Wednesday, May 23, 2007

finally organized

In spite of the fact that it only took about 6 months for me to finally get my sunroom organized, I am thrilled by the result. The main problem was a lack of storage and serious lack of good bookcases to suit my needs. After looking at several stores for a bookcase that was the right size and not finding anything, I finally just waited until one of my roommates was moving and bought a bookcase off her. So really I should be thanking Anne-Marie for making this all possible.

With the new bookcase in place, I was able to neatly organize two baskets of fabric, all my sewing notions, my book binding tools, leather scraps, and my sewing machine. And somehow I managed to make the whole thing look organized and cute instead of just messy.

As I have struggled to keep my crafts and sewing projects organized and neatly put away, I have come up with some great organizational solutions:

1. Get a tall bookcase that can hold not only your books, but also baskets filled with anything from stationary, thread, patterns, fabric, and sewing tools.

2. Get different size baskets which can easily be pulled off the shelves, used, and then replaced. I've actually had a lot of success cleaning up after a project using these baskets because items can be put right back in and then placed back on the shelf. Because it doesn't have to go into the basement or attic, it actually gets put away.

3. Get smaller plastic containers to hold things like bobbins, thread, and buttons. A little help in the organization makes accessing my sewing notions that much easier. Plus I like that I can find things quickly and know exactly what tub/basket everything is in.

4. Stack extra fabric on top of the bookcase. Since I always seem to have remnants or fabric waiting to be used sitting around my sunroom, I finally decided to fold it and place it on top of the bookcase. This way it is organized, but out of the way. I also like to use large wicker baskets to hold yarn and this fabric, which I then just set on top. It isn't as clean as I would like, but it is a million times better than having the baskets cluttering the floor.

5. Use the extra space under your bed. I keep metal bins under my bed filled with anything random items like craft paint and brushes, pictures, wrapping paper, and extra pens and pencils. Because these bins are smaller, they are easy to pull out and retrieve whatever I need.

So what is your favorite organizational tool? Anything you really love that helps you keep your life or projects in order?

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

A recent email from a friend documenting her mom's and sister's baking extravaganza of 450 cupcakes made me reflect on just how wonderful these little bits of cake really are. They have a self contained wrapper, are just the right size, and, if made correctly, have a healthy layer of frosting on top.

I have to admit that the cupcake usually gets a bad wrap. Although delicious, they can easily go from wonderfully delightful desserts to quite horrid, unattractive not-worth-it calories. Think of how many cupcakes you have consumed that where either poorly frosted, without taste, or both.

So here is a shout out to all the wonderful cupcakes out there. Little cakes that are moist, packed with flavor, and most importantly, look even better than they taste. I think one of the keys to a well-done cupcake is the application of frosting. If you aren't handy with a knife and can't spend the time getting the frosting even and smooth, I highly recommend investing in a frosting bag and tips. Although it looks hard, it is actually quite easy to frost cupcakes with a tip (and a little practice). I also love the idea of having different colors of frosting and even adding sprinkles or fondant flowers on top.

Due to my obsession with baked goods and my love of dear friends, I recently volunteered to make a wedding cake for a friend's upcoming wedding. And this got me thinking, why not do a hoard of cupcakes for the wedding? I have no idea if my friend will like this idea, but cupcakes can look as fancy and nice as a cake. Plus the serving will be THAT much easier and you can also make a bizillion flavors. And I think cupcakes actually fit with a summer wedding.

Friday, May 18, 2007

wadding caek

My sister and I like to pronounce "wedding cake" with an accent that makes us sound like French food snobs, so it kind of comes out like wadding caek. This all started when we did our first caek for my sister's friend back when I was in high school. It was our first wadding caek attempt and turned out quite well for our untrained selves.

From their our love for beautiful caeks, and occasionally making them for our friends weddings, has only grown. The thing about wadding caeks is that they are beautiful, but so easy to completely ruin. I think the key to success is that less is more.

However, traditional American weddings are not simple. They are HUGE, extravagant, and purposely over-the-top. So this is my salute to some beautiful caeks that are elegant without being overly done.
1. the modern fondant
I love fondant. Once you have a general knowledge of how to work with it, it is relatively easy to use as long as you can work fast. I think this cake works even though it is modern because it is simple, the design isn't busy, and the color is very refreshing.

2. traditional flowers
Even though we have all seen this caek before, I love the design. Pillars are so 1992, so I am glad we are finally able to hide them with beautiful flowers and not cover the cake in a busy design. '
2. the hipster

Wedding caeks don't need to serve 150 people or be taller than a small child. Why not make a beautiful one to display and cut later into the reception. I especially like how this one has more color and style. White is beautiful, no doubt, but why not try something new?

Do you have any favorite wadding caeks or decorated caeks in general. I actually don't care that much what my wedding will be like, but for some reason beautiful cakes matter. I just think they should taste wonderful and look just as good.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

summer reading suggestions

Seeing as how I am always looking for a good book to read, I thought I would pass on a few book recommendations for anyone who is starting to compose their summer reading list.

1. Comfort Me With Apples, by Ruth Reichl

Written by a respected food critic and cook, this is a wonderful story of Ruth's life all centered around food. I honestly laughed out loud in the first few pages and the rest of the book was just as delightful. I highly recommend this for anyone who grew up cooking with their mom or has childhood memories of their mom or grandmother cooking. Reichl's style is warm, witty, and spot-on when it comes to cooking and the memories it leaves in our lives.

