Rainy Days and Sundays Never Get Me Down

I just finished hiding 300 plastic eggs in my house; three kiddos, 100 eggs (approximately) for each to find. They are usually hidden in the yard but its been raining off and on for two days and the skies are threatening at the moment. Plus, who wants their little one traipsing about in the water-soaked earth looking for mud-encased plastic eggs?

This is the first year we’ve had ‘the hunt’ indoors so it’s fine. And they certainly won’t care. I think it’s great because there are only so many places to hide eggs in the yard…there are oodles of space in the house. Our curtains touch the floor so perfect place to lay eggs behind them. Then inside drawers, behind pillows, inside bowls, under stuffed animals…the possibilities are endless. And, with this many eggs, it will keep them busy enough for us adults to enjoy a Mimosa or two; wink wink.

I mention this ‘inside hunt’ for two reasons; one to let folks know that just because it rains on Easter it does not have to ruin your plans for fun with the kids. They don’t need you stressing out because it rained. No matter how many eggs, candy and prizes they get, their memory will be Mommy upset because of a bit of in-climate weather. God gives you lemons, make lemonade, God gives you rain, use an umbrella or play indoors. Simple.

The second reason I mention the above is that I am one of those folks that kind of likes rainy weekends. Seriously. I don’t feel guilty about staying indoors on the weekend if it’s raining. Normally, if the sun were shining, I would say, “Gee, I should go for a walk, or work in the yard or take a hike instead of wasting this gorgeous day indoors.” Raining outside gives me a very good reason for doing all the things I like to do indoors like sewing, baking, quilting, organizing all my junk (which, I’m proud to say is getting ever smaller with each passing day) without the least bit of guilt. I think it may all go back to something my mother was famous for saying, “It’s a beautiful day outside, what are you doing in the house!” Some phrases are just embedded in your memory.

And, since I, like most folks, have to ‘pay the man’ five days a week, spending time on my own stuff is limited. Two days in a weekend is not enough time, And this is not to say I want it to rain every weekend; I do love the outdoors, hiking, biking, picnics and cookouts, all those fun things that happen on the weekend. Just, you can’t control the weather, at least this is one part of our world humans have not been able to interfere in just yet, though not for lack of trying.

Folks just need to roll with the flow when it happens. So if there is rain in the forecast for a Saturday or Sunday, bring it on. I have at least four projects sitting in the wings!!

Enjoy!

 

Easter Cookies Complete!!

In my last blog I talked about my preparations for decorating Easter cookies.  Then  came the fun part; decorating them.

I made two batches of icing leaving one batch white and coloring the other batch  in the six pastels I would need. The thing I was not sure of was if I’d made enough icing of each color. I usually over-compensate and make too much.. I’m sure if I decorated these cookies more than a few times a year I wouldn’t need to shoot from the hip as much…but I’ll get there.

I use Royal Icing based on a recipe I found on foodnetwork.com; Alton Brown royal icing. I don’t think royal icing is as tasty as buttercream but this recipe is okay and it is very simple to make. There are only three ingredients egg whites, vanilla, and confectionary sugar. This is the first time I used pasteurized egg whites from a carton instead of fresh eggs. Each time I toss the yolks after pulling the egg whites, it feels rather wasteful. The cost of the pasteurized egg whites in the carton are about the same price as two dozen eggs.

For each color used on the cookies, two icing consistencies are needed. The one used for outlining the cookies should be the consistency of toothpaste and the one used for filling or flooding the cookies should be about the consistency of shampoo.

For the flooding process, I purchased an 8-pack of plastic squeeze bottles from Walmart. These are the kind used for ketchup and mustard. They are perfect for the flooding portion of decorating as the icing is of a watery consistency. Putting this consistency in a decorating bag would be very messy and it would flow out too fast. Standing it upside down in a tall glass helps to keep the icing near the top, especially when the bottle is only half-full.

Since three of my designs had a white base, I did that color first. I should note that for the white icing  I use clear vanilla as the regular vanilla can give the frosting a slightly off-white tint. I think I did okay with the flooding of the icing, not too many wavy parts. A good trick is to use a small paintbrush to help spread the frosting to the edges. But you need to take care to not wait too long as the frosting dries quickly and also, use a light touch and not spread it too thin,

After the whites were done, I did each of the other six colors. I could have kept the colors down to three or four and this may have expedited the decorating process but, well, it is Easter and all these colors seemed to fit the theme.

