Saturday, March 28, 2009

He's a robot! Arrested Development, part 2

I really had a lot of fun crafting and sewing for my partner in the Arrested Development Swap! She likes Michael and Buster (my personal favorites, too (plus Lucille)) so I decided to make her a couple of these:

I made my own stencils from photographs. . .
. . . using the freezer paper stencil technique (listed on the left.) I'm pretty happy with how they turned out. I see a few mistakes, but I hope they're not too noticeable. I used a split stitch to do the embroidery. And how cute is that rick rack?!? And did you know that rick rack, especially in dark colors, is an endangered species? I had to go to four different stores to find it!

I also made my partner some grocery totes, using this fabulous tutorial:

The designs were stenciled, then embroidered. The banana was inspired by Lucille's assumption that a banana would cost about $10. The canned ham was inspired by Hot Ham Water, famously made by Lindsay and served to Buster (in an ashtray, of course.) The little blurb quotes Buster's analysis of Hot Ham Water, "Watery, with a smack of ham!"

And finally, a little Loose Seal pincushion:

An update on relocating. . . .

Not going to happen any time soon. I'm actually pretty relieved. And so glad I only packed up two rooms. Hubby comes home tomorrow to stay, and work locally! (Well, a 20 minute commute, but it's better than 3 hours away!) YAY! Maybe now I'll have more time to update my blog a bit more regularly. ;)

Friday, March 27, 2009

FIVE already! Or, how we throw a child's birthday party

My sweet Monkey 6 recently turned 5 years old. I can't believe it! Here he is, just 2 1/2 years ago . . .

And now he's getting so big!

I've thrown a lot of parties over the last 14 years, and I just wanted to share with you what I've learned. We keep things pretty simple: food, games, cake, goodies. Keeping it simple ensures that everyone, from birthday child to mom, has a lovely time at the party, without breaking in the bank.

Parties can be expensive, or they can be reasonable. I try to shoot for reasonable, but with a large family, I suppose it's all relative. We typically opt for hosting parties at our home, or in public spaces -- parks and lakes are perfect places to host parties. Reserving a pavillion or picnic spot is usually very inexpensive, and many times, your deposit is refunded afterwards.

We celebrated Monkey 6's birthday at a local park. I love hosting parties at the park for many reasons: we can all enjoy the outdoors, there's lots of room for kids to run around, a playground for them to explore, and my top reason -- no house to clean up before or afterwards! We had about 35 guests at this party.


I believe in feeding everybody. I've been to parties where only the kids are fed. I understand that, to a point, and I appreciate that parties can get expensive. But I believe that everyone is at the party to celebrate the birthday child's special day, so everybody should get to participate and enjoy themselves. At this party, we had CiCi's Pizza -- inexpensive, and pretty good. Sometimes we do make-your-own subs, or grill burgers and hot dogs. I also like to have snacks and fruit, but I skipped that this time, and I don't think anyone missed them.

As for paper goods, I let the birthday child choose a theme, and I buy a few themed items, such as dessert plates and some napkins. Then I buy larger plates, cups, and napkins in a solid, coordinating color. I like the way it looks -- more customized, and it's much less expensive. I like to use fabric as table coverings, too. (Forgot that for this party, though.)


The old-fashioned games are still a hit with my kids. (You gotta try the Cheeto Head Game -- it's hilarious!) We always have a Guess How Many game. . . usually how many pieces of candy (or whatever) are in a jar. Some of the adults take this guess very seriously. We played Wrap the Mummy:

Even the teens liked to play. . .

A three-legged race, with a Girls vs. Boys Extreme Race encore (everyone is tied to everyone else, and they try to run in one line):

The boys won!

We had a scavenger hunt:

And our family favorite, a pinata!

During my super-mom delusional days, I made fantastic, huge, intricate pinatas from scratch with papier-mache, and covered it in the traditional method with folded-and-cut tissue paper. Insanity. They were cool, but insane, nonetheless.

Monkey 6 wanted a dinosaur-themed party. We couldn't find a dino pinata, so we purchased a High School Musical megaphone pinata, turned it on its end, and transformed it into a volcano. Monkey 1 did a fabulous job on the transformation!


