Tuesday, August 02, 2022

Milkmaid/Dream Top Pattern from Lydia Naomi

Pretending I’m writing poetry in a field…or milking a cow since this is a “milkmaid” top…but let’s go with the first scenario.

This is the Milkmaid/Dream top pattern from Lydia Naomi. She offered it as a free download a year ago, and I finally got around to making it. Although it’s no longer free, it’s still available to download for an affordable price on her website. I’m going to make the dress version next! She also has a few videos on how to make the dress/shirt and make size adjustments.
I did a separating zipper (like is on a jacket) at the back instead of an invisible zipper under the arm. You’ll probably need help zipping it up if you do the same, but I wanted to give it a try. I raised the neckline by a hair but will probably raise it even more the next time I make it. I’m constantly bending over to pick up a kid, so I’d like the top to come up a little higher. I also made the bottom ruffle a little longer so it wasn’t cropped length.
I really liked making this top and already have the fabric picked out for the dress version! The shirt fabric was given to me by a lady at church and is a screen printed linen. It’s such a nice fabric.

Toddler Dress and Bloomers

When an outfit makes you feel goooood
My mom made the top and bloomers for Harlow when she was a toddler, and now Elodie is wearing the outfit. I made the headband when Harlow was little.
The outfit pattern is Simplicity 2375. I realized after the pictures that I should have ironed the top before she wore it, but oh well.

Travel Watercolors

We went camping last week at Bull Shoals-White River State Park. When it was time to pack up, I told Colin I just needed 10 minutes to do something for myself. The trip was full of family time, which is why we went, but I’m trying to carve out time to also do some things I enjoy (by myself ;) ). I decided to start this practice on our last trip to Woolly Hollow State Park.

At this current stage of parenting, I can’t really sit and read uninterrupted for any length of time. Our youngest might wander off! But I can take 10 minutes to sketch and paint with watercolors while she naps or while I keep watch to make sure she doesn’t head for the water’s edge.
I’ve had this watercolor kit for about a decade but it has been neglected for far too long. It’s compact and perfect for traveling. Water goes in the brush handle, so there’s no need for a cup of water. The paints are very pigmented and blend well. I sketch with a pencil then paint over it. I only have a few minutes to work, so I don’t strive for perfection (although, what does that even really mean in art?). I just strive for a minute to do something I enjoy and to capture a moment from our trip. I paint in my notebook where I log our trips.
The rainbow trout represents our time on the White River. The pennant I painted at Woolly Hollow is of the pennant I made from felt and vinyl for our girls’ last birthday party that’s hanging in our camper.
I encourage you to take a few minutes for yourself to do something you love, to try something new, to take in the moment, to show your kids that they can do the same.
I got the watercolor kit at @hobbylobby where you can sometimes catch it on sale. It’s also available on Amazon.
Kit with a different color palette: https://amzn.to/3NZKjVo
What do you like to do when you have a moment to yourself?

Open Back Tank Top

I’ve been wanting to make a top with this hand-me-down fabric for awhile but couldn’t make up my mind on what to do. So I made my own pattern.

Now, I know what you’re thinking, because it’s what I think when I see posts about self-drafted patterns— that doesn’t help me! How am I supposed to make that without any instructions or patterns? Well, if you want to make something similar, go check out Jenna Phipps’ YouTube video DIY Summer Dress. It has a similar look, can be made into a shirt, and is a bit more simplified in that you don’t have to curve around your armpit or have buttons like I did. She’ll walk you through the process. It’s a good beginner project.
Back to what I did…. I wanted the top to be somewhat fitted at the bust, so that meant I needed a way to open it to put it on/take it off. I did buttons in the back. If you go with a looser fit, you can just slip it over your head and skip this. I didn’t have enough fabric to do a ruffle all the way around, so I did a ruffle in the front and left it flat in the back. I also left the back open, because it is really hot here and all the airflow is needed to keep cool. I didn’t do a lining, but I did use a serger to finish all the seams and edges.
I drafted a paper pattern for this so I could get the fit just right and use it for future projects. Making a pattern takes a little more time in the beginning but saves a lot of time in the end when you want to make more of the same top. Making adjustments and changes is easy when you have a base to start from. This garment is my wearable toile and will help me get the pattern just right for future garments. I think I want to do a front button top and no ruffle layer the next time.

