Author Archives: crunchysoul

About crunchysoul

Urban living with a crunchy soul.

Homemade Halloween

Welcome to my Homemade Halloween recap.  To be fair,  maybe I should call it “Semi-Homemade” Halloween, because both Snaggle and Sunny’s costumes were a combination of things bought and made by yours truly.  It was my first time making costumes for Halloween.  I don’t consider myself an apparel sewer — heck, I’m a “rudimentary” crafty sewer at best, quite rough around the edges — so I was pretty proud of myself this year.

Sunny was a ragdoll.  I made the apron and purchased the tights at a party store and the tunic/dress at the thrift store.  The bonus is that she can wear the dress through the winter (though it works better as a long shirt)! Still, not bad for 5 buckaroos. Snaggle was a witch, and I made her a tunic thingamajig and a witch’s broom as a prop.  I bought the hat and tights at Walmart and the shirt at the thrift store. Stay tuned for posts where I show how I made the apron, tunic and broom.

It was really fun making the costumes.  The best homemade costumes make you smile or even chuckle to yourself when you see them. I never made a big deal about Halloween before, but seeing how much fun the kids had when they dress as something else made me wish I had gotten into it sooner.

By the way, don’t think of this post as being late for Halloween 2011, think of it as early for Halloween 2012, or 2013, or even 2014 for that matter.  One thing I learned this year is that you can never get started making the costumes too early.  Snaggle and Sunny have already started tossing around ideas for next year — so far the plan is for them to be Ketchup and Mustard….and for little Mamacita to be “Small Fry.”  So cute!

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Two for One Meal

Peace folks,

I was talking to my mom a few weeks ago, and she was about to make a chicken pot pie, the ultimate comfort food.  That sounded like a great idea, plus K and I have been trying to come up with some “go to” recipes so that each week when we start menu planning, we don’t have to start from scratch and can get our grocery list done more quickly.  Ideally these recipes will be tasty, healthy, quick/easy, not too expensive, and increasingly, vegetarian. I thought a chicken pot pie would be a perfect addition to the arsenal — well, it fits four out of the five criteria anyway.  So I decided to make some for Sunday dinner.  I used the Pillsbury recipe and chicken thighs.  I boiled the chicken thighs, let them cool, and then Snaggle and I pulled the meat off.

Half of a chicken pot pie.

I forgot to take a picture of the pie when it first came out of the oven,but it was gorgeous, let me tell you.  A ready-made crust can work miracles.  I did remember to snap a pic when it was half eaten, before we stored it for leftovers. Because it fits the season, I used the fabric from Snaggle’s Halloween costume as the background.

And as a bonus, there was some cooked chicken left over, and I had the inkling to make curried chicken salad.  I’ve made this before, but hadn’t done it in a while.  I mixed in some mayo, garam masala, curry powder, raisins, apples, celery, walnuts and salt and pepper in with the leftover chicken.  I just guestimated everything.

Curried chicken salad.

The celery and walnuts add a crunch to balance out the texture of the chicken, and the raisins and apples add a nice sweetness to balance out the curry and garam masala.  I put it in a wrap and had it for lunch on Monday and Tuesday.  Yum.

First Birthday Matching Game

Mamacita turned one back in May.  We did a small party at the house — which was more of an excuse to see some of my friends that I never get to see.  Hey, Mamacita is only one, it’s not like she cares that more of my friends were there :-)  Plus, I find it’s good to host a function every now and then because it motivates us to clean the house. Seriously.

Now, when Mamacita was born, I had the idea to take a picture of her on the same day each month to track her growth.  Actually, I had this idea with Snaggle, but didn’t follow through and the picture-taking fell off quickly.  I feel bad about that, but Snaggle was my first and I didn’t know what the heck I was doing.  I’ll forgive myself for that.  Luckily, Shutterfly sent me a coupon for 50 free photos a few weeks before Mamacita’s birthday.  I decided it would be fun to do a matching game that would serve as a passive activity at the party — which was really more of a laid-back cookout without too much structure.  It would also do double duty as a party decoration.

