Thankful for…

 

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As I sit and reflect on my past year this Thanksgiving season, I have many, many things to be thankful for, and this Thanksgiving, I am especially grateful for my good health and for the good health of my family.  I’m grateful to be able to wake up in the morning and be able to get up on my own, to be able to take care of myself and my children, be able to drive and go places, be able to cook, bake, sew, read, do the things I enjoy and also the things I may not enjoy too much (aka: clean the toilets), to be able to live life and not be in constant physical pain is a tremendous blessing that I am reminded of this season.

My next door neighbor has cancer and only has maybe a week left before she will be leaving this world behind.  I believe she will be happy and no longer be in physical pain after she leaves this world, but it is still difficult to see her go.  During my last visit with her when she was still awake and aware of her surroundings, she said to “enjoy life while you can” and that is something that I really need to work on.  I am always immersed in the “to-do’s” and always looking for the “better”: “I’ll be able to breathe after I get through this, this, and this”, “I’ll be happy after I get a bigger place”, “I’ll be happy after the kids grow older and can take care of themselves”, etc, etc.  I have been trying to find joy in the “here and now”, and it really seems to be about your attitude and perspective, as I found in this pretty neat post circulating Facebook: (read from top to bottom then from bottom to top)

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I am grateful to be able to use my hands to create things for my children.

I have always been afraid of hand-sewing and have made a boy’s necktie before that required hand-sewn seams to close the back of the tie, but that may have been the first and last tie I made due to the hand-sewing which deterred me from making more.  That was a few years ago, and I was really doubtful about trying to make a doll that was ALL hand-sewn when I stumbled across this book by Shelly Down while Christmas shopping (in lieu of Santa) and thought they were beyond adorable!  I looked up her Gingermelon blog and saw there were free tutorials and patterns for some other insanely cute felt animals/projects and decided to try my hand at her little Sparkle Kitty. I figured I would throw up my hands (like the necktie) after trying to hand-sew the kitty and save myself from spending money on a book/pattern I wouldn’t end up using, but I really surprised myself at how the hand-sewing didn’t seem too bad and at how quickly and easily it came together (plus they are Super cute!).  Coming into the project, I had NO idea what a whip stitch, blanket stitch, or a ladder stitch were but after a few searches on Google and youtube, I was good to go; though you could tell which stitches were first and which came later.  I made 3 of these little creatures (one for each of my children) and was ready for more!

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They’re tiny little creatures 🙂

 

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After the kitties, which were a huge hit with my 3, I decided to purchase a PocketPoppy pattern from Gingermelon’s Etsy shop to try my hand at a doll and am pretty impressed with the pattern and how the dolls actually turned out!

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I used a wool blend felt from Felt the Wool (Etsy).  The wool blend felt really does make a difference in the quality of your doll and I would advise against using acrylic felts (usually sold at Joann and Michael’s) because they pill and don’t look nice after a little bit of handling.  I made the Kitties with the acrylic felt I had at home and they look worn and old already.

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I used 8mm safety eyes from Amazon instead of the 7.5mm that the pattern calls for, and I think my dolls look perfectly cute.  My only real challenge with the dolls was the hair!  I was able to “poke” the hair into the seams at the top of the head, but I couldn’t “poke” the hair into the felt down the back of the head like the instructions suggested and opted for the gluing option instead.  Only the first layer of “hair” is glued to the back of the head and the other layer of hair over that portion covers it and makes it look just fine.  I also ended up gluing the bangs portion in the front to keep it looking nice.

Add a little color to their face with a red or pink crayon! Rub on gently and add more as desired~

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The other more minuscule problem I found was that a couple strands of hair that was “poked” into the seam and hadn’t been glued to the back of the head had fallen out after my girls had played with them.  So I tried to remedy that by adding a tiny bit of glue to the “scalp” to keep the upper layer of hair in place and hopefully, withstand the playtime that it was meant to provide for my girls.

Summary of supplies:

  • PocketPoppy pattern
  • wool blend felt  Felt the Wool
  • pair of 8mm safety eyes
  • batting, fiberfill, cotton batting  (I used polyester batting)
  • yarn for hair (thicker is easier to work with)
  • Aleene’s Jewel-It glue (this is the one I used)
  • matching embroidery thread
  • needles (a few different sizes help)
  • fabric scissors and embroidery scissors help too
  • pink/red crayon for blush

Here they are so happy with their little dolls!

