Friday, February 8, 2013

Doughnuts Anyone?

I don't know what stirs up my fascination for making felt food.  Perhaps my inner child wishes I had something this cool to play with as a kid?  Whatever the reason, I have a strong desire to make fake treats with zero calories, and tons of fun!  So, I'm pinning these faux edible delights day and night, in case you want to follow me and reap the benefits of my time and effort.  I have seen everything from salmon to cupcakes to carrots all waiting for your crafty hands.

For me the fake food trend started with doughnuts.  They seemed easy and harmless enough.  I made one and it turned out well.  I put it on a plate and served it up to my daughter.  She reacted with a loud laugh and instantly knocked the plate away with a swipe of her hand when she realized she'd been had.  My carefully embroidered doughnut fell to the floor and instantly landed in my westie's slobbery mouth.  No, Sparky, the doughnut was not meant for you.  Luckily, felt can be washed.

After staring at the one doughnut on a plate for a few days, I decided it needed friends and embarked on a dozen.  I had finished sewing eight doughnuts in total, but then my college aged daughter decided to prank her roommates and confiscated one.  So, now I'm back down to seven.  They look super cute sitting on a plate in my kitchen, but what am I going to do with a plate full of donuts? I don't have young kids.  My four girls are all in high school and college.  I'm contemplating making a whole set of foods to give to each daughter for when they have kids.  It is slow going with all the other sewing projects I have in the works.  It could take until they have kids before I get a set done.  After all, I still have to make five more doughnuts to even get to a dozen.

So here are some photos of my doughnuts.  I did not use a pattern.  I simply traced around a Tupperware lid and cut 2 circles.  Then I took a smaller lid and cut 1 icing circle to fit on top for the icing color.  I used my creative eye to then shape it to look like icing (weave in and out and around).  I did not want all of my doughnuts to look the same so this worked for me.

When I had my parts all cut out, I selected two shades of embroidery floss that would show up well on each icing color and would work well with each other.  I then used double floss to stitch little sprinkles on the icing.  I have seen some doughnuts where they sew on tiny beads.  These are very pretty too, but I envisioned babies playing with mine, so I skipped the beads.  When all the icings had sprinkles, I sewed one icing top to one doughnut circle.  Since it is felt there really isn't a right side.  I then put the other doughnut circle on top and sewed with the machine all the way around, leaving a small gap for turning.  flip your doughnut right side out and stuff it.  I used a combination of fiberfill and leftover felt scraps to fill mine.  Sew your "gap" shut by hand and you have a yummy treat.  I have found you can also use fleece if you have that lying around.  Enjoy!

More Baby Booties, Simplicity #1710

I am on a baby bootie sewing binge and as you can see I made two more little pairs for baby Olivia.  I hand sewed these entirely,  starting with fabric that came from fabric swatches used in upholstery shops for sofas and such.  Yeah, upcycling!  The pattern came from Simplicity, # 1710.  I was able to buy my pattern during a sale at JoAnn's when they featured them for $1.00, but typically this pattern runs about $9-10 online.  You can see a nice closeup of the different patterns right on the Simplicity site.
One nice thing about these little shoes is that they come in three sizes.  That means you can make the shoes ahead of time for your growing child.  My first two pairs were smalls, but I plan to make some in larger sizes too. 

Unless you plan to line them, it is best to select fabrics that will not fray and can easily have a trim applied or be hand stitched around the raw edges.  On both pairs, I used a blanket stitch around the edges and kept the stitches close together.  For the details on the cat's face, I used french knots for the eyes, an outline stitch for the face details, and a satin stitch for the nose.  You can find some details on how to do embroidery here, if you are new to using a hand needle.

I added two final touches to my shoes, beautiful ribbons, tied into cute bows and on the tan and green pair, I sewed tiny pom pom trim around the edges.  Don't you wish we could still wear beautiful things like these?

Lucky Ducky Booties

I can't help myself.  I'm in love with sewing.  It seems lately I have so many reasons to sew, and not enough time for all the ideas I contrive from perusing Pinterest, and all the well-illustrated sewing blogs out there.  But I decided to reactivate my dusty blog and start posting some of my projects for others to enjoy too.

My brother announced this summer that he will be having his first baby!  This has given me many reasons to want to sew.  While on Pinterest the other day, I saw these cute knitted duck booties.  I didn't feel like crocheting, but decided I could create my own pattern and came up with these. 

