Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Cakes, Cookies and A Crown, Oh My!

Our Baby Boy just turned four yesterday! Four. I can't even believe it, really.  How is it that time has gone into some freakish warp speed without my realizing it?

I recall at one time when I was much (much!) younger, and the older kids were all much (much!) younger, I was in a donut shop trying to wrangle all three of them - about aged 1, 3 and 5 as they all went separate directions simultaneously.  A little old lady stopped me and told me to enjoy it.  To know that this time would pass so quickly and they'd be grown up in a flash.  At the time, I remember thinking, "Lady, I sure hope you're right!" As it turns out, I've spent the subsequent 19 or so years wishing growing up took just a touch slower to happen, because that little old lady? She really did know what she was talking about.  Because I'm not sure how baby boy is already four.  I'm even more baffled by the fact that my baby N, that was my baby for 15 whole years before Little Man came into our life, just turned 20 - don't worry, although he didn't get cakes, cookies or a crown, mama made sure he had a birthday treat too by way of pumpkin spice cupcakes that I actually remembered to make and give to him this year unlike last year when they got made and I totally forgot to give them to him so I ate them instead.

Anyways, I digress. Birthday craftiness was, of course, undertaken for the fourth birthday celebrations. Most of it this time was in the kitchen instead of the sewing room. Baby Boy, finally, at the eleventh hour returned to the "theme" he'd chosen ages ago after having gone through about a million other themes in between.  He wanted an Angry Bird cake for his birthday.  Not just any Angry Bird either.  It had to be the "Pink Girl Angry Bird".  I breathed a huge sigh of relief and considered myself getting off easy peasy with that one! Such a simple request.

I have a fantastic 12" cake pan I bought for baking our wedding cake layers, so it really was no fuss, no muss. Well, so long as you don't count the fact that between making too small of a batch for my pan, likely leaving out one of the leavening ingredients and Baby Boy opening the oven so that the already flat cake fell further to almost pancake height requiring me to bake a second batch of cake, it was no fuss, no muss.  I used the recipe for Buttermilk Chocolate Cake from Lorelie's Wedding Cakes For You  site again.  It's such a great recipe! (when you actually follow the recipe, make enough and keep the blooming oven door shut while its baking that is) Any suggestions what to do with the pancake cake that's currently sitting in my freezer? It still tastes delicious.  Maybe petit fours?

So. New cake baked, I was all set to decorate it.  I had leftover buttercream from the wedding cake that (BF)G's niece had brought back after decorating it, that I had popped into the freezer, waste not want not and all that, that turned out to be the exact amount I needed to make the "Pink Girl Angry Bird".  (BF)G, who is often my creative consultant on these sorts of matters, had the idea to use a fortune cookie for the beak, and I decided the gigantic marshmallows I'd bought for the weenie/marshmallow roast party would make awesome (and easy) eyes for our little lady bird. I did cut the marshmallows in half though, because holy smokes! Those suckers are  HUGE!

For party favours I got a notion in my head to make cookies after seeing Angry Bird Cookies on the Sweet Sugar Belle website.  Now, I should mention I'm clearly bat s--t crazy because I've never once decorated cookies with anything more than buttercream. My usual standard of decorating is, well, to be honest, none. Or maybe coloured sugar sprinkles if I'm feeling fancy.  But I did get a bit of the decorating bug last Christmas when the boys and I did some fancier cookies for the holidays. However, I've never even seen Royal Icing, let alone made it, and I do not own a kitchen aid, which every website I looked at told me to use, so it was a bit dicey going. (As in I had no hot clue what I was doing), but I'm am SUPER DUPER proud of my cookies and how they turned out. I am also now obsessed with fancy cookies and have spent an inordinate amount of time thinking about what kinds of cookies I could decorate. But that, dear readers, is a story for another day.  Back to the birthday party craftiness.  I did have some moments of anguish and panic trying to get the consistency just so, and a few minor heart palpitations when the first one I started with I managed to break an ear off within the first 30 seconds, but then I took a step back, a dose of reality and realized I needed to calm down. It's a cookie after all.  Just a cookie.

