Friday, December 23, 2011

Sneak Peek

I've been spending a lot of time in the sewing nook the past few weeks working on little things for the holidays. Since it's just a couple days until Christmas and there is a really good chance no one is looking at my blog before then, I thought I'd share a little glimpse of the projects I'll be gifting this year -- aside from the quilt which I gave a full look at the other day.

Any guesses?! Here's hoping no one figures it out before the 25th!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Christmas Cookies

This week, the boy and I spent a night baking and decorating Christmas cookies. Although I try to make this a yearly tradition, I don't have special recipes for the cookies or icing that I use each time. I usually just look around the web until I find one that sounds interesting. This year, I stumbled upon this recipe for the cookies and decided to try it because of the almond extract -- which I LOVE. Before even baking the cookies, we were in smitten! This recipe will definitely be saved and most likely become part of a yearly tradition.

For the icing, I was going to try the recipe on the same site as the cookies, but couldn't find meringue powder so I searched for a different royal icing recipe.  I found this one from Alton Brown and picked it mainly because I had all the ingredients on hand. It was so-so and probably won't be a repeat, but was really easy to throw together and definitely has not kept me from having a cookie -- or two, or three -- each night.

So, after we baked up our cookies and whipped up the icing, we chose to color a third of the icing red, a third green, and leave a third white.  Although our red looked red while mixing, it quickly turned into a very bright, hot pink!  Still looks cute on the cookies, just a little less traditional :) We put the three colors in Ziploc bags and cut a small opening in the corner so we could pipe them onto each cookie.

Boyfriend has not done this in many many years and was fascinated by the Ziploc bag trick. 

We just kept on going until we had plates full of cookies! Along the way, we 'tested' the broken or deformed ones and approved of their quality :)

To top off the Christmas-y, fun-filled night, we took the puppies and drove around looking at Christmas lights.  It was one of the most fun ways to spend a weeknight! 

Hope everyone else is getting their fill of holiday activities before they fly by!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree

I've been seeing some beautiful Christmas tree pictures around the web and decided to try my hand at photographing my tree to look as lovely as the rest. I've read the key to these wonderful pictures is a slower shutter speed so the camera is able to capture more light. Typically, this would require a tripod since the photos take longer to record and any movement would cause blur. I currently don't have one, so I just tried balancing my camera on the counter, coffee table, and anything else that seemed stable. Here are some of my best -- aka, least blurry -- pictures.

The pictures really do seem to glow more than the first ones I took of the tree a couple weeks ago -- or at least I tell myself that since I spent so much time playing with the camera.  Either way, it really was fun making small adjustments and seeing how each picture turned out. Maybe by next year I'll have a tripod to rest the camera on and be able to really slow things down!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

I've Been a Quiltin'

I decided to make my first ever quilt this Christmas for boyfriend's 2-year-old niece.  She is the most girly of girls, so I chose the most princess-like fabric I could find. I ordered a layer cake in the Pink, Puttin' on the Ritz fabric line by Bunny Hill Designs.  I love that the colors are all shades of pink, grey and ivory and are without question, fit for a princess.
Since it was my first quilt, I didn't want to start with something overly complicated. The squares in the layer cake are 10x10, so I decided to cut them in half and use 5x10 'bricks' to piece the quilt together.  To determine how many of the 42 squares I would use, I opened my favorite and most trusted computer program, Excel, and started drafting the quilt top. To break up the repetitive bricks, I decided I wanted one row to be personalized and special so I settled on this design.

The dimensions in the drawing are the cut sizes and the approximate finished size takes into account the *hopefully* quarter inch seem allowance -- assuming I can be somewhat accurate with each block.

Since I only needed 25 of the 42 squares, I picked out my favorite prints and started cutting my pieces.  The squares-turned-bricks were a simple, single  cut down the middle. Once that was done, I arranged the 50 bricks where I wanted -- mainly making sure the same fabrics weren't touching -- and then started sewing one row at a time.  After I had 10 separate rows, I decided to stagger every other one so they wouldn't perfectly line up like they were in the original drawing.  For example, I shifted the second row to the left by 5", cut that last brick in half and attached the small piece to the right side of that row.  I did this with the 5th, 7th, and 9th rows as well.

Once that was done, I attached the first three rows together and the last seven rows.  I ordered coordinating fabric for the special row and my binding and cut them to the sizes I had determined above.  Before attaching them to the rest of the quilt, I decided to sew her name. I had never done anything like this before and if I messed up, I figured it wouldn't ruin the whole quilt since it was still separate and I could try again or come up with a new plan. 

