Thursday, October 29, 2015

Happy Birthday to You!

Would you like to wake up to this? I would, and I did, multiple times in one night.
C was too excited to wait for her birthday morning that she woke up at 2:30 a.m. to see if I had set everything up. Yep, she was fully awake and walked around the house in the wee hours and eventually fell asleep again to wake up at 5:30 a.m. in the morning. Wide awake. Too excited to go back to sleep.

Yesterday we celebrated C's 6th birthday. I couldn't believe it was six years ago that she made her first appearance. Wow. It's also her second birthday without a party. She had asked for a few toys that she really wanted for her birthday and she's content with them. In this case, we're very low key, compared to most of the kids birthday parties we've been to. In China, people are still giving red envelopes so the birthday kids can buy what they want. I might introduce the red envelope to her when she's a bit older.

It doesn't mean we have to skip the fun of bringing a little festivity to the house as well. C and I did this together. We cut out hundreds of square shaped paper, played with them, drew on them, then she helped me feed them to the sewing machine to make curtain garlands.

Almost too ofen, I get pictures and handmade cards from C. So for her birthday I decided to draw a card for her. According to Chinese Zodiac, we are two oxen and one pig in the family. A bunch of farmyard animals.

Ultimate Chocolate Cake recipe is from here. For two years, I haven't run around like crazy trying to organize parties. Party-free is hassel free. I feel I can actually focus on the birthday girl on her special day, which is something that I think I should actually be doing. Growing up we never had birthday parties involving kids from two classes. It's like mass production. Time has changed, yes I understand that, but keeping it the old-fashioned way is what we prefer right now.
Next year? I am aiming for another handmade birthday. We will see after 364 days.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Deer and Doe Plantain Tee + Chambrey Granny Pants Combo

How's your weekend? Mine was filled with sewing and self mocking.
Remember the jacket dress I sewed up about a week ago from this gorgeous Making and Styling Book by Yoko Obara? And that all the patterns in the book are seam allowance inclusive? I couldn't help but went for the same book again, for the sake of ...umm...speeding up the pattern tracing process. Ok not really, since the book really has some styles that I fancy.

This tee shirt deserves a post of its own.
So as I was thinking what to pair with the pants, a plain black tee came to mind. I did try drafting a plain tee before, but the fit was a little off and if there's an existing pattern I could use immediately, I'd grab it without a second though, especially if it's for free. I want to worship this tee shirt pattern and the designer. Deer and Doe's Plantain Tee is the answer to my all-season wear. The pattern comes with 7 sizes (!!) and it's so so professionally done. The fit is spot on.

Now I present you this pair of wide legged granny pants. They are packed with details around the waist area as I spent most of the sewing hours there. Somehow I love this kind of boxy style and I always tend to go for them. But once I put them on, M said, "granny pants!" OK, I admit I have seen grannies in their 3/4 length loose pants, but even if the same pair of pants can be worn into different styles on different persons, or ages in this case.

I am missing a belt here. I've searched high and low for one but failed. When was the last time I worn one? 7 years ago maybe? A belt would've accomplished the look. What do you say?

The pants are indeed well made, if I do say so myself. I'm very proud of neat stitches.
Granny pants kind of have a ring to it and I'm keeping the name.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Weekend Things -- Buckets and Toilet Plunger

Any guess what this is?
It's not an old fashioned Chinese style nightstool if that's what you are thinking.
Our washing machine broke down two weeks ago and we had to wait for about a week to have new pumps ordered and installed. I was going to lose it if we couldn't do washing for a week. Public laundry place you say? Well, the thing is I've got a bit of hygiene freak syndrome. Sharing a washing machine is clearly not a cure. Luckily, hubby's handy, thus this temporary manuel washing machine was born.
He drilled a lot of holes in one bucket and fitted it in another. It made big difference when the "machine" went into a rinse mode. I guess it must've been pretty fun to operate with a (brand new) toilet plunger, but I left it to the young.
Right after the new pumps were installed, our machine started to give a really loud noise, so it's hauled out of the house and disappeared again, for another week. It's still not fixed after all this time. But the good news it's functioning at the moment and I've got two weeks of heavy washing to finish before the machines give up on me.
Have a great weekend. I know mine will be dedicated to laundry.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Chambrey Pants with Tucks and Enough Pockets

I got a thumbs-up. My daughter is in love with these pants. She's cut her hair short and now she's into pants. That once princessly girly girl is slowly transforming into ... er... modern chic?

