Cooking 101- Italian Lentil Soup

Okay, so since I've now experienced my HUNDREDTH cold during this winter season, it's time to celebrate an old fave of mine which has been my loving comfort during the past few days. I made a big pot of this soup and it's made my misery so much more bearable!

SERIOUSLY?! Can a person have a new cold once every 2 weeks?! I've always prided myself on my killer immune system and my excellent hand-washing skills, but come on! This is getting absurd!

Anyway...Here's the recipe I've had up for a while - heavenly, comforting, delishy lentil soup. Don't knock it 'till you try it - I'd much rather have this right now than chicken noodle. (unless, of course, it's that heavenly stuff from Bob Evans.)

And if I haven't sold you on lentils yet, check out this website! I feel healthier already! (except for that giant bag of M&M's I ate yesterday...I'm not feeling too healthy about that...)


Snugly Nest Blankie without Ruffleness

I made another one last night whilst watching my fave show! (American Idol, yes, I'm an AI nerd and I'm proud of it...and by the way I was NOT impressed last night except for the music director guy who went last...he rocked.)

Anyhoo-I think I like these without the ruffle border better. I like the cleaner line. NOW my brain is going nuts (not used to that...it's a little weird and painful) and my next one of these is going to have a flap-type design where you can fold the top half down and button it on the sides - or something like that. I can only think in spurts...so give me a day or two to work through my frailties. And I'm still lovin' these DELISH colors! I want to marry it. Them. The colors. Olive, Fiesta, and Abby.

And, Chanda, I agree - I TOTALLY want to, no, have to see a baby in one of these so you better believe that I'm going to scour the streets and shopping plazas today to see if someone will let me bring their baby home so I can photog it! I'll bring the baby right back...I just wanna BORROW it for a minute or two. Geeze. Why do people get all "nervous" about that? Okay, my baby is THREE, almost FOUR...it's not like I can stuff him in one of these. Some of us have to get babies the HARD way...and it's called BORROWING.

'kay - back to work. I love you! (and I mean that in the most appropriate way.)


Snugly Baby Nest Blankie

You KNOW I had to call it a 'nest', right?! I mean - this is the essence of nesting! How great - my insides are singing I'm so excited! (I probably shouldn't sing, but it's okay if my insides do.) If I were a dog, there would be puddles everywhere! I just finished my little project and now all I need is a little baby to snuggle. Or what I should say is that I need "a baby to BORROW." I love sleeping all night long - I don't want to mess with the good thing I've got going on.

This is going to be the new baby craze - you wait and see! A snugly, warm nest blankie (appropriately named because I love all things birdie and nestie) which completely contains those tiny legs and toes that always escape and kick off regular blankets. AND...during the winter months, these crochet blankets keep babies so warm and toasty - you never have to worry about them getting cold on account of the fact that they kick everything else off. Another thing I like about this blankie nest is that the top is extra wide and taller in the back, so you don't have to worry about the baby's face becoming covered up. And... it's reversible, too! Whatta deal!

SO...the way I'd use this would be to roll it up in my palms like a sock and slide it over the baby's clothing - or bundle a baby in a very thin receiving blanket and then slide this over the top of that.

Of course, I have NO idea what I did here because I never follow a pattern but I can give you the general idea. This is a pretty easy project - beginners should do just fine but feel free to email me if you need help.

So if you crochet, here's the basic concept:

First of all, I used two strands of Lion Brand yarn - one was "Fiesta", the other was "Olive," and I used a size "P" hook.

Start as if you were making a hat. Chain 4, join the first one with a slip stitch, do a single crochet in the center of your ring. Then single crochet into your first chain, chain one, single crochet into the next loop, chain one, etc. Do this until you get about 4-5 circular rings. Then, only single crochet, adding one chain every 4-5 stitches. Once you have the base as round as you need it, single crochet around and around, gradually adding one stitch (chain) every row or two, which will add a tapered width to the blanket. As you get closer to the top of the blanket, add 2 chains in each row (in any random place but not one after the other) in order to make it a little wider. If your blanket is TOO wide, undo what you need and add fewer chain stitches to your rows. (otherwise known as increasing or decreasing)

Once you get it as wide and tall as you want, you'll want to extend the back part of the blanket, so decide where you want the back to be and single crochet 4-5 more rows on the back half of the blanket. Then , for the ruffled edge, single crochet 3 stitches in one space, continue around, and tie up your threads and weave them with a needle through the blanket to hide them.

(Here are some photos of one without the ruffled edge.)

Don't forget that you have to either hand-wash or use the gentle cycle on your washing machine, and lay flat to dry. You could gently tumble them in the dryer, but I would be careful with that.


Happy Valentine's Day!

I hope you all had a great Valentine's Day! I hope you got to tell someone you love 'em! And I hope you're on as big of a chocolate high as I am! WAHOO! {Is it just me or is the room floating...?}


The Heart Wreath

Hi girls! For those of you asking about that heart wreath below, I can't find the instructions, either! What the?! The link I provided should have taken you straight to the tutorial and now I can't find it anywhere. Anyway - the basic instructions are that you cut pieces of fabric into squares, then dip them in fabric glue with the tip of a pencil, and poke them into a foam heart with the end of the pencil. Sort of like those tissue paper projects we all did as kids - only with fabric. Sorry about the confusion!

