Christmas Cupcakes

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Baking is not something I do very often, but I do enjoy it. Chocolate cupcakes have become my signature treat. I always use the Hershey’s Perfectly Chocolate Cake recipe and this American Buttercream frosting recipe from the blog Glorious Treats. It’s definitely a sweet combination but incredibly delicious.

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Since moving to Tennessee, I’ve had to adjust my baking time to 20 minutes for cupcakes. I think the oven in this house runs a little hot. If I bake for the minimum recommended time, the tops get a little bit firmer than I like. I’ve found that 20 minutes gives me that perfectly moist and light texture throughout the entire cupcake.

I’ve also made minis with this recipe. After googling and doing a little trial and error, I found that 9 minutes is perfect for my oven. Depending upon your oven and the recipe used, the typical recommended range seems to be 10-14 minutes.

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I made mostly traditional red and green Christmas cupcakes this time around, but the girls have been wanting me to make Frozen cupcakes. I separated my batch of frosting into two and colored one half green for the cupcakes above and one half with this light blue color similar to Elsa’s dress and the color used on Frozen merchandise. I want to make these cupcakes at some point with handmade snowflakes, but snowflake sprinkles were easier and more convenient this time around. And the girls enjoyed putting the sprinkles on themselves.

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It was a successful first attempt at decorating cupcakes with the girls. One at a time I would pipe frosting onto a cupcake and then let one of the girls put snowflake sprinkles on top. Then I would repeat with the other kid. We alternated turns until they were all decorated. It was a pretty low stress way of doing it. The only difficulty was keeping them from eating too many sprinkles between cupcakes. Every time I turned my back to put a newly decorated cupcake onto the counter and to grab a plain cupcake, they would each grab a bunch of sprinkles from the bowl and stuff them into their mouths (I had to dump the sprinkles into a bowl because the holes in the shaker top were too small for the sprinkles to come out?!). But we survived with enough sprinkles to finish our little batch of Frozen cupcakes!

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And as an aside, the red “plates” you see above holding the decorated cupcakes are actually cupcake holders from Dollar Tree. They have tops that latch on for storing and transporting. They aren’t the most durable plastic and I have never carried them by the handles just in case, but they are awesome. If you have a Dollar Tree nearby and they have these in stock, immediately run out and buy a bunch of these, you will not regret it!


Christmas Books Advent Calendar

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It’s been a little while since my last post. Things have been busy around here with the holidays and such.

The weekend before Thanksgiving we went to Atlanta with my husband who was attending a work conference. We had a lot of fun visiting the Georgia Aquarium, especially since we got to attend a “wake up Santa” event. It is apparently one of the best aquariums  in the country and definitely did not disappoint! Katie is still enthralled and mentions it regularly throughout the day.

We went to the Zoo Atlanta on our last day in the city. It wasn’t the greatest zoo in the world, but it was a lot of fun and they have panda bears, including two babies, which was really exciting to see! We rode the train and the carousel. Again, Katie mentions these regularly throughout the day. It was a fun trip, especially for Katie!

My husband’s brother, Tim, came for Thanksgiving. A very fun day! It was my first time cooking a holiday meal for anyone other than just us. It went pretty well and I think I found a keeper of a stuffing recipe. I’ll have to share soon…

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But now it’s on to Christmas! One of the things I’m really excited to do again this year is our Christmas books advent calendar. I did this last year for the first time and it went pretty well. I bought a few new books featuring some of Hannah’s new favorite characters (Angelina Ballerina and Fancy Nancy) to switch out some of the not as great ones from last year.

The books I wrapped in order from 1 to 25 are as follows:

1. The Christmas Story* by Patricia Pingry (An excellent Biblically accurate version of the Christmas Story. I highly recommend!)