My older girl wanted black or brown hair for her dolly and my younger girl wanted red hair.  Sisters yet they are SO different!  I love them so much and am so grateful to have a family I can dote on.

Wishing you a wonderful Thanksgiving season with loved ones.

Thank you for reading.

-Flora

 

 

 

Early-bird Bacon and Egg Breakfast Tart

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What do you do when you get up at 6am to drop off the hubby at the BART station so you don’t have enough time for your morning exercise (since that means you would need to account for shower time) and you realize you have all the ingredients (surprising, indeed) to try out the recipe you have been wanting to try for a couple months now?  You roll up your sleeves and just do it, despite, after quickly skimming the recipe, the many steps including refrigerating the dough and pre-baking seems to threaten complicating your morning routine when you have lunches and snacks to pack, not to mention getting the kids out of their PJs and into semi-presentable (okay, passable) clothes for school.  You give yourself a pat on the back for getting it done with time to spare and now the kids are having fun playing with the empty laundry baskets that carted the weekly mountain of laundry onto the bed (one can be hopeful that it will get done before bedtime), where it awaits its return to the basket at night when you accept defeat, then back onto the bed then the basket a few more times before finally making it into their intended drawers.

What is this?  You hear rain outside!  It’s a welcoming pitter-patter with a few rolling thunders to pique the children’s interest away from the laundry baskets so you can finally put them away.  Besides, the youngest kept spilling out of the basket and you were afraid she would end up bumping her head on the furniture.  The kids have never witnessed a thunderstorm or seen lightning and so you show them a few youtube videos so they can see what lightning is like; nothing like experiencing nature vicariously through the web.  The boy was especially intrigued, and sat looking outside the sliding door waiting to see if the rumblings of thunder would make way for some lightning flashes across the gray sky, but none so far.  Maybe next time.

The rain is still coming down at a steady rate and you secretly hope the rain will continue for a few days so you can hibernate in your little home with the heater cranked on, maybe finally get some of the backed up projects done.  Too ambitious?  Perhaps, maybe just get through the day and squeeze in some laundry folding followed by the tedious task of distributing the folded laundry into its place.  Let’s take it one day at a time; or one moment at a time.  Breakfast is done.  Now on to…

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Unroll thawed pastry and cut into 4 squares. Fold in edges 1/2″. Brush with beaten egg. Refrigerate for 15 mins.

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Mix cream/milk with Dijon mustard. Mix in 6 TB Parm cheese. Spread cheese mixture into center

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Bake at 425F for 8-10 mins

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Slice grape tomatoes in half, slice green onions, cook bacon then slice into 1/2″ pieces

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Crack an egg and place into center of each tart. Scatter bacon, tomatoes, and green onions. Sprinkle with salt and remaining Parm cheese

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Bake for 5-7 mins, until egg whites firm up

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Beats cold cereal any day, but especially so on this cold, rainy day.

This recipe was adapted from Janice Cole’s “Chicken and Egg” recipe book.

Bacon and Egg Breakfast Tart
ingredients
  • 1 sheet frozen puff pastry (I like the ones from Trader Joe’s)
  • 5 large eggs
  • 2 slices of Trader Joe’s Applewood Smoked Bacon
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 8 TB shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup grape tomatoes, sliced in half lengthwise
  • 1/4 cup sliced green onions (sliced through the white part, lengthwise to make thinner)
Directions
  1. Thaw the puff pastry (or if you’re in a hurry, I microwave it very carefully at 50% power for 30 secs, then maybe 20 more secs, if needed.  You don’t want the dough to be hot).  Unroll the puff pastry then cut into 4 squares.  Fold over the edges of the dough 1/2″ and place on baking sheet covered with parchment. Prick the center of the pastry dough to prevent it from puffing up.
  2. Whisk 1 egg in a bowl, then brush it onto the pastry squares.  Refrigerate the dough for 15 mins (or you can put it in the freezer for a shorter period).
  3. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 425°F.  Cook the bacon over medium heat until browned, pat the bacon with a paper towel to remove oil, then slice into 1/2″ pieces.  (I used kitchen scissors to cut them)
  4. Mix the heavy cream with the dijon mustard, then add 6TB Parmesan cheese and mix.  Spread the cheese mixture over the center of each of the pastry squares and bake for about 8-10 mins until golden.  If the center has puffed up, then prick with a fork to deflate.
  5. Crack and place an egg into the center of each tart and sprinkle with some salt, then scatter the bacon, tomatoes, green onions onto the egg, and scatter remaining 2 TB Parmesan cheese on top (I omitted the sprinkling of cheese)
  6. Bake for about 5-7 mins until the egg whites are firm and cooked.

