February 10, 2014 § Leave a comment
Except this time, there really is nothing to see here. Wait — actually, here’s a great pic of Becky that I took yesterday:
Whew. That was close. Seriously, though, I just worked on unshowables yesterday. I did get a lot done, just nothing I can show (yet).
February 9, 2014 § Leave a comment
I saw this pin a while back for making clay with cornstarch and dishsoap, and I actually meant to make it for the kids on one of our many snow days, but kept forgetting. Today Becky was looking for something artsy to do, so I decided to throw this together for her.
Ours didn’t ever get ropy like the picture, but was more the consistency of paper clay. I think she found it a little frustrating to work with but it held her attention for 20 or 30 minutes, and I think it was also a good introduction to impermanent art. See, Becky’s a lot like I am, and channels her creativity into making “things”. Making something useless or impermanent is almost anathema to us. So I think that sometimes pushing ourselves into doing that — even though it’s frustrating — is a good thing.
September 2, 2012 § Leave a comment
My kids have an awesome father. Who, incidentally, has a dog named Awesome.
May 25, 2012 § Leave a comment
Yes, Found It on the Internet Friday is back, baby! Woohoo!
This week, I made a Rapunzel wig for my daughter. A few weeks ago, she told me that they would be having “Dress as Your Favorite Character” day at school, and she really wanted to be Rapunzel but [insert tear-filled big brown eyes and a suitably pitiful expression here] her hair was too short. I’d seen Rapunzel wigs around on the interwubs, and even Pinned a couple with the intention of making one for her someday. Looked like “someday” had arrived.
I obtained yarn (3 balls of Lion Brand Baby’s First — a bulky cotton acrylic blend that’s nice and soft and just the right color yellow along with a single novelty oddball in the same color for a little texture) and studied the tutorials.
The first step was to get the yarn out of the balls and into suitably long strands. To make as per the tutorials (which I didn’t, but more on that later) you want the strands to actually be twice as long as the desired length of the hair, as one half will be on one side of the head and the other half will be on the other side. The easiest way to do this is to wrap the yarn around a tall piece of cardboard like you’re making a giant tassel (note to self: hmmmmm…giant tassel might be an interesting decorative element). I still had the display from Becky’s science fair project, which is about 3′ tall — perfect.
After winding all of the yarn off (important note: you want all of the yarn ends to be at the same end of the cardboard), I used a piece of waste yarn to tie the bundle together loosely at one end (opposite where you ended the balls) and then cut the other end open. Now it was time to sew it onto the base.
Ah, the base. So, the first tutorial I found indicated one would need a wig cap. I did not have time to obtain such a thing. Another tutorial suggested using the cutoff sleeve of an old t-shirt. This I could do. I cut the sleeve off and sewed the end shut, then tried it on Becky’s head, and it fit. Awesome! I took my bundle of “hair” and centered it on the cap, then used my machine to sew right down the middle, front to back (you could totally do this by hand but it would be tedious and I hate hand sewing with a white hot passion anyhow).
I put it on my phrenology head and braided the hair, then tried it on Becky again. No good. Couldn’t get it to stay on her head. I thought maybe I’d started the braid too far up, so I took that out and started it lower (leaving the hair at the top looser so the cap would have room to stretch). Still no good. Maybe the cap isn’t deep enough? Perhaps if we sewed it to a hat we knew fit?
So I was looking for an old winter hat of hers to tack the thing to, and came across the hat from her candycorn costume (how did I not blog this?!?! Clearly that’s going to have to happen.). Perfect! I sat down and sewed the tshirt cap onto the candycorn cap BY HAND, even. Still no good. Can’t get it to stay on her head, even with no braid. Sigh. Epiphany: I shouldn’t craft while sleep deprived, because I sewed the too-tight thing on to the big-enough thing, making the big-enough thing now too-tight. Duh.
