Monday, April 30, 2012

Ri's Bridal Shower and Quilt

Saturday has come and gone, and with it, the first ever bridal shower for one of my girls.  We had a great time.  Lys, her Maid of Honor, was in charge of planning, inviting guests, and decorating, and I provided the food.  Not to say Lys, and the other girls didn't help prepare the food, they certainly did.
The pics look a little blurry in the post, but will look much nicer if you click on them. 
Lys wanted to play up sunflowers since they will be in the wedding, so there is plenty of yellow and green. The girls worked very hard to get all the decorations up since the ceiling is so high and we don't have a ladder.
A small table was set up in the sunroom for the punch. This gorgeous old punch set was borrowed from my mom, and Bree painted the stemmed glasses.  They are so cute.  My mom, Lys, the groom's mother, and I each got to keep one, and Ri will get the other eight for her new home.
The girls used the bistro table, and my jewlery box to display the favors.
All the favor boxes were decorated differently.  I'll show how they did those in the next post.
The favor boxes had a trio of sunflower seeds in them; candy coated, chocolate covered seeds(in yellow, green, and brown), toffee coated seeds (Ri and Lys made those), and roasted, salted sunflower seeds.
There was plenty of food.  
M & M's are in the tall, stemmed glasses as a play on her new initials. 
We had little, drawstring organza bags available so folks could take some home with them.
Of course, we had some of Ri's favorites, like stuffed strawberries,
strawberry cupcakes with strawberry, cream cheese icing,
(can you tell she likes strawberries?)
and cookie dough dip.
There were also plenty of candles,
(Bree painted this holder too)
to go along with all the sunflowers.
They choose a few games to play, a couple of which left us in stitches.  
Now we just have to find a place to store all her gifts until close to the wedding, when we plan on going over to Superman's home to help her set everything up they way she would like.
And here's her quilt.  
As I mentioned before, I did manage to get it finished just before she got home from the girls' visit with my mom, so she didn't see it completed until her shower on Saturday.
I did an all over, swirly stipple for the background of the top, hoping to set off the flowers.  
I in-lined the petals, and quilted a flower pattern in each brown center.  Don't pay too much attention to the not-quite-straight lines.  From a distance it looks great. :D
Then I did a serpentine, open feather pattern for the border.
I think it turned out all-right.
T.Lynn's gift to her sister was a decorative pillow to go along with the quilt.  I used some of the extra pieces to make the top, then T. helped make the back (which is designed so Ri can take the case off to wash it), helped program my machine to write out, "Sisters are best friends you can never lose.  Love T....."(which she came up with herself), stitched that on, and then sewed on the button that holds the flap closed on the back. 
She did a great job. 
I'll have to try and re-locate the quilted, denim, scrap rug that Beenie made for her sister, so I can post pics of that later.  It's somewhere in the mass of gifts that we currently have sitting on, and around the hearth, just 'til we can find room elsewhere for them.
All-in-all, it was a wonderful day.
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Thursday, April 26, 2012

Weddings, weddings, weddings.

It's been a little crazy around here.  Last week the girls went to stay with my mom for one last trip, where all of them would be together, before Ri gets married.  I spent the week working on Ri's quilt in the hope of getting it done in time for her bridal shower, and hopefully, before she got back from Mom's, so she wouldn't see it before Saturday.  Thankfully, I did get it finished, literally 5 minutes before they pulled in the driveway Monday afternoon.  Whew!!  I'll post pics soon.  Tues., we drove down and got Lys, her Maid of Honor, who'll be staying with us the rest of the week.  Yesterday Ri had braces put on, we nearly finished getting everything we'll need for the shower, and I made a small adjustment to her wedding dress.  I also helped Beenie and T.Lynn with their gifts for Ri.  Today (Thurs.), we're going to the salon to practice up-dos for Lys and Ri, and once we have one we like for Ri, we'll head off to a local garden to have her bridal shoot.  Thankfully, Lys is a photographer, so we could arrange this to suit us.  Tonight we plan to start woking on some of the shower things like making the mints, and putting the favors together.  I can't wait to share pictures of those.  Tomorrow we have a bunch of errands to run around Kay's volunteer work and Beenie's guitar lesson, then we will head back home to do all that we can in advance of the shower.  I also hope I can squeeze in some time to start working on my dress for my brother's wedding.  Which is next week, so no rest for the weary, or is that wicked?
I hope to be back soon, with plenty of pictures.
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Wednesday, April 18, 2012

