Monday, December 16, 2013

Giveaway winner!

Thank you to everyone who entered my apron giveaway! It was so nice to see some action on this little blog of mine. I hope some of you had a chance to check out the rest of my blog and maybe even made the decision to hang around awhile. I absolutely loved reading all your favorite Christmas songs and the stories behind them... I was even introduced to a few new and beautiful arrangements. THANK YOU!

The winner of the Festive Christmas Apron was.... drumroll please...

Nanbon44 who said: I like Rocking around the Christmas tree and Jingle bell Rock.... But one fave is Silver Bells, two of my best friends and I went to a record your song booth and sang that song, it was so much fun and a great memory for us. 

Congrats! I've already contacted the winner for her address and will be shipping out her apron today so that she can use it before Christmas!



How are your Christmas preparations coming along? I am like a busy elf this week, trying to pick up some last minute gifts, get our cards sent out, make treats for my husband's work peeps and maybe make a couple more handmade gifts. We'll see. :)

I am super excited for Christmas this year, as it will be my daughter's first. I can't wait for her to open gifts (she LOVES paper!), play in the SNOW for the first time, and marvel at the lights on the beautiful Christmas tree. Such a special time. Plus, I am so thrilled to see family and spend lots and lots of quality time with them.

I had a couple more recipes and posts I wanted to do before Christmas, but they will only happen if I have time... if not this year, then they will definitely show up next year, haha! :)

Hope you are all having a wonderful December.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Giveaway Day!

I decided to participate in Sew Mama Sew's bi-annual Giveaway Day! I did in May 2011 and haven't since then, but it was so much fun I just couldn't miss it again. 

If you are visiting from Sew Mama Sew... welcome! I hope you have a chance to poke around my blog and that you see something you like here. If you would like to follow my blog (I love followers!), there is a link on the right to follow through Bloglovin'... or feel free to follow via the blog reader of your choice. If you are already one of my followers or just happened upon my blog this week, then today is your lucky day! 

festive holiday apron

I am giving away a festive holiday apron. I used the tutorial for the Flirty Apron by The Dating Divas. The pattern was pretty simple and one of the cutest free apron patterns I found, but the instructions are not quite as detailed as many that I have used. Also, the over-the-head loop was a bit long for me, but I fixed it by adding a cute bow on a safety pin to adjust it to whatever length fits best for you. The fabrics are from my stash. 

festive holiday apron

If the pure festive-ness of the color scheme makes your eyes hurt, you can thank the 1970's, because the fabric was originally purchased then by my mom to make spice ropes. Truly. Check the link. Anyway, I think we can all agree that this would be the perfect apron in which to bake Christmas cookies with the family or to prepare Christmas dinner. You will be so festive you won't know what to do with yourself! 

Truly, the colors are much nicer in real life. I was having trouble getting a good picture, especially in winter lighting. And the lay-it-out-on-the-floor-and-take-a-picture-from-above method worked much better than the model-it-myself-and-try-to-take-a-selfie method.

festive holiday apron

So how can you win? 
Just leave a comment on this post answering the following question: 
What is your favorite holiday song?
(stories or explanations are encouraged but not required!)

Only one comment per person!

This giveaway is open to anyone, even my international friends - you don't even have to be a blogger or a crafter to enter! All I ask is that you PLEASE leave a way for me to contact you in your comment. If your email is attached to your Blogger profile, that's great, otherwise please leave an email address in the comment [if concerned about spam, please leave it in the name(at)email(dot)com format]. If I have no way to contact you, I'll will have to pick a different winner! Please don't make me do that!

The giveaway will be open from now until Friday, December 13 (Friday the 13th!!) at 7pm CST. After that time, I will randomly draw and announce one winner and then contact them to find out where to send the prize.

So glad you came to visit me... GOOD LUCK!! :)

Also, you should definitely click the button below to check out the Giveaway Day list over at Sew Mama Sew... There are hundreds of giveaways for you to enter this week, so have fun!

http://www.sewmamasew.com/2013/12/giveaway-day-handmade-items/

Friday, December 6, 2013

{No bake} Chistmas Party Treats - Mint Rounds

Greetings from icy Dallas! We'll have to see if this storm stands up to our 2011 Super Bowl disaster...

