Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Happy Halloween Again!

I've got a few things in queue, but until I get those organized, I need your help again with the

4th Annual Halloween Pumpkin Carving Contest!

Every year, my husbands family battle it out with pumpkin carving prowess to see who is the most creative/funny of all. The winner gets bragging rights, which is as good as cash to them (I include myself in that statement). If you get a chance, please click on the link which brings you to the contest page on my husbands burger site. The votes will be tallied on Halloween night.

Have a safe and happy Halloween!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

New coffee table

My husband and I made a rustic coffee table with plans found at http://ana-white.com/ and we LOVE it! If you do not have a miter saw, Home Depot will cut the wood for you. Then all you have to do is follow the plans and drill in the screws to put it together. While sanding we rounded some edges and put some grooves it it to make it look worn, then finished it with Early American stain and a satin clear finish. Ana's site has a lot of cool furniture plans and they are all free so check it out!

Ghastlies Reversible Place Mats

I had a little time this weekend to work on a project and so I went for these. They are incredibly easy to make and useful. So, they are a good project when you are short on time. I had been wanting to use this adorable fabric, The Ghastlies by Alexander Henrey. It came out last year, but you can still find it online in a few shops.

I made these reversible so that I could use these all year (per Adam's recommendation. He doesn't like to have a lot of stuff in a box that you only get out once a year. A good point.)

The Stuff
1 yard fabric for front or 4 fat quarters
1 yard fabric for back or 4 fat quarters
2 yards Peltex #70 by Pellon
any embelishments you like (I used Ric Rac, 1 pkg for each mat, 4 total)

The How-To:
Cut fabric for the front and back of mats 19"x14" (or 1" squared larger than you want the finished product to be).
Cut #70 into 4 pieces 18"x13"

Make sure you wash the fabric before you begin. This is important for place mats because you will almost definitely need to wash them later and the fabric will shrink and make the place mats wonky.
Place a front and back piece right sides together and sew around with a 1/2" seam allowance, leaving an 8" opening for inserting the Peltex pieces. Turn right sides out. To insert Peltex, roll up and insert, then flatten and work into corners. Sew the opening closed. Because the Peltex will roll a bit from being bound in a bolt, iron the mats with a steam iron and they flatten out in seconds.
To give the finishing touch, sew a 1/4" seam allowance around the mats. If you are using Ric Rac, attach it at this point.

this is based on a pattern from Amy Butler's In Stitches
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Thursday, August 12, 2010

Christmas Cookies!

Ok - so Christmas is over but I made these cookies a while back and the technique is what is important here: Royal Icing. That is how you get those smooth, beautiful designs on cookies. It dries quite hard so the designs stay, but it is still soft enough to eat. A quick google search will bring up many recipes. Look for ones that use pasteurized egg whites vs. meringue powder, such as Alton Brown's. You can use different extracts for flavor. Also, powdered or gel food coloring is best.

Adjust the thickness of the recipe with water. Add more for an even spread such as in the solid green cookies above. Leave out water for a thicker consistency and more control for detailed work, such as the dots on the cookie on the far right. The one on the bottom with the blue dot right in the middle of the cookie had too much water in the blue icing and the dot became more of a blob.
It was really fun and easy to work with. The icing is very forgiving. I also used silver edible beads to decorate.

I think I will be making some heart-shaped cookies come February!

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Chocolate-covered Marshmallow Cookies

I made these tonight and they made my husband really happy. The recipe is very simple, only makes about 15 cookies, and is rather quick to make. It is a sort of s'more meets moon pie. I also think they would be fun to tamper with. For example, they look so mysterious its hard to tell exactly what's in there. I might try to add a dollop of peanut butter, perhaps a few drops of peppermint axtract in the chocolate, or use marshmallow cream next time.

It is also fun to do a google image search and see others' creative take on this crowd-pleasin' cookie. Recipe is from the Sept 2010 Everyday Food by Martha Stewart. And it is also below for you. :)
1/4 cup plus 2 T e/ flour, whole-wheat flour
1/4 t e/ baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon
3 T unsalted butter at room temp.
3 T light-brown sugar
1 large egg
9 large marshmallows, halved
9 oz (2 c) semisweet chocolate chopped (or choc. chips)

350 degrees. Whisk dry ingredients in a bowl. in another bowl beat butter and sugar for about 4 min or until light. Add egg and beat to combine. Gradually add flour mix. Drop dough tablespoonfuls onto parchment lined cookie sheet 3" apart. Dip bottom of a measuring cup in flour and flatten cookies to about 2" in diameter. Bake until dry and set, about 7 minutes. Remove from oven, top each cookie with a marshmallow half and bake until soft, about 2-3 minutes. Flatten the marshmallows with a spatula. Let cool completely on sheet on cooling rack. Melt the chocolate in a deep bowl. Coat the cookie, using a fork to lift it out and tap on the edge of the bowl to remove excess chocolate. Place back on parchment lined cookie sheet and refrigerate for 10 minutes. YUM!
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Strawberries and Cream

Inspired by Jen's recipe for berry sorbet (which is quite delicious and I have some in my freezer right now) I found this recipe for a strawberry version that uses sweetened condensed milk . . . and let me tell you this is so good. Period. I was just eating it out of the bowl before I ever put it in the freezer. I mean this is lip-smackin' strawberry heaven. So easy and is simply a must try. The recipe can be found here. And I can be found in the corner of my house, the spoon in bowl, dollop in my mouth, and crushing anyone with a mad stare who dares to feign a bite. Is that a bit strong? Just make your own and we can all be happy.

