Monday, July 27, 2009

Painting: Back to It!

I have only painted once since Scarlett was born--that was to finish up a Christmas gift--and I have been dying to get back to it. Sewing has provided such a great creative outlet but I really want to keep up the painting and have a few portraits I have been asked to do so I really need to get back into the rhythm. So today I did it! I typically work a half day Mondays but I took some vacation and went to the painting studio instead.

Last time I painted I had started a little painting of my old dog, currently my in-law's dog, Zoe, resting in the shade of a big Carob tree in their backyard in Phoenix. So I worked on that today. Some sort of composition involving this tree has been on my list for a long time. It was pretty difficult getting warmed up. I felt like I couldn't remember how to do it. At one point I thought the painting was a complete disaster. That would have been ok really. I chose the subject because I've never painted anything like it--so much green foliage. That has been my M.O. with painting: I have wanted to try new things. Landscapes aren't my typical subject. I did figures in the landscape. I want to try flowers next. I figure it's all about learning and practice.

But thankfully by the end of the class time I felt like this painting has some potential. This is a little detail--a piece that I like. I'm now excited to finish it and move on to something else (hollyhocks I think). I just need to figure out how to get back to the studio again.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Sewing: Felt Birthday Crown for Gavin

Since first making them for Audrey and Kate, I have had a lot of fun with these Felt Birthday Crowns from Juicy Bits. I made one for my niece, Grace, and one for my nephew, Holden, and so now here is one for Gavin. This is it for Audrey's and Scarlett's cousins as the rest of them are a bit old to enjoy the crowns. Maybe I'll make them for friends some time though because I have the process down and I think it's really fun. (I rely heavily on spray fixative!)
I have kept the construction more simple that the original tutorial because it seems I'm always squeezing them in. For instance, I skipped the interfacing and didn't use as many appliques, and no buttons for the boys'. They are still pretty cute however.

I love the use of primary colored felt. I think these have a comic book hero feel to them.
Gavin loved wearing his--but probably not as much as he loved tearing into his presents.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Sewing: Patriotic Prairie Bloomers and Blouse for Pioneer Day

The Strawberry Bloomers turned out so cute I wanted to do some more. So I made a little playset for Audrey with bloomers and blouse in more Moda Prairie Paisley fabric. I was saving the red Indienne fabric for a dress for myself but sacrified some for this top because I thought it would be too cute and fun for Audrey to wear. (I still may have enough for myself, we'll see.) I need to make a pattern for this blouse so I can do it easily again--I love it.


We celebrate the 24th of July as Pioneer Day in Utah, with flags and fireworks, so I added stars to the back instead of the pocket on the original version of the bloomers.



I love the fullness of the bloomers and blouse--perfect for a little girl. If only mine would hold still!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Sewing: Flannel Baby Blanket for Craft Hope

I put so much energy into creating things for my home and family, but can't forget that I first learned to crochet by making baby hats for charity. It is such a fulfilling endeavor to create something for someone who truly needs it. I've been inspired by the Craft Hope effort and have loved seeing all the beautiful things created. I imagine it to be extra charitable to provide someone with a little beauty to go along with the utility.

I learned about Project 3 a bit late but still managed to sew a baby blanket and ship it in time. This blanket is made with fabric from my stash--it's leftover from a blanket I made for Audrey, which she loves. I think the prints are very cheery and I love pink and orange together.

I don't know what this type of blanket is called but I received one from my cousin when Audrey was born and I thought it would be just the thing: cute, fast, and fun texture. Making it causes me to want to go hunting for some cute designer flannel to make some more for the Fall.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Cooking: Grilled Salmon with Olive Tapenade, Roasted Asparagus, and Blackberry Almond Clafoutis


We had my husband's parents over for dinner this evening. My mother-in-law is a fabuous cook--one of those women who doesn't use recipes, or at least does't really follow them. She often starts with one for inspiration but always improvises. I on the other hand am excellent at following directions and usually follow them precisely. I am starting to improvise more--in all areas creative really. It started with crochet, which I found more forgiving of experimentation, and now I am doing it more an more and loving it! But anyway, my mother-in-law's cooking makes me want to try to cook sans recipe more often. Tonight was one of those nights.

So here is an easy no-recipe Grilled Salmon with Olive Tapenade:
  • 1 whole fillet of wild salmon
  • olive oil
  • kosher salt
  • fresh ground pepper
  • pre-made or purchased olive tapenade (I used Martha Stewart's Olive Bruschetta for Costco--love the cipollini onions)

Preheat the grill on high heat. Rinse the salmon and pat dry. Oil a piece of aluminum foil and place the salmon on it. Lightly oil the fish and then season with kosher salt and pepper. Spread the tapenade over the fish (I probably used 1 cup of a fairly chunky tapenade). Reduce the grill to medium heat, place the fish (on foil) in the grill and close the cover. Grill for about 12 minutes (varies obviously based on size of fillet) until opaque in the middle. Serve with remaining tapenade.
The perfect accompaniment: Roasted Asparagus. Preheat oven to 425. Wash and break off the ends of a bunch of fresh asparagus. Place on baking sheet and coat lightly with olive oil and kosher salt. I roast in the oven for about 8 minutes. You could of course grill these just as easily but we had the oven on anyway for my husband's amazing sourdough bread and my mother-in-law's clafoutis.

