Friday, June 29, 2012

Do-over: Birthday cake (take 2)

Last month, I botched a birthday cake because of a stupid, amateur mistake.  (If you forgot, here it is.)  My grandmother insisted that I remake the same cake for her birthday a month later.  God help me, but a month later has come and gone.  (Time goes TOO FAST.  I hate it!)  Basically, she gave me the opportunity for a do-over.  I don't know to what degree that was her actual intent, but life doesn't ever give many people do-overs so I took advantage of it.

No major disasters. Finalmente.  I love me a do-over.

Thursday, June 28, 2012


A little while ago, I talked about my friend Joan and her dog London here.  London still doesn't have a home, but you would not believe the progress that Joan continues to make with him.  (Her blog is here.)  Last week, I finally had the chance to meet London and hang out with him for a little bit.  Guess what? He's a pretty normal dog: He likes to run around in the park, chew on tennis balls, enjoy belly rubs, and follow his momma wherever his momma goes.

He is completely goofy--his tongue always hangs out of his mouth when he smiles.  It's pretty funny in person, but when you go back and look at 70 shots of this expression it's even more silly.

Oh geez, Joan: He only has eyes for you!

London is still looking for a forever home since Joan can't take on a third dog permanently right now.  Joan's really worried about finding something for him because he gets along pretty well with men, but he's far more comfortable with women (probably because a man beat him non-stop for most of his life).  Since half the population is not the best match for him, Joan's really nervous about finding him his ideal family.  It may sound silly, but Joan was talking with someone who suggested that he needs a home with two female heads-of-household.  London would do great with a single lady, but single ladies often end up with male partners.  If, hypothetically, London were to dislike the new guy in his life, he may find himself on the outs, back in a shelter, or worse.  It has dawned on Joan that perhaps he would be happiest with a female couple.  It may sound ridiculous to speculate about this, but I'm going to put this idea out there because you never know who may read this and think, "HA! I know two women who are looking for a dog." And maybe the rest could be history?

If you know any person who may be a good candidate for London, please direct them to Joan's blog and contact her from there.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Summer craft series: A pillow two years in the making

At the beginning of 2010, Ron and I gave up paper napkins as our New Year's resolution.  I anticipated a challenging switch to linen napkins, but it's been pretty easy to manage.  Even at places like Home Goods, linen napkins aren't always cheap and/or attractive. (It's hit or miss there--you know what it's like.)  In the end, I bought a HUGE table cloth there (it was either 60 x 104 or 60 x 120) and turned it into something like 20 or 22 napkins (12-14" squares).  After cutting all the napkins around the perimeter of the tablecloth, I found I had enough fabric for a large pillow. (I didn't use most of the fabric in the center of the tablecloth because it wasn't nearly as pretty as edging.)

Long story short, the pieces for the pillow hung all ironed and ready to go (with pom-pom trim) next to my sewing machine for two years before I stitched it up. A basic square. With a preformed pillow form to shove inside. Two years.

I bet Betty Draper doesn't even have matching napkins and pillows.

The tricky part with edging is thinking through how to pin it/sew it so that it's correct when you turn the finished product right-side out.

Also, when doing the actual sewing, you have to make sure that you're actually attaching the edging to the fabric while still hiding most (if not all) of the woven strip that holds the pom-poms together.  (You can't see if you're missing the fabric under the edging.) Also, that woven strip should be hidden as far inside the pillow as possible.  I really messed that up the first time I worked with pom-poms.

The fabric on the back is from a sheet set. A few years ago, I could NOT find a bed skirt that worked on our bed. All of them had too short a drop, so there was this weird gap between the bottom of the skirt and the floor. It drove me nuts. I finally went out and bought a super-cheap king size bedding set at Kmart, and I turned the flat sheet into a custom bed skirt.  No more gap!  I put the pillow cases on king size pillows that I used all the time, and I used the fitted sheet for fabric to make family room pillows.

So that's that: Two years to sew together two squares with a store-bought pillow form inside.  I promise there will be something more impressive next week.  (Well, not very impressive.  More impressive than this.)

Monday, June 25, 2012

Life between weekdays (and some of last week's weekdays)

It's a king size bed ... but it may as well be a twin.
Never bare your teeth at your momma. No excuses.

My mother's cat, Willow. How do you say ... "Up to no good?"

Sarah's engaged! Wahoo!

Arugula, grilled pepper, and goat cheese sandwiches (there's a baguette under there somewhere).