Summer Craft: Shrinky Dinks

There’s a never ending heat wave and drought going on here, so we’ve been looking for indoor activities. Here’s one you may want to try!
About a month ago, I pulled out the shrinky dinks sheets that I’ve had for over a decade. Then, a couple weeks ago, we went to the library for a free activity where you could make shrinky dinks. It’s easy, good for any age (Elodie “helped” me with my rainbow), and addicting!
It’s basically plastic sheets that you draw on, and then they shrink down 10 times their size in the oven. They’re so fun!
I got my sheets on sale at @hobbylobby ages ago. You can also grab kits on Amazon.
Have you ever made shrinky dinks?
I can’t find them currently on Hobby Lobby’s site, but here are some Amazon links.

Learning to Crochet


I was itching to learn something new. I needed to challenge myself but also have an outlet to relax and unwind. I hoped crocheting would tick those boxes.

I watched two YouTube videos on how to crochet granny squares. I pulled out yarn that I’ve had for years that was always too thin for knitting projects I was working on. I had a crochet hook from middle school when a teacher taught a few of us to crochet a line (but I guess we never moved past that or I’ve forgotten).
For a few weeks, I’ve been crocheting late at night after the girls are in bed, while riding in the car, and one last marathon session this past Sunday evening to finish my project.
I decided to make a tank top. I had no pattern. I just drew on garment making knowledge to figure out measurements and construction. I crocheted a ton of granny squares of varying sizes and then joined them together.
The final product is imperfect. It’s a bit too loose, a little wonky in places, and if you look closely, you’ll see I miscounted stitches in places. But I did it! I learned something new and actually turned it into something! You can do the same! You can learn new things. I squeezed in pockets of time to work on it. It took me way too many hours to complete, but I just bit it off a little at a time. I liked that once I learned the pattern of crocheting that particular granny square, it became like second nature and something that I could do to lull my brain at the end of the day.
I keep hearing crafters call crocheted clothing summer attire, but I think since we’re setting heat records over here, this will be something I save for an Arkansas autumn!

Core T-Shirt (Free Pattern)

Here’s a free sewing pattern! This is the Core T-Shirt from Closet Core Patterns.

I made the shirt with linen fabric. The pattern calls for fabric with more stretch, but it worked just fine! The only thing I would change if I made it again with similar fabric is enlarging the neckline so it’s easier to slip on and off since the fabric doesn’t stretch. I also found that I had to cut the neckband on the bias. I made the pattern according to my measurements. It’s very flowy and a bit boxy. I think I could size down, but it doesn’t feel too oversized as is.
I hemmed the bottom of the shirt and finished the sleeves using Sweet Red Poppy serger technique from her free dolman shirt tutorial (which is on my list to make).
This is a quick, satisfying project, and I would definitely make it again. It also comes with a cropped version and long sleeve version.

Sunday, May 15, 2022

How to Clean and Shine Stainless Steel Cookware

  1. Put enough water in your stainless steel pan or pot to cover the bottom.
  2. Bring the water to boil.
  3. Allow the water to boil until you see food lifting off the bottom of the pan. If you have put just a shallow amount of water in the pan, it shouldn’t boil over the sides of the pan. Let the water boil for several minutes, but do not let it boil to the point that the water evaporates. If the water evaporates, it will take you back to square one of food being stuck on.
  4. Remove the pan from the heat and allow it to cool.
  5. Pour the water and released food out of the cooled pan into the garbage disposal or trash.
  6. Use dish soap and a cloth or sponge to wash the pan. A small pan scraper is handy in helping to remove food.
  7. If you still have food stuck, sprinkle Bar Keeper’s Friend into the pan. Use a wet sponge or cloth to move the Bar Keeper’s Friend around the pan, lightly scrubbing. This will remove the rest of the food and shine your cookware. You can also use Bar Keeper’s Friend on the outside of the pan to bring shine back and make it look like new.
  8. Give your cookware a final rinse and then dry.

Thursday, May 05, 2022

Recipe: One Pan Bacon Cheddar Tots

Bacon Cheddar Tots cooked on just one pan in the oven— yes, please!
My family applauded this dish! It’s so easy to make but is such a delicious treat. Make it for your Memorial Day gathering, family movie night, or take it to an outdoor party.

Serve this as an indulgent meal or a side dish at a party! It's quick and easy, and you will only have to clean one pan!