Serve and enjoy!  Makes 4 tarts.

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Breakfast of the champs! My 3 kiddos enjoyed it, despite some picking off green onions and others, the tomatoes. 🙂

Thank you for reading and please subscribe!

-Flora

For Birthdays September Is…

September is the most exciting, busy, and tiring month of the year.  It beats even the holiday frenzy of Thanksgiving and Christmas in our family with the number of birthdays we have along with all the back-to-school shenanigans.  My birthday is also guilty of being in September along with my now, 7 yrs old son, who we just finished throwing a themed party for last weekend.  My son has always had something he was obsessed with since he was a baby, starting with airplanes, dinosaurs, etc, and now we’re at Star Wars, so you can probably guess the theme of his party.  I always start off saying I’m going to make the party as simple as possible, then I start adding things here and there until I find myself staring at the ceiling with about a gazillion things running through my head at 3am and wondering what I got myself into.  We ended up having his party at our local park with about 2 dozen 1st grade boys after inviting school friends, church friends, and his soccer team.  Let’s just say I’m glad that this park is usually empty so we had the place mostly to ourselves and so relieved that there were no injuries aside from a rope burn.

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So I am kicking myself in the butt for not taking more pictures at the party, but I was more concerned at that time in making sure I didn’t lose anybody’s kid and that they were safe than try to document the setup/party.  Just imagine I posted pretty pictures of the “Yoda Soda” made from green Gatorade powder in a large, glass, drink dispenser and a beautiful spread (who am I kidding? ha ha) of a huge bowl of our own hodgepodge trail mix ranging from a “seasonal” Star Wars Lucky Charms type cereal, Star Wars Honey Maid grahams, M&M’s, pretzel sticks, Chex cereal, to Rocket Ship Crackers (Trader Joe’s).

In preparation for the party, I wanted to make those lightsabers from pool noodles, but after some research, I was disappointed that the pool noodles were actually quite expensive.  But I found a pinterest image of one made from pipe insulation and duct tape to make the lightsabers which I thought was perfect; especially the price.  I got the 6 ft. insulation at OSH for $1.29 (Home Depot was cheaper but further from me) and I was able to cut them into 3 pieces.  I got red, blue, green, and gray duct tape to cover the pipe insulation and later added thin black duct tape to add a finishing touch to the handles.

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This is also an after-the-party picture (if you can’t tell by the slight warp to the lightsaber).  It was pretty crazy when I handed out the lightsabers to the boys to play with… had to take them back after 2 kids started crying because someone hit them on the head and they didn’t like it… so hand them out at the END of the party.  -__-

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I used my go-to Soft Sugar Cookie recipe to make the cookies and got the Star Wars stencils from this Etsy shop.  I used store-bought black cookie icing (the kind that hardens, aka. royal icing) to “scrape” the Star Wars stencil designs onto the cookies.  See the step-by-step pictures below.  You could do that really with any stencils.  I did have to wipe down the stencils carefully after each cookie so the edges and lines would stay neat and not get smeared from leftover icing.  Sort of a tedious task, so I used buttercream to frost some of the cookies 🙂

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Obviously, I made a huge black mess on my first try with the icing and stencils , but the key is to make sure the stencil doesn’t move and scrape carefully so that the icing doesn’t seep through the cracks and “muddy” the lines and edges.

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Since the party was at the park, I didn’t want to cut a cake there and in order to “simplify”, I did cupcakes with these Star Wars cupcake rings to top them off.  Silver cupcake liners and silver sprinkles for the R2D2 rings, gold liners and gold sprinkles for the C3PO rings, and silver liners with Chocolate sprinkles for the Darth Vader rings.  I didn’t get a chance to get close-up pictures of the actual cupcakes from the party on the Star wars Cupcake stand, but I had leftovers with one C3PO ring on it, so I was able to take those pictures at home.  See below for the recipes I used for the cupcakes.  The yellow cake recipe is by far my favorite vanilla cake recipe and it’s the moistest homemade butter cake you will every try!  I have “The Well Decorated Cake” book by Toba Garrett and her recipes are fantastic.  I usually use her French Vanilla Frosting recipe which tastes like Vanilla ice cream, but I tried this other buttercream this time.

