Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Ah, the new year...

...when immediately after I get the Christmas stuff down, I am overcome with the urge to clean and declutter and get rid of EVERYTHING.

No sewing for a bit, I'm going to sort and purge my sewing room.

I did recently finally set up something I've wanted to do forever. Kiddo #1 brings home a lot of art from school, and makes a lot of art at home, and it kept winding up in random piles and was just generally a big pain in the butt.

So I went to one of my favourite places (IKEA, of course) and picked up a couple of wire curtain hangers, mucked around for a while with a drill and some wire cutters, and voila, art gallery:

The clips even came with the wire rod! Now whenever she makes something new she wants to display, she chooses which old piece to get rid of. And it makes it easy for me to grab a few photos of her work here and there, so that I can have pictures without having to save the actual pieces.

Very pleased with this solution to our overabundance of kid art problem.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!

It was a very good day!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

24 Days of Christmas: Day 24. MERRY CHRISTMAS!

The children are nestled all snug in their beds, and everything is all set for the morning.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

24 Days of Christmas: Day 23. Gnome playscape

I love this needle felted playscape! Needle felting is one of those crafts I'm sure I would love, so I refuse to try it because I do not need another time sucking craft in my life right now. So the playscape was obtained via a craft swap.

I made these gnomes with some wooden people forms I had left from the little wooden people rolls I made for my store. They're not too bad, if I do say so myself! Just felt, glue, and thread. Or maybe they are wizards, not gnomes. I might make a few more of these if I have time. The 'trees' are some wooden cones I got in a mixed lot of wooden shapes a while ago and painted green.

I'd also like to come up with some sort of case for this stuff, along with the gnomes I got via an Etsy swap, but that will have to wait until after Christmas.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

24 Days of Christmas: Day 22. Deam bars/Angel bars.

Oh my, these are awfully good. And easy to make. Dangerous stuff, that.

(I am going to need to undertake one of those crazy detoxes in January where you drink, like, nothing but mushroom juice for three weeks)

The recipe is from the Joy of Cooking; I made these following the recipe exactly, except I omitted the nuts it called for. Also I wonder if there's an error in the recipe. It calls for an 11 by 7 pan, but using one made these quite thin bars. I'm going to try another batch in a square pan to give a thicker bar, and I think they will be even better.

The taste is like a caramel-y macaroon. SO YUMMY. I think I might drizzle a bit of chocolate over the top of the next batch, too.

Dream bars (Angel bars)

Line pan with foil and grease lightly.

Blend together until very fluffy:

4 tblsp butter
2 tblsp sugar
1 large egg yolk
1/4 tsp vanilla

Stir in and knead until well blended and smoother 3/4 all purpose flour.

Firmly press dough into pan to form a smooth, even layer. Bake for 10 minutes at 350 and set aside to cool.

Beat on medium speed until well combined:
2 large eggs
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 1/2 tbsp all purpose flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp vanilla

Stir in 1 cup flaked or shredded sweetened coconut. Spread mixture evenly over the baked layer. Bake until top is firm and golden brown, 20-25 minutes. Remove to a rack to cool slightly

While cooling, stir together:
2 tablespoons butter
2/3 cup powdered sugar
2 tsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp vanilla

add enough milk to yield a spreadable consistency. Spread evenly over the bars; allow to stand until complete set. Cut into bars.

Monday, December 21, 2009

24 Days of Christmas: Day 21. This year's Christmas ornament

So after yesterday's post, I realized I was rapidly running out of time to add any new Christmas ornaments to our collection this year! So I dug through the craft supplies and came up with this happy little peace dove. Everything for it came out of the stash, which considering just how much craft stuff I have, is a good thing (New Years resolution - do a SERIOUS reorganization of my sewing and craft room!).

