Friday, May 28, 2010

sewing for kiddos!

hannah has no shortage of clothes, and certainly no shortage of cute clothes. she probably has more clothes than i do. so of course, i needed to make her some more. because what if she ripped all those up and then had to go naked?? (maybe not such a bad thing... naked babies are awfully cute!)

kiddo clothes are FABULOUS. this might be my favorite sewing ever! they are fast and easy and there is virtually no fitting involved because kiddos don't have curves, and the curves they do have are generally fit with elastic. NICE. if you make something too big - OOPS - well, she'll grow into it. and you get to use all sorts of fun prints and do fun things that you'd never do for an adult.

i was not going to sew for her until she was bigger and everyone stopped by massive quantities of clothes for her... and then i found this beautiful paisley cotton. it's actually the same paisey as this dress, only in a different color scheme. besides the fabric, this was largely a free project as i had all the notions and the patterns came from my stash. my idea was light clothing that she could wear during the hot summer that would be easy mix-and-match.

most of the ensemble came from mccall's 5304 - that pattern gave me the hat, pink collared top, paisley top, paisley "capri" pants, denim cuffed shorts, and the bloomers for the dress. (the shorts are the capris just cut shorter with a contrasting cuff added.) the romper is an old discontinued mccall's pattern 8294, which i'm not 100% thrilled with - there's a lot of fullness at the sides and it looks kind of blousy and funny on her. it should be an easy fix except that i flat-felled all the seams with pink topstitching, so i have to pick out all that topstitching just to take in the seam and then re-topstitch it all.

the sundress and tunic came from another old discontinued pattern, butterick 4020. (the tunic was supposed to be a second sundress, but i cut it too short by accident.) the smallest size in that pattern is a 1 which is WAY too huge for her. i took in an inch on the front and back at the center fold - four inches total - and redrew the neckline to compensate. i also had to insert a keyhole placket in the back so it would fit over her head. i closed it with a small button and a loop of elastic.

remember how i had never done any applique-ing before? turns out kids' clothes look super cute with appliques. OF COURSE THEY DO. one of those patches on the romper is an actual pocket, but the rest are appliques, as is the heart on the tunic. and while my vintage elna doesn't do embroidery per se, it does have some fun stitches that look really cute on kiddo clothes.

speaking of embroidery and appliques, check this out!

that's the leg of a set of overall shorts that i made for a girlfriend's son's first birthday. they'll be too big for him now but he can grow into them. here's the overalls in their entirety (along with the little tee shirt i made to go with them).

i found a local embroidery shop that was willing to do my small little order, so i had the back of them embroidered as well. i wanted to do the words curling out of the back of the car like exhaust, but that would have taken more time and money and effort than i was willing to put in. this was really reasonable ($6!) especially given that everything else in this project except for the green buttons came from my stash, so it was free. the pattern was butterick 3961 (old, discontinued) though the car applique i harvested from the mccall's romper pattern.

i love these so much that i almost wish hannah were a boy, so she could wear them. who says boy clothes aren't fun?!

Friday, May 21, 2010

busy like a bee

wow. blogging seems to be just one of those things that has fallen off the table. this whole parenting thing sure takes a lot of time and energy. sheesh.

hannah turned one! ohmygosh, i am the mother of a toddler now. the original plan was to make a little cake for her to smash on her birthday, and then get a cake for her party a few days later. sam's club does small (6-inch?) cakes with "matching" cupcakes, which i thought was awesome because i wouldn't have to cut and serve cake. then - on the day of her birthday, good planning, mom! - i decided to see if i could manage cake decorating. as in, fancy cake decorating. as in, buttercream and piping (well, not much) and fondant and gum paste.

please note: i have never. ever. EVER. decorated a cake before.

but... there are bigger idiots than me who decorate cakes, right? (exhibit a: cake wrecks. i couldn't do much worse than that, right?) i mean, i'm a reasonably intelligent person and relatively crafty.

in the end it was actually surprisingly easy. (see, bigger idiots than me can do it too!) i did cheat and used store-bought fondant and gum paste mix (and i actually even cheated and used a buttercream icing mix so that i didn't have to make a separate trip to the grocery store). i picked everything up at joann's (though i hear this stuff is cheaper at wal-mart) as well as gel color and a small set of cookie cutters.

i was kind of scared to use fondant, but it was easy. maybe it gets a bad reputation because it is difficult to make? you just roll it out like pie dough, roll it over the cake (which gets pre-frosted with buttercream so the fondant will stick), and smooth it down and trim off the excess. the only problem i had was smoothing it down at the base of the cake, which is why there are small gathers... which i kind of think looks cute anyways.

