Wednesday, February 29, 2012
Sorry for the less-than-great lighting in these shots but this was the other big birthday sewing project I've been working on. My dear Gram turned...well, lets just say she celebrated a big birthday today on her Leap Year Birthday! We wished we could have been there to celebrate with her but it wasn't in the cards this year. I figured a nice quilt to hug up in would have to be the next best thing. I tried to find some cheerful colors that would look nice in her house and go with her love of all things garden and I think this worked out pretty well.
The fabric is Nature's Chorus by April Cornell, I've had a layer cake and some yardage of it for a quilt for Gram and I was just searching for the right pattern. When I saw the 2 + 1 quilt pattern/tutorial over on Samelia's Mum I knew I'd found it. That pattern actually makes a twin sized bed quilt so I scaled the size down a bit for a lap/couch quilt. I was pleased with the piecing on the front - everything lined up! And then I used the 2 extra blocks I had to piece the back and I loved it. I think the birthday girl did too! We're saving her a rain check on cupcakes until she comes to visit :-)
Happy Birthday Gram (and Great Grammie) - we love you BUNCHES!!
Monday, February 27, 2012
Do you guys know Gabrielle Blair over at Design Mom? (That's her under the umbrella). I love her, her life and her blog which I found quite by accident after seeing her and her family on House Hunters International (Best. Show. EVER.). So this is a quote from an interview that Gretchen Rubin (of the Happiness Project) did with Gabrielle and it fits perfectly with all the things swirling around in my head right now. Happiness is my word of the year for 2012 and I'm finding that as I search for my true happiness, I'm also learning a lot about jealousy, comparison and worthiness. This pretty much hits on about 90% of that so I thought I'd share.
Is there anything that you see people around you doing or saying that adds a lot to their happiness, or detracts a lot from their happiness?
The happiest, most content people I know in my own life are actively creative in some way, shape, or form. Creativity looks different on each of us, right? We may not all be painters whose art is on display in a Parisian gallery or designers whose clothes we all dream of wearing, but if we're expressing our talents and nurturing our interests, you can bet the house that happiness is happening.
Someone else is always going to be doing something more interesting, more innovative, more everything; it's the beauty of living in this big, creative world of ours, isn't it? So jealousy or feelings of inadequacy are perfectly natural, but that doesn't mean they have to stick. For me, that first pang of envy is a not-to-be-ignored signal that I need to get inspired and be inspiring. The simple act of sketching out an impossible idea, gathering up the ingredients for a decadent dessert, learning how to work a new setting on my camera, or even organizing a drawer are all perfect antidotes.
So here's to a happy and inspiring week for us ALL!
Sunday, February 26, 2012
I made a couple of these wallets which are very cleverly designed by Sue Kim of ithinksew fame in her book Bags: The Modern Classics. I've bough several of her pdf patterns and her book is just as inspiring as all her other work. Worth purchasing if you like sewing bags.
So these sewed up quite quickly and I was pleased with the wallets and the chance to use some cools buttons. I didn't love the elastic and how it was attached but Theresa suggested adding a fabric tab with a buttonhole in place of the elastic and I LOVE that idea for next time. The elastic closure works, it just seems kind of clunky.
The inside pockets hold a LOT. Rooms for cards and cash - I prefer the longer wallets myself. So at least 8 cards and a long pockets for cash, receipts, what have you.
I did make my own bias binding for these and I absolutely hated the way the first one turned out. Dear Lindsey Rhodes: I need a bias binding wallet tutorial please! Your wallets look so perfect and mine, well, they really don't :(
So here's the part that made me stomp my foot and swear a bit (it was after you-know-who's bedtime).
So then I thought about Rachel's zigzag method for quilt binding and I thought it might work better here too. And obviously it wasn't going to get a lot worse, so I ripped this out and sewed it back down with a zigzag stitch. SO much better. Not perfect but good enough to give as a gift at that point.
So the zigzag saved the day! Happy birthday Melissa :-) And thanks Theresa for the suggested improvement for next time!