Anyway, I have a treat for you today! For a couple Christmases I ran "A Week of {no bake} Christmas Party Treats" but last year I cancelled due to being pregnant and, well... unmotivated. This year, although I don't think I'll be doing a whole week, I do have a few new no-bake recipes to share with you! (if you have any good recommendations for me, let me know!)

mint rounds

Today we are making Mint Rounds! They are deliciously minty chocolate covered cookies with a sprinkling of candy cane crunchies on top. So good. They remind me of Thin Mints. Mint and chocolate is about the best flavor combination out there, don't you think? (Well, in addition to chocolate/peanut butter and chocolate/caramel, and well... chocolate!)

The best thing about these cookies is that they are SO EASY to make. I whipped up a batch in about 20 minutes during my baby's afternoon nap yesterday. 

Here's what you need to make your own:
  • Ritz crackers
  • Wilton dark cocoa candy melts
  • Peppermint essential oil (NOT peppermint flavoring)
  • Crushed candy canes

mint rounds

First, crush your candy canes. My method is to put a few candy canes in a ziploc bag and then pound them with a crab mallet. Yes, I did that. Haha. Anyway, use whatever kitchen tool works best for you. A rolling pin can work as well.

mint rounds

Now, melt your chocolate. The easiest way is to put the candy melts in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave it in 30 second increments, stirring in between. It took less than a minute and a half for my chocolate to melt, but it might vary based on your microwave. Just watch it closely.

mint rounds

When the chocolate is melted, add 10 drops of peppermint oil. I bought mine at Whole Foods a few years ago to make peppermint foot scrub. Really, it will last forever because you only need a tiny amount. Stir in the peppermint oil.

mint rounds

Now, dip each cracker into the chocolate. Use a pair of tongs to tap the extra chocolate off and then lay the cookie onto a fresh sheet of parchment paper or waxed paper. (I recommend parchment, it's one of my favorite kitchen tools these days!)

mint rounds

mint rounds

Now just sprinkle some crushed candy cane on top of your cookies, and you are done!

mint rounds

Delicious!

mint rounds

One bag of chocolate candy melts will make about 3 dozen cookies. I used a whole roll of Ritz crackers which had 33(?) crackers and had a tiny bit of chocolate left over. If you want to make more, just melt some more chocolate!

mint rounds

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

snappy christmas dress

Hi all! Hope you had a great Thanksgiving! Can you believe that we're already smack dab in the middle of the holiday season? I can't either. 
Anyway, speaking of holidays, I already made my baby girl a fun Christmas dress. More of a party dress than a church-y dress, and definitely adorable! It is the Snappy Toddler Top from the blog Pretty Prudent (previously Prudent Baby). The pattern is a free download (gotta love those free patterns!) and it was pretty easy to sew up.

snappy christmas dress

For one thing, I learned how to attach snaps! Mostly easy but not foolproof. Make sure those buggers are lined up correctly before you pound them together! Otherwise they will be a pain in the you-know-what to get apart again, and you may even end up damaging your fabric. I had a couple close calls, but all worked out in the end. I will definitely be adding snaps to future projects, though. They give such a nice, finished look.

I made my own bias tape to use for the trim. Bias tape is my new favorite thing to make these days! It makes me feel so accomplished. I thought it would be hard to do, but it is really not! I use the bias tape tutorial from MADE and it is seriously so easy!

snappy christmas dress

Also, I made a bow to match the dress using the DIY Fabric Bow Tutorial from the blog Lula Louise. Very easy and turned out super cute and professional looking! I attached the bow to a piece of foldover elastic from JoAnn and it is good to go. Any recommendations for a good source of foldover elastic? JoAnn doesn't carry the colors I need and the elastic is a little too wide for my taste. Still cute, though.

