Friday, September 28, 2012

Pumpkins and presents. And foodgasms.

Hello Friends.
I should have mentioned in my last post that classes for me were starting back up, which means my computer time would more often than not be devoted to scholastic ventures.  Well, and my blog reading.  It's interesting that during class session I typically don't cut back on doing projects per se... I really should, but I find that taking breaks to let my mind rest from the maths and memorizations is actually pretty conducive to getting good scores.  But, between the (moderate) amount of parenting I do, after school activities for my girl, and my homework, the chunks of time I can set aside for sewing/whatnot are limited.  I find that if I can't get it done in an hour or so, I choose something else to work on.
Which means I have about 500 projects in the works, but not really anything completed to show you guys.  

The kids and I have finished some fall decorating though.  My "fall" decorating philosophy is just that- I go by fall-ish decor rather than by holiday.  From September to November, Halloween and Thanksgiving blend into "those Holidays with orange stuff."  Lots of leaves and pumpkins and cinnamon smells.

We went allll over Monterey one afternoon collecting leaves for these wreaths.  It was trickier than it sounds, as this area has very few big deciduous trees.  It was a lot of fun raiding people's gardens, though.  For just a "killing time til daddy gets home" kind of craft, I think they turned out pretty well!

This one "Asher" made...

And here's Kenzie's.  I wish we had used some brown plates or something, but this is what I had.

Ash helped me string this little garland for the door, and along with some super ugly gourds, our house is now appropriately festive.  (Don't look too hard at this picture- I didn't realize that it was out of focus until uploading it here, and I'm too lazy to take another one).

 For inside, the kids made some finger print fall tree paintings.  These look so much better on Pinterest (doesn't everything?).  But my kids couldn't really sit still long enough to do nice neat fingerprints for each leaf.  I do like the ground beneath MacKenzie's tree, though.

We used some more of our leaves to make turkeys for the mantle.  This one's face cracks me up....

And for the "spooky" side of fall, we made some woven spider webs.  Both kids really liked this, and they sometimes play with their little spiders in their webs.  If I were to redo, I think painting the plates black, and using white string would look really neat.  

I've also been working on the kids costumes.  Kenzie wanted to be a ballerina peacock this year, and I was actually pretty excited to design that one.  And to make them matchy-matchy, Ash will be an owl.  Maybe.  He won't try the outfit on so that I can get it sized.  He may be a "very very sad boy forced to wear an owl costume" for Halloween.  
Both costumes involve a lot of felt.  A lot.  My hands were really sore for a while from cutting all these darn feathers out.  

Here's the start to the tail.  It's going to be semi-quilted and (hopefully) fabulous.  I'm kinda jealous.  

And the owl face which is attached to a fleece pilot's cap.  Cutest thing ever.  Boy won't put it on. 

Aside from the felt, I've been trying my hand at fabric dying.  I was going for an ever-trendy ombre look for the peacock's ballet skirt, but didn't quite achieve it.  But it turned out good-enough (especially considering it's only for one night and will likely be covered in chocolate upon it's first wearing)...

To distract myself from studying, I also have developed a bit of a habit of felt foods.  This was taken a few weeks ago- the collection has grown since then.  They are for the kids' Christmas present, which is a makeover of a spare room into a playroom, complete with stage, farmer's market, restaurant, kitchen, and play garden.  I'm pretty excited about it.  And about the felt food.  

And speaking of Christmas, I started a quilt!  It's been awhile, and I like the stack-and-slash quickness of this design.  It has been really relaxing, actually.  

Finally, it wouldn't be an autumn post without a little pumpkin spice, right?  I made this today and it is good.  Like, really really good.  And guess what?
I wrote down the ingredients!!

So, because I love you guys, here is a recipe for this really really good pumpkin spice cake.
(Really good.)

(So good in fact that I started eating it mid photoshoot.  Yum......)