the flowers, butterflies, and leaves are made of gum paste. after i made the mix, i just kneaded in a little bit of gel color and then rolled it out flat like cookie dough. i used the flower and butterfly cookie cutters to stamp out those shapes and cut the leaves with a knife. i used the end of a toothpick to make the veins in the leaves and the little slashes on the petals. i molded the flowers around a large rounded frosting tip and set them to dry on the tips of a bottle drying rack, and twisted and molded the leaves and set them on the counter to dry. the butterflies i just bent in half and set them over an accordion-pleated piece of cardstock to dry.

i piped a little bit of green buttercream frosting around the bottom edge in a squiggle to cover up my messy trimming job and to give the flowers and such a place to stick. when the gum paste decorations were dry, i used a little buttercream to "glue" them in place, piping in the "centers" of the flowers, and piped the writing on the top. i think i need to practice my writing a bit.

now that i know better, i should have used royal icing to glue on the decorations. apparently the fat in buttercream makes the gum paste soften. it wasn't so bad with the flowers, but by the next day the butterfly on the top had fallen flat. oh, well.

i was so impressed with myself that i decided hannah was not allowed to touch the cake until her party. that way i didn't have to buy a cake, and we just baked cupcakes to go with them.

for the cupcakes, i just made a bunch of extra gum paste decorations. i filled a frosting bag up with buttercream and cut the tip off so there was a relatively generous hole and piped it on in a spiral. it was really easy to do. then i stuck the decorations on. the night before, i had also piped a bunch of little buttercream flowers for the butterfly cupcakes. i piped them onto a wax-paper-lined cookie sheet and let them dry, then "glued" them on with buttercream.

brian's birthday is next month, so i am planning to try my hand at cake decorating again. this was pretty easy and fun and i was very happy with the results, so hopefully brian's cake will be fabulous too!

what have you been up to lately?

Monday, March 29, 2010

2010 to-do list: the duvet issue

ohmygosh, my sister is getting married!!!

okay, whew. now that i have that out of the way and i can breathe again (i am SO excited!!), here's my latest project: snaps on the guest room duvet. i can check something else off my 2010 to-do list. it didn't end up exactly how i had envision it, but i like this better, i think.

the goal was to sew ties into the corners of the guest room duvet and then buttonholes into the comforter itself, so the ties could be threaded through the buttonholes and the comforter wouldn't shift around in the duvet. this is one of my biggest pet peeves and i picked up that little trick from martha stewart years ago and filed it away in my mind, and ever since i upcycled my old twin comforter this has been on my list of things to do. but then, my mom went and bought herself a snap press and didn't love it as much as she thought she would. it's on extended loan at my house right now and very handy. i mean, who doesn't love a snap?

first, i set the male end of the snap onto a piece of sturdy grosgrain ribbon and then snipped it so i had a little snapped tab. then i sewed it into the duvet.

(blogger is not letting me upload pictures, or else you could see what i did. i know, snaps are SO EXCITING, you're all dying for photos. take it up with google.)

then i set the female end of the snap directly onto the comforter itself. the comforter gets snapped to the little tabs, and stays in place. the tabs give the comforter a little bit of movement while still keeping it in place. there are four tabs in the guest room duvet (two at the top and two at the sides near the top). i love this so much, i ended up putting tabs into two of the master bedroom duvets as well.

in other news, i've been on a spring cleaning/organization tear. i built a workbench in the garage (more on that later) and hung shelves in my laundry room and in the guest room closet. i took an entire trunkful of crap stuff to goodwill and made $100 selling some other stuff on craigslist. my current project is fabric organization: i discovered when cleaning out that (GASP) i have WAYYYY too much fabric. i never thought those words would ever cross my lips, but there it is. so sometime this week we shall see how much fabric i can part with, and it'll go up on the etsy shop, and maybe i'll make a little more money. fingers crossed.

now, go congratulate my sister!

