Wednesday, March 31, 2010

I love my husband


I just wanted to take a minute and brag profusely about the awesomeness of my husband.*  He. Is. The. Bomb.  Seriously.  He's the best husband I've ever had.  I love him more than Sephora.  More than shoes.  More than cake.  And that's a freaking lot.  I have been crazy swamped at work lately and haven't had time or energy to do anything, but he's been amazing.  Here are just a few things he's done for me in the last week:

- Made me dinner (and wouldn't even let me help).  And by "help" I mean bitch and complain that he's not doing it "right" and get out of my way so I can just do it myself.  :)  Yeah, I'm lovely.

- Rubs my feet while we're laying on the couch.  Without me having to ask 30 times or shove my feet repeatedly in his face.

- Spent hours and hours and hours setting up shelving in our basement and cleaning the whole place because he knows it drives me bonkers to have all of our wedding gifts lying around on the basement floor.

- Took care of booking us a beach house for Location X vacation and agreed to drive 13+ hours to get there (each way!) because he knows I want to take the dog on vacation. 

- Found a guy to come to our house and cook a 75 pound pig in our driveway for his 30th birthday party (that I'm supposed to be throwing for him).  Took care of all the arrangements and didn't rub it in my face that we're basically going to be eating Babe.  Didn't mention it once.

- Let my March Madness bracket win against his because he knows how competitive I am about winning any thing.  Ok, so maybe he didn't exactly "let" me win, but I still appreciate that I won.  And needed to let the world know.

Isn't he the best?  I love you Ruby.




*Feel free to throw-up because of all this mushiness. 

Sewing Basics Class


Last night was my final class in the Sewing Basics class at Sew It Seams. Four classes this month and I learned SEW much (hahahaha - are you getting tired of that yet?).   Although there was no pomp and circumstance, I've officially graduated!!  I'm so proud.  Excessive amounts of wine were had by all (mostly me) to celebrate.  Good times, good times.

Anyhoo, at the end of the class, I had mad a bathrobe from a big piece of fabric.  Magic.  And it actually LOOKED like a bathrobe too.  Magic.  And didn't fall apart when I put it on.  Project Runway, here I come!

Unfortunately, I didn't take a lot of pictures.  I don't know why.  I think I was just too overwhelmed trying to keep up and listen to instruction that I didn't even bother getting my camera out at a few classes.  So this post is really lacking in pictures, but I promise to make it up to you.  I'll take TONS of pictures when I make my first project at home.....................wait for it..................a skirt (insert oooohs and ahhhhs here).  Hell yeah.

I'm not going to go into too much detail about all the little things we did in class right now because that'd take for-ev-a and it'd probably bore you to death and I doubt I even remember most of it.  But here are the "basics."

1. Pick out your pattern and a fabric.  I really liked the softness of the houndstooth fabric that I picked out.  However, working with it was tripy.  The pattern was totally messing with my mind.  It really gave me a headache at times.  And made me dizzy.  Weird.

2. Cut out the pattern in your size.  There are measurements on the back of the pattern package.  I was an extra-small, so my pieces were little and I was the first one done.  SCORE!  Sorry, I know it's not a competition...I just don't like wasting time of stupid shit like cutting out paper. 

3. Lay out your fabric and fold in half.  Use the pictures in the instruction book to show you how to fit all your pattern pieces on the fabric.

4. Pin the pattern pieces to the fabric and then cut out the pieces.  Use pinking shears so you won't have to sew around the edge of all the pieces.  Be mindful of the notches.

5. Mark your fabric with all necessary markings with chalk.  We had a few dots on our patterns that needed marked.  Use the chalk in a color that will show up.  Mark on the inside (wrong side) of your fabric. 

6. Following the order of the instructions, begin sewing the pieces together.  Pin the pieces first and pull out the pins as you are sewing.  (Ok, I know this is a ridiculously vague statement, but every pattern is going to be different.  And it's much easier said than done.)  We started with the pocket.  We made the pocket and then sewed them on the front panels. 