In addition to the 12-pound pinata, we made dinosaur eggs for party favors. We handed these out at the end of the party, and the kids smashed them on the ground to find their hidden treasures!

Sorry about the blurry pic. It's the only one I have, and I'm lucky to have it -- one of the kids snapped it. They really do look like rocks. The kids and I doubled the recipe, and whipped these up in just a few minutes! We hid little plastic animals inside the eggs. We picked up the plastic trinkets at the thrift store -- they sell them by the bagful for a dollar or two -- and thoroughly washed them before we used them. I do recommend setting the eggs on a wire rack or screen to dry, and a full week is needed to do so. (Pssst -- these would be cool for Easter, too!)


Sometimes, we purchase a cake; sometimes, we bake them at home. My daughters wanted to make his cake this time, so they came up with a dinosaur scene, complete with erupting volcano:

My little boy had a wonderful time.

I think we all did.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Arrested Development Swap, part 1

I love Arrested Development. It's hilarious. It's genius. I watch (or at least listen to) this series again and again on Hulu while I work, and it never gets old. I hear new jokes every time I watch! So imagine my excitement when an Arrested Development Swap was organized on Craftster! I had to join.

I won the swap partner lottery, and was paired with the awesome carrieme! My fabulous package arrived Saturday, so I'm going to share my goodies with you!

This bag was inspired by the episode, Beef Consomme. . . .

Michael: All right Mom, I'll be sure to tell Buster. Right, bye.

Mom wanted me to tell you she doesn't care whether you live or die. But, if you're not dead, she would like to see you in the courthouse tomorrow in a blue sweater.

Buster: Damn it! I hate the blue sweater.

Michael: She said it would look nice with the gray pants.

Buster: Damn it! She's right!

What do you wear under a sweater? A dress shirt, of course! Brilliant:

A fabulous apron, modeled after Mr. Banana Grabber (Gob: One term, and one condition):

And lastly, an adorable birdy pouch, inspired by one of my favorite episodes, Bringing Up Buster:

Lucille: Buster!

Buster: It's a bird!

Lucille: I know it's a bird! I'm on the phone!

Buster: It walked on my pillow!

Thank you so, SO much, carrieme! I'll be working on your package over the weekend. . . . I'll post pics later!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

My turn to get to the gym! And my duct tape double

Well, at least to hop on my treadmill. My partner sent me a gorgeous package for the Help Me Lose Weight Swap! First, she sent me an amazing bag:

This is so well-made, and I absolutely love this fabric! She should be selling bags, seriously!

She also sent me a cute t-shirt and a necklace:

A pretty journal for tracking exercise and a neat exercise book:

Thank you, Craftastrophe! I love it all!

One additional motivator. . . .

I am sick and tired of not being able to find feminine, well-fitting (and modest) shirts. I am not a man, so I do not want to dress like a man (boxy t-shirts or polo shirts.) Currently, I seem to be in some type of odd-sized limbo. I'm a 14/16 right now. Women's shirts balloon on me -- waaaay too big. But XL in "regular" sizes are very tight in the bust. No skin-tight clothes for me, thank you.
I have decided to sew myself a few simple, spring-time tops. I chose these patterns to start with:

However, I still have a hard time fitting myself with standard patterns. It's more an issue of, um, distribution. I don't have a dress form or mannequin to work with, so. . . .

My solution? A duct-tape double!

This isn't perfect (I'm not that lopsided! LOL!) but it gives me general idea of where everything is, and how clothing will drape. I'm really happy with how it turned out! I do have to store it in the closet, though. I kept doing a double-take, thinking someone was standing next to my work table!