Monday, March 8, 2010

magazine rack

every year around this time, all the fantasy baseball magazines come out, and brian has to buy them all. every single one. most of them live in the magazine basket in the downstairs bathroom, but one or two or four inevitably migrate upstairs into the water closet in our master bath. generally they live on the floor until the following year (because you can't discard them once the season is over, because... um... well, i'm not really sure why) although sometimes they manage to hop up onto the back of the toilet and compete for space with the reed diffuser, which generally loses and finds its way up onto the windowsill.

i hate this migration. with a passion. it is so messy and cluttery and annoying and everything is always in my way. besides, i'm not really sure what we need with FOURTEEN baseball magazines, but he would probably same the same thing about my closetful of fabric. which everyone knows is a necessity because what if the power went out during a snowstorm, HOW WOULD WE STAY WARM.

but i digress. here is the point of all this ranting and rambling:

yes folks, i built that! this weekend! i had been looking for months for a small, wall-mounted, wooden magazine rack, but everything i found was either too office-y or in the ballpark of $39 and up. for a magazine rack. to hold magazines. glossy, bound, pieces of paper with pictures and writing that only cost $4.95.

this cost me $4. four dollars.

let me repeat that: FOUR DOLLARS. AMERICAN.

i built it out of primed mdf trim that i picked up at home depot, and a dowel that i cut to size. the trim is sold by the linear foot for something like 69c/lf. i don't know, that might be expensive when it comes to baseboards for an entire house, but since i only needed 3-4 feet, it was great for me. i slipped a piece of quarter-round into the bottom so the magazines wouldn't slide out the front, and the dowel pieces are slipped into little holes i drilled into the sides. a little glue and some tiny nails from my staple/nail gun, and some spackle to fill in the cracks, and i was ready to paint it. i would have preferred wood stained to match our cabinetry, but i don't have the tools or skills to make anything pretty enough to be stained. the paint is touch-up paint for our trim, so it goes with the house perfectly.

i am so ridiculously proud of this. i want to sit in my bathroom forever just to look at it.

this is my parents' legacy to me, and hopefully to hannah also: if you can't find what you want, then just build it, sew it, scrap it, knit it, craft it, cook it, bake it, make it.

Monday, February 22, 2010

fake mousse yummy thing

i have no idea what this is called and unfortunately i don't have a photo of it, but trust me when i say it is a bowl of delicious goodness. it is a dessert, kind of like a mousse, but fruity and so easy as to be cheating. has anyone made this and know what it is called? i got the recipe from a girlfriend, who referred to it as "that jello-pudding-fruit yummy thing."

1 package vanilla cook-and-serve pudding mix
1 package sugar-free fruit jell-o (flavor is your choice)
1 tub light cool-whip
chopped or sliced fruit

the pudding mix and jell-o packages need to be the same size. if you use a small package of each, you would use the small (8 oz.) tub of cool-whip. if you use a large package of pudding and jall-o, you would use the larger (16 oz.) tub of cool whip. i used one 12 oz. package of frozen berries when i made this with the large packages of pudding and jell-o, but i think in the future i'd use two. there was not enough fruit in it. you can also use canned fruit, but be sure to drain it first.

substitute water for milk (amount is according to pudding mix) and bring to a boil. stir in the pudding mix and the jell-o mix, remove from heat, and allow to cool but not set. fold in cool-whip, and then fold in fruit. chill.

i made mine with mixed berries and raspberry jell-o; i had it originally with strawberry jell-o and sliced strawberries. my girlfriend makes hers usually with lime jell-o and canned pineapple. it really is fabulous. i can't stop eating it.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

my very own farm box!

one of the things on my 2010 to-do list was fill the planter box with dirt and plant a garden. well, it's finally happened! okay, the garden itself is not planted, but everything is ready to go for it and it WILL be planted in a couple weeks.

i decided to do square foot gardening because i had read that the garden stays virtually weed-free and that you can get a LOT of produce out of a small space. i did my garden on the cheap, though. you can spend a lot of money through that website, but i am not a devoted follower so i didn't. i filled the planter box with a mixture of compost, a few bags of garden soil picked up on the cheap from our local nursery, and some free sandy dirt that i found on craigslist.

then it was time to make my squares. according to mel, the grid is what makes square foot gardening work. i think it helps to keep you visually and mentally organized. i used household string and a staple gun to make my grid. i plan to plant two squares of swiss chard, two squares of bell peppers, two squares of zucchini, and two squares of indeterminate tomatoes across the back. in the front squares, i have planned a square of regular parsley, a square of italian parsley, two squares of basil, a square of thyme, a square of chives, and two squares of carrots.

i started my plants from seed. i bought a humidity dome (cheap) and some peat pellets. carrots, zucchini, and peppers will be sown directly into the soil, but everything else was started in here. i also started some roma tomatoes, to go in a large pot on our patio. romas make a bush instead of a vine, so they will be nicer in the pot than in the bed crowding out other plants, and they will look pretty when they are caged.

