Saturday, December 14, 2013

Faux Chenille Baby Blanket

Ten days ago my best friends had their first baby, a gorgeous baby girl. I wanted to make something for her so when I saw the tutorial on Made for a faux chenille blanket, I knew that was it. I actually ended up using the Aesthetic Nest tutorial Dana on Made references because I liked the idea of using flannel for the back instead of just cotton making it nice and cozy for a winter baby.

While this is a (very) time consuming project, it's actually quite easy since all you have to do is sew straight lines so if you have a few hours on your hands (or days if you need to break it up like I did) then I highly recommend making one of these for a loved one. K already picked out the fabric she wants for hers and I helped E pick out hers. But, they're going to have to wait until AFTER Christmas!


1 1/4 yards cotton fabric (this will be for the top of your blanket)
1 1/4 yards each of THREE coordinating cotton flannels (I used 100% cotton for all fabric)
Kitchen twine (the kind you tie around a pot roast)
Disappearing ink fabric marker
Yard stick
At least two spools of thread of a color that will show on the top of the blanket
2 packages of double fold bias tape
1 spool of thread to match the bias tape
Fabric scissors, or even better, a slash cutter (sometimes called a chenille cutter). I got mine from JoAnn Fabric using a 40% off coupon. I highly recommend it.


1. Lay out the top fabric and measure 45" square. Cut off any excess.

2. Use the cut piece of fabric as a guide to cut your pieces of flannel.

3. Using a piece of the kitchen twine, stretch it across on the DIAGONAL. This blanket will only work if you sew and cut it on the bias, which means the diagonal. Then, use the yard stick (or other long straight edge) and the disappearing fabric marker to trace that line.

3A. OPTIONAL: You can pin your blanket around the edges or use a few safety pins in the middle. I didn't pin mine at all because the layers of flannel keep it from shifting too much.

4. Sew straight down the line you drew. Continue sewing straight lines 1/2" apart. For the most part I just eye-balled the 1/2" spacing but occasionally if I felt my lines were getting too wonky, I would lay the blanket out on the floor and use a ruler to draw a line or two until they were straight again.
You can see my first 6 lines under K's hand.

5. Keep sewing straight lines. And sewing... and sewing... I started at the center and sewed one whole side. Then I spun the blanket around and sewed the other side. It's a bit ungainly because of the weight of 4 layers of fabric so I had to keep folding mine up so it would be easier to handle.

6. Cut off any excess flannel that might have shifted during sewing. Leave the top fabric though - it helps with the cutting in the next step.

7. Lay your blanket face down (flannel side facing up) and using your slash cutter or scissors, cut right down the center of each row you stitched - FLANNEL ONLY! Don't cut through your top fabric.

8. Spread the blanket out on a hard flat surface and using your ruler as a guide, square up each side and corner. This is much easier done with a rotary cutter and self-healing mat but it isn't absolutely necessary. (I found this step to be a pain in the bum and had to keep trimming off a little more, and a little more until I got it nice and square. It's important to have nice straight edges for the binding in the next step.)

9. Line up the binding so that the edge of your blanket is sandwiched in between the binding. I made mine with the edge all the way inside the binding so that I wouldn't miss any layers as I sewed.

10. And now the fun part - Washing the blanket! Throw the blanket in the washer and dryer and watch those cut rows of flannel turn into soft, fuzzy faux chenille.

Here's a comparison:

Both girls loved the blanket and anytime I had it out on the floor to cut or measure they were all over it. Here's E enjoying the final results. She loved running her fingers in between the rows of wiggly flannel.

I hope Baby F will enjoy her new blanket as she gets a bit older and her Mommy and Daddy will tell her all about her crazy Faux Auntie who already loves her and can't wait to meet her.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Blowin' up the SOAP!

Hello! I can't believe November is almost half over. Where has the time gone?!? It always seems like once Halloween hits the rest of the year is a blur of holidays, parties, and events. I hope this year I can step back and relax and really just enjoy myself and the time with my family. I'm almost done with all of my Christmas shopping and let me say, it feels GREAT! I've never done my shopping so early but I thought if I get it out of the way now I'll have more time for baking cookies, sledding, building snowmen, you know... the important stuff.

