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Sunday, August 25, 2013

Tutorial: How to Make Envelope Pillow Shams with Piping

by Tonya

At our house, we often sit on the floor to read books before naptime and bedtime. In my daughter's room, we had been stacking up bed pillows and pillow pets to lean against, but we so needed something more stylish to snuggle into, something without hard plastic eyes poking us in the back. I decided to make some large, cute pillows. The shams had to be removable so I could wash them, so I made envelope pillow shams. I added piping to make them look more finished and sophisticated (because my toddler is very sophisticated). 

I bought pillow forms that are 24" x 24" and four different patterns of cotton or cotton-linen fabric for the fronts. I used flannel and soft, finewale corduroy for the backs. Here's how to make some for your cuddling/reading area:

1. Fabric care. Wash and dry all your fabric so it won't shrink later when you wash it. Anything little kids will be sitting on or playing with might someday need washing. Iron it all so it lays flat when you are measuring, cutting, and sewing. This will make it a lot easier to be accurate and make straight seams. 

2. Front fabric. Cut the front fabric so that you have 1/2" seam allowance on each side. I cut mine in a 25" square. 

3. Back fabric. To make an envelope sham, you want the fabric to overlap about 3" (24 + 3 = 27). Add 1/2" seam allowance on each side for the outer edges plus 1/2" on each side to hem the center edges that will overlap (27 + 2 = 29). My back fabric was cut 25" high by 29" across. Then I cut the back piece in half, so I had two pieces that measured 25" x 14.5".

4. Piping. Next, prepare the piping. Open up the fabric that covers the piping about 2" on one end. You will need to tuck the other end inside of the open fabric. Leave the piping a few inches longer than you need to so you have a little extra to play with if you need it. My 24" pillow needs 8 feet of piping, so I cut it about 8 feet, 3 inches.  

5. Sew on the Piping. Line up the piping on the front fabric, with piping on top of the fabric's right side and with raw edges together. Sew with your needle in the middle position, and the presser foot right up next to the filled part of the piping. 

Go slowly around the corners to make sure your presser foot stays right up against the filled part of the piping. If you like, you can clip the piping at the corners so it will curve more easily and be less bulky. My piping was flexible enough that I didn't feel like I had to clip it. 

When you get near the end of the piping, stop sewing and lower your needle into the fabric. It will hold the fabric and thread still so you can arrange your piping. Trim the piping filler in the open end so that you can tuck the other end inside the piping fabric. Trim so that the filler ends match up perfectly. 

I didn't get an action shot while sewing, so here's a photo of loose piping overlapping. 

Fold the piping fabric under 1/4th inch so it will look neat on the finished product. Finish sewing the piping to the front fabric, making the overlapped piping as neat as possible. 

6. Back Fabric Prep Press and hem one long edge of each piece of back fabric. I folded the edge over 1/4 ", pressed it, folded it again, pressed, and sewed it. One of these edges will be visible on the finished pillow case. 

7. Sew on the Back Fabric Pin one of the back pieces to the front piece, right sides together and with the piping in the middle. (Make sure the hemmed edge is in the middle of the pillow case, not on the outer edge.) Move your needle to the left position, so the stitching will be as close to the filled part of the piping as possible. You don't want to see your previous stitching, so make sure you sew close as possible. Sew on the back piece. Turn the sham right side out and make sure it looks good. I had to go back and re-sew a little closer on one of my corners.

Pin the other back piece on to the sham, right sides together, overlapping the two back pieces. Sew as close as you can to the piping. Again, turn the sham right side out and make sure it looks great. 

8. Final Trimming After you are satisfied with your sewing, turn it inside out once more and trim the corners a bit if they seem bulky with extra fabric. Trim all your thread ends. Turn it right side out and try it on your pillow form. 

