Monday, June 28, 2010

Independent Whales

The Fourth of July has never been on my list of favorite holidays.  I don't know why.  I do like parades and BBQs and a couple of fireworks, though.  I also dig the red, white, and blue color scheme.  I was at the hardware store a week or so ago and spotted a display of patriotic-colored bandanas and was overcome with a desire to celebrate my independence through craft.  Something about those bandanas just inspired the patriot in me!  How does the saying go? "As American as bandanas."  Or maybe it's apple pie.  Anyhow, here's what I came up with:

What's that?  Never heard of a patriotic whale before?  It's no majestic bald eagle and I know they're not usually (or ever) associated with Independence Day - but whales are darn cute! Besides, if I had a pet whale you can bet I'd name him Old Glory.  That's a great name for such a massive creature that's been around forever and has a loooong lifespan.  Plus, it's close to Old Faithful (the geyser) and that's reminiscent of whales with their blowholes and whatnot.  So, you see, it just takes a tiny stretch of the imagination to accept the idea of whales as a patriotic theme.

If you're still having trouble with the concept remember that this is America and I'm free to choose ANY animal as my 4th of July mascot without fear of persecution.  Let freedom ring!!  Before I get carried away, let's see some more cute whales.

Get it?  He's so patriotic that he's spouting fireworks!!  I must give credit to whoever designed my daughter's jammies because I pretty much used them to create the whale template.  So, thank you to the designer for Carter's who came up with the purple whale jammies.  Basically, I traced the whale shape onto some fusible web and then used the bandanas as my fabric.  I machine stitched around the edges and then embroidered the facial features and spouting fireworks. 

The white shirt is my favorite and it'll be the one Susannah wears to the parade on Sunday.  I had to add that star to cover up the emroidered teapot that was there when I bought it.  I had the hardest time finding a plain white shirt! 

            These Magical Years

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Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Crochet. Amigurumi Style.

I'm improving my crochet skills over here and I think I'm getting addicted to the craft.  I've got a long list of projects I want to try and once I finish one I start scheming what to crochet next!  Here's what I completed a couple of days ago.

It's a belated graduation gift for my nextdoor neighbor.  Do you like how I posed him in front of our collection of Peanuts paperbacks?  Very scholarly, indeed.  Actually, my Dad saw these photos posted on my Facebook page and thought I had made a penguin.  Really?  The wise old penguin, eh?  Either way, it's cute and here's the link for this Amigurumi Graduation Owl from Lion Brand Yarn.

I also finished this little guy and gave him to my step dad for Father's Day (along with a Starbuck's gift card, of course). 

It's the first project I've attempted from the book that enticed me into learning more about this craft of hooks and yarn and intimidating pattern directions - Ana Paula Rimoli's Amigurumi World:  Seriously Cute Crochet.  The pattern in the book is for a mug of cafe con leche but I altered mine a bit because I didn't want to go out and buy a light brown yarn when I already had a perfectly tea-colored dark brown yarn.  So, a mug of hot tea it is.  Until I gave it away as a father's day gift, at which point it became a mug of coffee.  It's a very versatile specimen.

Here's another mug shot to give you a better representation of its actual size - which greatly affects the cuteness factor:

 Life in the Pitts

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Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Summertime Tutorial for Sunflower Cupcakes

Our pacific northwest June gloom is beginning to give way to actual sunshine and warm weather and it's putting me in a very summery mood!  Awhile back I made these sunflower cupcakes for my husband's birthday and summer feels like the appropriate time to post a tutorial for them.  This is my version of the quite popular sunflower cupcake.  (Just do a Google image search for "sunflower cupcake" and you'll see what I mean.) 

You'll need:
some cooled cupcakes (duh!)
some yellow frosting (I used Betty Crocker cream cheese flavor and added some yellow food coloring)
a pastry bag
#98 ruffle decorating tip 
#30 closed star decorating tip
oreo cookies (one for each cupcake)

Separate the oreo cookies.  Use a dab of frosting to secure half of the oreo (the half without the white filling stuff) to the very top of the cupcake.  Do with the other half what you will - eat it, share it, toss it out - because you won't be needing it for the cupcakes.

