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Friends of ours have a fantastic annual Academy Awards party.  One of the best parts of the party, to me, is the food!  Not just because I love food (which I do), but because everyone who attends brings refreshments that are cleverly tied into the award nominees.  Food and puns!  Can you get any better than that?

This year, we were excited to see Guardians of the Galaxy on the nominees list.  Husband and I both really enjoyed the movie, so when we came up with the idea of making dirt pudding with baby Groot on top, we were thrilled.  It got even better when I realized we could make the dirt pudding gluten-free for my friend.  In my excitement, I misspoke and said, “Oh!  We can make it grooten free!” And then we had to do it ;-)

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We based our dessert on my sister-in-law’s dirt pudding recipe, but we made a couple changes to ensure that it was truly gluten-free.  Instead of using the commercial pudding mix and milk called for in the recipe, we made a batch of Better Homes and Gardens’ homemade vanilla pudding using tapioca starch instead of cornstarch.  We also purchased gluten-free chocolate sandwich cookies to swirl inside and top the pudding.

But in my opinion, the best part is the baby Groot.  Husband and I worked together to form him out of Wilton’s Shape-N-Amaze edible modeling compound (which is also gluten free, and even though it is technically edible, it does not taste very good).  His body is given support by a chopstick inside his “trunk”, and we bored a hole through the middle of a couple whole cookies to give some structural support at the base.  The pudding wasn’t very solid, so baby Groot had some trouble staying upright, but it was all okay, since it was just for fun!

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As I began working on the quilt, I realized that it would be fun to keep track of the time I spent on the project.

But before I talk about the first step, cutting the fabric, I want to discuss the design of the quilt.

When I decided to make the lattice design, I spent a bit of time peering closely at the (beautiful) photos on Ashley’s blog and reading about her construction. Rather than taking a square lattice and turning it on point (which was my initial thought), the lattice is made up of squares bisected with a diagonal stripe:

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This is ingenious, because then there are no fiddly little squares to fit into the corners of the lattice. The four pieces of lattice fit tidily together at their points.

Husband agreed to help me out at this point: I figured out how large of a lattice I wanted (and therefore the size of the squares), and the finished dimensions of the quilt, and he calculated the yardage I needed to purchase (especially for the white background). Thank you, Husband!

After purchasing the fabric and prewashing everything, I started the first task: cutting all the pieces.

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I cut the white cotton into 7.75″ squares, which I then sliced on the diagonal to form triangles.

these fabric strips for Vivian's quilt are so pretty!

For my dimensions, I calculated that I would need 168 blocks. Therefore, I decided to cut six 2″-wide by 13″-long strips from each of the 25 purchased fabrics. Added to these 150 strips were 13 that I cut from scraps of fabric that I used in V’s nursery projects. That left 5 “blanks.” Rather than choose the extra five blocks’ fabrics, I decided to wait until the entire quilt top was laid out and then choose their colors to balance the design.

Total time to press the prewashed fabric and cut triangles and strips: 8.75 hours

Geeky birthday cake

For Husband’s birthday, I made him a dark chocolate cake with orange-flavored buttercream.  This time I made the buttercream recipe that was passed along to me from a friend (thank you, Jen!!) and was exactly the style of buttercream that I was hoping for when I made my daughter’s birthday cake (and that frosting wasn’t).  This buttercream is delicious and frothy and white and sugary and has a lovely satisfying crunchy crust.  And with the orange flavoring, it was divine.

I did not, however, do nearly as good of a job on the decoration of the cake.  ::sigh:: I am such a perfectionist, and when I envision something in my head, it kind of stings when it doesn’t come out right in reality.  I have a LOT to learn when it comes to cake decorating, so the chances are pretty good that my cakes are going to look very amateurish…  And that was definitely the case this time.  Not only did I have a more basic fail in the baking of the cake (expired baking powder!  I should have known better!!!), but the decorating leaves a lot to be desired.  There are no do-overs with white frosting and bright green piping!

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But I’m showing it here because 1) I want to make it perfectly clear that my projects do not come out well every time! and 2) the idea was fun.  It was Husband’s idea, really, to have the gaming dice on the top of the cake to add to his birthday year.

 

I did a lot of practice drawings to try to get the dice just right.

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Multi-sided dice are hard to draw!  I practiced a ton on scraps of paper, but even so, they came out a bit wonky.  I have a new level of appreciation for the precise piping that professional decorators do on their cakes!  I just cut the barest tip off of the corner of the zip-top bag I used to pipe the words and drawings.  I also played with one of the other fancy tips that came in the package I purchased when I did my daughter’s cake to do the border.

Practice makes perfect, right?  I’ll just have to make a lot more cakes! ;-)

So, just as I started stitching my quilt blocks into rows, I ran out of white thread. While it was quite a bummer and dented my momentum, it gave me a bit of an excuse to work on a couple of other things that had been simmering in my brain, but that I’d been putting off because I wanted to devote my crafting time to finishing this quilt.

One of them was this baby dinosaur taggie toy for B.

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The project popped up on my Pinterest feed as a “recommended pin.” Generally I really dislike these pins, since they tend to dominate my feed and dilute what I have chosen to follow. I try to seriously limit the time I spend on the site (I already have so many things I want to do…) and so I try to ignore all the tempting pins on the home feed, but this little dino was so cute, I couldn’t resist. Husband has a soft spot for dinosaurs, and I have s soft spot for my husband and son. :) As soon as I saw the link, I’d mentally chosen fabric!