DIY - Bridal Shower Invitations

Since Ri's favorite flower is the sunflower, and those will be the main flower at her wedding, we decided to use that same theme in her bridal shower.  Her Maid of Honor, who is primarily responsible for the shower, told me about seeded paper, and suggested we find a way to use it for the shower.  I'd never heard of such a thing, but I looked it up and loved the idea.  I wondered if it was possible to use sunflower seeds (they are rather big) so I kept looking around until I found a company that did make seeded paper with miniature sunflower seeds.  The paper is kind of pricey, but it isn't going to be a huge shower and we could cut the paper in half to make it more, invitation size anyway, so that way, the price wasn't too bad.  Then we got a few stamps, a couple of brown inks, and set to work.
I just loved this stylized sunflower stamp.
Clicking on the pic will give you an unblurry view.
The stamps make it all so easy.  Just fill in the blank.
Look at all those little seeds.
We also found these cute stamps.  Ri loved this saying, and the dress.
Nearly done.  We just had to fill in the info., and put planting instructions for the paper on the back.
I measured the finished card to see what size envelope to use and ordered some from a place online that allowed small quantities.  Hey, I didn't need a whole box of A2, avocado green envelopes, but the green did set the yellow invite off really well, so we wanted that instead of plain white.

Making the invitations was a lot of fun.  Her Maid of Honor was up for a week and we had a good time making these and trying out food for the bridal shower and reception.  One of Ri's other friends came for a couple of days during Lys' stay, and we decorated the favor boxes with her and Lys.  I hope to put up photos and instructions for that soon.  They turned out so well.

It's getting close.  
Bridal shower in less than two weeks (and I'm trying furiously to get her quilt done by then), and then her wedding will be 7 weeks after that.  With time out in the middle for my brother's wedding.  Whew!!
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Wednesday, April 11, 2012

I've Warped My Children

Many years ago I started learning how to make things from scratch that I had previously used seasoning packets, canned soup, and baking mixes for.  It was more because I was desperate than because I was particularly health conscience.  But learning more about making those things helped me to become more health conscience.  At the time, I had a hyper toddler.  And I do mean HYPER.  Now, don't get me wrong, I don't throw that word around much.  I balked at the doctors that had declared my older two hyperactive, but once I got to number four, I wanted to lock every doctor that had told me Kay and Ri were hyper in a room with Beenie for 5 minutes.  I kid you not.  She was (and occasionally still is) something else.  So I started looking into food additives, colorings, and preservatives, and decided that I needed to change how we ate.  Shortly after that, with my fifth pregnancy, I suffered an unusual amount of swelling and began doing even more research into eating better.  I've learned a lot.

I have to confess, we aren't super health food eaters, as you can tell by my caramel sauce recipe, but we do try to eat a balanced diet, add in lots of probiotic rich foods, limit eating out, and use very little pre-prepared food.  I also sneak healthy stuff in on them as often as I can.  One of the things I learned early on was that you can't just go cold turkey with the junk, or even less than healthy food and expect your kids to enjoy your new-found enthusiasm for healthy eating.  You can't expect that from your hubby either.  So what I did was to start slipping whole wheat flour into our baked goods a little at a time, until more and more of the total amount of flour was whole wheat.  I encourage eating fresh fruits and veggies often.  I also slip things like finely grated veggies into a number of dishes to up the nutritional value without so much resistance at the dinner table.  It has worked great.

In fact, it has worked much better than I ever thought it would.  Not long ago Bree wanted to make bread but we didn't have any whole wheat flour, and I didn't have time to grind any.  I told her she would just have to make white bread unless she wanted to go grind the grain herself.  She didn't, so her bread was made with ordinary, unbleached, all purpose flour.  She did a great job, as she always does, but two bites into it she made a face and turned to me.  "Ugh.  You've warped me Mom."  "How's that?", I answer.  "This bread is okay, but it just doesn't have as much flavor without the whole wheat.  It's kind of bland.  Do you think you can grind some wheat so I can make some more bread tomorrow?"  The other girls concurred with her and wanted me to grind some grain for bread.  They were happy as clams a couple of days later when I did.

YES!! - Victory!!  I've warped my kids.
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Sunday, April 8, 2012

Homemade Caramel Sauce

With ice cream season just around the corner I thought I'd share the recipe I use for caramel sauce.  I tried this out for the first time a couple of years ago when I wanted caramel to top a pie, but didn't want to run to the store.  After seeing how easy it was to make, I was determined to never buy the premade stuff again.  The homemade is much better, easy to make, and I'm sure the cost is far less than the over-priced, tiny bottle you get in the grocery store (though I've never bothered to try and figure out a price breakdown).  And, as an added bonus, you can pronounce every ingredient in it.
Caramel Sauce
1 cup white sugar
6 Tablespoons butter - not margarine
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
2 teaspoons light corn syrup - optional

