Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Naked Fox

Ha, I have an old roommate with the last name Fox - I hope I didn't give her a heart attack with my title. It's been a while since I posted, but contrary to what you might be thinking, it has NOT been due to a dry desert of creativity around here.  I feel like I've got about five crafty things going on right now.  And of course they're all strewn about the same table, so I'll be applying a snap on my fox dress, see my bunting thread that I couldn't find yesterday and switch projects until I remember the iron is hot for the quiet book project and then the baby coughs herself awake, and I spend the afternoon fantasizing about what's next while I stroll through Target, because that's really the only "fun" thing to do with a baby sometimes.  Let me know if you need me to pick anything up for you.

My current flurry of craftivity started at the Boston Modern Quilt Guild meeting last weekend that  featured a tutorial on free motion quilting (a skill that would revolutionize my quilting, if I could even begin to master it).  I love seeing what experienced quilters can accomplish, but the great thing about this week was that the woman giving instruction has only been free motion quilting for a year (and she was GOOD - you can see her stuff here).  I find it so inspiring when someone masters a technique in such a short time, it totally gives me hope.  Let's face it, I'm pushing up on 40 and am a total jack of all crafts, master of none.

So true to form, THIS weekend, before the silicone quilting mat was even out of the package, I switched gears and took a two day workshop with Mimi Kirchner, an artist who makes amazing dolls (the traditional kind and the tattooed carnival kind... just check it out), foxes, kitties, owls - you can learn all bout her here.  Smash was a little weirded out by what I brought home the first night:

But he warmed up to her:

That was just the first day though, and while different from what I'm usually doing, it wasn't HARD.  The second day however, involved clothes.  I've given up on making them for real people so I'm not sure why it didn't occur to me they would be even harder in miniature.  It's not like she looks so bad au natural.

I gave her green eyes, so I ransacked the fabric stash looking for things that would match them.  I was tempted to buy some fabric with foxes frolicking on it, but decided that was a little too cutesy.  The funny thing is the part I'm most proud of is that her chin is a perfectly centered cable-knit, a detail only I will ever notice (unless you get a chance to see her in person, and then I would appreciate it if you would remember to compliment her chin).

I love five hours a day of uninterrupted craftiness, especially two days in a row.  I capped off the weekend at a guild sew-in on Monday night where I got started on about 62 yards of valentine themed bunting with a glass of wine and the company of three lovely quilters.  And today I decided it was now or never with the damn fox clothes, because there are too many things on the table and none of them are getting finished.  So here you go, something that is all done!

Aw, fox girl, are you waiting for Smash to come take you out on your date?  I really like those pearlized snaps on your dress, sorry I hammered them so hard they cracked!

Yes, you're right, that ribbon detailing really makes your dress!

Don't you think you should wear your jacket?  It may be warm outside but it's not THAT warm.

Don't forget your purse, Smash likes to go dutch (and I didn't give you pockets!)


Tuesday, January 15, 2013

You Are One

WARNING: this post is a sentimental baby post, but you can skip to the end for some birthday cake!

J is one.  These are the things I want to remember when I think back on this time:
Saturday she ran up a ramp for the first time without falling - until now I had no idea that was a skill.  She laughs in anticipation when I get close to her bare toes because she knows I can’t resist them and that it’s probably going to tickle.  She likes to pull heavy things out of the dishwasher and pass them to me so that I can put them away and when I say thank you, she responds “doo doo,” in a thoughtful voice. Her dad is so proud when she calls him dada and pretends not to notice that she calls everyone else that too.  Her favorite game is standing up in the bath like it’s time to get out and then falling back down laughing when I reach for her, which probably isn’t the safest game, but I think it suggests a budding sense of humor.

I have never been a baby person, though she was sweet, sweet, sweet.  

But I love a toddler, and that is what she officially became this week!  She is one – and she plays big girl games

Eats grown-up food

And wears old lady shoes.

Things I've learned about my parenting this month: 

1.  I will let her eat as much sugary buttercream as she likes on her special day, and will not take it away even though my internal voice and everyone else’s external voices are saying “I think that’s enough”

2.  When I have to decide between the super-cute adidas and the orthopedic shoes the salesman recommends (because her feet are almost as wide as they are long) I will reluctantly choose the ugly shoes. 

3.  I didn't realize it, but I'd been avoiding giving her olives, cooked peppers and eggplant  because I assumed she wouldn’t like what I don’t like.  But it turns out she likes these things.  While there is a little part of me that is sad we aren't on the same page here, I’m also excited by these signs that she is her own person.

OK, so on to the CAKE.

I do not come from a family where an entire cake gets sacrificed to the birthday girl for her to smoosh her grubby hands all over – we are way too considerate of the other cake-eaters, but I’ve always secretly coveted that experience.  So on J’s big day I gave her a huge red velvet cupcake decorated with a buttercream flower and let her go to town.  She ate the entire thing. 

