Monday, September 30, 2013

September, the Month of Birthdays. And Birthday Cakes.

First, I would like it read into the record that this is my 12th post in September.
Although that's not a record for this blog, it is the most posts of 2013.

 You're welcome.

Here are the September birthday cakes!
Tommy's Notre Dame cake, made the day after ND beat Purdue 31-24 (actually, not so bad, considering this past weekend's loss to Northern Illinois, 55-24.  I don't even want to think about the upcoming Ohio State game . . .)

This is just a 9x13, iced with buttercream.  The goal post are some dowel rod I glued together and spray-painted gold.  He was happy.  And about the cutest 9-year-old I know.

On the same day, we celebrated Maggie's 26th Birthday.  And, because we have a fun trip coming up, I made a Minnie Mouse cake for her.  She shared her cake with her niece, Marley, who came to celebrate with us:

There is a lot of inspiration on the internet for this cake -- you should just try googling Disney cakes and see all the fantastic stuff people are doing!  I have a round cake pan (to make golf balls, basketballs and the like) so Clay (my baker) made a cake in one of the halves to make the Minnie hat.  The ears, bow and dots are fondant, and around the bottom?  Malted milk balls.  Which, as Paul pointed out, don't have milk in the middle.  What's with that?

This past Saturday, we celebrated Paul's 5th birthday.  He wanted a Despicable Me cake, so we sat down at the computer and he picked out this one.  I think he was drawn to it because of the spill.  As a fellow messy person, I was, too.  Here's my re-creation:

Clay's favorite minion is the one sliding down the left side of the cake.  That was a bit of a mistake when I was putting him in position, but it's cute, and something a minion would do.  


Marble cake, iced with buttercream.  The minions, letters, moon and lab floor are fondant, and I painted on the spill and the Gru silhouette.  Fun, fun, fun. 

And finally, Griffin's 7th Birthday Lego cake.  Again, there are about a million Lego cakes out there in internet land to study for inspiration.  I cut all those crazy Legos out of fondant, using a pen cap for the dots and gluing them on the rectangles with a little water, and I painted his name Lego-style on a piece of rolled-out fondant.  

So, it's supposed to look like they are mining for Legos, but when I went to WM to find Lego sets for the cake, the closest I could get was a cement mixer (which was too big for the top of the cake, and which I dropped and broke into many, many pieces as I was trying to get this all set up.  Good old Will, who had spent about an hour building it in the first place, re-built it for me, but warned me not to drop it again!)  So, it's not really accurate, but it worked, and Griff was happy.  

White cake, which I split into 4 layers, then used a different color icing between each layer.  The sand is brown sugar.  I did realize, too late, that if this actually were a cake made from legos, on the side you would just see slim stacked rectangles -- no dots.  I think I'd like to try another Lego cake -- lucky for me, Nate said he would like one for his next birthday.  That gives me 5 months to practice!


Wednesday, September 25, 2013

A Fabric Free-For-All!

I don't want to get all sappy here, but is there anything sweeter than a husband who treks all over foreign cities to bring you back something unique?

Clay told of his adventure to find yarn for me on the streets of Pune, India here.  He was determined to find authentic Indian fibers after he had brought back "Russian" yarn, which (after reading the very fine print below all the Cyrillic) we determined was manufactured in China.

I'm not sure if he had to go to such heroic lengths to find the treasure he brought back yesterday, but it really is something:

6 yards of African fabric.  He said, "I thought this was very pretty and very unique, but I'm sorry, it was made in Holland."

Certainly no need to be sorry.  I'm not a fabric professional (more like a fabric aficionado), but I knew from the feel of this that it was special.  So I did a little googling, and found out that there is an amazing history to this fabric, dating back almost two centuries, and involving Dutch traders, Indonesian batiks and West African indentured soldiers.  There is a great article here (on a Steampunk site -- how interesting).  You can see more beautiful fabrics at the The Vlisco Company site -- they have manufactured fabric specifically for the African market since 1846, and their designs are bright and bold -- to me, sort of like African Lily Pulitzer.

But then I read that Vlisco fabrics are considered to be on par with Rolex watches and Louis Vuitton luggage.

Good grief.  What am I going to do with 6 yards of expensive hoity-toity African fabric?  Although I am thinking of a duvet cover and pillows for the guest room, all suggestions are welcome.

Back to America (and the quilting Midwest, to be exact).  Here are a couple of quilts in the works:

I have a thing for Little Red Riding Hood.  This fabric is Tasha Noel for Riley Blake.  So cute.  And this simple grid pattern worked up quickly.

I tried to do some fancy machine quilting.  Some of it came out nicely:

Some of it came out not-so-nicely.  But I'm not going to show you that.  I picked it out.  And picked.  And picked and picked.  Have you ever picked out quilting?  I wouldn't recommend it.

