Monday, April 30, 2007

Simple Skirt

Gina: My posing is crazy dorky, but I'm just gonna get over that. It seems that when I try to take a simple picture, my natural JC Penney catalog posing instinct can't be fully suppressed.

The type of sewing, until a year or two ago, that I was most comfortable with involved sewing a straight line to another straight line. Anything that involved "easing" the fabric was avoided. Since this limits one to square curtains or square blankets (and since there is not one straight line to be found anywhere on my body), I picked up a few books and a really good iron and faced my demons: the set-in sleeve, and the attached ruffle. I got the sleeve thing down pretty good (see scrubs jacket), and after this simple skirt, I'm not afraid of a ruffle anymore, either. I gather a basting stitch in both instances, and iron well before sewing.

Yeah, so suck it, ruffle demon!

I got this fabric on deep discount, natch, and it is a nice thick linen with a one-way embroidered pattern around the base that washes and irons really well. I think it may be intended for tablecloth material, but that doesn't bother me. And spills just wipe right off. Shh'kddn.

Photo features the requisite kitty posterior, from a cat who won't leave you alone while you're trying to photograph objects, or trying to do yoga on the floor.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Cookie Cake

by Brooke

Sunday night, I was feeling a little grouchy about the fact that I was probably going to have to try to leave the house early the next morning to go buy a cake at Schnucks and take it to a play date for my MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) small group. One of our members (who I really like...I wasn't grouchy about getting something for her...I was grouchy about getting something) is moving before our next meeting and our mentor mom suggested to me that we turn the play date into a going away party. Since I found out about this with just a couple days notice and two of our moms just had babies (like 2 and 4 weeks ago) I figured making phone calls about it would just lead to guilt rather than actual cards or presents for the leaving mom.
So, a cake was the I would feel awkward about soliciting donations for later.
Wait...I'll make my own. No, I don't have any cake mix and the thought of making one from scratch at 9 PM didn't seem like a good idea.
A decorated cookie would be a good solution. But, how to make a big one without it being mushy in the middle?
I worked at The Original Cookie Company the summer before I started grad school. So, you would think I would have some expertise in this, but no. On my last day at The OCC, I took several bags of the frozen pre-portioned cookie dough with me (not really stealing---we were given a lot of product, it was just usually baked first), only to find that it would not bake in a regular oven. Various temperatures and baking times all produced the same doughy result. Somehow, that dough only worked in that oven...I've decided I don't want to think too hard about that.
So, a little internet research helped me out. I have a Pampered Chef baking stone and knew that there were recipes out there that used it when making a cookie crust for various fruit pizzas, etc. So, I looked that up. They all said to use refrigerated cookie dough. So I kept the baking temperature and times and looked for "quick and easy" sugar cookie recipe. I found one that I liked because it made a soft dough (easy to form into a crust) and required no refrigeration.
In about fifteen minutes I whipped up the dough and had the thing in the oven. The cookie went over the side of the pan a little bit, but other than that came out well. The next morning I decorated it with buttercream icing (Martha Stewart's recipe that I used when creating Eli's birthday cake a few weeks ago). All through this process, I kept thinking, "And if it doesn't turn out, I can still go to Schnucks." I was a littler nervous taking it to the play date because I hadn't actually tasted it yet, but it got RAVE reviews! Loved by mothers and their preschoolers alike.
So, I'm happy to now add this recipe to my short list of special occasion things I can make (Eva has requested it for her Birthday DAY dinner...cupcakes for her birthday PARTY day) and share it with you.

*Sugar Cookie Cake*

Mix together one at a time:

2 eggs

2/3 c. oil

2t vanilla

¾ c. sugar

2 c. flour

2 T baking powder

½ t salt

1 t nutmeg (I added this to the original recipe...I like the way it makes sugar cookies taste, but you can omit it if you wish)

Spread on ungreased baking stone. Bake at 350 for 16-18 minutes.

*Buttercream icing to decorate*:

1 stick butter

½ tsp. vanilla

1 ½ c. powdered sugar

food coloring as needed.

Mix butter, vanilla and sugar on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy; about 2 minutes; add the food coloring and mix till blended.

