Friday, July 25, 2008
Monday, July 14, 2008
So I had this cute fabric by Erin Michael for Moda Fabrics (I heart Moda!! - they have great fabrics!). The fabric was supposed to be an apron for a friend who turned out to be a toxic friend almost 4 years ago. Then I found out that Little Sister was pregnant and I thought to myself "What is cuter than a sock monkey baby blanket besides kittens? Nothing!"
I bought some of that fuzzy, soft red fabric that you can find in the kid's section at most fabric stores. I don't even know what it's called but it feels like a chinchilla. So soft.
My thought was to simply take the two fabrics: sock monkey and soft fabric, and sew them together (right sides together). Then I would turn the blanket right side out and add a simple satin blanket border. Easier said than done!
The sock monkey fabric is 100% cotton, which means it only stretches, if at all, in one direction. That red, fuzzy, soft stuff stretches in every direction! So, by the time I finished my edges, I had huge bubbles in the blanket between the layers! So annoying.
My blanket was fairly large at this point (I researched different sizes on Etsy and finally ended up with a 54" x 60" blanket) so I decided to go ahead and turn it so that the right sides were facing out. I flattened it out with my hand as much as I could and pinned it. Then I sewed it again. Well, it did better this time, but still not great. So I did it again. This time it was still bubbly but not nearly as noticeable. Third time's a charm, right?
Now that I had the blanket the correct (but smaller) size, I needed to add the border. I thought that a yellow border would be so cute with the red in the blanket. Oh it was...minus the fact that if you buy the pre-packaged blanket binding in satin, you can see right through the satin. Well, my seams weren't too pretty from all my resewing of blanket edges, so I had to come up with some other method.
I finally decided to use the stripe fabric I had bought with the sock monkeys. The colors are all coordinating so that was good. I took the fabric and cut it how I wanted it. I think I ended up with a 8" piece. I folded that in half and ironed it (and starched it!). I then ironed each of the sides in half so that it was 1/4 of it's original size. This way the fabric could basically act as a "bread" with the blanket being the "meat" in the "sandwich." Yeah, I know. Dumb analogy.
I had to do the striped border in 4 pieces because I didn't have the length to do one big piece that I could fold at each corner. Therefore, being my first baby blanket with blanket binding, my edges look horrendous, but passable. I also had a problem with the bubbles coming back along the edges while I was sewing but I did the best I could do given the circumstances.
Regardless, the baby will just be pooping and puking and drooling on the blanket anyway, so I'm not TOO worried about it being perfect. It's cute and that's all that matters in the end!
Saturday, July 12, 2008
Never tackle a project without having a good idea about what you want to do.
As I have said before, I believe in getting ideas and making them my own. That's the way I am. So, as I was looking for ideas for both Wyatt and Leah's bedrooms, I found a lot of fun websites for all kinds of decorating ideas for little ones.
Modern Nursery - the cool design place to go when you have too much money, apparently. Who gives their babies real designer furniture? Anyway, an impressive collection of all things baby and all things ultra modern with a hint of funky.
Modern Tots - same kind of idea as Modern Nursery
2 Modern - Yup. It's too modern for my budget, but I love it!!
A super cute bath idea!
Storage ideas for kids!
Dollar Store Closets - transform your kid's closets with dollar store finds!
Pops of Color Kids' Rooms - you heard it: color!
Vroom to Grow - A transportation room of from every boys' dreams!
Rock star nursery - my words, not theirs
Calm and Collected Nursery
Baby Room Details - ideas for any nursery
Basically, Little Sister wanted to keep the old nursery, which was Wyatt's, and convert it into a little girl's nursery. Who can blame her? Nursery bedding is freakin' outrageously priced! The nursery bedding was pretty gender neutral as it had blues, yellows, reds, pinks, greens and leopard print in it. However, it was heavy on the blue, so we needed to make it more girlie.Mom took on the nursery as her personal project. Yay Mom!
Mom and I fell in love with the jungle theme in the bedding. So cute!
Alicia, with the help of Stacie, had painted the bedroom pale yellow on the bottom and white (I swear to you that it's a pale blue, but Alicia claims it's white) on the top and put the border up in the middle that matches the bedding.
She found the same type of wooden pieces at Walmart in jungle animals as I had for the sports balls (technically, she found them first). Originally, we were going to take some canvases she had bought at Walmart ($3.88 each - 10"x10"), wrap them in gingham and then do this little project that was featured on Martha Stewart. However, time always catches up with us and by the time we were working on the canvases, the last thing we wanted to do was paint something else! Instead, we put Alicia to work on hot glue the cute little wooden animals to the pre-wrapped gingham canvases (thanks to Mom and her staple gun). We hung them over the area where the crib will go (I'll get crib pictures as soon as they are sent to me).
