Wednesday, March 30, 2011

I think I may have found my new favorite cookie recipe

I found this while I was doing my daily "random blog read" and thought these looked amazing!
I'm definitely going to have to try making these this weekend.

Chocolate Clouds
  • 3 egg whites, at room temperature
  • 1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons HERSHEY'S Cocoa
  • 12-oz. pkg. HERSHEY'S Special Dark Chocolate Chips or HERSHEY'S Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips
1. Heat oven to 300°F.

2. Beat egg whites and cream of tartar in large bowl at high speed of mixer until soft peaks form. Gradually add sugar and vanilla, beating well after each addition until stiff peaks hold, sugar is dissolved and mixture is glossy. Sift cocoa onto egg white mixture; gently fold just until combined. Fold in chocolate chips. Drop mixture by heaping tablespoons onto prepared cookie sheet.

3. Bake 35 to 45 minutes or just until dry. Cool slightly; peel paper from cookies. Cool completely on wire rack. Store, covered, at room temperature. Makes about 30 cookies.


On April 5, I will be going without shoes for One Day Without Shoes. It might be cold, it'll probably be uncomfortable, and my feet will certainly get dirty, but by doing so, I’ll help raise awareness of the impact a simple pair of shoes can bring to a child’s life. 
One Day Without Shoes is an annual event hosted by TOMS Shoes in which students, friends, parents, strangers, and co-workers host or participate in events without shoes. Some go without shoes for an hour, some for the whole day, but all become a part of a greater movement toward change. 

Did you know most children in developing countries grow up barefoot? Did you know some children walk without shoes for miles each day, and they can often not attend school without proper footwear? In Ethiopia, approximately 1 million people are suffering from a debilitating disease called podoconiosis, which is 100% preventable with basic hygiene and shoes.
Oklahoma State Senators Andrew Rice and Steve Russell joined us by declaring One Day Without Shoes a state-recognized holiday. In their suits and ties, they kicked off their shoes and inspired their fellow State senators to participate.

If you could change the lives of children with a simple gesture, would you do for one day what millions do everyday? 

This April 5, please lead by example by going barefoot, and help by spreading the word to be a part of One Day Without Shoes.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

I'm lost...

I feel naked today. I forgot my phone at home and it has ALL my pictures from this weekend on it. There aren't a lot but I am excited to show you all that I started on my ridiculously hard blanket.
It looks pretty ok so far but I'm hoping my fabric will quit shifting and line up better before I finish it. Not to mention I hope I can learn to sew a little straighter so my lines aren't so wobbly haha. I'm not too worried about it though. It's my first one so who knows. I'm just glad I started it and haven't quit on it yet. 
Yesterday (and still today) I had a horrible head ache so I stayed at home and folded laundry (yawn) and laid on the couch with Groucho. I went to class for a little bit to turn in a project then dropped off our taxes (which I still can't get filed until we get Derek's W2's from his old employer). I'm doing our meal planning for this week and next so I can go get some groceries. I can't wait to get our tax money back so we can have a little extra $ in the bank. Growing up sucks. Derek is leaving on Friday to go to Texas for the final 4 basketball whatever. I'm not a fan of basketball or the fact that it's on our television at all times of the day so I'm actually glad he's getting out of the house so it can be quiet and I don't have to worry about Stratton picking up the bad habit of yelling four letter obscenities at the television.

Hope everyone had a wonderful weekend. Pictures coming soon I promise!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Eating Soup When You're 2

Friday Confessions

I confess that when I don't see updates on my favorite kind of ruins my morning. (not really, but still)

I confess that I haven't been able to sleep without my cat and my kid for the last 3 nights. Derek has been staying up late and I hate having an empty bed next to me.

I confess I had a good laugh this morning because yesterday at Elizabeth Taylor's funeral, it started 15 minuets late. I find this funny because one of her requests before she died was "she even wanted to be late for her own funeral."

I confess I once stole a seashell from my preschool when I was like 3 and felt so bad about it I buried it in my backyard. I also took a couple of plastic envelopes but took them back the next day and told my teacher I would never do it ever again...and I have never stolen anything ever again.