It will be worn with this outfit.  Won't they be cute together?  I think my new niece Olivia will make all the other baby girls wish they had little webbed feet too!  I can't wait till she comes in March.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Fondue or FunDo

Sometimes the best traditions start when you just try something new. And, we love to try new and interesting things at our house. Years ago, I started a "party" tradition with the kids of having FunDo night, our version of fondue. Fondue provides an evening of fun, yum and lots of friends.

Years ago, we started out using the ceramic fondue pots with little burners or candles underneath. Our FunDo has gotten more sophisticated, though, so we invested in electric pots to keep things warm, and giving us more time to spend with guests. Typically, we do a three course fondue event including several cheese sauces, a stock broth for meats and seafood, and two different types of chocolate for dessert.

Preparation takes a little time, but it's worth it! We start the day before and cut up all the vegetables that we will dip and store them in the fridge. Our choices include things like carrots, cauliflower, broccoli, celery, red potatoes, mushrooms, and especially apples (but cut those up the day of). We also do some dessert prep by finding things we would love with chocolate and getting them ready. Some of our yummy choices include marshmallows, pineapple, strawberries, bananas (cut the same day), rice krispie treats, chocolate brownies, cookies, wafers, anything that would taste good in chocolate.

The day of the event, I prepare a big crock pot of stock broth. I've tried many different types, but tend to like a beef based broth with a bit of soy, garlic, onions, green onion and lots and lots of seasonings. Using the crock pot when you are serving many folks allows the broth to be hot, tasty and ready to refill an empty pot at a moment's notice.

Cut up your meat and put it on big platters. Great choices include a nice steak, chicken breast, shrimp (precooked is better with kids), scallops, fish, and lobster. Often, I will season part of the beef and part of the chicken with rubs to flavor them for more variety.

Once the food is ready, you need to focus on making the cheese fondue. I have made them from scratch, before, but typically like to start with what I call a starter fondue cheese, a Swiss variety, and create my own from there. You can buy packets of fondue starter cheese at most grocery stores. Typically, they can be found with the gourmet cheese and it may require you asking someone to find the small boxes. Prepare your cheeses ahead of time (shredding them) so you can make the fondue quickly. I try various ingredients in my sauces from wine, beer, nutmeg, finely chopped pecans, garlic and many different spices. Try a spicy variety by adding crushed red pepper, cumin, tarragon, a few dashes of your favorite hot sauce and some garlic. Complete the sauce by adding some pepper jack cheese. Or how about making a sweeter variety using a Riesling wine, nutmeg, tarragon, and mozzarella?

Fondue night is a great way to have a long engaging evening of fun, conversation and interaction with your family and any guests. When done well, it easily can last two to three hours depending on the number of recipes you use and the number of courses. Our girls love it and often beg for a FunDo party. And, if you don't really want to make it yourself, just check out a local fondue restaurant, like the Melting Pot where you can enjoy the pleasure without all the work.
For fondue help check out these sites:
Find electric fondue pots at Target where we got ours.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Artsy Fruit & Veggie Displays

Thinking about trying something fun with your table next time you have guests? Checkout this great website on carving fruits and vegetables. Make a lovely display for your friends to marvel over.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Sewing Matters

My daughter’s friend asked to borrow my Kenmore sewing machine today for a sewing class at CCAD. Shannon is exploring the skills associated with becoming a clothing designer to decide what she wants to do when she grows up. My sewing machine is 23 years old. I bought it when I was a senior in high school from Sears, even before I bought my first car. That gives you some idea of how significant that purchase was at that point in my life.

When I was in middle and high school, I took 6 years of home economics where sewing was taught. While, home economics is not a requirement at my kids’ school in suburban Columbus, I grew up in a rural farming community in Ohio, where it was viewed as a necessity. Little known fact and a bit funny to tell people today, is that I was the president of Future Homemakers of America and member for 4 years. I also was the Future Farmers of America’s “Queen” at my school. So, you can imagine that I was involved in the things that seemed to matter to my community, where the focus was on being handy.

With today’s heavy spotlight on technology and social media, I wonder how many kids today learn some of the basic skills of life, like sewing and gardening. I feel that these skills have been invaluable to me during my lifetime as a creative type and eventually owning an interior decorating business. I’ve sewn everything from my own clothes, to Halloween costumes for my kids and even window treatments for my home. I don’t consider myself an excellent sewer or even someone who does it often. I’m more of a convenience sewer for when I can’t find what I want.

My twelve year-old daughter, Madison, recently asked out of the blue if I could teach her to make a dress. We have finished the preliminary steps of buying, reading directions, preparing fabric and cutting out pieces. We are now ready to start the sewing. I’m delighted that she is exploring this as a sideline craft to her hobby of incessant reading. I value raising independent, well-rounded kids who are not afraid to take a risk and try something, regardless for potential to fail.