 Pumpkin spice cake with bourbon maple cardamom glaze

For cake:

(in bowl, mix dry ingredients:)
1 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup almond meal (can sub ww flour, but try to get the meal.  It's great for other stuff, too, like breading.)
1/2 tsp salt
4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
2-3 tbsp garam masala powder
1 1/4 cup brown sugar

(in another bowl, mix wets:)
1/2 cup buttermilk  (can make this by adding 1/2 tbs lemon juice to the milk and letting sit for ten minutes or so)
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup butter, softened
2 eggs
1 cup pure pumpkin puree

Combine all ingredients, divide into two greased 8 inch cake pans, and bake at 350 for thirty minutes.

*So, for the glaze, a disclaimer.  I had planned on making a maple cream cheese frosting, but when I reached for the maple syrup I noticed the bourbon.  I love a boozy dessert.  So I went for a bourbon glaze instead. The two cake pans work well if you want the frosting in between the layers- or, if you go with the glaze, you'll just have two cakes.  Two!  Sweet.

half a stick of softened butter with 3 or 4 tbsp bourbon, about the same maple syrup, half a cup of agave syrup, an 8 oz container of whipped cream cheese, and a half cup powdered sugar.  I added about a teaspoon of cardamom seeds.
It's good.

I thought 17 photographs in one blog post just wasn't quite enough, so I thought I'd toss one more on here.

Izzy.  Our new cat.  She's a doll and remarkable tolerant of the kids.  That's a good thing.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Give it a whirl...

Mama got a new skirt!  
I actually made this awhile ago, but it's been too darn cold to wear it, and therefore, take pictures to share.  Labor day we walked to the aquarium and it was pushing 70 during the day- balmy, by Monterey standards! So I took the skirt out for a whirl...

Nothing fancy, but I do like the contrast in fabrics, and the overall wearability.  Nothing beats a wrap skirt for comfort.  This one is based on the circle skirt tutorial I used for MacKenzie's Christmas bunny skirt (seen here).  I got the swishy grey duponi-like fabric (I think it's rayon) on sale, and then sat staring at it for a long time, terrified to hem the silky stuff on a curve.  So, I finished it all in bias tape.  Genius! It was so easy (even making the tape went smoothly) and the skirt came together in an afternoon.  I love the small print on the tape, it gives just enough pizazz to the skirt to make it really different.  

The best thing about a circle skirt is the twirlability of it.  Even though now I'm 20 (something) years old, whirling about in a swishy light skirt is still endlessly entertaining.  Thanks to the Mr. for my mini- photoshoot :)

So, I really enjoyed my skirt.  It got compliments (always nice) and I felt girly and cute throughout the day.  That's a good thing for a mom. 
However, I should add a disclaimer.  This light and breezy skirt in the wind?  

Mr. told me at one point in our walk to weigh down the back with my bag, as he could tell me what color panties I was wearing.  Yipes!
I suppose I'll need to check the wind forecast before taking it out for another *spin*. 

Somewhat Simple

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

A lady's coat.

A bit  ago I mentioned a period-inspired jacket I was working on for MacKenzie.  Well, it's now done (ish)....

  I won't lie, this coat gave me a fight.  And it's still throwing punches.  But I was tired of looking at it on my sewing table, and I think I'm going to call it done for now, and revisit it maybe after the Holidays, when I have more patience.  
The main part of the coat came together really well- everything lined up, it fits well, and the lining makes it look pretty professional.  It's all the details that gave me such trouble.

I wanted a Regency styled coat with a pleated peplum and button strappy things (it's a sewing term).  Something kinda like this:

But I cut the main pieces too close to the middle of my fabric, and it didn't allow for enough length for a true peplum bottom, so I settled for a knife-pleat trim.  

I like the way it turned out, and will probably prove more wearable in the end, but I reallllly wanted that peplum waist. Le sigh.
The strappy things connecting the front kill me.  They shift about as she moves, so they wind up looking crooked a lot.  And after washing, they don't lay as flat as I'd like...
I think when I revisit this, I'll rip them off and start over.  But that's for another time...

I do like the overall style of the jacket, and how easy it is for Kenzie to move in due to the open bottom.  Perfect for her trademark slouch ;)

And the real draw for me is the fabric.  It's another Ikea curtain purchase- this was a thick canvas print- with trees and birdhouses and pink birds.   The Ikea love is hidden inside the trim....

