Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween!

School Boy was a dalmation! Kwik sew 2711 - really easy to make, but not an overnight project! Especially if you are like me and decide to finish or zig zag all the edges because the way things go in my b-i-g family - it could be one of those hand-me-downs that we will be seeing for years to come, which means it needs to be washable/durable. Which is exactly why I started it mid-October and did a bit here and there. Finished in plenty of time and he brought it to school on Thursday - the kindergarten class went to the nursing home as a field trip. School Boy told me that the people there were so amazed by all the costumes that they sat there and didn't say a word. He is a hoot, let me tell you! And a police officer talked with the kids about Halloween safety.

Today DH went to carve the pumpkin with School Boy and don't you know - it was rotted out! I was hoping that a pumpkin would suffice and we wouldn't have to actually carve it, but that just wasn't going to happen. Anyway - a quick trip to the library where they were still selling nice pumpkins solved that problem and here is a photo of their jack-o-latern! I have a little battery operated light in there. We went out tonight - we only go to a few places and where we know the people and then hurry home so that School Boy can see others in costume when they come to our house to trick-or-treat. For some reason, it was all over very early this year so he only got to see a few people at our door. One place that we go to is the senior apartment complex - they have the treats in the main meeting room and all the residents go there to see the kids in costume - they just love that! One place tried to give SB a can of soda (he had already gotten 2 cans) and he told them that he had enough soda since he didn't drink it anyway - calcium apple juice is much healthier than soda - but he was going to give Momma the soda. Oh goodness we got a good laugh out of that.

Here are my notes about the pattern if anyone is thinking of making one:

I made a size XS for my son, based on his measurements. With a sweatshirt underneath it pulled a bit at the top of the back... do keep in mind that if you live in a cold climate the kids wear heavy clothes under the costume - so next time I need to remember to make a bigger size!

It velcros up the back which makes it impossible for a small child to get in/out by themself. I figured I would just help him anyway.

Do NOT think of making a smaller size and adding length to the legs - make the next size up. It is important to have the torso length because of the way the hood pulls up over the head - if you don't have that torso room you won't be able to get the hood on.

I used a narrower elastic than called for. If you are sewing with a thick costume fabric I find that I don't want to sew exactly perfect so the elastic fits into the casings - I just get a narrower elastic.

To stuff the dog tail I rolled some quilt batting I had on hand around a wooden spoon and pushed the spoon handle down into the tail. Then I sewed the end of the batting into the seam so it won't fall into the tail and clump (I didn't have any stuffing on hand).

I used a quilting black fabric for the tail and ears. I used a double layer for the tail and lightly interfaced the ears.

The ears are a bit big and goofy, but this IS a Halloween costume!!!

All in all, I love Kwik Sew patterns! School Boy was delighted with his costume and it wasn't stressful to make it at all - I started 2 weeks before he needed it! No set in sleeves, no zippers, no buttons, no facings, nothing too complicated - just a good, basic costume for your kid.

Monday, October 27, 2008

October update

I love this tree! I think in some sort-ov way it looks like a lady tree, hitching up her skirts and running! This photo is from a walk School Boy and I took last weekend. We also went by these camping cabins - if you can call them that. They are more like permanent tents with simple bare bunks & a ladder built inside and some sort of counter to put your things. Very rustic! Part of a campground though so you can go to the bath-house for showers/toilets/etc. Just think of it as a tent, but maybe the ground is a bit more waterproof should it rain! The green part is actually heavy-duty plastic of some sort. I thought they were neat in anycase.

