Monday, August 30, 2010

Cooking: Pasta Salad with Peas, Salame and Feta

I'll admit I have a bit of a thing going with pasta salad this summer. But it's just so easy, the possibilities are endless, it's a great way to get your veggies, and I love having a bowl of it in the refrigerator for lunch, dinner or a snack. So here goes another. This may be the best yet, if you put any weight on the reaction of my extended family. It's a highly seasoned combination.

1 lb campanelle pasta (could use bow ties), cooked, cooled and drained
1 package frozen peas, thawed
1/2 c. sliced black olives
4 oz feta cheese, crumbled
6 oz italian dry sliced salame, cut into 1/4" strips

1/3 cup white-wine vinegar
2 tablespoons water
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon dried crumbled tarragon
2 garlic cloves, minced and mashed to a paste with 1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup olive oil
pepper to taste (I used four turns of the pepper grinder)

Put the first five ingredients in a large bowl. Put the dressing ingredients in a small bowl and whisk to emulsify. Pour dressing over pasta ingredients and stir gently to combine. Chill for about an hour and serve.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Sewing: Linen and Lavender Crib Bedding

I didn't think I would finish this, but since this baby girl decided not to be early like her sisters I had extra time. So her crib bedding is finished! Not that she needs it immediately, but I feel better having a little nest for our new one. Especially since she doesn't have a room of her own... It looks lovely outside though...

The room that will be hers eventually is the only of our children's bedrooms with stained window mouldings. The idea of cherry wood threw me for a while in my nursery concepting. Seems a bit more tricky (to me anyway) to come up with a color palette and "feel" than if the trim were white, as it is in the other rooms.  Cherry seems more masculine, or at least more grown up, but I kind of liked the challenge too. I was thinking for a while about something very British in feel--perhaps a Spode-inspired blue and white, or blue white and a shade of magenta. I even I found some pretty fabrics but they seemed too serious. I love the whimsy of Audrey's and Scarlett's rooms and wanted some of that for this baby.

Then a few weeks ago as I was finishing the lavender cardigan for Audrey, I tossed it over this crib (which has been sitting elegantly in our entry!) and loved the combination. I also loved the idea of using linen--one of my all-time favorite neutrals. So it was decided: linen and lavender. I seem to be on a bit of a lavender kick this summer. Audrey has inspired me I guess. 

It's always dangerous to start getting ideas in one's head as it seems the actual fabrics or wallpaper or furniture is impossible to find, but I lucked out in finding this jacquard upholstery fabric (at one of my favorite stores) and decided to use it as the only pattern. It feels a bit youthful and whimsical to me even though the palette is sophisticated. I just wish I'd purchased more as I decided to use it on both sides of the bumper and now am out, and the store is out too, and who knows if I'll find more. I was thinking of stashing some for the "big girl" version of the room--throw pillows or something. Maybe I'll find some eventually.

I used a Vogue pattern as a reference for the bumper and crib skirt but ended up calculating measurements on my own for the most part and then totally ignoring the instructions because I improvised so much. Rather than piecing the skirt per the pattern I bought a full bolt of the fabrics and cut strips as long as each of the sides--much more satisfactory final product I think. I added the contrasting band to the skirt, made wider and longer bumper ties, added piping to the bumper and lengthened the skirt decking as the last couple I made were about two inches too short. I'm glad it all worked out! I had to hand sew the entire bottom of the bumper, which is not my favorite thing--way too slow--but it's finished and it was worth it.

I was toying with the idea of finding another patterned fabric for the fitted sheet (maybe a small polka dot) but decided to stick with a solid lavender and I like it. The bed feels very serene to me. A good place to fall sweetly to sleep. More subdued than the other girls' crib ensembles. Maybe I'm mellowing as I mature?

The only "problem" with having finished this is that it really makes me want to do the complete room. I would love to incorporate some of the great apricot and coral shades from this baby's heirloom cut-chenille blanket--love lavender and apricot together. I think I'll display the blanket, in fact it would look gorgeous tossed over the crib I think, and think about using that shade on the walls somehow--paint or paintings or something. We'll see how the timing works out on that project, but for now, at least this little baby has her own crib to come home to.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Crochet: Best Little Girl Cloche

I couldn't resist making more of these little hats. The "Best Little Girl Cloche" is such an easy pattern. I love this upsized version of the Best Baby Cloche. In fact, it makes me want to do an adult size--I think I'd like a cloche myself...

I thought it would be fun to work up a cloche for each of my girls and nieces--a little back-to-school send off for the bunch, well, except for Scarlett who gets to stay home with mommy another year.  

Audrey picked purple (of course) for her cousin, Kate and herself. This is the same Lily SugarN'Cream yarn I used, in the same shade (Hot Purple), for her shell dress. These are the 3-4 year size with a large (9-petal) flower.  

