Friday, October 29, 2010

Kitara (and an iPhone too)

Well it's that time of year again.  Connor asks us to make him a halloween costume that challenges us to turn it into a reality.  Past costumes?  A waterfall, a spice cabinet (complete with opening doors), an erupting volcano, a strom drain, a spigot, a circuit board.  This year?  An iPhone.

Connor's Costumes Past

Annabelle, on the contrary, is delighted to be a variety of traditional characters...a doggie, a bunny, a unicorn, a cheerleader.  All the creative force that is needed is to drive to target and put said costume in the basket.  This year, however, she wants to be Katara from The Last Airbender.  This was a simply wonderful anime TV show that Annabelle fell in love with.  It involves Ang, a young monk who is destined to bring peace to the world.  Only problem is that Ang is just a little kid and a pretty goofy one at that. He has to learn to control the four elements (air, water, earth and fire) in order to bring peace to the warring factions.  Katara ends up being his best friend and she helps him to learn to "bend" water as well as stays with him through thick and thin.  She's a wonderful character and there's no wonder Annabelle wants to emmulate her.  Well, seeing as how this was a big TV show, I feel certain that my local target will have said costume....but uh-oh, I look on-line first to show Anna what I will get and find that the only costumes they have made came from the movie version (which apparently was terrible and they changed the costuming for all of the main characters).  Anna took one look at the movie version of Katara's costume and said indignantly "Mama, that's NOT how Katara looks."  Well I figured that I owed Annabelle a real costume since I can sew.  But I also knew that I don't sew well, especially if there's not an easy pattern to follow and I was on my own for this one.  So the journey begins...

The finished product was supposed to look like this:

And here's the end product!

A Katara Tutorial

The first thing I did was to try and find some sort of pattern for a shirt that had a cross over collar.  I've never made a shirt (too many curved lines) but I dove in.

I found some really nice nylon/rayon? fabric that I knew was going to be a pain to work with but I really wanted the fabric to flow easily...anything for love.

I also purchased some furry white fleece and cut it in to strips to line the shirt color, waist, shirt sleeves (which wasn't in the picture but Anna and I agreed was a nice touch) and pant cuffs.  Above is the shirt collar.  Since lining it with an extra strip wasn't in the directions so I had to fumble a bit attaching it with interfacing.  It wasn't meant to stand up in the back but I went with it and sewed on another piece of fleece to make the back collar look finished.  I really futzed and fiddled with this pattern because the blouse needed to be more fitted than it was.  In the end, not everything lined up the way it should and I had to do some creative sewing to make it all come together.

Then, since I'm practical, I ordered some lovely knit leggings and a matching top from LLBean.  No need to do those from scratch.  I sewed on the strips of fleece.

Next I tackled the skirt, which was a heck of a lot easier than the top.  I just measured Annabelle and cut out two panels of fabric.  Kitara's skirt has very high slits up the side (for all of those water bending moves she does) so I only sewed the sides together about 2 and a half inches down.  Then I folded to top over for the waist, leaving a pocket for one inch elastic.  I ziz zagged the rest of the open skirt sides before folding them over by 1/2 inch and straight stitching for a finished edge.  Lastly, I sewed on more fleece strips along the bottom of the skirt.

One of Katara's key wardrobe peices is a special necklace given to her by her mother.  I initially was at a loss about how to recreate this.  Some people had handmade them on etsy but they were expensive and in my humble opinion didn't really have the right look.  I finally had a brainstorm....shrinky dinks!  I found a great close-up detail of the pattern on her necklace and printed it out onto jet ink shrinky dink paper.

With some help from Josh (who has a steadier hand than I) we colored in the design with dark blue sharpie (on Kitara's necklace, the white lines are dark blue).  I cut it out with a circle rotary cutter, punched a whole in the top and baked.


Monday, October 25, 2010

Our Dud Spuds

October 10, 2010

We had read that you could grow an incredible potato crop in a very small vertical space known as a potato box.  Josh in wonderful handy-dad fashion made a beautiful redwood potato box according to spec.  We purchased seed potatoes and tended the box all summer long, adding new levels as we went.  The plants flourished.  It looked like a potato jungle growing out of the top!

