Monday, May 31, 2010

Birthday Outfit. Fin.

I was hoping to finish these little shorts yesterday, but Rylee decided not to nap, then to wake up early, then to be a whiny barnacle, then to cut short today's nap...

Oh well!

Here's the bottoms for the spun-sugar birthday top.

I forgot to mention in the first post that I made them both as-is from Simplicity 4203. I was in the creative slump of a lifetime and just couldn't muster any ideas for modifications. With the exception of sewing a dummy button on the shorts.

Because how delicious is this button?

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Birthday Craftapaloza


A nice long nap from my sugar plum yielded the top half of her birthday outfit. She slept so long, in fact, that I probably could have finished the shorts. But I also need to - you know - take pictures and blog the progress. And the little hot pink shorts will probably take 30 minutes, tops.

A bit more tiny confection than I normally make. But if a girl can't feel fancy on her 2nd birthday, well when can she feel fancy? It needs a quick pass with the iron, but you can get the flavor of fancy here.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Start. Stop. Start again.

Last fall I started dabbling in making things to sell. I bought WAY too much fabric, so much of it the wrong kind, in a ridiculous variety. I had one disastrous fair, one good fair and a few friends/family and two stranger sales in an Etsy shop that I let sputter to a halt right after Christmas.

I've been trying to decide whether or not to get back into it. I have no delusions that I will ever make a major going concern out of ANYTHING I do with my hands. I'm just not that talented. It would be more of a hobby that generated a little cash if everything went well.

So I've decided to make another go of it. Ideally I will learn from my mistakes and put a little more thought and planning into deciding what fabrics to buy and what types of things to make. I'm going to try a few more fairs with my good friend Hazelmoonfly who is MUCH more talented and creative. We'll see how that goes.

Etsy is tougher because there you either make things ready-to-ship (necessitating taking a billion photos and using up fabric on things people might not buy) or listing custom items (necessitating larger fabric purchases and one sample in Rylee's size). I'm going to try the 2nd route for now.

Here's the starting line-up. I have enough to make 2-5 items in each of these. Monkeys sold really well the first go round...

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Lee wins, I lose

Bummer. By the closest margin yet (25 to 26) I lost this year's American Idol Home Game. One lousy point. I put Aaron way too high - counting on the tweeners to text him through -- and Crystal a little bit too low. I figured she would go home about 4th or 5th since that's when talent usually goes home on this show.


The worst part is, I lost the series 3-2.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The best part is, they're fat free!

Strawberry Lemon Cake

White Felt
Hot Pink Felt
Yellow Felt
Several hours of TV time
Reading Glasses

I got the tea set itself done. Two more of these, a chocolate cake and two heart cakes and the felt present is complete! They're both easier and more time consuming than I thought.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Simple Rylee Tunic, Take Two

The 2nd tunic I sewed up last night fit MUCH better. I was able to finish the neckline before we left for our gadding today. Unfortunately my model was in a less cooperative mood.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Getting on with it

After Wednesday's whine I looked over a bunch of patterns to try to decide what to make for Rylee's birthday. I spent one hour doing this and did not arrive at a decision. More of the same.

So I decided today was the day to get back on the horse, one way or another. I was determined to sew something, anything.  And it ended up being this:

It's vegbee's peasant top lengthened to a dress with Kitschy Coo's double elastic neckline modification. Because coming up with my own ideas or - heaven forbid - following a big-four pattern was beyond my capability.

Rylee cooperated by taking a decent two-hour nap. The downside is I did the length and the neckline by guessing. It was about 3" too long and too big through the chest and neck. I shortened it and took in the elastic a little bit. It's still too big but I've been wanting a simple shift to pull over her when we come in from swimming. There's usually only an hour before her bath and it's a pain to get her dressed all over again. It works for that.

I made a few changes and sewed up another one. This time I didn't finish the neckline (duh!) and I'll try it on her tomorrow.

Hoping this is the boot to the behind I needed. And besides, a busy mommy needs something comfy.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Somebody get this thing off me!

I'm currently being crushed by a heavy weight, pressed down and completely immobilized. It presses down my shoulders, rendering me an inert lump. I shackles my hands, keeping me from cutting, pinning, drafting or sewing.

