Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Cupcake Camp in the Capital

This past weekended I attended Cupcake Camp here in Ottawa. This event started in San Francisco, and events have been springing up all over the place. Ottawa's day marked the biggest camp ever, with over 3400+ cupcakes.

So the deal is, you register either as baker or a taster, and come to the cupcake camp in the mood for sugar overlaod. Entrance was just $2 for bakers, and $5 for tasters, with all proceeds going to Ottawa’s Woman Alive/Femme Active Program. Cupcakes were organized into batches, and every 20 minutes, a new batch was brought out as the flavours were read over loudspeaker.

I wasn't totally pleased with how my contribution turned out, lookswise, so I decided not to enter the competition, but I stayed long enough to see my cupcakes being devoured by the crowd, which was pretty cool. I think they were a hit! (By the way, I don't know this person, I just did a search on flickr for cupcake camp photos and found that image. I love it!)

I used a Barefoot Contessa recipe, one I've made before. The icing is not overly sweet, and the salty crunch of the peanuts is a highly recommended optional step.

Here's the recipe if you want try these:
Chocolate Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Icing
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk, shaken, at room temperature
1/2 cup sour cream, at room temperature
2 tablespoons brewed coffee
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup good cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

(Kathleen's Peanut Butter Icing, recipe follows)

Chopped salted peanuts, to decorate, optional

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line cupcake pans with paper liners.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and 2 sugars on high speed until light and fluffy, approximately 5 minutes. Lower the speed to medium, add the eggs 1 at a time, then add the vanilla and mix well. In a separate bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, sour cream, and coffee. In another bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt. On low speed, add the buttermilk mixture and the flour mixture alternately in thirds to the mixer bowl, beginning with the buttermilk mixture and ending with the flour mixture. Mix only until blended. Fold the batter with a rubber spatula to be sure it's completely blended.
Divide the batter among the cupcake pans (1 rounded standard ice cream scoop per cup is the right amount). Bake in the middle of the oven for 20 to 25 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes, remove from the pans, and allow to cool completely before frosting.
Frost each cupcake with Peanut Butter Icing and sprinkle with chopped peanuts, if desired.
Kathleen's Peanut Butter Icing:
1 cup confectioners' sugar
1 cup creamy peanut butter
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 cup heavy cream

Place the confectioners' sugar, peanut butter, butter, vanilla, and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix on medium-low speed until creamy, scraping down the bowl with a rubber spatula as you work. Add the cream and beat on high speed until the mixture is light and smooth.
- Donna
(PS. I only stayed three rounds and tried five different cupcakes, which were split with a friend. Not overdoing it at an event like this takes STRENGTH!)

Monday, March 30, 2009

I won!! I won!! . . . a gift for Sara

A few weeks ago I ordered Alicia Paulson's book, Stitched In Time. I love it!!! A day after the book arrived, she ran a contest on her blog asking for funny engagement stories. I told mine, and apparently made her laugh enough to win a copy of her book. What really makes me giggle is that I popped over to her blog and was scrolling my way through the winning entries and got to number five when baby M woke up. I skipped out and didn't make it back to finish up. Later today I checked my email and there was a message from Alicia Paulson . . in MY inbox, letting me know that I'd won! Is it weird that I think she's famous? She is!!

In any case, since I own her lovely book, I entered Alicia's contest in hopes of securing a copy for Sara, and so Sara, Surprise!!!! Your book should be in the mail soon!

- Donna


The eggs, they are done.

Although I cut pieces for 20, I ended up with 18. My toddler has access to my craft room, and things go missing, frequently! Placed in a sunshiny vintage yellow bowl that my late mom gifted me a few years back, they brighten up any space. Yay for seasonal crafts. M has had much fun "cooking" with these eggs, having egg parties with her stuffed animals, and sorting them by colour. I had intended to make them into some sort of hanging decoration, but I'm loving seeing M play with them so much that I think they should live in a bowl and be available.

I opted to go for a more patchy look than the tutorial at Retro Mama suggested, so I used four fabrics on each egg. I'm digging the colour kaleidoscope.