i also needed a trellis for the peppers, tomatoes, and zucchini. i was going to buy some, but my father suggested building one would be cheaper. for about $6 in lumber, this is what i built.

i used 2x2 furring strips for the main vertical pieces, and 1x2 furring strips for the cross-brace and side braces. then i cut small notches on the outside every 12 inches, and wrapped garden wire around the vertical pieces, in the notches. the trellis does not go all the way across the box because i only need it for six squares (two each of tomatoes, peppers, and zucchini) and also because it would block the guest bedroom window.

see those little rectangles in the front of my box? those are my labels! originally i wanted to use large popsicle sticks or wooden tongue depressors, but the craft store was out of them. these are 2x3-inch wooden rectangles that i found in the wooden craft aisle of the craft store. they were 29c each and i only needed eight (seven for here and one for my pot of romas). i wrote the names of the plants on them with a permanent marker and then tacked them on with the staple gun. i think they will be easy to pry off next year. the one for the romas i will glue to a skewer or something so it can be stuck in the dirt of the pot.

in a couple of weeks my seedlings will be ready to be hardened off and planted in the box, and then i will have to start the long impatient wait until i can harvest. i have been learning a lot about gardening, more than i ever thought was possible!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

2010 to-do list: in progress

i have been a bad blogger lately. i'm sorry. often i feel that there is not much interesting going on around here. we have been getting our farm boxes, and i love them still. and i am trying to make some very positive changes in my life.

one of the biggest changes i am trying to make is to be more disciplined. since that is kind of a vague goal, i defined it somewhat in my 2010 to-do list (aka new year's resolutions). specifically, i said i wanted to create and maintain a household management schedule and plan meals weekly and keep our grocery bill down. (i know "down" sounds kind of nebulous too, but trust me, there is a dollar amount attached to it as well.) so far i have been succeeding at both though i am hesitant to cross them off the list as "done" just yet. it's still early in the year.

my household management schedule was pretty simple. i am basically an overgrown five-year-old, and i like getting gold stars when i do things. so i made myself a chore chart and broke it down by day. this is what my week looks like:

monday: indoor chores
- wash sheets
- sweep tile
- mop tile
- vacuum
- clean toilets
- clean bathroom sinks
- clean upstairs shower (the others get used very rarely)
- dust
- bring in garbage cans
- water plants

tuesday: outdoor chores
- mow lawns
- trim roses
- pull weeds
- edge lawns
- sweep front porch
- sweep garage
- spa chemicals

- laundry
- iron brian's work shirts
- menu-planning/grocery list
- pick up csa box

- grocery shopping

it became a lot more manageable when i realized that "running" the house is really just a lot of little tiny chores. cleaning the house is this huge big thing and where do you even start, but how long does scrubbing a toilet really take. i pull a bucketful of weeds each week, and they stay under control and i don't break my back. this way i also have three days "off" at the end of the week, when my chores are all done, though lately i've been doing my grocery shopping on wednesdays while we're out getting the csa box, so i've been getting four off days, which came in handy when the lawn was too wet to mow last tuesday.

getting the csa box is also forcing me to be more disciplined. we are eating healthier and i am forced to plan meals and shop with a grocery list, which is keeping our grocery bill down. it's still not under my target budget, but i'm working on that. i feel guilty letting all that good food go to waste (although we have gotten butternut squash four weeks in a row and while i like it, i'm getting kind of tired of it), so i have to plan for it. otherwise what would i have done with the turnips that were in last week's box, because we don't eat turnips on a regular basis. i have to plan for something to do with them.

so that is how i am doing on my new year's resolutions, so far. one of my other resolutions, to plant a garden, is coming along quite nicely and i will have pictures to share soon. i'm pretty excited about it. how are your new year's resolutions panning out?

Friday, January 29, 2010


i think i'm kind of geeking out on the whole farm box thing. i love it more than words can say. it's kind of ridiculous. wednesdays are now one of my favorite days of the week, because we go get the farm box that day. tuesdays are also exciting because i get to find out what will be in the farm box that day. kind of lame, i know, but that's me.

this week we got collard greens, dumpling squash, broccoli, leeks, potatoes, a celery root, and navel oranges. we were also supposed to get some cayenne peppers, but there were none in our box. i looked in one of the other boxes and they were in a small bag, so i guess i could have taken a different box and gotten some, but i am a total wuss don't eat spicy stuff so it wasn't really a loss to me. i wouldn't really know what to do with them anyway, because apparently according to the scoville scale they're pretty hot, only a step or two down from habaneros, and what do you do with a pepper that hot?