9. Finished! Throw it on the floor and see if your kid wants to snuggle up and read a book with you. 

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Popsicles! Limeade Greek Yogurt Pops, to be exact.

by Tonya

Is it still summer at your house? I feel like Fall is being forced upon me, but it is still full-on summertime at my house. Sure, it's getting dark earlier, and during our evening walks, the air feels almost-crisp. But in the daytime, it's about 90 degrees, and my kids are too young to go to school, so there's no reason to let go of summer just yet. I have a simple popsicle recipe to help you eke a little more out of this summer. 

I had been craving some sort of fruity, tangy frozen yogurt pops for a while but I couldn't find any at the store. Of course the solution was to make them myself. I just started making greek yogurt this summer and that seemed perfect for creamy, tangy popsicles. You can use store-bought yogurt, of course. 

5 Tbsp Sugar
1/4 cup Lime juice (or lemon juice)
1 1/3 cup Greek Yogurt

First, heat sugar and lime juice (or lemon juice) in a pan on the stove. Stir until the sugar is completely dissolved, making a simple syrup. Measure out greek yogurt into a mixing bowl. 

Whisk the simple syrup into the yogurt.

Pour into popsicle molds.

Add sticks (or have a little helper add them. It is SO much more exciting to eat something when you pulled a chair up to the counter and helped make it.) Freeze for 2 or 3 hours.

Eat! Enjoy the end of summer, even as you get excited for sweaters and boots (or long-sleeved Hello Kitty shirts). 

Saturday, July 27, 2013

DIY Cocoa-Rose Lotion Bars

by Tonya

When I saw on Facebook that Stefanie had made lotion bars - and that they were really easy to make, I had to try it. I looked around online at many recipes and ultimately came up with my own. My recipe actually requires you to make another recipe first:

Rose-Infused Oil

1 cup naturally scented Rose Petals
1/2 cup Jojoba Oil
1/2 cup Light Olive Oil

I picked scented roses from my yard. Please be careful about using roses from a florist. Many imported roses are drenched in chemicals that you wouldn't want to put on your skin. 

Heat a pan of water on the stove, just to boiling. Then turn off the heat. 

Place the rose petals in a mason jar, then fill it with oil. You can use any oil you like, but jojoba and light olive oil are light enough that they won't overpower the rose scent. 

Put the lid on the jar and warm it by placing it in the pot of hot water on the stove. The heat will help to release the scent from the rose petals. 

After the water cools, remove the jar from the water pan and place somewhere warm to continue steeping. Leave the petals in the oil for at least 24 hours, and up to a week. 

Strain the petals from the oil and see if it smells strongly enough. If not, repeat the process with new petals. You may need to repeat several times if you want strongly scented oil or if your petals don't have much fragrance.

Second recipe: the Lotion Bars

1 cup Coconut Oil
1/2 cup Rose-Infused Oil (you can just use jojoba oil if you prefer)
1/2 cup Cocoa Butter (chopped for quicker melting)
1 cup Beeswax (chopped for quicker melting)
1 tsp Vitamin E oil

In a microwave-safe bowl, combine coconut oil, rose-infused oil, cocoa butter and beeswax. Heat for 1 minute and stir. Continue to heat for about 30 seconds at a time, stirring in between, until all ingredients are melted and mixed smoothly together. Stir in Vitamin E oil. Pour into molds or silicone cupcake liners. Let the bars cool completely and then pop them out of the molds; they are ready to use. 

The bars will melt a little when you rub them on your skin. It may seem a little greasy at first, but the lotion will absorb after a couple minutes and feel really nice. I love the smell of the roses and cocoa mixed together. 

These do not need to be refrigerated, but store them somewhere relatively cool so they don't melt and make a huge mess (not in a sunny window or on top of a radiator).

Friday, July 5, 2013

Rose Petal Body Scrub

by Tonya

It's summertime! My rose bushes are full of flowers and I am so excited to use the petals in homemade beauty products. For my first project, I followed this recipe  from The Beauty Department.

I used a mason jar and these ingredients:

Coconut oil
Fresh, scented rose petals
Turbinado sugar
Sweet Almond oil

It's a very simple and quick recipe (so it's easy if you have little kids running around or babies crying for you). Just layer the ingredients in a clean jar. First, the coconut oil, then rose petals, then sugar, and finally the almond oil. You can let the almond oil soak into the sugar for a few minutes and then pour in a bit more to top it off. 