- Donna

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Good Clean Fun

This morning when Big E came and crawled in bed with me, we discussed our plans for the day. She decided she would sing some on the Wii and I said I was going to sew for a while. She said "That's good for your sanitation, isn't it Mom?" She's right, in some small way it keeps me clean, but even more so it keeps me sane.

Again, I changed my mind on this quilt. The last time we spoke I had said I was going to add some sashing between the blocks to take away from the busyness. While I was working along, I thought I kind of liked the busyness and the way a neutral 'whirlygiggle' is formed at the corners of the blocks. So I went with this instead and will add a nice wide border around the edge to balance it all out.

This was a lot more work than I thought it would be, but I learned things, so that made it worth it. I still didn't use a whole lot of pins, but I did iron the heck out of each and every seam. That really makes so much difference in the final product. Now to decide whether I should quilt it in the ditch or go with old faithful, free motion. Any thoughts?


Monday, March 23, 2009

WIP - Easter Eggs

'Tis the Season.
Although unseasonably cold here, (-10C this am!) I'm thinking springy thoughts.
With baby M sleeping for the first time in her room with her sister last night, (yay!!) we had some time to access the computer room/sewing room. While my husband happily sat at the computer catching up, I set right to work on some fabric easter eggs using the great tutorial over at Retro Mama. I am thinking I am going to fashion them into some sort of hanging decoration for easter. I got a bit ambitious cutting out pieces I think . . .lots of work ahead of me! It felt so amazingly GOOD to be back in the sewing room. Maybe you'll be hearing from me a little more often!

In the meantime, do check out this singer. I saw him last week, opening for Serena Ryder. Yum. He was awesome - and then lo and behold, I heard him on the most recent episode of Grey's Anatomy. They sure seem to have a penchant for ferretting out great Canadian tunes. Kudos to them for looking north for good music!

- Donna

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Making Plans

Now that the coin quilt is but a memory, plans for the next one are taking shape. I had previously mentioned it was a toss up between the stacked coin and pinwheel patterns, but somehow I completely changed my mind and decided to go with the whirlygiggle pattern instead. Wish. Me. Luck. Saying I am a little nervous about this one is an understatement!

I wanted something somewhat old fashioned to match the personalities of the soon to be parents that'll be on the receiving end of this quilt. Their nursery is painted yellow and they aren't finding out whether it'll be a boy or a girl until the big day. I thought this collection (Recess) would fit all of these constraints well! I fear it may be too busy, so I am using 2 of the same charms for each block and then adding an ivory border around each 'whirlygiggle' to try and tame it down. My next step is to narrow the charms down to 20 patterns and then get to cutting out ivory 5"x5"'s.

I haphazardly hung a white sheet up as a makeshift project wall. This trick makes life a whole lot easier in the planning stages. And while we're on the topic of making life easier, everyone who is thinking of quilting anything at all needs to stop reading this blog and do whatever it takes to procure some temporary spray adhesive. Best. Thing. Ever. For real. I used it when I sandwiched the coin quilt and it made quilting a breeze. I really can't say enough good about it! Mind you, I did still check the back of the quilt every 3.5 seconds for puckers!


Saturday, March 21, 2009

Coin Quilt Completed!

Another one down! I wasn't so sure about this one at several stages during it's production, but now that it's all washed and dried, I am smitten. You just can't beat a quilt with warm and natural batting and free motion quilting...okay, maybe a sweet little baby all snuggled up in that crinkly goodness. Aye! My ovaries!
This one reminds me so much of my grandmother. The mismatchiness of it reminds me of her need to use up everything she had around the house rather than buying fresh supplies. What impressive restraint that woman had!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

The only way fabric is being used at our house

No time for sewing these days. Can't seem to squeeze it in during the odd naptime, what with such scintillating activities like laundry (2 kids, 2 adults plus cloth diapers - for the kids, not the adults - makes for many trips to and from the basement!), cleaning the bathroom, making dinner, trying to get my workouts in, etc, there just hasn't been time.

So for now, the sewing room/office has become a haven for little Minous (French, for kitten). Big M is constantly making beds for her animals and tucking them all in. She has good taste in linens, I'll give the girl that.

