Is anyone else in love with the new Cyntha Rowley patterns for Simplicity? I bought a couple last week during JoAnn's $1 sale. I had an urge to make something yesterday but only had a bit of time so I did the simplest version of the tank top (2593).
I used fabric from a pillowcase I bought at a thrift shop for 49 cents:
Total cost: $1.49.
Next time I make it I'll modify it a bit because I learned that my bust is not nearly as wide as a pillowcase and my hips are a bit wider than one. Story of my life. In fact, I think I'll save the groovy pillowcases for the kids and use something more flowy for myself.
Amy Karol (Angry Chicken) followed the same pattern recently, too, and I love her version.
I've decided I'm going to start waking up at 3 a.m. so I have more time to sew. I haven't implemented this yet, but it's my plan.
I've been meaning to post some photos of a great hotel we stayed in last weekend in Portland, Oregon. The Ace Hotel is a small chain that started in Seattle about a decade ago. They have hotels in NYC and Palm Springs now, too.
I don't normally go around taking photos of hotel lobbies and bathrooms. This place is different, though. There was inspiration around every corner.
The Ace does a fabulous job repurposing old stuff, like using vintage locker baskets to hold towels and wallpapering its guest rooms with the pages from antique books. (My friend Celeste here in Spokane did something similar in the foyer of her restaurant recently and gave me the following instructions:
Step 1--apply wallpaper paste to wall. Step 2--apply book pages to paste and allow to dry. Step 3--cover with Mod Podge.)
The Ace is green on so many levels. Besides rescuing unwanted crap from the landfills, they offer bicycle rentals and post gentle reminders about conserving energy, like this kitschy stitchery that hangs in the elevator:
Besides, the place is just plain fun. I felt like I was living in my old Portland apartment again, complete with claw-foot tub, ever-so-slightly musty smell in the hallways and a fantastic coffee shop attached. Two other features not to miss: an amazing New York-style deli up the block (I'm still dreaming about the lox I ate there) and an old-school photo booth in the hotel lobby.
I wrote more about the Ace on my other blog if you want more details, but here is a visual of what now is the only place I'll stay when I visit Portland. Is my review too glowing? It might also have to do with the fact that the two junior members of our family were 300 miles away at their Nana and Papa's house. Sort of clouds my judgment. (No, actually, it sort of cleared away the fog that's been hovering over my brain for the last four years.)
Bicycle for rent in the lobby:
Pages of a vintage book used as wallpaper behind the bed, with a deer and bird painting on top:
This is the back of a plastic molded chair:
Every detail was thought out, down to the dry-cleaning sack and order slip:
Wool blankets (which are used on the guest-room beds) and bathrobes for sale in the lobby:
Check-in desk. They use real keys, by the way.
Oops. Lobby. I almost wrote "Bobby." I have no idea whether that dude on the left (who is looking at me like, Quit taking pictures, freaky lady!!) is named Bobby or not:
Somewhere in the description of this blog is something about food. Apparently when I started Penny Carnival I thought I was going to talk about food more often than I do.
I think what has happened along the way is that when I finally have a chance to make something good, we're all so hungry by the time it is ready that I consume it without taking a picture. The rest of the time, I'm eating not-so-good food. Like peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. And the chocolate bunnies that my daughters sort of forgot about the day after Easter. Dipped in peanut butter.
Which leads me to my recent Googling for the word "diet." Maybe it was the finale of The Biggest Loser that inspired me. (Did anyone else watch it? I admit it--I teared up a few times.) I just feel really ready to get rid of the last 10 pounds of baby weight. My youngest is 19 months now. I think that means I no longer have an excuse to wear a skirted swimsuit this summer.
So I was talking to my sister on the phone yesterday about the different options out there--Weight Watchers, Body for Life, etc.--everything that sort of sounds like torture when you're not all fired up to do it.
And the little stinker goes and mentions that she's craving clam cakes.
Clam cakes. Clam cakes. Suddenly all I can think about are clam cakes and Del's lemonade, two staples in the summertime diet of any respectable Rhode Islander (or honorary Rhode Islander, as my sister and I are).
New plan, I decide. Instead of Weight Watchers, I'm just going to eat whatever I want--just less of it.
Right. So today I made clam cakes. And proceeded to eat four of them. Big ones. Looks like I'm going to have to order a swimsuit from this company this year.
I thought I'd share the recipe in case anyone else is as psychologically weak as I am. And while I'm at it, I'm going to share my family's recipe for whoopie pies (we call them devil dogs) to really seal the deal. (Plus, Penny Carnival reader Robyn e-mailed wondering if I had a whoopie pie recipe the other day. I found it, Robyn!)
