Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The cherries dress

my favorite.
It's hard to see in the tiny picture how much detail is on it. It's constructed just like Osh Kosh skirt-alls would be. Lots of fake double needle stitching, a cute pocket on the bib, etc.
Rilla was cute. She saw that the skirt landed above the doll's knees and said "Mom, the skirt's too short!" I had to tell her the rules were different for dolls.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Way too proud of this to wait

I made doll clothes for Rilla (and a niece) for Christmas. She's getting an 18" doll and now the doll has five outfits to wear. Here's four of them: Those are a pair of boot cut jeans. The pattern made straight legs so I altered it for the jeans. I did some fake double needle stitching and fake pockets on the front.
This is a dress that is made from the fabric we used for her flower girl dress she wore to her aunt's wedding. My niece was also a flower girl, so she has a dress to match this one.

A mini jumper made from the fabric I made Sarah's mini jumper out of. The capris are also a pattern alteration. I would never wear white capris, but they sure look cute on a doll, don't they? My niece has an outfit to match exactly. Their dolls can be twins at the Christmas party.

And the clincher: PJ's to match Rilla's new Christmas PJ's. The doll is dressed in them and wrapped up. I can't wait to see her face when she opens the doll and sees her in matching PJ's.

I don't have a picture of the black with cherry print baby wale corduroy overall skirt (with matching red t-shirt.) It's cute too.

BTW, yes, that is the doll we got her. Yes, I used it as a model and dress form for my sewing and pattern alterations. Yes, I had fun dressing the doll. I am a girl, after all.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Dinner Table Masterpiece

"Look she made a sculpture."

"Why yes, she did. How lovely."

"It's a comment on petty dictatorships present in the modern world."

"it is?"

"Yes. It's titled, 'Eat your dang food!'"What an artist.

PS. Yes, she's in her pj's at dinner. December is not a month in which I have the energy to wrestle unwilling toddlers into clothing. Especially toddlers who can undress themselves and put the dang pj's back on whenever they want. I try begging and bribery. If they don't work, the pj's stay.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Modern Life

Matt wanted to know what time it was. He went running into the kitchen and then ran back out yelling for Rilla.

"It's 8:32!" he said. "I checked the thing that makes the popcorn."

What else is it good for? ;)

It's a completely different generation

Last week, Sarah competed in a talent show. She sang "Over the Rainbow" from The Wizard of Oz and did a fantastic job. She won second place, beaten out by a couple of girls who did "Loathing" from Wicked. They didn't sing nearly as well, but they had personality and costumes. Sarah is still a bit stiff at the microphone.

Anyway, the first act was a garage band made up of 8th graders. It sounded like you would expect a garage band of 8th graders to sound (although they all blamed the equipment, of course.) There were four boys on stage and off to stage left were two very proud dads working the sound system. The dads helped set up and you know those dads bought the instruments.

It's just so different from generations past. My husband has a friend who's father refused to buy him a guitar when he was a teen because rock music led to the devil. Then Steve's friend learned how to play electronica on a keyboard. Now that example is a bit extreme and most parents were pretty resigned to heavy rock by the time we were teens, but it still got a lot of guff. Lots of "what is that crap you're listening too?" Now of course, parents are trying to keep up on who's hot in the music industry. They love rock and not a few of them aren't bothered by rap either. (not me. Rap is crap.)

Isn't it funny? What are our children going to do to rebel? Instead of getting a "cut your dang hair!" Their moms' will say "You know you'd look great with the tips dyed blue!" Poor things. Your heart just breaks for them, doesn't it?

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Some Christmas Projects

Here's a picture of my crayon rolls. Aren't they cute? They roll right up and secure with a ribbon. My first one fastened with a snap and I love that because even Libby can fasten it. The ribbons are easier to sew on, though, and since I was doing several I went that route. The ribbons look cuter anyway.
Here's a photo of it unrolled. Cut 2 pieces of heavy fabric 25"x5", like denim, canvas, or corduroy, for the base and one piece of fabric (preferably a contrasting fabric) 25"x6" for the pocket. Fold the pocket in half length wise and press flat. This will give you a piece of fabric 3x25. Lay it over the right side of one piece of base fabric with raw edges matching and the fold to the center of the fabric and pin. Starting at the center, mark the pocket every inch. Sew down along those marks. You should have 1/2" on each end beyond the 24 pockets.

On the other piece of base fabric, sew down an 18" ribbon about 4 1/2" down from one end of the base fabric. If you use polyester ribbon, you can melt the ends with a match to prevent fraying. Lay your two base pieces with wrong sides together. Pin. Sew double fold, double wide bias tape all the way around the edge.

Easy peasy. They make great stocking stuffers or friend gifts for young children. 3/4 of a yard of 60" fabric will give you the base fabric for four rolls. 3/4 of a yard of a 45" will be plenty for the four pockets.