  • One package of bacon (around 16 oz.)
  • One package of tater tots (around 30 oz.)
  • 1 to 2 cups of shredded cheddar cheese
  • Sour Cream, Ranch Dressing, Hot Sauce, or Buffalo Sauce for dipping
  • Green Onion or Parsley for serving
  • Salt and seasonings to taste

  1. Put the bacon on an oven safe pan. You can use a nonstick pan or put foil on a baking sheet or in a glass baking dish.
  2. Use kitchen scissors to cut the bacon into smaller pieces to keep it from curling as it cooks.
  3. Cook the bacon in the oven at 450 degrees for about 20 minutes or until your bacon is almost as crispy as you like. It will go back into the oven to crisp up more later.
  4. When the bacon is cooked, remove it from the pan and let it drain on a paper towel.
  5. Place the tater tots on the pan. They will cook in the bacon grease, but you can drain any excess grease.
  6. Bake the tots according to their package's directions.
  7. Once the tots have baked, remove them from the oven. Top them with shredded cheddar cheese. Use anywhere from 1 to 2 cups of cheese depending on how cheesy you want the tots.
  8. Then place the cooked bacon on top of the tots. You can tear the bacon into smaller pieces to make sure there's some in each bite.
  9. Stick the bacon cheddar tots back into the oven until the cheese has melted and the bacon has crisped a bit more. You can broil them, but be sure to stand by and watch so the food doesn't burn.
  10. Remove the tots from the oven and top with chopped green onion, dried chives, or parsley. Salt and season to taste.
  11. Serve with sour cream, ranch, hot sauce, or even buffalo sauce!

Order these ingredients and more from EasyBins. Get free delivery and $15 off your order with code MARLA15 at checkout.
It’s an easy dish, but the recipe link will let you in on all the details. And it will have the ingredients ready to add to your cart!

Recipe link: Bacon Cheddar Tots

Video of me making the tots: Instagram Reel

Tuesday, May 03, 2022

Recipe: Garlic Dill Chicken Salad

It’s my goal in life to share as many chicken salad combinations as possible. πŸ˜‹

This “recipe” doesn’t have exact measurements. You’ll need to listen to your heart. Or add the ingredients, take a bite, and see if you need more of each ingredient. You’ll see what I mean…

πŸ§„Garlic Dill Chicken Salad πŸ‡ 

I usually boil chicken, but I also use leftover grilled, smoked, whatever chicken. You can use white or dark meat.
Add mayo a little at a time, making sure to coat each piece of chicken. I don’t like dry salad, so I sometimes add a bit more than I think is needed. The chicken will soak up some of the mayo as it sits.
•Dried Dill
This is where you have to start listening to your heart, er, tastebuds. I LOVE dill, so I go crazy with how much I use.
•Lawry’s Garlic Salt with Parsley
The amount of this will also depend on your personal preference. I add quite a bit. I usually add the dill and garlic, stir it all about, take a taste, and decide if it needs more. If you’re watching your salt intake, you could salt to taste and then add garlic powder and dried parsley.
I have made this a few times without grapes when we didn’t have any in the house. It’s still good, but it is not the same. You must have grapes! The sweet balances out the savory. I used black grapes this time but have also used red and purple grapes. I quarter each grape and add enough to have a sliver of grape in each bite.

I have been making this version of chicken salad for several months now, and I think it’s my family’s favorite. I hope your family enjoys it too!

Monday, January 31, 2022

90s Pop Culture Valentine Sketches

Who else was obsessed with the 1996 Romeo + Juliet movie? I was 11 when it came out but didn’t see it until I was around 12 and it was on VHS. My friends and I would watch the movie over and over at sleepovers. I had a small poster of Leo in my room and wanted to be Claire Danes. I picked the name Claire for my name in seventh grade French class. I picked a lyric from the song I’m Kissing You from the movie for this drawing. Shop the design

Who else collected those small posters from teen magazines in the 90s? I would spend my time looking at Tiger Beat while my mom shopped for groceries at Brookshire’s and Piggly Wiggly. What celeb posters did you have hanging up in your room? I can remember my friends and I talking about JTT at recess and arguing over who had the biggest crush on him. One of my friends had more posters of him than anyone else, so she was the clear winner. Shop the design

When I was in the first grade, I had a New Kids on the Block poster hanging in my bedroom. I still have their cassette tape stashed away somewhere! Who was your NKOTB crush? Mine was definitely Joey. What was your favorite NKOTB song? Hanging Tough? Step by Step? You Got It? It’s time to brush off my early-90s dance moves.

