Monday, July 25, 2011

over the playdough rainbow

How can you NOT love playing with playdough?  It's been around for years, appeals to boys and girls of all ages, and is a great activity for imaginative play.  I got this homemade playdough recipe from my friend Kim's blog a couple years ago - and I tell ya, it looks, smells, and feels like the real stuff!  The first batch I made lasted for almost 2 years in an airtight container.  It's super cheap to make (you likely have the ingredients you need already in your kitchen with the exception of cream of tartar), and a fun activity to make with your toddler.  One batch makes about 3 fist sized balls, and it's so fun to mix the food coloring to make different colors.  I did batches of this for the gift bags for Lexi's birthday party this past spring.

Homemade Playdough Recipe:

1 cup of white flour
1/4 cup of salt
2 tablespoons of cream of tartar (can be bought with the other spices at the grocery store)
1 teaspoon of vegetable or olive oil
1 cup of warm water
food coloring

Combine ingredients in a large pot on medium heat on your stove, and stir, stir, stir!  Allow to cool and add food coloring.  I have found that working the dough with your hands a lot works in the color and improves the feel of the playdough.  I store it in tupperware airtight containers, or plastic baggies work well too!


Thursday, July 21, 2011

sunglass case tutorial

If I spend money on something, I'm pretty good about taking care of it.  Cellphones, my ipod, my sunglasses.  My current pair I've had for 5 years, and when I bought them, they came in a hard shelled case.  They've been schlepped around in various purses and diaper bags over the last few years, and about a month ago, the hard case cracked and broke - well, technically, the hinges cracked and broke.

I thought about buying a new case, but I thought I would try my hand at making a case with some cute cotton print I picked up recently at Fabricana.  And after my recent spending binges at various stores (just to establish a stash of basics, of course), I already had the interfacing and other supplies I needed.  This was thrown together after Lexi's bedtime in our basement, which is quite dark, so I didn't take any pictures.  (Besides, it's already packed in my hospital bag and I am way to lazy/pregnant/huge to waddle upstairs and get it).  I hope the instructions make sense!

What I Used:
2 pieces of outer fabric - 8 inches by 4 inches
2 pieces of lining fabric - 8 inches by 4 inches
2 pieces fusible fleece - 8 inches by 4 inches
3 strips of cotton 1 inch by 14 inches for ruffles on the front (I used 2 strips from the same fabric as the lining, and one pink strip that matched the outer fabric)
2 inch strip of velcro

What I Did:
1.  I cut all my fabric pieces out with my rotary cutter and mat
2.  I fused the fleece to the 2 outer pieces
3.  I ruffled my 3 strips by stitching the strips down the center of the piece through my machine on high tension and a long stitch length - such a quick and easy way to ruffle fabric!
4.  I attached the 3 ruffles to the front of one of the outer pieces by overlapping the ruffles and sewing them straight down the middle (don't forget to change your tension and stitch length back to the usual before you do this - opps!)
5.  With RIGHT sides together, sew three sides of the 2 outer pieces together (I use a 1/4 inch seam allowance), leaving one of the short edges open.  Turn right side out, clip corners and press. 
6.  Place your scratchy velcro piece (is there a technical term for this?) about an inch down from the top of one of your lining pieces and sew around the edges.  Match up the fuzzy piece of velcro to the other piece of lining and sew around the edges.
7.  With RIGHT sides together, sew three sides of the lining pieces together, leaving one of the short edges open.  Clip corners.
8.  Here's the trickiest part:  With the RIGHT side of your outer pieces facing out, and the WRONG sides of your lining pieces facing out, nestle your OUTER pieces inside your lining pieces.  Match up the top raw edges, and sew around this top edge (it's tricky as the 'neck' of the case is a bit small) making sure to leave at least a couple of inches for turning right side out.
9.  Turn pieces right side out and push the lining down into the case, using a chop stick to poke all the corners into each other.  Press the edges of your opening down and slip stitch this opening closed.

What I Would Change Next Time:
1.  The case is a bit long.  7 inches (versus 8 inches) for the fabric should be plenty long for most shades.  I would also make it 5 inches wide. 
2.  A no-sew snap could be used instead of velcro
3.  Fusible fleece can be a pain to use.  I'd probably use (or upcycle from old baby blankets/sheets) pieces of regular fleece to use as the stabilizer/paddling
4.  I'd cut the ruffle strips longer - 14 inches is a bit short and the ruffling process can be tricky, so I'd rather have extra to cut off than not enough.

VIOLA!  Cute right?  I'm gonna start putting ruffles on everything (except maybe my newborn son, whose due date is TODAY).