I printed and sewed the pattern at 100% to make the 12-18 month size. It is a bit snug on my 9 month old daughter, especially in the arm and chest area. She has been in the 90-95th percentile since birth, so I guess I shouldn't be surprised, but she is wearing 12 month clothing so I thought it would work. The beauty of a holiday dress, though, is that it doesn't have to last very long. I just need to be able to squeeze her into it for another three weeks (3 weeks, you guys... yikes!!).

snappy christmas dress

I sewed up a second dress for my friend's baby who has a December birthday, so I was able to make a couple tweaks to my process that I would recommend if you decide to sew this pattern. Firstly, I scaled the size up a bit (hopefully enough so that it will fit properly!). Also, even though the pattern says to attach the snaps in the beginning, I would wait until the dress is completely sewed. It is super hard to sew cleanly around the collar piece when the snaps are in the way. Just keep in my my note above about attaching snaps! Finally, when gathering the front dress piece to tuck into the collar piece, gather another inch or two on each side of the marks on the pattern, otherwise it won't fit into the collar piece opening.

Oh yes, fabrics! I used Michael Miller Yule Critter in Aqua for the main piece and Michael Miller Ta Dot in Berry for the trim. Ordered from Etsy.

snappy christmas dress

Hope your holiday preparations are going smoothly! (And no, I don't recommend letting your baby eat leaves!!)

Thursday, November 21, 2013

21. Volunteer my time for a good cause

Well, it is hard to get out and volunteer with a baby, no question there. So my time put to a good cause is a little different than you might expect.

I have had a wonderful experience with breastfeeding my daughter. I know this can turn into a touchy topic. But it has worked out for me and I've been loving it. Anyway. Before I decided to stay home with my daughter, we had a daycare picked out and lined up for her. The week after she was born, I began pumping to build up a stash of milk for daycare and continued daily, usually twice a day. When she was almost three months old and we made the decision for me to stay home, I had a lot of milk stored up. It seemed silly to feed her the milk in a bottle when I was with her all day, so I started looking for a place to donate my milk.

I found a local milk bank that pasteurizes the milk and then distributes it to sick and premature babies. I have been donating milk since my daughter was 3 months old and up to now have donated over 1,100 ounces. Each ounce can provide two or three feedings for a premature infant, so I know that what I am doing is saving lives.

I pumped twice daily for a long while and am now pumping once per day. It is quite a time commitment as each session takes me almost 30 minutes. I use some milk to mix my daughter's oatmeal cereal and she has had some (very infrequent) bottles, but the majority of it has been to donate. When I get tired or annoyed of pumping, I just think of the good I am doing and keep on going.

So that is how I am volunteering my time. I know some people are grossed out or are not comfortable talking about things like milk donation, but for me it has been nothing but good. I urge you to please consider this option if you ever have the opportunity. I am proud of how long I have kept up and will continue for as long as I am able. 


Monday, November 18, 2013

reversible wrap top with kitty embroidery

I am sure you are all biting your nails in anticipation to see how the project I told you about last week finally turned out! I'm happy to tell you that even after a bit of a rough start, I finished it and it is perfectly adorable!

reversible wrap top with kitty embroidery

Is this not the cutest thing you have ever seen?

reversible wrap top with kitty embroidery

I couldn't bring myself to embroider another butterfly (something about doing the same thing twice, I guess), so I decided to embroider a kitty face on it. I might love it even more. (Both the butterfly and the kitty embroidery patterns are from the book Sublime Stitching by Jenny Hart - she has a website and blog too!) I have never really done hand embroidery before, but this seemed like the perfect project in which to try it out, because it is reversible, so it is lined and the backside of the embroidery (read: threads and knots and general messiness) is hidden completely between the two layers of fabric.

reversible wrap top with kitty embroidery

The floral fabric was from my grandmother's (or great-grandmother's?) stash. I'm guessing it is from the 50s or maybe 60s. Either way, it is just lovely. Part of it was stained, so there was just enough for this little top for my cutie. The lavendar fabric is just a solid quilting fabric from JoAnn.

reversible wrap top with kitty embroidery

The pattern was super easy to follow. I love, love, love it. Especially the flutter sleeves. I might just sew everything with flutter sleeves from here on out. Kidding. But not completely. The hardest part for me was folding under the bottom of the shirt to hem it because for some reason my fabric didn't line up perfectly. I'll be cutting more carefully next time.