This is one of the shelves I made for my kids:
It's not painted yet. I bought pre-primed wood ('cause I'm lazy like that.) So far I've spent about 1/2 an hour per shelf. They are my version of this Pottery Barn Kids shelf My kids are pack rats and their beds are their nests. My hope is that we can get the stuff off the beds and on the shelves. I have two 3' shelves for each child that will be secured above their beds.
I still have several projects left to complete and I'm not even thinking about the candy boxes for the in laws. I might manage to get pics of the stockings here in a few days. Maybe. I might be crazy by then. Which is perfectly fine, after all, I do live in Bedlam.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Peanut Brittle

OK, so "next day" is really "five days from now when I have 5 minutes to sit down and think because yet once again I've decided to drive myself crazy in December." Forgive me? oh good. thanks.

Peanut Brittle. It seems to be the man favorite around here. I put off learning how to make it because I prefer fudge and toffee so much more. Brittle, however, is Steve's favorite, so I'm finally showing my love enough to make it for him.

The key to good brittle is the final cooking temperature. If you under cook it, you get chewy brittle; if you over cook it, it tastes burnt. My mom cooks candy without a thermometer (and if you make candy for 50 years (sorry, Mom) you too can stop using a thermometer) so I'm going to teach you how to use a cold water test with this one.

Peanut Brittle

2 c sugar
1 c corn syrup
1/2 c water
dash of salt
1/2 c butter
2 t vanilla
2 t baking soda
3 c raw peanuts (also called Spanish peanuts)

Combine the sugar, corn syrup, water, salt, and butter in a 4 1/2 or 5 quart sauce pan. Cook over medium heat with a lid on until the candy syrup comes to a full boil. (this is sweating the pan for you. ) Remove lid, add thermometer and cook stirring constantly until the syrup reaches soft ball stage (234 degrees F.) Add the peanuts. Keep stirring until the peanuts begin to look toasted. they will take on a golden color and your candy syrup will be a golden brown as well. When the candy reaches about 295 degrees F (hard crack) it should be done. You can test it with a cold water test to be sure. Grab a short glass of ice water (a 1 c measuring cup works well for this) and drizzle a small amount of candy into the cup. The candy will immediately solidify. Take it out and taste it. It should be hard and crunchy with no bend at all to it. if it's not, cook it a bit longer and test it again. If that is your candy, remove it from the heat. mix in the vanilla and baking soda. The baking soda will fizz up, so stir quickly and completely. Then pour it out onto a buttered, rimmed baking sheet. Using a heat resistant spatula, spread the candy out to be as even and flat as you can. Let the candy cool to room temperature and break into pieces to serve.

If you've missed my previous candy posts, the links are in the side bar. Start with the first one, the candy making tutorial. It will give you some pointers and techniques that will make all your candy come out better.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Choosing a Candy Themometer

In honor of it being December already, I'm adding my annual candy post. Tomorrow (I hope) I'll post a great peanut brittle recipe, but in the meantime, we're going to discuss candy thermometers. Your thermometer can be one of the most important pieces of equipment you own, especially if you make candy infrequently. A quality, accurate thermometer can make the difference between a mess of syrup and the candy you meant to make.

That said, there are some really lousy candy thermometers out there. I'd steer clear of those glass tubes with the colored plastic caps. Water gets in them and then you can't read the temp. They also aren't terribly accurate. Just don't buy a thermometer at a grocery store. All they ever seem to have are those cheap Good Cooks brand ones.

I have one very similar to this one: CDN Thermometer I have had mine for 12 years. It's almost indestructible because of the stainless steel back. It protects the glass and it keeps the thermometer off the bottom of the pan. I also love how long the thermometer is. It makes it so easy to read 1-2 degree changes in the syrup.

My mother used one of these for years: Sunbeam thermometer You'll notice that the glass tube is sealed so it's accurate and moisture can't get inside. They are very, very fragile however, especially when hot. You'll want to keep it well protected or buy a spare.

Instant Read Style You could choose one of these, it would probably read accurately and doesn't have mercury, but you'll notice the small amount of swing on the needle. This would make it very difficult to see small adjustments in temp. There's a big difference in 234 and 238 with candy syrups. If you can't see that difference on the thermometer, you don't want it.

Digital candy thermometers also exist out there, but I have no experience with them. If you do, please leave a comment. I'm very interested and I'd love to know if they live up to the hype.

Try going to a cooking supply store to find thermometers. You'll be able to ask questions and look at several different styles. They'll also have a better quality product. If you have a restaurant supply store in your area, try there first.

You will still need to test your thermometer before you use it no matter which one you choose. Have fun making candy! It's one of my favorite things about the holidays.