Attach the #98 ruffle decorating tip to your pastry bag and fill the bag with delicious yellow frosting.  I am no expert so I had to look up what the names of these decorating tips were.  In case your have a simliar culinary education, I've taken a photo of the tips I used.  The one I'm refering to for this step is the crescent-shaped tip with the teeth on one side.

With the teeth side down (facing the counter) pipe the first layer of frosting petals around the cupcake.  Begin at the oreo cookie and gently squeeze the frosting out while moving the pastry bag towards you and down.  Stop just as the petal is hanging over the edge of the cupcake.  This might sound a little tricky but you'll learn that it just takes a couple of practice petals to find your squeezing and squirting rhythm.

Get ready to make the second layer of petals with the same crescent-shaped tip.  This time the teeth should be facing up.  Each petal of this second layer should be between two petals of the first layer.  See the photo for Perfect Petal Placement (PPP).  Just like last time, begin at the oreo cookie and gently squeeze the frosting out while moving the pastry bag towards you and down.  Stop just at the edge of the cupcake (this layer of petals is not as long and droopy as the first layer).

Switch your decorating tip to the star shape for the last layer of petals.  This time, begin on the outer edge of the oreo cookie and between two petals of the previous row.  Gently squeeze the frosting out while moving the pastry bag towards you and slightly up.  I thought of it as "kissing" the frosting onto the oreo and that helped me to get the shape I was going for.  I probably even made little kissing sounds, but that's not required.

You should now have three layers of frosting petals. 

You're done with your first sunflower cupcake! You will get in the groove and your technique will improve with each successive sunflower.  Just two morsels of advice before I go.  First, make sure to refrigerate the cupcakes until serving time so the frosting doesn't start to droop.  Second, be prepared for a top-heavy cupcake.  All that frosting really weighs them down and they'll flip right over and splat onto the counter if you don't pick them up accordingly.

I'd love to see some photos if you give these a try!


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Thursday, June 10, 2010

This Skirt Will Fit Her Next Year, Too.

Measure twice, cut once.  I swear I adhered to that motto this time but the skirt is, once again, too long for my child!  This same phenomenon occured with the St. Patrick's Day skirt I made back in March.  Looking at the bright side, though, it's still cute and she can wear it for a loooong time before she outgrows it.  Maybe "third time's a charm" will be the motto that holds true in my case.  At any rate, here's the skirt:

I followed this excellent Split Twirl Skirt tutorial that I found at Crap I've Made.  If you're not familiar with this blog already, check it out now while you're thinking about's a gem dahling.

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Friday, June 4, 2010

Child's Oven Mitt - Cookin' Up Some FUN!

Okay, I hope the birthday girl (she's going to be 8 years old) thinks this is as neat as I do!  I found a tutorial for a child-sized oven mitt at Skip to My Lou.  It was super easy and I've decided that every apron I make should now be accompanied by a coordinating oven mitt.  Back to the subject at hand (that's a sneaky pun so I put it in itallics).  I made this cute oven mitt:

I stuffed it full of some baking implements that I found at a kitchen store.  Yup.  That's a cat face on the spatula and a smiley face on the spoon!  I also included a set of colorful measuring cups, a cute little recipe box with matching recipe cards, and a package of peanut butter morsels.  She'd better bake me some cookies as a "thank you!"

I never buy gift bags but I always have a bunch of them left over from gifts that Susannah has gotten.  I found a bag that matches one of the pinwheels I made so many of a month ago.  It never hurts to accessorize your gift bag!

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Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Bean Bags for Craft Hope

I did get these bean bags finished and shipped off by the deadline (May 15th, I think it was) but I'm just now getting around to sharing them.  Craft Hope's "Project 7" was (and maybe still is) making bean bags for the Liberia Orphan Education Project (LEOP).  They requested bean bags with letters, numbers, shapes, or colors - I chose numbers.

At first I made bean bags for numbers 0-9.  Then I decided to put a math spin on the project by making corresponding dot beanbags, some math symbols ( +, =, -) and some extra numbers.  Observe:

I ended up with quite a few bean bags.   

I fashioned a nice drawstring bag and stuffed them all in.  Then I shipped them off to Craft Hope!  Shipping costs were minimal, though, because they couldn't be stuffed with anything perishable because of customs, so I used polyester fiber fill - super light and fluffy!  They're more like pillows than bean bags, actually!

SYS Thurs

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