reversible wrap top with kitty emroidery

Yes, I said next time. Because there certainly will be a next time. I sewed the 12-24m month size for my daughter and the pattern also comes in size 2-3t and 4-5t. I knew that it ran small, but I was still hoping it would last until spring (she is not quite 9 months, but is rather on the big side). Unfortunately, I don't think it will last that long, so I'll sew her the next size up in the spring.

reversible wrap top with kitty embroidery

I'm a little bit sad to say this, but I think it looks cuter on the hanger than on my baby. Firstly, it is a little small-ish and secondly, it rides up when she is sitting. When I hold her up to help her stand, it lies much nicer, but since she is not very close to standing or walking on her own, it just looks bunchy. I would recommend sewing this pattern for a child who can stand. Oh well, it is still super cute. 

More projects coming up! Has anyone started sewing for the holidays yet? I need to get on it soon!!

Monday, November 11, 2013

a lesson learned

So the other day my husband and I were having an argument discussion about my crafting needs. I was about to order some lovely new fabric to sew a dress for my baby, and he thought I should be able to use fabric I already have.

Now, I do have quite a fabric stash. The problem is, most of it is either from the remnant bin at JoAnn's or is old fabric from my Grandmother's stash... so most of the pieces are too small (even for baby clothing) or do not coordinate at all. And for some reason, hubby is under the impression that hoarding fabric is much worse hoarding rusty scooter parts off eBay. We won't get into that here, but I say to each his own.

Anyway. I decided to follow his advice (!!) and make a cute top for baby using fabric I already have. I cut my pieces and then before I sewed them up, decided to do some hand embroidery on the fabric first. I embroidered a beautiful butterfly and was so excited about my finished product.

hand embroidered butterfly

However, when I went to sew the pieces together, I realized that the piece with the embroidery had shrunk terribly. I had pre-washed the fabric, so I thought it would be fine, but it must have shrunk when I ironed the embroidery pattern to the fabric. Boo. It was remnant bin fabric and must not have been 100% cotton.  I ended up having to run to JoAnn's to buy new fabric for my project after all.

Moral of the story:
My view: A special project deserves special fabric. Don't settle for less. :)
My husband's view: Check your fabric before you use it, dummy.

Also, now I am stuck with this lovely embroidered butterfly. Any suggestions on what I can do with it? Is there some project I can sew it onto? Ideas are welcome!!!

Monday, November 4, 2013

granny square update

The squares are done! All 120 of them.

granny squares

Whew.

Now I just need to figure out how to attach them to each other and make a blanket. Shouldn't be too hard, right? I'm sure there's a tutorial out there. Any recommendations for the best way to do this would be greatly appreciated!!

This granny square blanket is part of my 30 before 30 goal list. Three years sounded like an awfully long time to get all these things done, but here it is, nearing my 30th birthday and I'll be lucky if half of them are completed. 

granny squares

Of course it makes me a little sad that I'm not going to be able to complete it on time, but I'm going to focus on the good and realize that this little goal list has helped me accomplish a lot of fun things that I might not have otherwise done. And I will still refer to it and keep ticking off projects as I finish them... slowly but surely.

Now back to my squares!

granny squares

Friday, November 1, 2013

Happy (late) Halloween!

Happy Halloween from my little Cabbage Patch doll!

Cabbage Patch doll Halloween costume

Even though I'm a day late, I just had to share a picture because she is tooo cute!

I had so much fun with this costume... I've been planning it for years. Honestly. Ever since I first started using Pinterest. I was just lucky to have a girlie at the perfect age to be a Cabbage Patch doll this year!

I made the hair using a pattern I purchased off Etsy, here. Basically, I had to crochet a hat (which I've never done before!) then attach the hair and style it. It isn't perfect, but I think that's what makes it so cute!

For the shirt, I found an image of the Cabbage Patch logo online and then printed it onto some iron-on transfer paper I found at Michaels. Cut it out, ironed it on, and I was done!