This is just the top of a quilt done with a quilter's jelly roll.  It's a bright pattern my Moda -- wish I could remember the name.  I was going to do the now famous "sew all the ends of the jelly roll together, then fold in half and sew again and again and again" quilt.  (What do they call that one?)  But I decided to just do my own thing, and got this:

It makes me happy, and I need to get it finished and to the sweet little girl I had planned it for.

So I went to Crimson Tate last week, and am ashamed  embarrassed proud to say that I had to be upgraded to the large shopping bag.

These first three sets were in one handy bundle:

 Some Ruby Star I thought I should have, just in cases.  (Yes, that is my very favorite line from Love, Actually.  You know, where Aurelia learns English "just in cases" Jamie comes back?  Ahh, sweet.)

 And a little Amy Sedaris fabric for my Amy Sedaris-loving sister:

That's it.

For this week.

Finally, here is a sweet picture of Zoe, just because.  She was helping me with my photography today; she shies away when I try to take a picture of her, but I pointed the camera without turning toward her and lucked out with this one.  Isn't she the cutest?


Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Kind Note

Today, I received a kind note in the mail.

It was a thank you, but I hadn't really done much to deserve it -- just offering a little help to a dear friend.

But that note made my day.  Week. Month.

She's done this before.  She has a way with words that goes right to my heart.  And her notes always go right to my bulletin board.  And stay there.

I don't write enough notes.  But if I could give others that moment of happy that my friend, Lori, gives me by taking just a few moments and writing a few lines, then I should.

Do you write notes?  You should, too.  Let's all write some this week.


Monday, September 23, 2013

Saying Nothing

I talk too much.
At least used to.  I still have moments.

I sat with masking tape on my mouth almost every day of 1st grade.
(It was embarrassing, but not cruel, I promise.  I loved that teacher, but couldn't keep my mouth shut.)

In my journey toward peace, I've found that quiet is a gift, and I treasure it.

I don't have to say everything that's on my mind any more.
I don't have to be the loudest voice in the political discussion.
I don't have to be the funniest person in the room.  I still am, but I don't feel  like I have to be.

At this point in my journey, I find myself speaking up when confronted with injustice, intolerance or just simple stupidity.
I've written the mayor, the governor and I write a lot of letters to my congressmen. (Email has made this so much easier!)

Today I need to write a letter.  A letter of support for a dear friend.  A letter outlining the injustice that was forced upon my friend.

This letter is going to piss a lot of people off.
It will probably change a lot of things in my life.
It will probably make me lose some friends.
And it could turn a place I love into a place that I'm not comfortable visiting any longer.

What I could say is nothing.
What I could do is nothing.
That would be easiest, wouldn't it?

But it would also be wrong.

My friend, Jesus, wasn't afraid to speak out when he saw injustice.  He did it in peaceful, parable-laden ways.  (Well, except for when he knocked over those money changers' tables in front of the temple.  That wasn't so peaceful.  But folks got his point.)

And people loved him for it.  Except for when they crucified him.

I won't get crucified, even in a figurative way.  Almost everyone I know agrees with what I am about to send out there.

It's the slings and arrows of the few that I am fearing.  

Searching for a little peace.  And just the right words.
I'll keep you posted.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Crafty Week, Day #6 - Map

My pal Jenny and I found an interesting antique store in Vernon, Indiana a few months ago.  The owner was a nice old guy who followed us all around the store, commenting on all his stuff.  At first, we were afraid he thought we might steal something, but then realized that he just likes to talk!  Jenny and I both bought bottle cappers, and I found a US school map that was in pretty bad shape, but so colorful.  I patched it up and tried to hang it.  I used a curtain rod and rolled it around the rod, hoping to make it look like a pull-down map.  
It looked all wrong, and the stresses of hanging made the map tear in all new places.

So then I remembered I had a huge canvas in the basement (thank you, 40% off at Hobby Lobby!) waiting for an inspired project.  The map almost fit -- I trimmed the edges to make it the right width, but it was a bit short, height wise.  So, I painted the canvas with blackboard spray paint and left a margin at the bottom to write on.  Then when the canvas was completely dry, I Mod Podged the map onto the canvas.

Yikes.  That was the hardest Mod Podge project ever.  I should have cut the map into sections and done them one strip at a time, like wallpaper, but I didn't think of that until it was too late, and I was ass over teacups trying to get this map straight on the canvas.  Don't look too close-- it's not perfect.

Then, I was getting ready to take the curtain rod down, Maggie suggested I try hanging the canvas from it.  I happened to have some old belt webbing, so I made some loops and staple-gunned them on.