What is it?

It's the overwhelming volume of all the ideas I have right now. There are so many that I can't focus on any one at a time. It's sewing ADD.

I want to sew-along with the Cool Girls Club, but I'm pretty sure I need a full-bust adjustment on my t-shirt. Throw that on the to-do pile. I'm trying to think of patterns that will sell, so that gets slapped on, too.

Rylee has very few things sewn by me, in spite of all the sewing hoopla I've whipped up around me. But what should I make for her? I'd love to make everything she wears, where to start? I want to copy about everything I put on her these days so add those half-baked ideas to the heap. I have four or five patterns that aren't even opened. Should I sew them as is? Alter them? What fabrics anyway?

Not that this indecisiveness keeps me from buying fabrics. Oh, no. Must keep buying everything that strikes my fancy! And have those fabrics sit and say "What shall we do together?" And take sewing classes because they're "free" (included) and that loads me up with ideas.

And I sit and do...Not. One. Thing.

This is so not me. I'm a planner, a list-maker, a doer and executer. Steps one through five, I get them done and move on. I'm bold, decisive. Franklin Planner in hand, I bang out those to-do items.

I can blame sleep deprivation for at least some of it. Higher order mental skills are the first to go, or so I hear. But I wonder sometimes if something is fundamentally changed by all this SAHM business.Or maybe just the mom business. Can I get it back? Do I want it back? Maybe just some of it?

And so it goes...

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

November, December, January and February showers bring

An insane number of buds on our saguaro this year. I can't wait until this fully blossoms!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Cool Girl T-shirt, second muslin

One day late for the final and I'm still on my second draft. It's sewn up without neckband or hemming. Alas and alack. And oh well.

This one was actually worth sewing up, although there are still a few things wrong with it. These pictures were very difficult to get because a) Eric is not the world's greatest photographer to begin with and it didn't help that b) he couldn't stop giggling about the face detection finding...the "armholes" But I soldier on.

Here's the plain front view. Not a bad fit, but not the nicest t-shirt in my closet, either. I think the armholes are too low. The first ones were too high so I'm a bit at a loss...

It also feels like the ease that is in the t-shirt at the armhole should be in the sleeve and not the shirt itself. Even with the wrinkle it's pulling majorly under the armpit. Maybe getting the armhole correct would fix that? 

Arms-up reveals how the armholes are a little weird and something going on in the shoulders. I'm not enough of a seamstress to know what other than "those shoulders sure look lumpy!" I think maybe they're too wide?

At the very least I'm going to redraft the sleeves, because I lost an inch at the opening when I squared the corners and did the curves. They fit now, but I'm afraid they will be a bit tight when I roll them under for a hem.

Oh, and more pleased than ever with the haircut because this dire styling is from washing it, combing it and then going swimming twice without combing it. Not bad!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Bob's Your Uncle

Today was the pampering day: Facial, pedicure and haircut. An effort to feel like a normal person who is something more than Mommy. Particularly timely since in the last four weeks Rylee has slept through the night precisely twice (until 6 and 5:30).

But I was feeling pretty sleek with my new, short hair. So I put on my Cool Girl skirt muslin (not shown) and dressed Rylee in her butterfly Kitschy Coo mini-mod dress (which makes such a cool sundress that I'm planning on making at least a dozen more).

Found some open-toed shoes to display my fancy toes, which are polished about once every five years.

And grabbed my two favorite dates.

We ate someplace with candles, dimmed lighting and a kids' menu. (I'm going to write a book someday and the title will be "Two, with a highchair"). The meal lasted over an hour and Rylee was good the whole time. Cause for celebration indeed.

Friday, May 14, 2010


Tomorrow's agenda:

10:45 - Facial
12:00 - Pedicure
2:00 - Cut and lite

I'm finally spending the gift certificate Eric got me for Christmas 2008. That's the kind of mommy guilt that haunts my days.

Can't wait!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Here goes nothing, version 2

I'm a little more encouraged, because this one doesn't look quite so odd.

