Friday, December 30, 2011

Holiday Making

Here are the last of my holiday making photo's - I'm happy to finally be able to share and thrilled to report that all gifts were extremely well received! Is there any bigger bummer than a lukewarm reception to something you've hand made? Not for me.

So this first bag is the Simple and Chic Tote Pattern from Sweet Pea Patterns made up in an Echino print that says (screams really) my sister's name - she said the same thing when she opened it. I lined it in some hot pink Kona and added a fussy cut Echino pocket on the inside.

All the Sweet Pea patterns I've made have been incredibly well written that following them has been a breeze.

What was supposed to be a new camera bag for the hubs with Aboriginal fabric for his upcoming Australia trip - this was bag version C from Elizabeth Hartman's Perfect Zip Bags Pattern. It turned out a little tall for a camera bag, next time I would probably cut the height in half if I was making (attempting) another camera bag. When I first made this pattern I though the way she designed the zipper tabs was incredibly fussy but since the bags have the best looking corners I've ever made I am a complete convert.

Finally, a pin tuck clutch for my sister-in-law. The lining on this is a really pretty deep red Koan and I found a cozy scarf in the exact same color, so it made a nice set. This project came from the book 1,2,3 Sew by Ellen Baker - a book full of well designed projects.

Hopefully your thoughtfully made gifts went over as well as mine :-)

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Post Holiday Baking

Hey there! I hope everyone's holidays were merry and bright. Ours were slightly marred by a nasty cold and cough that kept H lying low - the pediatrician's office wasn't really where we wanted to be Christmas Eve morning but we were thrilled they were there. On the plus side H is on the mend and we're enjoying some post-holiday relaxation and baking. Crazy, right? After just passing the most baking-est holiday of the year too! But today has been a cold, gray winter day with a strong wind "blowin" as H says and it just felt right to do some baking.

I got some non-stick donut pans for my birthday back in October and hadn't tried them out yet. But there are these amazing baked donuts that we get at our local farmer's market that I've been wanting to replicate. This was the first batch - there will definitely be others. The recipe I used was the one that came with the pans:

Spiced Cake Donuts

2 C flour
3 3/4 C sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp salt

Combine all the dry ingredients in a large bowl, mix, then add:

3/4 C milk
2 eggs, beaten
2 tsp. vanilla
1 Tbsp butter, softened

Add the wet ingredients and mix until well blended. We poured the batter into a large ziploc and cut the corner off one edge to pour into the pans. Recipe said 8 - 10 minutes at 325 degrees but they took about 14 minutes in my oven.

Glaze recipe

1 C powdered sugar
2 Tbsp HOT water

Our review was mixed - I think next time I'd up the oven temp to 350 to get the donuts a little more brown. They also seemed a little dry which I think came from the teeny tiny little bit of shortening in them. I added some vanilla to the glaze but it was still super sweet. So like I said, this was the first batch of what will probably several as we try to get the delicious donuts we want. I've seen several recipes for baked donuts on Pinterest that look great and if you have one I'd love a link to it as I keep on testing. Tough research work but someone's got to do it! ;-)

Check back this week as I share some of the holiday making I got done!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Tea Wallet stocking stuffer

I know the person getting this little cutie doesn't read the blog, so I'm safe sharing it.

This was one of those great projects that comes together in about a half hour if you have all the pieces (no worries there, my craft room is like a craft warehouse, ahem). It also looks as good as I hoped it would - so satisfying when something comes out the way you hope it will.

I found this tea wallet tutorial over at Handmade Therapy and it was quick, easy and cute. Love that.

Just in case you need a last last minute gift to sew - I can highly recommend this one.

I have just a teensy bit more to sew tonight and then it's on to the family festivities tomorrow and Sunday. So enjoying spending this time with my sweet family and lovely friends - hope you are too!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Modified "Madras" Tote

OK it's not madras fabric but it IS the Madras Tote pattern from Anna over at Noodlehead - it was the free pattern she posted as part of Grosgrain's fabulous free pattern month. I loved this bag the minute I saw and knew I needed to make one - I know I say that about a lot of bags but this one just looked so easy and fun. Plus it only takes a half yard each for the exterior and lining fabrics - bonus! Using webbing for the straps also cuts down on construction time.

Some little people are getting art supplies to go with a crayon maker (shhh - don't tell them) and I thought it would be fun to make them each a small tote bag to carry their supplies in. My dream is also that they might clean their stuff up into the bags at some point and thrill their mother - it's the season of dreams right? ;-)

I used Anna's directions but scaled the size down a bit - now it seems a bit more proportionate for a 4/5 year.