To use, mix it with a spoon and then rub on your skin in the shower. After rinsing, it leaves your skin feeling soft and moisturized so you don't need to put on any lotion. Be careful if your shower floor feels slippery from the oils. 

This scrub does not need to be refrigerated and should keep for up to a year. That's great news since I would love to use this in the winter when my skin is always dry. And I can always use a rosy reminder of summertime in the dead of winter. With a cute label and a ribbon, wouldn't these scrubs be great gifts for the women in your life?

At warmer temperatures (like taking photos outside in the hot sun, or maybe in your shower) the coconut oil may liquify. That is no problem and it will turn back to a solid after it cools off. Coconut oil can safely change back and forth with no ill effects at all.

One warning - please be cautious about using rose petals from a florist. Most imported flowers are drenched in chemicals that you wouldn't want to put on your skin. 

Saturday, May 4, 2013

MeMadeMay 2013 - Kaftan tutorial

It's MeMadeMay, which means that every day day in May, crafty people everywhere are committing to wearing something we've made every day in May.

I wore a kaftan that I made today - and have posted a quick tutorial as to how I made them.  Let me point out that I'm not the world's most precise seamstress. 

I don't like to follow patterns, and I really am pretty unconcerned about the finished product being perfect.

I do like to have fun while I sew, and I like for my projects to be fairly quick and painless.

One of my favorite things to make right now are Kaftans.  I make them in dress and shirt length.  I thought I'd share my method with you - in case you'd like to try one for Me Made May.

Make Me Sisters kaftan Tutorial:

  • Fabric: About 1 and 1/2 yards of fabric, about 40 inches wide, depending on how oversized you would like your kaftan to be. I've been using stretch knits in cotton, rayon, bamboo, and blends.  I think this would work well with voile, linen, and other lightweight, flowy fabrics.
  • Thread: matching or contrasting
  • Etc.: Straight pins, scissors
To start, gather up your materials and find a helper.  Mine is Olive, age 3.

Lay the fabric out, folded selvage-to-selvage.

Fold the fabric to the length you want the kaftan to be.  I made mine dress-length.  I held the fabric up to me, and just cut it so that it'd fall a little bit above the knee.

Cut along the fold line.

Remove the selvedge.

Also cut along the fold that is opposite the selvage.

Cut a neckline.
It's easy to get too low a neckline, so cut it so that it's higher than you think you'd like it to be. You can cut through wither just the front layer for a scoop or V neck, but sometimes I also like to cut through the back layer.  This makes a shaped neckline at both front and back - it's fun to play with different looks!

Lay the kaftan out flat.

Cut a piece of fabric for the neckline trim.  This can be anywhere from about 1 inch (2.5cm) to as wide as you like.  On this dress, I used a thinner piece, maybe aout 2 inches (5 cm.)

I recently found Cal Patch's great tutorial for Tshirt necklines on Craft Stylish.  If you'd like to make a really nice-looking neckline, read that!

Here's what I did, which is based on Cal's tutorial.

I stretched my neckline binding while holding it up to the neckline of the top.  I cut it when I had laid out enough binding to go around while stretching.

You can see that it's quite a bit shorter than would be needed to go around unstretched.  This is what makes the neckline kind of suck in and hold the whole thing together - and keep the neckline from stretching out like the knit fabric wants to do.

Sew the shoulder seams. Starting at the hemline, sew the side seams, leaving space for an armhole.

Then, I turned the kaftan right side out, sewed the neckline into a loop, folded it in half lengthwise (check out Cal's neckline tutorial!) and stitched the neckband to the top edge.  I just use a normal zig-zag stitch for this.

After adding the neckline trim, it's ready to wear! You'll probably have a few strings to clip, but I just leave the hem and armhole edges raw.  The knit doesn't unravel, and it just rolls up so that you don't even see the raw edges.