I confess I can't wait to go to hobby lobby today and look for fabric for the blanket I want to make. Oh and get some art supplies. 

I confess I want to go home and lay in the bathtub and hide from the rest of the world today.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Why do I do this to myself?

I always find the hardest projects that I can and I fall in love with them. Then I take any spare time that I don't have and try to make this project. Well...I've done it again. I don't know if it's the fact that I had a blanket that I sucked my thumb with until I was like 10...but I love blankets. Big, soft, warm, comfy blankets. I found this tutorial online today and I want to make this SO bad. It looks like a lot of work and a lot of hours trying to figure out how to do all of the different steps but I think this will be my summer project once school is out and I don't have to do 12 hours a painting each week. I think I'll be making a stop by the fabric section when I go by Hobby Lobby tonight. I found the tutorial here. I can't wait to start on it. If only I had another baby on the way I could make it for them. Guess I'll just have to make a pink one and blue one and hope for the best. Just kidding.

Enjoy the tutorial!

Amount of fabric needed:
You need 4-5 different fabrics for this blanket. One fabric is going to be the "back" and the other 3 or 4 fabrics will make the fuzzy "front". I say 4-5 fabrics because you can use 3 OR 4 on the front side, it doesn't matter. I've made blankets with both and they both turned out great. It's simply a preference of how many colors you want to show up on the chenille side.
You need appx 1 yard to 1/1 4 yards of each fabric. If you want a perfectly square blanket, do 1 1/4 yards of each fabric (which makes a 45 x 45 square). If you're going with fabric in your stash and only have 1 yard of your favorite fabric, just use 1 yard and you'll have a cute rectangle. Again, I've done both sizes and you'll be happy either way. For the blanket in this tutorial, I used 1 1/8 yards of each. No rhyme or reason, just what I was feeling that day.

Also note: the fabrics will shift a bit as you're sewing, so you'll end up losing a few inches all the way around once you trim the finished edges.

Types of fabric:
For the back fabric you can use any sort of cotton, flannel, corduroy, or other soft fabric. Cotton-weight or heavier works best. Avoid fabrics with stretch.

For the chenille fabrics, you need woven fabrics that will fray easily at the edges; the fraying is what creates the faux chenille look. The best fabrics to use are:
* 100% Cotton
* Linen (or linen/cotton blend)
* Flannel (which is typically 100% cotton)
Aesthetic Nest also has a great tutorial for these blankets, using flannel instead of cotton. Check out her beautiful pictures and info HERE.

Most importantly, you want to stay away from polyester and other synthetic fabrics since they tend not to fray, especially when cut on the bias, which is what you'll be doing here. You may be tempted to get a poly/cotton blend for some of your chenille layers, but don't do it! You'll be disappointed.
I used 100% cotton for all the fabrics in this tutorial.

Price of Fabrics:
Your back layer is the one that will really show, so if you're going to pay for a cool printed fabric, spend your money there. For the other layers, only bits of each fabric will show, so don't worry about pricey prints (I spend $2-$3/yard on these fabrics). Choose fabrics with color shades you'd like to see on the chenille side, since all you'll really notice is the color and not the detailed print of these fabrics. I like to use my darkest color on the bottom of the chenille layers because it looks nice when you cut the layers. If you choose a printed fabric, look for those with small-scale patterns (mini dots, flowers, calico prints, etc)

Here's my stack of fabrics, all purchased at Joann Fabrics:
The colorful print is for the back; the four 100% cotton solids are for the faux chenille front.
Note: I did not pre-wash/dry my fabrics since they will be washed a few times when finished sewing and it will be fine if they shrink up together. But if your good sewing practices are eating away at you on this, go ahead and wash/dry before getting starting.

Okay, let's layer the fabrics. Lay the "back" fabric face down and then lay the bottom of the chenille fabrics on top of that. My solid colored fabrics don't have a wrong or a right side, but if your fabric does, I usually lay the bottom layer of chenille face down, just like the Back fabric because it will curl up and show the colored/printed edges a bit better (this will make more sense later when you wash the blanket). Then, I lay the other chenille layers face up.
I'm working outside on our driveway here because I'm using a temporary spray adhesive to hold the fabrics together and no matter how careful I am, some of the spray gets on the ground and on my fingers. So definitely work outside. This step is optional, but it helps keep the fabrics from extreme shifting while you sew.