2. The Night Before Christmas* by Tomie DePaola

3. Bear Stays Up for Christmas* by Karma Wilson and Jane Chapman

4. Angelina’s Christmas (Angelina Ballerina) by Katharine Holabird

5. Fancy Nancy Splendiferous Christmas* by Jane O’Connor

6. Little Blue Truck’s Christmas by Alice Schertle

7. The Friendly Beasts an Old English Christmas Carol by Tomie DePaola

8. The Mitten* by Jan Brett

9. Merry Christmas, Stinky Face by Lisa Mccourt

10. Corduroy’s Christmas Surprise by Don Freeman

11. The Wild Toboggan Ride by Suzan Reid

12. Good King Wenceslas by Jamichael Henterly

13. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer by Eileen Daly

14. God Gave Us Christmas by Lisa Tawn Bergren

15. The Snowy Day* by Ezra Jack Keats

16. The Twelve Days of Christmas A Christmas Carol Little Golden Book (couldn’t find link to the one we own)

17. If You Take a Mouse to the Movies by Laura Numeroff

18. The Wild Christmas Reindeer by Jan Brett

19. Mickey’s Christmas Carol Little Golden Book

20. Merry Christmas, Strega Nona by Tomie DePaola

21. Room For a Little One: A Christmas Tale by Martin Waddell

22. Jingle Bells Little Golden Book by Kathleen Daly

23. The Hat* by Jan Brett

24. The Littlest Christmas Elf Little Golden Book by Nancy Buss

25. The Christmas Story Little Golden Book by Jane Werner Watson

(* highly recommend)

In terms of order, I like to sort the books into categories first (religious, Christmas secular, winter…). I lay out the books on the floor in rows to represent each week. I start with religious books as the first and last books as well as on each Sunday. Then I fill in the rest from my other categories, mixing them up so that there is always variety. I make a point of putting favorites in the first week or two so that we can read them as often as we like throughout the Christmas season.

Once I figure out my order, I simply wrap them up and then put a sticker on each with a number. Katie helped me pick out the wrapping paper at Dollar Tree. The stickers I made using 8 1/2″ x 11″ Avery label paper and a 2″ circle punch.

Not all of these books are necessarily top notch books, but I will add some each year so that hopefully in the  future they will all be favorites. It’s a little hard to get started with so many books, but I found that thrift stores and ebay were a good way to inexpensively fill in the gaps between the nicer books we have slowly acquired and ones I owned as a child and have kept.


Monogrammed Velour and Flannel Baby Blanket

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It seems like everyone we know is having a baby or just had a baby. Luckily for me, many of these babies have been boys. I never sew anything for boys, so it’s a treat to get to pick out boy fabrics once in awhile.

I have a little stash of adorable boy flannel prints. I stock up on flannel every year during the Black Friday sale at Joann’s on any and every cute print I can find. It’s the best price you can find all year and it’s perfect for baby blankets and pajama pants.

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This velour and flannel blanket is a standard sew right sides together, leave a little hole for turning, flip right side out, and edgestitch the perimeter kind of blanket. To add a little personalization, I added the monogram using the flannel backing material. Funny enough, I made another of these blankets about a year ago, I just used a different flannel but the same velour, and it was for a little boy whose name also started with a G. Maybe I’ll find some pics and share…

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For the monogram, I found a font I liked on Microsoft Word, printed it out in a size I liked (not too big, not too small), cut out the pattern, and then traced it onto the flannel. To get the letter to stick to the fabric without having to use pins, I used my spray ‘n bond fusible adhesive, which worked pretty great. With the iron on kind, it can feel a little stiff. A quick zig zag stitch around the edge of the letter, and there you have it, a soft and cuddly monogrammed baby blanket.

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I also cut and serged some quick flannel receiving blankets. Most flannel blankets sold in stores are not big enough to swaddle. To make a swaddling blanket, cut off just enough on the sides of the fabric to remove the selvages and then make the blanket at least 36″ long. This size is great for swaddling. And there you have it, easy and adorable baby gifts.


Oliver + S Garden Party Dress

 

IMGP0387While scrolling through my facebook feed a few days ago, I came across a 20% off promotional code for Oliver + S patterns (coupon code: 4QFEM while it lasts!), which was pretty great because I’ve had my eye on the Garden Party dress since it was released.

