Friday, June 26, 2009

A Good Start

Well so far chicken pox has made our days blissfully restful. We have been staying home to play in the kiddie pool; try out some crochet; eat homemade popsicles and watermelon. Quarantine has been rather nice actually!

I ordered two new books with some birthday money and the money I made from the cake. They came yesterday and I spent a lovely time outside going through them. I ordered The Gentle Art of Domesticity by Jane Brocket and Pretty Little Cozies from Lark Books.

Doesn't this photo look like the perfect summer day? My perfect day anyway! I am really enjoying the one by Jane Brocket.

The cozies book is looking promising. I think my first project will be a cozy for my Bodum coffee maker. I have a few delicious fat quarters just waiting to be used.

I also started a project long lanquishing in my "In-box". I have a baby quilt that is in dire need of repair before it can be brought out and loved by another little one.

I painted my cedar planter to match the doors on my house. My lovely geranium looks so much brighter in it. I love doing little things that make a big impact.

Today we are able to go out in public again. Because my shopping day was cut short by the phone call from the school we are going thrifting. Not the kids favorite thing to do, but I have bribed them with some spending money. I'm hoping to find more treasures like these from past thrifting adventures. I can't wait to get them cleaned up and into the spare room.

This weekend promises to be a good one. There is a red and white Strawberries and Cream festival going on at the farmers market, and a huge used book sale in the industrial park. Sounds like another great day I think.

Have a lovely weekend!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

A Pox on Our House

Chicken pox! Can you believe it?! I thought getting my kids vaccinated for this meant they weren't supposed to get it. Apparently not. I have been told the symptoms will be much less severe than if they didn't get the vaccine, so I guess that's something to be grateful for. Still...

Anyway it made us start our summer vacation two days early. It meant I didn't have to cut up pounds and pounds of fruit for the kindergarten picnic, or sit, frying in the sun at said picnic. It also means My Favorite Girl misses her award ceremony, and both kids miss their year-end parties. We also can't have playdates for at least a week, and are pretty much confined to the house. In one way a bummer; in another way, more relaxing. It all balances out I guess.

These are some of the teacher gifts I put together this year. I was struggling with what to give. After a very trying day last week I ended up at the plant nursery, and saw these beautiful double impatiens. I thought "perfect!" and they came home with us.

They really look like miniature roses, and have a sweet little scent. I'm happy with how they potted up, and am even happier each pot cost around $5. I had to make five in total, so I was able to give something that looks good to everyone and didn't break my bank account. One of these days I'll get a better camera and my pictures will be much better!

It's so hot today I filled up the kids inflatable pool. They have already had a good go-round in it; now they're "resting" in front of the TV for a bit. When they're ready to go back outside I plan on parking myself in the new lounger and catching up on some reading. Maybe being under quarantine won't be so bad!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Fathers Day

I made two good recipes yesterday I want to share with you. We had a French inspired dinner for Mr. Crafty World, consisting of a smoked Gouda and asparagus soup; bistro salad with dijon vinaigrette and breaded goat cheese; chicken breasts with rosemary/dijon cream sauce and cherry chocolate clafoutis (cla-foo-tee). It was all really good; a bit too much work for such a sunny day, but it was worth it. The recipes I want to pass on are for the soup and dessert.

I only made half a batch of this soup, but this is the full recipe. Due to the high cost of the cheese, I didn't want to make a full batch and not like it. Next time I would make a full batch though: it's really good.

Asparagus and Smoked Gouda Soup

2 Tbsp butter
1 leek, white and tender green parts only, sliced*
6 large shallots, chopped*
2 Tbsp all purpose flour
1 cup dry white wine
1 cup milk
2 cups chicken broth (I used homemade)
2 lbs asparagus; trimmed of woody ends and chopped
1 cup grated smoked gouda
salt and freshly ground pepper
1 cup whipping cream

*I didn't have a leek or shallots, so I substituted a bundle of green onions (white and tender green parts) and half a of a mild onion

Heat butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add leek and shallots and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes or until softened.
Add flour adn cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute. Gradually stir in wine, milk and broth. Bring to a simmer and add the aspargus and a pinch of salt and pepper. Cook, uncovered, for about 15 minutes or until aspargus is softened. Add cheese and cream.
Put mixture in a blender in batches and blend until smooth and frothy. Return mixture to same pan over medium heat until hot. Serve hot.

