Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Winter Is Coming...Get Out Your Crochet Hooks!

Remember the crochet lesson back in early July?  Well, as it turns out, those few stitch my mother taught me, along with learning to read the short hand of crochet pattern writing, lead to the great success that is My New Hat!  After the crochet lesson I was very excited about the possibilities, so I did an image search for crochet hat patterns. The search lead me to the Baara Retro Hat Easy Crochet Pattern from CrocheTrend on Etsy.
The things I love about this pattern: "easy" is in the name of the pattern and it truly was easy, despite the easiness of the pattern the hat still has loads of style, that Retro look, and even with my inability to count and fully understand all the concepts in crocheting I still was able to successfully complete the hat!  There was a moment of panic when my mother looked over my shoulder and said, "Did the pattern say to crochet from the back?"  Once she explained that what I was doing would make the stitches not quite as tight and would add more texture I just kept on going.  I love texture, and let's face it when you have sooo many unfinished projects floating around in your head it adds girth to the ol' noggin, so the loose stitches (and all those added stitches because I can't count) turned out to be just perfect.
No, it did not take me over a month to finish the hat. It took 3 nights of watching Sons of Anarchy, because crocheting and biker gangs go so well together.  It just felt a little odd posting about winter hats in August, but yesterday on my walk I looked out across the hill and realized there was just a hint of yellow in some of the leaves, I realized fall will be here before you know it...and inevitably Winter Is Coming. 

Friday, August 26, 2011

Arrivals and Departures

This week has been a whirlwind of activity.  And where there is activity, creativity follows.  Right now I am going to put aside the stories of all the finished and half-finished projects of the week and focus on two biggies, the long awaited arrival of Maria and the departure of our good friends, as they leave our lovely hilltop for the Azores.  

New babies always bring a flurry of project ideas; luckily I was given a bit of focus by my friend, and then expectant mother.  In the process of renovating an old farm house here in the hills, she discovered a bag of wool.  She had the wool cleaned by a man who at one time made wool mattresses.  I am still sad I was too busy to be a part of this process; I find the whole thing fascinating.  She asked me if I would make a wool-filled nursing pillow, of course I was very excited by this idea.  Several years ago I made a pattern for “Boppy” covers for another friend, fortunately I keep the pattern.  So from the “Boppy” cover pattern I created the wool nursing pillow and three covers, a practical and pretty gift.  On two of the covers I FINALLY used some of the organic cotton I purchased last summer.  I was saving it for a special occasion, and without a doubt Maria’s arrival was just such the occasion. 

Nursing pillow and covers just waiting...and waiting...
Welcome Sweet Maria!
            I suppose the departure balances our scales.  We are all very sad to see our friends moving away, but happy for the great opportunities it brings to their lives.  My son has taken it all very hard.  He has a very close bond with his friend who is leaving.  They both started Italian pre-school together when they were 3.  They went through all 3 years of pre-school in the same class, this last year went to first grade together, and they have spent countless hours playing together.  I suggested he make a little book with pictures from some of their good times together and to draw pictures of either other good times they shared or pictures just for fun.  This really helped shift his focus from being sad to remembering all the fun things they did together.  I helped him put the pages of the book together and he picked out all of the photographs and drew pictures for each page.  His drawings included the two of them on a speed boat, riding a giant eagle, and playing together at school.  Projects definitely have their therapeutic value, he stopped sobbing and was really excited to give his friend the gift he created for her.   
It's a bit hard to see, but this is the speed boat page.  In the photograph they are eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches at the lake.  

This was the envelope he made for her.  All of the broken hearts make we want to cry.  

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Very Good Play Dough

 My mom just called.  My niece has "a little cold" and will be spending the day with my mother, who has in turn decided they should make play dough.  She called for Aunt Daisey's recipe.  The recipe I have originated  from my very good friend in Bothell, WA over 5 years ago, where she acquired it, I do not know.  Scribbled at the top of my recipe is "Very Good Play Dough,"  the paper itself is covered in oil marks and food coloring. The kids and I have made lots and lots of Very Good Play Dough.  So today we pass on our Very Good Play Dough to my niece and anyone else who cares to play dough.
Mixing together the ingredients is a very kid friendly activity.  The recipe is very flexible and very forgiving.
In a medium saucepan mix together:
       2 Cups flour
       1 Cup salt (maybe a little less)
       4 teaspoons cream of tartar
 Combine and add to the saucepan:
       2 Cups warm water
       2 Tablespoons of oil + a teaspoon more
       1 or more teaspoons of food coloring
 Stir, stir, stir, because stirring is loads of fun!  Don't worry about getting the lumps out before you cook the dough.

