The Two and a Half Year Dress

Oh man, I am excited. I had been working on a couple of form-fitting dresses when I found out I was pregnant with Ken. Those dresses quickly got put on the back-burner due to my increasing belly. And due to the copious amounts of pizza I consumed during pregnancy, I wasn’t in a hurry to finish the dresses.

So they sat in a bag in my sewing room for about two and a half years. Scared, I opened the bag in March, just to assess the situation. How much had I gotten done? Are they even worth finishing?

The dress(es) in question were from this pattern – Simplicity 3835.

You might remember I already made this dress in purple in August of 2009 and entered it into the Iowa State Fair. 

I had plans to make three more dresses – the long version – because I loved it SO MUCH. So, two of the dresses were 90% and 60% done. Two really good things happened, 1. I had already installed both of the zippers (hard part over!) and 2. THE DRESS FIT!!!

I finally finished one of them last night, here are the results:

Pockets!!!

So excited. I found this fabric in my mom’s quilt stash. And there wasn’t enough, so the next time she saw the fabric dealer at a quilt show, she got more. Did I mention that my mom has fantastic taste in fabrics? If you’re wondering, the fabric is by Stephanie Brandenburg and you can buy her other designs here (or at Fern Hill in the beautiful Amana Colonies in Iowa).

Hopefully I’ll get the other one finished next week and get some photos up. OWLS :-)

I try to eat healthy like 90% of the time (that’s a lie, I really aim for 75%). I’m not anti-carb by any means, but I don’t eat a ton of bread/pasta/rice etc anymore (don’t worry, I go off on cupcake binges every other month).

With that said, I decided this winter that I wanted  bread maker. If I’m going to eat bread, I want to be able to pronounce all of the ingredients. But I certainly wan’t going to pay retail for one. Who knows how much I’d use it? So my loving husband found me one at a garage sale for $10 (isn’t he the best?!).

I’ve never made bread before. And I feel like I’ve had a lot of baking disasters this year, so I was nervous to make a loaf. It seemed too easy. You just throw the ingredients in the machine and three hours later, it’s done?

First loaf, I am happy with the results.

Yup, it tasted just as good as it looked!

So, now we’re going to work our way through this recipe book. Up next is a BACON bread.

You may or may not have noticed that my posts are far and few between. I’m sorry. I’m working on it. I’m having a hard time juggling Ken, Brian, work, working out – and attempting to keep a (semi) clean house. I am currently working my way through some projects I started right before I found out I was pregnant with Ken, now that I can fit into the patterns, I might as well finish them, huh?

But Brian has been doing some crafty things. He really went above and beyond with this project – he turned a used Burley bike trailer into a cargo trailer, with minimal effort (or $$$).

Homemade Bird Feeders

We’ve been spending a lot of time outdoors now that spring is here, well, that and it’s like 70 degrees every day (awesome). Ken has taken a liking to chasing birds around the yard, and we have taken a liking to watching Ken chase the birdies. He runs after them, yelling “hiiiii birdie!” with his arms out, like a mummy.

We need more birds.

We stopped at our local Ace Hardware for some other stuff, and they have a generous display of bird food to purchase by the pound. So we filled a bag with the most generic one they had (hey, so if you know anything about birds and bird food, please do tell). It cost us a whooping $1.50.

The Ingredients

What you need:

  • Bird food (bird feed?)
  • Spatula
  • Peanut Butter
  • Toilet Paper tubes (or pine cones or whatever)

Spread the peanut butter on the tube, roll in bird seed.

Come on birdies!

Hang in a tree for the birdies to enjoy.

We shall see tonight if this milkshake brings the birds to the yard.

Be a Band Geek!

Happy 28th Birthday, Ashley!

So, my bestie from college, Ashley, could give Pippa Middleton a run for her money at party planning. For her 28th birthday, she hosted a High School Reunion themed party – in honor of 28 being 10 years past high school. She asked that all attendees dress in their favorite high school stereotype. [You might remember Ashley from The Rubiks Cube Cake]

I was really torn as to how I should dress. Should I just show up in clothes I wore in high school? Na, that doesn’t really scream anything other than “Ginny!” (which doesn’t work when attending a party with people you hardly know and see once a year). Cheerleader was out, that was Ashley’s thing. Football player, sure I’ve got the jerseys, but that’s not creative. Finally, the night before I was leaving to go out of town, I decided on my costume: A Band Geek.

