Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Cooking: Mac and Cheese from Scratch

I hope you all had a fabulous Memorial Day! We were in sunny Phoenix enjoying the pool. I apologize for not offering up a summery salad or cool treat, but though summer has officially started (yippee!!) it still feels a bit like comfort food back at my home!

There are those who can follow a recipe well, and then there are those who cook "by heart" or "by taste" much as someone plays piano "by ear." I have always been in the former category. My husband on the other hand can just throw something together on the stove. He learned the basics of cooking from his mother and has been improvising ever since. Maybe it has to do with me being a "rule follower" but I haven't had the confidence or felt the whim to cook this way. Until recently. And I'm loving it!

I think it's so interesting how one skill or hobby can influence another. I credit crochet for my new approach to cooking. It was with crochet that I first started going it on my own. Then sewing. Now cooking. Does it work that way for everyone?

All of that said, I do have a recipe for this Mac and Cheese. It's nice to end up with one so something that tastes good (and this really does--even my husband was impressed and he is the resident Mac and Cheese maker!) can be duplicated. If you'd like it click to read more. I couldn't believe how easy it was to make something this yummy!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Crochet: Ribbed Washcloths (Tutorial)

Since working on the "How to Crochet" series for Tip Junkie I have been thinking about some of my first crochet projects. I learned this craft from a fourteen year old young woman who had amazing patience with me and I'm sure a lot of good laughs. I could not figure out how to make a crochet hook do what she was doing! We were making ribbed crochet baby hats for a humanitarian project. I so wanted to contribute something so I kept at it and finished a couple hats with much love even if they were more than a bit wonky!

(Yarn: Lily Sugar'n Cream in Hot Pink; Fabric: Windham Fabrics "Storybook VIII Toss")

The nice thing about hats like those (essentially a ribbed rectangle you cinch at one end and top with a pom-pom) and washcloths like these, is that it doesn't really matter if your stitches are even, your gauge correct, or even if you miss a few single crochets--they still work. Perfect for a beginner. I worked at those hats for a year or so--they became my go-to baby gift--and my work improved. The hats did too!

(Yarn: Lily Sugar'n Cream in Light Blue; Fabric: Kate Ward Thacker "Butterfly Garden" for JoAnn)

These ribbed washcloths are just what you need if you've been hoping to learn to crochet. You can practice chain stitches and single crochet stitches and still have something to show for it. Make some new dish cloths for your kitchen in bright summer colors or wrap some up with a nice bar of soap and give spa cloths to a friend (see these I gave away last year). Hand made, 100% cotton cloths like these are a nice little luxury.

(Yarn: Lily Sugarn' Cream yellow; Fabric: Michael Miller "Ta Dot" in Stone)

If ribbed washcloths seem like something you'd like to try, click to view the step-by-step tutorial. You can also read my How to Crochet series here.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Sewing: Rainbow Wrap Skirt (Tutorial)

We've had so much rain this Spring I've wondered if Summer will ever come. Seriously, it's rained all day every day this week. Not that rain is all bad (except for a bit of worry about getting some pictures for this post!)...

Rain is fun to splash around in, brings green and flowers, and, when the sun finally comes out...rainbows. Lots of things to smile about!

I don't indulge much in rainbow bright outfits--not since the rainbow t-shirts that were so popular when I was in gradeschool (remember the ones with the rainbow that started on one arm and arched over the chest to finish down the other arm?)--but now I'm thinking every girl needs a rainbow skirt! I couldn't help feeling cheery while sewing it these past grey days!

A year ago or so Audrey asked for a rainbow skirt so I've had it in the back of my mind for a while, unsure of how to go about it as it didn't sound like my favorite kind of project. Then KoJo Designs contacted me about their great Color My Summer series with Delia Creates and I thought I'd sign up for ROY G BIV (little did I know this is the common way of describing the hue order in a rainbow) and push myself to do the skirt. I love a challenge! Thank you Kristin and Jordan!

This skirt was fun to make. I think it looks darling on Audrey (so great with her Venetian necklace!). And for the first time in a week the clouds parted just in time for her to twirl around in it with her cousin (isn't he a cutie?) while I took pictures.

I think the color spectrum looks even better with some white to set it off so I designed this wrap-around skirt with a white waistband and a wide white sash almost as long as the skirt.

