Mini Cook in the Kitchen

Friday, September 30, 2011

Anybody remember when I talked about letting Reli help me make this Black Magic Chocolate Cake?

Well evidently I've found something that she LOVES to help with, and since that first experiment with the cake she has to drag a chair into the kitchen everyday and "help" cook something. It is really cute, but unfortunately she wants to help make everything! A few nights ago she got so mad at me when I wouldn't let her play with the raw chicken that I was breading for dinner.

In the 2 short weeks since the cake we have already made Apple Pie, Bread Bowls (for chili), Chocolate White Chip Cookies, and Fudge Brownies. But before you start to think that we are all beginning to pack on the pounds around here, you should know: I was experimenting with the pie and it grew mold after just 2 days because it was under-cooked (fail), the cookies went to work with Ant, and the bread bowls turned out like this...

What the heck are those?!
Even though Ant assured me that they tasted just fine, this is just another example of my complete inability to make bread/rolls. No matter what kind I make or method I use, they just always go wonky. Maybe someone should get me a bread maker for Christmas. So far, this is the closest I've ever gotten to something presentable, and I'm not even sure it turned out properly! : P

Oh well, at least we had fun!

(Please ignore the dirty kitchen. You can't be clean while you're cooking. Right?)

Random Memory: This was the first/last time Reli baked cookies with me.

So, do you let your little ones "help" you cook? What is their favorite thing to make with you?
I'm really looking forward to the holiday cookies this year. Who wants the one with the baby drool?

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Book-Worm Wednesday - Fashion DIY

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

If you are a new follower around here Book-Worm Wednesday is my "weekly" craft book review. Go here to check out the books that have already been reviewed, and the "rules". As always, feel free to offer suggestions of books you'd like to see in the future. Enjoy!


The book for this week is...

Fashion DIY
30 ways to craft your own style
Carrie Blaydes & Nicole Smith

Yep, It's another book on embellishing. Remember this review about 3 different embellishment books? Well, this one somehow managed to exclude itself from that post, and I'm glad it did, because so far this is my favorite! It covers many of the same processes from the other books, but for some reason I felt like there was SO much more information.

Embroidery Applique
Trimming Beading
Felting Silhouette Alterations
Deconstruction/Reconstruction Tech Savy Techniques (iron-on, shrinky dink)
Color Methods (dying, bleaching) Surface Manipulation (fiber etch, stamping)

All the techniques above are covered, and then there are 3 different project options for each technique. I was really impressed by the beading section which had really helpful diagrams showing 4 ways for attaching beads. The deconstruction/reconstruction part was also wonderful, and I found myself wanting to make plenty of the projects throughout this book. 

A few of my favorites were...

The Lily Pad Skirt
Awesome use of doilies!

The Studio Top
I'm not usually a fan of sequins, but I LOVE this!

The Secret Garden Skirt
Hide stitched flowers in box pleats. Genius!

The Central Park Pants
Suspender Gauchos. nuf said.

The Starry Night Tunic
Fiber etched eyelet. I've never seen this before, and it's amazing!

Aside from the beautiful projects, this book also has a very comprehensive "Sewing Basics" section at the beginning and a "Getting Started" page to go along with each technique. And, if you have any apprehension as to whether or not you'll be able to handle a project, they are each labeled with an Easy, Moderated or Involved to help you decide.

Since this is the best embellishment book I have found so far, I'm giving it ☆☆stars (out of 3). (And I've even sent a few back to the library without bothering to review them!) The directions are thorough, the projects are cute, and even beginners will be able to understand what's going on. This would be a great book for anyone interested in refashioning their own clothes. (I'm looking at all you thrifters out there! lol)

Happy Reading!
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5 minutes of peace?

Monday, September 26, 2011

Sorry everybody. I know, I talked a lot about the whole pattern making series that I wanted to show you all, and it pretty much tanked. I've decided that rather than struggle through getting one relevant post up a week, I will do what I should have done in the first place and type up all the posts ahead of time so they are ready to go no matter what is going on in this crazy house of mine! (Why did I ever think I'd have enough time to actually get it all done during the week?)