1st things 1st in October - catching up on my rest after a busy summer season. 2nd thing is always paperwork. MOST of my paperwork is done for the month, so onward to happier things - like quilting! Well, other than our bread baking - which has turned into a 2X a week event since we all love that sourdough bread so much! We just keep adding to the starter in the fridge now that we got it started - and seeing it sitting there just makes you want to make bread, you know! Mmmm.
Anyway - those 12 crazy patch stars couldn't sit long and I started sketching out some ideas in my quilt book (really a leather portfolio with handy-dandy built in calculator from an office supply store - I keep all my design ideas in there) for a quilt to set them into. Yes, I have EQ, but it is an older version and very clunky - I usually find it much faster (and relaxing) just to sketch out my ideas. Well - other than the math bit as math isn't so very relaxing for me, but once I get an idea in my head I usually can figure out the measurements. So - here is the winning sketches and I've been piecing in bits and pieces - here and there. I've got the 40 string border blocks done for the border - amazingly enough sewing just 4 a night added up pretty quickly, I've made 6 crumb blocks and now here you see the sashings with little squares that will become star points for the crumb blocks. I have them laid out on the sketch the way I want them pieced so that I don't lose my place.
And in other sewing news... here is a photo of the great fabric I picked up at Marden's for under $5 total! The Halloween costume for School Boy is almost done - no, not a cow... he is going to be a dalmation, and a very cute one at that! As a bonus - there is plenty of fabric left over to make a stuffed animal!!! I started 2 weeks ago and figured I would do 1-2 steps at a time, nice and slowly with no pressure. The costume is just about done now - ears and tail still need to be added. But before I could do that, he desperately needed a new pair of pants so those have been sewn (and worn and washed already!) and a 2nd pair is all cut - just waiting to buy more elastic to finish those. Hopefully this week I will manage to take more photos... stay tuned!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Scraps to Stars

Slowly but surely...
July 2oth - I had 12 crazy patch blocks - foundation pieced on the back of phone book pages. In September, every now and then I would turn a few into a star - here and there. Now, here we are in mid-October and I've got 12 Crazy Patch Stars! OK, so I only have a photo of 3 of the stars, but trust me - there are 12. Some of them have slightly different colored star points because I didn't have enough of any 1 fabric to make 12 matching stars. That is what I like about scrap quilts - mix and match!

2 weeks ago I showed my fairly NEW quilt group (we just started up last year) how to make these. It is exciting because some of these ladies have very little sewing know-how while others are very exacting and precise. Such beautiful work! And the hand quilting that goes on in this group, oh my! Me, well, I guess I just have my own crazy style! Another quilter and I were paired up to give a demo on paper-piecing - she did the detailed way - and I did the crazy patch way! Talk about extreme opposite results, but it was really fun to do the 2 together. I thought that this would be a fun little project to get some of the newer sewers - sewing. So, I brought in pre-cut squares of phone book pages (I think I cut maybe 3.5 and 4.5 squares - I found the 6.5" size in these stars a bit finiky -it gets harder as the square gets bigger). I brought in my tote of scraps. Gave a little demo. Shared my scraps. Guess what? MANY of these ladies have ZERO scraps. ZERO fabric. Honest. Some of them come to the meeting with 100% of their sewing supplies AND stash in a little tote bag. Can you imagine!!! But rotary lessons are being given (not by me), rotary cutters, rulers and mats have been purchased and I am seeing some new fat quarters being brought in to be admired and a pattern to be picked. Then again, there are others in the group with a very good working stash. We aren't just a quilting group either - we are a quilting/needlework/knitting group. Got lots of bases covered!

And everyone is having F-U-N. Or, at least I think they are. I am anyway! Here are photos of the 2 group quilts we made last winter... The smokeshed quilt raised $6,000 for our local Rotary group!!! They aren't barns - they are smoke sheds for smoking herring in... there is appliqued smoked fish in the corners and swimming fish on the top and bottom borders. All designed from a photo of an actual smoke shed. Cool, huh? The little 9 patch was a fund raiser for our group. We have a new pattern all picked out for our winter quilt project and it is going to be a beauty! We didn't meet all summer because of gardening, company, etc. But we did have a fabulous quilt show! Speaking of... 2 weeks ago a group of us took a road trip to go to a quilt show - we were gone 12 hours and had a great time! OK, so a good portion of that was spent traveling - we weren't AT the quilt show for 12 hours, and we had to eat too (2X), plus hit a fabric store and the mall too. All in all, it was very fun. And no - I didn't buy ANY fabric for quilting, but corduroy to make School Boy some pants.


Friday, October 17, 2008

Fall Leaf Project

SB and I did this project last week... it was a 3 day project for us.

Day 1 - go for a great leaf walk, carrying bags to collect all our goodies.

