Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween Cupcakes

Things have been highly busy lately, and it did not look like I would be able to do much for Halloween this year, so I wanted to at least make cupcakes. This recipe for pumpkin cupcakes is Real Simple.

The recipe calls for pumpkin puree, and since I could not find any, I substituted for it with Libby's pumpkin pie mix and omitted the pumpkin spice. The cupcakes themselves are yummy, but the frosting is lacking something. Next time I will use the America's Test Kitchen recipe for cream cheese frosting, and I will not make it the night before. Refrigerating the frosting was a bad idea, as you can see in the photo below.

The coloring from the candy corn ran as the frosting reached room temperature.

This frosting experience pretty much sums up my disastrous Halloween crafting attempts this year. In addition to my sad looking cupcakes, my Halloween costume did not work out. I used a pattern with measurements meant for teenagers and ended up with a skirt that did not fit. Did I mention that I started working on my costume on October 31? Consider the lesson learned: I will not push the crafting and creativity when everything else is so hectic and stressful.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I hate to gush over something I love and build it up so much that someone else has too-high expectations; but gush I must. Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows' The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society was a lovely read, and it did not take long for me to fall in love.

On page 11, Juliet Ashton writes, "That's what I love about reading: one tiny thing will interest you in a book, and that tiny thing will lead you onto another book, and another bit there will lead you onto a third book." My thought at that precise moment was, "Exactly."

Then there was page 24, "There were eight boxes--eight boxes of my books bound up and ready for the basement...Well, there were no words! I was too appalled to speak." I also love my books too much to store them away--who knows when I might want to re-visit with one?

By page 48, the speculation was over, and knew I was hooked. This I know because on October 14, I tweeted "Doing the one city, one book thing. 48 pages into the guernsey literary and potato peel pie society and i love it!"

There are more quotes which I find quite nice, but I leave that to future GLPPPS readers to discover. I would enjoy the opportunity to hear/read what others have to say about their favorite quotes from the book.

The books is actually a series of letters, something of which I am not usually a fan. However, I found this a brilliant literary move. The written banter between characters is witty, humorous, and so descriptive that despite the changing perspectives, the reader always has a clear idea of people and places. So, please do not be turned off by the collection of letters. If I had given into my typical distaste for such books, I would have missed out something that was written for those who loves books and reading.

Many thanks to the Contra Costa Library System for selecting this book for Walnut Creek's "One City, One Book" program. Without the program or the library system, I probably would have never stumbled upon GLPPPS.

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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Postseason Baseball

It is an amazing thing to walk into a baseball stadium for a postseason game. This is a moment when you can actually feel excitement in the air. It is something not to be missed--well worth a vacation day, and maybe even missing school (don't tell my sisters I said that).

My first postseason game was in 2005, Angels vs. Yankees (American League Division Series Game 2). It was unbelievable, but yesterday's ALCS Game 3 (against the Yankees again) was even better.

It was the best baseball game, no, best sporting event, I have ever been to in my entire life. The game went into extra innings, the Angels came back from a deficit and a tie-game, and except for Bobby Abreu's base running error, it was a well-played game.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Reusable Bags

My latest project: reusable bags. The middle one is Bag C from Butterick pattern 5338 that needed double fold bias tape, and the other two are from Simplicity pattern 2806.

The Butterick pattern was more difficult with all the bias tape; and even after figuring out the square neckline, I had to wrestle with the handles. However, Butterick did provide a better way to complete the handles than Simplicity. I have since combined patterns for a cleaner, neater way to enclose the raw edges.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Happy Birthday Coach Wooden

Today is Coach John Wooden's 99th birthday. If you don't know this man, he is the legendary UCLA Men's Basketball Coach whose teams won ten NCAA championship games in 12 years; had an 88-game win streak; and went 30-0 for four seasons. You can still see him at home games, and it is very cool to see him there.

The Los Angeles Times has a great piece on him to commemorate this occasion. Who knew that he almost went to the University of Minnesota? Thank goodness for "inclement weather."

Happy birthday Coach!

Sunday, October 11, 2009


Congratulations to the Angels for finally beating out the Red Sox for a post-season series! The last few years of losing to them in the American League Championship and Division Series have been agonizing and despairing times for me as a fan. The fact that this was a series sweep and a come-from-behind-victory makes this one of my all-time favorite baseball memories.