I've made a whole pile of these.  Here's a shirt-length kaftan out of the same fabric:

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Peanut Butter Sheet Cake with Chocolate Chips

by Tonya

I found this recipe on Pinterest and finally tried it. It calls for buttermilk, which I never have and don't know what to do with the extra. But, I had just made greek yogurt in my crock pot and while researching that process, came across the advice to use the strained liquid in place of buttermilk in baking. It was the tiny push I needed to try this delicious-sounding and looking cake

I added chocolate chips to half the cake, and it was oh so good that way. Here it is right out of the oven, with the frosting cooking on the burner.

And here it is with the melty peanut butter frosting on top, plus more chocolate chips on the experimental half.

And finally, a piece ready for tasting. It melts in your mouth and is strangely addictive. 

No one in my house had ever tried peanut butter cake, so there was a little suspicion when I announced what I had baked. But it was a hit, especially the half with the chocolate chips added.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Making Greek Yogurt in a Crock Pot

by Tonya

Wow, this was really easy and it turned out great. I just bought a new, larger crock pot since our old one was too small for some soup recipes that I like to make. I was always having to reduce the amount of liquid used. 

I didn't want my husband to throw away the box from the new one until I had tried it out, but recycling day was fast approaching. This yogurt recipe came to the rescue! There is very little labor involved, but it does take a long time to sit and let the different stages of the process occur.

You need: 
1/2 gallon of milk (not ultrapasteurized) 
1/2 cup of plain yogurt with live cultures (I only had honey flavored so I used that and it worked fine)
You can double this recipe and all the times will be the same. 

Put the milk in a crock pot, cover it and heat on Low setting for 2 hours and 45 minutes.

Turn off the heat and let it sit, covered, for 3 hours.

Remove 1/2 cup of the warm milk and place in a bowl. Gently stir in the live yogurt. Return the milk and yogurt mixture to the crock pot, stirring gently. Put on the lid, wrap the crock pot in a big towel to keep it warm, and leave it for 4 -12 hours. From what I read, the yogurt will become more tart the longer you let it spend in this stage. 

It is going to be a little tart no matter what, since this is plain yogurt. Plan to add sweetener if you want sweet yogurt. 

After 4 - 12 hours, check the yogurt to see if it has thickened. As soon as it's thick, you can move to the next step. Smell to make sure it smells like yogurt and not soured milk. Then taste it and see if you're happy with it yet. 

You can put it in storage containers and refrigerate at this point (it will be pretty thin), or you can make thicker, greek-style yogurt. To do that, you just need to strain out some of the liquid. Line a colander with cheesecloth, a cotton dish towel, coffee filters, or paper towels. Put it over a bowl. I used the steamer and bowl from my rice cooker and paper towels. 

Transfer the yogurt to the colander and put the whole thing in the refrigerator for 2 - 3 hours. 

Now you should have thick, creamy greek-style yogurt. See how it stuck to the spoon?

And it held its shape as I scooped it out of the steamer.

You can add any sweetener, fruit, or fruit puree that you like. If you leave it plain, you can use it instead of mayo or sour cream. 

Mine was a complete success and I will definitely make yogurt again. It was really fun to use homemade yogurt to make Limeade frozen yogurt pops, too! 

This is a blog post that I found very helpful. And here is another one

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Freezable Meals for Life with a Newborn

by Tonya

I'm expecting my second baby in the next couple weeks, and I am in full-on nesting mode. I want to clean and organize the entire house and prepare in every way I can before the little guy is born. I always read about pregnant women scrubbing their baseboards, which is something that does not occur to me, but there are plenty of things I do want to accomplish. 

