Tuesday, April 30, 2013

pasta salad recipe.

as you have probably noticed, last night i wrote this post about jamess birthday party, and after posting it i realized that maybe i should take a little more time to talk about the food, because the food was really my primary focus. i mean, why even bother having a party if the food is going to be bad?

since the party was a weenie roast, the majority of the menu was centered around the sausages, buns, condiments, etc., and well, all of that was just store bought (well, i did make some pickle relish, but i forgot to pack it with the other food, so i wont count that), so that part wasnt very exciting. i mean, getting 12 packs of sausage for $16 (it would have been $60 at regular price) was really exciting for me, but for the most part our party prep was mainly just going to the grocery store. 

the one thing i did actually make myself was this pasta salad. its recently become one of my favorite easy dinners, because despite needing a little more advanced notice than some of my other weeknight dinners, its still pretty easy, reasonably healthy, inexpensive, and most importantly, delicious. i normally make this in the morning to eat for dinner that night because of the time required for it to chill, but in cases like jamess party, where i needed it ready earlier in the day, i had to remember to make it the night before, which if you know me, was kind of a difficult thing for me to remember. i just wish alice would eat it, because if she did, wed have this every night. anyways, heres how i made it:

pasta salad
(serves 4+ as a meal, more as a side dish)

1 pound pasta (i used rotini, but penne or macaroni would work too)
1 (12-16 oz) bag of frozen mixed veggies (im a big fan of using the "asian stir fry" type, but you can use whatever veggies you like)
1 large can black olives
1/2 a 16 oz bottle of italian dressing
salt and black pepper to taste
parmesan cheese for garnish (if desired)

start by preparing the pasta according to the package directions, drain and set aside in a large bowl. next steam the veggies according to those package directions, drain and add to the pasta. then drain the olives and thinly slice them (i suppose you could use already sliced olives, but the whole olives are usually cheaper) before adding them to the other ingredients in the bowl. lastly, pour the dressing over the pasta and veggies, adding salt and pepper as desired, and stir until everything is evenly dispersed. now the pasta salad is technically done, however its still hot, so if you want it to taste good, youll need to refrigerate it for a few hours before you serve it, with some extra parmesan cheese on top if you like (but i always forget). 

and thats it! its also really easy to change up the vegetables to suit your tastes, this time i added a can of baby corn that i had gotten on clearance, and next time i think ill try it with the regular mixed veggies and some artichoke hearts. 

Monday, April 29, 2013

jamess birthday weenie roast.

on friday my dear husband james turned 26, and yesterday, after weeks of planning, we finally got to celebrate with a weenie roast at my moms house. in case you missed this post, ive never gotten to give james a birthday party before, and according to james, he hasnt had a proper birthday party since he was a small child, since his birthday has always been, well, his grandmas birthday. now in my family, birthdays and parties are kind of a big deal, and i was NOT ok with the fact that james was perfectly fine with never having his own birthday. so this year i put my foot down and decided that once and for all that he WAS GOING TO HAVE A BIRTHDAY PARTY IF ITS THE LAST THING I DO. 

at first, this didnt go over so well. james couldnt understand why this was such a big deal to me, and i couldnt understand why this WASNT a big deal to him. it seriously took a couple WEEKS of arguing over this before i could convince james that 1. this was important, and not just for me, but for him, he NEEDED to have his own birthday party and 2. that that it is 100% totally completely normal to pick the kind of birthday party that one would like to have. anyways, after much discussion, we decided that wed have a small gathering of friends and family at my moms house (she has a great backyard for parties) on sunday afternoon (remember, friday was also grandmas birthday, so we spent the day in san diego with jamess family) after church. shortly after that was decided, there was a fantastic deal on sausage links, so we (and by we i mean i) set the theme as a weenie roast. 

as soon as we decided on weenie roast, i told my mom and we started bouncing ideas off each other. now, im not big on pinterest (at least, i havent yet figured out how to use it for anything productive), but my mom is. and not only is my mom really great at pinterest, but shes also great at parties. and projects. and free things. so what does she do? she built a fire pit. for free. she literally built an entire fire pit out of scrap materials for this party. and its awesome. im a big fan of mellow, low key parties that are mainly centered around the food, and the fire pit REALLY pulled the party together and made it perfect. 