Yellow Cake Recipe (I made cupcakes instead and reduced baking time to 20 mins)

Special Buttercream Frosting (I replaced half of the shortening w/ unsalted butter)

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So imagine all of those cupcakes had a cupcake ring on it 🙂

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My favorite purchase from putting together this party were these $1 cupcake carriers!!!  Yes, you heard me, $1 from the Dollar Tree!  They fit 9 cupcakes, and the lid is high enough not to squash the frosting if I had decided to go crazy on the frosting or decoration.  We were able to stack them to carry, and they even have handles (although I wouldn’t recommend carrying them by the handles since they are just a dollar and I wouldn’t want the bottom to fall off and the cupcakes…)

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We ended the party with the Darth Vader Pinata which was actually a pull-string pinata but my son wanted to whack it so I just cut the strings off and called it good.  Note to self: forego a pinata with 7 yr old boys… they stampede and trample…  Good thing my little 3 yr old (pictured above taking a whack at the pinata) was used to having a rambunctious 7 yr old brother and was fine when they all swarmed around for candy.

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If you’re contemplating putting together an all boys birthday party of 6-7 yr olds… may the force be with you.  🙂  My son loved it and I think they had fun; that’s what counts for me, but would I do it again?  Ask me next year.

Thanks for reading~

-Flora

Fudge-y Chocolate-y Cherry Brownies for your Soul

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It’s official.  I’m a soccer mom.  We even picked up a minivan this summer despite my husband wailing and kicking against the inevitable “suburban mom car” he knew was upon us.  Now our next 10 Saturdays are scheduled with cheering for our 1st grader and Kindergartener and watching them swarm across the field back and forth running after the ball that miraculously makes its way into a goal post once in a while.  Did I mention my husband is coaching my son’s 1st grade team?  He’s an avid sports fan and loves basketball, football, and baseball, but soccer…  Let’s just say he’ll be learning as he goes.  Who knows, he just may add soccer to his list of favorite sports soon.

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I have a huge sweet tooth, but then, I don’t like sweets too sweet.  Does that make sense?  I like desserts, but I like to cut back on the sugar when I’m baking and like light Asian bakery cakes better than the creamed butter frosting covered cakes (although I eat those too).  So whenever I bake, I cut out some of the sugar that the recipe calls for and I usually don’t run into any issues with the final product.  This Chocolate Cherry Brownies I made from the recipe book “Chicken and Egg” was so fudge-y and delicious with the tart cherries adding the perfect compliment to the rich, chocolate-y brownies studded with chocolate chips!  It made one big 9×13 pan of brownies and I had to give some away after I started to feel my waistline disappear…  Even after cutting out some of the sugar, it was still rich because of the chocolate chips embedded in the brownies; a good thing too, otherwise, I might have finished the entire pan of brownies.  It really hit the spot though when I was craving those decadent chocolate treats that my body craves (not me, my body) every once in a while.  😉  The recipe calls for a chocolate frosting to cover the brownies with, but I thought that was a bit overkill… maybe I’ll try frosting it next time I’m really in the mood for death by chocolate.

Chocolate Cherry Fudge-y brownies

(adapted from “chicken and egg”)
ingredients
  • 1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks), cut
  • 4 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped (60% cacao) (I used Trader Joe’s dark choc.)
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I used Trader Joe’s)
  • 1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 4 eggs, room temp (place cold eggs in warm water)
  • 1 cup granulated sugar (I used 3/4 cup)
  • 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar (I used about 1/2)
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 12 oz semisweet choc chips
  • 1 cup dried tart cherries (I used Trader Joe’s)
directions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F and coat a 13″ x 9″ glass pan with nonstick spray.  Melt the butter and bittersweet chocolate in a glass bowl in the microwave at 50% power in 30 sec increments until warm and melted.  Whisk smooth then set aside to cool.
  2. Whisk the cocoa, flour, baking powder, and salt together in a medium bowl.  In large bowl, beat the eggs then add the sugar, brown sugar, and vanilla and beat until smooth.  Add the chocolate mixture and mix then on low speed, add the flour mixture. Add the chocolate chips and cherries then pour into prepared pan.
  3. Bake for 25-30 minutes until the brownies are set and a toothpick inserted comes out clean. (if you can find a spot to test that doesn’t have melted chocolate)  Let it cool in the pan on a wire rack.
  4. Cut and enjoy~

*Optional Frosting

  • 12 oz semisweet chocolate chips
  • 4 TB unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream

-Combine ingredients in a microwave safe bowl and melt at 50% power for 30 sec intervals until it is melted and smooth.  Spread over the brownies before you cut.