As I sat down to rip the whole thing out so I could sew the hair directly onto the candycorn cap, it occurred to me that there was no need to actually unsew the hair…that in fact leaving it attached to a strip of the tshirt material would make it easier to sew back down. So that’s what I did (if I was doing it again and starting from this point instead of screwing up twice on the way, I’d sew it flat to a strip of material then proceed from there). Then as I was getting ready to attach it front to back again, I had another epiphany: What if, instead of front to back, I attached the hair from side to side around the front of the base of the cap? I pinned it to check if it would work and YES! Beautiful! And much easier to sew! (Except I kept not paying attention and getting strands stuck so the machine needle kept breaking and flying into my face. XTreme Crafting at its finest.)
So, I got the hair back on — above the elastic so I’d still have the stretch — and tried it on the Girl Child. It fit. It stayed on even when she walked around a little. YAAAAAYYYY! Got it braided (I did start too high the first time and had to redo it, but that was no big deal) and it still stayed on. Finally, success! My reward? This smile:
The two changes I want to make are: a) because of the way the hair falls you can see the wig cap in some spots. However, this will be a pretty easy fix — I just need to arrange the hair properly then overstitch it at the “hairline” so the strands don’t fall. Silly gravity. And b) because I needed to keep the stitching above the elastic to retain the stretch, there’s a big white band there. It passable as a “headband” but I’d like to put a ribbon over it and pretty it up a little. Both little things and easy to fix — we just didn’t have time before school this morning.
February 7, 2012 § Leave a comment
I’m working on a new recipe to give you next week (I’m in the testing stage, because I overcooked it while I was writing it down the first time. Oops.) so this week’s Tasty Tuesday is a rerun.
Originally published April 25, 2010 on the A Frayed Knot Knits blog:
Somehow, my daughter Becky has become a huge Star Wars fan. I know, right, how could this possibly have happened? She has recently:
– cried when watching Darth Vader’s body burned on a pyre at the end of Jedi
– told me that I shouldn’t be watching Fanboys because “We don’t watch other Star Wars movies! Only Star Wars, Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi!”
– declared that she wants Darth Vader to be her father instead of Luke’s because “Luke is a bad boy and doesn’t deserve him.”
– announced that she wants to be Han Solo when she grows up
– requested demanded a Millennium Falcon cake for her birthday, with Han Solo, Darth Vader, Chewbacca, and Princess Leia, but not Luke, “because Luke is too whiny.” Because I’m a sucker for the Millennium Falcon, and a challenge, and my little girl, I said, “Sure! How hard can it be?” And then I found out:
The party was Saturday at 4pm. Giant props to Kit for handling every detail of the party, from scheduling the space (Build-A-Bear) to taking care of the invites to greeting the parents and filming the party, leaving me free to concentrate fully on the cake.
I had originally thought to do gum-paste figures, but the tiny little sane part of my brain said, “Hey, dummy — they make perfectly good action figures, and then the kid will have a bonus birthday present, too!” So I went out and got everything but a Leia (because the Toys’R’Us I was at didn’t have one, but she was not terribly missed, so it’s okay). I had already ordered the most awesomest birthday candle EVAH for her: Darth Vader holding as his lightsaber a red candle.
After some hemming and hawing, Becky settled on both chocolate and vanilla for the actual cake. I do not particularly enjoy actually baking cakes, which means I don’t do it often enough to get really good at it, which means I bought mixes. My mom’s in town (hi, Mom!) and she helped me get the mixes all, well, mixed and into the oven. One large (13×9) chocolate rectangle for the bottom, and two 9″ vanilla circles for the top + accessories. They came out fine, and we were ready to carve them Friday.
Now that I think about it, perhaps “ready” isn’t the right word…I wasn’t quite prepared for the reality of carving cake, and got pretty frustrated, especially with the cockpit. I finally ended up with something I thought would work, but it was clearly unstable and would need to be attached just prior to putting the fondant on, which I had planned for Saturday morning. Here’s what it looked like Friday night when I was done:
Bright and early Saturday, Kit took the kids for a walk, and I started putting it together and getting it ready for frosting. I had done the carving on a board, but wanted to transfer it to the actual presentation board before frosting. This necessitated planning the layout, so we opened up all the action figures and the candle, which promptly broke at the ankles. All attempts to repair it failed, and actually broke the base even further. Lacking the time to panic, I decided to just set it aside and deal with it later.