So that was the end of party craftiness in the kitchen - although remind me to tell you about the weenie roast some day. We had bannock wrapped wieners cooked over an open fire.  You should try it.  It has the potential to be a fall time cookout winner!

I did, of course, make the now traditional birthday day crown.  (You can see Baby Boy's previous ones here, here and here.)  Sticking with the Angry Bird theme,  I had a lot of fun doing this and was really happy with how it turned out.  I think Baby Boy was happy too!

Then I was back in the kitchen again yesterday to make a mini version of the Angry Bird cake for Baby Boy's actual birthday.  This time he requested a "Blue Bird - not a light blue one. A darker blue one. But not too dark." (He's not particular at all that one. Nope. Not him... rolls eyes)

So, that's it.  I'm a bit caked and butter creamed and royal icing-ed out for now.  I think I'll give the icing sugar and chocolate a rest at least for a few days...

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

A New Cardigan

There's a chill in the air these days, despite some crazy warm weather we had last week (crazy as in +30 C!!), it has felt like fall for a while now here on the prairies.  What's a girl to do when the weather turns cool? Why knit herself a new cardigan of course!!

I decided to knit Andi Satterlund's Marion.  I've had the pattern in my library since last fall when I won it in her KAL for  her Hetty cardigan, so when she announced in late in the summer that she would be hosting a KAL for Marion, I immediately jumped on board.  Not only would it be a great KAL, I could also "double dip" and use Marion for the Summer Sweater KAL with Very Shannon.

I've knit quite a few of Andi's patterns now. My first was my Miette that I knit last summer, then of course Hetty, then I knit Salt for a Christmas gift, then this spring I knit Myrna as part of the Outfit Along and now Marion.

I really enjoy Andi's patterns.  They are well written and easy to follow.  Each of cardigans that I've made, except for Miette, utilize short row shaping for the top down sleeve caps, which I really, really like.  You knit the upper back, then pick up the shoulder stitches and knit each of the fronts then join them together to finish off the body. Then the sleeve cap stitches are picked up and knit back and forth using short rows until the shaping is finished and then it's straight on down in the round from there.  I can't even describe how much I like knitting sleeves this way. If all sleeves could be done like this, I'd be a happy lady.  It really makes them feel like they fly off the needles.  I even got brave with this one, and once I had the first sleeve cap done I put in on hold and did the second sleeve cap, then put both on my circular and did them two at a time! Talk about speedy sleeves.

Now that I've got a great new cardi, I think I'm going to have to make some fall dresses and skirts to go with it.  I've got a Miette Skirt from Tilly and the Buttons a waistband facing and hem away from being finished and I think that will be a definite to pair well with my Marion, but I'll have to peruse my patterns and see what else I have in my stash too.

But first things first.  I need to finish a test knit I'm working on, then finish up my birthday swap gift for my Ravelry group so it can be popped in the mail to my little swap partner by Friday at the latest, Baby Boy's birthday party is this weekend, then I really do need to get a start on my Christmas crafting.  Phew! I'm going to be busy in the next little while I think!

Monday, September 01, 2014

Blog Hop!

I've been asked by Anna of Charmed Liebling to participate in my first ever blog hop.  (I feel like such a "grown up" blogger now!)  You'll recognize Anna's name from many previous posts of mine. Anna designs amazing bags and I've been lucky enough to test several of them for her (you can check out my test versions of the Rose Petal, Liebling's , All Day Out , Working Girl LaptopRhine Valley and Pink Peony) I love Anna's bags and her patterns are fantastic, I really urge you to check them out for yourself!

For this blog hop participants are asked to answer four questions :

1) What am I working on?
2) How does my work differ from others in its genre?
3) Why do I write/create what I do?
4) How does my writing/creative process work?