I didn’t use the frosting and it was already very rich with all the chocolate chips mixed into the brownie batter.

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The tart dried cherries I used from Trader Joe’s. Not sure if they’re seasonal, but I got them this Aug.

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Back to School with Tangmyun SukiYaki

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Today was the kiddos’ first day back to school as a 1st grader and a brand spankin’ new Kindergartener and my first day having to make 3 trips to the same school in one day with pickups and dropoffs.    I’m hoping and praying that my kids will both be an early bird or late bird because I would NOT want to increase my trip to school to 4.  Not to mention, my youngest little will be starting preschool next week and that’s another school drop-off and pick-up to add to the list.  I think I should change my job title to: Chauffeur.  Despite the multiple trips, I did love being able to see their faces light up when they spotted me during pickup today and being able to ask them about their day, what they did, their friends, and hear about how exciting it was for my son to eat lunch in the multi-use room for the first time and hear my daughter talk about how all the boys in her class are silly except for two.  These really are all precious little moments… of them walking to school together with A holding my youngest C’s hand while B is charging ahead of them, C whining that she is tired and asking to be held, all 3 of them squealing and talking in their beds as I type this, when they should be sleeping…  One day, I will miss all of these little moments that, presently, make up my chaotic life now.

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Being the first day of school and all, I thought about taking the children out for some Loard’s Ice Cream after the last pickup, but my youngest fell asleep during the short trip to school… So that called for a party in the WOK tonight!

Growing up, this sukiyaki recipe is similar to what my mom would make and is probably a Korean-ized version of the traditional Japanese sukiyaki.  I used regular cabbage instead of napa cabbage and also used Korean Tangmyun (Vermicelli), which is what my mom always used.  And we don’t have Sake lying around the house… the mirin is the closest thing you’ll get.

It was a little warm today, so I cranked up the A/C while we were eating dinner, so we wouldn’t be sweating while eating this “hot pot”.  I sent a picture of dinner to the hubby and he immediately left the office to get some before he had to go to a meeting.  I know when I make this, that hubby will run home.  muhaha.  My children all love this dish as well and asked for more “soup”, although this is not really a soup… and with all the seasoning coming from soy sauce, i did’t want them downing it like soup.

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I used Shabu Shabu meat (super thin sliced beef)

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About 1/2 lb, defrosted.

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Soak dried Shitake mushrooms in hot water while you prep.  Squeeze excess water then slice. remove and discard stems.  Use only the “umbrella” of the mushroom.

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Prep your veggies. My favorite Trader Joe’s Shredded Carrots has made yet another appearance on my blog

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Heat slightly greased wok on med high heat. Brown meat quickly and transfer to plate. Don’t overcook

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Add 8 cups of broth/stock (I used a mixture of 2 cups beef broth and 6 cups chicken stock), soy sauce, sugar, mirin, and garlic and bring to a boil. Start with 1/3 cup soy sauce and add more as needed. Skim the foam off the surface

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Once the soup is boiling, add the cabbage and the tangmyun and let it boil.

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Next, add the mushrooms, onions, red bell peppers, and carrots and bring to a boil

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I slice my green onions after all the veggies are in the wok.

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Add your meat back into the wok and sprinkle the green onions on top.  Serve hot. 🙂

