Monday, August 25, 2014

A letter to my son on his first day of kindergarten

Dear D,

So, this is it. Today you officially start your academic career. It's your first day of kindergarten.

At 6:45 this morning, you bounced into our bed with your own charming alarm sound. You were ready to go! I, on the other hand, was not so ready to let you go.

I spent the night thinking of how, surely, it was just last week that we brought you home from the hospital. I thought of those early, exhausting days when we were first getting to know each other. The days of delirium. I was deliriously happy to finally have you safe in my arms after a hard pregnancy. And deliriously tired from nursing you every two hours around the clock to get you back to your birth weight. But we eventually figured things out and settled into a routine.

I thought about how you were so alert and curious even from a very early age. I remember pushing you around Target and how you would get so excited when you saw flash cards. They were your favorite toy and we spent endless hours together practicing as you would pull out your favorite set and ask to play. I'll never forget the day when  you were 20 months old and we were walking around downtown. You saw a sign and you ran to it, excitedly pointing to each letter and saying its name. You really took off from there. On your second birthday, you realized that the letters on your birthday cake spelled your name. By three, car rides got very interesting, as you would call out the words you saw on signs, and buildings, and roads...and pretty much everything. By four, you could read anything, but your favorite thing to read about was space. By five, you were reading to yourself, and already I miss hearing you read when you don't think I'm listening.

On the other hand, not everything has come easily to you. If you find something to be difficult, you are far too quick to give up. This is something we've been working on, and mommy and daddy remind you often that, just like John F. Kennedy said, " the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard." So much comes easily to you, son, but you will feel more accomplishment and pride when you conquer the hard things. For the longest time, you were afraid of water. Now you love to swim and are getting better and better with each class. Doesn't it feel great to see how far you've come? And riding your bike. You had the hardest time figuring out those pedals. Now you can ride your bike up and down the street. We'll keep working on it, and soon you'll ditch the training wheels and be flying down the street--safely, of course!

I thought about all the walks in the park, our trips to Joann where you played on my phone while I shopped for fabric, our garage sale hunts where I gave you a dollar to spend but you rarely did because you charmed everyone into giving you the things you wanted.

I thought about our mommy and son dates to your favorite restaurant, Chick-Fil-A, and how now, whenever we got to a restaurant, it just doesn't measure up if it doesn't have grilled chicken, fresh fruit, and apple juice...and french fries to share.

I thought about the things you've loved: first Elmo, then Thomas the Train, and now NASA and all things space. I smiled when I thought about how last week, when we were hosting a college student from Moldova, you drew a five stage rocket as you lectured him on flight dynamics. I can't wait to see if your dreams of being a rocket scientist come true. Or even if you will still want to work on rockets when you grow up.

But mostly, when I think about what you will be like when you are an adult, I hope that you love God. I pray that you will thank God for the mind that He has given you, and not let your intelligence keep you from knowing Him. Many of the early space pioneers, both on the ground and in the atmosphere, were believers, and learning about the created instilled in them a greater awe for the Creator. I am so thankful that our pastor is a former rocket scientist, and has taken you under his wing, to answer your many, many questions, not only about the universe, but also the God who created it.

It's a mommy's job to think about such things: the man you will be, the boy you are, and the baby you've been.

I thought about how, for the last six and half years, since I first learned you were in my tummy, how your well-being consumed my thoughts--where were you? were you safe? do you need to eat? drink? sleep? be changed? get clean? be held? As you got older and I could step away for a few moments, to go to the bathroom by myself, for example, you would still want to be near me and would wait, not-so-patiently outside the door, or, more often than not, inside the door.

I thought about how this summer you have grown more independent. You were such a happy baby and toddler. You completely skipped the terrible twos and threes. But five has been the year of NO! as you have have learned to assert yourself and express your ideas of how the world should work. And you have such detailed ideas! I think that was God's way of preparing me to let you go to school!

You actually started school two years ago, at preschool in Miss Jodi's class. How I sobbed after I dropped you off that first day. And that was for just two and half hours, two days a week! But I didn't know what to do with those five hours a week without you! I ended up learning to sew so I could have a hobby to fill my hours. Last year, you went to school all day three times a week. It was a perfect arrangement. I had solid blocks of time to sew, but we still had two days of "just us" time. Today, though, we start a whole new routine. For the next thirteen years, you will be in school and I will be home, missing you and wondering where the time has gone.

Last week, we attended your kindergarten open house. Your new classroom is just down the hall from where you were in Pre-K, so you already know your school. Your new teacher was the other preschool teacher, and your classes often mingled. You know Miss H and she knows you. When we spoke to her as you were settled in corner reading a book, she told us she was familiar with your strengths and weaknesses, and was already talking with the other teachers about how to give you the best year yet.

