Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Fairy Princess Skirt and Headband

A had a pretty princess-themed birthday party recently, and since we were attending as a family, I thought that little V should have a costume of her own. I wanted to be sure to keep it comfy, so I decided to have her wear an existing onesie and add an elastic-waisted skirt and headband to it. I didn't have a pattern, so I just winged it (like so much of the sewing I do).

For the skirt, I measured V's waist and cut a piece of pajama elastic about an inch longer and set it aside. Then I cut lots of almond shapes from scraps in my stash--some from quilting fabrics, and some pink tulle. Since I wasn't expecting V to wear this on a regular basis, I didn't bother finishing the edges of the fabric shapes.

I folded them in half and overlapped them to make a skirt shape, and then sewed a seam about 1 inch from the fold to make a casing. Then I carefully inserted the elastic and maneuvered it through all the different layers until it was looped through the entire skirt.

Once the elastic was completely in, I overlapped the ends about an inch and sewed them together. I then re-distributed the gathers. To finish the skirt, I cut a few strips of fabric on the bias and made a few overlapping loops, like a Christmas bow. Then I took about an 18 inch length of ribbon and hand sewed a running stitch along the length of one side. I then gathered the ribbon to make a flowery puff and hand sewed the puff and the lopped fabric to the skirt.

For the headband, I measured V's little noggin and cut a piece of 1/4" elastic 1 inch longer. I overlapped the ends by an inch and stitched the two overlapping ends to each other. I then cut strips of fabric on the bias and sewed them onto the elastic using a zig zag stitch while stretching the elastic. Using the same technique on another piece of 18 inch organza ribbon, I made another little flowery puff and sewed it onto the headband.

Here's the final result:

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Holy Guacamole!

As promised, here's my basic recipe for guacamole, perfect for any cookout!

You'll need the following ingredients:
4 large ripe avocados
2 roma tomatoes
1 medium onion
1 medium lemon or 3 small limes
jalepeños (optional)
seasoned salt, to taste

Unsure how to pick a really perfect avocado? When you select one, give it a gentle squeeze. It should have just a little bit of give, similar to how a stick of butter feels after it's been at room temperature for about 30 minutes. Too soft, and you'll have brown spots inside, and the avocado will taste slightly sour. Too hard, and the avocado will be nearly impossible to mash.

Also, to easily remove the pit, cut the avocado in half lengthwise. Twist the two hemispheres apart from each other. Holding the side of the avocado with the pit firmly in your left hand, and with your right hand, use a medium heavy chopping knife to chop into the pit, purposefully getting the knife stuck. Hold the avocado still in that left hand and turn the knife from 3 o'clock to 12 o'clock. It should loosen up easily. Then take the knife with the pit to the garbage can and strike the handle to the side of the trash can so that the pit un-sticks itself and falls into the trash. 

But make sure you retain one pit to put into your finished guacamole, to help it keep its color!

After you've pitted all the avocados, scoop out the flesh and put it into a bowl. Dice the tomatoes and onion. If you want to add a little heat, also finely dice some jalepeños (fresh or canned work fine, depending on your taste).

Squeeze the juice of one lemon (or 3 limes) on top.

To get more juice out of your citrus, put it into the microwave for 15 seconds and then roll it on the countertop. You'll get nearly twice the juice out that way!

Sprinkle seasoned salt to taste.

Use a potato masher (the zig-zag shaped kind) to blend all the ingredients, but make sure you leave it a little lumpy! Add that pit you set aside back into the bowl to help the guacamole keep its bright green color.

If you're traveling and planning to take this with you, take a piece of plastic wrap and press it into the surface of the guacamole, pressing out as many bubbles as you can. When you arrive at your destination, remove the plastic wrap and give the guacamole a quick stir.


Happy Memorial Day!

I hope everyone is having a relaxing and fun Memorial Day, and taking a little time to consider what today is all about. I'm very thankful to know people and live in a country with people who are willing to put themselves in harm's way to ensure that the average citizen doesn't have to.

 I hope everyone is enjoying good weather and getting outside and grilling this weekend--I know we are!! To me, Memorial Day food always includes the basics, like Hamburgers and hotdogs, but it also includes a few of my favorite barbecue foods, like Kebabs and guacamole.

I kept these Kebabs pretty simple by marinating pork tenderloin, cut into 1 inch cubes in a tangy soy sauce (it's an Indonesian soy sauce called Ketjap Manis) for about 30 minutes. I also soaked the skewers in water as the meat marinated. Then I threaded whatever veggies I had on hand onto the skewers along with a few pieces of meat and drizzled the whole thing with a little olive oil.

I sparked up the grill, and once the heat hit about 350 degrees, I put them on the grill and didn't touch them again until the temperature of the grill registered between 350 and 400 degrees. I kept working this way, turning and waiting for the temperature to come back up, until the kebabs were nice and caramelized. They didn't need salt or pepper, and we ate them as they were still a little warm. YUM!

The guacamole recipe will come a little later. Until then, have a great weekend!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Stuffed Animal Clothes, Part 2

Yesterday, A started up again. This time she said, "Mom, Little Red needs a jacket."

One thing you should know about my girl, she has distinct names and personality for all of her stuffed animals. There's Little Red, and in the last post, you also saw Señor Bee, Alice the Bunny and Pat the Bunny. I'm sure you'll meet more friends as this blog continues...

But back to the jacket.

Up to this point, I'd successfully avoided doing doll sleeves, but this time there was no getting around it. And little did I know that the baby would take a 3 hour power snooze, so I couldn't get around it that way.