So for now I'm going to tentatively push all things pattern-making back to the beginning of November. I know that seems like an awfully long time, but besides Halloween, (My favorite holiday Ever!) there are also three very important birthdays this month. I guess I really want to make sure that I don't do any more things "half-way" for the rest of the month.

In the mean time I'm still trying to work on a few projects. Over the last 25 days in our neck of Virginia, there have been 15 rainy days, 5 overcast days, and a measly 5 days where we actually saw the sun. Unfortunately, the sunny days are still terribly soggy since our area (which gets normally 3-4 inches of rain this time of year) has been swamped with 15-20 inches in this rather short time. This all makes for a very clingy and fidgety toddler locked in the house with only me and the cats. (Not as fun as it sounds ; )

I asked a few weeks ago what you Moms do when faced with the dreaded rainy day, and I've been scouring Pinterest and the rest of the internet for ideas to keep my little wild one entertained. Here are a few of the things we've tried so far... (Find the activities below and more in my preschool activities folder on Pinterest)

Pom Poms
We stuffed, counted, glued, sorted and threw them. (everywhere)

I thought this was cute, but it only worked for about 2 min.

We counted, glued, sorted and threw them. (everywhere)

Katy suggested scooping beans kinda like sand with cups and spoons and we tried that too. 
Reli decided it was more fun to use it as confetti and I'm still finding beans around the house. : )

Pipe Cleaners
We poked them through the colander, and then twisted them into shapes and letters.

Another cute idea that just didn't hold her attention.

Construction Paper
Pretty much just makes her mad because I wont let her use scissors.
(Add safety scissors to the shopping list!)

Our first attempt at glue sticks was going pretty well until I wrote the letters.
That REALLY made her mad for some weird reason!

We tried to make some of the fun hand-print animals that are so cute, but after the first 2 prints Reli decided she would much rather paint the table, chair, and herself. How does that happen when I'm sitting right there holding onto her?!

Finger painting in a bag. So much cleaner! Of course she wants
nothing to do with it and just keeps trying to open the bag instead.

This was actually the most effective distraction. In preparation for Reli's upcoming birthday, we went to the party store where they gave her a free balloon. She loved that thing for the better part of 2 days before it sank to the floor. Now Ant just wants to go buy her a new balloon every day (especially during football season!)

I'm hoping that either the weather clears up really soon, or Reli falls madly in love with some of the birthday presents that she'll be getting next week. I never imagined that trying to entertain a toddler would exhaust me so much that I'd be participating in nap time too! Oh well, it can't go on forever. Eventually she's going to have to let me use my sewing machine again, or she won't have any fall clothes. I doubt she's gonna fall for that reasoning though. ; )

Hopefully the rest of you are getting your 5 minutes of peace however you can too. Good Luck!
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Wait your turn Mommy!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

 Ok, This might make me sound like a total loser, but I can't be the only one who does this so here goes...

Do any of you Moms find yourselves playing with your children's toys even when they aren't around?

Right now Reli is too small to have any of the really "cool" toys that the bigger kids have, but sometimes I feel like I'm having a better time with bubbles and sidewalk chalk than she is. It isn't hard for me to imagine getting sucked into some of the more creative toys like Legos or Barbie dolls.
Not gonna lie, My husband and I each have a DS, and I loved the Professor Layton games!
I haven't played mine since Reli was born though.

So lets be honest, who has found themselves playing with the play-doh during nap time? Or dressing up all the naked baby dolls while your daughter is at school? Or sneaking in some time on one of those video games after the kids are in bed?

Tell me I'm not alone!
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Book-Worm Wednesday - Linen Wool Cotton

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

My week kinda got off track a little yesterday due to some Dr. appointments. So I decided to share a book review today instead of my "regularly scheduled program". (Doesn't seem to be very regular at all now does it?)

The book for this week is...

Linen Wool Cotton
25 simple projects to sew with natural fabrics
Akiko Mano

A few of you may remember the Patchwork Style book that I reviewed a while back. I was completely underwhelmed by that book, but promised to look into the others in the Make Good: Crafts+Life series, and this is it. And while I can't say that this book was exactly thrilling, we are getting a bit better. (The model still doesn't look at the camera, but at least she doesn't look drugged! lol)

My first impression was precisely "BLAH." All the fabrics are shades of pale blue, grey, white, and natural. BLAH. And the projects are so simple. (duh, says that on the cover) But, I eventually decided that this would be a pretty good book for beginners. You won't be distracted by wild prints and complicated details, and you can really impose your own personality into the projects listed below. 