I had a book of 8 x 8 decorative cardstock that I had bought on a whim on sale at A.C. Moore a few months ago.  I used 12 of these sheets and pasted one photo of Mamacita to each page — the 12 photos were for months 0 – 11.  I assigned each of the photos a number.

The month by month picture, with random numbers assigned.

First Birthday matching game

Then I took 12 index cards and wrote out each month and Mamacita’s corresponding age — for Example “May 2010 – 0 months”; “June 2010 – 1 month” and so on.  I gave each index card a letter and pasted them on 12 more pieces of cardstock. Matching game for first birthday

Matching game for first birthday party

Lastly, I made an answer sheet (because I wasn’t even sure that I would have been able to remember them.  Mamacita looks really similar in a number of these photos!) Matching game for first birthday

I put up the photos on the left side of the wall, and the index cards on the right side of the wall. Here’s how it looks all together.

Matching game for first birthday party

People didn’t really play it competitively as a formal game, but I think folks got a kick out of it.

After I took them down from the wall (a good six weeks after the party was over!) I put them in an 8×8 scrapbook.  I figure Mamacita will get a kick out of looking at it when she gets older.

Apologies for the fuzziness on the pictures.  This camera was on its last legs, but was the only one I had at the time.

I hope you like this idea.  Please let me know what you think, and I’d definitely love to hear from anyone who tries this!

You gotta start somewhere….

Peace, y’all.

For my second post, I thought I would share the evolution of CrunchySoul, those seeds and passions that made me want to start this blog.  Where my first post gives an overview of the blog, this one explains some of the reasons behind the blog’s focus areas.

Crafting
There are so many reasons I’m drawn to crafting.  Through crafting, you can make something that didn’t exist before — a skein of yarn into a scarf, a flat piece of fabric into a tote bag.

This is a tote bag I made for my stepdaughter's fifth birthday.

This is a tote bag I made for my stepdaughter's fifth birthday.

You can also take something unused and unwanted and rework it into something beautiful and useful.  I find something powerful in that creativity and transformation. I am also fascinated by how things are made and just love learning new things all the time.  And frankly, I like taking a stand against the throwaway culture we seem so accustomed to. I relish slowing things down, taking the time to create handmade (and often imperfect) gifts that have character and show thoughtfulness.

A blanket I made for my friend and coworker.

An alphabet blanket I crocheted for my friend and coworker.

Unfortunately, I have a looong list of things I want to make, for myself and others, and the fact that I don’t get to them adds stress, which is really counter-productive to the type of mindfulness and serenity that I’m aiming for!  But we’re all works in progress, right? All in good time is what I like to tell myself.  I mostly crochet, quilt, and sew crafty items, but I have so much more that I want to try out like knitting, sewing clothes and home decor, woodworking and upholstery.

Green Living

If you knew me, you might be surprised that I have a blog related to “green” issues.  I’m not a vegan, not a card-carrying member of the Sierra club, don’t ride my bike to work….not yet anyway.  But without being able to identify the actual beginning point, over time, seeds of concern about the earth have gotten into me. I’m almost hesitant to call it being “green” (which might explain why I have put “green” in quotes twice already! Make that three times. Just imagine air quotes every time I write it) because it sounds so trendy and trite. I mean, corporations are claiming it these days, and once corporations start using a term repeatedly to boast their products, you can best bet they’ve squeezed out anything genuine from the term.

Anyhoo, one thing I’d like to explore is how to get through all the trendy surface green stuff and get to the deeper questions about living meaningfully and purposefully, in tune with Mother Earth.  How do we live compassionately, with reverence for the earth and for the future generations that will inherit this world from us?  It’s one thing to carry a nifty reusable grocery bag (which I do….most of the time), but is that enough?  What, exactly, is enough?  How does one stainless steel water bottle measure up against the serious issues of power and exploitation, environmental racism, corporate raiding of indigenous resources?  Are they connected?  Should they be?