anyways, while the menfolk, from (left: james, my brother andrew, and my stepdad russell) cooked all the sausages on the fire while us ladies got all the other foods ready. we even brought out extra cast iron pans to grill the onions and sauerkraut. as the token vegetarian of the group, i didnt eat any of this, but from what i heard, this part came out really great. 

and now for way too many pictures of food, heres the finished sausage table (the cans for the forks and napkins were one of my moms many pinterest finds):

we put all the other foods on a separate table on the other side of the yard, closer to most of the seating, though looking back it probably would have been a better idea to have them closer together, but oh well. anyways, we were able to get all the food together really cheap, the single biggest expense was the sausage, and that was only $16. 

for drinks we just had a big pitcher of arnold palmer, along with some wine and sodas, so we didnt have much to put on the drink table, but my mom had this really cute collection of wine bottles for decoration, and i was REALLY happy with how that came out. 

while everyone ate, alice and her friend leona did LOTS of super cute playing:

 one of the few things that james actually requested are what he calls "campfire churros", which james has been talking about making since before we were even married but i had never heard of them, and he never got a chance to make them, so i was seriously starting to doubt their existence, but turns out, they do exist! basically theyre refrigerated biscuits wrapped around a dowel, sprinkled with cinnamon sugar, and cooked over a fire. they were actually pretty good. 

but not nearly as good as the absolutely ridiculous smores cake that my mom made (yes, another pinterest find), which involved a blowtorch

i mean seriously, look at this cake


james was only very uncomfortable as we sang happy birthday and served the cake. 

p.s. i totally love these candles, and i got them at dollar tree of all places. as the party started getting closer i realized that i had forgotten to account for candles in the budget so i was so  relieved to find these for so cheap. 

then people started leaving, so we finished the night with james opening his gifts:

with the exception of a few forgotten details (i left the relish and jalapenos at home, and forgot to pick up marshmallows, but my aunt saved the day by bringing some), this party turned out just perfect, and i think i maybe, just maybe changed jamess mind about birthday parties. 

stay tuned for next time when i post the recipe for the pasta salad that i made for the party. 

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

a big cheap date fail.

jamess birthday is on friday. thing is, his birthday is also his grandmas birthday, and his grandma, as nice and sweet as she is, is very much a "birthdays only count ON your actual birthday" kind of person, so, one of the family quirks ive had to get used to is always spending jamess birthday with his grandma. now james is very close with his grandma, and she lives nearly three hours away in (east county? south county? my sense of geography only exists in the area south of hollywood and north of long beach) san diego and we dont get to go see her a lot, so this arrangement works pretty well. 

except one thing. ive never gotten to take james out for his birthday, you know, on a real birthday date, where i surprise him and take him somewhere nice for dinner and we dress up and drink wine while someone else watches alice. this is his fourth birthday since weve been together (really? its been that long? i guess so), and this is the first year ive been able to pull it off (ive also managed to put together a little birthday party for him too, but youll hear plenty about that later). 

the reason id never been able to pull this off before, is that the whole going to san diego for jamess actual birthday thing is basically non-negotiable, and that creates a couple of big complications. first, the date has to be very carefully scheduled so that it doesnt interfere with the san diego plans. and second, going to jamess grandmas house and back uses an entire tank of gas and creates kind of a financial strain (especially when works been slow for the both of us), so this date needed to be cheap. actually, not just cheap, CHEAP. but still nice enough to count as a birthday date. 

as you can see, we went to benihana, which is totally unreasonably expensive (and honestly, im really not into the shtick), except they give you a FREE $30 gift certificate for the month of your birthday. i think what they intend for you to do is get your whole family together for a giant benihana party and use your gift certificate for one full-priced entree and drink for the birthday person. but what our plan was to sit in the sushi bar area, order $31 of sushi to share (benihana actually has really good sushi and its not nearly as overpriced as the hibachi stuff) and some wine, and after the gift certificate all we have to pay for is tax, tip, and wine. $15 tops. weve managed to successfully do this twice last year, once for a slightly rushed lunch for jamess last birthday (he worked really weird hours at that time), and for a stressful misbehaving alice dinner for mine. but still, we were pros at this. (it also helps that our birthdays are almost exactly six months apart, cause twice a year is exactly how much benihana i can handle)

so last night we go to benihana, by ourselves, plan fully in place, what could possibly go wrong? turns out, lots. first of all, despite the fact that it was TUESDAY, the restaurant was packed. like, two hour wait for a grill table packed. thankfully we were there for sushi, but there was still a twenty minute plus wait for a table, so we found a table in the bar area and picked out some wine while we waited. james goes up to the bar to order, and comes back with our wine, PLUS two sodas. not sure why he thought we both needed a soda, benihana only has pepsi products so i didnt want one, and he could have added his to the birthday certificate balance if he had ordered it at our table, so both were entirely unnecessary . i swear i will never understand his logic. anyways, our bar bill was $20. 