This recipe came from here. There are some really yummy looking salads over there I want to try this week too.

Now for the clafoutis. I have never made one before, nor have I ever had a fresh one. My only experience with clafoutis is with the kind that comes in a tin I have eaten in France. It's my go-to when I'm up in the middle of the night and don't want to wake everyone up getting something to eat. Mmmmmm....canned clafoutis and chocolate pudding in the middle of the night. That's a good memory for me.
Anyway, I found this recipe in one of those glossy, supermarket foodie-type magazines they put out. I usually don't try those recipes out because they just seem too complicated and/or expensive to execute. I do like this one, and plan on making it again.

Cherry-chocolate Clafoutis

1 pound sweet fresh cherries
3 Tbsp butter, divided
1 cup all purpose flour
1 package (100 grams) ground almonds. Or grind your own like I did.
1 cup milk
1/2 cup half and half cream
4 large eggs
1/3 cup, plus 2Tbsp sugar, divided
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup chopped, dark chocolate. I used milk chocolate because that's all I had. Next time I'll try the dark.
2 Tbsp icing sugar.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Wash cherries and remove stems and stones.
Melt 2Tbsp butter.
In a food processor, combine flour, almonds, milk, cream, eggs, 1/3 cup sugar, melted butter, vanilla and salt. Mix until batter is completely smooth, about 1 minute. Let batter rest.
Butter a 10 inch quiche/pie pan with remaining 1 Tbsp butter. Pour 1/3 of the batter into the dish and bake until very lightly set, about 5 minutes. Remove from oven and scatter cherries, remaining 2Tbsp sugar and chocolate over batter. Pour remaining batter evenly over all.
Bake until puffed, set and golden brown around the edges, 45-50 minutes. Let cool 10 minutes; dust with icing sugar and serve.

It says this is best eaten warm on the day it's made. I'll leave that up to you. I actually prefer it cold....

We did a lot of planting this weekend. Mr. Crafty World and I put some new shrubs out front and the kids planted their own little flower gardens:

Notice the cute gardening gloves?

This week is the last for the kids to go to school, so I'm trying to cram lots of stuff in. I have painted the garage door and all the exterior doors, and have gotten most of my flowers planted. I just want to go back and get one more David Austen rose I saw the other day. Talk about gorgeous! I'm also making up little pots for the kids to give to their teachers and bus driver. Then I'm done - I think.
Have a great week!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Birthday Cake and a Cupcake Too

I did it! It's not the most professional looking cake in the world, but I made it and the recipient loved it. Oh, and it tasted great. That's the part I was really worried about. The marshmallow fondant was liked by kids and adults. I put enought buttercream between the layers and underneath the fondant, in case the fondant got picked off. I used a yellow cake recipe from 'The Cake Bible' and it stayed moist and was really buttery and old-fashioned cakey goodness-like.I wish the pictures were a bit more clear.

Here's the front:

Here's a side view:

It took me three hours to do the surface decoration. My hand was sore all day from squeezing a
piping bag. It was worth it though. I like to do it, but as a hobby only. There's no way I could do this all day, every day. I was absolutely exhausted after I dropped it off!
I also made this little cupcake change purse to go with the quilted bag. I filled it with chocolate coins and didn't include anything else with the gift. I feel good about that; it's hard to give something handmade (except to your mum!) and not feel like you're being cheap. It's hard to acknowledge/justify that your time is worth something.

I have seen similar pouches at Mastermind. Very cute, and only $6; but where's the fun in that? You don't get to pore over your stash and decide what to use; you don't get to sew colorful glass beads onto little -girl -pink satin. You don't get to master sewing in a zipper or figure out how to finally sew in a lining properly. I made my own pattern. I only had to make one mock-up. I'm so full of sewing confidence right now: I might just make something else today :)

Friday, June 12, 2009

Much Better!