I've noticed her always putting her hands in her pants pockets. It's not that she feels uncomfortable and have nowhere to put her hands, it's just I think that she thinks it looks cool to do that. We're entering a cool phase here. Going through her closet, I don't see a single pair of proper pants with side pockets, besides her school uniform. I did what any sewing mama would do.

Truth be told, these pants were never on my to-do-list when I got the book at the beginning of the year. They looked, well, quite complicated, with tucks, front and back pockets, and a mock fly, tiny pieces to cut for the belt loops. Back then, I was very comfortable with 4 pattern pieces and less. I loved the fine details but I was too intimidated by the extra work.

These pants have marked a sewing milestone of mine. I love them as much as C does, if not more. They are super fun to sew. It's like building Lego. The building experience is fun and the end result is enjoyable.

C's school has a strict uniform code. "But, I can wear these pants when I wake up in the mornings and then change to school uniform just before I leave. I want to wear them all the time." That's an ultimate compliment. What's next? A pair of cargo pants with even more pockets? I'm definitely getting out all the pants and shorts patterns for this summer.

Woo-hoo! She's actually dancing to music while I snapped hundreds of shots. It's becoming a ritual that we both look forward to. The music never stopped and she carried on dancing the whole afternoon away. I wonder if the next pair of pants will have the same magic...

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Slow Cooker No Knead At All Bread

With the global banting upsurge, are you still a fan of bread? Well I'm not. Bread has never been my tummy friendly food. I become bloated almost instantly. But, I've got two carbivores at home who could happily survive on bread, if nothing else was offered on the table. Is that considered a fussy-eater syndrome? Anyway....

The other day when I was on way home after morning grocery shopping, I realized I had forgot to get bread. I didn't feel like going back to the shop just for that. "Wasting time" has been my mantra lately. I've become very time conscious, trying to be as productive as I can in the limited hours I have. I've given up dish washing and sweeping, these days laundry too, because our washing machine was broken and taken away for repair. M has bought big buckets and made a "manuel washing machine" temporarily. I refuse to take on that duty. You know sometimes you don't get much credit for doing the endless house chores. For the time being, I'm too ambitious to focus on my personal growth than doing other things to make everyone else happy, with very little appreciation. I don't know... it's a phase I guess.
Back to my bread.
So once I got home, I got out No Knead Bread Recipe from The Kitchn. There's a detailed How to Make Bread in the Slow Cooker here. It's really easy. By the time I got all 4 ingredients out and in the bowl, I got a phone call and had to leave the house immediately. I used one minute to give it a quick stir and dumped the gooey mixture in the lined slow cooker. Total time spent, including getting the ingredients and slow cooker out, was 5 minutes.

Slow cooker bread is not perfect. There isn't much air in it. After 2 hours, I put the whole loaf in the oven under the broiler to brown a little, just so my daughter can say "mommy, cut the crusts off please." The positive side it takes the same amount of time to make the bread in any kind of day, any kind of weather --- 5 minutes + 2 hours baking/sewing time.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Blue-Eye Spring Jacket Dress

C's back to school this week and I'm back to my sewing routine. She's started a new extra mural and stayed at school's aftercare for the first time. She loved it and described it as a group play date. My girl's growing up fast.

The blurry pictures don't do its justice but the print on this fabric looks like millions of square evil eyes. When I take pictures of myself, I bring out the tripod --> plop the camera on --> put a small table against the white wall to focus --> set the camera to continuous shots --> push the shutter button and run to the wall --> move away the said table --> neaten the clothes in the remaining 1 second --> say cheese. It's quite something to do back and forth 20 times in a row, yet I still get blurry pictures because I suppose I am not as short as the table, but I can't possibily get a closet in and out there in time. Is it time for a remote now?

The pattern is from this book. It's my first time sewing something from it and I was very surprised that all the projects are one-size-fits-all. That's no problem to me because I'm about average size. And, and it's a very important and happy AND, probably because of that, all the seam allowances are included and drawn on the pattern sheets, which has saved me so much time on tracing.

There are tons of notches on the pattern, but when putting everything together, it's a dream. All the notches match perfectly and there's no pulling or unplanned gathering needed. The shape is straight forward. I've sewn two very similar style before, here and here. The extra details of this jacket dress include a small collar, front bodice/shoulder gathering and a double layered back yoke.

It is called a jacket dress, because it can be worn as a long jacket, or tie everything up and wear as a dress without pants underneath. But I prefer the open-jacket-with-pants-underneath version. It looks more versatile and gives a lot of movements.

