19.12.14

Scribble day


There's not been much to report of late, except that today is the start of the school break and I am over it already.  And it's hot. We have busted out the drawing things and a roll of paper and are partaking in a bit of art therapy.  I have been back to the brown paper table about two dozen times myself already today, trying to get my happy back.

However, I'm thinking Cameron might need a roll of his own.  He is a very quick and prolific doodler and is able to draw at one metre a minute, thereby muscling in on my patch of happy-making space, which is not on when I'm already snippy.


But I guess it doesn't really matter, because Sophie just scribbles all over my drawings anyway.  Her story is that she's making them 'look better'.



Hooray! - my own little editor.  What would I do without her?

10.12.14

Gingerbread houses


I remember a few years a go, I tried to put together one of those three dimensional gingerbread houses.  I didn't make the gingerbread myself, but instead bought a kit from Ikea (of all places).   I don't know why, but I stupidly picked the most hottest and clammiest day over the Christmas break to try and stick it all together.  I very quickly discovered that royal icing is rather like me in the humidity - overly temperamental and a hag to work with.  Needless to say, the two hours of effort I put into trying to recreate the magical image on the box resulted in a failure of colossal proportions, a Tupperware container full of gingerbread shards and me vowing never, ever to make another one, ever.

Fast forward five years and can you guess what I'm making?  Cameron likes to gift his classmates something every year and we were looking through my cutters and these were about as Christmas-ish as it got (besides stars, but they are ho-hum because I make them ALL the time, apparently).  So gingerbread houses were the go.  But this time, without those two extra pesky dimensions.



Anyway, check these over and spot the mistakes.  As you can see, my mad (sad) piping technique needs some work, and I'm quite sure some of Cameron's friends will be scratching their heads and thinking, what the heck are THESE supposed to be??  Cameron took great care and skill in placing on the coloured bobbles and pretty silver things, but that's where the care and skill ended, I'm afraid. 


 I think, as a cookie decorator, I make a pretty good dressmaker, or anything else for that matter. 

30.11.14

Bubble pants



If you're a regular visitor, you'd know that Sophie owns hundreds of pairs of home sewn bloomers, but I wanted to try to make some that were a bit different than her regular ones.  These are one of the test pairs I've run up, based on a pattern from this book.  I say based, as after the initial run through, some of the pattern pieces needed a bit of re-drafting, which is NOT a fault of the book, but rather somebody's round tummy.  Sewing would be a whole lot simpler if my girl was a more standard size.

I had some black linen left over from a previous project and managed to get the main pieces of the shorts cut from it (after some jiggering about).  The pockets were cut from a fat quarter of quilting cotton I bought years ago when I had a thing for spots.  Everything matched up really well, which is not always an easy thing to do when you're working from your scrap pile.


Of course, these took a bit more time than one of my standard run-them-up-in-an-hour stick-elastic-thorough-all-casings efforts, but the construction is really simple, and they look much more polished.

Actually, these took a lot longer than they should have.  Ten days, approximately.  This included the initial ones, the pattern drafting, the procrastinating, etc.  I just wasn't in the mood.  I have been having a bad run with the sewing machine of late, and have just had to get up and leave it be for days at a time.  I get phases like that.


I really love that the pockets can be made out of a scrap of eye catching fabric you might love but not have any other use for.   In addition, the pockets themselves serve as a wonderful cache for all sorts of treasures.  Sophie had been wearing them for an hour before I managed to grab the camera and take these shots.  After taking photographs, I changed her into long pants and found inside these ones some stickers, a half-eaten cracker, two buttons and a texta lid. 


I may be inclined next time to redraft the pockets (again!) into panels that extend the entire height of the shorts.  If she managed to collect that many trinkets in the space of sixty minutes, there's no telling what might end up in those pockets after wearing them for an entire day.  I would not be game to check.  Other than that, though, these are great, if you have a child-sized child (if not, it's easy enough to widen the shorts panels and pocket, and adjust the waistband and leg binding to fit).  I want a pair!


2.11.14

Another visit to Mum's...

"There is always room for more." Crayola markers, crayon, collage.

...which ended in another collage.  Not that the conversation was boring or anything, but I just woke up with busy hands.  I have days like that.
 

24.10.14

Zombie cookies



Halloween is fun, and a great excuse to make cookies.  I love cooking stuff with a theme, but when I saw the price tag on a bag of four plastic cutters, which very vaguely looked like a witch, a ghost, a cat and an I-don't-know-what-that-is,  I just about screamed.  Oh, okay, no I didn't - I mean swore.  Screaming just sounds more Halloween-ish.