(I use disposable pastry bags and my Wilton tips. Just put a tip into the bottom of the bag and snip off enough for the decorative part to stick out. Cuff the bag and scoop in the icing. Pretty easy clean-up. Also, I never took a cake decorating class. I just have my trial-by-fire experience from The OCC and the kids' birthday cakes. Note, though, how I just made my border where I wanted it to be...hopefully distracting you from the fact that the cookie cake is not perfectly round and actually going over the side of the stone a little bit in some parts.)

So, didn't take very long and I didn't have to spend any money. Grouchy mood averted! :)

Monday, April 16, 2007

Not Another Kid Craft!

Ok, I fully realize that last time I promised a non-kid-centric craft next time, but what can I say? I'm a pathological liar who apparently needs a life. Moving On....

Back when my son was very little and needed lots of molding, I needed a fun way to drill into his head what we expected of him and how he should be behaving without making him feel like I was constantly on his case. The result were these 3 books that I gave to him on his second, third and fourth birthdays.

I used them to help him understand the expectations of his new age, as well as to help prepare him for the big stuff: how to treat his new sister, to build excitement (instead of dread) about going to preschool, and encouraging him to give up thumb sucking. But mostly these books were a way for me to show him what a special kid I thought he was and how proud of we were of the person he was growing up to be.

I used little 5x7 photo album books that I found at Walmart for like $2. They have plastic sleeves for each page, so I would just make up my pages on card stock or construction paper and then slide them right in. If I could use a picture of him for the page, that was great, or sometimes I cut his head out and glued it into a scene I created. There were plenty of pages made out of stickers and my own drawings though. The pages with Evan on them were always the biggest hit with him.

There's not much more to making these....when I started each one, I would just sit down and make a list of all the new expectations and privileges he would have now that he was 2, or 3, or 4, then cobble them together into some sort of book. One year I tried to did the entire thing in rhyme, but then the next year I couldn't jump that hurdle again.
So there you have it...not only a lovely keepsake book that you child can treasure forever, but also a wonderfully manipulative parenting tool! What a grand combination!

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Jammies from Scrubs

Gina: When I wrote that title, I was thinking about "like blood from a stone," or "Like Water for Chocolate." Anyway. This is sort of "chapter two" of the scrubs post... As I may have mentioned, in 2005 I got a job on the weekends at Joanne Fabric, one that was closing out all of of its merchandise so that one of the really big ones could open down the street. I went absolutely berserk buying fabric with the one-two punch of up to 90% off, plus my 15% employee discount. For those who are math whizzes, that's like them paying me to take it away. And I did.

I eventually came to the conclusion that if one is only making $20-40 per weekend, and spending all of that on fabric, that it is sort of a false economy to keep one's job... And school eventually overwhelmed my ability to keep up and still see my husband once per week. But it was a fun ride while it lasted! You should see the trunkload of material I could get for that twenty bucks!

I have a weakness for anything with a "food" print on it (see my other blog), so I got some pizza print and some ice cream printed flannel, and made them into pajama bottoms. There wasn't too much of the pizza print available, so I had to make them into little shorty pants. I used the scrubs pattern, with a simple elastic waistband.

With my newly acquired french-seaming skills, these have held up really well. They're tough little pj's!

I still have a couple of flannel prints that I'll be doing the same thing with... Can't wait until I have more time to sew in a few weeks!

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Baby Shower Gift

I stole this idea from a "Martha Stewart Baby" magazine a few years back, but it's a quick homemade gift that's always a hit at showers, and is useful to the new parents to boot. Back in the day, when I was the first of the people I knew to have a baby, I used cloth diapers as burp cloths (not cloth diapers that had been used as diapers, but still, they were kinda tacky.) Now I like to give all my new mom friends stylish & fun burp cloths, so at least they can pretend to be chic as they're getting spit up on.