After I've finished my post, I'll be passing the baton onto the lovely Amy of Quixotic Pixels, who I "met" during our Outfit Along KAL on Ravelry this summer and Coo of Betty Stitchup (who I also met during the Outfit Along)

So! Without further ado here we go! A glimpse into the crafty and creative life of this prairie girl…

What am I working on?

I often have a few things on the go at any given time. Whether it be sewing or knitting there's always a project waiting in the wings.  Right now those projects are:

Swim Diapers in Progress
Some swim diapers - I started sewing diapers for Baby Boy when we switched him over from disposable to cloth around eighteen months. I went crazy making them. Its always good to have a large supply of diapers for a little one and I really enjoyed sewing them! Then he potty trained just after he turned two, so I switched to coming up with workable, reliable, reusable pull ups for a bit, but then he didn't need those any more so my diaper sewing days were over. Or so I thought. Then, earlier this year, I was asked if I could create some swim diapers for older children that have special needs. I'm happily back to sewing diapers, and although not quite the same as the ones I used to make Baby Boy, I really enjoy the process. Plus the PUL fabrics available on the market are just so much fun!

The diapers I'm working on now are for a little guy, who needs them as a requirement for the establishment he takes his swimming lessons at.  His mama wanted ones to last him from now until the requirement is lifted in a few years when he's a preschooler, so I set to work coming up with a "grow with me" design. They got put on hold for wedding dress sewing and wedding prep, but I'm going to finish them up this week and send them on their way! (Good thing his mama is a good and understanding friend of mine that wasn't in a rush! Normally I have diapers sewn and out for delivery within a couple of days of getting an order.)

I've also got a quilt on the go that started out as a baby quilt when I first found out I was expecting Baby Boy, only to be put on hold when I found out he was going to be Baby Boy and most definitely not a girl. I'm going to increase the size a smidge more, then quilt and bind it and call it a picnic quilt. It uses the old, now hard to find, Oh Cherry Oh line of fabric from Moda and so I've renamed it the "Memories of the Okanagan" quilt. When I use it for picnics down the road I shall fondly recall sunny days sitting on the magical, picturesque lawn at my dear Aunt Flora's Okanagan lake front property as she imparted her wisdom on the intricacies of cherries - the picking, the eating and the wearing as earrings - you know… pick two with the stems attached at the top and dangle them over your ears feeling quite glamorous for a bit before you eat them? Everyone does that, right? Perhaps I shall even sip a cream soda (something she always made sure to have on hand as she knew it was my favourite) while I think of those long past summer visits.

I've got the batting - I snagged some at the beginning of July when the fabric store was having a ridiculously good sale and don't laugh. I'm going to back it with the left over lining fabric from my wedding dress. Before you start thinking I've gone off my rocker and are picturing me using some slippery, hideous, 100% polyester lining to back my quilt I'll let you in on a little secret.  I used cotton sheeting to line my dress. I loathe dress lining with a fiery passion. There was no way I was going to spend a day sweating to death in that stuff.

And of course there's something on the needles too. There's always something on the needles! My favourite project right now is my latest pair of Rose Hiver socks, Fireweeds.  I had started these last spring, then other projects took over, but now that the weather has cooled and some mornings are downright frigid in the house I've started having the urge to knit socks again. I also have a sweater that I've just bought wool for, so that's going to be my next focus along with some exciting Christmas projects I have up my sleeve!
Cold weather? Bring it on.
Just don't bring it on too soon please!!
Wait a few months yet!

How does my work differ from others in its genre?

I'm not really sure mine differs much from anyone else who blogs about their crafty ventures, so as such this is, obviously, going to be a much shorter answer than the previous one. I suppose I could claim it to be different in the fact that instead of focusing solely on one area of my creative life I tend to share about what ever creative process I'm currently working on. Whether it be designing and sewing swim diapers, reviewing a fantastic pattern I've found or making something tasty in my kitchen I like to include it here.

Why do I write/create what I do?