But I did end up buying some mint lollies and licorice straps, and gave some boring round-shaped gingerbread cookies a makeover instead.  Here is the recipe and how-to. If you have a favourite gingerbread or shortbread recipe, you could use that instead and just use the decorating face making tips.  These go together really quick.

What you need

125g butter, softened
1/2 cup brown sugar (firmly packed)
1 egg yolk
2 1/2 cups plain flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 or 3 teaspoons of ground ginger (or none, if ginger isn't your thing)
3 tablespoons golden syrup
1/2 cup of water (you may not need all of it)
Jam
Small white mints for eyeballs (I used Jila mints)
Licorice (I used a 2 pack of 1 meter Fyna Licorice rolls, though only a tiny bit - I have about 1.95 metres left! )
Food writer (I used an Americolor Gourmet Writer) or black writing icing

To make cookies -

Preheat oven to 180 degrees celsius.  Grease and line two baking sheets with baking paper.

Sift the flour, baking soda and ground ginger into a bowl and set aside.

Using a stand mixer, cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.  Add the egg yolk, and beat well.  Gradually add the sifted dry ingredients and the golden syrup and continue to mix.  With the mixer running, gradually add the water a bit at a time, until you reach a cookie-dough-like consistency, as below.


Scoop mixture out of bowl (you should easily be able to able to press it into a big ball) and place on a roughly square sheet of baking paper.  Place another square sheet of baking paper on top of the dough, so it's sandwiched between the paper, and using a rolling pin, flatten  to a thickness of about 5mm.  (I find it easier to roll between two sheets of paper - it saves having to use flour to keep the dough from sticking to the rolling pin and the bench.  Using too much flour will make the cookie dough elasticky and affect the taste.  That's my experience, anyway).

Cut 24 rounds of approximately a six centimetre diameter, using a small glass or cup (I actually used the plastic lid from my cooking spray), and pop twelve on each cookie sheet.  You may have dough enough dough left over to make more.  

Now you need to find something you can use to indent the eye sockets.  They have to be a little bit wider than the sweets you have chosen to use as eyeballs.  The end of a marker, a piece of dowel, a small plastic bottle cap, etc.  (Whatever you use, make sure you wash it and dry it so you are not inadvertently poisoning yourself with germs or something toxic.  That's not a good trick, even if it is Halloween.)  I had a hunt through my useful box and found a wooden bead which I pressed into the cookies to make the eye sockets.


Then scoop a small amount of the jam (about an eighth of a teaspoon) into each socket to make the eye-goo.  If you get a little bit on other parts of the cookie, don't worry.  A zombie wouldn't care, so why should you?


Snip small pieces of licorice into strips, and press into the cookies to make mouths.



Pop your zombie heads into the oven for ten minutes, on the middle shelf.  That means you'll have to bake them one tray at a time.

Once out of the oven, press the eyeballs on gently.  I used these Jila mints for mine.  They are white on one side and blue on the other.  I pressed the blue side onto the sockets so all the eyeballs are white.


 As far as squoosh factor goes, a bit of jammy eye-goo squeezing out from behind the eyeballs is a good thing, but don't press them on so hard that you lose the eyeball altogether through the bottom of the cookie.  Leave them to cool on the tray for at least ten minutes so they have time to firm up.




Then using your food writer or black icing, detail the eyeballs with some wonky black pupils.  Lift them off the baking sheets with the help of a spatula or egg slice, and place them onto a wire rack to cool completely.  Store in an airtight container before using them to gross out  visitors or packing them up for the kids at school.
 

What a bunch of good-looking cookies.



Not all of them were blessed with cranky faces.  We managed to make a few smiley ones.  Because I'm sure some zombie cookies are happy with their lot in (the after-) life...

 

...even after having been stuck in the eye with a licorice stick.


These were a bit of trial run for the kids in Cameron's class.  He'll take some in his lunch tomorrow.  It's another week until Halloween, and I can see myself making another batch next week for Friday, unless I'm told not to.  They're not too over the top for nine and ten year olds, are they? You just never know these days.  I think they are sort of cute, actually, eye-goo and all.  I'm guessing that I'll sleep just fine with these sitting in my pantry tonight.  Well, I think I will.

Anyway, just in case, Happy Halloween for next Friday!  I'm sorry to say, that if you're local and you were planning to knock on my door for treats, you're all out of luck because I will be working - boooooooo (that's a sad boooo, not a scary one).  Have fun!

PS.  As the saying goes with regards to zombie cookies - eat them, before they eat you. I'm sure you've heard that one before, but I really wanted to use it.  Sorry.