So many of your friends from Pre-K are in your kindergarten class, so I know that you will have so much fun catching up with everyone. And as we left, you saw a little girl in tears, partly for fear of a new school, and partly because the class looked so fun she didn't want to leave. You gave her a big hug and said you would be her friend. My heart nearly burst with pride. I hope you are making her feel welcome the way your friends made you feel welcome last year when you joined the class weeks after everyone else.

D, You are going to do great. If you are anything like your mommy and daddy---and we know you are--you are going to continue to love school and won't miss me a bit. And that's just the way it should be.


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Thursday, August 21, 2014

Original Sewing & Quilting Expo

Last Saturday, my family and I made a quick day trip to Pittsburgh. The boys visited the super cool science center and I was finally able to attend my second quilt show. I went to my first show a month after I started sewing and much of what I saw flew over my head. I have been wanting to attend another show for months because I have a much better appreciation for the work that goes into a quilt. Also, I've been saving my pennies so I can upgrade to a new machine, but wanted to test drive a few before making a decision. 

It finally worked in our schedule to attend the Original Sewing & Quilt Expo in Pittsburgh. The first thing I noticed was that it was MUCH smaller than the same show in Cleveland, but it was just the right size for me to see everything before the boys picked me up. And I was able to spend a lot of time with the machine dealers, which made me feel better about my decision. I'll post more about my new addition in a future post, but here are some photos of quilts that inspired me. 

Edith's Sewing Bee. 
G-mother's Flower Garden top circa 1930
Quilted by Jackie Herbert of Milton, DE

As an avid fan of Settlers of Catan, I love hexies. I like this quilt because it's not the typical flower petal pattern. One of my goals for the coming year is to make a hexie quilt. This quilt and the next were part of the Quilt as Desired exhibit

Close up of quilting.

Laissez les Bons Tempes Rouler  
G-mother's Flower Garden top circa 1930
Quilted by Sue Patton of Simcoe, Ontario

This is a more typical hexie pattern, but I like the two layers of  "petals." I also like the colors.

The next several photos were taken at the Appliques, Quilts, and More booth. I was inspired by the way their appliques were incorporated into quilts. This  quilts shows off their Native American appliques.

Several of their quilt kits featured hand-dyed fabric that looked like sunsets.

The flag quilt kit uses staggers strips of square blocks to give the impression of movement.

I took this photo at the Martelli Enterprises booth. I am thinking I was to make some little people for a quilt for our son's school auction this spring. Isn't it adorable? 

Close up of a block.

At first, I thought the show was a little light on quilts. Then I saw that the back of the conference center was an area about as big as the entire show floor with rows and rows of quilt. Here are just a few of my favorites. 

I am in awe of art quilts like this one, "The Old Codger by Barbara Yates Beasley. I just stared at it for awhile trying to figure out how she made it! 

The same artist also made this quilt, The Illiamna, which I like even better, I think. You can see more of her incredible fiber art on her website. 

It pains me to saw that the photo I thought I took of the artist info on this quilt did not turn out at all. It has such incredible detail. All I can make out is that I think it was part of the South Carolina/Georgia SAQA Region Quilt Entries. If anyone knows more, please let me know.

Talk about the perfect summer quilt! This is "Hot, Hot Summer" by Linda Marcangelo.

This one is maybe my favorite one of all. It's called "Dolly at the Beach" by Karen Backman-Kells. I am so in awe of art quilts in general, but as a mom only days away from sending her one and only to kindergarten, my heart strings couldn't help be tugged by this image. I found her website and was happy to learn she's a midwife, too.

If you are fan of the quilting magazine Fon's & Porter's Love of Quilting, you've likely heard of Liz Porter, the quilter of this quilt aptly named, Liz's Irish Chain. I think the solid background is stunning, and the tiny squares are a great use of scraps. This quilt was featured in the Jan/Feb issue of Love of Quilting and was hand quilted by the Troyer Family.

Another favorite, this one is called Star Flowers. It was pieced by Diane Tomlinson and machine quilted by LuAnn Downs. It was published in the March/April 2014 issue of Love of Quilting

This next quilt is a fun scrappy quilt by Marianne Fons called "Rock Island Campfires." It was machine quilted by Debbie Treusch and featured in the July/August 2013 issue of Love of Quilting

I love the modern look of this quilt, called "Focus on Fun." It's by Keepsake Quilting, and was published in the Summer 2014 issue of Quilting Quickly. (My apologies for the blurry photo. All picture were taken with my phone).