Now, we aren’t spending $ this year. So my costume had to be stuff I already have, or stuff I could fasten out of stuff I already have. I had two inspirations.
1. Ken, who has taken a liking to wearing bowls and plastic containers as hats.
2. The Waukee Warrior Regiment, and their beautiful hat plumes

Let’s get started.

What you’ll need:

Band Hat Ingredients

1. Plastic Container. I chose Country Crock, CoolWhip would also work great
2. Hot Glue Gun
3. Fabric scraps, solid colors work great. I used t-shirt sleeves.
4. Scissors
5. Pen, Paper
6. Sequins, beads, stringed embellishments
7. Feathers. Lots and lots of feathers.
8. [not pictured] A brooch or giant button

First things first, plug in that hot glue gun. Make sure you have it in an outlet that works. Just a little tip from me to you, this alone will save you a half hour of frantic “OMG MY HOT GLUE GUN DOESNT WORK!”

Next, trace around the bottom of the butter container. Cut yourself a piece of fabric to this size. Set it aside. If you’re using a knit fabric, cut a piece to use as a strap under your chin. Cut it so that it’s stretchy enough to get on and off – this isn’t an exact science. Cut a piece that is like 15 inches long also set it aside for later.

Take a larger piece of fabric and wrap the container. I used a t-shirt sleeve, and it was large enough to just fit the size of the container with minimal extra. I folded the extra and glued it to itself. Fold excess fabric into the hat and have fun gluing. No one will see this part, so do what you need to do to get it to stick.

Next, turn the hat over and glue down the top. I didn’t get an exact photo of this. Just fold and glue it down. Then, take your round piece of fabric, and glue it OVER the ugly part. I got excited and also glued on my embellishments, but you get the idea. See, no uglyness! Now is also the time to glue on any other stringed embellishments you want around your hat. Do it now, before you glue the feathers on.

Up next is my favorite part: The Plume

So, there should be a seam on the side of your hat. We’re going to cover it with feathers. Starting at the top of the hat, glue your feathers on one by one, from the top of the hat, down to the middle. Be generous. You want your plume to shine.

Once you get your feathers on, pin on your ugly brooch. I used this nice gold one. Pin it at the bottom of the feathers, to cover up the uglyness that comes along with hot glue and feathers. You know what I’m talking about.

I’ve also glued on a neck strap. Just more t-shirt scraps. Once I had the hat all decorated, I glued on one end of the strap. Once the glue was set, I held the hat on my head with one hand, and played around until I figured out where to glue the other side of the strap – the catch is being able to get the hat on and off WITH the strap glued on. It’s totally doable. Don’t make it too tight or too loose.

The rest of my costume consisted of black pants and a blazer (Thanx Lindsay!!!), a recorder, black socks and graduation tassels. I was going to wear white socks in spite of my old band director, but I decided to make him proud instead.

I also made cake balls for the party, which didn’t really fit the theme, but did fit my budget and cleaned out my freezer.

That's a lot of balls!

We also ate School Lunch Pizza and Jello shots.

There were also some extra costumes just in case you didn’t bring one. Here I am as a science nerd:

Let's go do science stuff!

2nd Annual Cupcake and Wine Party

Woohoo! The 2nd Annual Cupcake and Wine Party was a success! This year we had a total of 11 adults and two children, far surpassed last year’s attendance record.

You shouldn’t even have to ask, but yes, I tried each of these. A few of them multiple times, probably more than I should admit. I can’t help it. I.Love.Cupcakes. (mostly ones that are drowning in frosting)

Before I photobomb this post, I have to make a few confessions.

The Cupcakes: I ruined 3.5 batches of cupcakes the weekend prior. I was going to spend a Saturday baking away! And I thought I was excited, but apparently my head was not in the game. The first batch went well – these were the Breakfast Blends, which was actually made from pancake batter. The second was a box of yellow cake mix. I divided the batter in two for different flavors. There were two pans, they went in a few minutes apart. I was closely watching one of them because it had Graham cracker chunks in it and I didn’t want it to dry out. That one came out first. They seemed to be a little brown on top, but I tested one and it tasted great, so I was happy. Then the timer went off for the second pan. These were well done, like too dry and ugly to cover with frosting. WTF? I know my oven is wonky, but I’ve never ruined cupcakes like this. Then I noticed the oven was cranked to 450. Thanx Ken! So, it’s not that I leave my child unattended in the kitchen, I usually shoe him away from the stove when he gets close, but he is Ninja fast. 