The measurements I used were:

exterior, lining and canvas interfacing: 14"x14"
pocket pieces: 14"x8"
bias tape: 2.5"x14"
handles: 2 - 20" pieces of cotton webbing (the original pattern tutorial says 14" for straps but the correct size is 24")

The only other change I made was to shorten the length of the gusset (boxed bottom corner) from 2" to 1 1/2". This came together really quickly and easily - Anna always writes and photographs her pattern with exceptional clarity - so I got it done in one very short nap and some extra time the the craft room yelling play suggestions from behind the sewing machine :-) It fits a 9x12 sketchbook in it perfectly and has the two front pockets for other goodies. I think we have a winner!

Now to whip up two more which might be slightly more challenging as the inevitable holiday illness seems to have just shown up in the form of a hot, coughing, puny two-year-old. It's my fault really for tempting fate by thinking just yesterday morning that we were going to all be well for Christmas. At least Daddy's here to help!

Hope your family is all healthy and that they stay that way!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Home Stretch

December is always the hardest month to be a blogger if you're making things to gift - I want to share it all here but what if the person I'm making for actually checks the blog? I don't want the surprise ruined and it seems like that's just bound to happen, thanks to Murphy's Law. So I'm holding off on showing all the gifts I'm making and I'll do a show and tell about those next week. I figure that'll also be a good post-holiday soft landing.

So I finally jumped on the Lined Drawstring Tutorial from Jeni over at In Color Order - I've seen a zillion of these made and just hadn't had the time to make one but I'm thinking about making a couple to "wrap" gifts so I whipped on up yesterday. It is a great pattern, easy to read and use. This is the free "project size" bag from the FREE tutorial she has on her cute blog and I liked it so much I went ahead and bought her pattern. You won't be sorry if you spend the money on it, not only does she include measurements for a TON of different sizes, she also includes the formula to make your own custom size. So this bag was just the right size to hold a small sketchbook and supplies - love it. Can't decide whether to make a couple more of these in the next size up or make Anna Madras Bag to hold gifts for my niece/nephews...but since we're in the home stretch for holiday crafting I guess I'd better figure it out. :-)

About one nano second after I took the picture above the pens were snatched! We have an "H" artist at our house who is loving the ability to "sign" things with her first initial. So we're finding H's big and small on most any and every scrap of paper. Lucky for her I still think it's adorable (note - this feeling will last exactly until I find one on the wall or anywhere is permanent marker).

Hope your week is getting off to a good start and that you have your crafting plan well in hand!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Wheeee winners!

Thanks so much to EVERYONE who stopped by and left a comment - I've had so much fun this week reading your comments and looking at your blogs! I wish everyone could be a winner but I am really excited to share the FIVE winners from this week's posts. I used the Random Number Generator to pick winners but I am not nearly technology savvy enough to copy and paste those images here (maybe next year) so you'll have to trust me, and here they are:

Day 5 - Sarah B., Day 4 - Judi, Day 3 - fenna, Day 2 - javadiva and Day 1 - Jezibel from sproutbaby. Congrats to all of you! I'm getting ready to send you an email asking for your address so if you don't see it leave me a comment or email me. I'll be getting your goodies in the mail to you next week! Thanks again!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Sew Mama Sew Giveaway Day FIVE 2011

Happy Friday everyone - we made it! I don't know about you but this has been such a fun week - I've loved looking through all the great giveaways posted over on the Sew Mama Sew giveaway page. Now I'm just keeping my lucky fingers crossed! I think I've been equally excited about giving fun things away - thanks so much to everyone who has stopped by and commented this week. It's been so fun to read the comments each evening and feel like I'm getting to "know" some new bloggy friends. For me blogging has been all about sharing inspiration and meeting new people and so seeing all these new faces around here this week has been exciting!

On to the last giveaway of the week! I thought this would be a thoughtful book to start the new year with, The Awe-manac: A Daily Dose of Wonder by Jill Badonsky. I'm also including a fun new notebook and one of my favorite Sharpie writing pens (I'm almost as in love with pens and notebooks as I am with fabric). This book provides fun and light-hearted facts, quotes and prompts to inspire you each day. If you want to work on your creativity next year (or are just the journal-ing type) this book is for you!

For today's comment let me know if you excited or terrified that we have basically a week of holiday crafting time left. Personally I just kind of shocked myself by writing that and now feel the need to RUN to my sewing machine, or maybe I should finally bake those cookies from the dough resting in the fridge. I'm sure whichever I choose my two year old will have other ideas about how to spend our day :-)

Good luck on the giveaways and thanks so much for stopping by this week! I'll choose and post the winners with the random number generator some time tomorrow. Stop back by anytime for a visit :-)

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Sew Mama Sew Giveaway Day FOUR 2011

A little late on the giveaway post today, sorry about that, but it was Christmas party day at pre-school so we had a few other things going on this morning. But back to the giving and festivity around here! I've been giving books away all week as part of the Sew Mama Sew Giveaway Day - I'm sure you've been checking out all the other amazing giveaways going on too, if not you still have until tomorrow (Friday) at 8pm EST so get going!