I did run out of icing near the end. As it was getting late I made an executive decision; the chick’s and the rabbit’s eyes were purple, not black which was my original plan. I think they look fine, though.

Below are the finished products. There are approximately four dozen finished Easter cookies.

I think I did pretty good in keeping with my sketched designs and feel that definitely this was a huge help.

You may have noticed that there are no churches or dog bones in my final product. The church was probably the most complicated design and so was saved to the end. As time and icing ran out, the church was sacrificed. My husband didn’t mind, though, he enjoyed them without the additional decorations. The dog bones are in the freezer and will be decorated another day.

Three things I will go forward with in my next sugar cookie decorating adventure will be splitting up the baking and decorating, pre-planning my designs and, most definitely, using the saran wrap method for filling the icing bags.

I just got through putting each cookie into its own little cookie bag. This serves two purposes; it prevents them being handled when people are choosing what they want and allows my guests to take some home without them becoming mussed up. These bags and ties I bought at Michael’s. They are not expensive and are well worth the cost and additional effort.

Thanks for joining me in my Easter cookie decorating adventure. I’m not a professional for sure and my cookies will never win an award but I have fun with it and folks seem to appreciate it…and they taste pretty darn good!

 

 

 

Easter Cookie Decorating 2019

I think we all have traditions of one kind or another. One tradition I’ve picked up is making decorated sugar cookies for Easter.

I love decorating sugar cookies and, especially so during Christmas and Easter. For me, it’s a quick and easy form of artistic expression; instant gratification in the confines of a specific parameter; basically the outline of the cookie. So, for the past three days, I’ve been making, baking and decorating Easter themed sugar cookies.

My problem is that I think decorating cookies is a mere two-hour foray into the kitchen! And no matter how many times I make these sweet, technicolor delights, I don’t allot myself enough time to do them justice…but I am getting better. At least I’ve come to the understanding that real life means real time; it’s only those ‘how-to’ videos that can cram eight hours of work into a mere ten minutes!

This year I made three major changes which helped, but did not completely solve, my problem with sugar cookie time management. The first was separating the cookie making from the cookie decorating.

On this past Monday evening I made two batches of cookie dough after supper. In less than an hour I had the dough chilling in the refrigerator. Each batch of dough would give me about five dozen 3” cookies. That’s quite a few cookies, I admit, but there is a method to my madness; the folks who come to Easter dinner like to take a few home with them…and I don’t like to disappoint. So, I make extra.

Easter Cookies 2

On Tuesday evening, also after supper, I rolled the chilled dough and cut the cookies. They were the usual Easter shapes (bunnies, tulips, chicks) in addition to a cupcake and dog bone shape. After all, can’t forget the puppies! This rolling, cutting and baking process went without issue, None burnt although a couple got a bit crispy…those were soon disposed of,..wink, wink. However after looking at my horde of cookies (about ten dozen) I opted to freeze some for another day. Even I have my limits on how many cookies I can decorate in a given time period. I wrapped and stored in the freezer about four dozen cookies for another day. There, I thought, I should get the rest of these decorated in no time at all.

Easter Cookies 4

This concludes the ‘making the cookies’ chapter. Then came the fun part; decorating them.

I took Wednesday off from work for something else entirely. Since I was home for most of the day, it played right into my hands; I’d have these cookies outlined and painted lickety-split.

The second change I made this year as it relates to decorating cookies had to do with the design. I’d always worked ‘off the cuff’ making up color schemes and designs as I was decorating. Anyone who bakes should know that this is a recipe for disaster. How is one to know how much frosting of what consistency and what color is needed to complete six dozen sugar cookies if they have barely a clue of how they are to be decorated? I read a quote once that fits this type of thinking, “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there.” Well, that was me, the vagabond baker! But not this year.

This year I did some searching on the internet and found some nice, yet simple, designs for each of my cookie shapes. I will not take credit for any of the designs, only in the execution of said design. I traced each cookie cutter on a sheet of paper, got out my color pencils and ‘drew’ what I was going ice on top of each cookie. I was quite proud of myself for taking this extra step in planning. Now, at least I know what colors I would need, I’ve never been good at judging how much is needed but that, as well, is getting better.