OK. Wearing it just as a dress isn't too bad either, because I simply can't keep twirling around all day. The big amount of overlap at the front gives it power to stand up against the wind. I haven't stood in the crazy wind to test it, but I would imagine it to be wind-resistant...

Which version do you prefer?
Happy weekend everyone.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Mother-Daughter Collaboration Tee Shirts with Flare Sleeves

My little girl was haunted by a self-drafted tee shirt I made for myself back in May. Since then, she kept on asking if and when she's going to have the exact same polka dot design. I wear it mostly as work clothes when I know I might get messy because I am not so fond of the fit, or the paint job. Somehow she adores the polka dots, even the wonky ones. I don't know why it took so long for me to make such a simple t-shirt, but hey we did it and we proudly named it Mother-Daughter Collaboration Tee.

The process is very simple. Freezer paper is the hero. I cut out holes, ironed the paper on the front bodice. Then the fun began. Because it's ironed on tight, the painting part is very forgiving. C chose seven colors, then it reminded me of the Tangram that I played as a kid. Endless possibilities with just seven colors in seven different shapes.

This diamond is painted by the exact same seven colors. I found the design here and just freehanded it on freezer paper. This one required a bit precision, as the border lines inbetween colors are very thin.

I've probably sewn no less than 10 basic tees. I'm sure I can easily use the pattern another 10 more times. But I'm ready to mix and match patterns to create my own looks. I used sleeve pattern from my Flamingo Flare Sleeve Dress. Don't the tee shirts have a girly twist now? I have about 20 Japanese sewing books so far, for both girls and women, one special one for men's clothes. I think I'm set for life.

She really likes the tee shirts especially the one she painted herself. She put on the music and started dancing. "Mommy, take photos." So I had over 200 photos with repetitive poses. "Mommy, take more photos." Yeah, on it....

She had another haircut during the school holidays. It just keeps on getting shorter and shorter. Short hair is the new black (or black sheep) I say. And here she was, happy and sweaty from the all the dancing. Keep it up girl.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Bye Holiday Hi School Term

Hello Monday and the beginning of another school term!
We had three very relaxed weeks, which involved a lot of park visits since Spring's here. To be honest, C and I are both indoor persons. But somehow I felt obligated to take her to do outdoor things. It's like that's the right thing to do.

We've successfully moved our meal time to the dinning table --- it's a big change. There isn't anything new on C's menu but she's been in the kitchen a lot, helping me prepare food. To supplement our usual white rice, the other day I got this pack of brown rice + wild rice + peas combo to try out. It's a fail. C kept on spitting out every single pea, until she declared that she wanted nothing to do with that rice. I guess it was a good move turning it into an activity. We picked all the peas. As a matter of fact, we had so much fun doing that that we decided to pour all the peas back into the rice and redo it, twice.

The holiday's packed with everyday things and little triumphs here and there. For example, after a year, we've finished Suzuki Piano Volume 1. This whole experience is very smooth. I can say C has enjoyed it since she goes to the piano volunteerily to play. I resented piano during my childhood. It felt pushed and forced, like everything else my father made me do, even though today I thank him for exposing me to all those beautiful things. The least I want for my daughter is to have the same experience like I had. Learning really can be fun, especially at this age, it's up to the teacher and parent to make it fun. Before we rush to open Volume 2, we are going over some of the old songs and having a family recital, which basically means playing the piano in a fancy dress.
Why that salad picture? Oh, you know. School's started. Seeing that freshness kind of gives my mind a kick start, adjusting from pretend game mode to sewing mode, fish fingers to greens...

Saturday, October 10, 2015

A Mavy Wavy Halloween Costume

It feels like Halloween has arrived a little early.
October is a big month for costumes sewing. Good news is that this year the idea came to me. One of C's friends is having a Hotel Transvylvania themed birthday party soon, and I was lucky enough to be responsible for costume making, knowing my daughter would most probably request a same outfit. What would beat a vampire Halloween costume? Besides, it's so fuss to sew at all.

I used my go-to tee shirt pattern for the dress. All I did was measure how long I wanted it to be, then made the bottom a little wider than Mavis's dress (very specific request). Since it's Spring going into Summer, the turtle neck had to go. Leggings pattern is from the same book. I have indeed sewn a lot of leggings.

To create the lines on the leggings was super easy. I taped it down on a board just following the lines. The watermelon color I used wasn't very strong with only one coat. Then I decided to give it another coat, but after that I kind of prefer the weaker tone and went back to it. C didn't even notice. So I sewed up the leggings for her anyway. The pair for her friend have no difference between the two legs. I promise.