Linking to *remodelaholic*
Linking to tatertots and jello

Saturday, July 16, 2011

my first quilt!

I had always assumed that making a quilt was WAY beyond my reach, but I'm proud to say - I DID IT!

Let me preface this by saying that I did NOT piece 12,034 bits of fabric together.  I did it the laaaaazy way and did cute printed cotton on the top and white kona fleece on the back.  I basically followed the pattern for the 'reversible tied quilt' in the modern crib set from Amy Butler's 'Little Stitches for Little Ones' with a few of my own changes (which as a novice/moving into intermediate territory sewer, I'm finding I need to do a lot of).

I didn't take any pictures of the quilt making process, but to anyone who can sew the instructions are very straightforward.  I cut my blue and white fabric 36x50 inches, and the fleece and quilt batting 2 inches wider (so 38x52 inches) to allow for better piecing.  The patterns calls for 2 layers of batting, but I used one and think it looks and feels great as is.  I just bought a package of crib quilt batting, so there was only minimal cutting required.  I pinned all 3 layers together with safety pins while I sewed.  I did french straight binding, which seemed easier then bias binding to me.  My fabric wasn't long enough for the required piece (190 inches) so I had to sew extra on the end, and I'm happy to say you can't tell where it's joined.  To attach the binding, I matched the raw edges of the cotton and the binding and sewed around.  You can then trim the batting and back fabric to match the front, and fold over the binding and attach to the back.  Doing the slip-stitching around the binding on the back was definitely tedious, but it's a good sit in front of the TV activity to keep one's hands busy.  I tied it with light blue embroidery floss, spacing the ties about 6 inches apart (which conveniently fell in the middle of the white dots).  The finished size of the quilt is 36 x 50 inches, plenty big for a crib, and big enough to last well into toddlerhood.

The blue/white/brown colors go so well with the baby's room, and I see this quilt getting plenty of use for years to come.  White might not have been the best choice of color for the back, but it looks beautiful and the kona fleece is soooo soft.  Now I'm gonna have to make one for my daughter too (you've gotta be fair after all!)

It's a mad scramble trying to get a few last minute projects done before baby comes.  I've just done some placemats, and I'm trying to work on some Christmas crafts in preparation for submission to show at got craft in early December.  Next up is an apron for my daughter - stay tuned!

Linked up here

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

chocolate brownies (I'm on a roll here...)

Are you detecting a theme here?  Pregnant lady stuck at home waiting for baby to come with nothing to do but bake and stuff her face?

I wouldn't consider myself an all-star cook or baker.  I can whip up almost anything from a recipe and it turns out decently.  I certainly do OK, and I do love to bake especially.  I know I do a few things REALLY well.  These brownies are one of them.

I haven't made brownies in a while, and I can't remember why.  They are so... dang... good.  I use my mom's recipe, and make my own icing from scratch.  It's so much yummier than the store bought stuff.  I have been known to make a (small... ish) bowl of just icing and eat it with a spoon.  Sick, I know, but no worse than those of you who eat it out of the store bought container, or eat raw cookie dough right from the package... not that I've done EITHER of those things before... ahem.

Chocolate Brownies:

Cream together:
1/2 cup margarine (you can use butter, but I like the results with margarine better)
1 cup white sugar
2 eggs
3 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Mix together dry ingredients:
3/4 cup white flour
1/3 cup of cocoa (I use the good stuff - it always make a difference)
1/2 teaspoon salt

Add to wet ingredients.  Grease a square baking pan and pour in mixture.  Bake at 325F for approximately 25 -30 minutes.  Allow brownies to cool completely before icing (this is sooooo hard to do!)

Chocolate Fudge Icing

2 cups icing sugar
2 teaspoons of cocoa
2 tablespoons of butter or margarine
2 tablespoons of milk or coffee cream

Cream ingredients together.  Add milk/cream until you reach your desired consistency (I like my icing a bit thicker).  Spread over brownies, and don't forget to lick the bowl!

this one's for the boys...

I couldn't leave the boys out of the crayon roll up fun.  I found several super cute boy prints at Fabricana and here's my first boy-inspired roll.  This one (as well as the Strawberry Fields print) are available in my shop.  Cars and trucks print (as well as another precious print combo for girls) coming soon!

Monday, July 11, 2011

minky love (and hate)

Minky is something you've probably seen (and fondled) before, but had no idea what it's called.  It's a super soft, fleecy type fabric that you see in many baby projects these days, mainly blankets.

A few months ago, I bought some minky in order to try my hand at sewing some ribbon sensory blankies.  Man, this stuff is NOT fun to sew with.  It is slippery and stretchy at the same time - and once perfectly lined up seams pucker and drift apart easily.  So while I love the softness of the fabric for babies, sewing with it is a pain in the butt.