The third change was to how I fill my icing bags. I watch YouTube videos all the time. I’ve used them for how-tos on making my own quilt binding to hints on how to fix my printer. I’ve watched many, many videos for decorating sugar cookies. If screen time equated to actual skill, I would own a world famous cookie bake shop! Anyway, one video from #thisishowwebingham  had a super great tip on filling frosting bags. In case I don’t explain it well I’ve added a couple of pictures. The frosting is placed into the center of a piece of Saran Wrap and the sides are twisted (think salt water taffy wrapping).  This Saran-wrapped frosting is dropped inside the bag so the little end protrudes from the tip which is simply snipped off. Voila! A filled piping bag without the mess!! If you only need a tiny bit of frosting, say for the chicks eyes or some accent pearly dots, this method allows you to get the frosting to the tip super easy!

I hope you enjoyed reading Part 1 of Easter Cookie Decorating 2019.  If I haven’t lost your interest completely, come back tomorrow to see the results of my marathon day in the kitchen!

Thanks!

Easter Bears and Staying Focused

Well, it’s been over a week since my last post. I’m very close to keeping my goal of a post a week…but not quite.

In my last post I went over how I trace patterns onto tracing paper thereby keeping the originals intact. This latest project had a whopping 46 pattern pieces; thankfully not all of them had to be used for the final project!

It is a week before Easter and I have the Easter Bears complete for my two granddaughters. They are really cute, fat and fluffy, just like a stuffed bear should be. There are two sizes included in the pattern, an 18” and a 22”. I opted to make the larger bear.

My youngest granddaughter’s room is in the colors of her bear, the one on the left. I love this color combination (and these pictures don’t do the color justice!). My oldest granddaughter loves, loves pink and loves, loves Shopkins! In her bear, she got both.

The pattern, Simplicity 5461, is very easy to follow and the bears went together without a problem. I can’t say exactly how quickly I got them cut and sewn because it is rare for me to have more than a couple of hours running time to work on a project. It seems to be an hour here, thirty minutes there. I’m sure it is the same for all folks who work full-time but need their creative outlets, which must be done during the evenings and weekends.

I am proud of one accomplishment with this project (aside from finishing a week before it is needed); I almost put both bears aside and started looking at something else to make the girls. But I stuck with them. So, why did I almost put the bears aside? Well, one reason is that I have so many other great patterns in my stash that I thought I might do something else instead. I started telling myself that these bears wouldn’t live up to my expectations, that the girls wouldn’t like them, that they were too big, too complicated, the material I purchased wouldn’t work…just a whole plethora of excuses to stop what I started…just so I could start something else! Crazy, right?

But I do this a lot; start and stop, start and stop. This time, however, I told myself to stay focused, don’t let your mind drift on the thousands of other things you want to do, focus only on this project and get it done. This was a huge hurdle for me. In the end I’m as happy that I stayed focused on this project as I am in the finished product. That being said, I probably won’t stop my habit of ‘pausing’ a project. I’ve always burnt the candle at both ends, thinking I have more time than is actually on the calendar.

Having multiple irons in the fire is who I am. To support this habit I have ‘project boxes’ beneath my sewing/cutting table. These are the paper boxes that can be purchased at Michael’s or Joanne’s. They are the perfect size to store cut patterns or material from various projects which are in some state of completion. This process works for me most of the time. However, in the case of the bears, there was a deadline I needed to hit. Staying focused on this project was imperative. My other ideas and projects would need to ‘rest’ and I needed to be content in the knowledge they would be there another day.

Keeping Sewing Patterns Usable

As I wrote in my last post, I have a couple of bears to make my granddaughters for Easter. I am using Simplicity Pattern 5461 to make the bears. There are two bear sizes; an 18” and a 22” and both come with a pattern for a vest and a hat. I’m tempted to make the 22”. These bears are in a sitting position so the actual height would be about 14” on the larger one.

Two nights ago I traced all the pattern pieces onto tracing paper. I don’t cut my original patterns anymore. There are two reasons for this. The first is that the tissue used for patterns nowadays is so flimsy; it tears the first time you pin it to fabric. The more you use the pattern (especially a favorite one) the more tattered and torn it becomes. The tracing paper is a bit heavier weight yet still transparent. Works like a charm. I bought an 18” x 50 yard roll of tracing paper at Staples for about $16.00. That should last me a while.

The second reason I trace all my patterns is that I can keep the original intact. Once they are cut, they are a bear (no pun intended) to keep organized and pieces go missing. If I lose a piece from those I trace, no big deal, I can trace out another.

Something to keep in mind, as well, is for those times you are using one pattern with multiple sizes. Once you cut the size you want from a multiple size pattern, you are pretty much stuck with it. This is especially true, for example, if you want to make the same dress for two little girls in two different sizes. Two separate tracings, one in size A and the other in Size B.  Simple.

I also use to write the pattern piece information on my patterns. You know, the piece number, how many to cut, fabric or interfacing, etc.  I don’t anymore. I’ve set up a label template where I enter the pertinent information, print them out and apply them to the pattern piece. This is so much neater. My hand-writing is atrocious and these labels make the pattern look semi-professional. I had made labels for the grain lines as well….but am not using them as I can draw a pretty straight line and that is all that is needed for this instruction. No sense in getting to anal!

Last night I applied all the labels and cut out all 46 pieces. I also made the decision a while back to trace and cut out the whole pattern even if only using a part of it. If you have all your tracing materials out, you might as well do the whole kit and caboodle and be done with it. Then there is more time for the fun of picking fabrics and getting to the fun of creating!

The pattern is now all organized and ready to go. It’s just a matter of selecting fabric and getting to work. I’ve made some stuffies in the past; the Pokemon characters from the previous post, Franklin the Mouse, a fox, moose, elephant, cat, pig, and giraffe…but not a teddy bear. I can’t wait to get started!

 

Picachu and Friends

I’ve just completed a set of Pokemon stuffies for my grandson and his little cousin to put in their Easter buckets. I wanted to make a stuffie for them but they are too old for the usual Easter stuffed animal. Since they both collect those Pokemon cards, I thought these little creatures; Picachu, Bulbasaur, Charmander and Squirtle, would be appropriate. I’ll save the bunnies and bears for my two little granddaughters.

I bought these patterns from an Etsy Shop, SMASTERILLI. I thought they were really cute. And me, well, I wasn’t content to make just the Picachu, the most recognizable of the lot. Nope, I had to make all four!! And once I make my mind up on something I get kind of, well, obsessive about completing it.

The patterns themselves were sparsely written. I had to keep looking at the photos to put the little creatures together. I’m sure I messed up the assembly more than a few times because I wasn’t sure how to complete a step. However, this being said, I think the owner may have English as a second language so I overlooked the lack of instruction. There were times I felt like I was completing the Technical Challenge on The Great British Baking Show. If you watch this show you’ll know that is the section where the bakers are given a partial recipe and need to complete it based on whatever knowledge they may have about the specifics of baking.

There were so many tiny pieces to each of these patterns and more hand-sewing than I’ve done in ages. The owner does not tell you at what scale to print; 100% was much too small. I printed at 150% and it worked well on 11×17 card stock.  Picachu (the yellow creature) stands about 6” tall, toe to antennae.  This should give a good perspective on the remaining creatures.  At 100% Picachu would have been only about 4” tall!

The hardest part was sewing on the hands and legs…hidden seams they are not! My fingers are not tiny enough for that. The Bulbasaur legs were the toughest. I finally just sewed them on as best I could.

Anyway, both sets of four are finally done. I’m not sure I’d make them again even though they are super-cute. They are very time-intensive and quite a large portion of them required hand sewing which is not one of my strengths. (Please don’t look too closely at my finished products!)

I’ll be making teddy bears (not bunnies) for the granddaughters. I have a cute pattern from Simplicity which I’ll be using for those. Hopefully I can have them done over this next weekend.

Sewing Day

About a year ago two of my closest friends and I decided that once per month we would have a ‘sewing day’. This would be a day in which each of us in turn would select a project that all of us would make together. I can’t describe in words how enjoyable this has been. I moved an hour away from my friends about three years ago to be closer to my grandkids. I always just assumed I would still be able to visit my friends just like I did before the move. That didn’t happen. Add to that the fact that I got married and those responsibilities started to play a role in my ‘time management’.

But now, I know that at least once per month I can meet up, have some laughs and enjoy creating with two (and now three because we have an ex-Pat who lives in Florida facetimeing with us…how cool is that!) of my BFFs.

This is just a quick post…but I think bottom line, what I’m trying to say is that…don’t lose track of your friends, don’t let life changes cause old acquaintances to be just ‘old acquaintances’. Take it from one who knows.