18.10.14

Halloween hairband - tutorial


Halloween is almost upon us - and although it is still a fairly new tradition in  this part of the world, any holiday that endorses dressing up in costume is alright by me.  I'm still not sure about this whole trick-or-treat business, but I'm all over the dress-ups in a big way.  Actually, in a world ruled by me, everyone would be in costume every day.  It would be the law.

But I'm not so keen on those plastic, mass produced discount store costumes, nor the slackers that turn up on the front step in animal onesie pyjamas.  Some effort is needed if you are knocking at my door looking for treats.  I would rather see a kid dressed in a bed-sheet and a mask he or she made herself or wrapped up in a couple of rolls of toilet paper.  Sorry to be a hard-ass, but plastic Scream masks are just so yawn.

Halloween or not though, this is a fun dress-up accessory that the kids (and their adult helper!) can go a bit wild on.  And you will probably have to visit the discount store to get a few things, but in the end, you will have something that could look pretty schmick, totally unique, and you'll have had fun with glue and glitter and paint in the process.  What's not to love, here?

I've done a few variations here to illustrate some different ideas, but once you've made the hairband base, you'll come up with loads of ideas yourself, I'm positive.  This hairband could be adapted for all sorts of occasions - birthdays, bachelorette parties, Christmas, school plays - go wild!

First up, we'll start with the hairband base.  The instructions and materials list include what you need for one hairband.  But of course you could make several at a time.

What you need 

- Cheap plastic hairband (I found a pack of two for two dollars at my local Value Zone).
- 1 chenille stick, 30cm long.
- Sello tape or masking tape.
- Craft ribbon or bias binding - about 2 metres (the cheap stuff is fine).  Even better if you can find it, is the ribbon elastic that is use to make elastic hair-ties - being stretchy, it is much easier to work with.  But it does cost more to buy.  Your call.
- Needle and thread (the same colour as the ribbon).
- Craft glue
- Two straws.  The cheap striped paper ones are ideal.

What you do

Take your chenille stick and bend it  as shown in the diagram below, so it looks like a pair of cat ears.  Please disregard the fact that when you add up the measures in the picture, the total comes to 28 centimetres, not 30 centimetres. I think I was ripped off a couple of cee ems on my chenille sticks.  And a bit of the length is taken up in the bends.  Your chenille stick  doesn't have to be spot on measurement wise, just so long as your prongs can support the straws when you stick them on, all will be sweet.


Twist up those cat ears to make prongs.


Position your twisted chenille stick on the hairband, and stick into place with tape.


Now to wind the craft ribbon around the hairband, from one end to the other. Start my taking the ribbon and winding it tightly two or three times around one end of the hairband to anchor it.

 
Then proceed to wind around the entire band, covering the parts of the chenille stick that are taped flat against the band, but leaving the prongs free.  

 

Once you make it all the way to the end, again wind it around the band  two or three times tightly, snip the ribbon and secure with a few tight hand stitches through the ribbon (this is really the most time consuming and boring part).  Once finished, it will look like this - 


Dab on a generous amount of craft glue on each prong...


...then slide the straws on.  When you push the straws onto the prongs, a bit of glue may be pushed along with them, leaving a big glob of glue at the base of your antenna.  Wipe over gently with a lightly moistened cloth (not too wet or your straws will go soggy) to remove the glue, and leave to dry for a half hour.  Most craft glue dries clears so you won't see any that you may miss.

Once dry, the fun begins - time to decorate!  I could have gone crazy making hundreds of these, but here are just a few for ideas.

For the boys - ALIEN ANTENNA



What you need

- Two ping pong palls (again, the discount store helped out with really cheap, fake ones which are most likely useless for table tennis).
 -Black kids poster paint
 -Kindy glitter glue in colour of your choice
-Paint brush

What you do

Make some holes in your ping pong palls.  I do this by starting with a pin, and then re-piercing the same position with a thicker needle, then re-piercing again with a knitting needle, etc. finding thicker things to pierce the same spot until the hole is thick enough to accomodate the straw.  You culd try wiggling your piercing implement about, in I guess you could call a reaming movement, but very gently, otherwise the ball may split - be careful!  


Pop your ping pong balls on the end of a couple of sticks or spare straws.  Holding the stick or straw, paint with the black paint so that they are entirely covered.  Stand them up in an old cup and leave them to dry.

Once dry, give the balls two coats of  kindy glitter glue, leaving them to dry in between coats.  

Trim the straws on the headband to the length you'd like (take into account the length of straw that will be pushed into the ping pong ball, and then  gently screw the ball onto the straw.  Done.



