Friday, April 29, 2011

Movable Door Height Marker

When I was a little girl, the door frame to my bedroom was covered in marks depicting not only my height at various ages, but also the height of my friends and even my stuffed animals. Even after I stopped growing, I loved looking at it and seeing what years I really shot up and who I was friends with at different times. There was so much history on such a short little space.

Now that Jonas is getting older, I wanted to have a place where I could also mark his height. Unfortunately, I've moved so many times in the last few years that I really doubt that it makes sense to use a door frame. So I decided to make a door height marker that I could take with me from one place to the next.

This movable door height marker is made out of material and is a bit different than the one on my bedroom door. I love the visual of seeing how much one grows during each year, because it varies so greatly. Therefore, I decided to cut and sew a piece of material for the first year and then to add pieces of material which extend from this piece for every year after that.

At the moment, I only have two pieces of material for Jonas, since he is only 18 months old. The first is 21.3 inches long, his birth height, and the second is 9.7 inches, since he was 31 inches at one year (21.3 + 9.7 = 31). On his second birthday, I will add a third piece of material to his marker.

This door height marker can be hung in a door frame, or hung on the wall until the child is a bit older. If you have more than one child, you could hang them next to each other to compare heights. Maybe someday I will sew this one into a quilt and give it to my child when they go off to college, have their own child, etc...

Here is the how to:

1. Cut a piece of material which is four and a half inches wide and so long as your child was at birth plus at least a half an inch. Turn the insides of the material together and sew along the edges with about a quarter inch remaining, leaving the top open. Now turn it back right side in, fold in the top edges a quarter inch and leaving the top open, sew around these edges or iron them down with heat bonding tape. Iron flat.

2. Iron Wonderunder to a contrasting fabric and then cut out the name of your child and how tall they were at birth. Iron this onto your material. Your first piece is finished!

3. For every year your child is old, add another piece of contrasting material and the age of the child. Eventually, your door height marker will be very colorful and a great way to remember how small your child once was.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Healthy Mexican Soup

I love Mexican food, especially burritos and nachos. However, sometimes it’s good to have Mexican taste, without all of the cheese and fat that we usually add to our so-called Mexican food.

This soup tastes light and summery with a great hint of lime. It’s great for lunch or a light supper.

Please, do me one favor. If you make this, don’t skimp on the lime, cilantro, or fresh avocado. They really add the necessary flavor. Trust me, your taste-buds will love it!

Mexican Soup

1 chicken breast
1 small onion, diced
3 green onions
1 can red beans
1 can corn
1 can black beans
2 cans diced tomatoes
1 can tomato sauce
1 can water
2 T brown sugar + 1 t brown sugar
1 T paprika, cumin, chili powder
Salt, pepper, and garlic salt to taste
Chopped avocado
Lime juice
Tortilla chips (optional)

1. Brown onions in a little olive oil. Then add diced chicken (see step 2) and spices.

2. For this soup, I like to take already prepared grilled chicken. We often grill up a few extra chicken breasts when we BBQ on the weekend, so that we have chicken for salads and other meals throughout the week. You can also brown the chicken ahead of time. Then dice and add to onions.

3. Add all your canned ingredients and the 2 T brown sugar. Cook until boiling, then reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Add a few squirts of lime juice.

4. Pour soup into bowls, crunch some tortilla chips on top (or eat them with the soup), and add the avocados as a garnish. I like to chop up the avocado into little pieces, sprinkle with sugar and a bit of lime juice. You can also add a little cilantro as a garnish as well. This soup works great for entertaining.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Floppy Dog

This is one of my first sewing projects after getting pregnant with my first child. My husband and I knew that we would be moving the same month the baby was born and I wanted to get rid of as much clutter in the house as I could before we started packing. I had a bunch of scrap material that I decided I didn’t really need. Nevertheless, as an artist, it is sometimes hard to part with things that you have collected for future projects (whether or not these projects ever occur) and so I decided to sew up a few things first.

The idea for Floppy actually came from my childhood and memories of my Grandma Hilda who used scraps to make everything from blocks to stockings. I decided that a stuffed animal would be a good gift for me to give my child and that using the old material would be a sentimental way for me to remember my pregnancy and the anticipation of things to come.

Here is the how to:

1. I first drew a picture of what I wanted to make. I decided on a dog (although it has some similarities with a cow as well). You can use any animal, just make sure that you keep it simple. My dog basically has 3 parts: a rectangle for a body, a rounded rectangular head, and limbs/tail/ears plus your extras like eyes/pockets. Once you have drawn your animal, make patterns for each of these parts, making sure to leave about a half an inch of material anywhere you will sew.

2. Now decide what material you will use. Cut out the pieces according to your patterns, and then arrange them on a table so that you can see what your animal will look like from the front and the back. I like to really mix my fabrics, making sure that at least one piece of each fabric is on the front and the back of the animal.

3. Now you can start sewing. I prefer to start with the limbs/tail/ears. They are really easy, as you only need to lay the two pieces of material with the good sides facing each other and then sew around the edge leaving the limb open where it will connect to the body. Turn back right-side-in and then stuff with polyester filling. You may need to use a pencil to really get the filling into every corner of the limb.

4. Once all of your limbs/tail/ears are finished, it’s time to work on the head. First add your eyes. You can either sew these on by hand, or you can do them with the machine. I usually fold the edges of the material first and iron them flat. Then I sew around ¾ of the eye using the machine, stuff in some polyester filling, and then sew the eye shut. Finally, I sew the pupil using dark thread. If you do other accents, like making the head out of two different pieces of material, or adding X’s for nose/mouth, then you will also need to do this now. Now you can lay your two head pieces together, using stick pins, place the ears where they should go, sew around the whole head, and stuff it like you did the limbs. Since I sewed my head directly on the front of the body, I made sure to finish the head completely, hand sewing the final hole shut, where I had added the stuffing.

5. Now, it is time to get the body ready. I have added a pocket accent to my Floppy dog. This is just a pocket from a pair of jeans. You can often buy loads of them at your second-hand store. I like to use them on projects for fun. After sewing on the pocket, you will need to use stick pins and pin the head on where it should go. I sewed the head onto the body by hand, since I wanted it to lie on the front of the body (If you have a neck on your animal, this won’t be necessary, as you can sew it directly into the body). I made sure to sew it on really well, as I wanted to make sure that my son wouldn’t be able to pull it off.

6. Finally, I took the body and using stick pins, I placed all of the limbs/tail where they should go. Then sew around the whole body leaving only a little opening about an inch to an inch and a half wide. And, now for the fun part. Once you turn your animal back right-side-in, it is almost finished. All you need to do is stuff the body, and sew up your remaining hole and you are done. Yeah!

In the end, although it may seem like a long process, you will be amazed just how fast everything goes. I made Floppy in one weekend and was surprised just how easy it was.

If you have made similar stuffed animals, please post them. I’m always excited to see what others are creating!