Here are the books you can leave a comment to win today: The Artistic Mother, A Practical Guide for Fitting Creativity into Your Life by Shona Cole and Making A Family Home by Shannon Honeybloom.

These books are all about being a creative mom, from finding the time and project to creating a welcoming environment for growth and beauty.

For today's comment I would love when you do your crafting/sewing/creating. I am always trying to fit in more time for my own creativity while I balance the needs of my child and husband and just life in general. Finding that balance seems very challenging some days but I love hearing about how others deal with the same issues.

Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment, good luck and please come back tomorrow for the last day of Giveaway Day (week)!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Sew Mama Sew Giveaway Day THREE 2011

Hey Folks and Happy Wednesday - we're halfway to the weekend, yay! If you're here from the Sew Mama Sew Giveaway thanks for stopping by. I'm giving a book away each day this week so make sure you've left a comment in each day to have a chance to win. I'll pick winners sometime after 8pm EST and post them all on Saturday 12/17. Make sure you leave me an email address (if it's not available otherwise) so I can let you know if you win!

Today's sewing book is a sewing for KIDS book. Sewing Clothes Kids Love by Nancy J. Langdon and Sabine Pollehn. This book includes 10 full size patterns and has projects for both girls AND boys! These projects are all hip, bright and colorful.

If you're looking to spice up your kid's wardrobe this is the book for you! Sizes in this book start at 18 months and go all the way up to size 12 - a great variety. As for me and my small person, she seems to be a t-shirt and comfy pants kind of girl and she has NO problem letting me know EXACTLY which pants are comfy enough. Who knew two would be such an opinionated age?

For today's comment please tell me what is your favorite holiday treat to bake or eat! Don't forget to stop by tomorrow and Friday for two more great giveaways!

This is the other thing going on around here (as of yesterday anyway), baking for my husband to take to work. It's a biscotti fest! I love baking biscotti - they aren't hard at all (just a couple different steps)' they always impress and coffe drinkers love them. I made (in order clock-wise starting at the) chocolate chocolate-chip, lemon pistachio with a lemon glaze, triple ginger with an orange ginger glaze and my personal favorite, nutty toffee coffee.

Here's the recipe for my favorite, which I might need to make another batch of TODAY:
(From the Ultimate Sortcut Cookie Book by Camilla V. Saulsbury)

Nutty Toffee Coffee Biscotti

1 18.25oz. pkg vanilla cake (I use French Vanilla)
1 C all purpose flour
1 T instant coffee
1/2 C (1 stick) butter melted and cooled
2 large eggs
1/2 t. almond extract
1 C English Toffee baking bits (plain NOT chocolate covered)
1 1/2 C coarsely chopped almonds (I use sliced and they work fine)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray cookie sheet with non-stick spray or use a pan liner like a sil-pat or parchment paper.

Combine all ingredients in large bowl and mix with mixer on low speed for 2-3 minutes until blended well. Dough will be very stiff. I sometimes finish mixing with my hands to make sure everything is incorporated. Divide dough in half and shape dough into 2 12"x3" long rectangles. Shape the dough to that is it higher in the middle than at the edges. I usually put them diagonally on the baking sheet so there is room between them.

Bake 30-35 minutes until firm to the touch. Leave oven ON. Let cool on baking sheet 10 minutes. The slice on the diagonal in about 1" slices (move to a cutting board to slice - you can do it - they won't be THAT hot).

Lay slices on their edges back on the baking sheet and return to oven for 10 minutes.

Then turn the oven OFF and leave the biscotti in another 30-40 minutes. I flip mine over (using tongs) once during this time to one side doesn't get more toasted - totally optional. Remove from oven and cool completely.

TA-DA! You're an amazing biscotti maker! Impress your friends and enjoy your tasty treats!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Sew Mama Sew Giveaway Day TWO 2011

Good morning and thanks for joining me for day TWO of my Sew Mama Sew giveaways this week! I don't know about you but I am ridiculously excited about all the amazing things being given away - make sure you take time to check out all the other great giveaways - I think people will be continuing to add them add week. I know I'm crossing fingers AND toes on a couple of them!

So the book I'm giving away today is Flirt Skirts : Learn how to sew, customize and style your very own skirts by Patti Gilstrap and Seryn Potter.

This book gives you 3 basic templates you can enlarge and print and then 20 different ways to change and design those basic skirts. If you're feeling adventurous and have the time to print the patterns this is the book for you!

I realized that I'm pretty happy with my Versatile Wrap Skirts from Toni Coward over at Make it Perfect and now that I'm staying at home with the kiddo I don't have the need or opportunity to wear fancier stuff. But those wrap skirts, man do I LOVE THOSE! You can find that pattern on etsy or at Pink Chalk Fabrics.