Here I had just applied some interfacing to the top of the pocket.  I think.  I really don't know what was going on at this point, but I was fascinated enough to take TWO pictures of it.  Wow. 
I pinned the pocket in place with colored pins so I could see them against my fabric.  Can you see them?  Isn't it tripy looking!
And sew!
Below is my instructor helping one of the girls.  This is covert camera operation.  I don't know why, but I felt like a big ol dork whipping out my camera, so these were on the sly.
And here's our work area.

7.   And a month later...you're finished!!  Yay!!  Wasn't that super easy?!  Now you can have lots and lots of wine.  Don't we look fabulous in our robes?! 


Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Basic Cake Decorating

A few weekends ago, I took a Basic Cake Decorating Class at Kitchen Conservatory with my friends Heather and Michelle.

As you all know, I love cake. In a big way. Especially the icing. Mmmm. And I love baking cakes. But I can NOT decorate them. Last year I made Ryan a birthday cake - his favorite yellow cake with chocolate icing. It looked like I let a 5 year old decorate it - lopsided layers, filling dripping out the middle, icing full of yellow cake crumbs, squiggly-drunk-looking handwriting. Pathetic. I didn't even take a picture I was so embarrassed. Ooops. This year I'm determined to make him a kick-ass cake. Or at least one that I'm not ashamed to let people see.

So, I recruited two of the craftiest girls I know (and great bakers) to learn the "basics" of cake decorating. Heather and Michelle are both already pretty talented at decorating desserts. Michelle is a cookie decorating goddess. Her cookies are so pretty and amazing it's almost a shame to eat them! And Heather has mastered the perfect "bachelorette party" cake. You would die...it's that funny good. So I knew I was in good hands. (Plus, they're both gorgeous, so I had great models for my pictures!)

This was a BASICS class. It started at square one and basically got you to square two. Exactly where I needed to start. Basic buttercream decorating. No fancy-schmancy decorating, no fondant, no colored roses with leaves and balloons. That's too much for me. I needed to learn how to keep the damn thing from falling apart while icing and how to make it not look like I hosed it down with icing. This was the perfect class.

The chef started by making basic buttercream icing. It was really easy. I forgot to take pictures. Sorry.

Next step was to grab a cake. Someone at KC had already made a batch of cakes for us to use. Basic yellow cake. One layer. Unwrap and begin.
First things first, you have to make the cake completely even. If your cake is domed, you have to cut off the dome to even it out. If your cake has a sunken middle, you should trim off some of the outer top so that it's flat. It's very important to have a flat cake. Who knew?! I've never done this step...no wonder my cakes were always lopsided. I just thought that if your top was domed, you flipped it over and that was obviously the bottom. Not so, my friends! Not so. That dome (even on the bottom) could come back to haunt you later. Cut. It. Off. Now.

How? Well I'm glad you asked. Eyeball it and figure out where you need to cut. Then lightly score the cake with your knife so you know. And here's the trick...instead of moving your knife across the cake and sawing through it (like I used to do), you SPIN the cake all the way AROUND the KNIFE. Rotate the cake. Do NOT move the knife. At all. It's imperative that you keep the knife completely flat while you're doing this.

Once you have a flat top. Do the same thing to cut the cake in half (so you have two layers).
Ta da!!! See those cake scraps in the corner? If you need to fill in some holes in your cake you can use those scraps.
Once you have two layers, you want to add moisture to your layers. This part blew my mind! I had no idea that you could flavor a cake and keep it moist this way. We made a syrup (a thin simple syrup) with 2 parts water and 1 part sugar. And then we added our choice of flavor to it. This is the same type of syrup that they brush on sponge cakes to add moisture and a bit of extra sweetness. You can flavor it with liquors or extracts or anything liquid. The girls and I chose a basic vanilla syrup. The chef added a cherry liquor to his. Someone else used Grand Marnier to give it an orange flavor. And you take a brush and dab it all over both layers of your cake. Make sure you get enough on there to flavor the cake, but not too much that it completely soaks through and runs out the bottom.
Next, we made the filling. Using the pre-made buttercream icing, we took a little of it and flavored it. Heather and I wanted a chocolate filling, so we added some melted chocolate to the buttercream. Viola, chocolate icing. Michelle used some raspberry preserves and mad a raspberry filling. Yum. Once made, you just slap it in the middle of one of the layers. You take the bottom of your spatula blade and go straight across the icing. Never lift UP. That's what pulls the icing and cake up so crumbs get in your icing. Straight across and straight off the edge. Then carefully place the other layer on top evenly.