After re-checking my measurements it turns out I had the measurement from high shoulder point to waist wrong by about four inches. I'm not sure what I did wrong when taking it the first time. So we'll see how this one goes. I'll probably try to sew a muslin from it tomorrow. I hope Amanda doesn't reduce a full grade for late work. :)

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Being productive while wasting time

My fabric stash has been niggling at me, partly because it's so full of random junk that I'm not sure where to even start with sorting out projects. So I sat in front of American Idol tonight and finally organized it.

Here are the categories:
1. Stuff I have plans for (smallest pile)
2. Fat quarters and scraps about that big or slightly bigger
3. Blenders
4. Prints I think might sell and I have enough for one project
5. Prints I think might sell and I have enough for multiple projects
6. Knits
7. Twill
8. I have no idea what I'm going to do with this but I like it
9. Why the heck did I ever buy this?
10. Fabric already cut up for crayon rolls and reusable sandwich bags
11. Specialty fabrics
12. Cold weather fabric, I'll deal with it later (a very small pile) 
13. Christmas/seasonal

Not kidding. Those are the actual categories. My planning and organizing muscle is so gone right now...  At least it's better than three big bins of everything.

And if Crystal doesn't go home next week I'm definitely going to lose our home game. I had greater faith than was justified that tweens would vote for Aaron. Poop.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Cool Girl T-shirt, first attempt

There are no photos for this post, because my first attempt at a T-shirt muslin was so pathetic that I didn't even bother to sew it together. A pinned together version told the sad, sorry tale. And that tale goes a little something like this.

1. I forgot to add ease. I forgot for my skirt, too, but I took my measurements generously enough that it didn't matter.
2. I made the armhole too small. I measured my t-shirts like she said and when I drafted that size it just looked so weird. So I made it smaller. Turns out weird would at least fit!
3. It was too short. The length I measured failed to take into account the lumps and bumps that would pull the shirt up.
4. I need to quit pretending I'm not as fat as I am and just use the measurements I come up with, no matter how sad I am looking at the pattern pieces.

I should be able to try again this week. I don't know if I'll make the deadline for my final shirt, but I should for my muslin at least!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Sewing machine class, lessons learned

I took the 2nd of the two "free" classes for my sewing machine today. I say "free" in big, fat scare quotes because Costco has virtually the same machine for 1/3 what I paid at The Official Sewing Ladies Spend Your Life Savings Store. I did not know that when I purchased it, so I'm wringing as much "free" stuff out as I can.

Here's my take-home paper, ready to proudly display on the fridge.

And I learned

1. All about bobbin thread and how it will make decorative stitching much nicer. And also that they sell it right there at the store where I took the class!

2. Stabilizer is necessary for decorative stitching. It comes in several types. And also that they sell it right there at the store where I took the class!

3. Twin needles are super fun, although some stitches are better suited for it than others. And some old biddies need LOTS of reminders to adjust stitch width to keep from breaking off twin needles. And also that they sell twin needles at the store where I took the class!

4. Wing needles are not that scary and also that they sell them right there at the store where I took the class! But I didn't buy one this time, because I was afraid of something like this:

Wing Needle: WhoOOOOooo hooooo
Lynn: What's that?
WN: It's me, your wing needle. The one you bought at the "free" class.
Lynn: What do you want?
WN: Shouldn't we be doing all kinds of cool things? Get on the stick, lady!
Lynn: Look, Wing Needle, get off my back. I don't need it from you, too.

Because in spite of all this new knowledge I still don't really feel like sewing. I cleaned off the kitchen island (cutting and thinking space) today, though, so I'm hoping that will improve.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

We interrupt this blog deal with projectile vomiting caused by swallowing too much pool water. Ta!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Lazy Fare How-To: Mise En Place

Almost done with my trashy vampire novel, so how about a post that might be useful?

First, please notice the title and see how truly clever I am. Drop the "i" from faire, removing the suspicion that I misspelled Laissez. End up with a much cuter wordplay description of the kind of party throwing I'd like to teach. So from now on these how-tos will officially be part of the Lazy Fare (TM) approach to party planning.

First up! Mise en place. What is it? Why would you want to do it? And what's the Lazy Fare way?

Mise en place: What
A fancy French term that literally means "put in place." If you've ever watched any cooking show and observed each ingredient in its own little bowl that's mise en place. In fact, each ingredient in its own container is hard-core mise en place and decidedly not lazy fare. It's preparing all your ingredients ahead of time, before you begin any cooking and/or mixing together.