We had a lovely meeting of the Atlanta Modern Sewing Guild at Whipstitch on Saturday. Just a bunch of cool, crafty chicks hanging out and being sew-cial (BWHhaha). Blogging is a great way to connect with people but it's so nice to get together and hang out in real life. If you live in the Atlanta area and you want to join us just email me for the info!
Hope everyone has had a good weekend, I'll be back with another sweet birthday project later in the week (it was a big one and I'm so happy with how it turned out) and some yummy recipes so stop by! Later taters :-)
Tuesday, February 21, 2012
Jodi from Biscuits and Bobbins shared this quote with me and I love it so much I just have to pass it on!
Ira Glass of PRI’s This American Life talks about creativity, and absolutely kills it (via these wonderful transcriptions from the Design Talk blog):
“What nobody tells people who are beginners — and I really wish someone had told this to me . . . is that all of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, and it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not.
But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase. They quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know it’s normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story.
It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.”
I think these are such excellent point to remember - to be patient with ourselves as we learn and grow - to keep on working even though we want to quit. There also seems to be an unspoken component which is to focus - the more you practice the same craft - the better you'll get at it. I struggle with being interested in far too many things to be as good as I'd like to be at any one of them - I'm trying to narrow my focus. I also am frequently frustrated with the outcome of my work, but as I keep on working I find that my projects are pleasing me more and more. It's pushing through the frustration with kindness, patience and perseverance that seems to be key. Always good things to be reminded of on this creative journey, whatever your particular creative path might be.
Keep working! Hang in there! Trust that showing up and doing the work will get you where you want to go. Also, getting a little work done each day still counts! A great reminder for people with toddlers, or full-time jobs or any other life that keeps you busy :-)
And thanks again to Jodi for this fantastic share - go check out her blog full of lovely work and yummy treats!
Friday, February 17, 2012
Does it seem like I've been doing more baking than sewing lately? To me too. It's a quick pick-me-up, my kidlet can actually help (as opposed to trying to sew through her fingers every time I turn on my machine) and it's how I show LOVE. You may have noted it was a big week for love ;-)
So I made these Fudgy Toffee Brownies as a gift for a lovely lady who is basically part of our family by choice not birth (see, we're not that bad!). She is lucky enough to be starting on her next life as a retired person, although I doubt she'll slow down one bit. So I baked these, let them sit over night and then used a heart shaped cookie cutter to cut out the hearts. My cutter was about 3" across and I got an even dozen from a 9x13" pan. My husband was more than delighted to nibble the edges and crusts through out the day today!
Fudgy Toffee Brownies
recipe from the Food Network Magazine
2 C. semisweet chocolate chips (I used 1 12oz bag)
1 stick butter
Melt together in a saucepan over low heat. Then add:
3/4 C. white sugar
3/4 C. brown sugar
After this I moved the mixture to a mixing bowl but if your saucepan was large enough you could just mix everything in the pan. So after the sugars you add:
4 eggs, one at a time
1 tsp. vanilla
1 C. flour
1/2 tsp. salt
Mix well and then add
1/2 C. Toffee bits - I used heath chocolate covered toffee bits
Spread the mixture into a greased and floured 9x13" pan and then sprinkle the top with an additional 1/4 C. toffee bits. Bake at 325 degrees for 40 - 45 minutes (toothpick inserted in the center should come out almost clean). Cool and enjoy!
I'm hoping to find some time to actually sew this weekend (we'll see) but whether I do or not I'm planning on enjoying myself and not beating myself up for what I'm NOT getting done. So often I find myself comparing myself to others with crafty blogs I admire and feeling less than, which leads to me telling myself things like "you should be sewing and not lounging on the couch" and THAT's no fun. So I'm trying to remember that crafting is my HOBBY, which is supposed to be for fun and enjoyment not stress and competition, right?! So I hope you enjoy your weekend, may we all manage to slow down for a bit and find some happiness close at hand! :-)
Tuesday, February 14, 2012
Nothing says thanks and love like chocolate, right? I thought I'd share the recipes in case you need to share some love too.