This is an abbreviated version of Emeril Lagasse's, based on the ingredients I had in the house and other tinkering. They turned out quite good!
2 1/4 cups fresh clams (I left mine whole, unlike Emeril, and I'd steamed them the night before with white wine, garlic and olive oil. They were leftovers from last night's dinner)
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
A smidge each of the following: paprika, garlic powder, black pepper, onion powder, cayenne pepper, oregano and thyme
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup clam juice (I used the juice from the leftover steamed clams)
1 clove minced garlic
Canola oil, for frying
-Wash and steam the clams if you haven't already.
-In a large bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, salt and spices.
-Add the egg, milk, clam juice and garlic. Stir until you have a thick batter.
-Stir in the clams.
-Heat oil in a frying pan.
-Drop the batter into the hot oil, about 2 tablespoons per clam cake. Leave plenty of room between the cakes and don't skimp on the oil.
-Cooking, turning once, until golden brown (about four minutes per side).
-Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.
-Emeril suggests serving the clam cakes with tartar sauce, but a squeeze of lemon juice is all I need.
Serve with something cold and summery, like beer or a mojito. I've been making virgin mojitos lately (lime juice, sugar, mint leaves, club soda). Nothing against rum. It's that I mostly just like the freshness of mojitos and at the rate I've been drinking them, I'd be an unfit mother if I included the alcohol.
And now for the Whoopie Pies, a.k.a. Aunt Theresa's Devil Dogs
We make ours cute and small, so you can have, like, 10 of them, right? Right???!! I need help.
For the chocolate cake part:
1/2 cup shortening
1 cup sugar
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups flour
1/2 cup cocoa
pinch of salt
-Heat oven to 425 degrees.
-Beat sugar and shortening until creamy. Add egg and vanilla.
-Sift dry ingredients in a separate bowl.
-Alternately add dry ingredients and milk, mixing until you achieve a thick batter.
-Drop by the teaspoonful onto an ungreased cookie sheet.
-Bake for five minutes. Let cool for a few minutes on the cookie sheet, then remove from sheet and let cool completely.
For the filling, I have two versions.
The real filling recipe:
In a saucepan, heat 2 1/2 tablespoons of flour and 1/2 cup of milk, stirring constantly until a thick paste forms. Turn off heat.
In a mixing bowl, cream 1/4 cup of shortening and 1/4 cup of butter.
Add 1/2 cup of sugar, a dash of salt, 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla and the flour/milk paste. Whip until fluffy.
The cheater's filling (still very tasty):
Beat 3/4 cup shortening, 1/2 cup butter, 3/4 cup powdered sugar and 1/2 cup marshmallow fluff until fluffy.
Once the chocolate cakes are completely (COMPLETELY!) cooled, sandwich a generous helping of the filling in between pairs.
My apologies for my chronic absenteeism lately. In between the regular rigamarole, we've been spending every extra minute in the yard--getting the garden ready, raking up the leaves we were too lazy to pick up last fall, you know the routine.
The garden is ready for our over abundance of seeds and starts now, but Mother Nature isn't. We've been dipping below freezing a bit this week so I'm holding off until this weekend's expected heat wave. We're expanding our growing space a little this year and adding a few new crops, like raspberries and corn. Growing corn breaks my gardening rule No. 1: only grow things that cost way too much at the store. But I'm hoping it will look pretty cool. You know, all "if you build it, they will come."
Speaking of saving money, I've recently become one of those crazy ladies who clips coupons. Is anyone else part of that sisterhood? Fred Meyer had to pay me $0.81 yesterday to buy a package of lasagna noodles.
I did manage to sew an impromptu Emmeline apron this week for one of Bo's teachers, who is leaving the school to take a new job.
Sometimes I worry that I feel my girls' pain too deeply, as if it were my own. I'm concerned about what this will mean when they're teenagers and they come home sobbing about some boy who's gone and broken their hearts. Ugh. I can remember that ache like it was yesterday, and now that I'm a mom I think of how my poor parents must have felt.
But Bo is still only 3, so her biggest heartbreak right now is me only letting her have two marshmallows instead of three today.
Except for the pending departure of Miss Kathleen, or so I thought.
I love this woman. She's like our very own ray of sunshine every morning when she greets the kids (doesn't hurt that her hair is a flamingly beautiful shade of red).
Miss Kathleen is taking a job in which she will help homeless women and their children transition to permanent housing. OK, OK. I will hand her over for that extremely worthy cause. But still, I think I will miss her as much as Bo will.