So for today's comment if you have a favorite skirt pattern please share it! Good luck and please join me again tomorrow for another great sewing book giveaway :-)

Comments on all giveaways will be open until Friday night at 8pm EST - International commenters always welcome.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Sew Mama Sew Giveaway Day 2011

Hiya! If you're here from the Sew Mama Sew GIVEAWAY DAY (wheeee) then welcome to my little corner of the super webs!

I'm thrilled to be participating in Giveaway day this year but I'm doing my giveaway just a little bit differently. I'm giving away a different sewing or crafting book my extensive library each day this week, today through Friday. So check back each day for a new book to be given away! All you have to do is leave a comment on the days you want to be entered, one comment per person please. I'll choose a random winner from all the comments on each post on Friday night (12/16) after 8pm EST and post the winners on Saturday 12/17. International commenters always welcome :-)

Check out all these great goodies! I have clothes sewing, as well as kids clothes, mama projects and creative inspiration. These are all great books but I have so many I figured this would be the perfect time to share some of the love! It's also a nice way to justify adding a couple new books because with the holidays here it could happen.

So here is today's giveaway: Chic and Simple Sewing by Christine Haynes. This book has projects for skirts, dresses, tops and jackets and includes new, un-cut pattern pieces. There are over 20 cute projects in this book! Want to work on your wardrobe for 2012? This book could help you out! I personally have realized that I enjoy making bags and quilts more than clothes - I'm sure it's me but they never seem to turn out quite right. Don't get me wrong, I'm not giving up, but for right now I'm planning on sticking with things I really love and know will work out (like pajama pants - no pressure to wear in public! Sweet!).

So for today's comment please share what your favorite thing to sew is!

Again, thanks for stopping by and please join me each day this week as I give away another book!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

A few of my favorite things

Yesterday was cookie day at our house and some of my favorite people came over and helped make some yummy holiday treats.

Nana, Aunt Sara, Auntie Jenn and all the Atlanta cousins came. We are really lucky to have fun people close!

I made some cute reindeer cookie (Pinterest inspiration) and Linzer bars, we also had "the dip" for the grown-ups to snack on - mmmm. I had pre-made sugar cookie and gingerbread dough for the kids to roll (read play with) and cut out.

H had lots of helpers and loved every minute of her day - eating chocolate, playing with dough, eating more chocolate - it was totally working out for her!

N and Q were like junior bakers - I think they could easily start their own cookie shop for the holidays next year.

After the baking and lunching came the best part - the decorating!
Frosting and zillions of sprinkles!

"Can I lick this knife? Can I lick it now? Now?"

Look at the concentration!

Look at the beautiful curled hair!

H was a serious sprinkler - she really meant business. I think she completely emptied two or three little jars of sprinkles on to her cookies.

What can I say, she is rather enthusiastic about most everything she does.

Check out these glorious creations - you're not going to see cookies like these in any fancy bakeshop.

No one was accused of being chintzy with the sprinkles.

Such a fun day - our sugar high lasted right up until nap time :-)

Hopefully this'll be the start of a new holiday tradition! I think next year I might just bake a bunch of cookies ahead of time because the decorating was clearly the best part of the day.

Gratuitous twilight tree shot from my lesson on how to photograph a lit tree at night - I have clearly forgotten every tiny thing I learned in photo 101 all those years ago. Thanks to the hubs for the refresher lesson :-) And thanks to all our great family who make the holidays fun!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Welcome December!

Today I'm doing a little catching up around here, with a new banner for December (finally) and so I thought I'd share some of the sights of the season around our house.

We took the time yesterday to get our tree and switch the Thanksgiving decorations for the Christmas ones.

I have a whole collection of German smokers that I started way back in the...late 80's? early 90's? I know it was before the wall fell because some of them have DDR stickers on them. Since I ended up marrying into a German family it worked out pretty nicely.

I know my husband will tell me that the color temperature of these photos is all wrong but it was either bright yellow or a little too cool. I let the auto white balance pick and this is what I ended up with. Oh and look at that sleepy, burp-cloth-bearded Santa baby - that photo of her still cracks me up.

This is my new decoration from Jennifer over at Ellison Lane Quilts - how adorable is that? I made the stockings last year from felt. They turned out super tiny but I like them that way!

The little felt houses I bought in years past from an etsy seller who doesn't have anything listed currently, but I LOVE the three of them that I have too.

An overall shot of our built-in bookcases, the main place I get to spiff up the house. Clearly I may need to edit a little more next year but I have a hard time choosing - it's all so fun!

The tree! Look for a night time shot later this month...(all non-breaky ornaments that the doodle bug can re-arrange to her heart's content and she is).

And just to keep it real, here's where the season has spread all over the coffee table - play doh station located just to the left of this shot :-)

Hope you're all getting in the spirit at your place too.

Now on to that lengthy holiday to-sew list!

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