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Hand-stamped Muslin Ribbon

I finally got my ribbon in the mail yesterday from French Country 1908 and they are gorgeous! I will use them to wrap up Christmas gifts this year, and I might add the top, gown one to a dress project . . . we will see.

Looking at them in person made me think I might be able to make more myself. I did a bit of a google search and found this tutorial. There were others as well.

Now I just need to find out what type of glue she uses to attach the bling and then I'm all set to make more of my own. Any suggestions?

In the French Country 1908 shop she also makes gift bags, candles, and other goodies. You should check it out. Apparently she even has a deal with a NY shop to sell her items.
FYI, because they are being shipped from Canada they take a bit longer to get here. I got mine just over 2 weeks from when I ordered them and she quoted me 2-3 weeks.

If any of you have ideas on embellishing on this craft I'd love to hear them!
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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Getting ready for baby!

My new niece is almost here!

Thanks to the infant dress pattern and the onesie idea from rebecca, I was able to make my own little dresses and onesies for baby emma. I just had to post them because they all came out so cute.

Look how cute the hearts and stitching is on this onesie that my mom did. Such a cute idea.

Picnic Blanket

For a while I have been keeping my eyes open for a good use for some oilcloth. There are always lunch bags, etc. but I don't really need one and I wanted to make something useful. I found a free pattern by Amy Butler called, Laminated Picnic Blanket with Carrying Case, and it struck a chord with me. I hate bringing out even our old blankets and getting them full of sticker burs and other roughage. And where I am from it rains a lot, so there is always a chance that the dampness will seep through and wet our little bums. So, for me this pattern was a bit of inspiration.

I found this lovely Japanese oilcloth at the local Sew Crafty. It is from the line Echino by Etsuko Furuya.

It matched perfectly with this fabric I already had from the same line called Border Print Grassy Plain that I got at the International Quilt Festival last year. It has been sitting in my "must find something good for this fabric soon" pile for almost a year.

Anyway, I did not really follow the instructions, just saw her idea and jumped right in. But this is not one of those projects I am going to say is "so easy" or "you could whip this up in no time." I hated working on this project. Oil cloth was so not easy to work with! I even bought a special pressure foot and everything. But, it is done. It works. And it is as cute as I hoped it would be, even though I was pulling out my hair the whole time.

I even made my own little carrying case. I cut a strip 2 inches longer than the circumference of the rolled up blanket and sewed Velcro at each end. Then, I made some bias tape for the handle and attached it to one end. I added a button hole to the other end. When the case is wrapped around the bundle and velcroed shut, the handle slips through the button hole, making it nice and secure. I think the picture gives better detail than my explanation.

If anyone has tips on working with this beastly fabric, I'd love to hear them.
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Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Japanese Dress Making, a,b: Part 1

I fell in love with this fabric and finally decided on a dress pattern I thought would compliment the beautiful design - something not too busy so that the focus is more on the print than the pattern. The pattern came from the Japanese dress book: Stylish Dress Book, most likely found on etsy.com

I really like the selvage edges of fabric and think it is a shame they are so often trimmed off and thrown out. I thought it would be fun to include it in my dress. It adds a token of who made the fabric and I thought it added an appropriate modern look to the neckline. I added a slightly raised boat neck to the dress as well, which is done with a really thick binding. I thought this also helped to bring in an element of elegance. This way the dress is swanky enough for a date, elegant enough for church and casual enough to go shopping in.

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Japanese Dress Making a,b: Part 2

I added my favorite grosgrain to accent the skirt of the dress as well as on the sleeves.

The dress pattern came from dress a which is a simple a-line pattern. I added a drop waist by sewing swimsuit elastic to the inside, to help give the shape we westerners appreciate.

The sleeves were from dress, or top, b which are my favorite sleeves in the whole book. They are made of 2 parts: a top form-fitting piece attached to the lower piece which bubbles out a bit with a gathering. It is an elegant 3/4 sleeve length which can easily be lengthened if desired.
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Monday, July 19, 2010

Guest-Room Slippers

Taking a break from Amy Butler's In Stitches I finally completed these little house shoes. The pattern is found in Weekend Sewing by Heather Ross. I started these about a month ago, intending them to be the project that would ease me back into sewing upon returning from our trip. They took no time at all, I was nearly done when I got to the soles. The soles, as pictured below, are made from felted wool for durability. It is a great idea. I really was all for having a sole on my slippers, until I read the how-to. I was supposed to attach it with a nice attractive and decorative blanket-stitch. I had never done it before, thought, "how hard could it be," and made my first attempt at it on my precious shoes. Disaster. It was horrendous! In the end I ditched the idea of having a thick sole; "Who needs a decent protective sole on their shoes," I questioned to no one in particular. I set the shoes on my nightstand, and there they remained for a hole month. They tried on a new hat and became my personal coasters for a while. And one day last week, clearing away a few papers, I noticed my sad little slippers doing a job that just wasn't in their hearts. They were born to shod my feet and i knew right then and there that I needed to restore them to their rightful place. Disregarding the rules, I abandoned the blanket-stitch (it is not a very attractive stitch, after all), and used a tried-and-true straight stitch, recalling a method used once before. Perfect. These two were made for each other.

