doing without me. Besides, I was still getting paid on maternity leave, so instead of feeling stifled by my home life, I felt I was on somewhat of a sabbatical from work to spend time with my precious bundle.

But now that my position as “Domestic 9r” (as Wayne refers to me) has been secured with the arrival of bundle number two, I admit I’m getting some belated cold feet. How did I get myself into this? Didn’t we join the Forces so that our kids could have me home every day? Some women I know would kill for that opportunity! What gives?

What I’m learningvery, very slowlyis that my penchant for looking forward, making plans, and staying abreast of the industry (which, for me, is marketing and corporate communications) is drifting gradually into second place. I am beginning to understand that I am not capable of being a SAHM and keeping my brain at work. Wanting to do my best in everything means I can’t physically or emotionally give 100% to my family and 100% to the furthering of my career. So I have been forced to reevaluate my priorities, and to align my heart with my mind, so I can move forward with conviction and commitment to my chosen profession, which, right now, is motherhood. And just like the growth of my career, the successful development of my children will require almost all of me for an indefinite amount of time.

Honestly, I wonder if I would be as hesitant about mentally committing to full-time and long-term home life if we hadn’t been moved to a new province just after entering parenthood? If I had a familiar home, environment, and support system in place, would I feel such a need to go back to what I know professionally?

Not all military spouses stay at home, so not all of them feel as torn as I do. But I know my limits and I need to own them, or my family will suffer. I know this situation is exacerbated by Army life and its control over how and where we live and make a home. But either way, the sacrifices of parenthood are big. Really, really big. So if your spouse has given up more than a little to run your family, teach and lead your children, and make your house a home, give them an extra hug today and ask them how they’re feeling about it. You may not even know military life has impacted them in this way; they may not recognize it either. But approaching it together will do wonders for clarifying their role, their sense of appreciation, and your relationship.

::Are we living in Nomad’s Land?::

In military life on 20112011-11-02T09:30:41+00:0030 9/11 at 09:30

What would it take for them to be content and even grateful…? 

I recently watched a Canadian documentary called Nomad’s Land. Written and directed by Air Force wife Claire Corriveau, the 2007 film (produced by the National Film Board of Canada, and available at nfb.ca) “powerfully depicts the hard existence of military wives.”

When I first read this description, I was taken aback; I wondered what experiences Corriveau had endured to lead her so far as to create a film to bring awareness to her plight. Personally, I became a little inwardly defensive about my life as a military spouse, and hoped that this film would do it justice, especially to civilian viewers.

The film’s synopsis on the webpage reads: “Meet an Air Force wife who discovers that she married into a lifestyle she hadn’t chosen…. Isolated, often lonely, forced to move repeatedly, these women have little control over their lives…. Their unsung contributions come at a high personal price.”

Part of me reads this and acknowledges the hardships that come along with military life: semi-frequent postings; difficulty holding jobs; being a “single spouse” while struggling to maintain our relationships during separation; and dealing with the emergencies that seem to pop up during deployments. But mostly I wonder just exactly what lifestyle would be ideal for these women. What would it take for them to be content and even grateful for the benefits and opportunities the military life provides?

Nomad’s Land includes interviews with Lucie Laliberté, co-author of No Life Like It: Military Wives in Canada. She explains a great deal of how far the rights of military spouses have come, and how hard the wives of some soldiers worked to make it so. Indeed, I am grateful to those who have advocated on my behalf. But is this a life with which we will always take issue? Or can we simply acknowledge how far the CF has come in recognizing the significance of the family unit to its members?

Certainly, the ups and downs of military life affect not only the CF member, but his/her family, as well. In fact, family members may even take the brunt of the changes, at times. But that’s life, isn’t it? No matter what profession your spouse chooses, there will be repercussions when his or her company reorganizes, downsizes, or moves locations. Granted, it may not be quite as life altering or dangerous as overseas combat, but we only know what we know, right? And for us, the reality is that orders, postings and dates can change at any moment, because there is an objective beyond our personal wellbeing at stake: our soldiers protect this country, first and foremost.

So while Nomad’s Land provided some noteworthy insights into the history of Canadian families in the Army, I confess that I have never felt slighted by this life or the concerns that come with it. It has been par for the course, in my mind, and I feel blessed to enjoy the lifestyle I currently have because of what the Army provides.

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