Then you apply a CRUMB COAT. Did you hear that?? Crumb coat. Yep, it's a coat of icing that traps all the crumbs. So they don't get in your icing! Isn't that brilliant?! Just take some of your leftover filling and apply a very thin layer of it to the entire cake (top and sides). You want to be able to see the cake through the crumb coat, so it's thin. Use your fingers to smear it everywhere. It does not have to be pretty, no one will ever see this.

(Please excuse the puffiness of my face...allergies are killing me.)

Refrigerate the cake for at least 15-20 minutes so the crumb coat solidifies. While that's going on, you can flavor the rest of your icing. We all chose to add some vanilla bean paste to our icing because it was so rich and flavorful. Others added fruit preserves or chocolate.

Now, the basic steps of icing a cake are (1) Top, (2) Sides, (3) Top. Place a huge dollop of icing in the center top of your cake. Using the same straight across method as the filling, spread the icing all over the top of the cake. It'll be falling off the sides, but don't worry about that. Rotate the cake and repeat until the top is smooth and pretty. Remember to never lift up.
Next, put some icing on the back of your spatula and apply the icing first down...the away from you. Use the outer edge of the cardboard cake round to be your guide. Holding your spatula perpendicular to the cake, pull the spatula down to fill in the space between the cake and the cardboard with icing, then push away from you, creating a nice edge. The top of the cake will now be messed up again along the edges. This is kind of hard to understand when I type it out, but trust me, it works.

Once you've iced all the way around the outside edges of the cake, you need to redo the top. You'll have little icing mounds all along the edge of the top of the cake. Just use your spatula and sweep straight across to push them out. Remember to never lift up. And then you have a perfectly iced cake. Nothing fancy, but better than I've ever done!

And lastly, you can add some piped icing around the edges to make it pretty. This was harder than I thought it would be. Michelle was really good at this part. Her cake was Martha-esque.
Heather wasn't thrilled with her piping job, but I thought it looked amazing!
And then there was mine...

It's not winning any prizes, but I was damn proud of it!! Kind of boring and white-looking but whatever. Michelle added some red and pink heart sprinkles to hers and Heather added some chocolate sprinkles. I put a few little pearl looking things on mine and some crystal sugar, but you really can't tell. Very white.

And then I took it home and ate the whole thing. :)

Tuesday Shoesday


Ok, I'm jumping on the bandwagon (and am inspired by Brit at the Landlocked Bride) to participate in Tuesday Shoesday this week.  Mainly because I'm DYING for a pedicure and some new sandals for spring.  It's almost warm enough.  HURRY UP DAMMIT!!


Prada...drool

Christian Louboutin

Burberry

Manolo Blahnik

Rene Caovilla

Oh, le sigh...If only I could win the lottery.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Sewing Basics - What You Need to Get Started

I've learned sew much (hahahaha) in my Beginner Sewing Class. And now I get to pass all that glorious and important information on to you! Don't you just love how the internet lets you live vicariously through other people? 

Sew anyway (hahahaha), in our first class, our instructor went over the basic tools of the trade, and what we needed to have in order to sew our first project. Whether you are learning to sew crafts, clothing, or home decor, these are the bare essentials for any sewer. You can find your essential sewing supplies at any fabric store, like JoAnn Fabrics or Hancock Fabrics. They also sell some basic sewing supplies at Hobby Lobby, Target and Wal-Mart.

1. A sewing machine - What sewing machine you buy will depend on your skill level and your budget. Sewing machines run anywhere from $75 to thousands of dollars. The fancier, the more expensive and maybe the harder for a beginner to use. If you're a beginner (like me), maybe choose an inexpensive (and basic) one to begin with until you know whether or not you're going to like sewing and continue it. You can always upgrade later and sell your machine to another beginner. Captain Magnets has a really good overview about how to go about buying a sewing machine.