Wool soaker (cloth diaper cover) I sewed from a wool sweater.

Upcycling: Here's a wool soaker (cloth diaper cover) I sewed for Mamacita. It's made from an old sweater using Katrina's Sew Quick Soaker Pattern.

The pessimist in me wonders if my single well-meaning actions can’t fix these larger issues then why should I bother?  But the optimist hopes that my solo efforts might just be one drop in a larger wave of change.  Maybe, just maybe, with my small gestures I’ll motivate myself to be even more active in the larger environmental movement — sort of like a muscle that gains strength over time, or a snowball that keeps building momentum downhill.  We shall see.

I guess I’m hoping for the latter, that baby steps will matter. I envision CrunchySoul.com as a place to explore all these questions and ultimately to become more confident, more thoughtful, more knowledgeable, more empowered, more outspoken, and more conscientious about the environment.  I think this is especially important for black people who are frequently affected by environmental and closely related economic issues but are underrepresented in the “Green” movement.  Well, you have to start with small steps and big dreams.  I just hope to never get shrill or judgmental about environmentalism.  That’s not what I’m about.  I just want to learn and document and share what I learn.

Interior design and landscaping

You ever watch Househunters on HGTV?  You ever see those people who look at a house and say, “It’s okay but we would really need to redo the whole kitchen and all the bathrooms before we could move in.” Then, one month later the show visits them and they’ve moved in, painted, renovated, had new furniture delivered and hung custom artwork?  Well, that is most certainly not me or Big G.  We were just psyched to move in. Then we started a ritual of daydreaming and planning what we could do with the house.  Then we never executed the plans.  We’d toss around new ideas — we still do, but not much changes.

And here we are almost four years into our house.  Meanwhile, the walls remain stark, the clutter is growing exponentially, patches of dirt are multiplying in the yard.  The previous owner’s fruit-motif curtains and generic blinds still cover the windows, weeds are sprouting up between the landscaping rocks, tree limbs hang ominously over the house.

Here are those infamous inherited fruit curtains.

I could blame it on lack of money, lack of time, lack of energy, lack of skill — to some extent these are all true.  But honestly, at heart, I think my true problem is fear — of messing up, of having to start over, of not being able to execute the vision in my head.  This fear keeps me frozen, and I need to break out of this rut.  I’m hoping to look deep within to find a little creativity, a an adventurous spirit, some determination, ingenuity and focus to get some things done around here.  Perhaps I’m crazy to blog about it, but then again the level of accountability might be just what I need to move from a dreamer to a doer and to make this home  feel like mine.

Gardening

I have a burgeoning interest in gardening, and a fundamental belief that those slow-food, local harvest, sustainable gardening folks are on to something quite lovely.  It just makes sense to me.  I would love to join this movement, to know the joy and toil that goes into producing food for my family, to teach my kids to appreciate where their food comes from, to know with certainty that no pesticides or GMOs are going into my body. Assuming I ever overcome the landscaping hurdle, the next step is definitely a garden in our little plot of (patchy) earth.

So, as you can see, I have high hopes for CrunchySoul.com.  Some of these focus areas overlap, and I will also expect to blog about my random interests every once in a while.  I expect it to be a wild — or at least compelling– ride and I hope you’ll join me.

Hello world!

Hello everyone!  Welcome to the launch of CrunchySoul.com.  This is a blog that explores my fascination with handmade and homemade things, including crafting, sewing, cooking, repurposing, upcycling, gardening and whatever else I get a mind to try.  I’m a newbie at a lot of this — no expert by any means.  So I plan to share what I learn, mistakes and all.  I hope you come along for the ride as I attempt to live more simply, sustainably, and purposefully. 

It is my hope that readers of my blog will come away inspiration to tackle their own projects (because, trust me, if I can do it, you probably can too!), learn a new skill, or get an idea to use a product in an innovative way.  And sometimes I hope to just make you think about something you hadn’t considered or maybe just smile.