Sunday, May 30, 2010

A bean turns one.

Well, we did it. Despite three nights of really bad sleep (thank you, baby), we rallied and celebrated Stella's first birthday. The weather was perfect, the dress fit the baby, the buttercream was a hit...yep, big success all around.

I spent some time leading up to the party getting everything ready. The dress was finished way in advance. I made some vintage sheet bunting and got my freezer paper stencil on. The banner says "Stella is" and then there is space for two more flags. I made numbers so that I can just pin them on each year as she grows. I also made a little star for the next nine years...a space saver until she reaches double digits. I made a ton of the number flags because I got a little superstitious-y and needed to make enough so that she can live past 100 if she so chooses. So there are two of every number (waaaaay past 100 if she so chooses). I also made two more strands of bunting because I kept ending up with leftover fabric and so I just cut smaller and smaller triangles. I don't have a picture of the tiniest sized flags (which are only about 1.5 inches long), but here are the mediums. So sweet and fun to have different sizes to hang around the house. If the party ends up in a few different spaces, it's nice to have some simple decorations to tie it all together.

I also made some tissue paper blooms with the piles and piles of tissue paper that I hoard. It was fantastic to use up a bunch of the paper and a bit scary that I had enough to make 7 of these big boys. I checked out Martha's instructions, but used even more layers. Yes, I had that much tissue paper on hand. I used those trash bag wire twisty thingees (another random thing that doesn't often get thrown out in this house) instead of floral wire and just a little thread for hanging. Easy-peasy. And I was all ready to take my big girl pill and toss them after the party, but I discovered that they are actually very easy to refold. So we'll see these decorations again next year, which is a good thing because they were really very cheerful.

The party favors were a big hit. Lovely star wands from a lovely seller on etsy.
And speaking of non-toxic toys made by actual real people I can email, what is the deal with that evil CPSIA thing? I hope it's died a horrible death because I have found some of the most lovely, safe handmade toys on etsy.
Because not everyone wanted to go home with a magic star wand, I also made sugar cookies and decorated them with royal icing. Except for the fact that I got a little ambitious with my piping and may have sent my right hand into early arthritis, decorating with royal icing is the most. fun. ever. I made a star, an s, and a 1 cookie for each bag and tied it off with some plantable tags from here.I got a lot of compliments on the cake I made. It was the chocolate cake recipe from epicurious that came with that buttercream recipe. I had a mini-freak out moment this morning when the buttercream started behaving oddly. I'd made it a few days in advance and it looked lovely. This morning I took it out of the fridge to warm up a bit but when I whipped it up, it started separating and looking blotchy and ugly. I was nervous to overbeat it, and I thought I might have just messed something up and (I'll admit it) briefly lost hope. With my Dad's nudging, I took a deep breath and whipped the frick out of it in the stand mixer and before long it went back to being fluffy and lovely. Despite the fact that buttercream might look like a little bit of a pain to make, I must say it was worth the effort (it wasn't really that hard), it was so great to be able to make it way ahead, and in the end it was easy to kick around a bit. I say it's the best use of a pound of butter that I've seen in a long time.

The cake was a really nice chocolate cake -- very moist and lovely and I just followed the recipe exactly. I did use slightly smaller pans so I made three layers instead of two, and I filled the layers with raspberry preserves rather than buttercream. I used some leftover royal icing from the cookies for decoration (oh, and I stuck the cookies on mostly because I thought it was a good solution to use one of the stars that had lost a point).
So that's about it. Good food, good friends, and enough pre-planning to make the party day easy and fun. It took me a long time to decide to have a kid and there have been so many steps along the way this year that have made me so thankful that we took the leap and had Bean. As I was putting together this party and having fun with all of the little details I realized that this is probably the most excited I've been for a party I've planned and that as she gets older and actually understands what it's all about, it's going to be even more fun. I can't wait for her to be able to pick a theme and then run with it. I hope that, just once, she lets me get away with doing the farm theme. Hello?! We've got the chicken part down! But truthfully, as long as we can stay away from any kind of a Disney theme, I'll be happy...

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Why they call it 'buttercream' frosting

Now that the first birthday festivities are less than a week away, I've turned my attention to edible crafting. The cookie dough is in the fridge and will baked off tonight and I made my first buttercream yesterday.