Mise en place: Why
There are a number of reasons for doing mise en place, depending on what you are trying to accomplish. We'll set aside why the pros do it, since if you're a professional chef you're not going to learn much from me. So why might you want to do this as part of party planning or even for everyday cooking?
  1. It makes recipe preparation much faster by "batching" the type of work you're doing. Despite what we're told, multi-tasking is bad. By being in either "prep mode" or "cooking mode" you work more efficiently.
  2. It allows for quicker assembly and cooking times. This is different from #1 because here I'm talking about the actual time you spend cooking the final dish. If you're having a multi-course dinner party you will almost certainly have to prepare at least one dish during the party. You can jet into the kitchen for 10 minutes to assemble something if all the prep is done up front. For everyday cooking, it allows you to have a meal all prepped and ready for cooking. I have more time to prep earlier in the day and dinner time is always frantic. Some people even do their prep after dinner for the next day. At the very least you get a fresher dinner on the table in less time.
  3. It lowers your stress while you're cooking (see multi-tasking is bad above).
  4. It allows you to bunch up prep across multiple dishes (dinner party) or meals (weekly meal prep). This is really a variation on #1, but I'm on a list making roll. It's much easier and faster to slice 5 onions one time than one onion 5 times. Not to mention, why clean-up more times than you have to?
  5. When people ask what you're doing you can affect a snooty french look and say "Why, I'm doing my mise en place of course." Bonus points if you act shocked that they even have to ask.
Mise en place: (Lazy fare) How
The most straight-forward mise en place is what you see on most cooking shows: every ingredient in its own little container. But unless you have a staff doing this for you it's way more work than you need. You can get all the benefits with a streamlined version.

Lazy fare = doing the least amount of work for the best possible finished dish. And here I'm actually distinguishing between the kind of work you do standing on your feet in the kitchen and the kind you can do sitting in front of the TV or over coffee and bagels (Eric's and my favorite party planning activity). We want to minimize the first kind by doing more of the second kind. But still the least possible amount of both. Lazy, remember?

I'm going to use Alton Brown's Guacamole recipe for this example because it's yummy, lends itself well to demonstrating what I'm talking about and I made it last weekend for a Cinco de Mayo party so I have pictures.

The recipe is here: Alton's Guacamole Recipe. I'm pasting the text at the end of this post just in case they move the link. It might be useful to have a copy of the recipe in a 2nd browser tab while you read through this. If you're hardcore go ahead and print it and mark it up.

Step 1: Read the entire recipe through at least once.

Step 2:  No really. Read the entire recipe through at least once. 
I'm not kidding about this and I'll wait while you do it.... looo dee dooo...done? Good. I used to think that cooking was something everyone could do, because I've been doing it since I was about 8 or 9. Then I watched The Worst Cooks in America and realized that a lot of people don't learn how to cook when they are kids. The number one mistake I saw these rookie cooks make was to just plunge into the recipe without reading it all the way through. It's not a good idea even if you're not doing mise and it's impossible to do mise without reading it all the way through.

Step 3: Group the ingredients together based on the steps in the recipe
This is the lazy fare part of it. For regular mise en place you would just prep all the ingredients in the list, one by one. That's usually a waste of effort and dishes.

Here are the groups from Alton's recipe:
  • Avocado
  • lime juice
  • salt, cumin, and cayenne
  • onions, tomatoes, cilantro, and garlic
Step 4: Start preparing the groups of ingredients, working from the "bottom" of the recipe up
I try to dirty as few bowls as I can in this process, which means I usually have one of the groups prepared in the bowl, pan or pot that I plan to use for the final mixing and/or cooking. In this case I would prep the avocados in the bowl I served the dip in. And I would prep those last since it's step one of my recipe. i.e. once I had the other three groups prepped I would just start following the recipe. If you're doing your mise  with the intention of preparing the final dish at a later time you could use any container for the "main" group.

I also like to do the prep work in the order that is least likely to cross-contaminate, either with germs or just flavors. So plain veggies first, then stinky veggies, then raw meat. I don't have to worry as much about my knives that way. (I don't worry at all about my cutting boards because ours are color coded by food type, but that's a neurosis for another day).