I was using recipes from this Better Homes and Gardens cupcake book, and the recipes kept calling for “a box with pudding in the mix” so then I thought, “Hey! Let’s just make pudding and ADD it to the cake mix!” Nope. A full batch ruined.

Then I made a batch of perfectly fine Chocolate cupcakes!

It was getting to be mid-afternoon now. I didn’t want to run to the store again, so being the awesome baker that I am, I decided to stop being lazy and make a freaking cake from scratch. I have done it before, I promise. So I did! And then I took the first pan of cupcakes out of the oven and realized something was off. They hadn’t risen. I FORGOT THE BAKING POWDER. And of course I already had the next pan(s) in their cupcake papers already. Oh, I should also mention that I doubled this batch of made-from-scratch cake?

Just throwing some basic math out there, that’s 3.5 batches of cupcakes ruined. At this point I decided we were going out to eat for dinner, as I was not going to ruin Saturday Night Dinner. (The ruined cupcakes actually tasted delicious, so I salvaged what I could and froze it to make cake balls this coming weekend. So it’s not going to waste!)

And the next morning, I went to the store and bought two more boxes of cake mix. I made them exactly as the directions stated, didn’t even sub buttermilk for water.

Frosting: None of my frostings turned out the way I wanted them. They were delicious tasting, but not the correct consistency. The chocolate was too runny, so it wouldn’t hold it’s shape. Peanut Butter, Maple and Marshmallows were all too thick to pipe from a zip-bag, so I had to use the cookie/ice cream scoop for those. Oh, and I killed my hand-mixer while making the chocolate frosting. Like, dunzo, needs to be tossed, killed it.

Let the photobomb begin.

Cupcake Smorgasbord

Breakfast Blend

Crowd Winner! I think I’ll be making these for the next Ray Family Gathering
Cake: Pancake batter, plus some brown sugar. I had half a box of whole wheat mix and some Heart Smart Bisquick. The batter wasn’t sweet enough on it’s own. Also in the cake was delicious Farmland Pork and Bacon Sausage (look in your freezer section), cook it, drain it, add it to the batter.
Frosting: Maple (cream cheese, butter/margarine/crisco, milk, powdered sugar, maple syrup and maple extract flavoring), with Real Bacon sprinkles

Almond Joy

This was my favorite :-) If you’re into the Almond Joy candy bar at all, this one is for you.
Cake: Chocolate, regular chocolate cake mix. Each is filled with Almond Joy filling, which is just coconut and sweet and condensed milk (more coconut than SACM, you just need enough to coat the coconut). Once the batter is in the cupcake pan, add a tablespoon (or two, or three) of the coconut/sweet and condensed milk mixture and bake as normal. The coconut will brown on top just a little. I feel like I’ve unlocked a secret baking badge with this. Homemade Almond Joys???
Frosting: Chocolate (cream cheese, butter/marg, milk, powdered sugar, cocoa powder and Hershey’s syrup, lots of Hershey’s) and cute almonds on top

Cup-O-Joe

Cake: Chocolate Cake mix. Use Super Strong Coffee instead of water. I brewed my strongest K-cup (Revv) plus added 3 tbs of instant coffee. Pretty sure I added a couple more tbs of instant coffee to the batter after I initially mixed it up. Oddly enough, it didn’t have a strong coffee flavor when baked. I was disappointed, I didn’t follow a recipe because I wanted mine super strong.
Frosting: Chocolate (cream cheese, butter/marg, milk, powdered sugar, cocoa powder and Hershey’s syrup, lots of Hershey’s) and Chocolate Covered Coffee Beans on top (melt chocolate bark, add coffee beans, spread on pan to cool, break apart, top on cupcakes or just eat)

Salted Nut Roll

These were also a little slice of heaven.
Cake: Yellow cake, mixed and baked as normal. Once cooked and cooled, I scooped out a half tablespoon or teaspoon of cake from each cupcake. Before frosting, add a heaping tablespoon of caramel to the hole.
Caramel: you could use ice cream topping or whatever, but I had an extra can of Sweet and Condensed Milk, so I cooked it in my 2qt slow cooker on low overnight, creating perfect caramel goodness.
Frosting: Marshmallow (mallow cream, butter/marg, milk, powdered sugar, baby mallows), topped with caramel and salted nuts.
This is a messy one! 