Sarong Apron
Hanging Pockets
Slouch Bag
Floor Mat
Hand Towel
Small Bag
Wastebasket Cover
Hot Water Bottle Cover
Sweets Mat
Duvet Cover
Lap Blanket
Lingerie Case
Messenger Bag
Lunch Bag
Dish Towels
Parent & Child Bags
Fruit Bags
Apron (cover)

I did like a few of the projects...

The Muffler
I just really like the lace, buttons and plaid together.
Very cozy and reminds me of my dad's flannel shirts.

The Pillowcases
I know it's hard to see, but they have buttons to keep the pillow inside.

The Handkerchiefs
Also hard to see, but the one with the A uses the hemstitch
 to make a few rows of little holes in the linen.

In the end I'll give this book ☆☆stars for beginners and basic projects, but I'm still not getting too excited about it. (I admit to being more interested in the model's clothes than the projects. Oh well.) There are still a few more books in this series though, and I've got high hopes that the one on children's clothes can turn this whole thing around.

Maybe the problem is that I keep finding books with the word "simple" in the title. I'm gonna write my own book. Who's up for the Super Complicated and Wickedly Difficult Sewing Book of DOOM? Would you buy it? lol

Happy Reading!
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Rain, rain . . . GO AWAY!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Some of you along the central east coast may be harboring the same sentiment right about now. It rained here in Virginia for almost a solid week, and there are more thunderstorms predicted in the days to come! If you have toddlers, you know how crazy it can be locked up with no hope of releasing all that pent-up energy. (Kids and You too!) And, since Reli isn't exactly the "play by myself" kind of kid, I've been spending 90% of my day trying to keep her entertained. (You know it's BAD when even Wall-e isn't working anymore!)

So, I decided to try doing something that would keep Reli busy for a little while, and also make Mommy happy at the same time. Any ideas? Here's a hint...

See my little helper and her fake chocolate bar?

Yep, Bake a Chocolate Cake!

I get some much deserved chocolate, and she gets to say "chocolate" a lot which for some reason makes her very excited and willing to go along with anything. ; )

Since I grew up less than an hour and a half from Hershey Park, that has always been my all time favorite brand of chocolate. So I went straight to the Hershey website to find the perfect cake recipe for our first mommy - daughter baking adventure. The one I ended up choosing is called the Black Magic Cake, and don't let the addition of coffee to the batter scare you off. It really brings out the chocolate flavor, and there is no coffee taste at all! (Trust me, I think coffee tastes gross in general, and I never drink it!)

This was one of the most moist cakes I have ever baked! Even at the end of the week, it was still soft and gooey and delicious. The only negative feed back I received was from Ant who was upset that there wasn't enough frosting. I made the Chocolate Fudge Frosting and it was just barely enough to get a thin cover on the cake. I'm more interested in the cake than the frosting, so I thought it was good, but Ant is the opposite and wanted it doubled "next time". Either way, I definitely suggest giving this recipe a shot the next time a major chocolate craving strikes!

So what do you guys do when you're stuck inside with the kids on a rainy day?
We have already lost interest in every puzzle, book, and toy we own, watched every available episode of Sesame Street on Netflix, colored dozens of pictures, memorized the name of all the animals in the little people zoo and farm, and learned to sing the alphabet! I'm drawing a giant blank on new activities for this little bugger. Reli isn't quite 2 so most of the "preschool" activities I am finding are just a tiny bit too advanced.  If I don't find something to keep her busy soon, I'm never going to be able to get any crafting done! lol

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Making a muslin (shirt)

Friday, September 9, 2011

Today I'd like to show you how to use the patterns that we've been working on to make a muslin for fitting. I know this might sound dumb, but a Muslin (capital to help explain) is not necessarily made out of muslin (the type of fabric). A Muslin is just another way of saying a mock-up or test, and is made out of a cheap version of whatever type of fabric you are using to help give you an idea of how the final garment will fit. 