 i feel like i need to take a second and disclaimer that tensions were already pretty high in the meyers household due to some  less than awesome news at my doctor appointment on monday and stress about this upcoming weekend, i like to think that i am NOT normally this uptight, although i probably am. anyways, this is where i started trying REALLY hard not to lose it.i reminded myself that it was jamess BIRTHDAY, and since now the drinks were already payed for, dinner would be even cheaper, so we move on, get called for our table, order some food and have an enjoyable dinner together for the first time in a while ("real dates" are kind of the first thing to go for us when money gets tight). then the bill comes. apparently james accidentally ordered one of the monthly "chef specials", which is one of literally THREE things excluded from the birthday certificate. 

now i really start freaking out. jamess dinner is going to cost full price. our only options at this point is to either leave now and only use half the certificate towards my meal, OR order $16 more of free sushi to take home. either way were stuck with a $25 bill, so we decide to get some extra sushi. and it took forever for those tuna rolls to get to us. FOREVER. FOR EV ER. 

and at this point ive just lost it. my perfect $15 date that ive been planning all week has just gone down the toilet. i FAILED. at the one thing in life that i work hardest on. FAILED. all i could think about was how we couldnt afford a $45 date this week, and even if we could, it most certainly would not have been at benihana. i got way more upset about this than was even reasonable, and NONE of jamess attempts to console me were working. i was angry, and that made james angry, and both of us being stubborn firstborns there was just no reasoning with either of us. we barely spoke to each other for the rest of the night. it was horrible. my plan failed AND i let it ruin our night. 

then this morning while getting alices breakfast ready i noticed that we had enough free sushi to have it for dinner tonight. i looked at our picture from dinner and realized that, yeah it didnt go according to plan, but it was a really, really nice date. and i FINALLY got to take james out for his birthday. i had A LOT of apologizing to do. thankfully james is a very, very forgiving husband, and we were able to have a normal day today. 

so i guess theres two lessons here, one: no matter how sure i am about something, it wont ever hurt to triple check the fine print, and two: i REALLY shouldnt be so uptight, i try to justify doing it, that it proves useful sometimes, but also sometimes its too much. so maybe in october, when we get my birthday certificate, ill have a happy benihana story to share. maybe. 

p.s. i probably wont be posting for the rest of the week due to jamess other birthday festivities, but ill be back, i promise. 

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

my first ever outfit post. a work in progress.

if you dont remember my last post, i spent a long time rambling about my wardrobe and my ongoing quest to, for lack of a better term, fix it. i thought it might help me stay motivated if i started regularly posting my outfits, what i like/dont like about them, etc., so i decided i would start right away. the timing was perfect, because it was sunday, and ive been making more of an effort to dress nicer for church. but then we ran into some problems:
1. our apartment is tiny and crowded, so there wasnt anywhere to take pictures inside
2. the building we live in is laid out in a way that makes the lighting terrible. all the time, so the pictures we took in the morning were bad, and the pictures we took in the afternoon were equally as bad, just in a different way. 
and 3. im a super perfectionist control freak when it comes to photos, and i didnt have time to set up a tripod and use a timer, so james took all the pictures. and well, without getting too mean about it, ill just say that he lacks a trained eye when it comes to fashion photography. 

so out of something like 30 frames i didnt have anything i was happy with, and i considered just scrapping the whole idea, but then i reminded myself that ive only just started, both with my style improvements and this blog, and i have to start somewhere, and not let my perfectionism get in the way (for reference, i had been planning and researching this blog for nearly a year before i started actually posting). 