So, with all this being said, when you are thinking about what activity to engage in with a child, consider doing projects that create a basic life-skill for the benefits of handiness, hobby and learning to take a risk.

Some interesting sites on sewing:

Friday, November 7, 2008

Turkey Traditions

Soon, I will be sharing my thankfulness with family members like many of you. This year we will have members from both my husband’s and my family gathering at the table. We usually have 20 or more people, bringing the noise and activity level up.

I love Thanksgiving and the joy of being together with family. I love it more than Christmas. For me, Thanksgiving maintains a preciousness free from much of the commercialism, expectations for gifting and harried schedules that black Friday brings upon on.

For years, I have been the “noodle maker” in the family, creating egg noodles from scratch and making a crock pot overflowing of a chicken dumpling noodle recipe. It is a 3 day process to make and hang the noodles up to dry. Various family members call weeks in advance to ask if I will be making the noodles in line with tradition. Their mouths start watering the moment they think about the dish. The family doesn’t know it, but one year I cheated. I bought cans of chicken and noodles because I did not want to let them down and I did not have time to make them. I seasoned up the canned goods with flour, more chicken and lots of spices. My family never knew. My kids and I smirked and holding back laughter every time someone commented on how good they were.

Every year we have had a gravy issue for as long as I can remember. Apparently none of my siblings or spouses learned how to effectively make good gravy. One year someone put powdered sugar in the gravy amidst the madness of too many cooks in the kitchen. Another year, the gravy was so lumpy we could do nothing but make fun of it. And then there was the year we got the gravy "just" right and my nephew dumped it all over the carpet while carrying to the table. Last year we just bought the gravy in a jar. Ahh, some things create a different kind of tradition to look forward to.

In preparation for the big day, the girls and I gather in the kitchen and whip up a bakery’s worth of products to serve for dessert. We make cherry and pumpkin pies, brownie and cake recipes and add in a few specialties like pumpkin rolls. We always have a table or two dedicated to desserts. We usually eat the desserts in “phase 2” of our turkey feast after we've made room for more.

Some families take naps, watch a movie or watch a game after their turkey meal. My siblings are pretty active adults and we often will head down to the basketball court near our home and engage aunts, uncles, nieces and nephews in a rowdy game. Or if the weather does not cooperate, we engage in lively board games full of lots of smack talk. This year, I am predicting a rock band tournament in the basement lounge. I can hear the squeals of “Roxanne” now.

My family is also goofy and growing up with five siblings, we learned to entertain ourselves with very little. So lots of silly play happens when we get together at Thanksgiving. Last year we made up a song and sang it rappin’ battle style to my mother. It was our very own version of “I’m getting nuttin’ for Christmas” full of lots of funny statements about our behavior as children. Verses included lines like, "I pushed Brian down the stairs, accidently cut his hair, dressed him up to be a girl, broke his collarbone with a twirl...Oh, I'm getting nuttin' for Christmas...." Of course all these things were mostly accidents! It was pure comedy as each kid one-upped the other.

Whatever your Thanksgiving traditions and plans hold, I hope that you will infuse the joy of thankfulness into everything you do.

Peace out,


Saturday, November 1, 2008

Cluck if You Hate Daylight Savings Time

The farmers and I doth protest daylight savings time. It appears that the chickens do not adapt to the changed clock until several weeks have gone by, making the first few weeks of April and the last few weeks of October very frustrating. Cluck!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Creepy Food for Families

Looking for some fun things to do for Halloween? How about getting in the kitchen with the family and making fun food? Every year I get the kids in the kitchen, with the notion of making creepy, creative, theme-based food. We make lots of fun stuff from radish/olive eyeballs inside of icecubes, to ghoulish, breadstick bones. It creates traditions for celebrating the holidays and great memories! Here are links to several sites where you will find everything from mummy dogs to witch finger sandwiches. Have fun!

