Tuesday, February 25, 2014

And Then There Were Three

I don't even know where to begin with this one. Well. Maybe I do at that. It all began like this:

One day last summer the kids showed up at our house for a party of sorts. We were slow to move that morning. We had experienced a bit of disrupted sleep - I had a very vivid dream, woke up in the middle of the night, poked the man into awareness, and announced that our oldest and his wife were going to have a baby, and promptly went back to sleep. In the morning he said "You're nuts. You can't know that." But when the kids arrived and got out of there car, I watched them come in to the house, and I said to Mr. W "They are. She is. I just know it." He rolled his eyes. As I recall it was Father's Day weekend. There was sangria, an oddball clambake about to begin. But first there was the usual kitchen chatter - food prep, fruit chopping, and one little bit of business to clear up. 

Our oldest son handed me an envelope and said "We are going to want you to make us a couple of things, not right now, but within the next year, if you can. No big deal, just if you can...".

I opened the envelope, and found knitting patterns. Not just any knitting patterns - we are talking pitter patter of little feet type patterns - an adorable hungry caterpillar cocoon and the cutest little stuffed rabbit. I yelled "I KNEW IT!!" and Mr. W. turned to me with a surprised look on his face and said "You were right. How did you KNOW that?". I truly don't know how I knew, but I did.

The party that day proceeded with greater joy than might have otherwise been - and we are usually pretty good at joy around here. I love a party. Especially baby parties. Girl loves her sister in law, and wanted to have a shower for her, but doesn't have the space in her newlywed apartment for such things. Well, of course I offered up my humble abode - and assistance! After a lot of discussion of themes and plans, we decided on "Whimsical Woodland Baby". It started with an Etsy download of woodland clip art, and built from there.

We made a banner out of large pieces of scrapbook paper. I chose to use stash rather than print paper using the clip art files to save some trees and some pennies. I used my large simple wedge from Missouri Star to cut the triangles. We cut letters from cardstock to attach with glue stick onto the triangles to spell out a welcome for baby. Girl hole punched the triangles about an inch and a half in for ribbon to thread the letters on to.

The morning of the shower we hung it over our fireplace to good effect, I think - although I am biased.
Girl found a picture on line of cupcakes stacked on a cake stand made of wooden slabs. I loved the concept, and began looking for wooden slabs to make one of my own at local craft stores. The cost seemed a little prohibitive, and I thought I would have to discard the idea entirely, but the husband of a friend came through with slabs from a log in his yard. He also cut me a host of smaller logs, about the size of soup cans, to use as dividers between the levels of the stand. 
After some time with the drill I decided that drilling through the full length of a soup-can-sized-log is not worth the effort, and I substituted empty cans instead. If only I owned a drill press, right?! Each level of the cake stand was drilled through, and a central dowel was used to hold the whole thing in place. The soup cans were covered in birch bark that Girl and I peeled off of trees in my back yard. We glued the bark into place using a high-temp glue gun.
I love my high-temp guns. When I think back to my first glue gun - a little mini low temp job I had in the 80's? My how times and tools have changed. 
When we were done, we had cans that looked authentically birchy. 
And a stand that looked authentically woodland-y, too, right down to the part where it looks about to tumble down! We adjusted it for actual presentation, I promise.
Girl also found cupcakes with the most adorable red-capped toadstools made from meringue. I love meringue, so I jumped on that idea.
I made the caps and stems separately using this recipe. Once they were dry, I made holes in the caps with a chop stick and tucked the stems in, gluing them a bit with more meringue. They had another round in the oven to completely dry the "glue". When they were done, I carefully inserted a toothpick into the base of each mushroom so I could attach them easily to the cupcakes. I popped the picks into a couple of egg cartons to keep them safe and upright.
Early on the morning of the shower, I got up and painted the tops with awful, sticky, gloppy Wilton melting candy, then dotted on jumbo white nonpareils. If I had this to do over again I would find a better top for the mushrooms as this did not make me at all happy. A nice red glaze of some sort would have been a big improvement. These went on top of the red velvet cupcakes (adapted Alton recipe) with green-by-accident cream cheese frosting. My original idea was to frost each cupcake with regular cream cheese frosting, and place a single mushroom pick in the center of each cake. I had bought a special "grass" tip (Wilton #233) and thought I could then make a green butter cream, and pipe "grass" at the base of each 'shroom. Well, I made up the cream cheese frosting (Martha's), and without even thinking I dumped the green paste into it. At that point I could either scrap the whole batch and start over (expensive and I was running short on time) or just ice the cupcakes green and pop the mushrooms into place. I went with option two, and I am sad to say that I don't have a single picture. This is why I stink as a blogger. Once life starts moving forward, I don't stop for pictures. I just roll with it! You'll have to trust me that the effect of the cupcakes and whoopie pies scattered over the surface of the tree cake stand was both charming and whimsical. It was, I promise.
This bring me to favors - I had seen acorn shaped cookie and kiss combinations on pinterest, and so we decided to make some of our own. Finding just the right cookie was a challenge. I really like the look of mini peanut butter cookies because of the textured surface, but finding them was like looking for hen's teeth. We did find mini vanilla wafer cookies, though. And we had two types of kiss - dark chocolate and caramel filled. I loved the idea of the dark chocolate with a peanut butter cookie, and the vanilla cookie with the caramel filled kiss, but the elusive peanut butter cookies were ruining my schemes. After a long shopping day, I was on my way home and stopped at a gas station to refuel (me, not the car  - I needed a little Dunkin love!), and there I found exactly three serving-sized bags of miniature peanut butter filled cookies! Exactly what we'd been searching for for weeks, and exactly the quantity I needed! I bought them all, and we got to work.
We melted some mini chocolate chips in a custard cup. Each cookie was dipped into the chocolate, and a kiss attached. On the top of the cookie, a mini chip was similarly attached to form the acorn stem.
We placed 5 or 6 of the finished acorns into a glassine bag, then attached a little note of thanks to each, and placed them by the door for guests to take when they took their leave. I used the clip art in Publisher to make the tags.
 Adorable, if we do say so!
We also set up a onesie decorating station that featured two options for decorating. 
Grandma Mary had graciously assisted me by making a big pile of iron on shapes, and Gramma Jo contributed t-shirts and permanent markers. (Yes, the baby has three grandmas. We are an all-American family!) We set up a flat iron, directions, and laid out the pre-washed and re-pressed onesies, markers, and a box of shapes. I really loved this activity. It gives guests something to do, and is a great ice-breaker and conversation starter.
The t-shirts all stayed here, and I machine appliqued around all of the shapes so they will stay attached to the t-shirts during washing. Blast off! The shirts are adorable - again, you're just going to have to trust me on this.
We made so many things...let me see...oh! This was fun. A guessing jar stuffed full of needful baby things - each guest could guess the total number of items in the jar, and the guest who came closest won a prize. 
Mommy got the items from the jar, of course!
An unusual guest book idea - instead of the usual writing of names in a book, I used the clip art fox and traced him onto a piece of plain paper. Girl and I then hole punched a bunch of hearts. After guests write their name or sentiment on a balloon, they are invited to attach their heart to Mr. Fox's balloon strings. 
I love this, too! I also love that fox, bits n' pieces, I do.
Through it all, my faithful assistants stood by, ready to help in any little way they could.
On shower day, they were relegated to the bedroom where they did their best to contribute to the general chaos and noise of the gathering, per usual. Although they don;t know it, I even made them special "Do not open this door, please" signs for their rooms using the clip art and printed papers. They should be grateful, but they mostly were just glad when everyone left and they got their couch back.