You need to have everything ready and right beside the stove before you start.  It's easy to burn the sugar so you won't have time to search for things once the sugar starts to boil.  In addition to the ingredients, you'll need a fairly large, heavy bottomed pot (I use a 3qt. pot), a whisk, and a glass container to store it in - the sauce, not the whisk :).  Also, it's important to use white sugar so you can tell when it's turning color. 
Supposedly, you can just start by putting the sugar in the pot and turning on the heat, but that process never worked well for me, so I always add a little bit (no more than 1/2c.) of water to get the sugar to dissolve more easily without burning it right off the bat.  Add your corn syrup now if you're going to use it.  Set your pan over medium high heat and start to cook your sugar.  You can whisk it until it starts to boil, but once it does you need to disturb it as little as possible while it cooks and starts to turn a nice amber color.  You can tip the pan around a bit if it needs to be mixed.  If you added the water this will take a little longer because the water has to boil out before the sugar will start to caramelize.  
Once it has turned a medium to dark(ish-I don't like to risk burning it) amber color, you need to add in your butter and whisk.  This is why you need a big pot.  I know it seemed like overkill in the beginning, but once you put in the butter, it will foam better than a baking soda volcano.  
After the butter is melted, remove it from the heat, count to three and whisk in the heavy cream.  It will foam again.  Let set for a minute or two before transferring it to a glass container for storage.  A wide-mouth canning jar is good for this.  You'll get a little more than 1c of caramel from this recipe.   Allow to cool completely and then store in the fridge.

Some suggest brushing the sides of the pan with water to keep sugar crystals from forming there during the cooking process.  You don't want the crystals to form because you get caramel candy instead of sauce if they do, but personally, I didn't like trying to brush the water around while the sugar was cooking.  Maybe I was doing it wrong or something, but it just didn't seem to work all that well.
The corn syrup, while optional, is there for that very problem.  By adding a bit of corn syrup, you'll help keep the sugar crystals from forming without having to worry about the water.  Some recipes call for 1/4c. of corn syrup, but I don't like using more than I have to and a couple teaspoons will help.  You may end up with a little crystallized caramel around the edges of the pan, but caramel candy has a place in the world too.
Another option is to add a teaspoon of vanilla in at the end.  I've never done it, but it would probably be good.  
I know it kind of sounds a little intimidating, but it really is easy to do as long as you pay attention while the sugar cooks.  It's delicious and we put it on a number of things when I do make it, but I don't keep it often because then I would eat it often.  If, however, you happen to have some leftover after making your homemade caramel sundaes, it's really good in your coffee.
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Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Trekkie-Whovian Solar System

I love homeschooling.  I like age integrated studies, which is what we've used for many years now; it just works for me.  This does mean that we kind of recirculate our lessons.  We've learned about the solar system three times now.  Once when Kay and Ri were young(er), once when they were older and the other three were small, and now we've come back around to it again.  Part of our study includes making a model of the solar system and this time I let the girls choose how they wanted to represent it.  I love the way they personalize their projects, but I must admit to some surprises with this project. 
This was T.Lynn's.  
It's hard to tell from this shot because there is nothing to use as a reference, but this is pretty big.  It isn't mounted to anything because of it's size.  The sun is about the size of a softball, so she had to arrange her project on the floor.  She is now using them as you would carpet balls.  I was rather surprised that she included the moon; that was not a requirement, and she did her best to mimic the colors that are on one of our solar system posters.
**I have been informed that when I set T.'s planets up to take this picture, I put Mercury, Pluto and the moon in the wrong places.  T. informs me that the one in the photo behind the sun is actually Pluto, the one I have in orbit around the Earth is actually Mercury, and the last one should really have been the moon.  Sorry for my mistakes T., though she did tell me that I at least got Mercury close to the sun when I put it in orbit around the Earth. :).  And for the record, when she brought it back down to show me my errors, I relized the whole thing is even bigger than I originally stated.  Jupiter and Saturn are the size of a softball and the sun is larger.**  
This was Beenie's.  
I was amazed at the detail she put in these because they are not painted.  She used clay for her's, so every color you see in there are different colors of clay she added in before smoothing the planet out, except for the land and the clouds on Earth, which she deliberately left higher than the water.  The rings were made of pipe cleaners.  When she mounted it she discovered the clay was too heavy and it was tipping the foam board over so she placed a representation of the asteroid belt in front as a counter balance.  I just loved it.  She also included our moon and the dwarf planet Eris.  I don't know if you can see it, even if you click on the picture, but the moon, Mercury, Pluto, and Eris have craters on them.
And last, but not least, this is Bree's.
As usual, I love her painting, but wait...what is that in the solar system?
The Enterprise?
And the Tardis?
Yep, that's right.  I mean, after all, you just can't go traipsing through the solar system without an adequate  means of transportation.  And yes, the Tardis is tipped on purpose.  Have you ever seen the way the Doctor drives it?