so heres what i wore to church on sunday:

top: h&m, skirt: vintage, socks: handmade, shoes: urban outfitters

i suppose ill start with what i like: 
1.my hair, i used this tutorial as inspiration. i know it seems silly to need a tutorial for such a simple hairstyle, but this is actually the first time in my life ive ever had long hair. it was VERY short through most of my teens, and i only just recently even learned how to curl it, so all the hair tutorials at a beautiful mess and skunkboy have been really helpful, and im looking forward to trying more. 
2. my makeup, though i feel like this is kind of cheating to say i like it because i do my makeup exactly the same every day. i got a new eyeshadow pallet for free at target last week, and im REALLY happy with it, which is good, because the one i was using is kind of falling apart. 
3. my top. i bought this during a recent shopping trip and (gasp!) paid full price for it, because i love it, its the exact kind of basic top i was in dire need of, and i had already gotten the rest of my list at WAY below budget. 
4. my shoes. those are some of my favorite dressy shoes, because theyre super comfy, cute, AND the yellow goes with almost everything i own. i also like wearing them because i bought them on our honeymoon, and i always laugh at how poorly we packed for that trip (we ended up doing a LOT of clothes shopping that week, somehow we BOTH forgot to bring flip flops and jeans). 

now for what i dont like:
1. my skirt. it really doesnt fit well anymore, and i dont know if the picture really shows it, but its pretty baggy around the hips, which didnt really work with a loose, flowy top. i LOVE the print and the length though, so pretty soon im going to take in the sides a little bit to make it a bit more flattering (and post a tutorial about it, because in my opinion, knowing how to alter thrift store clothes is ESSENTIAL to, well, not looking as poor as you are). 
2. my socks. i love those socks because i made them, but seeing them in the photos made me realize that socks + flats is a really bad look if youve got short legs like i do. so i wont be doing that again. 

so thats it. my first outfit post. now that ive done one, they dont seem nearly as intimidating. hopefully ill get better at this the more practice i get. 

of course immediately after taking the second set of pictures, we got changed and went to the beach. we had to, the weather was PERFECT (this is actually pretty rare in the south bay), AND we got to see a sea lion playing in the waves, a whole pod of dolphins just hanging out in the bay, and a whole bunch of little tiny sailboats! i mean seriously, how cute are these sailboats:

alice loves the beach, so she spent HOURS playing in the sand and even swimming for a little bit. at one point she even walked over to another group to go introduce herself to some other kids, i seriously have no idea how i ended up with such an outgoing child. later my sister joined us with the kids that she nannies, and all the kids got stickers from a lifeguard (i knew about fireman stickers, but apparently lifeguards have them too). it was seriously THE most perfect beach day, especially for it still being april. 

alice WAS pretty upset with us when it was time to go, but since the weather is finally starting to warm up, we can start going to the beach more often soon. honestly i much prefer the beach to the park. 

Saturday, April 20, 2013

my style. or lack thereof.

when i started this blog i had promised myself that i would post frequently and consistently. for two reasons:  one, so people might actually enjoy reading it, and 2, as a sort of creative challenge because, frankly, ive let myself become REALLY boring and uninteresting. ive actually been putting off writing this post because i had hit somewhat of a creative block and couldnt really come up with anything original and relevant to write about. 

and then it kind of clicked that thats EXACTLY HOW I FEEL ABOUT MY WARDROBE. see, after getting married we lived in a boring town on top of a mountain in arizona where i didnt have any friends and didnt have anything to do and the weather was never appropriate for any of my favorite garments, and i really let it get to me. there was absolutely no reason to try and look attractive, so i just gave up. with the exception of a few absolutely necessary  maternity pieces, i bought NO new clothes the entire time we lived there. and this is kind of a big deal because, believe it or not, i used to run a small and not entirely failed independent clothing label. also, my bedroom at my parents house looked like a store i had so many clothes. 

after alice was born i swore i would try harder, but she was a very intense, needy, and ALWAYS hungry baby, so that didnt last. then we moved back to la and i swore id stick to it this time but i was still stuck in the nursing-tank-and-one-pair-of-jeans-that-fits-oh-and-that-one-nice-shirt-for-church uniform and i gave up again. then, when we were finally settled in our new home and things were mellowing out and i was ready to start re-building my wardrobe, i lost ten pounds. 

suddenly, for no apparent reason, i was back to my HIGH SCHOOL weight. with a wardrobe that basically consisted of a) stretched out, threadbare, non-maternity clothes that i just wore anyways through my pregnancy because i refused to buy ugly maternity clothes, b) the handful of ill-fitting thrift store pieces i bought in prescott, c) garments purchased after the age of 20 that are now a size too big (i got rid of all my "skinny" clothes shortly after alice was born) and d) a handful of nursing-appropriate shirts that i am absolutely sick of looking at. 