This delicious Blackberry Almond Clafoutis was of course made without a recipe but my mother-in-law shared how she did it, so I can try to duplicate it sometime. I love her addition of almonds:

  • enough blackberries for a single layer in a 9" baking dish (about a pint)
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 1/3 cup almond meal (ground blanched almonds)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp almond extract
  • powdered sugar for dusting on top

Preheat oven to 325. Place blackberries in the dish and sprinkle with cornstarch and sugar. In a medium bowl mix the batter: eggs, milk, flour, almond meal, sugar, vanilla and almond extract. Pour over berries in dish. Bake in oven for about 60 minutes. Clafoutis should rise, be lightly browned, and set up in the middle. Allow to cool about 10 minutes. Sprinkle with powdered sugar to serve.

Sewing: Strawberry Summer Dresses

I had to squeeze in just one more set of summer dresses for my girls. The summer is half-way gone I'm reminded, and there are already plenty of dresses in the closet, so I'm trying to restrain myself, but I had to pull out this fabric from my stash. I bought it a year ago on clearance and have been saving it for a cute set. I decided to go with a simple preppy pair of dresses: an a-line jumper for Audrey and a little round-yoked sun dress for Scarlett. As I mentioned last week, sewing a diaper cover and bloomers to go with these dresses spurred a whole new line of compulsive thinking (more bloomers in the works!)
I love this jumper pattern. It's Simplicity 3662. I love that it is lined. It's such an easy pattern (I made it last Fall in corduroy) and it has a really nice finish--no raw seams showing. The bloomers are my own design. I love having them under the dress and they're perfect for my three-year-old so she can sit on the floor and tumble around. She's wearing the jumper it with a classic crewcuts blouse. Scarlett's dress is a NewLook 6878 pattern, with diaper cover added. It's a little big through the chest but still darling on her I think and it made me think about using the pattern again as a cute top for Audrey. Hmmm. More summer sewing ideas...

Friday, July 17, 2009

Room Design: A Bird's Nest for Scarlett's Room


I just received my Etsy impuse buy and couldn't be happier! I bought this little nest painting (mixed media really) after seeing it featured in one of their EtsyFinds emails. It's from , OneGiftOneWorld, and I also love her miniature paintings on necklaces. When I was pregnant with Audrey I had birds on the brain and it has continued with Scarlett. I think this painting looks perfect in her little baby (bird) room.

Painting: Hollyhocks for Inspiration



My girls and I were walking home from a birthday party around the corner this evening and I spotted these gorgeous flowers. Couldn't resist pulling out the camera to take a few pictures--I think they deserve to be painted. I think a smallish hollyhock painting would be perfect in Scarlett's room.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Sewing: Strawberry Sidetrack


I was working pretty quickly on the girls' strawberry summer dresses when I decided Audrey needed some shorts of some sort to wear underneath--bloomers, if you will... So I worked out a pattern for some that didn't look too baby. I decided to incorporate a cuff--so they look like short knickers. Then I decided they were looking so cute that they can stand on their own as full blown shorts, especially with a pocket on the back, which I then added.

Now the wheels are really turning and I think I need to make a pair to go with Audrey's patriotic dress, and do a matching top for wearing alone, and wouldn't these be cute in velvet or corduroy with tights underneath for Fall?

Monday, July 13, 2009

Cooking: Dining Alfresco

I don't often cook Monday evenings because I work a half day, but I had all the ingredients for Rachel Ray's Moroccan Skillet Chicken with Pine Nut Couscous, and the girls were happy so I thought I'd give it a whirl. I felt I lacked a side dish however, and since I'm feeling less ok these days about tossing unused food I thought I'd try to rescue my wilted grape tomotoes and red peppers. So I washed, chopped the peppers and threw the combo into a hot oven to roast. Worked beautifully! So now I know, if the tomatoes aren't up to a salad anymore they still do fine roasted.





Here's the no-recipe approach:

  • A couple handfuls of washed grape tomatoes (no chopping required)

  • Two red peppers, chopped into 2 inch pieces
  • Enough extra virgin olive oil to lightly coat
  • A heavy sprinkling of freeze dried Tarragon
  • Salt and pepper
  • Bake at 400 degrees until satisfactorily roasted (probably 10-15 minutes)

I love tarragon with tomatoes, and I was trying to avoid the classic Italian seasonings given the Morrocan main dish. These were a great complement, and so pretty on the plate.




