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Animal Instinct

15 Aug

As you have probably noticed over the past month or two, I have practically burned up my sewing machine’s motor with projects recently.

I decided it was time to transition to something that didn’t include fabric or needles or a pattern… wait a minute.


Ok, so embroidery has some of the same components as sewing, but it has been a welcome reprieve from sitting hunched over a sewing machine, stitching fabric together.

I downloaded this adorable pattern for the nursery and decided to make little animal portraits to frame and hang on the wall.


I opted for a satin stitch instead of a traditional outlining stitch (like a split or back stitch). Here is a tutorial on how to do a satin stitch.

The project ended up coming out very well (for my first larger satin stitch endeavor). I had a few false starts (as in, I had to throw out and restart the fox three times – THREE times), but eventually got the kinks worked out. I would recommend outlining your work in a braided thread for a nice finished touch.

Don’t know how to embroider? Any pattern you pick up will include a quick lesson how to embroider and you’ll discover it’s incredibly easy.

Once finished, I used 8×10 frames and mats with a 5×7 opening. Frames and mats are from Michael’s.







Baked Spicy Macaroni

12 Aug

I don’t know about anyone else, but when Sunday rolls around, I’m rarely prepared with a dinner dish in mind for that night. I’m still in weekend mode – and weekend mode does not include stops to the grocery store and slaving in the kitchen, let alone thinking about the upcoming week.

However, as my gram would say, sometimes you got to put on your big girl pants and deal with it (life? grocery store? not watching another Law and Order rerun?). So in my search for a good start to our dinner schedule, I found a pasta casserole dish from Giada DeLaurentiis. The dish seemed easy enough and tasty to boot. Annnnd, we weren’t disappointed. The meal was excellent and this dish will be making a regular rotation in our meals.

This dish makes enough for two meals – so be sure to freeze the leftovers for another night.

Baked Spicy Macaroni, c/o Giada Delaurentiis


1 lb elbow macaroni (I used whole wheat)
3 TBSP olive oil
1/2 lb assorted mushrooms, quartered
1 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 14.5 oz can of diced tomatoes, with juice
1 10 oz package frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 C bread crumbs
1/2 C & 1/3 C grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 C & 1/3 C grated Romano cheese2 TBSP butter, softened, plus 2 TBSP cold butter (cut into pieces)
12 oz mozzarella cheese, cubed
1/4 tsp grated nutmeg


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add macaroni and cook until tender, but still firm (about 8-10 minutes). Remove from heat and drain.

In a large pan, heat oil over medium heat. Add garlic, mushrooms and onion. Cook until mushrooms are tender and onions are translucent, about 7 minutes. Add tomatoes, spinach and red pepper flakes and cook for another 5 minutes.


In a small bowl, mix bread crumbs and 1/2 C each of Parmesan and Romano cheeses.

Take 2 TBSP of softened butter and spread on bottom of casserole dish. Sprinkle half of bread crumb/cheese mixture over butter.

Meanwhile, stir pasta, vegetable mix, nutmeg, and mozzarella cheese together. Add salt and pepper to taste.* Spoon into casserole dish and sprinkle remaining bread crumb/cheese mixture. Add remaining butter to top of dish.


Bake for 35-40 minutes. Serve.


*I added some milk to the dish so there would be moisture in it as it baked.


Cardboard Safari

8 Aug

Our nursery’s theme is something along the lines of woodland creatures. So far I’ve only been working on sewing projects for the space, so up to this point it looks like a showroom for my novice skillz.

Yeah, that’s right.

Skillz with a Z. Get over it.

Anyway, the room is in dire needs of wall art. I have a few ideas in mind, but while ruminating on those, I came across Cardboard Safari.

This little business makes animal busts out of cardboard that you assemble and hang on your wall. Talk about whimsical fun!

Image c/o Cardboard Safari

Image c/o Cardboard Safari

So, I ordered a small buck bust for the nursery. When it arrived, I assembled it and it seemed…. unfinished.


I contemplated what to do. Do I cover it with paper? Do I decorate it with a bedazzler?

I eventually opted for the high-risk route of painting it.

Paint + cardboard = certain disaster, right?