Back in September I shared my "recipe" for making homemade laundry soap. My cousin mentioned on Facebook that she uses the same recipe but instead of grating her Ivory soap, she microwaves it and then just squeezes it. Huh??? I checked online and sure enough, using Ivory only (other soaps just melt) you can microwave it for about a minute and a half and it puffs up into a giant cloud of soap that you can then break apart into tiny flakes with your hands or a food processor. I used my hands because I was worried the food processor would melt it into bigger chunks.

Normal bar of Ivory soap on a piece of wax paper in the microwave. If you have the option to turn the turntable off, I'd recommend it. I didn't and I think my soap could have gotten bigger if it didn't end up stuck in the corner due to the turntable spinning.

Here it is all puffed up into a soap cloud. It feels a lot like just slightly stale cotton candy.

And here it is all squished into flakes and in my container waiting for the other ingredients.

Pretty cool! K thought it was really neat too. I have to say that while it is a lot easier than grating, I'm able to get a more fine texture than with the microwaving. I have more chunks in this batch than usual although thankfully they are easily dissolved in the washing machine.

Here's a link to a video of this because it's oddly fascinating to watch.

Until next time,

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Minion Cupcakes

If you remember, back in August I made a blog post about why I love the movie, Despicable Me. Before the second movie came out in July I recalled seeing a web image of cupcakes made to look like the minions. A quick Google Image search came up with several sites and it looked like each one made them the same way.
Here are how ours turned out:

This one was mine

This one was A's

This one was my mom's

And this one belonged to K

They were very easy to make and fun to decorate. Here are the instructions in case you want to bake some of your own:

1. Bake cupcakes and frost them. (We used chocolate cupcakes but probably yellow would have been better. I also used blue cupcake liners and frosting to look like their overalls.)

2. Cut a Twinkie or similar treat in half and stick it to the center of your cupcake. (When we made ours Twinkies weren't back on the shelves yet so we used Little Debbie Cloud Cakes.)

3. Using black gel icing, draw on a mouth and the black part of their goggles. You can also add eyelashes if you minion happens to be a girl, like K's :)

4. Stick a white Smartie on the goggle outline and add a drop of black gel icing for the eye.

5. Stick chocolate sprinkles in the top for hair.

And that's it. Fun to make and a sugar overload to eat. Yum! Oh, and speaking of sugar overload...

Until next time,
J :)

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Recipe: Slow Cooker Applesauce

Oh my, this applesauce is SO good and the best part is, there's no sugar added! According to the website where I got this recipe, My Whole Food Life, "Slow cooking the apples allows for the natural sugars to come out. Plus, adding spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, and vanilla makes the dish seem sweet without having to add any sugar."

10 apples peeled, cored and cubed
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1/2 heaping tsp ginger
1/4 tsp cloves
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup water

Throw everything in the slow cooker. Cook on high for the first hour, stirring occasionally. Then turn to low and cook for another 6 hours or so. The longer you cook it, the better. We like ours chunky but if you like it smoother you can blend it at the end. That’s it, and your house will smell amazing too!

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Recipe: Slow Cooker Apple Crisp

As you may recall we recently went apple picking so I have lots and lots of apples to use in various recipes. The first three recipes I feature here are going to be utilizing a slow cooker because it's just so simple to toss all of the ingredients in and forget it the rest of the day.

This first recipe came from the website, Repeat Crafter Me. It's a great site that my sister-in-law introduced me to when she made our family matching owl hats last Christmas.

This apple crisp was easy to make, very tasty, and reheats well. My only complaint with it is that it uses a lot of butter. However, if you are looking for a hands-off, no fuss recipe, this is it.