Saturday, July 11, 2009

Room Design: Fireplace Redo (Low Budget Low Time)

I gave up on finding the perfect fireplace screen (clean-lined, silver toned and affordable) a couple years ago and have had a black hole (literally) ever since. Well a couple nights ago at a friends barbecue I saw the answer--a recently felled aspen tree. He had no real plans for the logs so he let me take an armful. After a bit of sawing to clean up the edges, I have the perfect way to fill the space. Finished looking but not too attention getting. I love the color of this bark--it's perfect with the upholstery and rug in the room.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Cooking: Under-Achiever Homemade Chocolate Sandwich Cookies



I am laughing at this recipe because I have been a baking snob for so long! Can't even remember the last time I purchased a cake mix, but when I tasted these cookies at a friend's baby blessing and asked for the recipe it turned out they were cake mix cookies. With canned frosting to top if off!

This afternoon I tried them with my three-year-old Audrey, who loves to help me bake. Typically this is a delicate balance of quality time with her, giving her confidence in the kitchen, and trying to maintain the integrity of whatever recipe. Seems I usually have her as a kitchen helper when I'm cooking for company. Well this time it was just for fun and it was pure fun!

I combined a couple recipes and went with this:

  • 2 boxes Devil's Food cake mix
  • 1 cube melted butter (regular/salted)
  • 1/2 stick Crisco
  • 4 extra large eggs.

I mixed all the ingredients together with a wooden spoon (I learned the difficult way that these cookies can't be done in a mixer). Rolled 1" balls and dropped on prepped cookie sheet.

I baked two sheets at a time at 335-degrees convection for exactly 9 minutes. (They looked a bit underdone.) Allowed to cool 5 minutes on the sheet and then transferred to a cooling rack. When completely cool I sandwiched two together with a nice layer of whipped cream cheese frosting from a can!

Sounds crazy I know, but these are a hit and the easiest things I think I've ever baked.

Audrey and I took them to our neighborhood's Super Summer Softball game this evening and left with an empty container. Instant hit.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Room Design: Flowers for the 5th of July

I went to visit my darling neighbor, JoAnn, this morning because I learned they lost their garbage cans, and nearly their garage, thanks to some misplaced smoldering fireworks after last night's festivities. She was calm despite the near-crisis. We swapped leftovers from the BBQ (I traded some of my Shrimp Mango salad for her cupcakes--fair deal for sure) and then she took me in her garage and loaded my arms with fresh flowers.
So for the 5th of July I came home and created this arrangement of Lilies, pale yellow Roses and deep pink Peonies in a large crystal vase, which was my mother's. My father brought the vase when he came over to celebrate the 4th. When I open my front door now I can smell the lillies and I love seeing the vase filled--looks as beautiful as my mother.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Sewing: Patriotic Prairie Dresses for the Fourth of July


When I saw this Moda Prairie Paisley fabric last year I loved it! I think it's all at once prairie, bohemian, victorian, and a bit exotic. I thought it would be great for Fourth of July dresses if I could find the right pattern. A year later I decided the Portabello Pixie Gracie pattern would be perfect! It's a bit old fashioned with all the ruffled tiers but a little sophisticated too so as not to look too pioneerish (a significant risk in Utah). I then had to hunt to find the Moda fabric but luckily did, and so Butterfly, Stripe and three different colors of Indienne arrived about two weeks before the 4th. I had to make Portabello Pixie's Ruffle Pants again after making them for the birthday outfits. I love the look and the utility. Especially with Scarlett crawling all over the place. I used the Butterfly and (ticking) Stripe fabrics. I used a solid red cotton for the neck on the Gracie dress, and made covered buttons with it too. My favorite view of this dress is the back! Scarlett's dress is made from a combination of the Portabello Pixie Claire and Gracie patterns. I made the round apron dress (without the apron) earlier this summer for Scarlett to coordinate with Audrey's birthday dress and thought it was so cute. This time I used the tiered Gracie skirt, left off the apron but used the Claire tie. I love the petal ends on the tie--my favorite view of Scarlett's dress is also from the back. I cranked out the dresses just in time. Well, my husband begs to differ. I actually finished about an hour after our BBQ started, but it was worth it. I think the girls look darling in the dresses--these may be my favorite yet--and they can wear them again on the 24th of July, which is Pioneer Day/The Days of '47 in Utah--celebrated like another Fourth of July.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Sewing: Returning Borrowed Sewing Patterns

I need to put together a package of old sewing patterns to return to my aunt. She asked about them as she is gearing up to sew for a bunch of new grandbabies. My mother got them from her and brought the old patterns to me when I was getting excited about sewing for my little girl, Audrey. I love the idea of making something for Audrey or Scarlett from the same pattern my mother used for me. There are some real classics--a-line shifts, wrap around apron tops, dresses with peter pan collars, ruffle necked blouses... So I'm sending my aunt the ones with her name on it. Even though my mother wrote "you keep" to my aunt on many of the patterns I recognize I've decided to keep them myself. I just love seeing my mother's writing on them! I'm sharing them with my sister--how fun that a generation later two sisters are again sharing patterns as they sew for their daughters.

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