At first, I felt like I made a huge mistake. As in, I almost threw the whole thing into the garbage a few times. Each side took three layers of paint, and I was certain the whole thing would turn out terribly.


However, I stuck with it. Tenacity, am-I-right?

I’m glad I did – the project actually turned out pretty well.

The moisture of the paint did warp one or two of the cardboard pieces just a tiny bit (where they bowed in a certain direction), but that was straightened out once painting was finished and I reassembled the bust.

I think the final result adds a fun element to the nursery.


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI used Martha Stewart’s craft paint in Satin, color Surf.

Chocolate Fudge Pie

5 Aug

If I were to retire from using Real Simple recipes, this would be the one to go out on.

Where are my laurels? I’m ready to rest on them, dammit!

I made this dessert for a mini housewarming party we attended at our friends’ house the other weekend. It turned out absolutely decadent and divine. To top it off, the recipe called for easy ingredients and was a cinch to put together.

Steve’s review? “This might beat out my favorite [lemon meringue]. I think I’ll request this for my birthday.”

Awesome. Considering I’ll have a newborn and grad school to contend with around his birthday, I can easily manage this pie.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACheck out that pie dish – isn’t it adorable? It was a gift from my in-laws a few Christmases ago. I normally keep it out on display (it would be a crime to hide it in a cabinet) but thought the dish suited the occasion. It did the job well!

Chocolate Fudge Pie, c/o Real Simple

1 store-bought piecrust, fitted into a 9-inch pie plate
6 OZ semisweet chocolate, chopped. Plus more shaved for topping.
1/2 C unsalted butter
3 eggs
1/8 tsp kosher salt
1/2 C plus 3 TBSP granulated sugar
1 1/2 C heavy cream

Heat oven to 375º F. Place the pie plate on a baking sheet. Prick crust with a fork and line with foil. Fill to top with dried beans. Bake until the edges are firm, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove the foil and weights and bake until just golden, 8 to 10 minutes.


Reduce oven temperature to 325º F. In a heatproof bowl set over (not in) a saucepan of simmering water, melt the chocolate and butter.



Using an electric mixer, beat the eggs, salt, and ½ cup of the sugar until fluffy, 4 to 5 minutes.



Fold a third of the egg mixture into the chocolate mixture, then fold in the remainder.


Pour the combined mixture into the crust and bake until puffed and beginning to crack, 20 to 25 minutes. Cool for 1 hour, then chill.



Beat the cream with the remaining sugar until soft peaks form. Spread over the pie and sprinkle with the shaved chocolate.*




*I recommend having the chocolate at least at room temperature to create really good shavings. A potato peeler will do the trick nicely.


Recovering Crib Bumpers

29 Jul

Crib bumpers are one of those obnoxiously controversial items in the baby world. Whenever I utter the phrase “crib bumper” I feel like it should be followed up by this.

So, I am going to preface this post by saying I am not going to have the crib bumper (this again) and my baby in the crib at the same time. For those of you who live in fear of crib bumpers (yup), recognize that I am using it as a decorative item that will be in the crib when the baby is not. Save the lectures for someone who cares about your concerns. I’m pretty sure that is why Internet forums exist.

Now that my disclaimer is out of the way, I can proceed with my fun sewing project.

I have sat on this project for weeks and weeks. Mostly out of worry that I would irrevocably screw up the project and I’d be out of fabric and patience.

Ends up the project was substantially easier than I originally assumed.

The crib bumper came in four separate pieces, instead of my envisioned-single-super-long-impossible-to-work-with-piece.

That meant I was able to recover each section of the crib bumper as I would a throw pillow.

Recovering Crib Bumpers

What_You_Need_Crib_BumperStep 1: Iron fabric, measure it, and cut. You will need enough fabric to cover both sides of the bumper, plus the hem.


Step 2: Pin fabric together. Remove ties from crib bumper, pin to fabric

You may need to iron your fabric again.

Crib bumpers come with ties already attached. To save yourself a step in making ties (unless you need to do a color match), cut the ties off the crib bumpers and pin them to your fabric. Make sure the ties are in between the fabric pieces, the ties going inward to ensure you sew the ties on correctly.

Step 3: Sew three sides of the fabric cover together. Leave one short end open.