Sour Cream Chocolate Cupcakes
(both recipes adapted from 101 Gourmet Cupcakes by Wendy Paul)
I dark chocolate cake mix (really any flavor chocolate will work)
1/2 C. vegetable oil
1 C. sour cream
1 tsp. vanilla
Mix all ingredients together until well combined (2-3 minutes with electric mixer. Fill cupacke liners 2/3 full and bake 20 - 22 minutes at 350 degrees. I tested with a toothpick to see if they were done (original recipe said bake 15-18 minutes but mine took longer).
Cool 5 minutes in pan and then till cool on wire rack.
Chocolate Buttercream Frosting
1 stick butter at room temp.
1/3 C. cocoa powder
3 C. powdered sugar
1/4 C. milk
1 tsp. vanilla
cream butter with electric mixer till creamy then add cocoa, milk, vanilla and 1 C. powdered sugar - mix well. Then add remaining 2 C. powdered sugar and mix 2-3 minutes until creamy. Add more powdered sugar OR milk to thicken or thing frosting if needed.
This made a small batch of frosting and I ended up making another batch to get all my cupcakes frosted - this amount would probably be good for a 8x8 sized pan but otherwise I'll just go ahead and double it when I make it again.
Hope your Valentine's Day has some sweetness in it :-)
Sunday, February 12, 2012
So I decided to get my Tangerine Tango entries finished.
For both of these I used techniques inspired by Victoria Gertenbach over at the Silly Boodilly. She is one of my sewing/quilting heroes and I get loads of inspiration from her projects.
So both of these were cut with the rotary cutter "free hand" to create the slightly wonky look.
The first one has three different values of gray and I love the pop that adding the dark value brought. I did some quilting in the ditch on this one but I wanted to keep the quilting pretty minimal.
The second quilt is slightly larger and only used two gray values. On this one I added an applique from Lotta Jansdotter's Echo Line and then repeated the motif by embroidering one flower into a top section.
I absolutely LOVE how this one turned out.
I debated about adding hand quilting (and thank you to everyone I bothered about it) but in the end I didn't want it to get too complicated or fussy.
In order to keep the focus on the colors and the flowers I just added minimal top-stitching and some stitching in the ditch.
Love that little flower.
So now I just need to decide which one to enter in the Tangerine Tango contest on flickr since you can only have one entry per category.
I think I know my favorite but I'd love to hear which one you like...thanks and hope your weekend has been as good as mine :-)
Friday, February 10, 2012
I want to share a project that H and I worked on over several days this week, it has a lot of pictures but that's because I want you to see how simple it was and think about making one yourself - or with a favorite kiddo!
Kind of inspired by/for Valentine's day here is our doodle heart - oh so appropriate for my dear doodlebug :-)
And before you say I could never do that I am here to say yes, YOU CAN and show you how!
You can find all these supplies at Walmart or any craft supply store and YAY for Walmart putting the craft/fabric section back in! Just makes craft supply shopping with two year old so easy.
So, tray from warehouse club to keep your table clean (I also use a laminated tablecloth just in case). I used two shades of pink acrylic paint, a light and dark - just pick two you like. And if you don't like pink use a light and dark of any color. I used a sponge brush and squirted the color right on the canvas and spread it around, sides too. Let it dry.
Next up is clear contact paper - you can find it with the shelf paper. It has a nice grid already on it and it sticky on one side. Cut a piece slightly bigger than your canvas - you want to be able to wrap it around the sides (like wrapping a gift). Next cut out a heart of any scrap paper - you can lay it out going up and down or across if you'd rather - and trace it one the contact paper with a sharpie.
Cut out the heart - pinch the heart in the middle and cut a slit where you've pinched, this will give you an easy place to start cutting from the inside of the heart.
Once your heart is cut out center it over the canvas and peel the backing off. The backing is sticky enough to stick to itself and trust me, this is a pain. But you can gently unstick it if this happens and still use it.
You've just made a giant, custom stencil for your canvas. Did you know you were so crafty? I knew you could do it!
Center the sticky paper over the canvas and press to stick - you just want to make sure that it is tight enough to the canvas to keep the paint out.