It's fully lined, so the inside is pretty too, and it's a fairly easy sewing project. Best of all, the instructions would work for any sized girl. Rainbow skirts for everyone! Hello summer!

See the post on KoJo designs and click for the tutorial. (And think how fun your leftover stash will look!)

Thursday, May 19, 2011

How-To Series: Introduction to Crochet on TipJunkie

Crochet is back because it is versatile, beautiful, always handmade (unlike knitting, crochet can’t be reproduced by a machine), and is a great way to incorporate some modern vintage or bohemian style. If you’ve been eyeing more crochet items than you can afford, take heart: you too can learn to crochet!

I am writing a learn-to-crochet series at TipJunkie and today is the first installment. If you are interested click over and start learning about hooks, yarn and gauge. (Oh my!)

Monday, May 16, 2011

Invites: "Come to the Zoo" Birthday Invitation

Oh what will we do
at the zoo?
With lions and monkeys
and a carousel too?

Oh what will we do
at the zoo?
With hippo and penguins
and a train to "choo-choo"?

Audrey's birthday invitations are out the door! I'm committed to a date. I have been thinking about this party since January as I knew I needed to plan ahead to pull it off with a big Spring vacation in the middle of things. I can't remember how I landed on the zoo idea, but I think it was a combination of having fun with the animals at Scarlett's Modern Farm party last Fall, finding the cute Michael Miller "Kids Zoo" fabric for Audrey's dress, and imagining an accordion fold card. And of course our zoo includes many of Audrey's favorite things: animals, cotton candy, a train, and a carousel.

I enjoyed the zoo too when I was little, though I didn't get to go as often. This is a picture of me with my father at the National Zoo (wearing the monogrammed cardigan that inspired Scarlett's blue sweater this year). Can you believe I was a blondie at that age? Three I'm guessing.

The zoo seems to wrap up so many important things about childhood: wonder and play and love of animals and field trips with parents and grandparents, and, yes, naivete. I love children's book illustrations of the zoos of yesteryear with their parks and wrought iron and happy animals (for her birthday I gave Audrey A Sick Day for Amos McGee , which we are really enjoying). So I'm focusing on that.

Will we run?
Will we play?
Will we sing "Happy Birthday"?

Will you come? Say you will!
Ask your mom if you may!
I wouldn't want it
 any other way!

(If you see a zoo party in your future and are interested in these invitations I'll be making them available soon.)

Friday, May 13, 2011

Sewing: Vintage Zoo Dress

I am sewing, madly sewing...

I hope not too madly really, but I am working on outfits (among other things) for Audrey's upcoming birthday party and the effort just happens to coincide with Elsie Marley's KCWC. Her challenge was the boost I needed, though not such a boost that I managed to sew through the night. I wish I could! But I don't get enough uninterrupted hours of sleep as it is so this dress for Audrey is finished later in the week than I hoped. But still finished!

This little dress is the result of combining two vintage patterns. I loved the scalloped collar on McCall's pattern 7656 and couldn't resist the puffy short sleeves and inverted pleat on the dress in Simplicity 5683. Seems they would combine fairly easily, but, (always a "but") the necklines and shoulders are pretty different, and I needed to enlarge it two sizes, so I pulled out my roll of examination table paper (such a great thing to have!) and drafted a new pattern with elements of each. Oh, and I skipped the zipper (as I am wont to do) and changed the back to buttons. Much easier putting in the work on the front end than to have tried pinning and cutting with multiple pieces. 

So here is Audrey's Vintage Zoo Dress. For Scarlett's birthday last Fall I was unsure about a bow but this dress was begging for it. I made it extra large. Audrey provided her opinion on that and I agreed. (She's come a way on the bow thing. A year or so ago she certainly would have said, "no bow.") Oh, and that's a dickey in the front. A dickey! A first for me. It required hand-sewing.

The fabric for the bow was totally serendipitious! I was at Joann buying rickrack and other notions for party making and the woman next to me was having this polka dot fabric cut. It was difficult to remain calm and hope she wasn't taking the entire bolt because it was the perfect match to the fabric I had brought along! I felt like high-fiving the cutter when the bolt was set aside with enough left for me! It is in the line DS Quilts Collection for Fabric Traditions, which I believe is a Joann exclusive and reportedly a big seller.  