You may need to iron your fabric again (I know, right?)

Step 4: Stuff crib bumper into fabric cover. Close last end with a hidden stitch.



Here is a tutorial on how to do a hidden stitch.





Crib Skirt

22 Jul

Crib skirts. This is something that you don’t know you need until Pottery Barn tells you otherwise. Well, “need” is a strong word. You “need” a crib skirt like you “need” most things from a place like Pottery Barn. But the lines of “need” and “want” blur together and that’s how it goes.

However. For $60 I’m not falling for their game. Not when it’s nothing more than a rectangular piece of fabric that drapes down from the crib mattress (sold separately from the crib and all other features, mind you) in basic white with a detailed line running through it. I can do better than that.

How to Make Your Own Crib Skirt


Step 1: Measure the width, depth and length of crib for your crib skirt. Iron the hems and hold in place with sewing pins.

Step 2: Measure and cut fabric.

I did a separate fabric panel for each side. This allows customization of tying on the material with the hardware of the crib.

Don’t forget to factor in one inch for each side to sew the hem.


Step 3: Pin ties to tops of each side. Make sure you have ties for the corners as well as the middle of each panel (I forgot about that and had to add on corner ties after the fact).


Step 4: Sew hems and ties together. Tie panels onto the crib.



It seems that everyone is enjoying the nursery these days.



Easy Valance

19 Jul

As I posted last week, I’ve been working on various projects for the nursery for this life we are bringing into the world (crap-crap-crap-crap!).

The first project I took on was creating and building a valance for the window. It ends up being a very easy project with BIG results. I find myself sitting in there admiring my work – and I know how easy it was to make!

I didn’t document the steps as I normally do with pictures, so hopefully my written instructions suffice. And if they don’t suffice…. eh. I can’t muster the umph to come up with a witty response that doesn’t borderline on inappropriate or bitchy.


Step 1:Preparation

Lay your board flat on the ground and calculate the measurements for your fabric. I painted my 2×4 the same color as the walls, but this step isn’t necessary.

You’ll need enough fabric to run the length of the board, as well as the edges on either side, plus an inch on either side for the hem.

Fabric length can vary on preference – but I recommend 10-12 inches (add an inch on either end for the hem).

Measure your fabric at least twice and double-check your calculations before cutting anything. Once you are sure, go ahead and cut your fabric.

Step 2: More preparation

I swear, the actual sewing part of any project is sidelined by all the prepping a person does.

If your fabric is thick or heavy, then don’t worry about lining it. If your fabric is thinner, like mine, then you may want to line it.

Lining the fabric is simply cutting out a light, solid material to the size of your valance fabric and sewing it together. Make sure your fabrics are ironed completely and pinned together to ensure no wrinkles or folds.

Measure where you want your hem to be. Usually you will want to fold over the edges of the fabric twice, so 1/2 inch for each fold, 1 inch on each side. Mark the measurements with a sewing pencil or chalk.

Iron the hems of your fabric, following your measurement marks, for ease of straight sewing. Pin the hems for extra hold while you sew.

Step 3: Sew

Sew the hems of your valance fabric close to the ironed edge of the hemline. Iron again if necessary.

Step 4: Staple Fabric to 2×4

This step may take two people – one to hold the fabric in place and the other to staple.

Lay out your fabric on the ground and place your 2×4 over it. Make sure the ends of the fabric will go around the board – at least a 1/2 inch to the back of the board for stapling.

Staple one end of the fabric to the board, folding over the edge like you would wrap a gift. Staple going down the board, which will help keep the fabric taut. When you reach the other end, staple your fabric in the same fashion as the first end.

Step 5: Hang Valance

This step will definitely take two people. One to hold the valance and the other to screw it to the wall.

Drill the L brackets onto the valance, flipping up the fabric and drilling part of the L bracket to the 2×4, and leaving the other side free (to be drilled into the wall).

Measure your wall and hold the valance up above the window. Use a level to ensure evenness of the valance. While one person holds the valance in place, have the other person drill the screws into the open spots on the L brackets. Make sure your fabric isn’t tucked behind the 2×4 where it might get stuck after you are finished hanging it.

That’s it!


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