Wednesday, 24 November 2010

UFOs will give me a nervous breakdown.

I'm kind of over the crafting/sewing thing for now.  I'm so tired of having unfinished projects hanging over my head.  Which isn't good because Christmas is coming, and I have a bunch of things I'm planning to make.  Because I hate Christmas shopping even more.  The very idea of bundling up the kids (or "bungling" as Juli says) and dragging them from store to store in -30 weather makes me twitch.

Don't get me wrong, I love giving gifts, and I love making things.  But right now, I just want to be done with it all.  That, and housework too.  I did seven loads of laundry today.  Juli's blanket needed to be washed twice.  And it's all waiting to be folded once the kids are in bed.  How relaxing.

So, if in the near future I take a break from crafting, don't be surprised.


This post is a little depressing, so I leave you with an excerpt from one of my stalled works-in-progress.  It's from a middle-grade novel that I titled "The Ring"...then later that year that creepy movie came out...
Disclaimer: This is a first draft.  It needs lots of work.  It may not get it, since I don't think I'll be finishing this story.

Tad stood over his dead friend.  He had no more goodbyes to say.  There remained one thing to do—after all, Jarvis wouldn’t need it anymore.  He reached out and lifted Jarvis’s right hand, shuddering at the cold lifelessness of it.  The ring needed a bit of a tug to remove it.  Tad slipped it into his pocket.
“What do you think you’re doing?”
The question was hissed from the archway behind him; Tad spun around.  It was only Gertrude.  “Nothing.  Never mind.”
“You took the ring.”  Gertrude’s eyes narrowed in accusation.
“So,” Tad didn’t think there was any point in denying what the girl had likely seen with her own eyes.  “It’s a waste to bury something so valuable.  I can get a lot of money for it.”
“But what about the curse?  All of those people were ruined—the fisherman, the merchant…”
Tad waved his hand to dismiss the thought.  “It’s only a story.” He stepped down from the platform that held the coffin.
“Jarvis himself—you can’t deny that.”  Gertrude raised her finger dramatically.  “That stupid ring destroyed his life, tore apart his family, and then killed him to finish the job.
“You can’t prove it.” Tad thrust out his chin, his stubbornness refusing to listen to the nagging voice that told him that what she was saying made sense.  “It’s just coincidence, nothing more.”
“Give me the ring.”  Gertrude planted her feet firmly on the floor and held out her hand, palm up.  She pushed her hair off of her shoulder and curled her other hand in to a fist, resting it on her hip.  Tad worried for a moment that she would come after him.  He quickly dismissed that thought.  After all, she wasn’t very much bigger than him.  He pushed his hand into his pocket.  “No.  I’m going to sell it.”  Tad reacted just a second too late when Gertrude lunged at him.  She managed to grab the back of his tunic and held on.  He couldn’t squirm out of her grip, but held the ring tight in his fist.  Gertrude grabbed his hand and pried open his fingers.  Tad jerked his arm, trying to get free before she took the ring.  It flew up in the air; its gems glinting in the candlelight then fell to the floor with a soft ringing sound.  Tad lunged for it, but Gertrude caught him around the neck.  Without warning, she stopped moving.  “Shhh.”  She listened intently, and gave Tad a smack on the arm to stop his struggling.
“Someone’s coming.”  She let go of the boy’s neck and dragged him over to the thick draperies that covered the back wall of the nave.  They ducked behind them and pressed back on the cold stone. 
“You didn’t have to hit me.”  Tad muttered with a scowl, rubbing his arm.  “Could’ve broken my neck too.”
“Hush.  Don’t move.”  Gertrude turned her head.  “I can see in that mirror,” She spoke so quietly that she hardly made a sound.  "It’s Elle—she’s dusting."
Tad scrunched his eyes shut.  Don’t let her find it; don’t let her find it…  Beside him, he felt Gertrude’s body stiffen.  She found it. 
Many long moments passed before Gertrude let out her breath.  “She’s gone.”  Her whisper was a bit louder now.  “With the ring.”
Tad muttered a curse under his breath, then looked at Gertrude to make sure she hadn’t heard.
She hadn’t.  “What are we going to do?  She’s going to be cursed and it’s all your fault!  If you had only left the ring with Jarvis like he asked…”  Gertrude flopped down on an ornately carved chair and sighed.
“My fault?”  Tad’s voice was pitched higher than normal  “You wrestled it out of my hand!  You made me drop it.”
“Me?  You—augh!”  Gertrude’s sputtering voice rose in volume.  She had evidently forgotten that they weren’t supposed to be in the chapel at all.
“Keep it down.” Tad hissed.  “In any case, we’ll have to get it back.  We haven’t finished arguing about it—and if it’s really cursed, we can’t let Elle keep it."

(Copyright belongs to the author known here as Jo @ To a Pretty Life.  Please do not reprint or otherwise use any writing on this blog without written permission.)

Christmas Gift Centrepieces

These are centrepieces from a Christmas event.  The elements: Box wrapped in Kraft paper, twig stars, tall candle holders, ribbon, coffee-dyed and stamped tags, jute string, fluffy fake snow, and small red stars .  I don't usually use so many different things, but with the shape of the box (I used the boxes that usually store the candleholders), I needed to make the centrepiece more rounded rather than long.

It was difficult to take decent pictures this time...and I didn't really try very hard.  I get too self-conscious when I try to take pictures with other people around.  But at the end of the night I noticed a couple of other people taking pictures of the centrepieces, so I guess they were a hit!