6 apples peeled and sliced thin
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup quick oats
2 tsp cinnamon
2/3 cup softened butter

Place the sliced apples inside the slow cooker. Mix the remaining ingredients together and put on top of the apples (do not stir). Cover and cook on LOW about 6 hours.

I served ours with vanilla ice cream which I highly recommend.

Enjoy! - J

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Apple Picking

A few weekends pack we went apple picking at our favorite orchard. It was the first time for little E and it's been a few years since we actually picked apples with K (we go every year but usually we just buy a bag of pre-picked apples and just pick pumpkins out of the patch.) It was a really fabulous time and both girls enjoyed themselves immensely.

Our bushel before we picked our apples.

It's great having Daddy to reach the perfect apples way up high.

K found the perfect apple.

E was definitely enjoying her apple as well.

A family photo on the tractor after filling our bushel.

Our beautiful bushel of Gala and McIntosh apples.

K pony-back riding.

The gift barn had these super cool resin steam punk pumpkins.
K thought this one looked like Larry from VeggieTales.

Now that we have all of these apples, I'll be sharing some apple recipes I find online and share whether they're hits or misses.

Have a great night! - J

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Quick Tip: Homemade Bread Crumbs

Lately I've been making K "All My Heart Sandwiches" or "Superstar Sandwiches" like this:

I cut the bread slices with a heart or a star cookie cutter before adding the sandwich toppings for a more fun lunch. However, that leaves quite a bit of unused bread so I started collecting the crusts in a bag like this:

When the bag gets full I arrange the bread remnants on a cookie sheet like this:

and bake them in a 300 degree oven for 20 minutes. Then I either crumble the dried bread with my hands or use a rolling pin or a food processor and end up with a delicious bag of homemade bread crumbs like this:

Quick, simple and homemade - the perfect way to use leftover crusts :)

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Recipe: Easy Eggplant Parmesan

On Tuesdays in our town is the local Farmers Market. I love walking down there and admiring the fresh produce. It's a small town so it's a small Farmers Market but I always manage to walk away with something. This particular Tuesday it was two beautiful looking eggplants. Aren't eggplants just the most gorgeous purple color? I love them. I wasn't sure what I was going to make with them but I bought them anyway and I'm so glad I did.

Easy Eggplant Parmesan
(I apologize that I don't have a tantalizing photo of the dish but I didn't think to take one before we devoured it. As soon as we make it again I'll take a picture and amend this post.)

Makes 6 servings

- 2 eggplants (peeled and cut into discs)
- sea salt
- 2 egg whites, 1 whole egg, beaten
- bread crumbs (Italian seasoned or add dried basil, oregano and parsley to plain breadcrumbs) *I added about 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese to my bread crumbs as well.
- olive oil
- grated parmesan cheese
- shredded mozzarella (8 oz bag if you're being good, 16 oz if you like cheese; or better yet, shred your own and use as little or as much as you want)
- 1 jar spaghetti sauce (or make fresh if you prefer). We use Mids brand and it's really, really good.
- fresh basil (or dried but fresh tastes better)

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees
2. Lay the eggplant slices on a baking sheet and sprinkle them with sea salt. Let them sit for 30 minutes or until you see moisture beading on the top.
3. Rinse the slices and pat them dry.
4. Coat your baking sheet in olive oil.
5. Dip the slices in egg, then the bread crumbs. Place them in a single layer on the baking sheet and cook for 7 minutes per side.
6. Turn the oven down to 325 degrees.
7. In a 9"x13" baking dish spread spaghetti sauce to cover the bottom. Place a layer of eggplant slices in the sauce and then sprinkle with Mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses. Repeat with the remaining slices, ending with the cheese. If you're using dried basil, sprinkle that on now. If you're using fresh, add it after it's been cooked.
8. Bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown.

This was SO good. It was the first time I've ever cooked or eaten eggplant and I was delighted with the results. Not only did it taste amazing but it was really easy to make. Plus, seeing as it's baked and not fried, I'm guessing it's fairly healthy. Well, I guess that depends on how much cheese you use but I think it would still be delicious even if you went easy on the cheese. Good luck and happy cooking!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

K's 5th Birthday Party - part 2: Fun and games

Hi and welcome back! Last time I blogged I was showing you pictures from K's 5th birthday party. As you may recall it was a Sugar Rush theme from the Disney movie, Wreck-it Ralph. Tonight I have the second half of the post highlighting all of the fun we had!

Earlier in the summer K was invited to a 5th birthday party for a girl from her preschool and they had rented one of those inflatable bounce house contraptions. The girls loved it and spent the majority of the party in there. After seeing how much fun they had I started doing some research on the cost for renting one for K's party. I came to the conclusion that purchasing one would be a much better deal in the long run. I turned to Amazon to check out reviews and we ended up with this one. It was SO worth the money!

Not only did the kids have an absolute blast in there, I think the adults ended up having more fun. My brother (affectionately known as "Uncle Goofball" for good reason) got in that thing with his daughter C and K from the first moment they got here.

I hadn't gone in there yet because I was afraid I was too heavy for it but when this thing advertised itself as 'commercial grade', they weren't kidding. At one point we had 3 adults and 2 kids in there and it didn't show any sign of losing air or stressed seams. And let me tell you, that is one serious leg workout. My legs were shaking when I got out of it.

The other fun event at the party was the "Bake Your Own Race Kart" station, just like in the movie.

Here are the instructions that I had hanging above the table:

We had a large assortment of confectionery goodies set up for it, plus you could use any other food items provided in the room. My Mom even used shredded cheddar cheese as hair for her driver.

I was VERY impressed with how well all of the different karts turned out. The kids did a fantastic job and even some of the adults got in on it and made truly original karts. Plus, they were fun to eat!

It's not too often that we can get the kids to sit still long enough for pictures so I was very shocked to get this fantastic picture of K and her cousin C opening gifts. I hadn't realized how similar their hair and eye colors are, especially since both my brother and I have very dark hair and green eyes.

K truly had a great birthday and it showed in her every smile. Even though this wasn't theme I was expecting to do for her party this year, I'm so glad I listened to her. She's already been telling me all of the different parties she wants for when she turns 6 and 7 and ...  That's my girl!

(In case you missed the first part of the party blog which covered the invitation, decorations, and food, you can find that here.)

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

K's 5th Birthday Party - part 1: Invitation, food, decorations

This year our sweet little girl turned 5 and requested a Sugar Rush themed birthday party (from Disney's 'Wreck-It Ralph' movie). For a split second I was disappointed because I had already planned on having a carnival party for her but I recovered quickly knowing that it's her birthday and if this is what she wants then that's what she'll get. I mean, you only turn 5 once and it's a big deal - she's a whole hand now! Honestly, I should have realized that at 5 years old she's going to have her own opinions so perhaps I'll stop planning what *I* want the theme to be and let her have a say in the matter.

For this party I decided to change the venue. It was still at my parents house but I moved the whole party down into the finished, walk-out basement. Since we have that area set up as the playroom already, I figured this would be the perfect place to have a family party. Plus, we bought an inflatable bounce house that was in the backyard and this way the kids (and adults) would have easy access to it. There's a refrigerator and sink down there along with a bathroom and with it being the coolest place in the house (temperature-wise) it made perfect sense during the hottest week of the summer. We only had to make some minor adjustments to the layout of the room and we brought in our futon for additional seating but A and I are loving the new arrangement and hope to keep it that way until we're told otherwise.

I actually went really low-key on this party. After I went completely overboard with the Alice in Wonderland decorations last year, I kept the decorations for this party incredibly minimal and went fairly simple on the food. The goodie bag was the most time consuming part but thankfully my aunt and cousin came early and she and A helped me finish the last of the treats in there.

The invitation this year isn't my favorite. I feel like it's just too busy but K loved it and that's all that really matters. My favorite is still the Toy Story one for her third birthday and I tend to compare all other invitations to that one.

The cake is also incredibly busy. I came up with the idea to make it into the finish line of the race track and thought "It would be so cool to use her toy cars on it crossing the finish line." I didn't realize, however, that they would be so big on a 9" x 13" cake. And I knew K wouldn't want me to leave any of them out. As it was, I had to eliminate one car but at least I got all 4 of her toy racers on it. K loved it and her only request was to put some Skittles on it so I added a few near the candles but they weren't on it yet when I took this picture.

One of my favorite things to look at and eat were the "You're My Hero" cookies we made based on the movie. They turned out looking fantastic and tasted awesome but my gosh, the recipe I used was for drop cookies instead of rolled and I sifted my flour when maybe I shouldn't have... Needless to say it was the stickiest, most pain in the butt dough I have ever tried to work with. I was so close to just scraping the whole homemade part and buying a tube of sugar cookie dough from the store. Thank goodness A and my mom helped because they actually ended up tasting amazing. Here's a side-by-side comparison of ours versus Vanellope's medal from the movie.

Since the theme of the party was about a video game where everything is made out of candy, we had a big candy bar set up in two stations on the table. Below is the area that had the cake and cookies. The candy, cake and cookie stands were all made from candlestick holders and bowls and platters I found at Goodwill. I used clear epoxy to glue them together and they held up wonderfully. I think they were really cute all grouped together and the most expensive one was $2.99 so definitely a good project for the money. You can also see the goodie bags in this picture. A bit later on is a detail photo of what went inside.

My awesome cousin made these beautiful poofs out of paper lanterns and hundreds and hundreds (maybe thousands?) of coffee filters. I still have them hanging in the basement because they're so pretty and I don't want to give them back just yet ;)  They look so frilly and lacey and just, girly. I love them!
For food I ordered 6 extra large pizzas and made a salad bar (to counter act the candy bar) and we had a few different types of chips and dips out around the room for pre-party noshing. Like I said, I went very low-key this time. You can see on the left side of this picture the other part of the candy bar but I'll explain it in further detail tomorrow.

The only other decorations were three tissue paper poms (two were recycled from last years birthday party), the polka dot Happy Birthday banner from my nieces party back in April, and the polka dot pinwheels from her party were out in the yard. Since there isn't a ton of merchandise for The Sugar Rush Racers specifically it was nice to be able to reuse fun, bright colored decorations from previous parties and not buy new stuff.

The goodie bags were one of the few places where I was able to do something specifically based on the Sugar Rush Racers. is a division of Disney so they have a ton of Disney movie related crafts, recipes, games, etc. From their site I made the peppermint barrettes, the Felix / Ralph activity books (Felix is on one side and Ralph is on the flip side), and the Sugar Rush charm bracelet. The stickers came from the Dollar store, the Sugar Rush rings were a purchase from Amazon and the crayons came from Target. The charm bracelets are so neat because they were made using inkjet printable Shrinky Dink paper, and if you don't know what that is, it prints just like normal paper and then you cut out the shapes, lay them on a parchment covered cookie sheet and bake them in your oven for a few minutes until then come out shrunk about half the size and hard like plastic. Very cool! The barrettes are made out of polymer clay and then baked in the oven and covered with a coat of Mod Podge. I made a set of these and the bracelet for each girl (minus E) but I'm still hesitant to let K wear hers. While E seems to be out of the 'putting everything in her mouth' stage already, I'm more concerned with her pulling on the charms and either breaking one of them or the chain, and if one of the clay peppermints came off, they actually do look real enough that I worry she would try and eat it. Maybe she can wear them to school and then take them off when she gets home... at least until E is just a bit older or we become a little less paranoid.

And there you have it. Even though some of the decorations and treat bag items are DIY type of crafts I don't have any tutorials because they are either easy enough to figure out on your own (like the candy dishes) or you can find online (like the charm bracelets.) If you do have any questions though, please don't hesitate to ask me. Tomorrow I'll cover the fun candy game, opening gifts and the bounce house (us cousins had way too much fun in there) and that should wrap it up. Thanks for checking it out!