It looks just perfect in the pleat on the sides. But I thought the dress needed a bit more of it to go along with Michael Miller's "Kid Zoo" fabric.  So I took some inspiration from No Big Dill and added a polka dot placket for the buttonholes on the back.

I was a bit nervous about it but I love it!

This also provides a bit of a sneak peek for Audrey's fifth birthday party. We're so excited!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Personal: Travelling with Little Ones

Though it's not my usual fare here (in fact it breaks the "three-word rule" I set up for myself, but oh well...) there were so many comments expressing interest in our strategies for travelling with our little ones (almost five, two-and-a-half, and eight months) that I thought I'd share a bit more about it. "Strategies" may make it sounds more systematic and left brained than it was--though I can be a bit Type A I am always emotional in my approach! In any event, here's what I learned from our spring vacation:

(Click if you're interested in more...)

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Sewing: Dirndl Skirt for Scarlett

I was born in Germany and my family spent a few more years there when I was a child. I have a lot of fond memories and traditions, which I'm trying to carry on in my own family. About a year ago in some childhood things my mother saved for me I found my old dirndl--little white blouse, green dress with bright pink roses and a bright pink apron. I need to give it a good pressing and trying it on my girls. I'm not sure if it will fit Audrey or Scarlett, but it will likely be very short on either of them as it's from the 70s!

In any event, I have had a dirndl skirt on my mind for a while now. I wanted to make one for Scarlett to go with her blue sweater. (I am really loving blue and pink together right now. Did you know decades ago blue was considered the baby girl color and pink the boy color?) I wanted the skirt to look like a full dirndl with apron and ties but I didn't want the trouble of continually having to pick up the apron and tie it on her again It's difficult enough to maintain a bow!


So this skirt has the apron integrated--it's a flat waist in front and gathered in back with apron ties. It's full too for twirling and running and has patch pockets on the apron skirt.

I finished it just in time to take with us to Italy. The very morning we left in fact. But it was worth it to me to squeeze it in. I loved dressing the girls in their floral dresses and blue sweaters. Audrey is wearing her Pretty Posie dress from last summer--I love that dress pattern! Tess is wearing her floral Ruffled Chemise and the Picot and Lace sweater I made for her on the trip. 

I thought they looked pretty cute and it made me wonder why I don't dress them in dresses or skirts more often? I guess it's because Audrey hasn't been the frilliest of girls but she seems to tolerate skirts on weekdays a bit better now so maybe I'll try it. Paired with tennis shoes they still seem pretty functional. I even let Audrey keep on her jeans--a look my husband could do without, but I think it's not bad given the style of the dress! Am I bonkers? I wouldn't send her most places this way but it seemed to work for a day of play and exploring.

So here are my three girls exploring a very small Tuscan town called Barberino, where our new found friend, Susanna, lives. (She cooked us a few amazing Tuscan meals while we were there.) Also living there was a very interesting cat.

We also went to nearby Certaldo where besides a medieval town center on a hilltop, they had a carousel! Audrey's favorite thing. The colors were pretty amazing!

Scarlett enjoyed it too. It was good for us to keep a balance of childish things on the trip: carousels, chasing kitties, lots of gelato stops, and we even found a bouncy house! Happy children make happy parents.

If you'd like to make a Dirndl Skirt you may find information on my pattern here. This floral and pink apron version was made with a 1:3 ratio waist circumference to skirt. The PDF pattern includes a couple versions and walks you through taking measures for a 1:2 skirt and explains how you might incrfease the fullness. You may purchase my Dirndl Skirt pattern in my shop.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Personal: Interview on Maker Mama

To celebrate Mother's Day Maker Mama is running a month of interviews with "crafty mamas" and asked me to participate.

Amy is quite the crafty mama herself! She's a mother of four who has a love for things handmade, especially if they are environmentally conscious. She writes sensitively about how to make better choices for our environment and ourselves. And she had some thought-provoking questions for me about how creating and motherhood co-exist.

I am always so flattered when someone wants to ask me some questions about my life and the things I make. I find the interview process rewarding in itself too because it gives me the opportunity to think about what motivates me and whether or not I am making the best choices as a mother and a creator. You can read my interview here.

I am looking forward to hearing from the other mamas she has lined up this month. Thanks, Amy!

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