Dear lord, do you know how much butter goes into buttercream frosting? Well, a crapload, to be exact. But, whatever, the first ingredient you start with is egg whites, so how fattening can it really be?? I found a good recipe at epicurious (there are other sites out there with recipes, but this is the one I turn to again and again) and it involved a candy thermometer. Score! I needed a reason to buy one of those (up next, homemade caramels...) and man, was it fun to use. There is something about making candy that really brings my inner dork out. Cooking is always about chemistry, but something about candy-making just makes me feel like I'm in a lab concocting magic potions. I needed to heat the sugar solution to about 140 F which is some stage in candy-making that I haven't memorized yet, but at one point a little bit fell of the spoon I was working with and hardened immediately and I instantly thought (with all of the possible energy and emotion of a complete dweeb): I just made candy! Then I ate it. Yum.So: whipped up egg whites, boiled sugar solution, and 4 (count 'em, 4) sticks of butter later and we have buttercream! That's right, buttercream...which, I believe, is named for its final resting place upon ingestion.

Monday, May 24, 2010

A Whole Year.

Somehow a year of my life just raced by me. Everyone said not to blink when Bean was born because it goes by so fast. Blah blah blah, I thought. I might have even written it here some where: she's never going to grow up. And here we are, getting ready to celebrate her first birthday this week. Sigh.
It's been a while since I've updated this blog here because, as if having an infant wasn't insane enough, we decided we needed to buy a new house...and put ours on the market. Trying to make your house look like you aren't living in it with an 11-month-old may seem laughable to anyone who has had an 11-month-old, and let me assure you, it is. But somehow we have managed to keep the sink basins wiped clean, the toys corralled in bins, and the diaper pail empty so that complete strangers can poke through our house. However, this has required that we remove a lot of stuff from the house that we didn't immediately need which included, I'm sad to say, much of my craft room (What? Not every potential buyer is going to want to use one of the bedrooms to store ribbon and glitter?!)
Of course, Bean's first birthday couldn't be store-bought so I have soldiered on. Actually, decisions such as which fabric to use for the birthday dress have been simpler now that most of my stash is in storage and I've found myself really using what I have rather than going out to buy more or different supplies. This seems oddly counter-intuitive, but there you have it.Her birthday dress is entirely from stash materials, a fantastic matryoshka print that I think I bought as a remnant with some striped shirting that I got at a 4-H festival fabric rummage sale. The fact that I bought not a thing for this dress has me pretty proud, but I must also toot my own horn for a moment because this represents my first Ottobre project. Me! The fake sewer who makes it all up as I go along! Who doesn't really know how to read patterns! Yup, I sewed this Ottobre project. Which has, of course, justified my purchasing another subscription...
Now, there are certain things that I didn't know how to do at all. It took me a while to figure out what a placket was, for instance. But I get that now. There were a few other steps that were just plain mysterious to me so I decided to skip them. Uh, huh...that's how I roll when I'm at the helm of my sewing machine. I figure, if it looks like a dress, hangs on her like a dress, and will last through at least one party, I've done my job. Happily, I think it's going to stay together quite nicely through a few wearings (at least until she outgrows it next week), even with the omitted details. Also, even though I have no business changing a pattern since I'm such a newbie, I decided to make the underskirt all one piece rather than using the cotton batiste and sewing on a panel. I didn't have any batiste and I didn't want to buy anything new. Plus, I had plenty of that shirting fabric so I didn't care about using a whole bunch of it...which, of course, is all relative considering this is a dress built for a person who is about 2 feet tall.
Some accomplishments (besides the fact that I actually sewed an Ottobre project...did I mention that?) include my very first attempt at french seams (poking out on the underskirt here).
I swear, you stick the term french on something and it makes it seem like it's going to be super complicated, but french seems are quite easy and they look sweet. My first pintucks...also super-simple and very pretty for the extra effort. Oh! And I am quite fond of my top stitching which is a step I usually get bored with and muck up. And not really note-worthy, but here's a shot of the back with some lovely vintage buttons to seal the deal.I wanted to make matching bloomers, but I need to bake cookies and a cake (all while making it look like I don't use my kitchen to do things like bake cookies and cakes) so I might let myself off the hook with that one. I made some bunting from vintage sheets which I'll photograph at the party and blog about later because they are so much fun they deserve their own post. And I finally used a bunch of the tissue paper I've hoarded for the past decade to make some of these fantastic poufs. Photos after the party!

made. by k.d.