Have I mentioned that I love homeschooling?
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Sunday, April 1, 2012

Super Quick, Easy Sew Skirt

Hands down, this is the fastest skirt I've ever sewn in my life, and quite possibly, one of the cutest.
Here Ri was giving it the all important spin test.  It passed.
A few weeks ago, Ri found this adorable, ruffle fabric, and although it's usually pretty pricey, I had a store coupon for 40% off, so we splurged and bought 2 or 3 yards; I can't remember which.  It's been sitting, waiting for us to decide what to do with it.  Ri found and idea or two, and I looked up some tutorials on sewing ruffle fabric skirts.  Finally, borrowing from a couple different ideas, we came up with this.
Start with the top of some denim thing; shorts, jeans, or skirt; it doesn't really matter what.
We started with a mini skirt we picked up at Goodwill for $4.
We cut off the top, getting as close to the zipper as we could, while still leaving enough for the seam allowance.  This wasn't exactly precision cutting - I just eyeballed it.
Don't forget to fold those pockets back out of the way before you cut.
Then, with your fabric folded into a square, lay it out, turned like a diamond, and lay your top across the corner to mark the sewing and cutting line.  Remember, it needs to have an inch or so extra on the one side you'll need to run a seam down. 
Actually, I didn't really mark it.  I laid the top up there, just like in the photo, then flipped it down (toward me), making sure the bottom (newly cut edge) was in the same place, and then cut above the edge about 5/8ths of an inch.
I drew this (very) rough picture on Ri's gimp thingy to try and help explain it.
I truly hope this helps out.
(Sorry - I just noticed that the grain line is in the wrong place - it should go along the upper right side, not the lower right side.  I hope this doesn't confuse you.)
We decided to turn the fabric so that we would be cutting on the bias because Ri really liked the way the ruffles moved when hanging diagonally. 
After cutting the corner off, measure out the length you want the skirt to be. Remember, you need to measure from where the bottom of the jean portion will be, to however long you want it.  Ri wanted it floor length, so ours was about 31"(remember to add your seam allowance).  I measured 31" down each side, and then down the middle.  Then I took a point midway between the middle and each side to measure again, so that I had five points along the bottom that I could use to draw the curve for the bottom of the skirt.  Here again, I didn't really draw it, I just put pins in it to mark the curve and then cut.  Precision wasn't really necessary here either because once you cut the ruffles, the little ends hang down like a miniature handkerchief edge, so slight imperfections will not show.  
Next, you need to pin, and then sew down the side of the skirt - this would be the right edge in the gimp photo above.  Make sure all the little ruffles line up.  
Once you've sewn down the side, pin the jean top to the top edge of the ruffle fabric.
I'll add in here, that the only reason we could make it this way is because there was no up or down to this ruffle fabric.  Well, there probably was, but whichever way you turned it, it looked the same, so we could do what we wanted.  You may not be able to do it this way if you have a ruffle fabric that has a print on it - I've seen a few that were polka dot, or had little flowers.  Also, in essence, the ruffles start to flip upside down on the hip opposite the one with the seam.  Meaning, if the ruffles run one way along the front, then you need to make them run the other way on the back.  If you don't do this, the ruffles on the back (or front, depending on which one you started on) will get sewn in flipped the wrong way.  I know it sounds complicated, but it's not.  You'll be able to see what I'm talking about if you get some of this fabric.  Just pin it up and then turn it right side out so you can make sure the ruffles all hang right before you sew them in.
I serged both the side and the top, but you could stitch a regular seam and then finish with a zig-zag, because we all know denim is famous for raveling if it isn't finished. 
Three cuts and two seams; that's all there is to it.
Ok, not the most flattering pic, but I wanted to try and show the diagonal ruffles.  The way this thing moves as she walks is lovely.  Very flowy (yes, that's a word) and feminine.

It didn't take me but about 30min. to run this skirt up, and that was including a couple of interruptions. 
There's no need to hem ruffle skirts.  At least, so says Ruffle Fabric.  And I'm inclined to believe them since we prewashed the fabric and nothing happened to it. 
The link I've put in will take you to their tutorial page where they explain how to make several ruffle skirts, and they sell some very cute ruffle fabric.  I'd love to have tons of this stuff.  It's so fun to look at and work with.  I mean come on, no hems? very forgiving to eyeball measurements?  That's my kind of fabric.  And best yet, we still have enough fabric left to make a skirt for T.Lynn.

I've linked this post with the Homestead Barn Hop.  Check out all the great ideas others are sharing over there.  

I've also linked with White Wolf Summit Farmgirl on her sewing challenge link, the UFO Roll Call.

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