Peanut Butter and Jelly

Cake: Yellow cake, mixed and baked as normal. Just like the Salted Nut Roll, once cut and cooled, scoop out a small chunk of the cake to create a lake for the jelly. I used good ‘ol grape jelly for this, squeeze it in the hole (thatswhatshesaid), cover with frosting.
Frosting: Peanut butter! (cream cheese, powdered sugar, milk, butter/marg and peanut butter), topped with peanut butter chips

S'more

Cake: Yellow cake, with chocolate chips and Graham Cracker chunks baked in. Watch your baking times, the grahams will dry out the cake batter.
Frosting:  Marshmallow (mallow cream, butter/marg, milk, powdered sugar, baby mallows), topped with chocolate chips and Teddy Grahams.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Delight

Cake: Chocolate, with peanut butter chips.
Frosting:  Peanut butter! (cream cheese, powdered sugar, milk, butter/marg and peanut butter), topped with peanut butter chips

Cupcake Wall Hanging

I love cupcakes. I know they are kinda cliche now and way overexposed, but I still love them. You cannot deny how delicious they are.

So, I was on a mission to make something cupcake themed to hang on a wall. I don’t have any canvas, or giant pieces of wood, so painting was out. I also didn’t want to sew fabric on fabric and expect it to hold it’s shape. The final idea was to sew on fabric, attach to cardboard and frame.

Here goes!

Step 1: Assemble the necessary items.
A. Find a frame.
B. Cut cardboard to fit in the frame
C. Print/draw your design (cupcakes)
D. Pick out the fabric (for design and background)

The important about this project for me, was to use stuff I already have on hand.  I spent some time in my scrap box trying to find top and bottom cupcake pieces that all matched, but weren’t too matchy matchy.

Step 2: Start working 
A. Cut out pattern.
B. Pin to background fabric.


Note: there are only three pieces in this photo, not four. I decided to try and tackle the hardest fabric last – so I took this photo before I sewed that one on. And then of course I switched fabrics to something easier to work with.

Step 3: Sew
Carefully sew your design onto your fabric. Take your time. Small corners are fun :-)

Not much to explain here!

 Step 4: Embellish
As you’ll see in the final photos, I have sewed one button to the top of each cupcake. No cupcake is complete without something on top – a cherry, coffee beans, sprinkles, SOMETHING!

Step 5: Attach
I opted to hot glue my fabric right to the cardboard. To be honest, I was going to staple it out of sheer laziness, but the cardboard was too thin. This was much trickier than I thought it would be.

Once I got my fabric centered, I clipped the fabric to the cardboard on one side, so that I could pull the other side kinda sorta tight, but not too tight. Also tricky with giant buttons.
This step also includes attaching the photo to the frame, if you chose to. I went the route of more cardboard, but attached it so that it could be removed with minimal damage to the frame if necessary.

Step 6: Hang on wall and enjoy

Button Cupcake Wall Decor

A few weeks ago, I went on a Cupcake Craft Bender and made two cupcake wall hangings and my cupcake trays. I was on a roll!

The first one I made was a spinoff of another cupcake decor I found online. Except the one I saw was adhered to paper or something. I used one of the Trunky disks and had fun gluing.

Note to self: don’t try sewing on the smallest rick-rack you own. Glue it. Or hand sew it. Anything but from a machine.

It was also really important to get my other Trunky disks up on the wall before I forget and shove them in a box in my craft room. Our kitchen came equipped with lots of little nails on the walls, just perfect for the small decor.

Not sure if I included these yet, but my mom gave us all Cupcake Pot Holders for Christmas.

I love them! They work great too, I think I’ve used mine almost daily since receiving them. My pair is brown and yellow – stripes and sprinkles! I believe this is the pattern she used.