Sukiyaki w/ tangmyun recipe

Ingredients
  • 1/2 lb shabu shabu or sukiyaki beef
  • 8 cups mixture of Beef Broth and Chicken Stock (2 beef, 6 chicken)
  • 3 cubes Trader Joe’s frozen crushed garlic (or 3 cloves garlic, minced)
  • 1/3-1/2 cup Low-Sodium Kikkoman Soy Sauce
  • 1/3 cup very lightly packed brown sugar
  • 2-3 TB Mirin
  • 1/4 head of cabbage, sliced
  • big handful of tangmyun (about full spaghetti pack)
  • 6-10 (depends on size) dried Shitake mushrooms, soaked and sliced
  • 1 red bell pepper, sliced
  • 1/2 onion, sliced
  • 2 fistfuls of Trader Joe’s Shredded Carrots
  • 1 bunch spinach
  • 3 green onions, chopped
Directions
  1. Soak the dried Shitake mushrooms in hot water while you prep your veggies, then squeeze the mushrooms of water, remove and discard the stems, and slice the “umbrella’ portion of the mushrooms.
  2. Heat a lightly greased (Pam spray is perfect) wok over medium high heat and brown the meat and transfer to a plate.  Don’t overcook the meat.
  3. In the same wok, bring 8 cups of beef and chicken broth/stock to a boil and add the garlic, soy sauce, brown sugar, and mirin.  Taste the broth and adjust as needed.  Start off adding 1/3 cup of soy sauce then add more to taste.  Same for the sugar and mirin.  Skim off any foam on the surface of the soup.
  4. When the broth is really boiling, add the cabbage and tangmyun noodles.  Then after that boils for a minute, add the rest of the veggies except the green onions.  Bring to a boil.
  5. Add the meat and the green onions and bring to a boil and you’re done!

*note: the Tangmyun noodles like to soak up liquid, so only add the amount that will be eaten.  You can also boil the noodles separately in water and add as you eat.  The noodles are less flavorful using this method since it takes away the time the noodles sit in the broth to soak up the flavor.

This Sukiyaki recipe is perfect to tuck away for the cooler weather that will be upon us as quickly as this summer has escaped us.  You’re welcome to crank up the A/C like us and make it during the last heat spell of summer too!

Thank you for reading and please subscribe~ My posts should be more regular with school back in session.

Bottle Cap Necklaces and Keychains DIY

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This summer has gone by way too fast!  I can’t believe it’s already mid-August and school is just around the corner!  I’ve been swamped the last couple months with a work, trips, family, and wedding planning (not mine; been there, done that).  We welcomed summer with a trip to Yosemite with my father-in-law during his annual trip to the US from Hong Kong.  After a week of Bible Camp we made the 14 hrs drive to WA to visit my family for 2 weeks and got to experience their unusual heat spell in a A/C-less apt.  As soon as we got back, I got to help plan a wedding!  How many of you can say you helped plan your mother-in-law’s wedding? I sure can!  Now there’s only 2 weeks left before school starts and I’m prepping for one last trip to Southern California before we get back into the grind of pickups, dropoffs, ballet, soccer, etc…

While getting a few things ready for school, I made some keychains for the kiddos’ backpacks with some of their favorite characters.  I had all the materials leftover from a birthday party many moons ago. My daughter had a birthday back in March and asked for a gymnastics party after she had a blast attending a friend’s birthday party at the same venue.  She also wanted the birthday theme to be Strawberry Shortcake so I decided to make bottlecap necklaces and keychains for party favors.  I looked around online and found the following method to be the most simple and cute for making these bottlecap necklaces/chains.

Materials:

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Gather your materials

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Carefully stick your 1″ circular image onto the 1″ epoxy sticker. Flatten back to make sure there are no bubbles

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Squeeze some E6000 adhesive to inside of bottlecaps and center your epoxy image onto the center.  Make sure to work in a well ventilated area and away from children.

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Lay out to dry overnight. Then punch a hole on the top of the bottlecap edge and insert split ring.  Then place on a necklace or keychain of your choice.

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For the party favor, I wrapped a Strawberry Shortcake coloring book in brown wrapping paper, then placed the necklace, crayons and a Strawberry Shortcake tattoo in a pink polka dot baggy (Target). 

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Finished off with green laundry rope from the Dollartree for a cute Strawberry Shortcake-esque look.

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My daughter had a blast at her party with her dear friends and everyone got cute little cupcakes to take home too!  You can never have too much cake!

Korean Food: Bulgogi Bibimbap Recipe!

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Happy Father’s Day (yesterday) to all the wonderful dads, granddads, uncles, and all the male figures out there who are a role model/father figure to our little ones (and sometimes not so little ones…).  I am lucky to have an awesome partner to help me raise our three little ones in this parenting experiment we have undertaken that we, hopefully, don’t mess up.