Another project was painting an existing dresser that Alicia had from her childhood. One lesson learned (as Christie would say): never paint in extreme heat/humidity. First, we painted a couple of coats of Kilz2 primer (latex, baby!) on the dresser and then added 3 layers of the red paint leftover from Wyatt's block wall (multi-tasking paint). It could have taken a third coat, but like I said before, we were DONE painting! It kind of looks like a distressed dresser now. Woo. Anyway, the reason to NOT paint in a garage in extreme heat/humidity is because our paint gooed up a bit on top of the dresser. Luckily, the top of the dresser will be covered mostly with baby diaper paraphenalia (see the picture below...minus NB diapers that are going into the vertical gingham/red basket). I got the red gingham baskets in a set of 3 (one big, two square) at IKEA. I heart IKEA! Of course, no project can go perfectly for us and after getting the drawers back in the dresser, we realized that the trim between the dresser drawers was curved (while the drawers aren't) and we (I) missed painting that part! Darn! Alicia said she'll go back and fix it. I hope so! Also, I didn't get all the cute little knobs on the dresser before I left (time ran out!!), so we hotglued them on for the picture. We also hot glued the leftover butterflies on the dresser because they were TOO CUTE!! Mom got the knobs at a discount store for $7.99. Yup! They are the jungle themed animals! How perfect! And cute!
For the square mirrors above the dresser(see picture above), we simply took the mirrors, taped them off to make sure no paint got on the mirror, and spray painted the crapola out of them with some red paint Mom had. That Mom...she has lots of stuff hanging around! After they dried, we took the tape off and hot glued the cute butterfly and spirals. We spray painted the spirals with a pale yellow Mom had hanging around. The spirals are similar to the blue spirals in the wallpaper border.
All I did in the closet was move the white storage shelves in...they had been sitting in the dresser area and I thought it would be easier to put them in the closet to HIDE stuff instead of keeping them out in the open. We added some cheap storage boxes and that was that! Whew. I love closets.
I hung the IKEA net in the corner, over where the glider will be placed, to get the stuffed animals off the floor. So many stuffed animals! Now I can see why stuffed animals drove my Mom crazy! They're everywhere!!Mom bought the little leopard print lamp shade at Walmart in the clearance section for $3. We just added the red ruffle (that matches the window shade) with what? Hot glue!!
The roman shade in the window was made by Mom. She got the idea from either an Urban Outfitters catalog or an Anthropologie catalog. Either way, they are cute! She used the bright yellow gingham on one side and a swirlie butterfly print in yellow on a white background on the back side. That way, when it's rolled up, you can see both patterns. She added a line of red rickrack along the top and a line of the red ruffle for extra color (our favorite colors for the room: red and yellow!). She used red satin ribbon for the tie ups. Cute! It's a simple project...all you need is a sewing machine, fabric, thread and the exact dimensions of the window.The decals, that match the jungle animals, on the walls I picked up one day at Target while I was just wandering around. I love wandering in Target! You never know what you'll find!!Mom took the glider cushions (etc) home with her to recover them. I think she picked a cute animal print in a suede like fabric, but I guess we'll never know until she gets it done! She also took the ottoman home with her...
Stay tuned for crib and chair pictures!
Wednesday, July 9, 2008
In order to make way for Baby #2, it was decided that Baby #2 would move into the current nursery and Baby #1 would be placed in the current guest room.
My first dilemna was the fact that Little Sister isn't exactly the most organized person in the world and the room (both) was a total wreck. She did a fairly good job dividing and conquering much of the mess before we got there, but it still needed places to go. I'll get back to that in a bit.
I knew that I wanted to do a blue, brown and red palette. I kept seeing cute boyish comforters in blue and brown/khaki stripes and knew it was a popular color. I am a firm believer in visual research and found the exact idea (plagiarism? Who wants to reinvent the wheel?) in a nursery scheme. It wasn't exactly the right colors, but it gave me a good foundation. I then came up with this idea (only confirmed after a trip to get paint) of taking the block scheme and using two shades of brown, two shades of blue (both on the same paint chip) and bright red.
