Saturday, 30 April 2016

Quick snacks that saved my sanity in the first weeks with a newborn

Our son, Maks, is 5 weeks old tomorrow and I couldn't be happier for my little bundle of joy. But being a new parent is not a piece of cake. 

And speaking of cake, here is a challenge I have not foreseen when preparing for my maternity leave: eating regular and healthy meals! 

I mean sure, I had prepared frozen dinners. And they are great for the evenings when your partner is home and can help.

But during the day, when you are all alone with your newborn who demands ALL of your attention and hands, making and eating a full meal (and by that I mean something as advanced as a sandwich) is a real challenge. 

So when you don't sleep enough and start your day at 5 or 6 am, use a lot of your body resources on breastfeeding and caring for your baby but your breakfast doesn't start til 10 and doesn't end til 12, having a quick snack solution is a life saver. 

Here are a couple of the recipes/ideas that really came in handy in the past few weeks:

Oatmeal cookies - recipe from my awesome Sister.

These cookies take 5 minutes to mix and 15 minutes to bake. They are packed with healthy calories to keep you going for a while. And you can easily control how sweet they are and "spice" them to your liking. They will also keep 4-5 days before starting to get a bit dry.

Ingredients (makes 12-15 cookies):
  1. 2 bananas - mashed
  2. About 12 spoons of oatmeal
  3. A table spoon of flour
  4. A teaspoon of honey (if the bananas are ripe and sweet, you can skip that)
  5. 1 egg
  6. A pinch of baking powder

Mix this basic ingredients in a bowl and then add anything you might like: dried or fresh fruits, nuts, chocolate chips, coconut, peanut butter, cinnamon etc. My personal favorite is fresh blueberries (although frozen would probably be as good), dried cranberries and a bit of dark chocolate chips.

Bake cookies for about 15 minutes in 200C hot air. And enjoy!

Pre-cut fruits and veggies

When you have time during an evening or weekend, peel and cut fruits and vegetables so you can easily grab a healthy snack when you are passing by the fridge.

Peeled carrots hold well in a cup filled with water. Bell peppers, watermelon, apples, radishes...cleaned and cut in small pieces are fantastic. If they are as easy to eat as a piece of chocolate, you are more likely to make the right choice.

I also like to pre-make a salad so I can eat it during the week for lunches. If you don't add any dressing, it will keep in the fridge for a couple of days without going bad.

Fried chicken and fish

Slice chicken or fish filet and fry it on the pan or bake in the oven, the way you like it (in breading, herbs or without anything). Keep it in the fridge and add to your salad or just eat as a quick snack during the week.

Don't forget the water!

It is easy to dehydrate and water is soooo important. The best way for me to remember about water is to have a couple of flasks standing around the house. This way, wherever I am, I can always quickly grab a couple of swallows - and the bottles remind me to do it.

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Handmade Easter Eggs

Easter is approaching rapidly and due to awaiting our first baby, I got a bit blindsided by it. Most years, I visit my family during this holiday (yummy-est food ever!) so I don't have any decorations stored in the basement.

My mom decorates these beautiful eggs but I am not really that good with a paintbrush so my decorations are much more minimalist.

Here is a quick and simple idea you can make within one afternoon - pompom eggs.

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Make pompoms as shown in this tutorial but instead of shaping them into balls, shear one end much more than the other, to make an egg shape.

And if you are feeling in the mood, make a couple yellow balls and attach beaks to make chickens.

And as I was in a pom pom making mood, I made this baby mobil for the little one.

Friday, 18 March 2016

Sewing for a newborn

I am in week 40+5...that's right, that is 5 days past due date. I guess the first lesson of parenting is here to hammer its point: it's no longer about you. The only thing you can do now is wait.

So I breath in, breath out, eat a cookie and try to arm myself in zen-level patience.

Meanwhile, here are my sewing projects made in the last couple of months.

Baby nest

Baby nest is a baby mattress that can be made into a little crib. It's a portable bed to use in an actual baby bed, crib or on a couch. I cannot say if it's practical or not just yet but it looks very cozy and is really easy to make.