We decided where the ship should be on the board, and I commenced frosting it (in case you’ve never worked with fondant before, you put a thin layer of regular frosting on to “glue” the fondant). This meant it was time to attach the cockpit, which promptly disintegrated. You can see in the picture above that I had originally carved the cockpit piece out of the vanilla cake, and as it turns out, the chocolate cake holds together a little better. So I quickly re-carved it out of a piece of chocolate cake that was in my big bowl o’ cake scraps, and skewered it on. And then the bottom fell off, and I panicked.
While part of my brain was panicking, the other part was applying frosting and considering the situation. I finally came to the conclusion that the solution was to cheat. So I went upstairs and got some styrofoam and carved my third cockpit. This one didn’t fall apart, and I moved on to the actually fondanting.
There were a couple of tricky things about applying the fondant, mostly because the shape has a lot of nooks and crannys and this is only the second time I’ve ever used fondant, so I’m not particularly well-versed in manupulating it. But I got it on the cake with no real problems, and despite some cutting errors and a little bunching on the back, I thought it looked pretty good. It was, at the very least, the right shape:
Oh! Before I did the big fondanting bit, I decided it would be a good idea to practice a little and remind myself of how the fondant moves and acts. So I built the sensor dish, which ended up being my favorite part of the cake:
Now that I had the fondant on, it was time for the decorating. I cut out the dots that are a recognizable part of the top of the MF, with the plan of spray painting them with the black frosting I’d purchased for the dual purposes of painting said dots and also dirtying up the finished ship. It turns out that the “black” spray frosting is really more of a “light silver gray,” even after several applications. So it was off to Michael’s for emergency black frosting coloring…and where I found food-safe markers, including black. Win!
Back home, I set Mom to the task of coloring the dots, while I began applying the details with white piping. Then I changed my mind and decided most of the lines should be scored, with a very few details sticking up. So I scraped it down and started over, and let the sane part of my brain convince the panicky part that we had plenty of time as long as we didn’t get too carried away. Applying the blue of the engines to the back was considerably less stressful than I had thought it was going to be, and it improved the lines of the back of the cake quite a lot.
Now, Becky had specifically requested that we included the red/rust detailing — it’s on the real thing, and it’s on one of her toys but not the other — so I used the red marker to color that in, and then went back and piped in a few details here and there, using her two MF toys for reference (incidentally, I highly recommend having a 3D model on hand when doing something like this — much better than trying to find pictures with the right angles on the internet). I redid the cockpit a couple of times, and never was quite happy with it, but finally I had to declare it finished. I took it outside and gave it a quick spritzing with the “black” spray frosting, just to scunge it up a little.
I have to say, I was pretty pleased with the end result. It’s not the best looking Millennium Falcon cake I’ve ever seen, but I think I did a pretty good job for someone who doesn’t really decorate cakes:
I was a little annoyed about only having the foil for it to sit on, but then I had an idea while I was in the shower (yes, I finished in enough time that I was able to shower and even iron my skirt before we had to leave for the party!)…on the way I grabbed a couple bags of brown sugar and when we set the cake up, I think it looked a lot like it was parked on the sands at Mos Eisley:
And look! I solved the Darth Vader problem and the gun turret problem (at some point I realized that I should have guns up there and I wasn’t sure what the hell I was going to do) in one fell swoop! Yay me!
Next time, I’m going to make someone else cut the cake — it was a lot harder than I expected it to be. It took about 5 minutes to go from the above to this, and I really felt like I needed a good lie-down afterwards:
(Incidentally, when you stack cakes on top of one another, don’t forget to put a layer of frosting in there — you’ll thank yourself when it’s time to serve.)