Next cook over medium hear for 5 minutes, stirring constantly.  It can burn easily, so really stir constantly.  Test for readiness by squeezing a piece of the dough.  If it is sticky keep cooking, if it is springy, it is done.  The dough will get VERY difficult to stir, and you may think it isn't working, but keep going, it will work, almost like magic.
 Let the Play Dough thoroughly cool before poking your fingers into it.
If you have made Play Dough for all your friends try hard to resist poking your fingers into all of their Play Dough...though they probably won't mind.
This Play Dough keeps for a VERY long time if stored in an airtight container.  These pictures were from my daughter's birthday almost 6 months ago, and she is still playing with dough we made that day.

To my sweet niece, I hope the dough helps brighten you day! Have fun, and feel better soon!
Aunt Daisey

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Super Bat Cape

Today we took photos of the Super Bat Cape!  Gearing up for the Super Cape class at the Arts and Crafts Center.  This cape is essentially the same as the Super Cape, but with a scalloped "bat" edge.  I think this cape would be perfect for a vampire, a bat super hero, or a witch.  
Super Bat Cape ready for action!

A lovely silvery gray lining...
a Bat and Crescent Moon on the back emblem.... 

The Masked Super Bat!
 My Super Hero was so ready for action!  So many hours of fun to be had in a cape and mask! 

Monday, August 15, 2011

Super Princess

I just finished this year's sample of the Super Princess Cape and Mask for my upcoming class at the Arts and Crafts Center.  I am so lucky to have such a willing model.  She even helped pick up the box of beads and sequins I spilled all over the floor just so I would hurry up and finish!  
 The Super Princess cape is the Super cape with an added ruffle on the bottom and a heart and flower embellishment at the neck for extra Princess-ness.
the Princess Cape back

the Princess Cape front
On this cape a used a polka-dotted cotton organza for the ruffle and the lining.  Organza is a very sheer fabric so on the lining I actually used two layers, one of the organza and one layer that is the same as the outer fabric.

 All of the capes I have designed have an emblem for the back.   This one got pretty fancy, but appropriate for a Princess!
My Super Princess!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Chocolate Zucchini Cake

My mother started making chocolate zucchini cake when I was a child back in the 80's.  It is a very moist and delicious cake, and a great way to use the over-sized zucchini that tend to appear out of nowhere like magic this time of year.  I make it every Summer.  It has become a hit with both the family and the friends.  Today I made one at the request of my dear friend who is preparing to leave our lovely hilltop for the Azores off the coast of Portugal.   She supplied me with the zucchini (mine never did decide to pick up production), so how could I resist.   I decided to post the recipe.  I have made changes to the recipe several times of the years, and in my humble opinion it is better than ever!

Preheat Oven to 350 F.
Grease and flour pan 9x13 or 2 8inch rounds.
Cream together:
1/2 Cup butter
1 8oz. package of cream cheese
2 Cups of sugar
Then add:
1/2 Cup milk
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 Cups of shredded or otherwise pulverized zucchini
Mix in:
2 1/2 Cups flour (I use half whole wheat and half white, but any combo will work)
1 Cup coco powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1 Cup chocolate chips
Bake for 30 to 50 minutes

Today's Bundt Cake Pan Variation: 
increase sugar by 1/2 Cup
increase flour by 1/2 Cup
increase coco powder by 1/4 Cup
increase baking time to 70 minutes

Today's cake was topped with melted chocolate mixed with a splash of milk, and the nasturtiums were added for color.

The cake was good, really good, but like everything in life, better shared with friends.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Garden Flowers, a Pomegranate, and a Tomato

The children helped me dig the last of the potatoes today.  We all had so much fun, it was like a treasure hunt.  In celebration, I decided to make a garden post.  We have had a bountiful garden this year.  My mother helped me do most of the planting in early May.  She spent three months with us and did a lot of work in the garden.  Before my mother arrived the peas were almost ready to be picked and the potatoes, tomatoes, and basil were already in the ground.  Together Mom and I planted green beans, zucchini, lots and lots of cucumbers, eggplant, bieta (an Italian "green"), lettuce, and a healthy heap of flowers, including sunflowers, zinnias, and calendula. Everything has done amazingly well, except for the zucchini.  The zucchini looks pretty, has many flowers, but makes small shriveled zucchini.  It's a little embarrassing.  But, we've made up for it in cucumbers!
When I began sifting through the garden pictures it was not difficult to see what I really like to take pictures, tendrils, and insects!  I will start this set out with a picture of Mom in the early May version of the garden, and round things off with a picture my son took of me in the August version of the garden.  
Tonight we dine on boiled new potatoes with green beans, a little onion, and a just a lil' bacon!
Mom and the Garden in May
The Promise of Green Beans
Potato Flowers
Hummingbird Moth Enjoying the Zinnias
Eggplant Flower
The Beauty and the Beast
Cucumber Flower
Cucumbers in the Setting Sun
Friend of the Bees
Reaching for the Sky
Late Afternoon Sunflower
They Grow like Sunflowers in July. 
Mr. Tomato Head
Pomegranate After the Rain

Look how happy she is just thinking about eating all those wonderful Summer veggies!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Up Coming Classes for Halloween 2011

What is an x-costume designer's favorite time of year?  ....Halloween, of course!  This is my second Halloween teaching classes at the Arts and Crafts Center and last year we had so much FUN!  Samples will be hang soon in the Arts and Crafts Center's window, but in the meantime I have had some inquires as to what exactly we will be making in class.  Here are pictures of last year's samples and a little description about what to expect from each class.  

September 7th and 14th: “Super Capes and Masks” 
Time:  9:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m
Cost: $30 (plus additional materials; list provided at the Arts and Crafts Center)

This was a great class last year, we ended up running two sessions.  This year I have a lovely lady bug cape and mask, and a super spooky bat cape and mask that will soon be hanging in the Arts and Crafts Center window along with the traditional Super Cape!  We will begin the first session designing masks, so it is a good idea to come to class with the beginnings of a design in mind.  I provide patterns for all of the sample masks, as well as the basic mask shape for you to create a design of your own.  The second session will be devoted to the cape and finishing the mask.  This class was designed as a beginning sewing project.

 September 21st  and  28th: “Little Critter Costume”
  Time: 9:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.
  Cost: $30 (plus additional materials; list provided at the Arts and Crafts Center)

I taught last year during the winter, but I am offering it this year at Halloween.  I think these hats make a great costume pieces.  My children loved wearing them all winter, and we still have days, even in the heat of the summer, where they use the hats and tails for some pretend play fun.   My daughter loves to wear the cat hat and tail with a pretty skirt and pretend she is Hello Kitty.  I have patterns for a bear, pig, cat, dinosaur and monkey, but please feel free to be creative!  If you have a different animal in mind we can work together to create it! I think these make wonderful costumes for very young children and infants as they can be paired with comfortable clothing and are not overly cumbersome.     The bonus to this class is learning how to use the "stretch stitch" on the sewing machine, which makes sewing fleece so much easier!

October 5th  and 12th: “No-sew Tutu, Fairy Wand, and Wings”
  Time: 9:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.
  Cost: $30 (plus additional materials; list provided at the Arts and Crafts Center)

A very fun and popular class last year, there is so much room for creativity!  The wings are made of craft foam and have proven to be very durable.  The purple pair pictured below I made two years ago and they are played with on a regular basis, in fact yesterday they were on one of my daughter's baby dolls while she was wearing the pink pair.   The wings require no sewing, and the only sewing on the tutu is the optional leaves and petals.  Hot gluing is required, so bring your tough skin!  

October 19th: “Halloween Candy Bag”
  Time: 9:30 a.m. – Noon
  Cost: $25 (plus additional materials; list provided at the Arts and Crafts Center)

This is the only project I am totally revamping.  I love this bag and so do my children, but there was much frustration last year with my beginning sewing students with all of the gathering that is required for the bag.  The pattern for this bag will be available on my Etsy site.  The NEW and improved Halloween candy bag will be a simpler design and making its debut in the Arts and Crafts window very soon!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

A Man and His Bag

I have wanted to make a "Man Bag" for awhile now, and Hubby's impending trip back to the Land of the Brave was just the kind of deadline I needed to actually get something done.  Designed to hold a Netbook or iPad, the prototype of the Man Bag is made from an up-cycled pair of pants and lined with an up-cycled dress shirt, sewn in contrasting red thread.  
 Pant side seams were used to add visual interest and the back pocket was used to add...well more pockets.
 The front flap covers a zippered front pocket.  For the prototype I used a zippered pocket straight off the pants.  I will include a front zippered pocket in future designs.
 The top also zips closed to completely conceal the Netbook, Kindle, iPod, pens, and passport on the inside....until someone unzips it, takes a picture, and posts it on her blog.  There are two pockets, two pen/pencil pockets and a padded divider on the inside.
 The prototype is padded to protect the electronics on the inside, however in future designs there will be some modifications to accommodate top stitching around the opening to the bag.  The top of the prototype would not fit under the presser foot of the sewing machine.
And He's OFF!  If you think he looks a little tired it's because the photo was taken at 6AM, and he's already been awake for 2 hours!  If you see him at GEN-CON ask him about his dice pocket.