Day 2 - sharpen crayons (with my eyeliner pencil since I haven't used it in ages anyway) and iron the crayon shavings and leaves in between wax paper (low iron heat - just enough to melt the crayon)... in between newspaper! Tape the edges and tape onto the windows. This really is pretty when the sun shines!

Day 3 - get out our Tree book and identify as many leaves as possible. Oak, aspen, maple, etc. Talk about maple syrup, acorns, those helicopter seed pods, etc.

We always made these in the fall when I was little. Lots of people who have seen School Boy's have asked me how we made them. Making them was the easy part - getting the craft area cleaned up of crayon shavings - and my ironing board (well, of course some got spilled) - now that was the tricky part.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Red Puzzler revisited

LAST October I pieced all these red segments... thinking that I would make a 2nd Ocean's Wave quilt (like my green one), but in red. Except, somehow, I cut all those triangles much bigger than needed, sewed them all together and only then did I realize - I had made an error. I don't want to use these segments to make an OW quilt because the resulting plain square is EXTRA large. While the green quilt is a great size for my queen bed, these jumbo sized blocks would give me a bigger than king quilt. Nope - not going to make an Ocean Waves quilt with these segments. So - back into my sewing tote they went to simmer and stew while I tried to come up with a plan for them (ok, so maybe I had to simmer and stew a bit too - I was a bit upset that they were the wrong size). I already spent all that time and effort getting them made - might as well use them. But how? And believe me, it took me awhile to piece all those units together.
This week I think I hit on a good idea... that dark fabric is just a super cheap dark fabric that I keep around for a background auditioning - I will actually have to buy a dark background fabric... but it gives you a good idea. I like either one of the above options... Just imagine the top one set straight - the photo is just a bit slanted to work around the Thomas the Train track right next to it, plus other toys, because of course, School Boy is right by my side! The 2nd option would be the blocks set on point and that nice wide triangle corner idea for the 4 corners - which I think is a bit unique, so is interesting.
Speaking of the toys - SB had Mon, Tues. and Weds. off from school this week for Canadian Thanksgiving. Yeah, ok - so we were waiting for the school bus on Tuesday - I didn't know that "Teacher Meeting" on the calendar was code for "School Closed". ALL other days that school is closed is clearly marked!
A rejected idea was this zig zag setting option. I like the zig zag setting and have used it before, but am not sure I want to fiddle around to get such a narrow zig zag with these bigger blocks.

The idea below was my starting point on the dark background. Right away I knew that while this particular lay-out didn't strike my fancy - I really did like the dark background. As much as I didn't want to like the dark background, because...

What I really, really wanted to work - was this beautiful yellow and blue stripped fabric. I tried ALL kinds of different layouts - narrow strips, wide strips, set different ways, considered bordering blocks with the yellow and blue... I'll spare you all the photos, but here are some. All these ideas were rejected. I wanted that stripped fabric to work because I bought is specifically for these ideas - which seemed good in my head at the time, but when I saw it laid out on the floor, well - I think that the idea was actually better than the reality!
Isn't having a digital camera grand?! After reviewing these photos, I really don't think that making the initial cutting error was such a bad thing, my red puzzler is starting to come together! With a dark background. The stripped fabric is going back on the shelf... for now.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Easy as Pie!

Making a pie is easy. Really! Making 2 pies at the same time is even easier - I mean you already have out all the stuff for making pie, so why not make 2? I like to make pie. This morning I posted my favorite pie crust and summer pie recipes over on my cooking blog at
Making cookies - well that is a whole 'nother story! Especially rolled cookies. Unless your name is Martha Stewart, I suggest you forget all about making beautiful, perfectly decorated cookies. That really isn't the point. The point is to entertain your small children while they make cookies that they are ever so proud of and dearly love to eat. If you want perfect cookies - do yourself a favor and go buy some at the bakery!
So - here is a photo of our finished results. We used canned frosting that we put some food coloring in. Let me tell you - these cookies are tasty! Anytime he sees some kind of fancy-smanshy magazine cover with beautiful "art food" and asks if we can make that? - I tell him - we can certainly make that recipe - it just won't look the same. We both accept the limitations of Momma's art food abilities and have a good time in the kitchen anyway.