I have to give tremendous thanks to Kit and Grandma Tedi for all their help and encouragement and keeping the kids out of the kitchen/dining room/my way. And especially thank you to Becky, who told me at every stage how awesome her Millennium Falcon cake looked, and made me remember why I was doing this even when I was so frustrated with the cockpit that I was seriously considering sending Kit to the A&P for a plain old sheet cake. Love you all!
October 24, 2011 § Leave a comment
When I noticed in the spring that Becky was outgrowing the last sweater I made her, we picked out yarn and a pattern for another one. A couple of weeks ago, we picked out buttons. And now, the munchkin has a new sweater:
It’s a modified version of ChildHood from Knitty made with KnitPicks Shine Worsted in Crocus. The modifications consisted of no striping (obviously), lengthening the body and sleeves (Becky’s a beanpole) and working the buttonband differently (I didn’t do the thing with leaving the extra width on the bottom band; I just worked the fronts all the way across and then picked up from the bottom edge and worked around, skipping every 3rd stitch). Oh, and I did a crocheted button loop for the top button, which is larger than the others.
And Becky absolutely loves it, which is the only really important thing about it.
Next up, one for Zacky. Same pattern, different mods — there’re going to be stripes all over! And we’re going to roll dice (a d10 for the color and probably a d6 for the number of rows) to determine distribution.
September 2, 2011 § Leave a comment
Yikes! Missed a couple weeks, didn’t I? I’ve been crazy busy — tell you all about it later. But for now, meet this week’s FIotI:
I don’t actually have a link to a particular project on the internet that inspired me for this one, but I’ve been seeing custom-made chalkboard surfaces of all varieties all over Etsy and assorted wedding blogs* and of course Martha Stewart (who has this nifty recipe for making your own color — how cool is that?).
So. This isn’t your run-of-the-mill little chalkboard. No, this is a door, painted with chalkboard paint. I thought about doing the aforementioned MS color-mixing thing, but I didn’t have a particular color in mind and for the amount of paint I needed, it was cheaper to just buy the quart of black (incidentally, they do now have a tint-able one available, but the color choices are limited).
Why a door, you ask? Well, I was using two of them for desk surface in my studio, and when I rearranged a few weeks ago I decided one was enough and I could use the other wall space more efficiently. So I had an extra one hanging around. They’re super-cheap, though — these are the interior hollow-core doors and run $20-30 depending on the width you get.
The painting itself was really easy — I “primed” with some extra trim paint I had laying around and then threw on two coats of the chalkboard paint. I went over it with the white chalk as instructed on the packaging to give it a “dust base” and then turned the kids loose on it with the multi-color chalk. Right now I’ve just got it on the floor leaning against the wall, but as they grow I’ll probably hang it for them. And I have a bunch of the paint left over, so expect to see more chalkboard-y stuff here in the future.
* No, I’m not planning a wedding. DIY wedding blogs have some of the coolest crafts going, I swear. Don’t give them a miss just because you’re not planning on tying the knot.
May 2, 2011 § 4 Comments
Some of my fondest childhood memories are of the birthday cakes my mother baked for me. A few that stand out are the “doll” cake (if you’re unfamiliar, the cake is mounded and has a hole in the center where the doll goes — it comes about up to the doll’s waist — and the cake and the doll’s upper half are frosted to look like a ballgown), the bunny cake (shaped pan, and a bajillion little frosting dots to decorate it), and when I was a little older, a delicious poppy-seed cake. Whatever I asked for, Mom made, and I always loved it. I’ve continued this tradition with my kids, especially Becky (mostly because Zack hasn’t had a party yet that wasn’t just family).
First there was the Darth Vader cake, which was also my first experience with fondant (I cheated and used the DV cake pan to mold the fondant. I also bought enough to make two cakes so I could practice, which turned out to be a Very Smart Idea.). To be fair, that was really the cake Mommy wanted to make — Becky only cared that the cake was blue, which — thanks to the miracle of food coloring — it was.