First, I painted the focal wall (the intended block wall) white. It was such a relief to paint over the dirtiness of the existing white wall. White paint may seem like an easy color when you are going neutral, but just remember it's like wearing white pants to a barbeque...everything is going to be highlighted in all it's dirty glory when it gets on the white. After the paint dried, I measured off 20" blocks. I started with 24" blocks but those looked too big and 18" blocks looked too small. Since I like to do things 6 - 12 times instead of just once, I ended up remeasuring the blocks about 12 times. I finally came up with a composition that I liked...and that was perfectly centered on the wall. I used my laser level to make sure that the tape (I used a 1.5" painters tape as it would come off nice and smoothly...although where we had to use masking tape when we ran out of painter's tape, some spots are so nice and smooth) was as straight as Carrie possible. (humanly possible for other people).
According to my good buddy, Martha Stewart, after the tape is placed in the appropriate spot on the wall, you should seal the edges of the tape (where you are painting) with an acrylic gloss sealant. I could only find this sealant in spray form and since Little Sister is pregnant, I chose a different product that ended up working just as well. It was some kind of clear glass acrylic. Basically, it just sealed the edge without adding color.
After a full day of watching the boys play grown up volleyball, sitting out in the shade, enjoying our independence (in Independence!) painting the closet and remaining three walls the beige color, I made a color drawing of the block wall in order to come up with a pattern (or NOT pattern in this case). I wish I had taken a picture of my drawing: it was on the back of my flight info and was colored with an array of crayons that were not even close to the colors they were representing. After following the pattern, we painted. We had to paint two layers on the beige and light blue, three on the dark blue and brown and 4 on the red because after putting two coats up, we decided the red was too pink and bought a new red. It looked much better after the change.
Once the paint was dry, we carefully peeled off the paint. Of course, there were still some areas that bled under the tape, but overall it was a lot less bleeding than if we hadn't sealed the edges. I was incredibly happy with the overall look...Little Sister and the kid loves it too.
After finishing up the walls in the bedroom, we tackled various other little projects.
We added (hot glue is my bestest friend EVER) some painted wooden pieces that we picked up both at Walmart and Joann's Fabric (already painted) to the dresser and nightstand. Cute!!We also painted a 5 hook shelf we found at Joann's Fabric for the rock bottom price of $10.99. It came unfinished so we just used the leftover paint from the walls to do it in two shades and then added the balls with hot glue. Cute!! Johnny had to hang it after I left because it wasn't done when I left (even though Little Sister and I were working up to the very last second before she took me to the airport).We wanted to put his big toybox in the closet so that when he is going to sleep at night, he isn't distracted by toys. Because of that, we had Johnny cut some boards down for us and painted them the light blue and hung them in the closet. Perfect for the $3 and $4 crates we bought at Dollar General.
We found the football toy box at a yard sale for $10! Score! It was fate...right? I mean, how often do you see a football toybox at a yard sale on the weekend you are turning your nephew's room into a sports themed bedroom??Little Sister purchased the comforter at Walmart for a mere $25.Mom made the curtains one evening with fabric from Joann's. I had my handy dandy 40% off coupon that I receive every few weeks from them so that was a nice deal. The cute football curtain rod was found at Walmart for $10. It went too perfectly with the sports theme to pass up!The lamp we bought at the Goodwill for $5. It was a Pooh lamp so we removed the shade and painted the yellow lamp with a nice coat of red spray paint my mother had hanging around. She added leftover fabric from the curtains with hot glue and I added the double bias tape to the edges in the contrasting blue (also with hot glue).The letters over the bed I decoupaged a few weeks ago...I will post a "how to" post as soon as I can (I'm working on it, but needed visuals).The green square mirrors beside the window were these mirrors from IKEA. We simply spray painted them (make sure to tape off the mirror or you'll be scraping off spray paint for days!) and attached the sports balls with hot glue. Once again.
The square canvas frames I had painted before the Redux. You can view that entry here.
So that's that. I hope you enjoy!
Don't forget to check out Leah's Room Redux too!
Sunday, July 6, 2008
Thus, when I was inspired to make a strawberry-rhubarb pie for the Fourth of July, I knew that the crust would have to be from scratch. I found this recipe for the pie from Southern Living’s very useful My Recipes site, and this simple food processor crust recipe from MSL.
The hardest part of making a strawberry-rhubarb pie, it turns out, is acquiring rhubarb. Whole Foods? Star Market? Broadway Marketplace? Formaggio Kitchen? No, no, no, and no. I had almost resigned myself to making a plain-old strawberry pie, but at the second Star Market – or is it called Shaw’s now? – it occurred to Mike to actually ask someone in the produce department, who returned from the back minutes later with several stalks of rhubarb.
The crust recipe couldn’t be simpler – I mixed the dough, divided it into two flattened disks (for ease in rolling out later; thanks for the tip, Martha!) and put them in the fridge to chill while I made the filling.