When I was a kid in the early and mid-90s, I wanted to grow up to be Amy Grant. I wanted a perm so I could have her curly hair (thank goodness my mom always said no). I danced to her pop songs at home and sang her Christian songs at church. I had all her cassette tapes and CDs. I was her biggest fan. Well, here I am grown-up and I still have stick straight hair and never made it to the pop charts. Shop the design

We can’t be judged for childhood crushes, OKAY! When I was five, my parents took us to see Days of Thunder in the theater for my brother’s birthday. We rarely went to the movies growing up, so this is a vivid memory for me. It was that day that I fell for Tom Cruise. Sadly, scientology has crushed my crush for Tom, or I’d probably still be a fan. This drawing is from Risky Business, which came out two years before I was born, but it’s one of the most iconic shots of him. What’s your favorite Tom Cruise movie? Colin and I will definitely be going to see the new Top Gun when it’s finally released. Shop the design

Bonus: This is a 1970s Pop Culture reference that I drew for my cousin Amy. Her childhood crush was Donny Osmond! Shop the design

Inside Out Ding Dong Cake

I worked at a Hostess discount bakery for a few months in high school. Whenever the food was about to expire, we pulled it from the shelves and threw it into grocery carts. Farmers would come buy the food (usually just the bread) for their animals. You could buy a grocery cart amount of almost-expired food for just $10. One night I bought a cart amount of food and loaded it into the trunk of my car. I drove a
1977 Triumph Spitfire, and the trunk was smaller than the cart. I didn't anticipate that when I bought the food, but I made it work. I drove home and surprised my family with a trunk full of Hostess treats. Sadly, I don't remember snagging any Ding Dongs since those were popular sellers. I think we did have a lot of the orange cupcakes, though. Also, I'm pretty sure these processed desserts didn't expire as quickly as their date stated!

If you've never had a Ding Dong, they are a round chocolate cake, covered in a chocolate frosting shell, filled with cream. This cake is what would happen if you turned a Ding Dong inside out-- chocolate in the middle, cream on the outside.

Inside Out Ding Dong Cake

There are three parts to this cake: the chocolate cake, the chocolate frosting for the filling/inside, the white frosting for the outside.

Chocolate Cake:

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 3/4 cups flour (I used gluten-free one-for-one flour)
  • 3/4 cup dutch processed cocoa
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup boiling water
  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease two 9 inch round pans.
  2. Stir together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into a large bowl.
  3. Add eggs, milk, oil, and vanilla.  Beat on medium speed for 2 minutes.
  4. Stir in boiling water.  Pour batter into pans.
  5. Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Cool 10 minutes then remove from the pans to cool on wire racks.  Cool completely before frosting.

Cream Frosting for the Outside of the Cake:

Milk Chocolate Frosting for the Filling:

  • 1/3 cup of dutch processed cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) of butter
  • 3 cups of powdered sugar
  • 1/3 cup of milk
  1. Using a hand mixer, combine the cocoa powder and softened butter.
  2. Alternate adding the powdered sugar and milk.
When the cake has cooled, frost one of the cake tops with the chocolate frosting, then set the other cake on top. Frost the entire outside of the cake with the cream frosting.

I poured some of the batter into two ramekins for my girls to have mini cakes!

When I planned this cake, I had the intention of it tasting like an inside out Ding Dong, and it did not disappoint! I made mine with gluten free flour and plant based butter in case you want to attempt the same. It was hard for the four of us not to eat it in one sitting!

Tuesday, January 04, 2022

What I Read in 2021 + Not Meeting My Goal

At the end of 2020, I set a goal to read 24 books in 2021. I thought it was doable to read two books a month. I had read much more in past years and thought that would be an attainable goal. I forgot what it was like when babies start crawling and stop napping all day. I quickly realized my goal of 24 books would not be met. And I was good with that. I didn't have the time or the mental space to push myself. I read for a few minutes each day in the car line while I waited for my first grader and shushed a fussy baby who didn't want to sit in the car. When I wasn't too tired, I'd read a few minutes before bed. Those minutes slowly added up to completing a few books.

I also didn't go easy on the type of books I read. They needed concentration and sometimes had paragraphs that needed to be reread and contemplated to understand.

Before I list what I read, here's how I'm thinking I'll approach 2022-- no goal. As someone who loves goals and lists, I just don't have the motivation this year to put pressure on myself to reach a certain number. I just want to read when I can and read what I want. I have a stack of theological books to go through, but we'll see what I get to this year. I'm wanting to also add in some books that give me some mental breaks, make me laugh, and help me imagine.

I use Goodreads to track my reading, so come say hi if you use the app!

Here is what I read in 2021:

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