The answer to this may be even shorter, then the last. I simply love to make things. End of story. I write about the things I make because I like to share my projects with others, hopefully giving inspiration or ideas to help my readers want to create things for themselves as well.

How does my writing/creative process work?

Hmmm. This is a hard question to answer. I'm not entirely sure that there's any sort of of rhyme or reason to my creative process. It may in fact, upon reflection, simply be madcap, disorganized and fly by the seat of my pants!

For knitting and sewing I almost always buy fabric and yarn once I have a specific pattern in mind. I rarely buy to just have something in my stash. Although there are two flaws with this plan. The first being I often wish, like other bloggers, I could just go to my fabric stash on a whim and pull out a dress worth of fabric or a sweater's worth of yarn. The second being often times I order fabric online. I  will get swept up with an obsession about a particular pattern and order the fabric almost right away. However, by the time it arrives and I get the time to actually buckle down and make the item I've already been swept away with a new obsession.

So there you go. A wee peek into the inner workings of my creative brain. Once again I'd like to thank Anna of Charmed Liebling for asking me to participate in the blog hop. Please head on over to Amy's Quixotic Pixels to read about her creative process! I think you'll enjoy her blog. She does beautiful sewing and knitting! She sews jeans for goodness sakes! That alone pretty much makes her a sewing goddess in my books!!!!

Next take a jump over to Australia with the very talented Coo of Betty Stitchup! You have to see her outfits! She uses amazing fabrics and creates fantastic clothes with a vintage vibe. I got lost in looking at her "My Stitchups" page for quite some time the other day!

Friday, August 29, 2014

The Luckiest

Last Saturday was a magnificent day for our family. (BF)G and I finally got married!!!! Words really cannot do justice to how I felt about the day. It was all about love, family and happiness.

J received his marriage commissioner's license back in the spring so he officiated, which was incredibly special. G and N were our witnesses and the little boys even played a part in the ceremony by carrying our rings. I wouldn't have had it any other way!

It was a simple affair - a short ceremony on our back deck, then a BBQ supper, then some songs by my eldest brother and his former bandmate and good friend, who was, for years, like an extra big brother  to me, then a bonfire complete with fireworks to celebrate the day!

In keeping things simple and as a "theme" of sorts, we decided to try to do handmade/homemade as much as we possibly could for the wedding. From our invitations - that the little boys helped me glue to my bouquet which was thoughtfully made by some very dear Ravelry friends who sent me knit and crocheted flowers from across the continent.

In the weeks leading up to the wedding I made and froze eight dozen dinner rolls, cubed and froze meat for kabobs and subjected my family to more than one marinade recipe in my search for the perfect souvlaki and teriyaki. They were good sports about it although we may not want to look at a kabob again for a while.  The week before the wedding (BF)G's niece, along with G, myself and some of the little ones in the family got together for a baking day to make cookies for the wedding favours which she then decorated the day before the wedding, then I set to work searching out the perfect recipes for the cake I made. (It was shipped off to the city the day before the wedding wrapped and frozen, along with 12 cups of homemade buttercream and hand knit rosettes and leaves to G's niece to assemble and decorate). The day before my niece, R, came over and helped chop veggies and make signs so our guests wouldn't get lost on all the rural roads they had to travel. Then that night, (BF)G and I "kabob-ed" and marinaded 100 kabobs. Did I mention I don't want to look at a kabob for a long time?

I also made my dress. After stumbling across the Lorelei Dress* in the blogosphere back in June, I knew exactly what pattern I wanted to use for my dress.  I couldn't have been happier with the result. It turned out so well and was an absolute dream to sew. I could wear my dress any given day it felt so good. Seriously. I could live in it. Of course it would seem a bit overdressed to go grocery shopping or to the playground in a wedding dress… I'm totally going to have to make a less fancy version.

My kids (and my "extra" kids - the older three's boyfriend and girlfriends) and my niece R were AMAZING with all the help they gave us to make sure our wedding day was spectacular. They were all on a mission to keep "mom out of the kitchen" the day of and did splendid.