I love chalkboards and writing with chalk.  I loved it before it was a thing.  And man, is it a thing.

In our living room, we have a chalkboard to tell where in the world Clay is.  This week:

Last October, it was this:

So on the US map, I chalked in this:

If you want your chalkboard to be all straight and fancy, you can use your Word program to print off your words (in the size you want them), then rub some chalk on the back of the page.  Put your words where you want them on the chalkboard, then trace over the letters with a pencil -- it will leave the chalked impression on your board, and you can fancy it up from there.  (I didn't do that on the South Africa flag -- I just used my finger and a wet washcloth.  Not fancy.)

Here is my favorite pinterest chalk post:

That's all -- just use a sharpener.  Genius.  Thanks to Danielle from Sweet Pea Pod


Friday, September 20, 2013

Crafty Week Day #5 -- T-Shirt Rug

I've been collecting old t-shirts and making t-shirt "yarn" for about a year now.  I've made rugs and ripped them out because the curled, but then saw this pattern by Garn Studios, and gave it a try.  Hurrah!  A rug for the porch!

If you want to make t-shirt yarn, there is a good tutorial at Mollie Makes -- this is just how I do it.
If you cut the strips wider, you get thicker yarn, and heavier t-shirts will make thicker yarn, but you can just cut them more narrow to compensate.  Or not -- the difference would make your rug interesting.  Which is what I say since I didn't compensate for the weight of the shirts!  And, my other advice would be to use a quilt ruler and rotary cutter -- so quick!

To join the yarn, you can simply tie the ends in a firm knot then trim the ends, sew the ends together or do the fancy join I like best that is shown in this t-shirt yarn tutorial from

With a great big crochet hook, this rug was very quick to work up -- I made this one in one night, plus an hour or so the next day on the edging.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Crafty Week Day #4 -- Woodsy

"Woodsy" because all these are made from wood.  Clever, no?  No.

Anyway, here are some of my creations from the past couple of weeks.

A few months ago, I ordered some wooden pennant blanks from one of my favorite "daily deal" craft sites --  I got some big triangles, little triangles and these flag shapes.  I mod-podged some fabric on them, then painted on the welcome letters.  I had saved a tie from a bundle of Crimson Tate fabric, which was perfect for stringing.  The screen is left over from my sister's home renovation

One day, my friend, Madge, and I were driving back to the office from lunch and she pointed out a door decoration she loved.  This is my attempt to re-create that: 

Old picture frame, spray painted, then a big C I found at Hobby Lobby, spray painted, and some 50% off fall picks.  Now I just have to find a way to make it hang straight on my door.

That was my practice piece for Madge's:

About the same as mine, except that the W needed a bigger frame!  Red is her favorite color.  Thanks for the inspiration, friend!


Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Crafty Week Day #3 -- Owl Hat

These hats are very popular on the knit and crochet blogs, as is anything owl-related.

Thanks to a great free pattern at Repeat Crafter Me, I made this hat for Paul in just a few hours.  Unfortunately, his noggin is far too round, and it didn't fit.  So, we passed it on to his little cousin.  You probably want to check your gauge (I didn't) as you might want to size up a bit.

Whooo's going to make another one?  Me, since this pattern is easy and fun.

PS  I used leftover Wool of the Andes for this hat, which makes it nice and soft.  I crocheted another hat last week for Tommy's birthday from Red Heart Team Spirit -- ick.  The colors were pretty (although they were Notre Dame colors) but the yarn was squeaky and the hat stiff and a bit prickly.  Ouch.  Now that Knit Picks has a a superwash WOA, I hope to never use an acrylic worsted again.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Crafty Week #2 - Crocheted Cinderella Flip Doll

This little Cinderella was a first birthday gift for a sweet girl, Olivia.

 I had printed off this free pattern for a friend at Knit Night, but thought I might give it a try, too.  I made a few adjustments for a one-year-old -- no fancy beading on the skirt and I just did french knots for the eyes and tiara.

Raggedy side:

 Then her skirt flips up over her head to reveal her fancy side:

Her hair was a bit of a trick, as the pattern doesn't really tell you how -- I just searched around on some other blogs to find out how to best do the yarn hair.  The messy Cinderella was easy, but this fancy hair was more difficult.  There are lots and lots of stitches holding this to her head, but I wouldn't be surprised if Olivia finds a way to pull it all out, as babies often do.  

 My other difficulty was of my own making -- I started with the blue dress and then realized I didn't have enough blue yarn to finish.  So, I just added another ruffle and a white border with some pink roses.

This was lots of fun, and I am thinking about a Red Riding Hood Granny/Wolf version, and maybe even a Good Witch/Wicked Witch.

Tomorrow:  An Owl Hat