New lighting outside

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Summer craft series: outdoor bunting

I understand that by implying that I'm going to do a "series" of anything that I'm basically dooming myself to some degree of failure.  A series implies (according to Merriam-Webster) a "number of things or events of the same class coming one after another in spacial or temporal succession."  Since I have a history of struggling with the temporal part of my day to day life, we'll see how this goes. What can I say?: I have a lot of ideas, but many of them get permanently lost between the non-physical space of my mind and their potential manifestation in the physical world ... so, like I said, we'll see how this goes.

During the past two weeks, I've gone crazy using the sewing machine because it's been so idle since the great Valentine Project of 2012.  Last summer, I really wanted to make a bunting for my back deck. While I did finish the tablecloth that I had planned to do, I never got around to the bunting I wanted to make to go with it.  Typical.  How easy could this project be? Just trace a bunch of stupid triangles, cut them out, and sew them together ... Well, that's far too difficult to complete in one summer when one is essentially unemployed.  (Right?)

I have to say, I did have some difficulty cutting out the triangles because I don't have a work surface to spread out a project like this. I prefer working on the floor (90% of my K-12 homework was completed on the floor) and I decided to use this strategy for the triangles.  I was really shocked when I woke up the next day and my legs were killing me.  I found myself limping and wincing up and down the stairs for at least two days.  So, a word of advice: If you're going to spend 45-60 minutes cutting fabric on the floor, understand that if you're squatting the whole time it will feel as if (duh) you did 60 minutes worth of consecutive squats and lunges a la' The Firm.  Work at a table. (Most people probably already follow that rule. I hope.)

Once I cut out all of the triangles, I connected them with a line of white rick-rack and sent them through the machine.  This particular fabric is an water-resistant/fade-resistant outdoor fabric that I picked up at Jo-Ann.  It feels a lot like plastic-y canvas.  I used pinking shears to cut it, and it doesn't really fray or snag which is really helpful. We'll see how well this keeps its color since the sun will be beating on it all the time.

I think the one mistake I made centered on the way I sewed this together.  The triangles are connected by the rick rack, BUT the triangles are not actually connected to each other--do you know what I mean?  The top corners of the triangles may touch or overlap, but they're not secured. As a result, the rick rack can spin and twist when the wind blows, and it's impossible to untwist the whole thing now that it's secured in place.  (I used a staple gun to install five staples under the bannister and then used fishing line to tie the bunting to the staples as if they're hooks.)  I'm not sure if I care about this ... right now, I don't.

Since the bunting's in place, I decided to just keep the tablecloth out there full-time too.  It's a different pattern from the bunting, but the same kind of outdoor fabric.  It makes the deck feel like another room rather than just a deck.  Who would think some bunting and a tablecloth could do that?

Friday, June 15, 2012

I wish I wasn't addicted to nail polish, but I am.

I recently read on Bethenny's twitter that she's gone ten years without nail polish and she has no regrets.  I thought to myself, "oooo, let me try that for a month," and two weeks in I gave up. I just really love nail polish.  Leslie bought this color in April ... and I think I really like it.  It's a little freaky when I'm doing stuff during the day and my nails randomly match stuff like the tea pot, or the china, or the fabric that I picked out at Jo-Ann and the nice lady is cutting for me.  I guess you just like what you like.  Of course, if you have a real job this may not be appropriate ... then again, Joan Rivers had bright electric blue nails on the Martha Show a few months back, so who cares?

During the few days I had naked nails, I saw these pictures on LA in Bloom which made plain nails seem so sad.  And can we talk about that jewelry? OMG, I have revisited that post at least four or five times just to stare at all the rings and bracelets. (I've been racking my brain for over a week trying to figure out where I can buy a knock-off of the ring on Heather's right hand.) I'm such a sucker for shiny stuff.  Sometimes I really wonder if I have a problem.

This week, I've been wearing the crazy nails with this shirt:

Two weeks ago, I saw this in a window of a tiny boutique that I never, ever frequent solely because it's so freakin expensive.  There's nothing in their window that I can't find at Marshall's ... most of the time.  I was with Ron when I saw this and I freaked out over it.  Most crochet shirts, sweaters, etc., that I see in stores are not typically things that I want to wear ... if worn the wrong way, they just say, "Look at me: I'm a grandma."  But this?  No--no grandma here.

I could see the price tag in the window, and it was horrifying.  Completely mind-boggling ... and yet, I heard some stupid voice in my head going, "Seriously? If I had made that, I would charge double without blinking." This was not made on a machine, People: Someone, somewhere (most likely in awful conditions) worked her fingers to the bone on this.  Machines can't make this kind of thing. This sounds so dumb, but it's wearable art.

I love, love, love that rattan pattern on the back.  Now, THAT I could learn to do ... I think. I'm pretty sure.  But the intricate granny squares that make up the finer details are beyond my skill level right now. Way beyond.