Fairly quick to make, so I hope to make a few for our tree and a few to give away.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

24 Days of Christmas: Day 20. Christmas Tree Ornaments

Every year I try to make a couple of new ornaments for the Christmas tree. These are a few of the ones I've done in past years. I haven't figured out this year's ornament yet! And I'm running out of time...Clothespin angels are very easy. I have a whole bunch of them, and they are some of my favourite ornaments. Simply wrap a clothespin with yarn to make the body, then glue ribbon into place for wings, and add something pretty to the front. And you are done!

You can draw in a face if you like; I actually prefer to leave them plain. The possibilities are endless! Mine are all variations of white/silver/gold, but I'd love to add some red/green/gold ones to the collection. I keep an eye out for discount wired ribbon, it makes the best wings.

The lizard was made of salt dough a few years ago, dried, then painted. I like lizards. Obviously.

The star is a plain wooden shape, painted, covered in glitter, with beads wrapped around. I have quite a few of these, they add a nice sparkle to the tree.

Salt dough again - dead easy to make, and you can paint them an infinite number of ways! For this one, after the paint dried, I also added some puffy paint around the edges for dimension.

Finally, this Christmas tree is made of beads and wire. Not hard to do if you can find the right beads and wire!

I'm thinking this year I'd like to sew some ornaments, but I haven't figured out what just yet. Maybe some felt doves, those are fairly easy and fast. I might have to go dig out my felt later tonight!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

24 Days of Christmas: Day 19. Bracelet

This is from an Etsy trade with this seller. Very sweet! This will be a stocking stuffer.

Friday, December 18, 2009

24 Days of Christmas: Day 18. Chickens!

Maybe I should be saving these for Easter! A set of adorable knitted chickens from the same super talented knitter who made the frogs.

Inside each chicken is a plastic egg, and inside each egg...
...is a chick! How cute is that?

These will most likely be a stocking stuffer for my older daughter.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

24 Days of Christmas: Day 17. I Spy Bag.

This sweet toy is from this Etsy seller. I traded...something I can't remember for it. Very simple - a small bag filled with beads and other small objects with a clear window. The child can manipulate the toy to discover the various objects inside. Great for car trips!

And it come with a super cute laminated list of everything inside. I'll tuck this into one of the girl's stockings!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

24 Days of Christmas: Day 16. A long overdue dollhouse update!

I haven't forgotten the dollhouse! After all, this is kiddo #1's big present. Here's the completed exterior - I've been debating some additional decoration, but I think I'll leave it like this. Simple yet pretty!

The interior is starting to come together. I made a couple of little beds for the kid's room, and picked up the box at the dollar store, I guess we can call it a toy box. It'll be useful for storing little bits and pieces. I'm going to keep the furniture relatively minimal, on the theory we can always provide more furniture for birthdays and such later on. So there will be a mix of home made furniture and some store bought Plan Toys and Educo stuff (my parents are providing a kitchen set and a household accessories set; I think I will get a dining room set).

(this blogging every day for 24 days thing is getting tiring! But I think I'm going to make it...)

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

24 Days of Christmas: Day 15. Gnomes

These little cuties are from an Etsy trade with this seller. Aren't they adorable?

Going to pop them in the kiddo's stocking, I think she'll really get a kick out of them!

Monday, December 14, 2009

24 Days of Christmas: Day 14. Tiny Shiny Things

This is something I got in a craft swap. Basically a jar full of stuff, suited for a 4 year old girl. Also known as Jars of Whimsy, they idea is basically to collect a bunch of interesting stuff together in a jar. I think my daughter will have a fabulous time seeing what treasures are hidden in her jar, and I think it will be very interesting to see what she does with the actual things.

It looks to me like there's lots of stuff in there to encourage creativity and imaginative play, which I am all in favour of doing! And I'm pretty excited to open it up with her.

(I got my jar from this Etsy seller, although her shop is not active right now)

Sunday, December 13, 2009

24 Days of Christmas: Day 13. Placemats

I'm making a set of placemats and napkins for...well, someone. I think they might read this blog, so I'm not saying who! These are the first two placemats, and I'm just thrilled with how they've turned out. Two more to go, then the napkins!