I spent a good hour at Toys R Us yesterday trying to find something for our little neighbors birthday. I didn't like the crafts; she's got lots of toys; all I could think of was that I should try again at sewing something. So I came home, got out my Butterfly Fling charm pack and set to work making up a bag. It's a smaller version of the Charm Party Tote I made for myself in April. This is my absolute favorite fabric pack; I wish I had lots more of this fabric. It's all my favorite colors and it's just a delight to work with. I had much better luck this time and am very happy with the finished result. My own daughter asked for one for her birthday, as I knew she would! I tried to keep the quilting simple, because I didn't have too much time to work on it, but I think it's enough. I was able to use up some fabric I originally bought to make a dress for My Favorite Girl (but it was too thin) as the lining, and it goes quite well I think.

The bag measures 11x7x3 inches, so not terribly huge, but big enough to hold a small doll and accessories or some books. I'm still undecided as to whether I'm going to put something inside of it. I think it's big enough to give on it's own, but I might stick a Sparkle magazine in it.

This morning I have been working on the cake. So far so good. My bottom layer, and the biggest one, is baked and it looks great. It's perfectly even all around and smells delicious. The top tier is in the oven as I speak, and the marshmallow fondant is resting on the counter. I'm hoping to get the buttercream made this afternoon, and the fondant put on when we come home from the school picnic tonight. That leaves me tomorrow morning to do the brush embroidery.

Wish me luck!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

I can't see straight...

and therefore I can't sew straight! I find few things more frustrating than spending oodles of time sewing and having a crummy finished product. I decided to sew another portfolio for our little neighbor, who's having a birthday party on Saturday. I love the fabric, love the ribbon, love how the princess stationary coordinates with said fabric and ribbon... What I don't love are all the crooked lines and seams. It's so bad there's no way I can give it away. Now to a six year old, it's not a big deal. In fact, I'm pretty sure she won't even notice. It's all the parents who look at it (and they will look, because a home sewn gift is a true rarity around here) and see the crooked lines and seams, who wonder who this cheap, non-talented neighbor is. Ay-yah! So it's off to the toy store this morning to get something else. I really should have known better than to sew when I wasn't feeling good. Problem is, I love to sew, and when I don't feel good it really helps me out. Maybe I should just sew sacks or something when I feel like that. Except they require straight lines too...

Onto other things. I finished replacing the skirts on the ballerina quilt sham. To be honest I didn't think I would do it, because I kind of prefer not to have a sham on My Favorite Girl's bed. It hides all the pretty pillowcases I have for her room. Anyway, I had the sham and the dresses and finished it in a few nights. Until I get a pillow for it it's housing her winter quilt. Here it is on her bed (beside her messy dresser) with the Hello Kitty pillow she made on my sewing machine. I'm now glad I finished it off, because they do look good together.

While we're on the ballerina theme, here is the card I made for My Favorite Girl to go with the carousel horse she received for her year end dance recital. I stitched the ballerina about three or four years ago and it's been sitting in my jewelry box. The pattern is a Bette Davis design that came as a freebie on one of those UK cross stitch magazines. I figured this was the right time to put it to use, so I mounted it on a card I made and added the little resin ballerina slippers to the bottom. I'm very happy with it, and I plan on making sure she keeps it!

Tomorrow I'm in full cake decorating mode. I am making the cake for our little neighbor's birthday party, and it's a two tier job with fondant icing and brush embroidery decoration. I'm really hoping it goes better than the portfolio did! I haven't made a cake that size in quite a while, so I have to get my notes out. If it goes well I'll post a picture. If it doesn't you'll hear me crying on my blog :o