For example, if we were making a pattern for a t-shirt our Muslin would be made out of a knit fabric with a weight/hand similar to our "good" fabric. If we were making a silk blouse, we wouldn't use a quilting fabric for the test because they wouldn't drape the same way. We'd use a cheap silk or silk-like fabric. Does that make sense? 

There are ways to make pattern pieces directly from a person's body (or mannequin), but that technique is called draping, (original huh?) and is next to impossible to accomplish using an real kid. (They would be three sizes larger by the time you were done from all the M&Ms you would have to use to bribe them! ; )

For what I'm showing you today I really am using muslin, and these 3 patterns (front, back, sleeve) to see if the 3T patterns I've been working on will fit my 2T-ish kid. 

I can already tell at this point that I don't like the collar and will be changing that a little on the pattern.
The first thing you need to do is add seam allowance (SA) to your pattern pieces. You can do this on paper, or do what I did and trace your pattern directly onto the fabric and add where you need it. The piece above is the bodice front which I cut on the fold. I only added SA to the shoulder, side seams, and one armhole that I was attaching a sleeve to (not shown because I forgot). I didn't add anything to the collar and other sleeve, because I wanted to see where the actual line would fall.

Next I cut out 2 back pieces (left and right) with the same shoulder, side, and one armhole SA. I also added an inch to either side of the the center line so that I would have somewhere to pin the shirt together once it was on Reli. (Don't forget to mark the original Center Back line, or pinning will be a pain later!)

The letter F designates the front of the sleeve so I put it in the correct armhole.
 Then I added SA around the sleeve except at the hem. This way I'll be able to see if the sleeves are too long/short without having to mess with hemming them. You can cut out 2 sleeves, but for my example I wanted you to see the difference between a sleeve and a sleeveless garment made from this pattern. If you are making something with sleeves, adding both will help "weight down" the shirt properly.

Once you have all your SA added and your pieces cut out you are ready to sew it together! 
(Don't forget to press every seam! It really does make a difference.)

For beginners:
-Lay the front face up and place the 2 back pieces on top face down (one left, one right). Match up the side and shoulder seams and pin the front piece to the back piece. You should have 4 seams ready to sew. (left side, left shoulder, right side, and right shoulder) When those are sewn you will have something that looks like a backwards vest.
-The opening between the 2 back pieces (where I added the 1" SA above) will NOT be sewn together!
-Next, use your longest stitch to baste along the curve of the sleeve. (Start about 1 1/2" from the underarm seam not at the edge.)
-With right sides together, sew the straight sides of the sleeve together to form a tube.
- Pull the baste thread at the sleeve curve until your tube is small enough to match with your armhole. Don't forget to match up the side seam with the underarm seam. Pin Sleeve to Armhole right sides together.
- Sew the sleeve in place and remove the baste stitch.
- For darts, Fold the "triangle" right sides together until the sides are one on top of the other. Then starting at the bottom, stitch up the angled line and right off the fabric at the top point. (If it makes more sense, I pinch the left pink line to touch the right pink line, and then sew both lines together.)

Below I tried to show the difference in fit between the shirt with and without the darts. 
I know most of you are interested in sewing without any darts, and I'll be showing you how to 
modify your pattern to "dartless" soon. That will help make patterns for knit projects much easier.

The Front
(golly could she be happier?)

The Sleeve
(a bit too long)

The Armhole
You can see the definite change with darts here.

The Back
Here you can see how I pinned the 2 center lines together with safety pins.

The Modifications
For this one I cut the extra 2 inches off the sleeves, and also took in both side seams.
(I guess we aren't 3T just yet.)

If you plan to make modifications like in the pictures directly above, put the shirt on your kid inside out. It makes it much easier to pin the seams or darts smaller a little at a time until you get it just right. Then you can draw where you want the new seams to go directly on the muslin, take out the pins, pull out the seams, and trace the new lines on the fabric onto your old paper pattern pieces with a tracing wheel.

This is not the same bodice, just an example.
When everything fits the way you like it, you might want to trace your final pattern onto something stiff like poster board so that it doesn't get distorted later. I like to use a cereal box for this part. Just make sure to label the pattern pieces with front, back, the size, and whether or not you have added seam allowance. Then you won't be scrambling later when you forget like I do.

I hope this helps, but if you have any questions please let me know. 
Thanks for visiting and have a great weekend!
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