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Sunday, July 18, 2010

Amy Butler's Wide-Leg Lounge Pants

Right now I am loving pairing pastels, especially soft purples, with black and I wanted an excuse to use this combination. I decided to make these super comfy lounge pants from Amy Butler's In Stitches. Adam looooves them! I am not sure why, they look kind of dorky on me, but he thinks they are the bees knees. :)

These are perfectly cozy & roomy. They are breezy while still keeping you warm; the perfect combination for hot weather outside, and the a/c going inside.

The pattern comes together pretty quickly and easily. However, I did make one change. The pattern says to make a drawstring out of the fabric, insert it into the two buttonholes in the front of the pants - and then you're done. Well, being a connosieur of comfy pants, I knew exactly what I wanted. For me, comfy lounge pants means one thing: an elastic waist. So, first I left about a 1 1/2" opening at the seam where the drawstring would go (the seam at the waist). Then I took a piece of no-roll 1" elastic and placed it around my waist and measured it. I added one inch to that length, cut it off, attached a safety pin to one end and fed the piece into the opening, threaded it around the waist and back out the same opening. I stitched the 2 ends together with a 1/2" seam allowance. Then I stitched the opening closed. Next, I inserted purple ribbon through one button hole and out the other, using a safety pin. This finishes the look with a cute accent!
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French Seam

This is a seam I learned recently and I have found it very useful. It is not appropriate for all projects, however, when you can use it, I highly recommend it. It adds a great finished and professional look to your projects.

The French Seam is comprised of only two straight stitches and creates a finished seam. It is ideal to use especially if you do not have a serger or an over-locking stitch, or similar, on your sewing machine. It also uses far less thread than serging or over-locking and is much quicker.

To begin, take your two pieces of fabric and place them WRONG sides together. Sew the edges together with a seam allowance of half of what the pattern allows. For example, if your pattern has a seam allowance of 1/2", then sew 1/4". Pictured below is an example. I sewed these 2 pieces of fabric Wrong sides together at a 1/4" seam.

Next, iron the seam open, pictured below. It may seam like a good step to skip, but it really helps to create a smooth finished seam.

Now fold the two pieces at the seam with RIGHT sides facing. You can iron at this point, if you wish:

Finally, sew along the seam 1/4" from the edge (a 1/4" seam allowance). This gives you a total of 1/2" seam allowance used. The finished seam has all raw edges tucked nicely inside the two pieces and out of sight. I really love this new technique. It is not always the most appropriate "serging" option, so I recommend reading through all the instructions first to make sure that it will not get in the way before using it. For example, I just made some drawstring bags and because of a few steps where you actually go in and open the seam at 2 points, and insert the drawstring, this type of seam would have really been a nuisance to deal with.

Anyway, if this stitch is new for you, I hope you find it useful!

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Sunday, July 11, 2010

Berry Sorbet

In the July issue of Martha Stewart, she had a recipe card for raspberry sorbet. It is the easiest thing I have ever made with such a high pay-off.

Pulse 12 oz of frozen berries in food processor. Mix together 1/4 cup sugar and 1/4 cup water until sugar dissolves. Add to berries and pulse until smooth. Put it in an air tight container for at least 30 minutes. Serve with homemade whipped cream. Makes about 4 servings.

I've made this twice now, once with raspberries and once with a triple berry mixture. Both so very good. The raspberry sorbet is a gorgeous, bright color and is very tart, which I love. The triple berry is sweeter and very tasty. I bought a large bag of frozen berries, made three batches, and put them in the same container to keep in the freezer. I plan on having some of this in my freezer at all times this summer.

(This is the triple berry sorbet. Pictures aren't great. It was nighttime and we have a dark house.)

Friday, July 9, 2010

4th of July Triple Berry Pie!

*** Stars ***
I got this idea from the Martha Stewart Living magazine for July 2010 (or was it June? July makes more sense). I made a strawberry, blackberry, and raspberry filling that I sort of made up based on other recipes. I found these tiny star cookie cutters from Williams Sonoma on sale and this pie turned out so darn cute! The red boiling over only added to the festive look of this pie. Most importantly, it tasted delicious! This triple combination of berries was so tasty. I used all fresh berries. I highly recommend trying it before the summer is over.
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Japanese Dress Making: Part 2

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