For her family party, and the official first cake, we agreed she seemed like a strawberry girl, but I also felt very strongly that if you haven’t had chocolate before your first birthday, it was very important that you get that experience before you are 1 and a day.  So I decided on a chocolate cake with strawberry icing.  I got the The Cake Bible out of the library and may be investing in it soon.  Although I wanted chocolate, I chickened out on something ‘too intense’ and went with a chocolate genoise that I soaked with some kirsch simple syrup (hey, she's teething)– that part was really disappointing – chocolate cake that is not intensely chocolate is just brown air.  

The strawberry whipped cream that I used for frosting, however, was out of this world.  

It involved reducing the juice from frozen strawberries and then pureeing it with the defrosted berries for an intense but fresh (not cooked or jammy) flavor.  I have to say, reading the recipe I didn’t think it would work - adding a bunch of heavy puree, mixed with gelatin to the whipped cream - but it did.  It would be really amazing on top of a flourless chocolate cake (cloud cake, anyone?) or with brownies.  I’m not a huge fan of buttercream because I tend to over-frost my cakes so that they’re pretty, and buttercream is far too rich to be half an inch thick.  So this was a fantastic substitute.   

The Cake Bible also had instructions for peach, raspberry, etc. whipped cream, and I might invest in it just for those two pages.  I’ve been into the Miette cookbook for cakes this year.  Their typical size is six inches, which I've fallen in love with; it is the perfect size for a cake if you're serving 8 or fewer.  It’s totally spoiled me for other recipes – I didn’t love how wide and short this one was. 

J has given up long naps for her birthday week.  I'm hoping she goes back to them soon so I can get out of the kitchen and back to the sewing machine!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Year of the Snake (Babies)

Who isn't having a baby this year?  I feel like there's a Jessica Simpson around every corner.  The people I know who have been trying for awhile and those who were just starting to contemplate motherhood all hit the jackpot recently.  I am not complaining - having had a hard time getting pregnant myself, there are few things that make me happier than seeing a pot belly caused by a baby, whether I know the lady sporting it or not.  Anyway, I am happy (but a little panicked) to note that out of my good friends, three are expecting before May (and that doesn't include the one who could be adopting at any time!).

I needed a break from the niece/nephew quilts anyway- I'm totally stuck on the front of my third, I just cart the pieces around the house (up to the attic, down to the bedroom, back of the couch, kitchen counter, next to the TV) mumbling about how I "REALLY need to finish this f*&%*r." But with the x-mas deadline now long gone, I've set her April b-day for my next goal and am moving on to other things.

So, what have I been doing with my time?  I wrote a book!  That's right, finished it, just working on jacket design and illustration for February publication.  Granted it's a 'quiet book' and is only six sentences long.  And by finished I mean the text is written.  And by publish I mean give to the new mom.  Not a lot done yet but here are some middle pages.  Half a sentence, anyway.

Totally on the edge of your seat, eh?  Trying to do a page a day, so more coming soon!   If anyone knows where I can get a decent acrylic mirror to sew in, PLEASE let me know.  I found a really foggy one at Joann's and a round cardboard variety, but I'd like the book to be washable.  The internet is failing me here.

Monday, January 7, 2013


I know everyone has moved on to 2013, but I'm still pulling out the last of 2012!  Now that the gifts have been given I get to record them here.   Advertised as cosmetic cases, at this stage in life I'd probably use them for anything but, because lip balm is as fancy as I get these days.  I got the pattern from blush bunny (pattern for $4.95 here) off etsy - and I have to say I still like her fabric choices best:

I did two, for the ladies that care for little J, because if anyone has earned a homemade gift this year, they have.  Not because J is so hard, but because for me, sleep and morning breaks from baby can be the difference between bearing motherhood and enjoying it.

The instructions were very straight forward, and I followed them to the letter on the first one, with fabric I totally love that I had just 1/4 yard of from Purl Soho:

I ended up tucking the end of the zipper in and tacking it to the inside because i liked it better that way.  Unfortunately Joann's only had white plastic snaps instead of the mother-of-pearl ones, and I think they look a lot cheaper.

For the second one, I shortened the zipper so it ends at the end of the bag part, and tacked in the end again, and I managed to find pearl buttons.  Sorry Sam, but Maureen totally got the better deal (although her fabric meant NOTHING to me!):

Here you can see the zipper difference:

All in all, I was pretty happy with the outcome - I'm a pretty slow sewer and I did them both in about 5 hours.  Definitely a good and easy girl gift! I couldn't figure out how to use the zipper foot effectively which resulted in some pretty sloppy lines - very frustrating when everything looks perfect up until then, but as I just kept muttering "that's how they know it's homemade" which is becoming my mantra.