I made mine with a thick furniture fabric on the bottom to make sure it will last long without fraying and a cotton fabric on top to make it nice and soft. The one thing I learned is that you shouldn't over-stuff the sides because they will be impossible to "close-up" if they are too hard.

There are many tutorials online but the one that I used was this one:

Harem pants

The second project, I've been busy with is sawing harem pants for the little guy.

I should start by saying that I am not a fan of color-coding your child or worse, dressing your baby as if it was an adult.
There is absolutely no reason on this Earth to dress your boy exclusively in blue and your girl exclusively in pink. And dressing a baby in minimized teenager outfit is creepy.

Children should be surrounded by vivid colors and whimsical characters but in Denmark buying clothes for children is really hard. Everything is in washed off pastel colors, color-coded or way too adult for a baby or toddler. I mean in what universe is this fine for a 2 year old? A halterneck top in size 92!?

Obviously, I am exeagerating a bit and if you look around you can find better choices. Especially for boys. But the problem is that you actually have to work for it, to dress your child like a child!

This is why I am really excited to pick out my own fabrics and sew for my little one. Obviously, I won't be able to make all of his outfits. Both the time required and the costs would be astronomical. But at least I can add a couple of very happy items to his collection.

The harem pants are quick and easy to make (can you spot the theme here - remember, I am still a beginner) and they look adorable. I used this tutorial and the only detail I changed was the width of the stretch fabric. You can figure out yourself, what works best for you. I am planning to make a couple more pants when the baby arrives and I know the exact size, I should go for.

harem pants

Saturday, 5 December 2015

Sew Simple Christmas Wrapping

This year, my Christmas crafts are pretty limitted. It is mostly because we're visiting my family and so there is no Christmas tree and much Christmas decorations this year. But also, I am going a little bit crazy with sewing and knitting project for our bundle of joy coming in March. There will be a whole other post about sewing for our future baby but for now, you can have a quick look over here.

There is however one Christmas project that I jumped into and that is reusable wrapping for the gifts.

I am not the most environment-conscious person ever but there are many small things I like to do in my life to make our everyday life a bit more ecological and a bit less wastefull. My husband is vegetarian and I eat little meat, we compost our organic waste and try to plan our dinners and freeze leftovers so that we don't throw away food.

So this little project just felt like a great idea. Fabric wrapping is super easy so it's a great beginner's project. It looks lovely and gives your Christmas gifts that extra personal touch. And of course, the wrapping can be reused and so it keeps your holidays a bit more environment-friendly.


So here is what you do:
  • Measure the height and width of your gift. Remember to add the depth of the gift to both height and width if it is of any significance.
  • Add 5 cm to the height and 2 cm to the width of the gift to figure out the measuremants of the frabric piece, you're going to need. Remember that you will have to cut double the height. The extra 5 cm are used making tube for the ribbon and leaving space for gathering the sack. The extra 2 cm are for seam allowance (see the pattern below).  

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  • Cut the piece of fabric, fold it evenly, right side in and sew them together along the long edges, on the 1cm seam allowence mark.
  • Cut about 4 cm of the fabric on the outside of the seam from the top of the wrapping. This will allow you to wrap the top of the fabric to the outside, producing the ribbon tube. You can decide yourself, how broad the tube needs to be. It will depend on the size of the ribbon you want to use. I am folding about 3 cm and sewing 1 cm from the edge to leave 2 cm tube.
  • Sew a seam all around the tube, fastening it's outer edge to the fabric.
  • Turn the sack right side out and cut the tube in the middle of one side making and opening for the ribbon. Make sure you don't cut the bottom seam though!
  • Use a safety pin to pull the ribbon through the tube.
  • Et voila! The wrapping is ready.
This is the simplest possible wrapping type, the sack. If you are feeling brave you can look for other types like this lovely bottle package.

Enjoy your crafting and have yourself a Merry Christmas!

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Saturday, 14 November 2015

3 Favorite Recipes for this Autumn

Each season of the year has a different taste for me and a different set of favorite recipes. I make them every year, sometimes with variations.

Spring tastes of young vegetables and Easter cakes, Summer of rhubarb pies, cherries and butter beans, and Winter has all those amazing spiced cookies, mulled wine and the Polish "ryba w galarecie" (fish in jelly - way better than it sounds).