The center is string pieced, with brocade, red dupioni silk, a couple of different kinds of black cord, and some black satin stuff I had in the stash. The frame and back are both heavy black cord, very soft. There's also a layer of fleece inside for sturdiness.

If I have time, I'll try and do some coordinated coasters, too.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

24 Days of Christmas: Day 12. Salted Caramels

These? These are definitely a new Christmas tradition. Also, possibly a new Sunday tradition. And a new 'man, I really need something sweet and caramel-y' tradition.

Just so good. The salt with the rich caramel is amazing. Spent much of last night lying on the couch in a sugar coma, yet couldn't stop eating them!

Recipe from Canadian Living.

A few notes on the recipe - I pulled the caramel when it was still a bit under 250, since I like softer caramels. When I make them again I think I will pour the caramel into a larger pan, probably a 13 by 9, because these are actually on the thick side, in my opinion, and the hit of salt gets kind of lost in the sweet.

Also, the whole score after 30 minutes thing was a complete bust. They were easiest to cut when completely cool, using a hot knife (hold the knife under some hot water after each cut).

Friday, December 11, 2009

24 Days of Christmas: Day 11. More capes!

I was volunteering in my daughter's junior kindergarten class, and her teacher told me that she'd had to throw out all the class dress up clothes because they were in terrible condition. So I decided for Christmas to dig through my stash and buy some cheap shiny fabric and make her some dress up capes.

From left to right: black velour with red fleece; purple velour with black tablecloth fabric, purple sparkly black bats with plain black; green with gold stars with yellow tabelcloth fabric, and silver with white.

I'm going to see if I can make a couple of crowns out of some of the leftover fabric. Because I don't have enough to do already!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

24 Days of Christmas: Day 10. Colorfarm Playsilk

AKA the most incredible tie dye you've ever seen. This is from The Color Farm, and it's just stunning. There really aren't any more words than that!

And BIG. After Christmas I'm going to see if I can put it up as a sort of canopy in DD's room. For Christmas, I'm going to 'wrap' the dollhouse in it on Christmas morning.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

24 Days of Christmas: Day 9. Glass straws review

These were kind of an early Christmas gift to myself, so I'm including them here even though I bought them, I didn't make them or trade for them. Shut up, it's my blog, I can break my own rules if I want. Although I guess technically I didn't make any rules. So there. At any rate, today, glass straws! These were purchased from Glass Dharma. They are handmade in the USA. Shipping was quite fast - I actually ordered twice, and both times my order arrived within 5 business days.

I would claim that i bought these for environmental reasons, since kid #1 insists on only drinking through a straw and goes through plastic straws at an alarming rate, and that's part of it, but mostly I just think they are really, really pretty.

I bought two sizes. The short size is perfect for the kiddo to use in those ubiquitous IKEA kid's drinking cups. The larger size works great for me! Although admittedly if the kid decides she wants an orange dot, well, then, by gum she'll use the big straw. Choosing a straw colour is rapidly becoming a key part of every meal.

I like the coloured dots. Because, you know, pretty! And these straws are very sturdy - they are made of something very similar to pyrex, and while I wouldn't take them and go drumming out a merry tune on your cast iron frying pan, I think they should stand up to normally use (and occasionally being dropped, which, yes, has happened a few times already) with no breakage. The company will replace them if you break them during the course of normal use.

Cleaning is straightforward; since they are glass you can easily tell if they are dirty. I give them a quick rinse after use, then put them in the dishwasher. Easy as pie. When you buy a set of four you also get a small cleaning brush, which if anything ever gets dried on to the inside would be useful, although I haven't had to use it.

What really surprised me is that I swear water actually tastes better when drunk through one of these straws. Something about the cool glass of the straw? I don't know, but I know I'm drinking a lot more water since they arrived!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

24 Days of Christmas: Day 8. Shape Sorter.

HOW COOL IS THIS??? I love it so much, and I can't wait to give it to the baby for Christmas! It's a fabric shape sorter. Kind of similar to the cube, but with 100% more awesome. I volunteered to test the pattern that this etsy seller designed, and it's really, really great. She doesn't have the pattern listed yet, but I'm sure it will be available soon! Now available!