Wrap it all the way around the edges, especially if you're working with a small, very enthusiastic painter like mine ;-)
Now just like you only used one color (light and dark) for the base color you're going to do the same thing for the heart color. Pick a color you like, we used teal, and then use a light and dark plus some white for blending.
You can see this was clearly the best part of the project for H! I just let her go to town because I knew the canvas was protected by the contact paper.
I stopped her when I could see that the heart was fully covered and there were still some streaks of paint that weren't totally mixed together - this will give it a nice painterly look.
Let it dry completely then peel the contact paper off gently and slowly.
Voila! Check out your awesome work!
Now for the fun part for me - the doodling that you saw in the first picture. I used a paint pen - fine tip sized - also from the craft section at Walmart. I started by tracing a thick line around the heart and then just added more and more doodles. There is no right or wrong way to do the doodling and no matter what you make I promise it will turn out cute. If you're nervous practice some doodles on paper first. Some artists whose drawing styles I love are: Geninne Zlatkis, Jennifer Judd-McGee and Alisa Burke. Another good resource is flickr - search doodle or zentangle for inspiration.
So I couldn't decide what it needed in the center and my husband suggested we let H draw her own initial since that is SO much a part of our life right now and I thought that was a perfect way to commemorate this phase. We traced where it would go with our fingers and then I put the pen where she needed to start on the canvas and then just let her do her thing - she's had plenty of practice.
I think my favorite thing is how happy and proud she is of these projects we've been doing - I know we're making great memories and cute art for our home but we're also building this foundation of success and pride for her to build on. All good. And you CAN do this too! Don't say I'm not crafty like that, say ooh that looks like something I can manage, because you can. YOU CAN! And your kid will think you are a rock star for even trying :-)
Finally a shot of the wall of art in progress in H's room - a little slice of life. She's also into closing EVERY door in the house ALL the time lately, making the poor cat completely nuts...I hope you have a lovely weekend, full of relaxation and maybe a little creativity :-)
Wednesday, February 8, 2012
Do you know Rachel over at Stitched In Color? If not you need to head over there and meet her as soon as you finish here. She rocks.
This is the first easy peasy project from her Curves class and I was able to get it done today people. TO-DAY.
Which is almost a miracle with a child as energetic as mine (not to mention no school today AND a nasty cold, hers not mine).
But thanks to Sesame Street and an extra long nap (poor little sicky) I was able to crank out this adorable bunting!
I originally wanted to hang it over our windows that run along the side of the living room but it's too short. Great reason to make another one in the near future.
But this one fit the mantle perfectly! I'm not going to leave it up with the Valentine's decorations it's a bit much - kind of like battle of the holidays - but as soon as the Valentine's stuff is down this will go up.
The rick rack wasn't in the original pattern but I saw some in the Stitched In Color flickr group that had it and I knew instantly that I needed it on mine too. Rick rack seems like one of those things like salt or chocolate or sleeping in that just makes everything better.
In related news all these supplies came from my stash - I'm trying very hard to use what I've got before buying anymore. The house is just so plug full of stuff. So I'm happy about that. I'm kind of doing the same thing with groceries - what can I make with what I have and how long can I go before I have to go back to the grocery store (ugh) but I think tomorrow will be the end of that streak.
Also, I've been trying to focus more and set more realistic goals for myself - smaller projects that I can actually get done in a reasonable time and reasonable for me these days might be a week of minutes stolen here and there but I'm trying to enjoy the process and stop judging myself for how much I do or don't get done (thanks Brene Brown for the help in that area). As for the focus part? I've found that when I step away from the computer the time I have to get things done in multiplies like magic. What a time suck this computer is! Definitely a love/hate relationship there. So other than checking email in the morning and maybe a blog post, I'm trying to save my surfing time for after the munchkin is in bed - seems to be helping. Hope your week is going well - we're halfway to the weekend! Yay!