But Autumn, oh Autumn! I think taste-wise it is my favorite season of the year. The spices, the pumpkins, the squashes, the plums, the apples...ohhhh boy.

These year, my favorite Autumn recipe collection has been extended by the following 3 recipes:

1. Pumpkin Truffles

A yummy vegan dessert that's an essence of Autumn. I added peanut butter to my version (what doesn't taste better with peanut butter, eh?).

2. Butternut Squash Muffins

This is a Jamie Oliver recipe from his 30-minutes-meals series. They take me a bit longer to make but they are super easy and a big hit with friends and family.

3. Roasted Cauliflower, Leak and Carrot Soup

Delicious, hearty and warming creamy soup for the cold Autumn evenings. Perfect for the vegetarians but if you are meat inclined, add some crunch bacon, shrimps or even chicken - yummy!

And as a bonus, I have started baking my sourdough bread again. I heart Autumn! 

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

The First of Many Onesies

The approaching arrival of Peanut (see post before) gives me a great excuse to throw myself into the whirlwind of crafting. After all newborns lack the ability to complain about the cutesy outfits with uneven seams you put them into.

So far I knitted a baby hat, a sweater (my first one!), a blanket and I'm in the process of crocheting another sweater.

But the item, I am most proud of is a baby onesie I sew this weekend during a sewing class. I was planning to also make baby harem pants that weekend but the original project took the entire class. I am just that good :D.

It was a challenge, as my sewing projects so far included pillow covers. You know, the one-square-and-two-rectangles-kind, the kind for which you only need one kind of fabric and straight seam. Onesies, on the other hand, have plenty of curvy lines, along which you need to sew the ribbing. It is also composed of a minimum of 4 elements that need to be put together and sew in a particular order. I will spare you the retelling of how many times I had to cut the seam and do it again, but it did take the entire weekend to make a onesie!

The pattern I used for the onesie was from Minikrea and I bought the fabric at CityStoffer shop in Aarhus. They have a great selection of children fabrics.

The fabric I chose for pants has a happy monkey pattern and I am going to use this pattern for it.

In any case, I had great fun and it will definitely lead to more onesies and baby clothes in the future.
My proud and glory: the onesie.

Sunday, 4 October 2015

Operation Code Name: Peanut

A little time ago we found out that our family will become a bit bigger in March 2016. The working title is operation code name Peanut. Or, if I don't feel so well, code name Monster. We are, of course, exceptionally happy and excited about it. Part of my excitement shows, as it is easy to predict, in preparations.

I have already knitted a trial-hat and today I finished a play mat. It was intended as a cover, but it's knitted out of chunky wool/acrylic blend with cotton fabric sewed on so it is to heavy for a newborn.

It is my own design so I am very proud of it but there are a number of technical errors. The seams are not straight and the problem with acrylic and wool blend is that you can't entirely block it, so the knitted part stretches and contracts making the fabric bulge and fold at times.

But all in all it is a very decent first effort at this kind of project. I like that it is mixed media and mixed techniques. I will hopefully, if time allows it, play more with that and post the results here.

First came the knitted blanket itself. It was quick to make, thanks to how chunky the yarn was.

Then I washed, ironed and hemmed the fabric. That was probably the most bothersome part of the project. Straight lines and details are just not my strong suit. 

Once the fabric was ready, I packed the knitted blanket inside, fastened it with pins, making sure that the sides have a bit of a thicker border (think cheese crust in pizzas :)) and sewed it all together. 

I could have of course leave the blanket as it was but I used the fabric for two reasons. First of all, it makes sure that if the wool turns out to be to scratchy for baby's skin, I can use the fabric side instead. But even more so, the cotton with cute panda print makes the otherwise grey blanket much more child-friendly and joyful. 

The added benefit is of course that all the yarn tails and knots are just hidden between it and the fabric so I didn't have to sped time working them into the weave (you remember my dislike of details, right? :)).  

And here is the finished product. The light makes the fabric look grayish, but in fact it has a very pretty green/teal color.

I am a little nervous about how the blanket will behave in washing. Both elements were washed separately before combining but I am not sure if they won't continue to shrink and stretch independently of each other. And this could really mess up the shape of the finished project.