hardly any of it fits, and none of it matches. and i was about to give up again. 

but i didnt. 

i actually recently made a commitment to dress nicer, wear makeup and cute shoes, style my hair occasionally, and stop being what my sister calls, "an ugly mom". 

its still a work in progress, but its actually working. i recently cleared out all the ugly, ill-fitting-mismatched junk from my closet, and (with a $100 budget, no less) filled in some major wardrobe voids (little black dress, non-denim pants, dressy shirts with no buttons, etc), and have been working on building a more cohesive, grown-up look for myself. its been fun, but im starting to lose steam, so ive decided that re-building my wardrobe will be a new recurring topic over here. 

so stay tuned for more ramblings, outfit photos, shopping stories, and the like. i hope youll enjoy going through this with me. 

(p.s. the picture at the top is me and alice on easter, and i really only put that there so i could draw attention to alices dress. because i made it.)

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

productivity. an off day. and popsicles.

if you follow me on instagram (if you dont, youre more than welcome to, im @wifeofmeyers), you may have noticed that im on my fourth week of getting all of my to-do lists for the week completely crossed out. now if you know me personally, you would know that this is kind of a big deal because im not a naturally organized person. at all. in order to get ANYTHING done in this house i have to make lists (lots of them), keep a REALLY tidy datebook, and have designated days of the week for certain chores and errands (you can see what i do about groceries here). did i mention that this doesnt really come naturally? just keeping myself on track requires constant attention that borders on obsession, but what i lack in natural organizing skills, i certainly make up for in with intense satisfaction from crossing things off lists, so this is usually a pretty motivating way of doing things. 

and this was working perfectly for over three weeks. until yesterday, when i had very grandiose plans of going to the torrance farmers market, having lunch at my moms, and writing a blog post about it during naptime, and maybe doing a couple other chores. instead, alice decided to take a very short nap and spent the entire afternoon/evening in a very foul mood, i didnt pay enough attention to my photos of the market and they came out crappy, and james got home from work roughly three hours later than usual. 

needless to say i was not in a good mood at the end of the day, and that sort of carried over to this morning, which would have been bad enough simply starting with an unfinished list, but i also needed to wash my hair (im sure this sounds completely ridiculous to 99% of people, but i have very thick, very bleached, nearly waist length hair that takes roughly an hour to wash and dry in a manner that doesnt look terrible). on wednesday. which meant i had to do it in the morning before alice woke up because wednesday night is when i buy groceries. 

wednesday isnt only grocery day anymore though, i recently started taking alice to storytime at the lomita library, partly because i enjoy torturing myself and partly because somebody needs to be that mom with the uncontrollable toddler that prefers toys and running around to stories and songs (really, its great, alice loves it and theres LOTS of kids her age, im not actually complaining, shes just, really not into group activities). now storytime is at 10, which means theoretically we can get home by 11:30 and alice will be hungry, so i can feed her lunch and then put her down for a long nap, at home. alice had other ideas, and fell asleep the second we got in the car. and alice is a one nap a day baby. so if she sleeps for 15 minutes in the car, then thats all i get. and i had yet to do even a single chore. today was just not my day. 

so i spent the afternoon trying to get my work done with a cranky, surly, probably teething toddler that missed her nap. and it turned out just fine. just when i thought the day was completely lost, i remembered that we had popsicles.

apparently thats exactly what the two of us needed. after popsicles today turned out great, we had a nice little treat, and after we cleaned that up, alice got to watch "princess" (actually alice in wonderland, not sure how she put that together) while i did as many chores as possible, and then we took another break to play until it was time for me to cook dinner. james got home at a normal hour and after dinner i went to the grocery store by myself and came home to a sleeping alice! now everyones happy and the to-do lists are all caught up. 

so there you have it. the secret to successful parenting is popsicles. (and before you get all judgy about me giving my toddler a popsicle, i feel like i need to disclaimer that that is a homemade popsicle consisting solely of berries and vanilla yogurt). 