I lined it with a pink gauze, which is a holdover from the very first fabric purchase I ever made, when I was 18 or 19.  I had no idea what I was doing, and got 5 or so yards of this tissuey fabric, thinking I'd make a maxi dress.  It has sat in my sewing trunk ever since (ten years or so!).  It stretched like crazy when I was sewing it, and I'm glad I used it just as a lining. 

Bottom line, this jacket looks pretty cute- from far away...  But once I fix a few things, I think it'll be wonderful.  And my girl won't mind wearing it, flaws and all, until then. 

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Disney recap. For now.

So my computer seems to be busted.  Not in a "I saw it go up in a cloud of smoke" kind of way, but in a "I'm so spoiled by technology that I whine when something doesn't work perfectly" kind of way.  I can't get photos to upload from our card readers.  Sometimes it works- sometimes it just deletes them ALL instead.  We've tried three readers with the same issue, so I'm now convinced the problem lies somewhere within our fancy-shmancy Mac.  Grr.

(Anyone know about computers?  I'd love some help!)

In the meantime, I can't really share pictures of new projects. I've had two different tutorial pictures vanish on me, and I'm scared to upload any more before we get this figured out.  Mr. was able to upload the recent Disney pictures, though, before the latest card reader stopped working (thank goodness!).  So, I'll toss a few of those up to tide you guys over...

We went for three days, on a park hopper pass.  Here in California, there are two parks included in Disneyland- in Florida there are...four?  five?  I don't remember.  For us, two parks in three days was perfect.  If you can only do one day, I'd pick one area and try to stay there.  The kids just get too crazy pushed to run from ride to ride, trying to get it all in.  We were super relaxed- in fact, we never even went to one area of the park- the newly opened Cars Land- because we just didn't want to face the crowds.  We never waited in long lines, we used fast passes for the popular rides, and we went back to the hotel every afternoon for naps.  I highly recommend this!  The kids were up at 7, and we left the park around 11pm at night- yet they didn't melt down and never got overtired because of the afternoon break.

They were giddy and smiling and loving every minute of the trip.

Here is Asher mid-giggle on the Ferris Wheel....

And everyone who goes to Disney must try to get a picture in front of the castle...

I also highly recommend watching the parades and the evening shows.  Mr. was dreading this trip (I only convinced him to go because we got sucha good deal on the tickets/lodging) but he was won over by the evening shows.  I kept looking at him, to find the biggest grin plastered on his face.  He said "wow!" a lot, too.  
Watch your kids' faces during the parade.  They will look like this:

There wasn't a ride that the kids didn't love.  We got an ap for our iphones that showed the wait times for different rides.  There were so many that we just walked right on.  Asher wasn't a fan of waiting in lines, even when plied with treats, so this really helped keep everyone sane.  
We didn't get any pictures of their expressions on the rides, so we faked it....

Another thing I recommend is turning on the auto focus when asking someone to take a family picture for you....

Because in the next opportunity, your husband may look a bit deranged, spoiling the effect ;)

Let your kids meet some characters.  There's usually a bit of a wait, but it's not too bad if you target some favorites early in the morning.  

I think Mr. enjoyed Princess Jasmin as well....

And of course we had to take the girl to meet Merida.  She was thrilled.  Asher was not as impressed.
There!  Finally, a decent family picture.  I know those sunglasses are driving my FIL batty, though...

It's not just about the kids though.  Mr. and I really enjoyed ourselves, too.  

We were struck by how well everything worked.  The entire park, I mean.  People were just... happy.  I didn't see any major tantrums, no fighting parents, no dirty bathrooms or surly workers.  We even had tasty food (veggie jambalaya in a bread bowl at an amusement park!?).  For us, Disneyland worked.  For anyone with doubts, check this out:

And this picture was NOT followed by hitting, screaming, grabbing, or name calling.  Just by more.... happiness.  

(ok, you can gag a little.)