Other side. More shapes.

And you take the shapes out! And then put them back in! And take them out! And put them back in! Seriously, it's so neat.

Interior shot.

The shapes. I actually made two sets of shapes. These are the smaller set, included in the pattern, which can be tossed in through the top or shoved through the sides. Because I stuffed the sorter VERY full, the shapes in the sides of the sorter body wound up a bit larger than intended (the original version is loosely stuffed), so I also made a larger set of shapes to fit into the holes:

These are the ones that go in and make it into a box! I basically added about a 1/2" all the way around each shape pattern. Super easy.

Fabrics used are blue minky, blue cat pattern flannel, and fuschia corduroy, so there's lots of textural interest as well (LOVE the minky, it's so soft).

It was very fun to make, too, even if it did involve evil interior seaming like the cube. Of course, now I'm getting pretty good at it!

Monday, December 7, 2009

24 Days of Christmas: Day 7. Dress up capes

Finally, I'm getting some Christmas presents done! Same pattern as my nephew's cape, these are for my older daughter and my niece. I skipped the applique this time, just couldn't face that headache, so they are plain. Sparkly pink on one side (the pictures really don't capture just HOW sparkly), plain on the other.

Fit for a couple of super hero princesses. They look great when worn, but since my only model can't see hers until Christmas, you'll just have to believe me.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

24 Days of Christmas: Day 6. Pencil Crayon Rolls

These were made by custom request for an Etsy customer. I love this coloured cord for the exterior.

They are bigger than the ones I usually make, with a pocket for a small artist's sketch pad. The extra, wide spot next to the white pencil crayon is meant for a pencil sharpener. I love it!

I'm not going to accept any more pre-Christmas custom orders via the shop (although I will of course continue to sell and ship anything that's currently listed!), since I have a ton of sewing for Christmas presents to get done. I had been planning to start on that a week ago, but one of my pencil crayon rolls got featured in an Etsy Gift Guide (YAY!) and I got a whole bunch of orders. Which is fabulous, dollar wise, but I'm looking forward to sewing something else for a while!

After Christmas I'm going to make more of these, and also write a pattern for them.

Now, on to the Christmas sewing! First up, the capes for my niece and my daughter. Hopefully I can get those done tonight, they're a nice easy warm up project before I get into the more complicated stuff I have planned.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

24 Days of Christmas: Day 5. Knitted frog stocking stuffers

Aren't these just the sweetest things? I love them. I got these in a craft swap from this amazing knitter, and it took a LOT of willpower to put them away for Christmas rather than giving them to the kids right away! Alas her Etsy shop doesn't appear to be active right now. I'll be using these as stocking stuffers.

This one is my favourite. If I had an office, I'd so keep this one for my myself and perch him on top of a pile or books or a computer monitor or something.

Friday, December 4, 2009

24 Days of Christmas: Day 4. SO MUCH BAKING.

So this was the scene in my kitchen yesterday. 18 dozen bars, packed up and ready to go. I couldn't go to the actual cookie exchange, so I dropped my cookies off and then this morning I picked up the goodies:

Note small child who REALLy wants to just dive on in there head first. She's rather in awe of the whole thing.

So what did I get? Cookies and baked goods galore! I have to get on repacking them into sets to give away, lest my ass wind up with its own zip code.



I don't know what this is (since I missed the actual exchange), but I'm betting it's yummy!

The kid immediately ran off with this snowman. And then wanted to know when we could make some snowmen. Like we don't have enough cookies already!

I need to open these packages to get a better look! Pretty sure the white ones are lemon fudge, which I'm very excited about trying.

The kiddo also made off with a cupcake. I admit I ate one too!

Yeah, I don't think I'll be losing weight any time soon...