I was super excited because as much as I love Oliver + S patterns, they are a little pricey. And I totally get it, they are amazing in pretty much every way. I had to talk myself out of buying two additional patterns by reminding myself I have other Oliver + S patterns that I haven’t even sewn up yet. I LOVE these patterns! And the Garden Party dress is no exception. It’s completely adorable, as all Oliver + S patterns are.

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Since I just received a new quilting destashing package from my husband’s Aunt Pam a few weeks ago, I thought maybe I could use some prints she sent for my first take on the Garden Party dress. Hannah picked out the fabric combination.

She’s starting to get picky these days. I’m finding that they key element is pink! She actually wanted the dress to be made out of the pink geometric fabric that I used for the accent pieces on the front bodice, but I didn’t have a large enough cut of fabric to work with. This dress is not really season appropriate in colors or print, and honestly, it’s a little bold for my taste, but I think she’ll like having a dress that she picked out.

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The Garden Party dress is a pretty easy sew that I think would be appropriate for a beginner. The gathers on the front and the general fit of the dress are pretty forgiving. I sewed a size 2T since Hannah is petite for her age. I could probably even go down a size and just lengthen it, but I’d rather make it a little large for her to grow into rather than too small. One great thing about this dress is it can be a bit roomy without looking too baggy. And it fits nicely in the shoulders despite the roominess.

After sewing up this dress and seeing how beautifully it came together, I was thinking it might be a great pattern to use for a satin Christmas dress. Maybe just use a longer sleeve pattern from another Oliver + S pattern to give it a more formal and winter appropriate look–possibly the Playdate dress sleeve.

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And speaking of sleeves, they are the only part of this pattern that I’m not super crazy about. They are cute, I just prefer the look of an elastic casing over a fuller, more open sleeve. Although, I suppose that style of sleeve might be really great for a light summer dress.

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And here is a view of the back closure. I’m going to sew a thread chain using the Oliver + S tutorial here as the pattern calls for, but for now, a quickly stitched on ribbon will do.


Sleeping Beauty Costume

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Hannah wanted to be Wonder Woman for Halloween. She was absolute about it…for a couple of days. Since then, she has been firm on Sleeping Beauty. Of all the princesses, this is the one I was least wanting to sew. The off the shoulder bodice and the peplum skirt just seemed like a lot of work…and they were. But I’m super excited with the final product. The costume I dreaded most of any costume I’ve made so far, but the one that I might be most proud of in the end.

Since I was really unsure of how I would draft a Sleeping Beauty costume, I scoured the internet for ideas. Not many out there, so I bought the Simplicity 5835 pattern on ebay. Don’t get me started on store bought pattern sizing! Again, a total fail with the sizing. So again, I turned to the trusty Geranium dress pattern and used the Simplicity pattern as a guideline.

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I lengthened the bodice a few inches and used a zipper instead of buttons. The zipper was definitely not done in the proper way, but it works for a costume.

For the sleeves, I used a long sleeve pattern I already had. I tried to make a v-shape hem using a facing, but it’s not very obvious. Oh well. It was a last minute thing after I had already attached the sleeves and I was afraid to cut too deep a v shape and make the sleeves too short.

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For the peplum skirt, I used the Simplicity pattern as a starting point, then drafted my own. I made it one piece and attached it to the bodice before attaching the skirt. It was a good natural stopping point for the zipper and looked better without a seam down the middle.

And for the off the shoulder look, I decided to do the easiest thing possible. Rather than do anything to change the construction of the bodice to include a fully attached collar piece, I took the easy route and sewed a fabric tube. I gathered it and attached it to the front bodice along the gathering stitches and then attached it to the back of the back bodice, sewing along the zipper seam line. Easy and done.

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The crown and necklace were pretty quick and easy. I used the Simplicity patterns but assembled them differently than called for in the pattern. I made the crown one piece instead of two sewn together. I also fused the gold lame fabric to yellow felt using spray ‘n bond instead of using stiff interfacing. Even though the crown is fairly floppy, it stands straight up like it should when worn.