This the ribbon sensory blanket I made for my little man a few months ago (the minky is the brown dotted fabric you see on the back).  You can buy minky plain or dotted.  Babies seems to love the dotted texture for blankies.

This put together this cute pink number for a friend who recently had her second little girl.  I used plain white minky for two of the squares on the front, and the brown dot minky on the back.

I also got really ambitious and made a minky change pad cover for the change table.  Lots o' work, but love the result.  Have to make another since the fleece ones I used for my daughter are all a) girly colors and b) washed and worn to within an inch of their lives.

The possibilities for minky in baby sewing are endless - bibs, blankets, burp cloths, stuffy toys, sheets (now THAT would be some work).  Any other fun ideas you'd like to see in minky?

Sunday, July 10, 2011

cute crayon roll up

Anyone who has toddlers knows that you need something to entertain them when you're out and about - restaurants, waiting at the doctor's office (which I do a LOT of lately being over 38 weeks pregnant!).  My girl LOVES to color and draw, and up until now, I've been throwing her crayons into a ziplock baggie in the diaper bag and heading out the door. 

I made a few of these super simple crayons rolls over the last week and L loves hers.  It has spots for 16 crayons (or slim markers, pencil crayons, etc), and she is able to open and close it herself with a simple, colorful elastic closure.  It's completely machine washable as well.  I'll be adding these to my etsy shop soon, and will try to put up a tutorial in case you are interested in making some yourself (including cutting fabric, I can whip one up in under half an hour - a perfect naptime craft!)

Friday, July 8, 2011

thee best chocolate chip cookies ever!

What's a pregnant lady days away from delivery to do when the weather is shoddy, she can stand for maaaaybe 10 minutes at a time, and has a squirrely toddler to entertain?  MAKE COOKIES OF COURSE.  I have been using this same chocolate chip cookie recipe for at least the last 10 years.  I think that it came off of a chocolate chip package, and I believe the secret to the crunchy outside/gooey inside yumminess factor is using shortening, not butter or margarine (although I insist on using margarine in my brownies, but that's another post!)

Allie's Chocolate Chip Cookies:
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
Combine the above ingredients. 
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
Stir until combined.
Mix together the following dry ingredients:
1 cup white flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
Add to wet mixture.  Add approximately 1 cup of high quality chocolate chips (we buy the Chipits in the huge bags from Costco).

Drop by the teaspoon onto an ungreased baking sheet and bake 10-12 minutes at 350F.  Eat warm with milk (of course).

My assistant and I whipped up a quick batch this afternoon.  I think she enjoyed them:

 Did we eat the whole bowl?  You betcha!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

simple car seat canopy

I've been pulling out the baby gear from storage the last little while (and remembering the insane number of C and D size batteries all these gadgets take!) in preparation for our little man's arrival.  We went with gender neutral prints for pretty much everything (the 1-2-3 Tea for Me Exersaucer was the exception, but I bought it in a moment of weakness when our daughter was 5 months old, cutting her first teeth and hubby was on a business trip to China). 

Our carseat from last time around is still good - you know that carseats 'expire' like sour milk, right?  I decided to whip up a simple car seat canopy to keep the sun, rain, and germy strangers' hands off the kiddo.  I would use a receiving blanket over the seat last time, but this looks so much cuter.  I used the same fabrics I bought for his baby quilt (which is nearly finished as well - stay tuned!!).  

The project turned out to be really simple.  The finished canopy is about 35x40 inches, and I used the interior print to make the handlebar attachments, which fasten with velcro.  It only took a couple hours to put together.

The nursery is almost finished - once we've got everything ready, I'll post some pictures. 

Saturday, July 2, 2011

my first treasury!

I made my first treasury on etsy!  Click on over to have a look :)

Pinwheel treasury

Friday, July 1, 2011

canada day fun

Happy Canada Day everyone!

I have just discovered pinterest.  If you haven't heard about it, here's a bit about it (from the pinterest website):

What is Pinterest?

Pinterest is a Virtual Pinboard.

Pinterest lets you organize and share all the beautiful things you find on the web. People use pinboards to plan their weddings, decorate their homes, and organize their favorite recipes.
Best of all, you can browse pinboards created by other people. Browsing pinboards is a fun way to discover new things and get inspiration from people who share your interests.

I haven't had too much time to play around yet, but it looks like it could get addictive.  In honour of Canada Day, I pinned a few Canada Day inspired photos and ideas at the link below.  Click on over and see if you likey.  If your 'pinterest' is piqued (tee hee, sorry, couldn't resist), you can request an invite from me.