Thank you to our families for making our day so special and perfect. We are truly the luckiest.  I'll leave you with the lyrics to one of our absolute favourite songs, that really does sum things up perfectly. (You can find it on the About Time soundtrack if you want to actually give it a listen!)

The Luckiest - by Ben Folds

I don't get many things right the first time
In fact, I am told that a lot
Now I know all the wrong turns
The stumbles and falls brought me here

And where was I before the day
That I first saw your lovely face?
Now I see it everyday
And I know that I am
I am, I am the luckiest

What if I'd been born fifty years before you
In a house on the street where you live?
Maybe I'd be outside as you passed on your bike
Would I know?

And in a wide sea of eyes
I see one pair that I recognize
And I know that I am
I am, I am the luckiest

I love you more than I have
Ever found a way to say to you

Next door, there's an old man who lived to his 90's
And one day, passed away in his sleep
And his wife, she stayed for a couple of days
And passed away

I'm sorry, I know that's a strange way
To tell you that I know we belong
That I know that I am
I am, I am the luckiest

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Outfit Along 2014

It was dicey for a bit, but I'm really excited to tell you I've finished my outfit! I actually finished! Whoooot!!!

This outfit presented more than it's fair share of challenges along the way. From major gauge issues on the cardi to major fit issues on the dress. I will admit to feeling defeated on more than one occasion. Things hit rock bottom the other night when I attached the bodice to the skirt and tried the dress on only to find that despite doing two muslins my fit was still off and my dress fit like a sack.  I was ready to throw in the towel on sewing forever! Luckily, I was talked down off my ledge and given some good advice. It gave me the "oomph" to get out my seam ripper and get to the bottom of my fit problems and correct them.

I'll give you a tip here, if you are sewing a fitted dress over a period of time in which your measurements may have changed, don't assume it's your skills or ability that is at fault! When one of the ladies over in the Scientific Seamstress Lab group on Facebook mentioned measurements the light bulb finally went off. I grabbed my tape measure and much to my surprise my measurements had changed significantly enough that the root of the problem was suddenly very clear, and it wasn't my ability to follow a pattern. I was sewing the wrong sized dress. Empowered by that knowledge I forged ahead and took in seams, shortened the bodice and reduced the width of the skirt fabric.

Finally success! An outfit that fits!!!

Unfortunately my cardi now has a bit more ease than anticipated as well. I guess I could go back to snacking with wild abandon and gain back those few pounds I've dropped because I'm definitely not at the point that I want to rip it out and begin again for a third time.  Although that might be a bad idea because then my cardi will fit, but my dress won't. Perhaps the better option is to just decide to be ok with the extra room after all.

I only did a couple of very simple modifications to the two patterns despite all my frogging back on Myrna and the fit issues with the Jenny Dress . For Myrna, I did only two sets of waistline decreases instead of five as called for. In retrospect I could've done three sets and still not had too much negative ease, but hindsight is 20/20.  For Jenny my only mods from the pattern were to cut a narrower skirt so as not to have quite so much volume at the waistline and I added pockets. I do love pockets!!! I used the pattern piece from the Washi Dress pattern instead of drafting my own.

The final assessment of the 2014 Outfit Along? Well worth the effort! I'm really happy how my outfit turned out and I really enjoyed the process despite all the frustrations and setbacks. I'd definitely sign up again if Andi and Lauren decide to host another one!

Friday, July 11, 2014

Happy Birthday Little Super Hero

Last Saturday was a big day in our house!  Little Man turned FIVE!!!! (I also had a birthday, but that's not nearly as exciting).  We started the day out with the traditional birthday crown (you can see his previous ones here, here, here and here !) This year's seemed pretty plain to me, but Little Man's assessment was, "It's just what I hoped for! Green Lantern's symbol with a five on it!" He'd also mentioned he hoped there'd be a five "stitched in thread" on his crown this year so I embroidered a five on either side of his crown.