AOL Recipes
Family Fun

Some personal favorites:

Melon brain
Kitty Litter Cake
Mummy toes
Worm Sandwiches
Bug juice

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Play Time for Adults Too

When was the last time you just played? Silly fun, off-the-wall, surprise-your-family play can create incredible joy, and also lasting memories. Sometimes, I like to surprise my children when they are least expecting it. Here are some of my favorite “fun-filled" moments.
  • Serve grapes for dinner in a large bowl. Pick up a few and take them off their stem and ping one or two at the kids and yell, “fruit fight!” (Of course they have to help clean up afterwards!) Mini marshmallows also work well for this activity.
  • Play a game where you take turns throwing a grape into each others’ mouths. Invariably, you will hit each others’ noses, chins, mouths, and giggle lots watching the grapes bounce off each other and onto the floor. (Cereal is also good for this one.) You may want the "receiver" to close their eyes if you are worried about aim.
  • Make a chocolate cake or brownies and when you are done, leave some batter in the bowl. Use your fingers and wipe some on each other's lips and chins to make moustaches and beards. Take pictures! This also works well with icing, melted chocolate and whipped cream.
  • Buy water guns and surprise someone with a water gun fight. (Water balloons are a good substitute as well.)
  • Get some sidewalk chalk and sit out on the driveway or sidewalk and draw to your heart’s content.
  • Play hopscotch or kickball. One time we made a hopscotch with 100 squares leading all the way around the cul-de-sac.
  • Pretend to be mannequins and pose somewhere. Have one person arrange the mannequins by changing the poses. Wear hats and scarves to make it more interesting. It is such fun to juxtapose one perspective into a whole other view of the world, watching people and their reactions!
Consider teaching your children to look at things from a different vantage point. It will be a gift they will take into their adult-hood. I know I’ll never be a perfect parent or spouse, but I always hope that some of the great memories I've tried to help create will stand out in the minds of my family forever.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Fun with Archie McPhee

Our last trip to Archie McPhee's in Seattle was a fabulous fun. Our family can create a great memories doing almost anything. I had my camera in my purse and we had some time on our hands. Add a dash of imagination and suddenly you have instant entertainment. Here are some highlights of our trip to this novelty store for you to enjoy.

All of our daughters enjoyed a race through the costume aisles and posed with their favorite looks. Of course I got in on the act too. Perhaps these photos will give you some inspiration for ways to kick up your heels with your family whether you are at a store or in your own home!

For your own Archie McPhee fun moments, you can go online and buy some fun gag gifts to take home to your family tonight. I totally suggest the potatoe guns, which use real potatoes as ammunition, bug suckers (complete with a healthy dose of protein to offset the sugary carbs), a set of test tubes (to create lots of fun creations by mixing things in the kitchen) and of course some costumes. Remember, this site is great for birthday and holiday gifts!

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Decorate with "R-Values"

Sit by a bare window on a sunny day, and you’ll feel the sun’s warmth. Sit by that same window on a cold, windy night, and you’ll feel chilled to the bone! With today’s economic concerns, smart homeowners are continually searching for ways to cut expenses and save on their monthly energy bills. Naturally, the best place to start is to be sure our homes are well insulated. But all too often, while overall home insulation is a priority, windows seems to be neglected. No matter what your climate, bare windows are a primary spot for energy to escape.

Since windows make up 20% of a typical homes exterior and 40% of contemporary home construction, having many large uncovered windows can break your energy budget. This is especially true when these windows face a cold Northern exposure in the winter or a sun-saturated west wall in summer. It’s important to know that many window treatment products have actually been assigned an R-Value. Building materials are assigned R-Values according to each product’s ability to resist heat movement. The higher the R-Value, the better it insulates your home. Most windows have an R-value of 0.9 to 3.0, and can be responsible for 40 – 70% of heat or cold transfer for an entire home. Using multiple layers at your windows, including cellular constructed treatments, can actually increase an R-value by 1 to nearly 5 points! So let’s look at a variety of window treatment options, and cut energy costs at the same time.

Cellular shades: These honeycomb style window shades are the best of the best for insulating your windows. They usually have an R-value of at least three and up to 7! They come in double and triple cell and trap air in the combs to help insulate. Most brands have many colors to choose from, are easy to clean, mildew resistant and require little to no maintenance.

Vertical Blinds: Available in hundreds of colors, textures and embossed patterns, vertical blinds can increase window insulation by 40 to 123% AND block 95-99% of ultraviolet light. R-Values reach as high as 4 for vertical blinds when closed.

Roman Shades: These beautiful shades have contours of fabric that fold and overlap making a roman shade. They provide a 49%increase in window insulation value and can block 99% of UV light. They boast an R-value of up to 3 and can be custom made or ordered from many window fabricators.

These are just a few window choices that will greatly increase your R-value, but consider that putting something over your window, especially during the daytime when you may not be at home, and during the late night when you are sleeping, will definitely boost your home’s energy efficiency by keeping out the sun and keeping out the cold.

Although there are many window covering sources to choose from, I have always loved Hunter Douglas products. Consider their website when choosing your window covering.