2. Mistress of Spices, by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

This is a wonderful story about an Indian women with a special insight into spices. Each chapter begins by telling about a different Indian spice and weaves it into the story. Delightful and imaginative in the way it uses these spices to enrich the story. A light read with the warm of India and its heritage of spices.

3. How Green Was My Valley, by Richard Llewellyn

Although not about food, this story has a warmth and richness that I have rarely found in literature. This story follows a boy growing up in a Welsh mining village as everything around him changes: his family, the town's mining business, and most importantly the transformation of his pictureque village as he comes of age and deals with loss, joy, and the inevitable fact that life is never as it once was. The author's language is beautiful and a joy to read.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

the art of sewing

This last Christmas I inherited a set of sewing books from my Grandmother that I had been waiting years to receive (due to my temporary status when she offered them and the mileage that separated us). The set is called "The Art of Sewing" and has 15 volumes, each specialized on a different aspect of sewing.

One of my favorite things about the books, besides the vintage illustrations inside, is that each is bound with a different fabric! I was so nerdy over Christmas break that I took them out and read them. I adored the book on revamping old clothes to make them new and chic, as well as the one on working with leather. Here are some of my favorite tips from the books. More suggestions will follow as I complete my study of the art of sewing.
1. Make a skirt out of a dress. If the dress just don't fit or isn't the right style anymore, cut at the waist, put a zipper in the side or back, and create a waist band. This especially works well if the dress is too short, since you can ease out any darts and increase the length of the skirt. Also consider using a coordinating fabric at the waistline or hem to increase length.
2. Changing the neckline and the cuffs on a shirt can drastically give it more style. Consider modifying the collar into a mock-neck, making long sleeves into 3/4 length or shorter, adding a stylish cuff, or adding decoration on the collar and cuff to dress a shirt up.
3. Make a full dress into a more fitted dress. If something is too baggy, take in the sides, adding a tie or belt if wanted to make it have more shape. Also consider changing the sleeves and hemline to give it more style. One great suggestion was to cut the dress at the waist, re-fit the top, and then pleate the skirt to fit the waistline.
Even though I readily admit that altering garments is hard and time consuming, giving life to an older garment doesn't have to be a huge project. One of my new goals is to start finding vintage items that I can use to make a skirt or shirt out of. Has anyone had success in making an out-dated garment new and improved? Any suggestions for the rest of us who love vintage clothes and material but often have a hard time finding something that fits well?

Thursday, May 03, 2007

no shame in being single

A few weekends back I participated in my church's regional women's conference. The theme was "Bless Every Home," focusing on specific skills or talents that women in the area have. The topics ranged from easy dinner ideas, organizational techniques, food storage, and crafts. I did a booth on hand-made leather journals, my latest passion.

While talking to one of my friends who was there demonstrating jewelry making, an older women commented on how many talents we have and the amount of crafts we are each involved in. She then asked how we learned to do so much and fit it into our days. Without missing a beat I turned to her, smiled, and commented, "we're single."

There was no mocking or bitterness in my voice. I was being 100% honest. I love my life and the opportunity I have to enrich myself in different areas, be it social, professional, spiritual, or intellectual. Although my mom is worried about my marital status, I for one am extremely grateful for my current situation. However, this does not mean I am adverse to any available, handsome bones people want to throw my way.

tip of the week

Recycle your old ties. Yeah they may look like they walked out of 1972, but you might be surprised the ways they can add style and spunk to your look. I've used them for everything from belts (adorable with jeans and a plain t-shirt), around purses to add color, make-shift watch bands, and as headbands. If the fabric is really great, consider cutting them up and using them in other crafts.

the craftiness of (wo)men

I'm not sure what drives me to create. I've just always had this desire to try something new, in spite of the fact that I have never done it before. So what that I never cut hair, sewed a wedding dress, catered a wedding, or designed costumes for a production before? You have to start somewhere, so why not try?

The majority of the battle in learning something new is thinking that you simply can't do it. You haven't been trained or personally taught and someone more experienced surely needs to show you the way.

I threw this notion out of my head in my early teens when I declared to my mother that I could cook anything, because if I had done a few dishes and they turned out well, then how hard can it possibly be to cook something new? I started baking tarts, fancy cakes, and making up new cookie recipes. From there this desire to create, to learn and expand my creativity transferred into sewing clothes and linens, baking wedding cakes at the age of 18, cutting and highlighting hair in my early 20s, sewing my first wedding dress, tying flies for fishing as well as making my own fishing pole, and most recently, making hand-bound leather books.

For years it had baffled me as to why so many women around me were amazed at what I had taught myself to do. Then a few months ago I had this epiphany: I have always believed that I could do anything that I tried my best at and used my brain to figure out. I may not be an expert, but I still could excel. If you think that you can't learn to do something, that is must be too complicated without formal training, or that you simple don't have skill, then you won't succeed because most often you won't try or put in a good effort. I admit that I am not great at all things creative (I cannot draw to save me life). But that doesn't mean I can't learn to silk paint, design clothes, plan elaborate parties, or make my own t-shirts. Everyone has the ability to be creative and artsy; you just have to try.