Finally came the big spud dig day.  The whole family started digging through the soil hoping for the 100 pounds of promised potatoes.  Quickly, however, our hopes were dashed.  We did find some nice taters at the very bottom of the box but they didn't keep re-seeding as they grew up as was promised.  Josh proclaimed them the most expensive potato crop in the history of potatoes (if you factor in the wood for the box).

Still, that night he prepared half of the modest crop by oven frying them with olive oil and herbs and they were amazing...creamy soft texture and a beautiful buttery flavor.  We read that many people fail in their potato box harvest because they choose the wrong varietal.  Apparently, this only works with late summer varieties.  We choose Yellow Finns which should have fit the bill.  So, we have several months to decide whether to try the great potato experiment a second time or whether to re-purpose the box for another crop.

Thursday, October 7, 2010


My son has always been really intrigued by gourds.  When we re-landscaped our backyard a few years ago we actually built kind of a rustic stick frame structure that the kids could plant climbing plants around.  Connor, naturally picked out some Birdhouse gourd seeds.  The first few months they didn't seem to do much but then....

This is my daughter Annabelle inside "the Gourd House."  We ended up with about 4 monster sized gourds.  I had heard that you could dry and polish them so when we picked them in the fall we just let them sit outside for the remainder of the year.  They were very, very heavy and it was hard to believe that they would naturally dry out on the inside but they did just that.  Meanwhile, my best intentions to polish them went to the back burner and we were left with these two years later.

The fall season and the beginning of this blog inspired me to get this done.  One of the gourds had cracked which was fine with me since it would make a great bird house/feeder as the name implies.   I was told that the next step is to put them in a bleach water solution for 10 minutes and then scrub off all of the dirt and mold.  It sounded fast an easy from the descriptions I read.  Alas, I don't think most people had left them out for over two years and I had to put some serious scrubbing power into them.

Interestingly, the one who had been the most caked with mold and dirt had a beautiful mottled look to it that I love.  I'll just bet that those two years of neglect did it!  The final step is to rub a little shoe polish on them to give them a shine.  I think the'll end up on the mantlepiece for a little fall decoration.  I'll have to think up something fun to have coming (or maybe creeping) out of the cracked one.  Happy Fall everyone!

More Terrariums

Well, I'm definitely on a terrarium kick.  Partly I just love how they look, their own little eco system in a little glass world;  but partly I love the fact that they require very little watering and upkeep.  

This little guy is an air plant of the Tillandsia recurvifolia variety.  They are epiphyte's and don't require any soil.  They do have really pretty blossoms as well.  All that's needed is a little layer of activated charcoal and some spagnum moss.  Some filtered sunlight and the humidity of the jar will do the rest.  

Finally, a found a tiny, tiny African violet.  I put some corsican tiny mint ground cover in with it.  The jars were sitting unused in the garage.  Since I already had the rest of the supplies it only took about 15 minutes to make both of favorite kind of project!  

Owl Softie

This is a little softie I put together for a daughter's friend who loves owl's.  I found the tutorial by Susan Beal here.  I changed it a bit but loved the button eyes and toes.  While I was buying the green fleece, I found this great owl corduroy fabric so I whipped up a little carrying case.  The edges are rounded which was a complete accident...I was intending to make a square bottom but forgot which way to cut the angle.  In the end, I actually liked it since the shape matched the owl.  

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Desert Scape Terrarium

I've been positively itching to make a cool looking terrarium.  I had this old fish bowl/vase and thought it would be perfect for an open succulent desert scape.

First a layer of gravel for good drainage.  Next a layer of activated charcoal.  Finally, an inch or two of cactus soil followed by a top layer of sand.

Finally three succulents that seemed to work together.  Odd numbers are always best.  Then a little whimsy with a rock I had collected at the beach, a dry pebble stream bed and a butterfly that I raided from my seven year old daughter's room (she'll never miss it!).

Then because I really wanted to use this great $2 jar I found at the thrift store I made a closed terrarium with this great little olive tree bonsai.  I put a few pebbles in it and a little frog.  In truth, I don't love the frog and realized that somewhere in one of children's room I have a little pebble with the word "peace" on it that would be perfect.   I dug around and couldn't find it, so I almost didn't include this picture but thought that since this is my first post I would take a stand for imperfection rather than perfection.  Seems like a better way to go.  Also, in the corner you can see the wonderful book by Tovah Martin, The New Terrarium that helped inspire and guide me.