For this recipe I cut all the veggies into a single bowl, measured the spices into a separate bowl and squeezed the limes into a third bowl. That was my entire mise. I then peeled the avocados as I started mixing the dish.

So I had this

Step 5: Assembly!
Which should now be easy, peasy. This assembly took less than 5 minutes.


For a future post: Doing your mise en place for several recipes at a time.



Recipe courtesy Alton Brown

Prep Time: 20 min
Inactive Prep Time: 1 hr 0 min
Cook Time:--
Level: Easy
Serves: 1 batch


  • 3 Haas avocados, halved, seeded and peeled
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1/2 medium onion, diced
  • 2 Roma tomatoes, seeded and diced
  • 1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
  • 1 clove garlic, minced


In a large bowl place the scooped avocado pulp and lime juice, toss to coat. Drain, and reserve the lime juice, after all of the avocados have been coated. Using a potato masher add the salt, cumin, and cayenne and mash. Then, fold in the onions, tomatoes, cilantro, and garlic. Add 1 tablespoon of the reserved lime juice. Let sit at room temperature for 1 hour and then serve.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Good and bad reasons to have nothing to say

I got three hours of sleep last night. The night also included a 70-minute "discussion" with my daughter where I told her to lie down and she screamed at me.

And this is now on my ipod.

Talk to you tomorrow...

Monday, May 3, 2010

Entertaining, the lazy faire way

No, that's not a misspelling. I'm not talking about laissez-faire as in fancy economic theory with a fancy French name. It's just my silly franglish label for doing the least possible amount of work to get the best possible results. In my previous life it would have been phrased "If you want something done efficiently, assign it to a lazy programmer."

When I started this blog I had hopes that I could pass on some information that someone, somewhere might find even marginally useful. Since goodness knows I know jack-all about sewing I figured I could talk about what people say I do well. Namely, throw fabo parties. I even wrote a post all about The Zone of Effortless Entertaining

And haven't written a word about it since. But I've been mulling and thinking and have decided two things:

1. Effortless Entertaining, although beautifully alliterative, is not the correct description.Because seriously fantastic parties require serious amounts of work. I really mean low stress, freak-out free, ulcer-less, sans meltdown, with all your hair intact and the same number of gray as you started. Yeah? Ok.

2. I can't do that in a single post. In fact, I can barely talk about doing it in a single post. This started out as a post about mise en place and four paras in I'm still explaining what I'm going to say. So I changed the title and we'll mise tomorrow.

Here's what I propose to do. I'll spend some more time wrapping my pea-brain around what it is that makes a low-stress party. At this point Eric and I have done these enough times that I have to actually think about what it is we do. And sleep-deprivation has lowered my IQ by enough points that my planning skills are currently between bright golden retriever and dull chimp. There will be dredging involved.

With the pea-wrapping underway, and with the help of a ridiculous amount of written materials left over from party days I'll start putting together a few posts here and there that cover the main ideas. And I'll even try to make some of them relevant to everyday, regular cooking and meal planning (see mise en place tomorrow). 'Cause I used to be able to do that, too, and maybe it would also be useful. And then once the posts are in place I'll write something to sort of tie them all together and walk you through throwing a party people will talk about for years.

And maybe share some funny, silly stories like the time we got a red-meat-avoider to request veal.

That was at this party.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

When a fabric and a child are a match made in heaven

Not counting a few outfits 10+ years ago, a prom dress I did with my mom and a few Halloween costumes, I've really only been sewing for a few months. This is my favorite thing I've sewn so far. I hoarded the fabric just for one of Rylee's buddies because, well, if you knew her you'd know. And if you see the fabric, you know her.  I finally got around to asking her mom if it was ok to post the picture.

So, the most awesome chicken fabric ever on the most awesome silly little chicken I know.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Quail Watch: Day 2

I think I found where the quail are roosting and I'm pleased to report it's a very secure spot in the back of our yard. The bush they were under today is so dense that they can't be attacked from above by the (many) hawks and owls in the area.

When they were on the move today I tried to get another picture but mama quite literally got her feathers ruffled. And I don't want to make a mama afraid or worried for her babies.

Will keep trying, though.