- Donna

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


Last, but most certainly not least:

The wonderful Regina of Creative Kismet sent along this super cute fabric. All of the pieces sent to me were great, but I'm pretty sure this one is my favorite. Thank you, Regina!


Monday, March 16, 2009

Do not disturb

My Big E asked if she could start a quilt of her own over the weekend when she saw me working on yet another. Be still my heart! I dropped what I was doing and dug in to my stash to find her what she needed to get started. Far be it from me to discourage her by making her wait.

When I picked her up at school today the first thing she said was "I can't wait to get my homework done so I can work on my sewing!" Then she pulled the doorhanger out of her backpack and promptly put it in it's place. It's these moments I live for.

The one challenge is coordinating our time on the machine! Maybe it's time to pass this one down to her and get myself a new one!!


Visual Learner

There was some progress on the coin quilt on Sunday afternoon, but since I started seeing the light at the end of that tunnel, I couldn't stop thinking ahead to the next one in the queue. So far I know I want to use the Recess charm packs, but beyond that I can't decide whether to do a stacked coin or a pinwheel pattern. I couldn't quite work them out in my head, so I put together some pinwheel blocks to help me with calculations and potentially a decision. I'm still perched firmly on the fence. If nothing else, it was fun practicing!

Does anyone else get scared when it's time to sandwich their precious quilt tops? I have a really hard time getting over that hump and into quilting it, it seems. I guess it must be that I made it this far and don't want to ruin a (semi) good thing!


Sunday, March 15, 2009

I got 'er done

Barely under the wire, but the bird mobile is hanging above baby M's crib. All is right in the world.

I really thought that I would have this done earlier than hours before the deadline in the crafty slacker contest. I could not figure out how to get the birds perched, so in the end they're hanging with fishing wire, and I think I like that better. They sway and move and "dance." My 2.5 year old even played music for them this afternoon while we assembled the mobile. She will have a hard time not climbing up to make them move, but hopefully they'll survive at least until the baby gets installed in her crib.

And the baby? She's intrigued. Thanks Holly, for the assistance in stitching all those little birds. They were done pre-sewing machine, so lovingly stitched by hand, each and every one.

- Donna

Friday, March 13, 2009

SMSFQS #2 & #3

The mailbox has been so very kind to me lately! Two more swap envelopes arrived in the past week and I love them both a whole lot. I thought it was very sweet that one partner sent some of her very first fabric. Do you remember your first? I've been at this too long to remember! Thank you so much, ladies!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Pitter Patter

I'm pretty sure I'm not alone when I say that this kind of mail makes my heart flutter. Strangely, I was really anxious to cut in to all of it this time around. Could I have been miraculously cured of my terminal hoarding illness? Probably not. It's more likely that I've come to realize that the quicker I use up what I have, the quicker I can order more to feed the addiction.

Is there some kind of support group out there for fabric addictions?


Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Good Intentions

I had every intention to spend the entire evening spring cleaning, but instead I spent the entire evening sewing this quilt top. I couldn't resist since I finally had all the coins chosen and cut and HAD to see it together. Can you really blame me? Once I was finished what you see here, I layed back on the bed to evaluate my evening's work and realized I had forgotten to sew the top row of coins on! Sure enough, they were sitting on top of my stash where I'd left them. My time had come to call it quits - a lapse of memory, a bad burn from the iron and one inside out seam - I'll get back to it when I can steal another minute...or entire evening.

I can't wait.


Friday, March 6, 2009

Working on Prototypes

I love craft sales, particularly around Christmas. I think that they are such a great alternative to shopping at a mall. Several months ago, some friends and I were talking, and we decided to organize one for next November here in Ottawa . .we're thinking about 15 vendors, in a church basement, a fun afternoon of crafty love.

And, er, I'm one of the vendors.

I have several foodie type items I'm going to make, which should go over well, but I'm also looking to sew some small items.

But what, but what? Given my newbie skills (but I have many months to improve, I argue!), and my shortage on time (two kids under 2.5, one of whom is now sleeping in my craft room - temporarily, I hope - and an impending return to full time work in early August), what can I possibly make?

