More Cake!

I have a few finishes, sewing and otherwise, to post in the next few days. In the meantime: Cake!

The Boy wanted a Minecraft-themed birthday, so I made a cake that looked (sort of) like a grass block. It was chocolate, with crushed Oreos mixed into chocolate frosting to look like dirt and green spiky piped frosting for grass. Plus a Steve figure, of course.

Minecraft grass block cakeMiss R wanted a Powerpuff Girls birthday. Bubbles, Blossom, and Buttercup were duly ordered off ebay and I made a simple cake with colored sugar streaks in the PPG signature colors. Secret bonus: colored sprinkles in the frosting between the layers!

PowerPuff Girls cakeSo that’s the latest cake update for a while. We’re entering pie season, after all. Anyone see any rhubarb in the stores yet? I think it’s a little slow to arrive in the northeast…..

Sweat Equity

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You know the phrase “climbing the walls”? That’s me. Well, it’s more like “attacking the walls.” Snow, more snow, and lots of time inside flipped a switch and I couldn’t stand some of our walls anymore. Out went the furniture, in came the stepladders, scrapers, and spray bottles. Bye-bye, green paint. And beige paint. And floral wallpaper.

One of these days I will actually scrape off the last bit of wallpaper in this condo. One day. But for now, getting rid of the I’m-so-over-it green paint and peeling wallpaper and bad spackle jobs in this one small room will do the trick.

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As in our other spaces, this room was wallpapered and then painted. In some places everything cooperates and the paint and paper lift away from clean plaster with a quick scrape, in others we’re removing 1/2″ shards. Scoring the paint/paper and then using very hot water in spray bottles helps. I tried adding vinegar but it didn’t help much and smells lousy. This morning one of the authors I work with suggested adding fabric softener to the spray bottles (thanks, Laurel!)  – I will try it and report back. I’m willing to take any and all suggestions to get through this stage of the project:

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So, until this is done I have mattresses on the porch and piles of kid stuff in the dining room and everyone is sleeping wherever they land. Truth: I kind of love it. Not forever, but for a little while this sort of transformative chaos gives me a thrill. And I have help! Mr. K and my parents have taken turns chipping away at the paint while I’m at work and it turns out that Miss R is not too shabby with a scraper, provided we give her a smaller one for her little hands. Being allowed to liberally use a spray bottle indoors is a big enticement, I think.

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 Paint colors for this room are still under consideration. I’ve taken down the curtain panels and am going to do roman shades instead. I found this tutorial for turning metal blinds into roman shades, which I may try. Our windows are an odd width so repurposing the ugly but custom cut metal blinds is appealing to me.

P.S. I swore that I would not sew, except to make shades for this room, until this project is done. Let’s see if I make it.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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heart bean bags

Snow-bound days, warm little projects. Bean bags for stir crazy kids. Pots of soup. Long books. Lego-strewn floors. A spouse who cracks me up.

These are the things I try to be grateful for in the middle of the snowiest February in memory. Because, really – there’s nothing else to be done about it. If it’s going to snow, it’s going to snow, and no amount of snow rage will change that.  Another foot? Awesome! I’ll make the hot chocolate and put the shovel by the back door.

Wishing you a day of appreciation – for yourself, for those important to you, and for the world in general.

 

On My Bookshelf: Paper to Petal

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What to do in a minor blizzard? Sled. Make snow angels. Sew. Read beautiful books about paper flowers and dream of spring. Paper to Petal cover   Paper to Petal by Rebecca Thuss and Patrick Farrell is stunning. I don’t make paper flowers. I don’t plan to make paper flowers. And yet I spent quite a bit of time with this book over the weekend, admiring the artistry of the creations, the gorgeous colors, and the beautiful photography. It inspired quilt plans and some decor tweaking and a possible spring brunch. That, my friends, is a good craft book. paper to petal interior 2 And if you do want to make paper flowers? The instructions are excellent and accompanied by additional helpful photographs and a Skills section that explains basic techniques. The book includes templates for flower petals and leaves.

For much better photographs of the book than mine, plus links to Thuss and Farrell’s other beautiful design work, visit http://www.papertopetal.com/.

This and That

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January has found me knee-deep in a pile of books, fixing things around the house, and working on little projects. After my pre-Christmas sewing marathon it has felt good to catch up on odds and ends.

I thought I’d share two small things that I am currently enamored with: a rolling cart made from an old wooden soda box, and a doll quilt that uses up some of my Wee Wander scraps.

041 040 Fabric lined rolling cart

The cart is…. awesome. I know, it’s just an old box. But it’s very sturdy and just the right size for my sewing essentials. I lined it with bright green fabric (from The Boy’s first quilt) and added four small casters on the bottom. Now it holds my sewing essentials and rolls from desk to cabinet as needed. No more going back and forth for scissors, then buttons, and then a different thread, and oh, a thimble and an embroidery hoop and my quilting gloves.

070 067 Wee Wander doll quilt

The doll quilt is sweet and so very pretty. I have a stash of precious Wee Wander scraps (from the Christmas quilts for the girls) that I just couldn’t let go to waste. All the triangle scraps became a half-square triangle quilt, about 19″ x 21″. I backed it with hot pink and quilted on either side of all the seam lines, creating a nice diagonal pattern along the back. It’s in my Etsy shop.

Now, back to that pile of books!pile of books

Eight Quilts for Christmas

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I had an ambitious list of Christmas projects this year: Eight quilts, one each for my kids and niece and nephews, one per couple for my sister, brother, and parents. It seemed like a good idea in July, and still seemed reasonable in September, but by December 15th I was thinking that I really should have scaled things back a bit. It’s a good thing I really like making quilts! I finished with a whole whopping 24 hours to spare.