And that’s Hannah as Sleeping Beauty. Phew, done with Halloween sewing! Yipee!


Fall Foxes Geranium Dress

 

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There is no better basic dress pattern than the Geranium dress pattern from Made by Rae. I have made so many variations of this dress that I’ve lost count–definitely more than ten! And anytime I need to make a dress and I don’t have the right pattern (like this year’s Halloween princess dresses, which you can read about here and here), I just modify the Geranium dress to get what I want. It fits perfectly EVERY SINGLE TIME! My girls have different body types and it still fits them both perfectly.

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This Geranium dress was a little bit unplanned. Usually I like to pick a pattern first and then find a fabric that suits the pattern. It was the opposite this time around. I had this fabric from Joann’s that I thought was adorable and just didn’t know what to make with it. I realized that fall is quickly passing us by and so I wanted to make something cute, quick, and easy. The Geranium dress with cap sleeves fit the bill.

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I added the red ribbon to break up the mostly neutral tones and to give the dress an added pop. Since I didn’t really have any buttons that matched, I just went with clear buttons. Not the best buttons for the dress, but certainly acceptable. Besides, the ribbon is what I wanted as the main embellishment anyway.

I was a little worried about the large print, thinking it might be overwhelming on such a little dress, but it looks great. And it is especially precious on my sweet Katie, who by the way is getting three teeth right now. Yikes!


Oliver + S Felt Bow Scrapbuster Tutorial

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When you find a fabric you love it’s hard to part with the scraps, even if they are weirdly shaped and don’t seem usable. When sewing one of my favorite dresses, the Oliver + S family reunion dress (read about it here), I found this FREE felt bow tutorial on the Oliver + S website. Since I loved the fabric I used for the reunion dress so much, I used fusible heat ‘n bond to use up some of my scraps to make an adorable matching bow. And with some new favorite scraps from some recent projects, I decided to revisit the felt bow pattern and to write up a quick tutorial. To make a scrapbuster felt bow you’ll need…

felt scraps

fabric scraps

scissors

spray ‘n bond fusible adhesive or iron on double sided heat ‘n bond

tailor’s chalk or fabric marker

Oliver +S felt bow pattern & tutorial

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First, download and print the Oliver + S bow pattern. I printed the two sizes that were mentioned in the tutorial, 100% and 60%. Once you have your pattern cut out, find some felt and fabric scraps that are slightly larger than the pattern pieces.

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Spray the WRONG side of your fabric scraps following the directions on the spray can. If you are using fusible heat ‘n bond, same thing. Apply it to the WRONG side of your scraps following the directions on the packaging.

If you are using spray ‘n bond, be very careful and protect the surrounding area. I did it in the garage and placed the scraps on some broken down cardboard boxes. Glad I didn’t attempt this in the house! This was my first time using spray ‘n bond and it sprays much stronger and faster than I anticipated. I wasn’t sure how much to spray. I think I’ll have to experiment a little with this. And honestly, I think for this project the fusible kind might be better and provide a stronger bond.

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This is what the back side of my fabric looked like after I sprayed it and let it sit for a few minutes. It has a slightly textured look and feel. Once it’s dry, which is pretty immediate, place the fabric scrap WRONG side down onto your felt scrap.

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Use a press cloth to adhere the fabric scrap to the felt scrap following the directions on the spray ‘n bond can or the heat ‘n bond packaging.

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Once your fabric scraps are bonded to your felt scraps, use tailor’s chalk or a fabric pen (…or a ball point pen) to trace the pattern. If you plan to wrap the bow center around a headband or a clippie, you may want to make that piece slightly longer than the pattern to give yourself some leeway. You can always cut it shorter later on.

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Cut out your pieces…making sure to trim off any pen markings from tracing if you used a ball point pen. Once you have your pieces, follow the Oliver + S tutorial to assemble your bow.

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Attach to a headband or a clippie and enjoy! An adorable pattern, and even more adorable with your favorite fabric scraps!


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