So I grabbed Little Red, traced around him and added about half an inch for seam allowances. Then I folded my fabric in thirds and cut it out. I did this so that I created three pieces of material--the left front, the right front and the back. Whatever sleeves I didn't need (the left front wouldn't need a right sleeve, and vice versa), I cut off with my rotary cutter. But I allowed the front pieces to overlap each other a bit.

Then I sewed the sides and undersides of the sleeves up on each side. For the seams across the tops of the sleeves and shoulders, I made sure that I left room for Little Red's neck. Once these basic seams were complete, I decided that the easiest and quickest way to finish the edges would be with bias tape. And with the bright print I used, the bias tape added another pop of color, and tied the whole look together.

I added bias tape first to the bottom of the jacket in a straight seam. Then along the left and right fronts, and then around the collar. I didn't even bother tucking the bias tape because it naturally won't fray. I left the edges raw instead.

The last part was the cuffs. This is really where my challenge was with this project. I tried a few things. First, I tried to actually fit that teeny cuff under the presser foot. What a mess! It was much too small, unless I'd had the forethought to add the bias tape prior to seaming the fronts to the back. (Note to self--do this next time!!)

My next thought was to hand sew the edge--maybe a slight fold using a blanket stitch? Goodness, no. That just looked awful and ratty. So in the end, I decided to chain stitch the bias tape around. As you can see, the left sleeve was completed first, and by the time I got to the right sleeve, my technique improved.

The end result made for a slightly modern and asymmetrical jacket with kind of a funnel neck. The stitches are pretty crooked, but I kinda like it.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Stuffed Animal Clothes, Part 1

So my daughter keeps telling me, "Mommy, (insert stuffed animal name here) needs a new (article of clothing)!"

Since I started staying home, I've tried to keep things fun for A by occasionally making outfits for her stuffed animals. These are never done with actual patterns. In fact, it's totally on the fly, usually raiding my fabric stash. I like to think of it as a very tiny version of Project Runway, because my deadline is the end of my other daughter's naptime.

Here are a few recent ones.

I've found this to be a real treat for me because it allows me to work on my sewing technique using much smaller pieces of fabric like fat quarters and scraps, so there's less of a monetary and time investment. Also, I generally don't get too overly fussy about things like hems, pockets, straight seams or buttonholes and zippers--I use velcro since these items are meant for preschooler-sized fingers.

I've even made some bedding.

The results are quick, and A is soon off to her toybox, taking the new outfit off and trying it on another stuffed animal.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Freezer Paper Stencil Wall Art

When my oldest child moved into her "big girl room", we did the painting and moved in the furniture without a hitch. But her walls have been looking a bit blank. So I decided to create something to dress them up a bit. I decided to make 4 pieces of art that would function as a set, and use either cheap-o materials or things I already had on hand.

For this project, I used the following:
2 fat quarters of fabric
2 different fabric paint colors with sponge brushes
freezer paper
4 framed pieces of "art" from the dollar section
white wall paint that I had on hand
a staplegun

I prepped the frames by painting the over the existing "art" with white paint. I used two coats for opacity, and set them aside.

I then asked A what animals she would like to see on her wall and her selections included a dinosaur (of course), a grasshopper, a kitten and a bunny. I found silhouettes online and printed them the size that I wanted them to appear on each canvas. I then traced the images onto freezer paper and cut them out using an xacto and a cutting mat.

Once my stencils were cut, I positioned them glossy side down onto my fabric (making sure I left extra space around the edges of the fabric to attach it to the frame later). With a warm iron, I adhered them to the fabric.

Once the fabric was cool, I used a sponge brush and applied the fabric paint to the fabric. Make sure that you're working on a protected surface, in case any fabric paint bleeds through. Again, I used two coats for opacity, and I let each one dry.

Once they were dry, I gently peeled back the stencil to reveal crisp outlines of each creature.

After the stencils were all removed, they were ready to attach to the frames. I used my staple gun (what fun!), starting at the top center to allow space for the wall hanging hardware. I then pulled the fabric to snugly fit to the bottom of the frame, and then worked on the right and left sides. They were finished with "hospital corners" and the fabric was stapled to the back of the frame. Viola!

I can't wait to see them hung on A's wall.

So what to do with the freezer paper shape that is cut out of the stencil? Make fun t-shirts of course! The process is just the same, but I used a round stenciling sponge brush to create a soft edge all around the creature.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Setting the Ground Rules

As I was discussing this blog with my husband, I wanted to be sure to let him know that I'm setting a few ground rules before I really get knee-deep into this blogger business. Quite simply on my end, I do not plan to use images of my childrens' faces, or use their real names. They aren't blogging and I want to respect their privacy.

Here goes:

1. Please contact me if you want to use any images or text on this site.
2. Feel free to link this blog and any post on this blog and use some (but not all) photos for that purpose.
3. DO NOT use any photos of my children.
4. Do not post my tutorials on your sites.
5. The ideas on this site are free, but if I publish any tutorials, please only use them to make things for yourself or as gifts and not to sell.

(Thank you to LiEr at ikatbag.com for these guidelines!)

Thank you for your understanding and for visiting. I hope you like what you see.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Let's get this party started

After spending so much of my time following blogs that I love and getting inspired, I'm jumping in--or at least dipping my toes in--and giving this blogging thing a try. Please bear with me, as it may take me a little time to find my voice and focus. For now, I'm hoping to blog about design, craft, art, parenting, work/life balance and life in general.

So who, or what is a "Native Madridian"? Well, as my siblings and I were growing up, because we were close in age, we had a number of friends who became close to more than one of us at a time. These close friends who began to feel like extended family members came to be known as Madridians. 

It's also rooted in the questions of the geographically challenged people I've come across in my lifetime, who have asked mind-numbing questions, like, "Madrid, huh? Like the country?" or "Are you from Madridia?" Oh, yes. Of course.