The MSL recipe says to use a floured surface and rolling pin to roll out the crust, but after a couple minutes of this I switched to the old reliable method of sandwiching the dough between two sheets of plastic wrap – this is much easier and keeps the dough (and kitchen) from getting too flour-y. (Oddly, that’s also a Martha method; she recommends it for roll-out cookies, but it seemed to work nearly as well for pie crust.)
Here’s my bottom crust, with imperfectly-crimped edges. The recipe suggests using a fork for crimping, but I prefer the irregularity of thumb-crimping.
And on day #2? I preferred it hot from the oven, but it was still pretty good cold. The crust was a bit soggier, but everything was still quite tasty. The only problem now is that I have sufficient strawberry and rhubarb left over to make a second pie. I guess this will give me a chance to improve my lattice-work.
#1 Always confirm you can acquire rhubarb before committing to a pie.
#2 Always ask if you don’t see anything in the produce department – you never know what they have tucked away in the back.
#3 Homemade pie crust is definitely worth the extra time and effort.
Saturday, July 5, 2008
Hard-boil your eggs, as usual. (Incredible how many variations there are on hard-boiling eggs. I like the method where you put them in water, bring to a boil, then turn off the heat and let them sit, covered, for about 12 – 15 minutes. This results in beautifully bright-yellow yolks – especially nice for something like stuffed eggs where the yolks play such an important visual role in the final product.)
Immediately after the eggs have cooked, immerse them in ice water. This causes the whites to pull away from the shell and greatly speeds up the peeling process. After several minutes in their ice-water bath, the eggs are ready to be dried and peeled. Slice each egg in half lengthwise, and pop out the beautiful sunny yolks.
Now comes the trick: rather than mixing the filling in a bowl, drop the yolks into a small Ziploc bag. Add to the yolks whatever you choose – variations on deviled egg fillings abound, but I grew up doing them with just egg yolk, mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, salt and pepper. Then zip up the bag and smush away, mixing everything thoroughly, and opening occasionally to taste and adjust.
When the filling is properly mixed and seasoned, keep the bag closed but snip off one of the bottom corners. Holding the Ziploc like an icing bag, carefully squeeze equal amounts of filling into each of your egg whites. Obviously, the clean-up is now a snap, but what’s really great about this method is how much easier it is to neatly fill each egg cavity without residual filling on the plate, smeared on the rest of the egg, etc..
Sprinkle with paprika, or whatever garnish you prefer, and they’re ready to serve. I used Spanish Hot Paprika, which gave them a nice kick. They were delicious, as always. You wouldn't want to eat them all the time, but a deviled egg now and then is reassuringly tasty and familiar.
Lesson Learned: Well, the Ziploc trick, obviously.
Thursday, July 3, 2008
When I moved to a downtown Boston studio, I sadly said goodbye to summer grilling. Happily, though, I can now grill vicariously through my boyfriend, whose condo has a little deck just big enough for a table, two chairs, and a Weber charcoal grill. I’ll admit that I still haven’t mastered the art of charcoal grilling (so much more work than lighting that camp stove), but I do enjoy the slightly less experimental, more traditional meals he prepares out there, with my occasional help.
One of Julie’s and my great grill discoveries was the tastiness of grilled fingerling potatoes. So the other night when Mike was grilling babyback ribs, I suggested potatoes for a side dish instead of corn on the cob. When I’ve done this in the past, I’ve strung the little potatoes on bamboo skewers (soaked for several minutes in water to minimize charring). The problem with this method – and the same applies more or less with metal skewers – is the difficulty of turning the potatoes. The little guys just want to spin around on the skewers, so that one side ends up over-grilled and the other underdone.
So here’s the trick: skewer your potatoes onto not one but two bamboo skewers. This keeps them in line so they flip uniformly when you turn them rather than the maddening rotation associated with the single skewer. I found, though, that stabbing the bamboo skewers through the potatoes was tricky. After some frustration (and some fear of stabbing myself with the bamboo), I took out a metal skewer which was much more effective for the initial potato punctures, which I spaced about ¾ of an inch apart (working on a large wooden chopping board). Then it was a snap to string each potato easily onto a pair of bamboo skewers.
I brushed each set of potatoes generously with olive oil, sprinkled them with salt and pepper, and they were ready for the grill.
Even small potatoes take awhile to cook thoroughly. We had these on the grill for about forty-five minutes, turning periodically (and easily!) for even cooking. The result was delicious. The potatoes slid off the skewers onto our plates, and were soft and moist on the inside, and deliciously salty and crusty on the outside. A delectable, simple summer side dish.
Lesson learned: Never send a bamboo skewer in to do a metal skewer’s job.