Sunday, April 14, 2013

apple crisp recipe.

funny story: i didnt learn to cook until after i got married. its actually been a really slow and sometimes painful trek for me to learn to cook real food, for a really long time apple crisp was one of only a couple of foods i could make by myself. and i dont mean when i was 12, i mean when i was like, 19. heck, i couldnt even make a quesadilla when i was 19. 

anyways, this recipe kind of became my specialty for any time it was my turn to cook anything, because its a totally awesome dessert made entirely from ingredients that are already in most normal pantries. also its super easy, and doesnt dirty a lot of dishes, which is especially important when youre a lazy 19 year old that cant cook to save your life. or the mom of a cranky toddler. 

last night i got an email from my mom saying that after church there was going to be a spontaneous potluck lunch. there wasnt time for me to go out to buy anything, so i needed to bring something that i could make a large quantity of, out of ingredients we already had. naturally i went with apple crisp, since i had recently bought a really disappointing bag of dry, sour apples. and judging by the fact that the entire thing was gone before i even got to the potluck table, i guess people liked it. so heres how you make it:

apple crisp
5-7 granny smith apples, depending on size (this recipe works best with really crappy, sour, and dry apples, if the apples are too sweet and juicy, this basically turns into soup. so save the yummy apples for eating)
1/4 cup pancake syrup 
1 stick of melted butter (you can easily make this recipe vegan by using 1/2 cup earth balance margarine instead)
3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup flour
3/4 cup oatmeal (rolled oats or quick oats will work)

start by peeling, coring, and thinly slicing all your apples, and put them in a medium sized casserole dish or 9 x 9 baking pan and toss them in the pancake syrup (you could make this a tad healthier by using real maple syrup, but in that case you might need to add some extra sugar for it to come out right), adding a sprinkle of cinnamon if you feel so inclined. then in a large bowl, mix together the brown sugar, flour, and oatmeal, and slowly stir in the melted butter to form a crumbly batter. spread the topping over the apples in the pan and bake at 350 until the topping is browned and the apples are bubbling. and thats it! serve warm, preferably with vanilla ice cream. 

Friday, April 12, 2013

free field trip: centennial farm.

today i took alice to centennial farm for the first time. if youve never heard of it, its basically a miniature farm thats connected to the orange county fairgrounds, that has all kinds of animals and crops and things for kids to learn about farming and agriculture. its awesome. also, its free. with free parking (unless theres something special going on at the fairgrounds).

 its all the way out in costa mesa (about 45 minutes from us), so its not something we can just go do all the time, but today we got to go with a bunch of families from church, including my mom and sisters. this was especially nice since alice had a really rough morning (including a twenty minute tantrum because i wouldnt let her change her own diaper), and i really needed the help. 

alice LOVES animals, so she was really excited to get to hug an ox:

a couple times a day they have a cow milking demonstration but alice didnt really care so she talked to a llama:

and looked at some cows and pigs and goats and chickens and all kinds of farm animals. 

 this weekend was also the youth expo, so there were lots of other free things to do, like crafts:

(this was actually the first of several crafts she did today, apparently alice REALLY likes crafts)

alices very favorite part though was this small petting zoo at the youth expo where she got to feed some of the nicest, friendliest sheep and goats ive ever seen

and the worlds cutest tiniest cow! seriously, that cow is roughly the size of a large dog. this was actually the only part of the day that wasnt free, but it was only a dollar, and it was the only part of the day we payed for (we brought a picnic lunch), so i couldnt resist indulging her. 

i dont know if they were part of the farm or the youth expo, but there was a big exhibition of different chickens and rabbits, where we got to hold the cutest, softest, nicest rabbit ive ever met (and this is saying something because i kind of hate rabbits).

and the very best part of the day? alice had SO much fun, she slept the whole way home! probably the longest nap shes taken all week. 

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

framed embroidery tutorial, part two.

when we last left off, we had just finished step 8, and were all finished with the embroidery part, so now its time to move on to the framing part (click here for part one). for further reference we ended with this:

step 9: gently iron out any creases, the best way to do this is on the "medium" or "wool" setting, and with your fabric sandwiched between two towels to avoid damaging your hard work. now you can set that piece aside for a while because for the next few steps were going to be working making a backing for the frame. 

step 10: on a piece of stiff, non-corrogated cardboard (a cereal box is perfect), trace the INSIDE of the inner piece of your hoop, 

and cut it out, just inside of the circle you just traced (i didnt measure but it needs to be something like a millimeter smaller than the inside of the smaller hoop piece). so now you have a circle of cardboard that rests comfortable inside the back of your embroidery hoop, like this:

step 11: now trace this cardboard circle onto your batting, and cut out TWO circles of batting.

step 12: lastly, trace a circle onto your leftover embroidery fabric that has about a one-inch margin around your cardboard and batting circles. 