My sister told me about these several years ago. They're very simple to make. (Sorry, no in-progress photos.) To make one for yourself, you will need:
  • a large, long t-shirt (old ones are perfect for this)
  • a roll or two of wide duct tape (I used 1 full roll, and just a couple of strips from a second roll)
  • a patient friend (or spouse)
  • poly-fil, or some type of stuffing
  • cardboard, or some type of frame to put your double on
**Your t-shirt needs to be long, about mid-thigh, as it draws up as you are taped.
**Put your t-shirt on, with your typical undergarments underneath. You want your double to be formed the way you typically look.
**Now, have your trusty friend start wrapping duct tape around you. We used long sections of tape, about 2 feet long, rather than winding tape around and around. You'll want the tape to be pretty snug and form-fitting, but not so tight you pass out.
**You can tape as far down on your figure as would suit your needs. Some people tape all the way down through their hips. I stopped just past my waist for mine, since I'm using it for draping shirts (not dresses.)
**I also do not recommend being taped with your arms straight out. . . . it's better to have them by your side, and only wrap a couple of inches of the arms. You could probably leave the arms off altogether if you wanted.
**Once you have one layer of tape all over, you can add a second layer if you choose. I did not.
**Have your friend cut you out of your duct tape armor, by carefully cutting one single cut up the back, through both the t-shirt and the tape. Pull off your shell.
**Now, tape that opening back together. It helps to have your friend hold the cut ends together, so you can carefully line them up as you tape it closed.
**For the neck hole and arm holes, I put some old t-shirt scraps over these openings, and then taped them shut with additional tape. I also marked where the neck would be on mine with a sharpie.
**Stuff your double. I used poly-fil for most of it. I wanted mine slightly weighted, so I shredded some old t-shirts, and put that at the bottom to help it stand up.
**To finish, I traced the bottom of the double onto a piece of cardboard, and cut that out. I then taped that cardboard piece to the bottom of my double, and it stands up just fine on a table top. Some people use old dress form stands or other types of stands for their double. Those would be particularly helpful if you are making skirts or dresses for yourself.
**And that's it!

Oh, and about that motivator -- I hope to be making a smaller version of this by the end of summer!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Get to the gym! And how I conquered the zipper

I can't believe I'm such a slacker. Wow. Ten days without a post? Where have I been?

Well, I do know that I've been at my sewing machine a bit. I am in a cool swap on Craftster (of course!) where we are creating motivational crafts to help our partner lose weight. I decided to make my sweet partner a gym bag:

It's my take on Amy Butler's Weekender, but much, much simpler. I almost tried the Weekender pattern, but almost every review I read said it was difficult, hard to follow, all the little bits drove a person crazy, etc., so I just decided to make my own.

This bag was the most difficult bag I've ever made, mostly because of the zipper. Now, I can sew zippers, but this one just had me befuddled. I wanted to install a zipper, with lining, without any seams showing. I didn't want to do a concealed top-edge zipper like this one. And most of the zipper tutorials I found had the plackets only attached on the long edges to the bag, but not on the short ends. I didn't want any gaps.

I couldn't find a tutorial on the web to describe the type I wanted, so I let it stew in my mind for a few days. Seriously, I day-dreamed about zippers and linings. My brain hurt. This tutorial, on how to install a recessed zipper, probably set my mind in the right direction.

I ended up attaching the zipper placket to the top exterior of the bag, right sides together, and treating it like an extension of the outer fabric. The placket already had both the outer fabric and the lining attached. When I sewed the exterior to the lining, all the seams (including those on the zipper and placket) were hidden! It was tricky for me, mostly because of the shape and bulk of the bag. I can honestly say I'm not in a big hurry to make another one.

I also whipped up an insulated water bottle cozy:

And a key chain to remind her to just GO to the gym. That's half the battle, right? Just getting yourself motivated to go?

My partner said she needed encouragement to bring healthy foods and snacks to work with her, so I came up with this nifty lunch kit:

The cute little bow serves to keep the contents secure, and also as a handle:

There is also a pair of adjustable inner flaps (beneath the bow) with velcro. This way, the contents can be changed up and customized.

This fits a sandwich-sized container, plus two smaller containers. I bought them at Wal-Mart for about $4. Take out one (or both) of the smaller containers, and you can add a diet soda and/or some fruit.

It's washable and reversible. The next time I make one of these, I may add a layer of PUL to help keep any condensation or leakage to a minimum.

Well, I think that's it for today. I'll have more later, as I've been busy sewing and crafting. Oh, and planning for my sweet Monkey 6's birthday party tomorrow -- he'll be 5 on Monday!
Moving update -- STILL no news. Hubby's still working out of town; he's in Texarkana now. . . . .

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