So, use a temporary craft adhesive, such as Craft Bond to hold the layers together. This will wash out later.
With your first two fabrics on top of each other, pull back some of the pink fabric and spray the Back fabric with Craft Bond. Then fold the pink back over and smooth it out with your hands. Try to make it as smooth as possible, with each fabric layer you add. But don't stress over it; there may be slight bubbles or folds here or there.
Pull back the other side of the pink fabric, spray the Back fabric and lay the pink fabric back on top, smoothing it out. It's easiest to do half of each fabric at a time, rather than trying to spray and lay the entire piece of fabric at once and smoothing it out.
Continue layering, spraying, and smoothing out the other fabrics,
until you have them all layered, in one heavy stack:
To keep the fabric from shifting even more while sewing, I pin the layers together in various spots throughout with safety pins:
Okay, to make the chenille side, you're going to sew diagonal lines, appx 1/2 inch apart from each other across the entire back of the blanket.

You want to mark the center diagonal of your blanket and start sewing in the center first and then work you way out. If you start at one of the corners, it's unlikely that your diagonal lines will evenly hit the center corners when you actually get there.
Use a piece of yarn or string and pull it from one corner to the other, to create a straight line. Use a fabric marker and ruler to draw the line all the way across. If you don't have a fabric marker, you can use straight pins to create a line and then remove them one by one as you sew.
And now you're ready to sew!
Pick appropriate thread colors for the Back and the chenille sides. They will both show up. I prefer a thread that blends with the fabrics, so it hides any mistakes or wonky lines.

You want to sew on the BACK fabric and not the chenille fabrics. This is important.
As you sew line after line after line, the fabrics will shift a bit. It's almost impossible to avoid (even with the spray adhesive and safety pins). There are times that you will get small folds or bunching in the chenille side fabrics and this is okay. It won't matter very much when you start cutting your chenille lines. So, it's best to do the nicer sewing on the side that will show: the Back side.
Now, without even thinking about it I choose a fabric that has diagonal lines all the way across, which makes this sewing super easy. But, it makes it harder to show you the steps for this tutorial. So, I'm going to use a small swatch of fabrics here for the next few steps and go back to the colorful blanket later.

Here's my new set of fabrics. The red is the back fabric and there are 3 chenille fabrics underneath:
I marked a diagonal line across the middle:
And sewed my first line right down the middle, all the way across that diagonal line:
Looks like this:
Then, start sewing parallel diagonal lines next to the first line. You can space them however far apart you want, as long as you're consistent with each line. But I've found that 1/2 inch apart looks best and helps the chenille fabric fray and curl up the best. So, use your presser foot to guide you when sewing each line. I also had to shift the position of my needle over to get a full 1/2 inch from my presser foot edge. Use a ruler to measure if you're not sure where a 1/2 inch is.
Continue sewing lines all the way across, to both corners and listen to good music to break up the monotony.
When you're done sewing, it should look like this!
Small note: I don't cut any of the strings off of each line when I'm done sewing. I just do it all at the end, so I don't have to keep stopping and cutting.
Okay, back to my big other blanket here. This is what it looks like. Lots of pretty lines on white fabric:
Of course, the shifting fabric created some folds and bubbles, so don't worry if yours does the same. It will work out in the end!
Time to CUT.
You can use a special chenille cutter for this (Aesthetic Nest shows one in her tutorial). I couldn't find one at my local fabric shop and was antsy to get started, so I just used scissors.
Now, this step is not tricky, but you do need to be careful that you don't poke through the Back side of the fabric.