And so the search for a few prototypes begins. I've got a few ideas, but I need some time to work on a model and then figure out how to mass (as in 25 or so!) produce a few things.

I've got a line on some organic cotton onesies in lush colours, and I think I'm going to place an order and applique some with great fabric cutouts. I've done many of those and do a mean blanket stitch, if I do say so myself. I might even try to machine applique but not sure what kind of stabilizer to use.

Today, though, I tried making a patchy fabric bookmark. Many kinks, but fun. I grabbed a handful of scraps from my stash, stitched 'em together, ironed the seams flat, and cut out a piece of corduroy for the back. I stitched a piece of retro ribbon on to it, and then stiched some interfacing to the wrong side of the back. I wanted a little stiffness to the thing. I then put the pieces wrong sides together and top stitched 'em up, and trimmed the edges with a decorative wavy rotary cutter. I'm not sure I like that.

I'd like to put a ribbon through a hole at the top, but I have no idea how to set an eyelet or even make a hole through two pieces of fabric and interfacing. Back to the drawing board.
- Donna

Thursday, March 5, 2009

I <3 scraps

This bag of gold, err...I mean scraps came in the mail today. I followed Donna's lead and ordered it from here. I managed to get a few more charms for the newest quilt I'm working on out of these beauties. I'm trying to have no repeats in my charms - not an easy task.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

March 5X5 Received

Sara's 5X5 arrived today. Don't these fabrics make you think springy thoughts?

Sara might know my love of flowers, or maybe it was just luck. Thanks, Sara.

- Donna

March 5X5 - Perfect timing!

Donna sent me a note today telling me that she received her 5X5 swap from me in the mail. As chance would have it, mine was sitting in my mailbox today, too! She sent me a polka dot theme this month. She knows my weaknesses!

Thank you, D. You know I love them!

Monday, March 2, 2009


(SMSFQS = Sew, Mama, Sew! Fat Quarter Swap)

Who's the lucky duck to get a fat quarter of this gorgeous Amy Butler Nouveau Trees fabric, you ask? None other than little, old Moi!

(photo courtesy of Bee Square Fabric)

Thank you, Jessica!


Sunday, March 1, 2009

Doll Quilt - the most crookedy and most loved lil' quilt


I finished my doll quilt last night. Oh man, the learning curve on this thing was CRAZY. I've never quilted before, and quite frankly, I'm not much a sewer either. The Sew Mama Sew Doll Quilt Sew Along was so perfect to help me along. This little quilt is crookedy as can be, but I'm kinda proud of it.

I learned many important quilting lessons along the way. "Quilt side" means pieced top, not 'any side of the quilt (like the back side). I sewed my binding to the wrong side and had to take it all out.

Bias tape makers are the devil's spawn. The instructions that came with mine clearly said to cut 1" strips the feed through the maker. But seeing as how the maker is supposed to make 1" strips of binding, this didn't make sense. Sadly, I had cut into my most favourite fabric before I realized that this was wrong. Hence, the patchy binding of two different fabrics, which in the end, I rather like the look of. Anyone have any light to shed on bias tape makers?

In the end, I used the Heather Bailey tutorial linked from the sew along, and things went somewhat more smoothly.

Things I need work on including CUTTING and measuring accurately. I tried to be careful, I really did - but even with a proper cutting mat, rotary cutter, and transparent quilting ruler, I found this step difficult. The ruler slipped occasionally, and the cutter sometimes would zig or zag up onto the edge of the ruler. I can see how measuring incorrectly could really affect the look of the quilt and this inability to do this step well will lead me to steer clear of quilts with any discernable pattern for a long time. Bring on the strippy easy lap quilt from Bend the Rules Sewing.

I could focus on how my squares don't match up perfectly, how my binding is kinda lumpy in parts, and crooked in others. The border is not even, the free motion has some major points and overlaps. . .but the colours and the feel of the thing just make me so HAPPY. I think I'm hooked.

I'll be trying another quilt soon . .maybe moving up to a baby sized one?

- Donna