(*Note - if you're in a hurry, and can't wait for three layers of paint to dry, you could stick on some black circles of paper, or black sticky dots to make eyeballs, like the one Sophie is wearing.)


For the girls - FAIRY ANTENNA



What you need

- Cardboard or craft foam sheet - we used silver craft foam sheet for ours.
- Craft glue.
- Star cookie cutter (or any other shape you might like)
- Pen.


What you do

Take your hairband base and trim straw to desired length.  Flatten the ends of the straws.



On the rear side of your cardboard or foam sheet, trace around the cookie cutter with pen and cut them out. You will need four shapes.


With hairband on a flat surface, place shapes right side downwards, under the straws as shown.  Cover with glue.


Place other two shapes on top of the glue covered ones and press down, sandwiching the straws between the shapes.  Leave to dry (you could put them under something heavy to make sure they dry flat).



And for the absolutely fabulous! - SHOWGIRL HEADPIECE



What you need - 

- An extra three chenille sticks
- An extra six straws
- Foam craft sheet or cardboard- 2 sheets should do it.
- Star cookie cutters, different sizes (or whatever shape you desire)
- Sello-tape or glue
- Scissors
- Pen

What you do

Now for this one, when making the hairband, shape all four chenille sticks, position them on the hairband and stick them down with tape, so your hairband looks like this:


...and then proceed to wind the ribbon around the band, keeping all the prongs free.  Then make as for the the fairy antenna, but of course, you have eight prongs to glue straws onto and stick stars on to.  I was slack here and did not sandwich the straws between two stars, but instead just taped them on.  On the rear side, you can see the straw stuck on with sellotape.  I just didn't have enough time or glittery sparkly cardboard, but if you want it to look as good from the back as it does frontways, by all means sandwich away!  I did however have enough sparkly gold cardboard to make eight smaller stars that I stuck lower down the straw to give it extra sparkle.  

Not that I think my two need any extra sparkle.



So, there you go, quick and easy, cheap and cheerful.  Good for Halloween dress ups at any time of the year.  I am particularly liking that last one for me, actually.  I could totally carry that one off daily, I think.  A world ruled by me, dressing up would be law, remember?  It looks like the Queen has found her hat.

14.10.14

I Robot.




We went shopping for some buttons today and came home with a new hat.  Sophie has been wearing it for most of the day -  she went walking in it, ate dinner in it, fell asleep in it, and has told me she will wear it when we go shopping tomorrow.  She has taken to punctuating conversations with beeps because she is a robot now, and beeping while chatting is the way that robots talk, apparently. 


And here's an another amazing fact about robots - they don't eat saladNo surprises there.  But, they do love chocolate, particularly Smarties, because eating Smarties is what makes robots so smart.  So, now you know.

10.10.14

Blouse bootcamp.


I've had a bit of a Peter Pan collar thing happening lately.  I'm not sure that Sophie is demure enough to carry off this sort of style, but I had a 'what the heck' moment and thought I'd give it another whirl anyway.  I made this top using pieces from several patterns, the back and front from one pattern, the collar from another, the sleeves from something else, making slight adjustments to the joining pieces so that everything would fit together nicely.

 

But, as usual, although I wrapped my tape measure around all of Sophie about two hundred times before I cut the fabric, fit was still an issue.  When I make something for my girl, I have to make it quick because she can grow a size overnight.  Cameron was exactly the same up until the age of five, and then weighed the same for three years as he grew lengthwise (he's nine now, and almost as tall as me).  I'm hoping Sophie will have the same period of vertical catch-up

So did it fit?  Yes!  But...was it a comfortable fit?  We decided we should put the new blouse to the test.

Firstly, some teapot action.  All good.


Then a bit of kung-fu fighting, and some quicker-than-the-human-eye Hong Kong Phooey kicks.


Next up,  an action-packed extended version (or three) of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.  Sophie likes to add her own bits to this song and the entire thing once through takes four or five minutes to sing.  It is seriously intense stuff.


Finally, some Madonna vogue-ing.


Woohoo, no ripped seams or buttons flying off - hooray!   It even got through a thank you bow.


Ta-daaaaaaaa!  Well done, blouse! 

Still though, I probably won't be making this one again, not for Sophie anyway.  She is getting less keen on the girly stuff and only agreed to model this one after being bribed with a new packet of Crayolas.  Which is a shame, because I love this sort of clothing for little girls.  I'm trying to think how I can incorporate Ninja Turtles and the world of Lego into this style of dress, but, surprise, surprise! -  I am drawing a complete blank.  Any suggestions would be welcomed.

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