I just want to squeeze her!!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

pillowcase dresses for craft hope

It makes me feel so good to be able to use my crafting talents for others, so last week I sewed a couple pillowcase dresses for Craft Hope.

pillowcase dresses for craft hope

You may remember my other projects (a sock monkey and aprons) that I have made for Craft Hope in the past. Craft Hope is an organization that distributes handmade items to people in need. Every few months a new project is posted on their blog. The current project is in cooperation with a charity called Sew Gorgeous that distributes simple pillowcase dresses to little girls in developing countries. These girls often have no decent clothing and to have something new and pretty to wear means so much to them.

pillowcase dress for craft hope

I used the pillowcase dress tutorial from Sew Like My Mom. It was super easy to follow. The fabric and ribbon was from my stash.

If you'd like to participate, the deadline for this project is November 8, so you still have enough time to whip up a couple dresses! 

pillowcase dresses for craft hope

I hope that these dresses make a couple little girls feel extra special and loved.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

denim olivia dress

I did it again... I just couldn't help myself and I had to make another Olivia dress for my daughter. {Olivia Dress by Craftiness is Not Optional... see my first Olivia dress here}

denim olivia dress

This time I made the sleeveless version in denim. It sewed up soo much faster since it was the second time around. I can honestly say I made the whole dress in one day! Can't believe that but it's true - during 2 short naps and the rest after my daughter's bedtime. Of course, didn't get much of anything else done that day... oh well, haha!

denim olivia dress

The cute mother-of-pearl star buttons are from my antique button collection. They have 2-way box shanks and are most likely from the mid to late 19th century. Yes, I'm that crazy button lady who actually does research. At first I didn't know if I should use antique buttons on a dress for my baby, but then I decided that she's totally worth it, and I think the buttons really make the dress! (Plus I still have two more of the same in my collection, haha.) Makes me wonder who else has worn the same buttons over the years and how many different pieces of clothing they have been sewn on.

denim olivia dress

I picked denim because it matches everything and it really does! I can pair it with tights or leggings or any color socks. She can wear a long-sleeved shirt or onesie underneath like a jumper and it looks super cute with a colored cardigan. Just wish she wouldn't grow quite so fast so that she can wear this for longer.

Oh well... if she grows out of it, I guess I will just have to make another. Darn. :)

denim olivia dress   

[Linking this project up to Kid's Clothes Week... a happy timing coincidence this time, but you can be sure that I will be sewing like mad during the next KCW!]

Monday, October 21, 2013

i love fall

I love fall. Have I ever mentioned that? (Oh yes, I guess I have... here and here and here.) No matter. It is different every year.

I'm still trying to get used to fall in Texas. It is certainly not as beautiful as fall in the midwest... the leaves change later or not at all, but I do still look forward to the cooler weather. It really makes me feel human again after a long, sweaty Texas summer. 


I haven't mentioned on here until now, but when my daughter was three months old, my husband and I had a long discussion and decided that I would be a stay-at-home-mom. At least while she is little. I feel so silly saying this, but it is HARD! I know working outside the home with a baby or children must be very difficult too, so I am in no way saying this is harder, just that it is way harder than I ever expected. I thought it would be a cake walk. I'd have time to crochet and sew and spend time outdoors, and plenty of time to play with a happy baby, and of course no trouble keeping the house clean and shopping for food and supplies and baking a beautiful healthy supper to put on the table each night. I'll just tell you right now... NOT ENOUGH TIME IN A DAY!! What was I thinking? I can't even go to the bathroom without a screaming baby in the background, let alone clean and cook... and hobbies??! what are they???! 

When you are a SAHM, there is just so much more pressure to be "perfect" and to get everything done. When I was working, if we went out to eat a couple nights instead of making dinner, or I didn't get around to vacuuming for longer than a week, or if we we were low on toiletries for a few days, or whatever, it was no big deal because we both had full-time jobs and we couldn't do it all. The thing is, taking care of a baby IS a full-time job, but people who don't do it all day just don't realize it (that's why daycare costs so much, dude!). Moms - ALL moms, whether they work outside the home or stay home with your kids - need to cut themselves some slack, because our job is 24-7. And that is hard no matter what.

Anyway, I'm happy to tell you that I have finally gotten into something of a groove... though it took a good 6 or 7 months to do. I really don't know if it is my daughter's age, or the change in season or what, but it feels good. I have a schedule for cleaning and cooking that I rarely veer from. I try not to stress if something doesn't get done. I have gotten back to crafting (after baby's bedtime, of course!). We get out of the house almost every day. Life is good.