What I love about this "Crazy Eights" quilt is that it would be a really fun swap project. I'm currently doing a red/black/white block swap and it's been so much fun. Hopefully, I can convince the gals to stick around to do another one with this pattern. This quilt was pieced by Deb Finan and machine quilted by Olde City Quilts. It was published in the Spring 2014 issue of Quilting Quickly. 

One of my first finishes this year (which I have yet to post...yikes!) was a plus quilt, so it's no surprise that this one caught my eye. This version is "Positively Simple" by Jean Nolte, and it was published in the Spring 2014 issue of Quilting Quickly. 

I love a quilter with a sense of humor. This one is called "Ashley Selfie with Dr. Pecker" by Rhonda Dennie. I'm bummed that my photo didn't capture the whole quilt, but you can see a better photo on this website

I think word quilts are so fun. This one is called "Pathways (We Are Here)" by Amy Anderson. (And once again, you can see a better photo on another website.)

Talk about an art quilt. With a nod to Whistler's Mother, this is Eleanor Levie's "Listen to Your Mother:  the Universe Speaks to Quilters."

Close up:

And finally, this is "News Hounds" by Pauline Salzman. My son would love this one!

Something I noticed as I was writing this post is that I really didn't focus on the quilting of these quilts. For those of you who are clearly more talented than this straight line quilter, I apologize. When I attended my first show a few weeks after I started quilting, I was simply in awe of everything and forgot to take any photos at all. With thirty-four quilts pieced since I started quilting 18 months ago, I am now most interested in figuring out how a top is pieced. With my big souvenir, I hope to be a lot more familiar with free motion quilting by the time I get to my next show!

In addition to gawking over the many gorgeous quilts, I found some bargains at Vogue Fabrics

Here's a little collage of some of my favorite new fabrics.

I also brought a little something for the kiddo.  I bought us each a hook and loop finger light from The Quilt Company.

They are pretty cheap on Amazon so I'm thinking they might be fun for D's next birthday party. 

It was a big hit, and he may never sleep again.

All in all, a pretty awesome day. And the best part is that I came home with a new sewing machine! Any guesses what I bought?

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Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Easy Oven Baked Chicken with Veggies

Easy Oven Baked Chicken with Veggies by de Jong Dream House

I've been working on posting my go-to recipes on the blog. So far, I'm wrote about Boerenkool, Indonesian Pilaf, Crockpot Jerk ChickenSoul Dust Chicken Skillet, Dutch Crockpot Casserole, Bubble and Squeak and Crockpot Hutspot. Most of my meals are made in the crockpot or on the stove, but today's recipe is made in the oven. It's a very versatile chicken dish that is easy to prepare for those days when you really want to get oven made and then sit and veg while it cooks!

Easy Oven Baked Chicken with Veggies
(download a printable-friendly version)


  • 1 pound chicken breasts. You can use cubed, strips, or whole breasts. Easy.
  • 1 potato per serving, cubed. I always cook extra, so I used 5 potatoes in the pictured meal. 
  • Veggies of your choosing. Plan on one cup per serving. I used carrots here, because that's what the CSA delivered, but I've also used cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, squash, and zucchini--whatever is in season.
  • 4 Tablespoons of your favorite seasoning mix. I used dry onion mix this time, but my favorite is Soul Dust mix. I've also used Italian dressing mix and ranch dressing mix. (You can find a great list of homemade spice blends to try here).
  • 3 Tablespoons olive oil. 

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).

2. Wash and chop potatoes into a small cubes. The potatoes take longer than the rest of the meal, so cutting them into small pieces ensures that everything is ready at the same time, which is the beauty of this meal.

3. Add 1 Tablespoon olive oil and 2 Tablespoons onion soup mix. (A packet of mix is usually 4 Tablespoons).

4. Place the potatoes along one side of your baking dish.

5. Repeat with the other vegetables, using 1 Tablespoon of olive oil and 1 Tablespoon of olive oil.

6. Place the veggies on the other side of your baking dish.

7. Finally, season the chicken with 1 Tablespoon olive oil and 2 Tablespoons of mix. Add the chicken to the center of the baking dish. You don't have to season your veggies separately, but I usually do because sometimes I mix up the seasonings. I really like the onion mix with the potatoes, but I love the soul dust rub on the chicken.

8. Cover the dish with tin foil. This isn't necessary, but I've noticed that it does help the potatoes cook evenly.

9. Bake for 1 hour. Dinner is ready when the potatoes are fork tender--they are firm enough to hold their shape but soft enough that you can stick a fork in them easily.

I like our dinners to be colorful. Usually, I have some green veggies in the mix, but since I didn't with this version, I added a small salad and fruit.

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