the collards got braised with bacon and were so. good. i just love collards, and pretty much any green. (i have not yet developed a taste for kale though i have tried hard because i know it is so good for you, sigh.) there is also potato-leek soup in our future, of course. i'm such a foodie, i know. it's ridiculous.

in other news, i got all my chores done this week, every single last one of them! crazy, but this is an accomplishment for me. generally there are one or two things i let go until the next week, or the week after that, or... . this week, i did everything. this is part of my goals for this year. it's kind of silly how i made myself do it, i'll yap about that later, but the important thing is I DID IT. i'm going to go give myself a treat now.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

today's farm box

i am so deliciously excited for what we got today:

carrots, red leaf lettuce, two heads of cabbage, three oranges, green garlic, a butternut squash, red chard, and a large bunch of arugula. we were in san diego last week visiting family and my mother sent me home with another butternut squash, so now there is one for hannah and one for us, which means we are all lucky.

i'm pretty sure i'm getting my $17 worth each week. (plus, i just paid in advance for three months instead of paying monthly, which brings my weekly cost down to $16.50. hooray!) and this week, we did not even get lost. we had a bit of an adventure picking up our first box two weeks ago, but this week i was an old pro and got us there just fine. it even stopped raining long enough for us to get the box no problem.

as jenny mentioned a while back, one of my hopes in joining a csa is that we would be putting a bit more variety onto our dinner table. one thing we got in our last box that i never buy is a celery root (celeriac). i used it once before in a root vegetable soup. i brought it down to san diego with me and my mother, uncle, and i all sampled it raw. we jokingly called it a "celery carrot" because it tastes like celery, but has the texture of a carrot. we ended up dicing it, steaming it, and then sauteing it with other vegetables and tossing it with pasta, olive oil, and cheese. yum!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

fresh from the farm

we joined a csa, and got our first box today! if you don't know already, csa stands for community-supported agriculture. we pay a fee each [week, in our case] to the farm and in return get a box of seasonal produce. the one we joined is called full belly farm, which i just love. this is what we got for our first box:

carrots, broccoli, beets, onions, celery root, and mandarins. the mandarins were THE BEST i have ever tasted. ohmyheaven they were good. yes, they are gone now. there was also a good-sized butternut squash that i forgot to put in the picture.

we have a recipe (two actually) from the farm for a couple yummy soups that use the celery root. i am looking forward to that. the beets though... i'm a bit perplexed there. good thing there are only three. i am not particularly fond of beets. i did find a recipe for roasted pesto beets, so we'll see.

Monday, January 4, 2010


hopefully hannah will be like me and love fruit desserts and such, because i made this blueberry pudding cake for breakfast on new year's day and would like it to become a tradition. brian is not big on fruit stuff. on the other hand, even if she doesn't, it just means more for me, and it is not difficult for me to eat the entire thing all by myself. over the course of a couple days, obviously, what kind of glutton do you take me for?

this is so insanely delicious and easy too. and the best part is, it is all stuff i always have in my house. well, not the whole milk, but i just use 1%. i usually have frozen blueberries on hand for smoothies, and that is pretty much the only "strange" ingredient. i found this recipe a couple years ago in an issue of gourmet magazine, i think, and oh my heavens is it ever good. yum yum yum.

blueberry pudding cake
serves 6-8 (breakfast or dessert)

1/3 c. plus ½ c. sugar
¼ c. water
1 T. lemon juice
1 tsp. cornstarch
10 oz. blueberries (2 c.)
1 c. flour
1¾ tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 egg
½ c. whole milk
1 stick (½ c.) butter, melted
1 tsp. vanilla

preheat oven to 375º and butter a 9-inch square baking pan. in a saucepan, stir together 1/3 c. sugar with water, lemon juice, and cornstarch, then stir in blueberries. bring to a simmer, then simmer 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. remove from heat. whisk together egg, milk, butter, and vanilla in a large bowl. whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, and remaining ½ c. sugar, then stir into the wet ingredients, whisking until just combined. spoon batter into the baking pan, spreading evenly. pour blueberry mixture evenly over batter; berries will sink. bake until a knife inserted into the center of the cake portion comes out clean, about 25-30 minutes. cool 5 minutes.

* my note: i might cut the sugar in the cake portion down to 1/3 c. in the future. it seems a bit sweet to me, almost overwhelmingly so, but not really in a bad way.