In order to attach her name, I used Heat'n Bond Iron-On Adhesive. I started by printing off letters that were 5"-6" tall from my computer. Then I traced them backwards -- using the window or glass with a light under it -- onto the rough side of the Heat'n Bond and cut roughly around each letter. I then peeled off the smooth side and ironed them on to the wrong side of my fabric, which were just additional squares from my layer cake.  I then cut them out along my traced edge, flipped them to the right side and arranged them onto the white row where I wanted. To make sure they were even, I did some measuring on the sides and bottom before peeling off the backing and permanently fusing them. Then I used a pink coordinating thread to stitch along the edge to make sure they stay put through future washings.  I don't have pictures of this part, but I just followed the instructions on the Heat'n Bond package and manged to get it right on the second try :)

Once that was done I attached the grey 2" strips to the name piece and then to the top and bottom portions of the quilt. It was finally looking like one whole quilt top!

I did manage to quilt the whole thing last night following The Polkadot Chair's quilting process.  I chose to quilt in the seam on each row and added a second and third line to the right and left. So, each seam had three quilting lines and all were running horizontal. I chose not to do any vertical lines because I didn't want to sew through the name piece. I did end up with over 36 quilting lines no further than 4" apart, so it should be plenty to keep it together! Next on the agenda is binding it, washing it, and wrapping it up all nice and pretty before Christmas!

For now, here's what the finished quilt top looks like -- these pictures are also the most accurate in terms of what the colors look like in real life.

Assuming the last few steps go well, I will hopefully have a finished quilt to show off in the next couple days!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Christmas Crafting

With the cold, dark nights creeping in so early these days, my desire to stay in most evenings has given me tons of time to cross a few quick and simple projects off my craft to-do list -- aka my 'craftiness' board on Pinterest. First up, some Christmas Coasters and Ornaments.

These two were super simple and I was able to do them while watching a Christmas movie after work one night. Allow me to demonstrate my process with the following equation:

Object with a smooth top + Pretty Scrapbook Paper + Mod Podge = Christmas Ornaments and Christmas Coasters

It doesn't get much easier than that! Okay, so a little more detail...

For the coasters, all you need are bathroom tiles -- I got mine for 16 cents at Home Depot,-- scrapbook paper, and mod podge.  I also added some cork to the back of mine so they would look more finished and not scratch one another, but that is totally optional. To make them, simply cut your paper slightly smaller than your tile, add mod podge to the back of paper and smooth onto the tile. I took a pencil -- or any other smooth object near by -- and ran it from top to bottom to get all the air bubbles out. After they dried for 20ish minutes, I added a layer of mod podge over the top to 'seal' them. Then, after they've completely dried you can cut cork board to the proper size and add to the back. And you're done -- rest your favorite drink on them and enjoy!

The ornaments followed the same process except that I used wooden letters from Hobby Lobby and painted them a subtle champagne color before adding the scrapbook paper. Once they were dry, I traced the letter onto my paper, cut it out and did the same process with the mod podge. I also signed the back so I'd remember who they were for and when they were made, added some ribbon to pretty them up, and hung them on the tree!

I also made a couple that I added to presents to make the gift a little more fun and personal.  They're so simple, there's still plenty of time before Christmas to make a few!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011


The stressfulness of any day easily melts away when you come home and get to spend the evening with a Christmas tree just a glance away...

Having a house full of shiny and beautiful Christmas things makes evenings at home the best place to be.

In spite of the early sunsets and colder nights, I am in LOVE with this time of year and thrilled that it's finally here!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

When The Cat’s Away…

...the mice will play. And by play, I mean sew -- I'm a wild one, I know.
This past weekend, boyfriend left for a boys trip to Vegas.  In between the 4 am texts and wondering what trouble all those boys could get into, I decided to surprise him with some home-sewn pillow shams. He recently got a new bed which required new sheets and a new comforter. It was a painful process for us both -- I can’t tell you how hard it is to describe to a boy the difference between a down comforter, duvet cover, and what comes in a bed in a bag package.
After a lot of back and forth, I convinced him a down comforter with a duvet was the best option and we found a really nice grey duvet cover on sale. Unfortunately, because it was on clearance, we had no luck finding coordinating pillow shams to go with it. I over-ambitiously decided that this was actually a good thing because we could possibly save money by making them, could customize them to be exactly what he wanted, and would give me a chance to try sewing something new -- win, win, win for both of us.
Finding the fabric was easy enough. He decided to go with a grey and lime green color scheme and Ty Pennington had some awesome fabrics that coordinated perfectly.  So, I took some measurements and ordered these three fabrics for the shams, and various other bed pillows.