Instead of doing "loot bags" this year I decided it would be much more fun (for me anyways!) to make super hero masks for each of the little party guests. I had hoped to make an assortment for the adults too, but unfortunately ran short on time. I think the kids liked them and I did have fun making them.  Little Man picked out the selection and chose specifically for each child which they should receive then presented them with their mask as they arrived.  I used an online template for the basic shape then took off from there! We had (from top right :  Batgirl, Supergirl, Dazzler, Wonder Woman, Stargirl, Spider-Man, Batman, Captain America and Wolverine - Little Man and Baby Boy used their Green Lantern and Flash masks that I made them in May)

You have no idea how hard it is to get a bunch of excited kids - who are being eaten alive by mosquitoes - to sit and look at the camera for a photo. This is the best one I got!

Little Man has been thinking about his cake for months so I knew exactly what I needed to make.  Using my usual chocolate cake recipe I quickly realized I wasn't going to have quite enough cake batter to fill a 9x13" pan as well as a 9" round pan that I would need to create the Green Lantern symbol, so I decided to make my chocolate cake and then a white cake recipe that would yield a single layer, and then marble the two as I didn't really want scads of cake left over if I did a double recipe of chocolate. It turned out really well I thought. Icing it in weather that, with the humidex, was +37C with no air conditioning was, as always, interesting shall we say. It involved a lengthy process of freezer, quick crumb coat layer, back to the freezer, second layer, back to the freezer till cake time all in order to prevent the buttercream from melting and sliding right off the cake. I was happy and Little Man was happy!

As I mentioned it was also my birthday.  For months the boys have been looking at my Australian Women's Weekly Cake book planning exactly what they wanted to make for me, which I thought incredibly sweet of them.  I was treated to a "Fairytale Cake" mostly made by the boys and (BF)G - with a wee bit of assistance from me.

All in all a pretty good birthday I'd say!!!

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

A Pretty New Pattern!

I'm taking a bit of a break from my Outfit Along outfit today. We need a bit of separation. Even if for a few minutes or hours.  I've suddenly found myself battling with fit issues with the dress and now a bit of conundrum about the cardi has cropped up as there was a significant bit of gauge errata that popped up late last week for the pattern. I'm at a crossroads with only one sleeve left to go - rip out and start over again from the beginning for a more form fitting sleeve or go with the slightly baggie sleeve and call it a day because the rest of the cardi fits perfectly to my liking.

Gauge. You are my arch nemesis!

So instead I'm obsessing thinking and talking about something else right now instead.  I just bought a new pattern this week from E-Beth Designs that I'm super excited about! I've been seeing the Lorelei Women's Dress* popping up all over the blogosphere lately and I've been absolutely taken with it!

It's everything I love! A twirly skirt (with a tulle petticoat!!!), a fitted bodice and a pattern that will fit me without a whole slew of alterations! WHOOT!!!! It's got a nice retro vibe to it too that I've always really liked.

I can't wait to get sewing this dress. But first I have to find the perfect fabric. I've been scouring the net, and I've checked Fabricland in the city (although just briefly as the boys - including N who I dragged along with me were all getting a bit antsy from being in there beyond their time limit). I hope I find my fabric soon! Did I mention I can't wait to sew this dress?

I have a fancy dress in mind, which it is truly perfect for, but then I've come across several more casual knit versions in the last few days. AHHHHHH! Pretty dress + comfort = win/win for my summer wardrobe! There's a good chance you are going to be hearing a lot about this pattern from me over the coming weeks!

I'll have to let you know how the fabric search pans out. In the meantime, I'm going to go take a look at my new pattern and see if I can't get a jump on things by starting my muslin for it!

Ready to cut out and paste my printed out pattern pieces together
and then onto cutting out and sewing a muslin!

*this post contains affiliate links - if you purchase from E-Beth Designs through the links in this post I do earn a small commission, at no extra cost to you