I thought about it everyday for a week.  And then, in a moment of sheer insanity to which Ron stood witness, I marched back into that store one week later and tried the damn thing on and bought it without even THINKING about it. I over-think everything.


(Don't know what I'm talking about?  See here.  So far since February, it's been those three shirts, one pair of white skinny jeans, and a dress that I've been searching for during the past two years.)

This I did not over-think (assuming that thinking about something for a week is not over-thinking? Good question).  It's like my brain shut off or something.

It would be nice if my brain did that more often.

I am thrilled with it.

So far, I've worn it over a navy blue cami with denim and blue-gingham-espadrille wedges (that I seriously found for $5 at Payless last summer).  Shockingly, it elevates plain denim shorts to unimaginable heights.  I didn't even know that was possible.

Something else that I love that makes my brain stop working? This guy--it's finally back.  Don Draper dumped me for another 15 months, but it's ok because Harvey's here and he's not nearly as traumatized, damaged, or complicated.  And he's not married (not that Don cares ... OR DOES HE??? AHHHH!! Killer cliffhanger: I hate you!)

Now that I think about it, I don't think Harvey would be caught dead with a girl with blue nails ... but whatever.  Ron doesn't care. (Right, Ron?)

I've worked on a ton of stuff this week and I have pictures of it all, but I haven't had a minute to post any of it.  Preview: I made two skirts, bunting for the back deck, and purchased fabric for four other projects that I'm seriously telling myself "I'll definitely do this month--definitely."

We've all heard THAT one before ...

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Steph's baby blanket

Last week, I never got around to posting about Steph and her baby shower, and I couldn't mention the blanket I was making for her because it and the shower were supposed to be surprises. I started her blanket a month before the shower and miraculously finished it TWO days in advanced rather than late the night before it was due.

I used this pattern that my mom passed along to me. You're supposed to use several colors throughout the finished blanket, but I really just like a solid color.  (That being said, if you follow the link in the last sentence, the colors in the sample blanket are really, really gorgeous.) Since Steph doesn't know if she's having a boy or a girl, I used my favorite neutral as my one color.

If you look closely, you can see that this pattern requires you to work in the round rather than back-and-forth-back-and-forth.  That center cross is the beginning of a granny square.  Of course, squares have four sides and corners, so the blanket develops four major triangular sections as you move around and around the center of the blanket.  In the end, you have a really giant granny square. Typically, the finished square is 33"-36".  Honestly, I just buy a Pound of Love baby yarn (can you believe they call it that? there seriously was no better name?) and keep going until it's gone. I know a bunch of people just lost all respect for me because my go-to yarn is acrylic, but nothing washes and dries better than this stuff. 

For the edging, I used the same reverse single crochet stitch that I used on three of last year's blankets.  I finished the bulk of the blanket and then went around the edge two times using just a single crochet.  For the third and final round, I worked left to right (backward or reverse) to create the rope pattern on the outermost edge.

Remember how I went to that First Friday flea market thing two Fridays ago?  That same night, I stopped in a new store on Gay Street called Bella and Betty.  Their featured artisan for June's First Friday was The Ellie Rose, a local company that makes gorgeous children's apparel and baby gear.  (Their girls' dresses are freakin adorable AND reversible!) The owner of The Ellie Rose was in the store to talk about her work. I really liked her baby bib and burp cloth sets, but couldn't pick a favorite fabric pattern.  On a whim, she pulled a bib out of her own bag and said, "Well, I have this squirrel pattern too."

Squirrels? Sign me up.  (I like to think they sorta look like the Fluffs.) The problem was that she only had bibs on hand--no burp cloths, and I really wanted a set.  She actually offered to make a burp cloth for me and drop it off at the store the next day so I had it in time for Sunday. How nice is that? I purposely picked a bib that had blue and green trees in the center (rather than pink), so she actually cut the fabric for the burp cloth to include as much green and blue as possible in the center.  The burp cloths are even contoured to rest better on shoulders: They're "skinnier" in the middle and wider where they cover the back and chest. They're so well-made--you can feel it when you hold them in your hands.

I didn't get too many shots at the shower, but Steph was clearly really surprised and later tore through an astounding amount of presents in forty minutes.  Her husband, Jeff, was Man of the Hour (for about five minutes before all of the estrogen in the room became way too much and he left) for successfully tricking his wife on party day.

Steph thought she was just coming to meet to some family members for lunch.

The other day, I passed by the place where Steph's bridal shower took place four years ago this month--thinking about that made my head spin.  Four years ago? And now there's a baby? And I wasn't even married when I was at Steph's last shower?  How much faster can it all go?

I can't wait to see the baby's finished room with all the new stuff inside--I hope Steph and Jeff have fun putting it all together.