A friend asked me a few days ago if it was hard to let these quilts go. Actually, no. I made each one with someone particular in mind and it felt good to finally put them in the arms of their intended recipients. I enjoyed making them, and I enjoyed watching everyone, particularly the kids, take ownership of the quilts as they immediately draped beds and turned into forts.

After all the quilts were gifted, I managed to do a quick photo shoot using whichever relatives were walking by as quilt holders. Without further ado:

 

Twilight Dreams quilts

R Quilt

These bright, pretty quilts were for my daughter and my niece. I used prints from the Wee Wander line, having fallen in love with the fireflies, footprints, horses, and little dreamers sitting in trees. I was inspired by this quilt but wanted to keep some of the larger panels intact, so I mixed up the sizes of the squares a bit.

R quilt detail

Both quilts are backed and bound in Wee Wander, which is very fine and soft. It makes for a light, drapey quilt perfect for snuggling and toy room picnics.

C quilt 2

 

Minecraft quilts.

minecraft dog quilt 2

This year has been all about Minecraft for the two older boys, so I got all pixelated and made a dog and a Steve face. I used various cottons on the quilt tops and flannel prints for the backs and bindings, so these quilts are extra cozy.

steve quilt head 2

 

Midnight Train quilt.

Midnight train quilt 2

My younger nephew loves trains, so for him I had this dream of a big, slightly abstract, mysterious train. Nothing babyish, no choo-choos. For this boy, a midnight train in black and deep blues with a moon on the rise and a drifting plume of smoke, a lone engineer silhouetted in the cab.

 

HI quilt.

Hi quilt

For my sister and brother-in-law, I went back to a flagged favorite in a magazine (Quilty) and modified the size. I think there’s something about the alternating blocks in this pattern that’s soothing. I picked Koi prints because they feel organic and balance out the geometric lines of the “H” blocks. The quilting is a combination of stipple and straight line, and the back and binding are Koi.

Hi quilt detail Hi quilt back

 

Migration quilt.

Migration quilt

For my brother and sister-in-law, I opted for lots of flying geese in varying blue prints on white. I thought the balance of the blues, the florals and checks, and the tailored (but slightly cheeky – note there’s one row of geese heading off in its own direction) triangles suited them. Most of the blue prints are from Happy Go Lucky.

Migration detail

 

Grandparent quilt

Grandparent quilt_names filtered

This is the quilt that started everything off back in July. It was the one I dreamed up first and finished last, of course, the one that I started right away and then became nervous about. It features drawings from each of the five grandchildren, framed in big strips of Flea Market Fancy. I used straight line and stipple quilting on this, and backed it in more Flea Market Fancy.

Grandparent quilt detail

So there you go: eight quilts for Christmas. It’s a good finish to 2014. What’s next? I have no idea, but there’s a pile of books waiting for me….

Happy New Year to you and yours! May 2015 be full of blessings.

 

Merry, Merry

Hello, and merry Christmas to you all! There are a few holiday books and poems that get pulled lovingly off the shelf in this house every year; I thought I’d leave you with this sweet one by ee cummings.

little tree

little tree

little silent Christmas tree

you are so little

you are more like a flower

 

who found you in the green forest

and were you very sorry to come away?

see          i will comfort you

because you smell so sweetly

 

i will kiss your cool bark

and hug you safe and tight

just as your mother would,

only don’t be afraid

 

look          the spangles

that sleep all the year in a dark box

dreaming of being taken out and allowed to shine,

the balls the chains red and gold the fluffy threads,

 

put up your little arms

and i’ll give them all to you to hold

every finger shall have its ring

and there won’t be a single place dark or unhappy

 

then when you’re quite dressed

you’ll stand in the window for everyone to see

and how they’ll stare!

oh but you’ll be very proud

 

and my little sister and i will take hands

and looking up at our beautiful tree

we’ll dance and sing

“Noel Noel”

 

-ee cummings

P.S. If you’re looking for more holiday reads for tonight, try my list and Catherine Mercier’s list from last year.

 

 

On My Bookshelf: The Night Gardener

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night gardener

Although this isn’t a Halloween-themed book, The Night Gardener by Jonathan Auxier is a devilishly creepy, engrossing tale for the spooky season. Irish immigrants Molly and Kip have taken jobs as the help at the Windsor estate in England. Orphaned and without resources, they are counting on the job to sustain them and keep a solid roof over their heads. When they arrive, though, they find that the estate is not all that they had hoped it would be: Something is deeply troubling about the house, which has a huge gnarled tree embedded in its side and roots weaving through the foundation. The locals call the estate the “sourwoods.”

Something is not right with the Windsor family, either. They are ill-looking, ill-tempered, and secretive. Molly and Kip do their best to improve the house’s halls and gardens and befriend young Penny Windsor, but it’s not long before a ghastly apparition reveals the Windsor’s desperate secret and the horrifying truth about the sourwoods. When Molly and Kip arrived at the estate they thought their biggest challenge would be keeping their jobs; soon they realize that staying alive will be even more difficult.

Scary and riveting, The Night Gardener is a spine-chilling story for ages 10 and up. Auxier’s characters are plucky and likable but its his unique fiend that will haunt you long after you’ve put the book down.

Notes on The Kindergarten Quilt Project

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The K-Quilt Project page is live! Some of you may remember the community quilt I made with my son’s kindergarten class, teachers, and room parents last school year. It was a rewarding endeavor for everyone involved and I’m thrilled to share the who-what-how of the experience. The page is full of notes on how to go about putting together your own school quilt. Just click on the link above or use the navigation bar at the top of this blog.

As always, feel free to drop me a note or post in the comments if you have questions or want to share your own project.

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