Last year, though, she requested a Millennium Falcon cake. This was considerably more challenging as I had to actually sculpt the cake. I got it done, though, and am still pretty proud of the job I did on that one.
This year, she wanted an Ariel cake. In case you don’t have a small girl-child, Ariel is the name Disney execs gave to the Little Mermaid when they bastardized the classic Hans Christian Andersen tale (the irony of my daughter loving the movie that completely ruined my favorite childhood fairytale is not lost on me). I am always up for a challenge, but I also know my limitations, and “cake shaped like a mermaid” is definitely outside my artistic range. So I suggested that perhaps we do something similar to last year’s Millennium Falcon cake and instead of Ariel herself, the cake could be a castle and then we’d just have the action figures, which would later be hers to play with. She readily agreed (Mommy is no dummy — I knew I’d get her with the toys), but asked that the cake be pink. Not a problem.
See, I knew that Williams-Sonoma had a cake pan that’s actually shaped like a castle, and I figured I’d just pull the same trick I did with the Darth Vader cake pan. This was going to be easy. Except it never is. First, it turned out that the castle cake pan is smallish. This one was easily solved…I’d just make a 13×9 sheet cake base. Not a problem. I decided to frost the sheet cake to look like the ocean and then decorate with aquarium plants to really give it that “under the sea” vibe. Once Becky found out there would be two cakes, she requested that the base be strawberry and the castle be vanilla. Also not a problem. I baked both cakes (from a mix — I’m still working on perfecting my cake baking skills) Thursday night so they’d be nice and cool for me to decorate Friday night and ready to go Saturday (her party was at one, but I wanted plenty of cushion built into the schedule).
Friday night rolled around and I got the frosting made (cream cheese, because the birthday girl digs it) and the base cake frosted (after repairing the giant hole in the middle where it stuck to the pan). The rest of the evening went a bit like this: Roll out the hot pink fondant and try to put it into cake pan. No good — couldn’t get it down into the pan without tearing it. Reroll and drape over cake, then put pan over cake. Still no good — the details on the cake pan were just too fine and delicate to show without there being plenty of pressure to make an impression. Press cake down into pan in attempt to get impressions. Cake and fondant both ruined. Curse loudly and colorfully and send Daddy to the store for more cake mix and cream cheese (because clearly fondant ain’t going to cut it, and now aren’t I glad that I bought that cake decorator gun on clearance last month?). Mix new cake, pour into pan and put into oven, sit down on couch to relax. Realize ten minutes in that I forgot to grease and flour the “nonstick” pan and cross fingers that it really is “nonstick” but it’s already almost midnight so I won’t find out until morning.
Morning comes and I attempt to remove the cake from the pan. I’m not really sure what they mean by “non-stick” but it’s definitely not related to whether the contents of the pan will stick to the pan, because they will, quite tenaciously. More cursing, and also being glad that Daddy got two cake mixes when he went to the store the previous evening. Third cake mixed, pan prepped (I can be taught), into the oven. From the oven immediately into the fridge, where it has plenty of time to cool while I whip up another batch of frosting. Most of the frosting gets tinted pink, with a little set aside for brown (the door), light blue (windows), and lavender (trim). Cake is cooled, pops right out of pan and I plunk it down on the frosted base.
Now is the moment of truth. See, I really don’t have
a lot of any experience frosting things in a decorative manner, but I really, really want to preserve as much of the stone detailing as possible on the castle — that’s what makes it so neat. So I try a few shots on a plate for practice and it looks pretty good. Time for the real thing…and it worked! It came out really great. I will say that cream cheese frosting is not the best choice for elaborate frosting stuff like this — it’s a little too soft, which is why the castle looks a little melty. But really, I love how it came out. It got lots of oohs and aahs, and two of the moms at the party asked where I bought it!!! Most importantly, Becky absolutely loved it.
Zack has already requested a train for his birthday in November. Should be fun!