Friday, June 5, 2009

A Few Pretties

I had a bit of luck today thrifting. These are the best of what I found. I'm very excited about the small porcelain flower bouquet: it was in a bag of absolute junk, all for $1.99. The carousel is for my favorite girl, but I need to replace the music box thing-y. They usually aren't too hard to find. I have been wanting to get her a carousel horse for a while: three years ago she had her first ride on an honest to goodness, old fashioned carousel in Bordeaux, France. It was one of those times when you can see absolute bliss on the face of your little ones. Ever since then I have had a thing for carousels. I guess it's a memory I love to have triggers for.
I finished my stinky oil painting and made some time for fun sewing. (As opposed to un-fun sewing, which usually involves some kind of mending). I spotted this pattern at Amy Butler's website; it's a freebie called "Sweet Greetings Portfolios". I always had it in mind to make for a child. I thought it was big enough to hold a coloring book but it's not. Over all it was a nice project to sew, though there are a few things I would do differently next time. I do plan on making another one, hopefully for a little girl who is having a birthday next week. If I can find some fabric with crowns on it I'll be all set. I just love this fabric though:

Here's how it looks open. I put a few little things from the dollar store in it (eraser, gel pens, stickers). Now it's on its way to a little girl I know. I hope she likes it!

The weather is gorgeous today; I hope it lasts most of the weekend. The World's Longest Street , Street Fair is tomorrow and I'm hoping we can get there. There is also gardening to do and paint samples to try out! Yes, I will be at it again, only no oil paint this time.

Our Favorite Girl has her year end dance revue this weekend, so that will take up the afternoons. I will be so glad when it's all over. We are watching the show on Saturday, and on Sunday I am volunteering backstage. We were at the dress rehearsal last night, and I had a good chuckle at all the little girls in their fluffy tutus and sparkly costumes. Six months of practicing and you would think some of them started two weeks ago! Oh well, it is entertaining to say the least.

Have a nice weekend!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

I've been puttering along for over a week now at home, and I'm starting to get that crabby feeling from not making anything. Last week I thought it would make so much sense to rearrange the shelves in my crafting space, only to have it turn into a full-blown re-organizing/decluttering/cleaning project that still isn't done. I should have known better.

Now that June is here with all its end-of-school/term events and preparations I'm realizing how little kiddie-free time I've got left. I have been meaning to paint the downstairs doors for a while now, but as I'm using oil paint I have to do it when the kids aren't around. This morning I finally got started, and it didn't go so badly. They will look so much better and once I've done it I can forget about it. I did the first coat on three doors today so I only really have another three hours of work and it's finished.
While I was painting I came up with some other decoration solutions for the house, and have drafted up a list of the other things I need to get done on my free Tuesdays and Thursdays. Here's hoping I actually get them done!

I had my last ballet class last night. I used to refer to Monday night's class as my weekly dose of humiliation, and I was bound and determined never to sign up again. Here I am at the end of my second session, and I'm planning on signing up for the summer session. Did I suddenly get better and understand all the terminology?


Why am I doing it?

First of all it's the only thing that seems to really help my lower back, and I'm really enjoying the work-out I get.

Secondly, some new people have joined the class, and while I'm still the worst one there, the difference is only marginal. It's no longer just because of me that the teacher makes us repeat certain things. Now that's a good feeling!

I'll leave you with a recipe I found yesterday at Bakerella for Chocolate Chip Cookie Pie. Go see her blog if you haven't already; it's really amazing.

This went over really well with everyone last night, and it only took a few minutes to put together. I highly recommend eating it with ice cream!

Chocolate Chip Cookie Pie

1 unbaked 9-inch (4 cup) deep dish pie shell*
2 large eggs
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup white granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
3/4 cup butter, melted
1 cup chocolate chips/chunks/morsels
1 cup chopped pecans ( I toasted mine: they always taste so much better that way)
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
Beat eggs in a large bowl until frothy.
Beat in flour, sugars and melted butter.
Stir in chocolate and nuts and pour into pie shell.
Bake for 55-60 minutes. Cool on a wire rack. Serve Warm.
*I used a 10 inch quiche pan because I was worried the filling might spill over my regular sized pie dish. I will use it again for this recipe because it made the pieces a bit thinner. That's actually a good thing because it's a very sweet pie.

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