My niece, Grace, is wearing the 5-6 year size with the large flower. I love the contrast flower--so many possibilities...  I would love orange and pink, turquoise and acqua, brown and coral...

Scarlett is in the 18-24 month size with the medium (7-petal) flower.  I kept it all one color for easier outfit matching this Fall.

I'd like to make a few more of these for my girls, especially since they seem to like wearing them.

You can find the pattern for the Best Little Girl Cloche here.

You can find a tutorial for the Best Baby Cloche (the smaller version of this hat), which would arm you to tackle this one too, here.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Painting: Portrait of Scarlett

Of all the nesting projects on my list, this was perhaps the most important to me. Strange I know, as it doesn't seem to have much to do with a new baby, but I really, REALLY, wanted to finish a portrait of Scarlett before her baby sister arrived. I painted a portrait of Audrey a couple years ago and thought I should get Scarlett's completed so as not to be "behind" with two to do. There is also something about an increased focus on Scarlett as I'm worried about her transition from baby to middle child!

So I am so thrilled that I have finished this Portrait of Scarlett:

There is something so joyful about working on a portrait of someone you love. It becomes a meditation of sorts. I was able to spend hours observing her features, the personality in her stance, the coloring. I worked from some photographs I took and think this one of Scarlett on the push trike really captures her energy and confidence. She's a take-charge kind of little girl!

There is also something unnerving about working on a painting of a subject you love. My expectations are always that much higher and I am more concerned about a strong likeness, not just a good painting in itself. I had to gear myself up every time I set to paint--try and boost my confidence for the task. I was happy, however, that this seemed to go better than expected. There are parts of the painting that bothered me but surprisingly, her face came fairly easily.

Scarlett is at such a beautiful age and it's so fun to compare her to her older sister at the same age (Audrey was actually a few months younger in hers, but you wouldn't realize it given her thick head of hair!). The paintings reveal a lot I think about their different moods and personalities. And their coloring is so different! One of the many fun things about children: they are so individual. (But these two have the same cute rosebud mouth.)

Scarlett recognizes herself in this painting and seems to be pleased to have it hanging on the wall next to her sister's.

I love the chubby hands and feet at this age!

And I love that Scarlett's hair forms ringlets now!

It was fun to incorporate the push trike in this painting. I love the portraits of Sargeant that have the subjects in an environment, especially the ones of children. I didn't do quite that, but I'd like to sometime. I wanted this one to be compatible next to Audrey's, and I think it is, but I've got plans for other portraits--can't wait to do one of the three girls together!

When I last posted a painting (the Hollyhocks) someone suggested that I share a "tutorial" about it. Not really possible in my mind, but, it gave me the idea to document the progress of this painting. I haven't done that before--I've always thought I wanted to keep it under wraps until it was finished and not reveal the process or struggles along the way. But I've decided to share it, and it's kind of fun to see how the painting emerged--areas of focus, corrections, changes... If you're interested in a glimpse of the work as it progressed every few hours click below.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Sewing: Minky and Satin Luxe Blankets


When Scarlett was born I made Audrey a Waldorf doll to give her when she came to visit us at the hospital for the first time. I loved the idea of giving her something special to mark the occasion, and thought perhaps with a cuddly doll she could mimic mommy and the new baby. I love how the doll turned out and Audrey played with her at the hospital, changing her outfits a few times, but then didn't really take to the doll thing... She's really a stuffed animal girl, not a doll girl. I like to think at some point she'll appreciate the handmade doll from mom however.

So you would think I would be busy making Scarlett her own Waldorf doll to receive when she comes to meet this new baby sister, but I just didn't get started early enough. She would probably enjoy it more than her older sister did and I love the idea of a handmade doll for each of my girls, so maybe for Christmas.

But I still wanted to have some handmade gifts to give the girls at the hospital. One of those crazy nesting mom things I guess as balloons and bubblegum would probably do just fine. I bought fabric and thought I would make Heirloom Cut Chenille Baby Blankets for each of them, but time was so short and I have been juggling several nesting projects at once so I put off those more time consuming projects and last week came up with what I thought was the perfect solution: Minky and Satin Luxe blankets! Relatively quick and incredibly soft and cuddly. I imagine them cozying up to these gifts immediately and wearing them out with use, which will be just fine. I'll do the cut chenille blankets for another time...
So here they are, in paisley and zebra print. Not surprisingly for me, I went to the fabric store last week with thirty minutes to find the perfect fabrics for the two blankets. Though they had an impressive selection of minky it was more difficult than I thought. I wanted at least one side to be in a fun print rather than a solid but didn't see the perfect thing. I think this combo is fun, though it is trendier than what I would usually pick. Looks kind of out of place next to my other projects, but Audrey likes her animal prints (goes along with the stuffed animal thing I think).  There was really no competition for the pink paisley and zebra duo so I went with the green version for the second blanket. I'm not sure which of the girls will get which blanket--maybe I'll have Audrey pick first as she's more likely to have a preference, or at least more likely to be able to clearly vocalize it!