Things that are on my list, and some that we've recently crossed off include:

  • Finish making curtains for the Baby Boy's room
  • Finish making a quilt for each kid
  • Make some snuggly fleece blankets for the kids
  • Convince the Little Girl to move out of the nursery and into her toddler room
  • Move all her toys, clothes and books into her new room
  • Install the baby carseat in my car
  • Wash the dust out of the baby bathtub
  • Finish packing my hospital bag and put it in the car, along with a trash bag and towel to sit on 
  • Wash baby clothes, burp cloths, bedding


  • Stock the freezer with homemade food so we don't have to eat cereal or takeout every night 

I've already made some chicken enchiladas, but even though I love them, I won't want to eat them every day. So I forced myself to choose some other recipes to make in bulk and freeze in reasonably sized portions. I'm sure we will still eat our share of pizza, takeout and cereal, but at least we'll have some homemade options, too. I intend to add salads or other veggies on the side.

Here's what I've made over the past couple weekends. 

Beef Empanadas from Mad Hungry by Lucinda Scala Quinn
Chicken hand pies from Mad Hungry
Spinach-feta pockets from Mad Hungry

Chicken soft tacos 
~ I just wrapped up cooked, shredded chicken with salsa and cheese in tortillas

Beef soft tacos
~ I made a double batch of the empanada filling from above and rolled it up with cheese in tortillas

Chocolate chip cookies (some with pecans)
Peanut butter cookies
~ To freeze cookie dough, make it as you normally do. Then roll the dough into balls, place them on a cookie sheet and freeze them for an hour. This way, they won't stick together in the freezer bag. Transfer the dough balls to a freezer bag or container (write or tape the baking instructions on the bag so you don't have to find the recipe later). When baking, you should only have to add a minute or two to the baking time. 

And I might still make meatballs, though my energy is seriously flagging these days. 

I'm no expert on freezer meals, but I have a couple tips to share:
1. Freezer bags really do work better than regular zipper bags to prevent freezer burn.

2. Squeeze out as much air as possible before sealing the bag. You can even zip it most of the way, insert a straw and suck out the extra air. 

3. Mashed potatoes have not frozen well for me.

4. Meat will be best if you only freeze it once (so use fresh meat to make freezer meals for best results).

Do you have any favorite freezer recipes? 

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Valentine's Day Cookies

by Tonya

This year I made a couple kinds of treats with a Valentine's Day spin. These are Peanut Butter Blossoms with Dove hearts instead of Hershey's kisses. I could eat about 100 of these, and they were pretty popular with my husband and daughter, too. 

I have a few memories of my grandma making these (with Hershey's kisses) when I was very little. I loved them then, but had forgotten all about them until a few years ago. I don't make them too often since I find them to be very addictive.

Here is the original Peanut Butter Blossom recipe:


48 Hershey's kisses
3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
2 Tbsp milk
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup shortening
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp baking soda
Additional granulated sugar


    1. Heat oven to 375 F. Remove wrappers from chocolates.

2. Beat shortening and peanut butter in a large bowl until well blended. Add 1/3 cup granulated sugar and brown sugar; beat until fluffy. Add egg, milk and vanilla; beat well. Stir together flour, baking soda and salt; gradually beat into peanut butter mixture. 

3. Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Roll in granulated sugar; place on ungreased cookie sheet.

4. Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Immediately press a chocolate into the center of each cookie. The cookie will crack around the edges. Move the cookies to wire racks and cool completely.

Makes about 48 cookies. 

You can replace the vegetable shortening with room temperature butter if you prefer. If you do, chill the dough for 30 minutes before baking (otherwise they might melt too much in the oven).

I think these are best when they're still a little warm and the chocolate is melty, so I usually don't bake them all at the same time. I freeze some of the dough to bake later. I roll it into balls, coat them with sugar, and place them on a baking sheet. Then I put the baking sheet in the freezer for about an hour.  I write the baking instructions on a freezer zipper bag, transfer the dough balls to the bag, and keep it in the freezer for when I need a treat. You only have to bake them for a minute or two longer than the original instructions.

The other treat I made was at my husband's request: Yabba Dabba Doo bars. He had to explain that they are like Rice Krispie treats but made with Fruity Pebbles instead of Rice Krispies. Just as cute, and even more Valentine's Day colored.

Just follow this extremely easy recipe to make the treats, let them cool, and cut with cookie cutters. 