Tuesday, February 7, 2012
They started with these - the recipe really called for chopped up Skor or Heath bars but I had these leftover Toffee Bars from Trader Joe's so I just went with it
Chocolate Chip Toffee Bars (adapted from 200 Cake Mix Creations by Stephanie Ashcroft)
1 cake mix (butter, golden, vanilla)
1/3 C. vegetable oil or melted butter (I, of course, went with the butter)
1/2 C. chopped Skor or Heath bars (I used more like a full cup)
1/2 C. chocolate chips
Mix the cake mix with the melted butter and eggs, I just stirred with a wooden spoon. Add in the chocolate goodies. Press into a lightly greased 9x13 pan. Bake for 14 - 20 minutes (until light golden brown). Cool, cut and enjoy!
- I would chop the candy bar finer than I did, pea sized pieces would be better than my jumbo ones
- I'd add some almond extract, maybe 1 tsp. and some chopped or sliced almonds
- it also seemed like a little dusting of powdered sugar would look nice
- bake in an 11x7 pan to get them a bit thicker (might need to increase baking time).
I can already tell I'll be making these again, for the experimentation factor if nothing else. Overall these were quick, easy and made the house smell great all in about 30 minutes total with stuff I had on hand. Can't beat that! Enjoy!
Monday, February 6, 2012
Now I will tell you that Half Square Triangles and I have had a rocky relationship at best in the past but I think we may have finally made our peace! Well except for the fact that when I laid out my initial squares I had two that were way to small. How had I cut them that small? I remeasured - the small ones were 3 inches EXACTLY. All the others? Trimmed to a perfect 3 and 1/4 inches. Doh. So rather than trim them all again I just sewed two more HST and trimmed them wrong to match and voila - I was good to go ;-)
I substituted a turquoise for the white in the original tutorial because it'll also look great with the colors in H's room later. It also goes with the fab valentine's heart I scored from Melissa over at Little Pink House a while back! I was so pleased with how my zigzags turned out - everything lined up so nicely and with only one seam ripped out, success! It was a little big for the space but I love it anyway. So nice to get something DONE and love it.
So I've included pictures of the things I put out in February and January (I don't think I showed it during January). I'm trying to use what I have to cute the place up, so when you say to yourself "are those beanie babies I see down there?" the answer is yes. And a big fat bowl of Christmas ornaments too! What can I say other than, they worked!
January I went with green and yellow and included a wonky log cabin potholder I bought from Ashley at Film in the Fridge - love it so so much (it'll NEVER touch a hot gooey casserole you can bet on that!).
Friday, February 3, 2012
While I was holding down the fort I tried to find some artsy-crafty projects to do with the kiddo. She's genetically pre-programmed to love art and doesn't disappoint with her enthusiasm in this area. But I have to be honest and say that even with my background in art education it can be challenging to find projects she can enjoy while also ending up with something cute. Don't get me wrong, we do plenty of "art exploration" activities and we both have a great time with those as well - what two year old doesn't love a big plate full of gooey paint?! But I've been looking to expand our crafty horizons and this project turned out great, so I thought I'd share.
I bought this giant H at JoAnn's for about $4. The paint is acrylic and you can find at any craft store or Walmart.
I like using the sponge "brushes" for this project and they're good in general for little kids. Easy to use and good coverage! Since the acrylic paint is NOT water soluble once it's dry I did this part myself.
Painted the H yellow, let dry. Wiped on some white paint then wiped OFF with a damp paper towel - not completely off but about half way. I thought the yellow was a little bit brighter than I wanted and the white toned it down.
I like to use the cardboard trays you can find at Costco or Sam's Club for painting - easy to contain the mess. If you get ones big enough you can tape paper in the bottom for less sliding while painting - very handy!
Voila! A giant yellow H!
Now for the fun part - I bought a couple bags of mixed buttons at Hancock's (but any assortment of button would do - or even pompoms, ooh! fun!). These had a variety of sizes and colors, including some really big buttons.
Once the H was totally dry I spilled the beans, er, buttons out on the table and miss H could not have been more thrilled. Sorting anything is so much fun right now! If only she felt that way about the laundry...
So we played and we sorted. And we sorted and we played. All this in our PJ's no less, yup, just the way we roll around here when it's just us girls ;-)
H started arranging the buttons and telling me where to glue them - for the record she is shockingly good at directing me to do things. Does not bode well for my future I fear.