That is not to say I won't be thrown curveballs here and there. Life with a child is never predictable and things are always changing. But I am trying to roll with the punches. And man, this beautiful weather helps so much!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

perfect caramel brownies

Ok, let's talk about brownie language. Not love language, but brownie language (though it's perfectly understandable for the two to be confused). Some people's brownie language is cake-like, others prefer nutty, still others like brownies with frosting and some might even like theirs crunchy. My brownie language is chewy, gooey, chocolatey and caramel-y. These brownies have my brownie language written all over them.

My mom has been making these brownies for years (even before Pinterest if you can believe that, haha) and I just can't get enough of them. I know there are already a million different caramel brownie recipes out there, but this one is so good that I just have to share. I'm not even afraid to call them the perfect. caramel. brownies.

perfect caramel brownies

To start with, you only need 5 ingredients! Can't beat that! [disclaimer: If you prefer to add nuts, you will actually need 6 ingredients... remember to be true to your brownie language!]
perfect caramel brownies

Ingredients:
  • 1 box Devil's Food cake mix
  • 1 bag caramels (you can use caramel bits like I did (so easy!), or the little wrapped square caramels - be sure to unwrap!!)
  • 1 - 5oz. can evaporated milk
  • 3/4 cup melted butter or margarine
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • 1 cup nuts (optional)

perfect caramel brownies

First preheat your oven to 350° F. Start by melting your caramels over the stove on low heat along with 1/3 cup of the evaporated milk, stirring occasionally. This is approximately half of the can of evaporated milk. Be sure to save the rest for the next step!
perfect caramel brownies

Once your caramel is melted, keep it on warm over the stove for a few minutes while we attend to other matters.
perfect caramel brownies

Now, mix the cake mix with the melted butter (or margarine) and the rest of the evaporated milk (~1/3 cup), stirring until moist.
perfect caramel brownies

Grease and flour a 9x13" pan (annoying, I know, but you'll be glad you did it!) and then add half of your batter mixture. It won't seem like enough and you'll have to spread it out thin with a spoon to cover the pan, but I promise it will all work out in the end!
perfect caramel brownies

Now, pop that pan in your preheated oven for 6-8 minutes. It will just start baking and begin to puff up.
perfect caramel brownies

Sprinkle the chocolate chips on top of the mixture. 1 cup is recommended, but I find that more is always better. Remember your brownie language!
perfect caramel brownies

Then pour the melted caramel over the chocolate chips. You'll probably need to carefully spread this to the edges with a spoon or a knife. Looking good... can't go wrong here!

Ok, now this is the kind-of-messy part. You need to dollop the remaining batter on top of the caramel by small spoonfuls. You can use a spoon or you can butter up your hands and make flat little patties of dough to set on top. I've done it both ways, but this time it was really too sticky to do by hand. Just make sure that none of your batter "islands" is too thick. It will spread out during baking, but you still want it spread out over the caramel as evenly as possible. Here's what my brownies looked like at this point:

perfect caramel brownies

Now, just pop it back into the oven for another 15-18 minutes, and you're golden! 

A word to the wise: These brownies are waaay better after they have cooled. I will not stop you from eating them straight out of the oven (I still do the same thing, even though I know better). But they will cut nicer and be much yummier after they have cooled and firmed up a bit.

Enjoy!! :)

perfect caramel brownies

Perfect Caramel Brownies

Ingredients:
  • 1 box Devil's Food cake mix
  • 1 bag caramels
  • 1 - 5oz. can evaporated milk
  • 3/4 cup melted butter or margarine
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • 1 cup nuts (optional)
Melt caramels with 1/3 cup evaporated milk over low heat; keep warm. Mix cake mix with butter/margarine and remaining (1/3 cup) evaporated milk. Stir until moist. Spread half of mixture in greased and floured 9x13" pan. Bake at 350° F for 6-8 minutes. Remove and sprinkle with chocolate chips and half of the nuts. Spread caramel over all. Drop remaining cake batter by teaspoonfuls onto the caramel. Sprinkle with remaining nuts. Bake an additional 15-18 minutes. 

 perfect caramel brownies