3 Tbsp butter or margarine
10 oz. regular marshmallows
 6 cups Fruity Pebbles (or Rice Krispies)


1. In a large saucepan, melt butter over low heat. Add marshmallows and stir until completely melted. Remove from heat.

2. Add cereal and stir until well coated.

3. Using a buttered spatula or parchment paper, evenly press mixture into a 13 x 9 inch pan coated with cooking spray or lined with parchment paper. Cool. Cut into heart shapes with a cookie cutter. 

They were not my favorites since they don't contain any chocolate, but my husband seemed to enjoy them a lot. My daughter thought they were very fun to look at, but after tasting one, she just fed them to her dad rather than eating them.  In the future I would like to try regular RKT dipped in melted chocolate and also this Peanut Butter RKT recipe.  

Are you baking anything special this week? What are your favorite Valentine's Day treats?

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Valentine's Day Soap

by Tonya

I've made soap from scratch before using the cold process method (mixing lye, water, and lard or oil). It is somewhat dangerous and takes weeks to cure. This time I used melt-and-pour pre-made glycerin soap and it was so easy!

I ordered my soap and fragrance from Sweet Cakes, molds from Amazon, and followed these instructions from Martha Stewart. 

The clean-up was incredibly easy and I felt successful on the first try. It doesn't get much better than that. 

The process is really simple:

1. Chop up the glycerin block and place the pieces in a microwave-safe container. A large glass measuring cup works great because you can easily pour the melted soap into the molds. Heat on medium for a few minutes, stir, and repeat until the soap is completely melted. 

2. Stir in coloring and/or fragrance. I bought pre-colored soap. For fragrance, I used about 1 tsp per 1lb of soap and it seems to be strongly scented. Check the instructions on your fragrance in case it is a lot stronger or weaker than mine.

3. Place silicone molds on a baking sheet so you can move them around if you want. It's also easier to clean drips off a pan than off the counter. Pour soap into molds. Let them sit and cool for a few hours. You can put them in the refrigerator or even the freezer if you want to speed up the cooling process.

4. Pop them out of the molds. Use letter stamps to make "conversation heart" phrases, or any phrase you like. Martha recommended using 2-inch molds and 1/8 inch stamps, but since I wrote short messages, I think the stamps were a little too small. I think I would have preferred 1/4 inch stamps.

This soap-making experience was a great success, but I have had a disaster in the past. The mistake I made was putting a pan I had used into the dishwasher without first cleaning it completely. I thought the soap would just get rinsed off. Nope, bubbles seeped out of the dishwasher and all over the kitchen floor. It was a huge mess and I'm only able to admit to it because it's been several years now. 

Have you ever made soap? Was it a success or a huge mess?

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Sugar and Spice Scrub

Happy 2013! Let's make a commitment to creativity this year, and to following through on some of those pinned, bookmarked, and torn out ideas we've collected. 

I started the year with an easy recipe for a moisturizing shower scrub. If your skin is drying out this winter like mine is, or you just want really soft skin, give this a try.

Sugar and Spice Scrub 

1 cup granulated sugar
2 tsp ground cloves
1 Tbsp dried rose petals
2 tsp orange zest
1 cup sesame oil
1 cup olive oil

 Measure all ingredients into a large bowl.

 Mix all ingredients, combining well.

 Store in airtight containers for up to six months.

To use, gently massage into wet skin in the shower. It will be a little messy and might make your shower floor slippery, so be careful and clean up after you're done. 

If you have a helpful toddler, you may need a kitchen activity for her to do while you measure, grate, and mix. I asked mine to measure beans for me. I poured some dried beans into a big bowl and gave her a measuring cup and another big bowl. She stood on a chair at the counter and transferred the beans back and forth pretty happily for most of the project's duration. At the end, I just had to sweep up about 50 beans that had been thrown on the floor in protest. 

Do you have any favorite scrub recipes to share?

How about ideas for keeping a 2-year old safe and busy in the kitchen while you work?