When I explained the situation to Bo, I expected her to lose it. We'd just seen a homeless man earlier in the day, though, so the thought of not having a place to sleep or enough to eat was fresh in her mind. So instead of crying over the loss of her teacher, she literally jumped out from under her bed covers, and then jumped on her bed cheering, "Yea! She's going to help the man!"
So much for wallowing in self pity. I could learn a thing or two from this kid.
I wanted to make Miss Kathleen a goodbye gift, and an apron seemed appropriate.
She can use this side when she's feeling more serious ...
Or this side when she's missing the kids at school ...
And just so she won't forget Bo, I added a pocket Bo helped make to the playful side. I asked Bo to draw a picture of Miss Kathleen and then I traced and embroidered what she came up with, like we've done before.
Here's Joe Cool herself, taking it all in:
Does anyone else think she kind of looks like the little boy in the movie "Love Actually"? Don't tell her I said that.
First of all, thank you, Runs With Scissors, for the great book suggestion the other day. We checked out "The Princess and the Pea" by Lauren Child, and I love it as much as Bo does. I want to live in the pages. I want to wear the princess' tiny dresses and attend a miniature ball.
And then Amanda Soule blogged about the P & P, too, and about how her 3-year-old daughter Adelaide apparently loves Child's book, too. Amanda and Adelaide made a princess and mattress set inspired by Tree Fall's set, and Bo caught me looking at it online.
(By the way, Bo has recently discovered the power of the Internet. "Show me crafts, Mommy." "Show me princess cakes." It's cute and scary at the same time.)
So, of course, she wanted to make a princess and the pea set like Adelaide's and Manda's. (FYI--Manda sells her version in her Etsy shop, if you're interested). We whipped up our own version today while Magpie napped, and somewhere along the way Bo decided it would be a gift for her little sister when she woke up (aw sweet, right? That's the yin to the yang that normally happens between these two sisters).
The mattresses were sewn with Bo on my lap. They're a little iffy in spots because of that, but they were a hit with both girls all the same. The pea is a green pom pom, the bed is an empty mandarin orange box, and the princess is a little fairy finger puppet we've had for a while.
I have to admit it. This princess thing is turning out to be pretty magical. Somebody pass me some crow.
I needed to organize my life, be better about meal planning, and start clipping coupons (and actually use them instead of letting them turn into compost among the cookie crumbs in the bottom of my purse).
I needed a day planner.
The logical next step most people would take would be to go to Office Depot and buy one for $19.99.
Nope. Not me. I had to make one from scratch because I told myself the only way it would become a permanent part of my life is if it were extension of my personality. Did I mention my family thinks I'm nuts (not just my immediate family. The whole extended family)?
So here it is, Megan's very own day planner, sure to improve her life in immeasurable ways:
It's basically a slipcover for a 3-ring binder. I traced some of Bo's drawings of our family and embroidered them on front. How do you like the belly buttons on me and J?
The zipper pouch holds coupons which are alligator clipped together based on category (eating out, baby items, food, etc.). It's made from Amy Butler "gothic rose" fabric leftover from the Emmeline apron I made my friend Nis. The outside of the slipcover is plain old muslin. The inside is a birdie print from Ikea. And there's a layer of flannel (one of the girl's old baby blankets) in between to give it just a tiny bit of padding.
The best part of the whole thing? The filler pages, which the amazingly talented and generous Amanda Hawkins offers for free on her blog.
My photos of her work don't do it justice. Do check out her offerings.
Here's the back side: Maybe not something you'd want to carry to a job interview, but since my main job these days is CEO of those little stick figures you see embroidered there, I'm not worried about it.
UPDATE: I forgot to mention that the idea for the mini birthday bunting came from something I saw on Flickr. I just tried looking for it again but my searches are yielding 11,000 results with no luck.
UPDATE 2: I found it! Here's the original inspiration for the mini bunting:
So, what else is up? Like I mentioned the other day, I sewed another book sling, this time in exchange for an hour-long massage with the amazing Mariah of Elysium Touch. The massage was last Saturday, and I'm still walking around like cooked spaghetti. Honestly, we all need to treat ourselves to massages more often. Promise me you will. An hour to completely relax and open your mind. I walked away from there wanting to be a better person.
Mariah choose the fabrics. Fantastic, huh? I can't remember the names, but I'll track them down if anyone is interested.
And I just have to share some photos I took this morning at a beautiful home decor store here in Spokane called 1900. Simply lovely.
I don't think I'd mind that my dishwasher is broken if I owned this dish rack: