Tiny Dancer

We Know Better 2

Oh my!

Melody had her dance recitals a couple weeks ago, and here are a couple pictures.

Twist Shout

Carefree and cute!

Thanks to Impact Dance Center in Los Alamitos for a great season!

A day for the girls

We took a trip up the road to visit the Huntington Library and Gardens. It was a lovely day, not cool, not too warm. The sun came out and there were plenty of photo opportunities. Melody indulged us again. Since she has been basically paparazzi’d since birth, she is used to us setting up pictures and taking numerous shots. :-) If you are looking for something to do with the kids or just to enjoy the beautiful surroundings, check the Huntington. It is gorgeous and economical.

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Construction project

It has been many years since I made a gingerbread house from scratch. I have a vague memory of doing this as a kid, and in between I did one from a kit that had pre made house pieces and awful tasting royal icing. I had a whim this week that it might be fun to make a gingerbread house with Melody, so here we go!

Ready, set, bake!

Ready, set, bake!

I downloaded some instructions from King Arthur Flour (click the link, it is packed with info!). The gingerbread recipe was easy to follow, if a bit bland. I had hoped for a more gingery gingerbread. Next time I’ll stick with my mother’s or grandmother’s recipe. The first batch was so dry I had to add a bit of milk just to get the final dry clumps to bind with the rest of the dough. The second batch was insanely sticky.  Go figure, I used the exact measurements and measuring cups for each recipe.  ???  I chilled it for an hour, then with my sister’s words of wisdom ringing in my head, I floured the heck out of my work surface, plopped down some dough, floured it again, and then floured it some more for good measure! The dough when chilled was stretchy and rubbery. I had a hard time rolling it thin enough, but did have enough left over to make some trees, elves and a Santa Claus cut out.

The King Arthur template

The King Arthur template

The Pixie House template from Gingerbread by Design

The Pixie House template from Gingerbread by Design

Instead of square windows on Melody’s house, we used a small heart cookie cutter. Awww, it was pretty cute. :-) We allowed the gingerbread pieces to cool quite a long time before assembly. In the meantime I made royal icing. The key to good royal icing is beating it a long time, not quite to merengue state, but close. You want it thick so it doesn’t drip right off or run. I used a plastic zipper type bag in a gallon size as my pastry bag, and snipped off one corner. It worked great! The freezer weight bags are quite durable.

Don't you use canned goods to make your gingerbread houses?

Don’t you use canned goods to make your gingerbread houses?

More canned goods

More canned goods

I piped a bead on the bottom edge of the wall and stood it up, then did the same with the next wall, all the way through four walls. How did I get them to stay up you ask? Well I used cans to prop them up heh. Even though the royal icing was nice and thick, gravity is stronger haha. We left these to set overnight, then put on the roof pieces in the morning. Here we ran into trouble. On the Pixie House, one front wall was actually curved, and one roof piece was too short. Not sure how that happened since I used the same pattern piece to cut them both.  I also have not figured out how to make the gingerbread bake flat. Ours was ripply and lumpy. Hrmm. we used the can technique to set the roof pieces and watched some TV for an hour.

Finally, we went to town decorating. I got a little crazy buying candy for this escapade because I didn’t know exactly what we would want. I like to have lots of choices! We had Twizzlers, M-n-M’s, Skittles, gum drops, Dots, peppermints, bell shaped chocolates, candy canes in two sizes, plus stick pretzels and mini Oreos. Oops! But, it paid off and we have really colorful houses!

One last note about the templates. The chimney on the King Arthur house left something to be desired. But the chimney for the Pixie House was very nice and sits very sturdily on top of the house. A combination of the two house templates might work if you have the right roof pitch for the “good” chimney to work.

Hey! I forgot to cut out the front door opening!

Hey! I forgot to cut out the front door opening!

Mini Oreo shingles

Mini Oreo shingles

Gingerbread house love

Gingerbread house love

Someone got bored lol

Someone got bored lol

I lost Melody at this point. She wanted to get it done and go play. She was a trooper though and spent a good 3 1/2 hours doing this! She came back at the end to sprinkle the coconut for the snow. She was also high as a kite from eating plenty of the candy. :-)

Front

I remembered my own door

Why yes, that is Life cereal for shingles

Why yes, that is Life cereal for shingles

12 rows of it with 9 pieces per row...

12 rows of it with 9 pieces per row…per side

Don't forget the back!

Don’t forget the back!

This was a really fun activity but I think in the future I will only make one house. I’m glad we both had a house to decorate because we had very different ideas of what should be included and of course different levels of talent. But if we do this next year, Melody will decorate the house and we will enjoy it however she decides to do it!

Yum!

Yum!

Making an easy blanket for your pet

Even your smallest members of the house need a lovey, right? I have been making these blankets for my cats and dogs for many years. My mother made them for the family dog when I was growing up. They can be placed around the house where your pet likes to sleep, they protect your light colored carpets and linens from dark colored hair deposits and pet “gunk”, and can make it so your pet can sleep on the bed without being right up in your face.

Browser likes to hang out on the stairs

Browser likes to hang out on the stairs

To make your pet a warm bed that is also machine washable, you will need:

1 yard of cotton flannel or regular cotton

1 package of Warm & Natural batting, 34×45″ size (or any low loft batting, I just like the weight of this type)

Cozy to be

Cozy to be

Step One

Lay out the fabric to make sure the edges are even and straight. Trim where necessary.

Trim edges

Trim edges

Step Two

Lay the batting on your table, then lay the fabric on top. Match the edge of the batting to the folded edge of your flannel. The flannel is going to be your guide for cutting. Cut out the batting.

Cut batting to the edge of the fabric

Cut batting to the edge of the fabric

Step Three

You should now have one yard of flannel folded inside out and then layered on top of the batting. Keeping everything configured exactly like that, stitch around the open edges, leaving yourself a 6″ opening where you will turn the fabric. Backstitch to anchor your stitching.

Before turning, trim any edges.

Cut out extra bulk before turning

Cut out extra bulk before turning

Step Four

Turn your project by reaching in through the hole and grasping the other end. Pull everything through the hole. Once it’s right side out, reach back in and pop out the corners. Next, turn in the raw edges at the opening, pin closed, then stitch.

Pin and stitch

Pin and stitch

You can either just stitch it straight down the side, or you can stitch all the way around the entire project to make a more finished look. I stitch this about 1/8″ from the edge. Finally, stitch a straight line from edge to edge in the center of the blanket. This will keep the batting from drifting around and getting lumpy in the washer or when Fido digs around in his bed for the perfect spot to settle. If you are feeling really motivated you can stitch an X from corner to corner or other designs. I find that I am not precise enough to do this and I always wind up taking a tuck in the fabric, and that makes a pucker, and that bugs me. :-)

Step Five

Present to Fluffy and collect the furry gratitude you are owed for your efforts. Start to finish this project should take about 15 minutes.

Heavy sigh....

Heavy sigh….

If your pet is bigger than medium size, you can make a similar blanket using 1 yard of flannel backed with 1 yard of cotton or flannel cut into a square, and the batting sandwiched in the middle. Follow the same steps, just stitching around four sides instead of three. I suppose you could also make a kid blanket this way too.  :-)

So many things!

Princesses

Princesses

Dress Review Revisited

You may remember my pattern review of the Simplicity 2569 Princess Dress, which I made for Melody back in February this year. At the time I figured it would be fairly easy to make this in a 100% machine washable version. Since our summer vacation was planned coincidentally to fall right after Cassidy’s birthday I determined I would make the dress and the girls would wear their matching dresses during vacation.

Cassidy’s dress is made from a variety of pink cotton fabrics that Melody picked out, plus a poly lace overskirt and poly trims.  It was just as easy as I remembered.  The only real challenges were to my math skills.  The pattern calls for 60″ wide tulle, but we used 45″ wide lace, so I had to quickly calculate how much lace and then alter the cutting layout accordingly. Instead of 4 wide panels, it had 8 narrower ones. I also didn’t make it a three layer skirt since the cotton & lace were heavier than the tulle.

Even though the girls are different heights, they both have on a size 6/7 dress. Cassidy’s turned out to be a bit long once she tried it on, so I used some safety pins to create “panniers” on her hips. As she grows they can be taken out.

Vacation

The photo above was taken in Biltmore Village, NC. It was a humid evening but we walked around the village shopping and having a nice time. The girls got SO many compliments! They were truly the belles of the ball, so to speak. Tara and I were the wicked step mothers, lol.

The Biltmore estate is an amazing and beautiful house! If you ever get a chance, please go. It wasn’t even that expensive for the tour and the audio guides. The home was lived in until the 1950s I believe, so it really does feel like a home, rather than a museum. Most fascinating about the home was the restoration process, because since it was a home there was normal wear and tear on certain things. Just think about the normal wear and tear on your own home, then consider you have a home filled with priceless antiques and expensive fabrics. Just wow. I highly recommend this tour of an American “castle.”

The rest of our vacation was too darn short! Melody loved playing in the backyard with Burke & Cassidy, going to Wonderworks – a kids hands on museum, and just hanging with the kids at home. These are the times the miles feel so great, but the wonderful memories shorten them.

Swimming Lessons

Melody has been taking swimming lessons and has gone from not leaving the side of the pool to jumping in, over and over and over, with the water above her head! We are so proud of her accomplishment of overcoming her fears. This is a big step for a child to own their own safety in a pool. Great job Melody! And thank you to Gramma A for taking her every day!

Girl Scouts

Mom has been trained to be a coleader of the Daisy troop this year. I’m excited and we are going to have a great time! I hope to blog more about this as we go along in the year.

Claire

Some of you understand the concept of an online Mom’s group. We met virtually when we were all pregnant 8 years ago, and we have stayed tight. Lots of us have met in person and we are now just like a great big international mom’s group. I think of these ladies as some of my closest friends. Well, one lady who I dearly love has been diagnosed with cervical cancer. All I can say is that we are praying every day that the treatment beats it into remission and it never ever comes back! When something like this strikes your group of friends, the immediate reaction is “no way, not in our group!” but it’s real and we have to face it. The very hardest, most difficult part of all of this is the inability to pop by and sit with Claire, make dinner for the kids, do the wash, pick up the groceries, whatever. The normal things you do when a friend or family member is in need. This is another time the miles really stretch.

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We are with you Claire!

That’s about it for now. Melody is back to school next Tuesday and she will be a FIRST GRADER! Yahooo!!!!!

Painting furniture

Several years ago, I bought a child sized table and two chairs for Melody to use in her playroom. At the time, it was unfinished, but I always intended to paint it. But in the meantime, Melody worked her creativity on the surface, coloring on it, spilling glitter glue, and all together enjoying it. But we finally decided that at 6 years old, she ought to have a finished table and chairs. Over the Independence Day holiday recently, we determined the project would commence.

photo 2 photo 3 photo 4 photo 6

After a visit to Home Depot’s paint department, we had all we needed. Melody was very specific about the paint color. She chose a beautiful violet color, and wanted white flowers painted on top. So, with stencils, paint, brushes, sand paper, and primer, we began. You can see there was quite a lot of crayon to remove. The play-doh residue came off quite easily. The glitter glue disintegrated and covered everything in powdered glitter. Once the surfaces were clean and smooth, we primed.

photo 7

At this point, Melody lost interest in the project for the day. The primer dried overnight and I applied a second coat the following day. After that, I sanded the surfaces to take down any significant bush marks, dribbles or other imperfections.

Next, paint.

photo 9

It is very purple! Looks like we need to tone it down a little bit with some white flowers.

photo 11 photo 12 photo 10

The stencils turned out very pretty. They are Martha Stewart Crafts stencils and we used a foam “pouncer” to apply the paint. I am no pro at stenciling, but I read the instructions. I have to say, the Martha Stewart Crafts instructions were thorough and very helpful. Melody did the larger flowers and I did the small ones on her chairs. She wants me to make pads for the seats. I’ll see what I can do. Maybe that is something a Gramma could do for Christmas, heh, hint, hint.

The table and chairs are now in her playroom and she uses them to write in her summer journal, color and play. Hopefully some day, she will use the with her own children!

Heritage House – Riverside, CA

Sunday June 30 we were so pleased to attend the 20th Annual Old Style Independence Day Ice Cream Social at the Heritage House in Riverside, CA. This gorgeous Victorian house has been lovingly restored and is a curated museum of Victorian life in early Riverside. Mr and Mrs James Bettner moved from New York to Riverside for his health in the 1870s. After his death, Mrs Bettner commissioned the house as a grand showcase of Victorian living. The house gives tours from September to June. The summer months are reserved for updating projects and the upstairs rooms are just too hot for guests. This is a vintage home and they did not have central air, lol. There is a gift shop and the House staff is wonderful! My colleague from history events is a docent there and it is clear she has a deep love for the home.

The Ice Cream Social is an annual fundraiser for the House, and all proceeds will be used to pay for school busses to bring 3rd & 4th grade children to visit the house. It is important that young children not only get a lesson in local history but also touch the beauty of Victorian culture. If just one child in a group finds a love of history and goes on to promote learning, then the fundraisers have been a tremendous success! Children learn games and past times that do not involve electronics, how laundry was washed in a manual agitator washing machine, and how the grace of the Victorian era was more than just architecture. Check the gallery for some photos from our visit.

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Handmade Fairy

Here’s a fun little activity brought to you by FairyMomCreations.com. We met the Fairy Mom at a recent event. Melody was fascinated by her little dolls and their houses. These are not just any doll and doll house. These are whimsical, dream-inspiring, beautiful little dolls. Melody and her friend Lily played all afternoon with these dolls – see Lily’s grandfather bought them each a doll, then Lily’s grandmother bought them each a doll kit, then Melody’s mommy bought them each a key…these girls know the power of shopping with different people with a soft spot for the littles. :-)

Anyway, the kit was more than we could do at the event, so yesterday Melody and I sat down to make her very own handmade fairy. I wish I had taken progress pictures, but I was so absorbed with the doll that I completely forgot! The kit cost $5. FIVE DOLLARS!  What a bargain.

As of yet unnamed fairy

As of yet unnamed fairy

Fairy wings

Fairy wings

The kit includes everything you need to make a flower skirted fairy, including wings, flower, yarn to wrap the body, wool for the hair and lots of beads and sequins. All it takes is glue and a little time. Took about 30 minutes start to finish. The kit includes photo illustrated instructions.

Whee!

Whee!

Here she has landed atop the fairy house we also purchased from the Fairy Mom. She has a variety of really neat and clever houses, castles, cabins, pirate ships and even a mushroom house. They are so cute, and the sides of the standard type structures come off easily because they use velcro!

Melody and fairy

Melody and fairy

Fairy family

Fairy family

The fairy abode came with this little family. They are so adorable. The quality is very high, too. They won’t fall apart at the first play session. They definitely are not for little littles, but girls 6 and up will find hours of entertainment with them.

The Fairy Mom is going to a number of events throughout California this year, but it looks like the next time we will run into her is during the Huntington Beach Civil War Days event over Labor Day weekend. Check her website for amazing creations, ideas and her calendar. They are worth the $5-$7 you will spend!

Working with an antique bed frame

I love my antique bed. It has been in our family for over a hundred years. My grandfather slept in it, my mother slept in it, I slept in it, and now my daughter sleeps in it. I don’t know why a bed, such a mundane item of furniture, should hold my affections so firmly, but for some reason it does. I remember a long long time ago in Sunday School they were asking us littles about what we would be most sad to lose in a fire. I had no thought of the clothing, toys or other childhood treasures. For me, it was the bed. Even at that young age I had been captured in the spell of history, antiques and family treasures.

As a kid, I liked to crawl under the bed and look at the support structure, wondering about all the people who had slept on it. The supports of the bed originally consisted of five 2×4 slats that rest on small footers, a framed spring, and then the mattress. The top of the mattress was lower than the top of the footboard and it had a lovely sleigh bed profile. But, since that support structure was worn out and very old, my parents had a new box spring and mattress built. Of course, it is a non-standard size, so it had to be custom built. With the addition of the box spring, the top of the mattress became higher than the top of the footboard and for a while I was upset. I felt it spoiled the look of my bed. :-) We retained the slats to disperse the weight of the mattresses.

As an adult I learned about bed skirts. Particularly for an antique bed, which usually has a 12″-15″ opening below the bed, these are a great way to hide anything you store under the bed, or just give it a softer look. Since my bed has been modified from it’s original structure over the years, this project does not damage it any further. If your antique bed is in its original condition, think about whether you plan to take it on Antiques Roadshow before making alterations.

Because of the slats under my bed and the large box spring, I can’t simply lay the bed skirt over the box spring and leave it at that, so I had to devise a way to attach the skirt. First I tried a system of rails that lay over the slats, but I still had to remove the mattress (heavy) and box spring (insanely heavy) to install and remove the skirt. The other day I came up with the simplest of all methods: velcro.

Slats, underside of the bed

Slats, underside of the bed

Here you can see the slats and a bit of the underside of the bed. I apologize for how terrible these images are, but have you ever tried to take a picture of the underside of a bed? It’s not easy, haha.

IMG_4631

Velcro placement

I used adhesive backed velcro and placed it right on the edge of the inside underside of the bed frame.

IMG_4628

Velcro placement on the skirt

Next, I cut the center out of the bedskirt so that I had one long ruffle. I placed the other side of the velcro along the seam of the ruffle. Do not cut on the ruffle side of the skirt – I left about 2″ of the center portion as a buffer, just in case my measurement of the drop was off. I broke the velcro into three sections – side, foot and side – making sure to allow room to go around large corner posts. First, place the velcro on the bed frame. Then place the velcro on the skirt. The measurement should match up exactly. With this particular bed, I used a queen sized skirt because the bed is not a twin and not a full. I took a large pleat in the center of the foot section to make up for the overage. Continue along the other side until the skirt is placed.

IMG_4626

Completed bed

The finished bed looks lovely! Since my black cat likes to go under the bed to hide, it will now be much easier to remove and wash the skirt to remove her hair that sticks to the skirt. If I decide to change the skirt for some reason, I will leave the velcro in place on the bed frame, and just reuse the pieces on the skirt. Keep in mind that the adhesive may wear out over time and you may need to baste the velcro onto the skirt.

Good luck with your antique bed, just remember to work with it, not against it!

 

Grown up coloring

At Christmas my daughter thought her Auntie would like some coloring books, since as a six-year-old Melody likes coloring. Lucky her, Auntie likes coloring and always has. Well, I thought some coloring books for grown ups were in order, and since I liked them so much, I bought myself a set. Of course, since we love Victorian clothing, that’s the theme of the books. I finished a couple recently. My daughter was playing on her iPad and I was the one coloring. Hee hee!

Evening Attire ca. 1891

Evening Attire ca. 1891

Walking Costumes ca. 1884

Walking Costumes ca. 1884

I hope you find yourself some good Dover Coloring books, a 100 color pencil set, and a little time to dream!

Speaking of Victorian clothing, we will be at the Southern California Civil War Association (SCCWA) reenactment at Prado Regional Park April 6-7. Visit my Victorian sister site Past Periods Press for more details.