We don't make rolled cookies often. They are very time consuming - much faster to make pie. Faster still is our favorite snack bread - apple/banana loaf.
Mmmm. This bread is extra yummy. I love it with butter. I love it with cream cheese. I love it with cream cheese mixed with honey. I also posted this recipe over on my cooking blog today. I've been making at least 1 loaf a week. Up until this week I didn't have any apples so was making it with 2 bananas instead of bannana/apples - but trust me, it is ever so much yummier with apples! Bring on apple season! See my bag of apples? Wheeee!!!!Macintosh - perfect for baking. I bought these off of a guy who pulled in to my yard with a pick-up truck full of apples and squash. I bought some of each - how could I resist. Good fresh produce, delivered to my door - way out in the middle of nowhere! SB doesn't like store bought apple sauce, but he will eat homemade! And apple chunks sprinkled with cinnamon/sugar - he just can't seem to get enough. That bag probably won't last for too long!
Our other baking project this week is sourdough bread... or at least the starter - it takes 3 days for the starter to be ready to use. We have 3 days to spare. The starter will be ready tomorrow so that is our baking project for tomorrow. The kitchen is needed today for making a special family dinner - seeing that it is Canadian Thanksgiving and all... I figure, why not celebrate both Canadian and US? We are doing low-key today, but it will still be a special family meal.
Here is SB stirring the sour dough starter.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Stray Cats

They are a bit hard to get a photo of... but here are the 2 stray cats that live here. I am almost positive that they are from the neighbor down the street - who tried to give me a kitten earlier this summer. I declined. 1st off, School Boy is very allergic to cats. 2nd off - I have a commercial kitchen and the last thing I want is a cat on the counter! So, I turned down 1 kitten and now somehow have 2 stray cats!
The thing is - they turned up because SB has a small child's wading pool in the back kitchen garden. It is soft sided and the cats were trying their hardest to figure out how to get a sip of water without falling into the water. So - I gave a small bowl of milk to SB to give to them. Poor things shook and trembled the whole time they drank it. SB stood at the window and watched them, absolutely delighted that these 2 cats had appeared from nowhere. I explained to SB about stray cats. And after a bit he said to me... "Momma, you know I have some recycling money saved up for toys? Well, I don't really NEED lots of toys, but those cats need food. So, can I spend some of my recycling money on cat food for them?" What's a Momma to say to that?! I was thinking that we should get them a bag of food anyway - it is just so sad to see such skinny creatures on your doorstep. So, a bag of cat food was purchased and the rest is history - those cats aren't going anywhere now!
The good news is that my community has a program - you can call someone about your stray cats and they will come get them, get them fixed - and then return them to you! How about that!!! Actually, the more I tell people about these 2 strays - the more stray cat stories I hear. Turns out that lots of people in the area have a stray or two that they always feed. Some people even have small cat boxes made for the cats to take cover in during extra cold weather. These cats currently have a towel out on the veranda, in a spot away from the wind. They seem to like that just fine.
They are getting tamer - the screen door snapping shut will scare them into a quick scurry away, but when I open the kitchen door early in the morning - there they are - waiting and meowing away in the pitch dark. When it is sunny they like to lally-gag around a few feet away from where ever I may be. And sometimes when I sit on the step I can even get them to stand next to me while I pet them. That black one especially likes to be pet and will start purring away - if he gets brave enough to come and get pet. I could hold him, but he startles so quickly that I could also end up with a lap full of claws - so I let him be. And his coat - very thick and luxurious now - after a few weeks of good food.
And no - SB doesn't have to spend all his recycling money on cat food - we are already well into the 2nd bag of food. But I will let him contribute a little bit, it makes him feel very important. He really loves his stray cats and is very diligent about feeding/watering them every day. He has been trying really hard to get a good photo of them - he took the photo of the black one with the flowers. Now that I've got the chip cleared off (of the other 100 photos that were blury!) and the battery re-charged - he can have the camera back again tomorrow. He might get a close-up photo of that black one yet in the next batch of 100 or so photos!