**UPDATE: Here is the link to the wreath. Thanks, Alisha!!!


More Valentine Stuff

Have I mentioned before that I LOVE Valentine's Day?! (mostly for the pretty colors and the distraction from winter-induced depression.) I can't resist these good ideas - enjoy!

Kissed Pretzels - on U Create, who got it from No Fuss Fabulous. FABULOUS! My worries are over because I'm totally making these babies for my kids' V-day parties this week!!! I've honestly been agonizing so I'm very, very happy I found this. HOWEVER...the instructions say to preheat your oven to 400 degrees - DON'T DO THAT! Preheat to 200 degrees and they'll turn out perfect.

Strawberry Bouquet - from Family Fun. I don't know if I'll have the time this week, but I TOTALLY want to make some of these for my kids' teachers! How fun and easy! This website also has a bunch of other great V-Day ideas and printable color pages.

Crayon hearts - from Martha Stewart. I saw these last year on this site and wanted to do some but I totally forgot! I love the colors they used, too.

ADORABLE (and so easy) heart scarf. I'm TOTALLY doing one of these this week even if it kills me. I found the idea from Betz White (love her) but if you need a tutorial, it's on the Martha Stewart site. (You know you've made it when Martha wants you on her show...) I probably won't do the whole felting thing, but store-bought felt or soft, fuzzy fleece and embellishments would be fun.

Little Birdie Secrets had this cute wreath tutorial on her site and this looks like SO much fun. My little girl would love to make one with me. If only I were an organized mother!

Cheap Valentine Decor

So what's the DEAL with stores and the lack of cute Valentine decor? (note that I specified cute - not those creepy crepe paper fold-outs) (sorry if you like those...) And to make matters worse, I can't find my box of Valentine stuff - and now I'm wondering if I even have a box of Valentine stuff. (and where's that Mercedes I swear was in the garage?)

Anyway - I raided the clearance rack at J0-Ann's in a desperate need to surround myself with all things red, pink, and glittery, so here are my findings: glitter heart ornaments and a cute garland that did not contain foil anything. That's it - that's all I could find. VERY cool, however. I think it all cost me $5.00. Awesome, eh?! (The tree branches were free - they came from my front yard.)

If you like the heart ornament thing and can't find any at the stores, you can make some cute ones with felt or fabric. You wouldn't have to sew anything if you iron two pieces of fabric together with fusible webbing in-between and cut them out with pinking shears, then attach string for hanging with strong fabric glue. That would be so cute - too bad I'm lazy and don't have time!

My flowers here are part of a revolving collection I have in my craft area. Any time there are great sales on floral, I snatch up a bunch of random pieces for each season/holiday so I always have something pretty to put in a vase when I need it. A little splash of cheap ribbon makes anything so much more festive and exciting! (that goes for you, too, ladies...wrap yourself up! hehe)

So there you have it - Valentine's Day on a budget. I also have a stash of cute V-day plates and a vinyl table cloth on which I serve up a special breakfast on the big day. The kids love it and look forward to it. Now is the time to get them (Target has some cute ones) since they're all being marked down.

I love you, Valentine's Day!


I love plastic cups

Can I just say how much I LOVE these little $.57-cent washable cups?! I used to keep a stash of disposable cups around but I'm sick of buying them. I'm also sick of the kids getting out our regular cups only to forget which one is theirs. So I grabbed a few of these cool plastic cups at Wal-Mart (in the birthday party section) and now it's impossible for them to forget which one is theirs for the entire day! It's been so much fun not to have a bazillion cups to wash every day!!! What a wonderful world...


Lemonade Award

Well goodness! Angela from The Creative Homemaker gave me a Lemonade Award today and she totally made my day! The Lemonade Award is about "good attitude and gratitude" so thanks, Angela, I'm totally grateful! (oh, and go check out her blog - it's loaded with great stuff.) I've never received an award before, so I'm all choked up and can't see through my tears...just kidding - but I'm not grouchy anymore, so that's good, right?!

Since I don't do tags, pass-alongs, and what-not, I'll list a few random things that give me a good attitude...that I'm thankful for...and stuff...

(in no particular order)

Chocolate (okay, but chocolate is always #1 on any of my lists)
Colorful flowers
A great pair of jeans
New shoes
New perfume
Okay...new anything...
Finishing a project
Fresh-bathed kids (my own, of course)
A good friend
Watching those trip-and-fall videos on TV (I know, I know, it's really awful of me...but I can't help it that it's hilarious...totally makes my attitude good...not very many things make me laugh harder...)
Southern phrases like "I'll be along direc'ly", and "Happier'n a tick on a fat dog" and stuff like that - my mood always perks up when I hear stuff like that!
Quiet time with a book and my soft, warm bed
A good home-cooked dinner
Desserts that look all fancy
Kids in bed early with NO idea what to do with myself! (I love that! I'll just wander around the house smiling!!!)

Okay well my kids are killing each other...so I'll wrap this up. Thanks, again, Angela! You rock!

I know you're out there...I want to hear what puts YOU in a good mood!