2. Good scissors - Fabric cutting scissors. That are ONLY used to cut fabric. Do not use them for anything else, ever ever ever. Not paper, not tape, not anything. Get a separate pair for cutting your paper (or tissue paper) patterns. And get a couple pairs in different sizes. A little pair of scissors is nice to keep right next to your machine for clipping loose threads.




3. Thread - This is a pretty easy one. Polyester thread is a good overall multi-purpose choice. Generally, you're going to want your thread to match the color of your fabric. However, sometimes you might want to use a thread in a contrasting color to give it a pop. Either way, there are 2 ways to go about buying thread. You can buy buy a multi-pack that has a bunch of thread in it in a variety of colors. Or you can just buy thread as you go, one spool at a time based on what you're working on to match (or contrast with) your fabric. I've seen variety packs of colored thread at Hancock Fabrics that run up into the hundreds of dollars. I'm sure I'll never need all those colors or use all that thread. So, for now, I bought a very small variety pack with 10 basic colors and I'll just pick up thread to match my fabrics as I go.

4. Bobbins - In order to use your thread, you're going to need bobbins. Buy extra bobbins that are specifically made to go with your machine. I've already learned this lesson the hard way. I bought some pre-spooled black and white bobbins, just to find out that they don't fit well into my machine and snag a lot. That just won't work. Your machine will probably come with a few bobbins, but it's nice to have a few extras on-hand in the colors you're working with to save you time.

5. Straight Pins and a Pin Cushion - You're going to need straight pins. A LOT of pins. I like the colored ones because they show up better. You want something that will stand out and get your attention so you don't accidentally sew over the pins (that'll break your sewing machine needle). The instructor of my sewing class suggested getting glass head beads (as opposed to plastic), just in case they get steamed/ironed so they won't melt all over your fabric. Good idea. Buy 2 or 3 types of pins and learn what you like to work with. They are cheap, bend or dull often, and inevitably get lost in the carpet, so have plenty on hand.


6. Pinking Shears - Although my instructor claimed these weren't "necessary," they are going to save you a lot of time and energy. Use your pinking shears to cut out your patten in the fabric. Why? Because the zig-zag edge will prevent the fabric from fraying! And then you don't have to stitch all the way around every single pattern piece to prevent it from fraying. Bingo!


7. Tape Measure - Your measuring tape should be flexible, for molding it to a shape, and a standard 60" long. Synthetic (non-cloth) tapes are preferable because they don't stretch or fray.






8. Fabric - For the true beginner stick to non-stretch cotton. Remember to wash and dry it before you even think about using it so you know it won't shrink. Keep a supply of inexpensive muslin fabric to practice on. I bought a whole bolt of cheap muslin for practice and learning. Avoid textured, slippery, highly patterned (plaids, stripes), or stretchy fabric for your first few projects.



9. Hem Gauge - For measuring small precise hems. Keep this next to your ironing board so when you're pressing in your hems, you have it handy. A metal one like this with a multi-functional sliding gauge for easy marking. Use it for marking button holes, seam allowances and all hems.

10. Chalk - different fabric works with different kinds of marking devices, but for many sewers it is just personal preference. Have at least 2 colors, like white and blue, in either a chalk pencil, chalk wedge, or tracing wheel with tracing paper. You can also use a marking pen that will fade off the fabric, but I've hear rumors that sometimes the markings come back after a few washes. Marking wax is something to get when you are working with knits like wool or tweed, but not needed for a beginner.



11. Assorted Needles - You might need to do a little hand-stitching in a few places on your project, so have some needles on hand. An assortment pack is an inexpensive way to make sure you have whatever size you might need.



12. Seam Ripper - A seam ripper just needs to have a nice sharp point for digging out the mistakes you will inevitably make. If you can find one with a longer grip (they tend to be very short-handled) your hands will thank you.






13. Iron - I hate ironing, but apparently in sewing you have to press everything. Repeatedly. Have an iron and an ironing board ready. If your fabrics are wrinkled, they won't sew right. Seams have to be pressed open so the fabric lays right. Hems have to be pressed so you know where to sew. LOTS of pressing and ironing. Get used to it.



Sew that's it! Ready to start sewing?