I love October.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Yes, I Love Los Angeles

There is no place like LA. It is a sprawling mass of land, people and freeways. Traffic is everywhere, at nearly all times of day, and it turns people off because it can be such an impersonal place, but I love it.

Los Angeles is a fascinating place, especially when you look into its back-story. It truly is a man-made place: without the California Aqueduct, life in the Golden State would be entirely different. I read about the aqueduct in a book called Water and Power a few years ago, and this week I revisited the subject in the PBS documentary, Inventing LA: the Chandlers and Their Times.

While I found Water and Power to be a bit dry (too many numerical facts for me), I thoroughly enjoyed watching the documentary. From Harrison Gray Otis' union blocking tactics to Harry Chandler's real estate dealings to Dorothy Chandler's philanthropy, the story amazed me. As the documentary wove through LA's history I learned just how large of a role the Chandlers played in making Los Angeles into the city it is today. Plus, I finally see how the Valley became a part of Los Angeles County (water).

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Double Fold Bias Tape and a Square Neckline

Butterick's pattern 5338 (Bag C) nearly stumped me. It's a cute shopping bag that appears to fit on the grocery store's metal rack for plastic bags, and it looks simple enough. Until you get to the part where the pattern instructions read, "Encase upper and inner edges of handles on front and back with bias tape, having narrower side on outside and folding in fullness at corners, as shown..."

Problem is, the pattern shows a whole lot of nothing. There is a diagram, but it does not demonstrate the clipping and folding which must occur. I desperately tested out different folds and tried to think of a backwards way to work mitered binding, but nothing worked. Then I turned to Google, but all I could think of was "attach double fold bias tape corner," which eventually led me to "double fold bias inside corner." Lucky for me, there is someone else out there who struggled with this pattern and I found some online help for sewing a "square neckline."

The responder to the original post recommends a book called Power Sewing. It helped, but it took awhile for me to understand what needed to happen and being the skimmer that I am, I could have used more photos with shorter explanations. As you can see below, I finally figured it out, and now I have my square neckline complete, with binding. I still have to attach bias tape to the side edges of the handles and finish the bag itself, but I am enjoying the sweetness of finally being smarter than the square neckline.

How I Finished a Square Neckline (a.k.a. Inside Corner) With Double Fold Bias Tape (With this particular pattern, I use "square neckline" interchangeably with "upper and inner edges of bag handles")

  • Stay stitch the upper and inner edges of the bag handles. Stay stitching should be 1/8" from seam; so with double fold bias, stay stitch 1/4" from raw edge because the seam will be 3/8".

  • Clip inner corner, almost to stay stitching.

  • Right sides together, raw edges even, pin narrower side of the bias tape to neckline and sew until you near a clipped corner. The seam allowance is 3/8" and stitching should be in the fold of the bias tape.

  • When you near a clipped corner, stop sewing, but do not remove the needle from the fabric. Carefully spread the fabric at the corner so you now have a straight edge. Pins help here, but while you continue to sew, be careful not to pinch the bag fabric, which cannot be seen under the tape.

  • Press seam toward bias tape. The photo above shows a sample of how the corner will look once the bias tape and bag are sewn together.

  • Fold at the corners, right sides together. Be careful the fold is right at the corner. Stitch across fold, but instead of a straight seam, sew a "V." The bottom of the "V" points toward the center of the bag.

  • Fold bias tape over to wrong side of the bag. To finish the neckline, topstitch about 1/8" from open edge of tape. Topstitching is done on the right side of the bag fabric, and this is why the narrower side is attached here. Finishing can also be done by hand on the back if you are working with more delicate fabric.

I am not quite sure if this is supposed to be as challenging as it turned out to be, but I am hoping it is not meant to be easy since I did take sewing lessons from Mrs. Iki when I was a teenager; and while I do recall using bias tape for a blue-green tank top, I do not remember any encounters with square necklines. Hopefully this makes things a little bit clearer for other sewers out there. If you have any questions, just post a comment and I am happy to help. If not, then you are a better sewer than I am, and I wish I had your skills!