step 12: place ONE batting circle in the center of the embroidery fabric circle, and top with the cardboard circle, like this:

step 13: make small cuts in the margin of the embroidery fabric towards the cardboard circle, spaced about an inch apart (in retrospect, making more "slices" would have made a nicer edge). one by one, fold each "slice" toward the middle and secure with tacky glue (a glue gun would probably work better but i dont have one), like this:

and repeat...

until you have a nice little fabric-wrapped cardboard circle, like this:

step 14: now were going to return to our embroidered piece, and re-frame it in the hoop, this time making sure it is absolutely perfectly straight and centered. if needed, trim your fabric, leaving about a two inch margin. 

step 15: take your second batting circle and put it in the back of your hoop. this helps the front of the finished piece to have the "puffy" look one usually sees in this type of embroidery

step 16: "slice" the margins of the fabric, just like you did with the back piece, trimming if you need to (i left my margin way too big so i had to trim all of them)

 and fold them over the edge of the hoop and onto the batting, doing your best to keep the hoop edge as flat and smooth as possible. 

step 17: once the glue is dry, pop the wrapped cardboard into the back of the hoop, fabric side up. this hides the yucky back part and makes it look "finished".

and now youre done! 

the only thing left to do is hang it on the wall, or in my case, wrap it up and give it as a gift. (one of these days i promise im going to make one for us, i just can never get around to doing it). 

so there you have it, my very first ever craft tutorial. maybe someday ill do more? well have to see about that. 

Monday, April 8, 2013

framed embroidery tutorial, part one.

some friends of ours got married (named jenny and nathan, if that wasnt obvious already) last weekend, and i made this little framed embroidery piece for their gift, and i thought id share how to do it sinc its a holy trifecta of simple, inexpensive, and handmade without looking, you know handmade. this is kind of a long project (it took me two afternoons, a couple hours each), so im breaking up the project into two parts, first the embroidery part, then the framing, since thats how i broke it up when i made it, embroidery the first day and framing the second. 

heres what youll need:
(note: if youre the crafty type, you probably already have most of this, the only part i had to go out and buy for this was the hoop, but even if you had to buy every single thing it should run less than $20)
a six-inch embroidery hoop (joanns just got these really fancy black ones for $2.50)
evenweave embroidery fabric (about $6 for a package that will make 3 six inch framed pieces according to these directions)
embroidery floss in the colors of your choice
embroidery needles
disappearing marker
tacky glue
thin batting (i had leftovers from a blanket i made years ago, you only need a tiny bit)
thread snips
thin cardboard (not pictured, like from a cereal box or something) 
iron, ironing board, and towels (also not pictured)

and heres how you do it: 

step 1: start by tracing the inside of your hoop and sketching out your design. adding crosshairs will help with composition and symmetry. its ok if its not exactly perfect because theres LOTS of opportunity to refine it as you go. 

step 2: once youre happy with your design, stretch your fabric into the hoop, making sure the grain of the fabric is straight, and copy your design (and crosshairs if necessary) onto the fabric with your disappearing marker

step 3: cut a length of floss and begin to stitch over your design using a backstitch (or whatever stitch you choose), leaving a small tail of floss on the wrong side of your hoop and MAKING SURE NOT TO EVER KNOT YOUR FLOSS. if you make any knots theyll be super obvious when you frame it, so you need to be careful. 

 step 4: keep going...

and going...

until youve finished your first shape, like so:

step 5: trim your floss leaving a small tail, just like in the beginning. the back of your piece should be very neat and look almost the same as the front. 

repeat steps 4 and 5 with the rest of your piece, one section at a time, refining your design as you go...

starting a new piece of floss for each separate section, DONT use the same piece of floss to do two separate shapes, the little connecting piece WILL show when its all done. (note: you need to use VERY small stitches along curves)

keep going until youve embroidered your whole design, like so:

 step 6: when youre all done youll have a whole bunch of little tails hanging off the back like this:

so youre going to trim them close to the fabric (but not TOO close, about 1/8 of an inch will do) and secure with a dot of tacky glue, like this:

and give it a half hour or so to dry

step 7: remove the fabric from the frame and gently rinse the disappearing marker from the fabric with cold water, so the color from the floss doesnt bleed. be careful not to agitate the fabric either, since that could pull out some of your embroidery. 

step 8: let fabric air dry and take a much deserved break, and stay tuned for part two!