When things got back to normal, Omie got to work on baby linen. Crib sheets, receiving blankets, swaddles. And everyone waited. We took a nice warm vacation to help pass the time. Baby even got to swam with dolphins before he was born.
And we waited some more.
And some more.
And a little bit more.
And then? Well. Let's just say the best things in life are extremely well worth waiting for.
 Don't you agree?

Monday, February 17, 2014

So There Are Still People Out Here?

I just sort of assumed everyone ran away! Since you've asked, this is a spinning wheel made by Betty Roberts in 1985. I posted pictures here because it gives me a link location for various websites where I am trying to sell the poor girl. She's a beautiful wheel, but I can't let her just go to anyone, so her value is a little high. $1600 high. Actually for a Roberts wheel, that's a really good price. You can see more images of Betty with some of her other wheels here. Mine is older than the ones pictured. Mine was made in 1985. It has lots of lovely turning, and the Betty's signature - "B.Jo" in tiny flowers embedded in the resin of the lower wheel.

She came to me sort of by accident, really. I remember the day I saw her in the barn of an estate clean-out shop near me. I had to have her, and I am glad I got her. But now things are changing here, and I have to find her a new home. Her name is Baby Rose. She can spin anything, with a huge range of ratios - although none are stated in her original paperwork. You just have to play with it and figure it out as you go, but she is can be used as either a double or a single wheel depending on how you tie up. Technically she is a single treadle, but the treadle is wide enough that you can comfortably sit and treadle with both feet, or with just one.
There's also a board that fits neatly along the back, not shown here, that holds an additional 4 bobbins. I have managed to keep most of the bobbins intact - only one has broken. There are 7 bobbins in all.
The problem is that these wheels do not, from what I've read, travel long distances well. The resin has a tendency to crack. They were (and are still) made in the Pacific northwest, and I really have no idea how this one wheel ended up on the east coast. But here she is. And we are set to travel next year - relocating - and I am afraid that with the amount of downsizing we need to do to make this move, there won't be room for her. If the right buyer doesn't come along, I will find a way to make room, because I adore this thing. It actually hurts me to think about parting with her, but sometimes life just makes changes for you.

That's all about the Baby Rose! But stick around - I am thinking about posting about a little celebration we had here a few months back. I could update you on what's going on in my knitting life, too, if you're interested! ;)