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To fit the fabric scraps, I had to reduce the size of the pattern to 90%. And since B seems to love tags but more ambivalent toward loops, I finally tried the candle technique to “seal” the cut edge of the ribbons along the dinosaur’s spine.  The whole thing took me less than an hour.

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It was immensely gratifying to see that B immediately liked his dinosaur.  He made approving growly noises and proceeded to explore the ribbons and have a taste of the dinosaur’s head.  I think the dinosaur ended up being the perfect size for him to hold (and bash).

The other thing I made during this particular overlapping nap time were two small, loosely stuffed pillows. I’m calling them door pillows.

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At night, we like to have our kids’ doors partly open so that we can hear them better, and also because my daughter likes to have the light from the hall spill into her room until she falls asleep. But we don’t want the doors wide open, either. The way the doors are hung on their hinges means that, left on their own, they will swing wide unless latched. Until recently we have been employing an inelegant solution: propping the doors open on bunched up scraps of cloth–ugly and sort of embarrassing, really. These pillows are low enough loft that the doors still swing over them if pushed (say, as a bleary parent responds to a cry in the night), but there is just enough friction to keep the doors from swinging on their own.  I didn’t weight them, so they are not tripping hazards (see above, about bleary blundering in the dark).  I’m so pleased to finally have such a simple solution that looks intentional.

door pillows for the kids' rooms

door pillows for the kids' rooms

door pillows for the kids' rooms

After working on a long-term project like the quilt, I felt so successful to have completed a couple of projects in about an hour of overlapping nap time!

 

For a long time, even before we started converting Vivian’s bedroom to her “big girl room,” I was thinking about a new bed cover. She has the bed that I slept in growing up, which is the one that my dad had when he was growing up.  However, the cream+burgundy floral comforter I’d been using would terribly clash with her white and grey walls.  As I considered ideas, I zeroed in on making a quilt for Vivian. There was a quilt I had seen on the Film in the Fridge blog which I had loved instantly and pinned immediately. The more I thought about a quilt for Vivian, the more convinced I was that this would be the perfect design.

I resolved that this would be a gift for her third birthday (spoiler alert: it didn’t get finished in time…). As her birthday got closer. I realized that I really needed to get going and make some final decisions about design and fabric.

I was really spurred into action by an upcoming craft day at church. (They really are seriously good motivators for me…). I knew it would be the perfect venue for getting a good start on cutting my fabric, so I made a last minute decision to drive almost 2 hours to Lancaster, PA to get my hands on some good stuff!  My mom had been to the Old Country Store in Intercourse, PA, and highly recommended it. And bonus! She and my dad met me there so that they could watch my 2 kids and I could choose fabrics without worrying too much about them.

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I went into the fabric-buying with the idea that I wanted a color scheme of “all the colors.” And then I got into the store and had about 10 minutes of brain-paralysis as I realized how much fabric there was to consider! After wandering around, completely overwhelmed, and feeling pressure because I had less than two hours until the store closed, I finally pulled myself together and pulled one bolt that had caught my eye. From there, I just collected more until I had a lovely rainbow laid out on the counter.

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Along with the colored fabrics, I needed white for the background, of course!  I purchased 7.5 yards of Kona Snow.  It was  HUGE bundle after I pre-washed it!

7.5 yards of white fabric!

Before I prewashed the colored fabrics, I took photos, of course.  I am so excited about how all the colors play off of each other.

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In the end, I have 25 different colored fabrics that I purchased at the Old Country Store.  In addition, I am using some scraps of fabric that I used for Vivian’s nursery so that the new quilt ties in with her old decor.

Next in this series: a post about the quilt design and cutting the fabric.

I’m continuing our challenge from 2013 and 2014 to make at least one new recipe from some of our newer cookbooks each month.  There’s a category on the blog for these posts called “recipe review 2015.”

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Recipe: Creamy Coleslaw from The Complete America’s Test Kitchen TV Show Cookbook 2001-2013, (page 41)

ATK cole slaw

  • when did we make this? Tuesday, January 20, 2015, for supper with hamburgers.
  • did we change anything? Yes, I substituted dried onion flakes for the fresh onion called for in the recipe.  Sadly, as much as I love onion, eating it raw can give me a stomachache.  So I mixed up the “dressing” for the cole slaw a bit ahead of time and added the flakes so that they would rehydrate before I tossed it with the cabbage and carrot.  Looking back at the archives of the blog, it looks like this was an idea I’d noted for myself when we tried the buttermilk slaw recipe right next to this recipe in the ATK cookbook!
    We also included the suggested celery seed.
  • what did we like?  I liked the crunchy texture and the fresh flavor of the salad.
  • what didn’t we like?  I might add a touch of sugar the next time I make this, or possibly try Miracle Whip instead of regular mayo.  I think I like my cole slaw a bit sweeter.  
  • will we make it again (any changes in the future)?   It’s a really easy recipe to make, and we love cole slaw, so I definitely can see us making this again!

Baby girl shoes

Recently two of my friends had baby girls! I stole some time and made a pair of baby shoes for each new little one.

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I went with a grey and yellow color scheme because I thought it might be nice to be a bit different. I hope that the shoes will match an outfit or two that they have!

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