There she was, counting how many mice she's captured. She stuck all those mice on the wall as background. Mice are vampires/bats' prey, right?
Birthday costume twin, we are ready!

Friday, October 9, 2015

Adieu Rosie Flower

Lately life is a emotional turmoil. We lost one of our beautiful cats that I blogged about here and here, and she made her appearances a lot during our photoshoot sessions, here and here. Besides the moles and occasional rats and birds, she had also brought us great fun and joy. She was such an adventurer and excellent climber. Once I saw her on the tree as tall as our upstairs window, and she just made her way down with ease. She was such a chatter box and attention seeker. She would happily come to you to have a conversation and nudge your hand so you could stroke her head at the same time....

Two years ago, Zazu, a male kitten, joined our family. Then two months after that, we had Rosie Flower Flamingo (RFF), a female one so they could keep each other company. Shortly after that, C started to develop strong Asthma symptoms with one hour coughing session daily. She was diagnosed with mild asthma and the skin test showed that she's also mildly allergic to cats. Now what? Do I send the kittens back? I was out voted at the time. Now thinking back, I really wish I had persisted on rehoming both kittens. Which other parents who have their children's best interest at heart wouldn't have done so? Since then, C's been on long-term asthma control medications. If you know me, you should know how I feel about drugs. And here, my daughter's on a daily dose due to the new addition to our family...
As the time went by, our cats had become part of the family, but I still couldn't make peace with C's inhaler. I had tried the essential oils therapy and lowered the dosage to the minimum, all in hope that she had grown immune to our cats. But once she's drug free for a few days, the symptoms would kick start again.
Our RFF becoming severely sick was a tragedy. After an over-nighter at the vet, she became even more sick and I got a time-is-of-the-essence call from the vet the next morning. C and I rushed to the vet and then and there, I made the decision to let her go. Besides the absurdly high charges for the surgery, aftercares and possible sequela, I had C's medical condition to worry about. It was extremely sad when we watched her go. We were both in tears as I begged for her forgiveness.
I've been asking myself "Would I have agreed to the surgery if I were given a second chance?" The answer is unfortunately negative. As a mother, protective or not, I am programmed to keep my child's health at the highest priority. I only wish the cat's exiting would be a different way.

Our dear Rosie Flower Flamingo, we will always miss you. You have a big space in our hearts and we will have that space for you forever.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

A Nautical Themed Blouse

Just as I was mentally prepared to bring my productivity to zero this school holiday, that little girl of mine decided to go to work with daddy the other day, which freed me a day to sew up this blouse that had been cut up a week ago. It's hard work trying to keep an only child stay activity hydrated, so that day felt like a pure reward and this blouse a real bonus.

Let's get to the details, shall we?
The pattern is from Simple Chic. I've found quite a few patterns in this book are one-size-fits-all, including this one. The fitting shouldn't be too off considering I'm Asian and all... I went ahead and squeezed all the pieces into this two-meter long gorgeous cotton. I had just tiny bit extra to lengthen the sleeves by 3cm each, but apparently it's not enough to make the blouse into a full-length sleeve version.

This fabric is made from some finest and softest cotton I've ever felt. It's a dream to sew. There's always some reassurance buying cotton fabric from Japan or China. People generally prefer 100% cotton or linen over there. I've bought some fabric here and ended up discovering they've got some percentage of poly blend. Now I go fabric shopping with my own lighter.

There are these (naked) mermaid prints which made my daughter frown at this fabric. "Sissy fabric" is what she calls it. Her loss equals my gain. The construction of the blouse involves side panel gathers. It's a very interesting design and fun to put up all the pieces together.

These pants I wear in the pictures were one of the very first pairs I made when I started sewing for myself. I had to mend holes in the crotch area a few times. I think it's the style that restricts you from certain movements. Other than that, they are so comfy and easy to wear. I've worn them too much that the color has defeinitely faded tremendously from washing. I struggle to find a good pants pattern that suits my body shape --- narrow hips and small butt that is, and I am always tempted to go back to this pattern and make 100 pairs of them.
Besides that typical Asian body shape curse, I also own a pair of slight cavus feet. There are very limited amount of shoes I can wear. Most of the time I wear shoes with cushioned soles, or with orthotic inserts. In order to have a better look for the photoshoots, I got three pairs of pumps from Cotton On for R200 (US$14.5). They were on sale and they are junkie no doubt. But hey at least they don't look too bad on photos.
One last week of school holiday remaining, then I have plans coming back in full swing. I have the tendency to be overly optimistic with my plans though. Let's see.