My original concept was just the wrapped box (squarish), fluffy snow, and three tea-light holders.

I got a great deal on the ribbon, and except for the green, it was pretty good quality (not sewing-quality, but quite nice).

The tags and string were from my own stash, and will be reappearing on Christmas gifts this year.

Many thanks to everyone who helped dismantle everything afterward.  I would have been there 'til midnight if I did it by myself!

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Recipes: Gingermanboys and Popcorn Balls

A few people have asked me for the recipes I use for the tiny gingerbread men I make. (or "gingermanboys" as Juli calls them).  Here is the recipe, from the Good Housekeeping Illustrated Cookbook that my mom bought me when I got married.

Gingerbread-Men Cookies

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup shortening (I use margarine)
1/2 cup light molasses (I use cooking molasses, but I have used both fancy, which is lighter in flavour and blackstrap, which is stronger in flavour).
1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon double-acting baking powder
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

  1. Measure all ingredients into a large bowl and beat ingredients with a mixer [or spoon] until well mixed [The recipe says to cover and refrigerate for 1 hour, but I never do that].
  2. On lightly floured surface, with floured rolling pin, roll chilled dough 1/8 inch thick [I roll to 1/4 inch thick, approximately].  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  3. Cut out men.  [my mini cookie cutter is about 1.5 inches tall.  I got it at Stokes]. Place 1/2 inch apart on cookie sheet [I put mine closer, about 1/4 inch].
  4. Bake 8 minutes or until browned.  Remove cookies to racks to cool. [if you're going to dip yours in frosting, bake them for an extra minute or two because the frosting softens the cookie].
Here is my recipe for Buttercream Frosting.  I think it's from the same cook book, but I'm not sure.  Or maybe I got it from Jenn.  I never use the exact measurements, of course.

2 cups icing sugar
6 tbsp softened butter or margarine
3-4 tbsp milk or cream
1 1/2 tsp flavouring (for this recipe, I use vanilla)
1/8 tsp salt

  1. Beat all ingredients until very smooth.  Add more milk to thin to the right consistency.  If it looks like the milk is separating, add more sugar.  For dipping, it should be about the consistency of ketchup.
  2. Hold your gingerbread cookies face-down under the arms, and dip the front and sides into the icing.  Place right-side-up back on the rack to dry.  They take a really long time to dry, but after a couple of hours they should be dry enough to put in a container with minimal denting.
 And just for fun, here is the recipe for the popcorn balls Juliana and I made today.  The recipe is from Kevin's mom.

Light Popcorn Balls

2 tbs light corn syrup
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp vinegar
1 tbs butter [margarine works too, but DON'T FORGET THE BUTTER!!!]
 6 cups popped corn

  1. Combine corn syrup, sugar, water, salt, and vinegar.  Cook without stirring to medium ball stage, then add butter. [I use a candy thermometer, to 245 degrees F]
  2. Place popped corn in a lightly greased bowl and slowly pour on the hot syrup.
  3. Mix quickly with forks.  Cool slightly, than shape mixture into balls by dropping a spoonful of the mixture into the hands and shaping it lightly.
This time Juliana wanted coloured popcorn balls, so I added 5 drops of green food colouring.  


PS: I want to make one of these!  I saw the Nester's white one which is gorgeous, but I just love this French Script Coffee Filter wreath.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Blue Corduroy Skirt

Boy, I wish I were a better photographer.

I recently found a bag of hand-me-downs that I had forgotten about.  In it was a cute light green shirt, and some multi-coloured striped tights for Juliana.  The tights were too long and the heels were worn out, but I just sewed a new toe seam and cut off the excess and they were perfect.  They were just so cute that I wanted Juli to wear them the very next day (Monday).  So the following morning I got her dressed with the tights and shirt, but there was nothing for her to wear with them, since her denim skirt was in the laundry.  The only other skirts she has are plaid and they just wouldn't work.  So, I put a movie on for Juli, and made her a skirt.  I've been meaning to make her some more skirts anyway.

I initially tried to do a yoga-style fold-over waistband, but it didn't work.  So I sewed some 1-inch elastic in to a loop, folded the waistband over it, and hand-stitched it on the inside.  I love how this skirt turned out.  So much that I made her wear it again today.  I used turquoise knit fabric (very thin and very stretchy), pin-wale corduroy, and wedding tulle.

The inspiration for this skirt came from a tutorial on another blog, although I didn't use a tutorial.  Now I can't find the original tutorial.  That said, my skirt is significantly different from that one, at least in construction if not in appearance.

Monday, 8 November 2010

Fall Apple Centrepieces

Back in September, I made the centrepieces for the fall Women's Ministries event.  I was able to use mostly things that I found in the WM closet.  The apples were given to me by some lovely friends, and the curly sticks I bought at Costco.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Christmas Dress

  I made this dress from Simplicity (Project Runway) 2320.  I changed the sleeves to elbow-length with a circular ruffle.  I`m not 100 per cent happy with how the ruffle turned out, so I may change it to a regular ruffle.  I do love the elbow-length sleeves though.

I made size 4 to give Juli some growing room, but I should have made size 3.  It`s a bit big on her.  Oh well, It will last for a long time!  I love the micro-suede fabric.  This morning before church I asked Juli if she wanted a headband.  I had made the flower already, so I just made a velvet band with elastic in one section. I`m amazed that she actually kept it on until she got home from church.  Nick and I stayed home because he has a cold.