The minky paisley print fabric in chocolate and mint, is from Shannon Fabrics.  Shannon Fabrics also manufactures the coordinating Silky Satin zebra print satin. Is it just pregnant me or does this fabric induce hunger? It reminds me of my friend, Sue's, amazing chocolate mint brownies. If I stare at it too long I may have to call her and make a request!

Here are links to the pink paisley fabric in chocolate and pink, and coordinating zebra print satin.

I used this tutorial from Less Cake More Frosting to sew the blanket. I was so happy to find some instructions for this wrap around border that made sense to me. The satin was a bit of a nightmare to work with however (the tutorial uses cotton fabrics)--it took forever just to cut a square piece. Not sure I did. I decided rather than ironing all my seams I would leave them and go for a softer, shabby look, which would also hopefully camouflage my off-square imperfections in the construction! I also opted for a straight zig-zag stitch to finish, rather than something more decorative, since there is already so much pattern.

One other confession: I goofed and cut the pink minky square smaller than I intended. I wanted to make the blankets as large as possible with the 1.25 yards I purchased of each fabric, so I cut the first (green) blanket with a 45 inch square satin piece and a 37 in square minky piece, planning for a smaller satin border than the tutorial. I had the same thing in mind for the pink version but after cutting the satin I accidentally cut the minky at 33 inches. It was late at night and it felt a bit like a disaster. Thank goodness my husband said, "why does it matter?" He's usually that deadpan realistic. And I thought after a minute, "why does it matter?" I ended up with a blanket that is the same size but has a wider satin border. Turns out I like both versions just fine.


These gifts are surprises so I had Pooh act as surrogate for the photos and now the blankets are both wrapped and packed in the hospital bag. A friend said, "isn't a new baby sister gift enough?" and she is right, but I hope my girls think these are fun too.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Crochet: Best Baby Cloche in Expanded Sizes

There are so many things I want to be working on right now that it's hard to focus and get anything done! I have nesting things in the works but am a bit distracted by this cute little cloche. The reaction to the pattern and tutorial has been so much fun, and there were several comments about additional sizes, so I wanted to work it out...

So now the pattern is updated at the link below with sizes 0-3 and 6-12, along with the original 3-6 months. In addition to changing the cloche sizes I added a pattern for a small sized (5-petal) flower, which is pictured above on a 0-3 month hat. I like the flower not to be so overwhelming on a newborn but the original 7-petal flower is of course an option for those who like a more oversized adornment.

You can download the updated pattern here:
Best Baby Cloche Crochet Pattern_www.aestheticnest

And link to the original tutorial here (note it is for the 3-6 month size but a good reference for all...).
Working out these other sizes and double checking the original had me second guessing but I've stuck with the original proportions. The 3-6 month size worked great on my baby when she was that age and I referenced some other baby hat patterns to see how they increased. That said, if you think your cloche looks a bit squatty and would like a taller hat, you can easily add an extra "straight" row (no increases or decreases). I have played with a couple yarns and different yarns certainly net different results.

These have been so much fun that I'm working on larger sizes. I hope to post another pattern soon!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Sewing: Heirloom Cut Chenille Baby Blanket


I first saw a blanket like this at a baby shower for a friend's first baby boy. Our mutual friend, Joyce, gifted it and I was so amazed she had made it! I hadn't seen anything like it and thought it had such a beautiful vintage feel. As I was composing my nesting list I thought about including a cut chenille blanket like this. It seems like something that would be a treasured heirloom. I was lucky enough to run into Joyce a couple months ago and ask her a few questions about the blanket and then I dove in.  


I chose Amy Butler's home decor fabric, August Fields, in Tangerine/Wild Poppies. I LOVE this fabric! I have  been thinking about it for months and wishing to come up with something to make with it. An August baby girl is the perfect opportunity...  And these tangerine/coral/peachy tones look so beautiful with the linen and lavender I've picked for her crib bedding and eventual nursery.


The blanket is 45"x45", a generous size for using as a play mat and transitioning to a nap or lap blanket when she is older. Because I haven't been making blankets as much as other things for my girls I am thinking about making a couple for Audrey and Scarlett too, so as not to leave them out. I don't know if that's creative inspiration or insanity, but regardless I'll have to see where additional cut chenille blankets fall out on the priority list...

I couldn't find a tutorial online for a blanket like this so I've created one here (click below to jump).  It's a really fun, if time-consuming process. I had to switch from a sewing to a quilting mindset to endure the rows of stitching and wondered if I shouldn't have gone with a 36" square instead, but I think the result is worth the effort.  

Link to the Tutorial below by clicking on "Read More."

If you make one of these cut chenille blankets I would love to see photos! Please consider adding them to my Flickr Group.

UPDATE: If you like this blanket and you want to see my 2011 version, a Chevron Chenille Baby Blanket, click here.
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