I used 2/3 of a yard of 2 different fabrics. I prefer the soft flannels they usually market as being for kids' pajamas in the fabric stores (although it's stamped right on the fabric "Not intended for use as sleepwear") So if you're giving these to anyone who might be prone to setting their baby's stuff on fire, you might pick a different fabric. I lay the two pieces, one on top of the other, on a flat surface and cut it into 3 equal sections. Size is totally up to you...I'd guess mine were something like 14" x 24". The key to this project is having a couple fancy stitch settings on your sewing machine that you can use as an edge. My machine is nothing special...I think it cost around $100, but I have 4 different fancy stitch options. I like the curved one the best...experiement on a scrap fabric first to see what you need your length & width settings at to make the nicest looking border possible (it'll probably be a very high width setting and a very low length setting).
Then strap in the first rectangle of fabric. I don't even pin mine, because they're not hard to hold together properly if you just hold them tightly. But if you're a scaredy cat, then go ahead with your pins. Just do one continuous stitch all around all 4 sides, turning when you're through with an entire rotation of the stitch pattern (I wouldn't turn the corner in the middle of my little curvy design, for example).
Once you're done with all the stitching you get to the tedious part. First, I'd recomment you do this under bright light and only when you're not tired or hung over. (But who crafts hung over, right?) Ok, take those fabulously stitched rectangles and carefully cut around the border you just created. Obviously, you don't want to cut into the stitching, but you do want to cut it pretty darn close. I'd recommend small, sharp scissors for this job.

I like to make 3 at a time and tie them together with a ribbon to put in with a shower gift. If you want to be super-fancy you can slip a piece of vinyl between the two layers to make a waterproof pad. Until you have a kid, you'd never realize how many uses these burp cloths have: besides wiping up urp, they're a light blanket in an air-conditioned store, a cloth to lay a baby on the floor for a diaper change, a peek-a-boo prop, and my daughter loved to suck on them when she was an infant.

Ok, I promise something not kid-centric for my next post!
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Monday, April 2, 2007

Interior Design Secrets

I love that Ms. Gina came up with this idea of sharing creative info and projects! It's so cool to be able to share work and see what other people do on their personal time! I must admit, I don't think I'm as "projecty" as others on this post; but I will share some of my projects and post "secrets" that we interior designers use to make great spaces!

Secret 1: Make a space interesting with color! I've learned that most people are afraid of color in their homes and, as a designer, I'm here to tell you... don't be afraid! I've recently used a "trick" in a work project... multi-tonal color to achieve interest! Find 3 or 4 shades of a color and apply it to a wall in stripes or blocks in order to make a statement! Choose just one wall and paint the other three in the room with the lightest shade in your palette... It's fun, not permanant and looks really cool!
Above is a project that I recently completed in Palos Heights, IL... check out the paint job above the BIG graphic image!

This is my husband's Chiropractic office in Crystal Lake (just after painting).

Lastly, my new nephew's nursery! We used wall paper animals (a'la pottery barn kids) and painted stripes!

See... fun with paint!

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Spring, and time to clean!

So I know that what I am about to tell you guys isn't exactly "crafty", but we can all appreciate a good tip on how to get rid of that stain, to stop that scum, to obliterate whatever that thing is growing behind the tub, and so on. I am about to start the insane scrub down of my apartment because my instincts are telling me too. So, here are the tips.

Tub stuff:
If you have tiles in your shower, rub a half lemon all over it to help bead off the water. Not only is it a natural sealant, it smells darn good! If you have any glass, the same rain-ex that you use on your car works wonders on your shower door.

If you have any stains in your porcelain that you just cant get rid of no matter how hard you scrub, use a pumice stone.

Baking soda will get rid of all that nasty stuck on food on your pot. Just fill with water, pour in some baking soda, and let sit. No scratches!

Ice, lemon, and salt swished around in your coffee pot will remove old coffee stains and make it sparkle again.

A loofah works better then a sponge in so many ways, and doesn't get moldy because it is plastic.

Dryer sheets rock! Put them in your undie drawer, in stinky shoes, in between your pillowcase and pillow, and in your heater vents for that awesome laundry day smell!

White vinegar and newspapers clean mirrors and glass better then anything else.

Lint rollers clean dusty lampshades.

If anyone else has some tips on Spring cleaning, leave a comment. Once the house is clean, then I will start being crafty and post it! Some things to come are some really funky and strange sock monkey type dolls, making art with items you find dumpster diving, taking an old book and making it into an art journal, and any new recipe that I make that comes out yummy! Thanks for listening!