The first pillow was a snap to make. I had an old pillow of his and I was simply sewing a cover for it. So I took some measurements, cut my fabric and made the most basic envelope pillow ever. This simple task is probably what got me thinking how awesome I am and how easy the shams would be. Wrong.
I didn’t have a tutorial I was following, just my own pillow sham to copy.  The measuring and cutting went easily enough, but all went downhill after that.  I won’t even begin to describe the methods (yes, plural) I tried because honestly, I don’t think I remember which one finally worked out. And the two pillows don’t even match. Not only did I try 3 different ways on the first, but when I made the second, I went completely off track and did something different once again.  Luckily, boys don’t notice these things, and he is in love with them and was totally surprised when he got home!
Warning, these photos were taken in a bachelor’s bedroom, so there is no headboard and absolutely nothing hanging on the walls -- one thing at a time. Maybe I'll convince him to DIY a headboard soon!
It’s hard to tell in pictures, but the corners are different on each pillow. On one, they meet at a diagonal and on the other, they overlap. I actually like both and if I was smart enough to sew the same thing twice, I’m not sure which I’d choose.

I don’t have pictures of the back, but it is a solid coordinating grey fabric that simply overlaps to slide the pillows right in.
I have one more pillow to make, hopefully a neck roll with the third fabric. I didn’t start on that one because I was pillowed out by then and I didn’t want to risk trying my own technique this time around. I’m going to search for a great tutorial to follow so it will hopefully go much smoother than the shams. If I have enough fabric after that, I may try to make one more basic pillow using scraps from each fabric to Ty -- pun intended -- it all together.
Oh, and if you want to make pillow shams, please don’t let my disastrous attempt discourage you. In the process of trying to salvage each one, I did some tutorial research and found some great inspiration.  This post in particular seems super easy and one I would have tried if I hadn’t already cut my fabric too small. This one would also have been great and seems easy to follow. If only I’d found these before my sewing ego got too big… All in all, I think they look pretty great and I’m happy with how they look in his room.  Each sewing adventure is a learning process and this one was no exception! 
p.s. while I was having my super girly sewing/crafting weekend, I made a few other things to share.  One will have to wait since it's another gift for boyfriend -- and he possibly still reads these random posts -- but the other is a quilt for his niece, and since she is just 2, I'm pretty certain she has not started following this blog yet :)  They will also have actual instructions since it wasn't a total disaster making them!
p.p.s. don't feel too sorry for me staying behind while boyfriend jets off to Vegas -- I just spent 10 glorious days in the UK and if I can rescue some lost pictures, will share the details soon!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Reoccurring Thought Today

Anyone else having one of those days? Where time seems to stand still. You look at the clock and can't believe only five minutes has passed since the last time you looked -- which you swear must have been hours ago. You stare at words on a page but can't absorb a single one. You're just ready to be anywhere else and moving on to other, more exciting things. Yup, it's been one of those days for me.

Maybe I'm just anxious for the weekend to get here...


Tuesday, August 16, 2011

End of Summer Vacay

The boy and I snuck off last week for a little vacation at the beach.  We had the most amazing time and met so many wonderful people while we were there!  In very few words and lots of pictures, here's a short summary of our whirlwind trip...

Our room, which was spectacular!
We had a huge bathroom complete with a large Jacuzzi, walk-in rain shower and plenty of room for every girls bathroom essentials.  We also had a sitting area, small table for eating and a large balcony with lots of seating and a view of the infinity pool and ocean.
We had lots of great food while we were there and not nearly enough time to try it all!
The French restaurant where we had salmon, shrimp and fillet our first night.
The Hibachi restaurant where we had dinner with friends and a ton of sushi, noodles, rice, and dessert.
Oceana, one restaurant overlooking the pool and a great spot for lunch.
Outside of eating, we also played hard -- we went snorkeling, took out a catamaran and kayak, Adam played volleyball twice a day while I lounged by the pool, tried darts, Mexican Lottery, a putting competition, saw a dance show and even did our fair share of dancing.
We also met several fun, newlywed couples from all over -- California, Ohio, Austin, Canada, and Wisconsin -- I'm sure there's more I'm missing!
We were very sad to be leaving on Sunday and can't wait to go back!
Goodbye for now, Cancun! We will miss you!