Slip your scissors under the top chenille fabric layers (all 3 or 4 of them, whatever you used) and cut down the middle of each line. DO NOT cut the Back fabric layer.
It will look like this. Pretty fabric colors peeking out.
Continue cutting down the middle of each line. This is a good time turn on your favorite show or peppy music in the background.
When you get to a spot where the fabric is folded over, just cut over the folds and them trim any jagged edges.
And now time to expose my big problem area. I was sewing along, feeling confident about my blanket. And since there are diagonal lines printed on my fabric I thought, huh....I'll just skip ahead and sew a diagonal line farther down and then fill in the gap with my lines. You know, playing sewing games with myself to break up the monotony of the lines. Well, dumb. When I filled in the gap with my diagonal lines, the fabric had shifted and totally bunched up in one spot where I sewed that rogue line. See that middle line down there that looks wonky? Dumb dumb dumb. Well, in the end, after washing/drying it actually looks okay, but it made the cutting process more difficult.
The layers on those two lines were super folded and bunched and I could hardly get my scissors through. Look at the horrible cutting job:
AND, I cut TWO HOLES in the back fabric. Ugh. But I came up with a easy fix solution! Here's what you do.....
Cut a piece of fabric slightly larger than the hole. Make sure it's fabric that matches the pattern where the hole is (of course I didn't have any extra fabric, so I had to go back to Joanns for 1/8 of a yard. Might be wise to buy a bit extra the first time around if you foresee yourself as a hole cutter)
Use a fusible webbing (such as Heat N Bond or Wonder Under) to attach the fabric to the blanket. I first tried simply folding the edges under and not using webbing but it was too bulky.

So, iron the webbing on to the back side of the fabric:
Peel off the paper and trim the excess fabric.
It's going to fit real nice over that spot.
Lay it on top of the hole and iron it in place. Fusible webbing is like a small layer of plastic that actually fuses to both sides of the fabric and holds them together. It will not wash off and is usually used for applique work.
Finally, sew the piece in place. I cut the patch piece just as wide as the width of two diagonal lines on my blanket, so I could sew the edges down right over the lines I originally sewed. Do not sew horizontally across the bottom ends, or it will crush the chenille layers on the other side. The fusible webbing will keep the edges from fraying.
And the hole is fixed! You can't even tell it was there (which is why I don't have a photo to show you).

Okay, all the lines are cut and it's time to even out the edges of your blanket.
There will be shifted edges of fabric hanging over on each side. So use a rotary cutter or scissors to trim the edges and make sure the sides are even.
What I find easiest is to use scissors to do a quick eye-ball trim, just to get the bulky stuff off.
Then I use my rotary cutter to fine-tune the edges and make them look really nice.
And here's the trimmed blanket:
You can leave your corners square or make them rounded, as Aesthetic Nest did. I'm in love with her idea! So, use a plate or round object to mark curves around each corner and trim the edge.
Your blanket should look like this:
Phew. Still with me? We're almost done! We just need to add the binding.

You have a few options here. You can make your own binding or bias tape, or purchase the pre-packaged stuff. For Lucy's baby blanket, I made a wide 3 inch binding of faux fur fabric.
If you don't want to make your own, you can buy various bindings at the store. Mostly they're solid in color and either satin or poly/cotton. I used two packages of 1 inch wide, double-fold, poly/cotton bias tape. I thought the teal would be a fun color contrast with the white:
With bias tape, one side is slightly wider than the other. You want to use the wider side on the underside of whatever you're sewing, so you make sure you get an even sewing all the way around (so there aren't any holes)
Sandwich the binding around the edge of the blanket and pin it in place.
Ease it around each curve:
And when you get to the end, overlap the binding a bit (it shouldn't fray, since it's a poly/cotton cut on the bias - fabrics fray less when cut on the bias)
And then sew the binding down, close to the edge.
You may get a few puckers in the corners which you can try to smooth out with your finger nail.
Okay, the big final payoff!!
Throw that blanket in the washing machine and dyer and when it comes should look like this:
Lines of curled up, soft chenille layers.
If the layers aren't fraying up as nicely as you'd like, try washing/drying it a few more times. Of course, the fraying really depends on the fabrics used. So always stick with 100% cotton, linen, or other wovens that fray easily.
And if you were delirious from cutting all those lines, you may have missed a line or two. Whoops:
Just pick off the binding in those two spots, cut all the way down the line, and sew the binding back on. And you're done! Congratulations!