We ended up taking the buttons off and gluing them on one by one. I used E6000 glue which isn't one a toddler could use normally but I put a dab of glue and she put the button on. She's pretty careful and got no glue on her fingers (to my surprise and delight). I really did let her put the buttons where ever she wanted which was shamefully hard for my type A art teacher self. But I don't want her to remember being told what to do every step of the way, I want her to have some ownership too. I think that being two must be frustrating in so many ways, you're too small to do most of what you want, no one pays much attention to your opinion (even when you shout it) and no one thinks chocolate is an acceptable meal. *sigh* Life can be tough for the little and I think giving some control over now and then going a long way towards our general happiness around here.
So we let the H dry overnight in the garage (that glue is slightly smelly). The payoff? She is IN LOVE with her GIANT H (as she's calling it). I was worried about figuring out how to hang it - pffff. She's never going to stop carrying it around so no worries there :-)
One of hopefully many more fun projects! And to all your parents who say "oh I'm not the creative type, I could never do that" I'm here to say You ARE and You CAN and your kid will adore you for getting a little messy and having fun with them.
Hope everyone has a great weekend!
Wednesday, February 1, 2012
So I know I sound like a broken record but I pinned this awesome looking recipe that came originally from Cookies and Cups and it looked so easy and yummy, I couldn't resist. Truth be told, I didn't try very hard. I mean Rolo Cake Mix Bars? You had me at Rolo.
The original recipe does NOT call for nuts but I thought they would add a nice crunch and I love that sweet salty thing, so rough chopped some fancy mixed nuts leftover from the holidays and put in with the rolo layer. Genius move. The recipe on the original blog has wonderful step-by-step photos too!
Rolo Cake Mix Bars
1 cake mix - vanilla, white, yellow, golden, butter, whatever you like BUT this is important, make sure you get an 18.25 ounce mix like Duncan Hines (some mixes are only 15.25 ounces and it makes a big difference)
1/4 C melted butter
1 - 5 ounce can evaporated milk
about 40 rolos chopped in half
chopped nuts - any kind, optional
Mix 1st three ingredients together. Spread HALF of dough in a greased (or foil lined and greased) 9x13 pan and bake 8 - 10 minutes - until just set.
Remove from oven and layer on rolos, nuts and remaining dough dropped from teaspoons (or from your fingers if you roll like I do). Bake an additional 23 - 25 minutes, until golden brown.
Mine got a little more brown and crunchy than I probably would have liked but nap time called and it waits for no one (no, sadly, not MY nap time). But even a little extra crunchy I immediately scarfed down two of them, the munchkin ate one and then we packed (almost) all the rest for Nanny to take to work. Oh and before you get all crazy jealous, nanny is what H calls her Gramma. Nanny - I WISH! So make and enjoy and if you were brave yesterday (about anything) give yourself a big old hug, you earned it.
And on that note a HUGE thanks to everyone who left a kind word here or on the facebook group, they are all wonderful and appreciated more than you know. Also, I was really struck by these words on Momastery today (if you haven't read her blog yet I would HIGHLY recommend it - a post of hers was used/reposted on the Huffington Post and it has brought her crazy amounts of traffic in a very short time - this is about her blog and it's growth and success):
The best part is that we let all of this magic happen organically. We always let it be what it was. New Monkees, you should know that we’ve never promoted this blog anywhere. We’ve done no marketing, no advertising, and I’ve never made a penny, still haven’t – except to help other mothers. We knew we had a beautiful thing going and we did our thing until the world took notice. We were not ambitious, except in caring for each other and in becoming more whole ourselves. During the past month, hundreds of women have written, asking me how to start a blog, how to grow an audience. I don’t have any magic for you, other than have a goal and start writing. My goal was to build bridges between people by showing up every day and telling the truth. So my advice is this: don’t worry about marketing or gimmicks or self promotion, just write. Everyday, write. Show up for yourself. That’s where the magic is. Your people will find you.It seemed so relevant to all the things I've been thinking about lately, I especially love the part about showing up for YOURSELF because that's where the magic is. Love love love that to pieces.