We had a wonderful weekend filled with fun activities ranging from adult softball to swimming to a birthday party before our relaxing Father’s Day Sunday at home.  I had grand plans for Father’s Day… but well… it didn’t pan out.  I found myself standing in line at Safeway on Saturday night with some nectarines and whipped cream to make crepes for Sunday morning breakfast when I saw a college student in line before me with the Sports Illustrated Warriors Champs edition.  I asked him how much the magazine was, then I thought I should grab one as a last minute gift for my Warriors fan hubby.  He loved it!  And the crepes got raving reviews from the hubby and all three of the kids, so that was a score!  It was such a simple crepe, too!  Just used the basic crepes recipe that I always use, spread raspberry jam onto half of the crepe, then added sliced nectarines (peaches would be great too) and whipped cream.  So good!  You can never go wrong with peaches and cream.

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Ken hubby married a Korean woman, me, so we eat a lot of Korean food, and luckily, he loves Korean food! (most of it anyway… I can’t get him to eat rice cakes though)  So dinner tonight was bibimbap.  It’s basically lots of different seasoned vegetables (some pickled, others boiled or stir-fried) with some teriyaki-style marinated beef all mixed with rice; I like to add red pepper paste to mine. It’s gotta be one of the healthiest dishes out there, and it’s Soooooo good!  My mother-in-law joined us for dinner and this is her favorite dish.  She always orders the stone bowl bibimbap whenever we go to Korean restaurants, which is the same thing, they just put the rice in a hot stone bowl so the rice touching the bowl becomes nice and crunchy.

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I put together a recipe and measured the ingredients while making this today so I would be able to share it.  I eyeballed some of the ingredients but you can always adjust the seasonings to your own taste.  I tend to make my ingredients slightly more salty then I would normally season them because you’ll be mixing it with the rice, which is not seasoned.

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Bulbogi Bibimbap

serves about 5-6

Ingredients
  • 2 large cucumbers, thinly sliced
  • 1 daikon radish, julienned (about 4 cups)
  • 2-3 bunches spinach (not baby)
  • 1 bag soybean sprouts (different from mung bean sprouts)
  • 3 carrots, peeled and julienned
  • 4-5 Mexican squash, cut in half vertically, then sliced
  • 1 lb bulgogi beef (thinly sliced beef)
  • salt, pepper, oil, vinegar, sugar, brown sugar
  • sesame oil, sesame seeds,
  • soy sauce, brown sugar, crushed garlic
  • cooked calrose rice (sushi rice, not long grain) (4 cups uncooked)
Directions
  1. Cook your rice in your rice cooker and cut/prep your ingredients.
  2. At least 1 hour ahead of time, pickle the sliced cucumbers by submerging them into a large bowl with salty water (should taste like the ocean) 🙂
  3. At the same time, but in a separate bowl, pickle the julienned radish by adding 3/4 cup vinegar, 1/3 cup white sugar, 1TB salt and 1/4 cup water.  Set them both aside.
  4. Marinate the beef by massaging about a tablespoon of sesame oil into the meat with gloved hands then add 1/4 cup soy sauce, 4 TB brown sugar, and 3 crushed garlic cloves and mix.  Set aside to marinate.
  5. Bring a medium pot of water to a boil, then boil the soybean sprouts for 5 mins (becomes somewhat translucent) and drain.  Place drained sprouts into a bowl then season with salt, 1/2 tsp of sesame oil, and 1/2 tsp sesame seeds.  You can also add some crushed garlic if desired; about 1 clove. Mix with gloved hands. Sprouts are done, so set aside.
  6. Bring another pot of water to a boil and blanch the spinach.  Don’t overcook the spinach!  Just about a minute should be enough.  Drain, gently squeeze out the water and place the spinach into a bowl.  Add salt, 1/2 tsp sesame oil, and 1/2 tsp sesame seeds, (again, garlic optional) and mix.  It works best if you use food service gloves to mix by hand.
  7. Add about a tablespoon of oil onto a frying pan, heat over med high heat.  Add a clove of crushed garlic then stir fry the Mexican squash until cooked. Season with salt and pepper.
  8. Add about a tablespoon of oil onto a frying pan, heat over med. high heat.  Add a clove of crushed garlic then stir fry the julienned carrots.  Season with salt and pepper.
  9. Drain the cucumbers, gently squeeze excess water from the cucumbers, then place them into a bowl.  Add a little sesame oil (about 1/2 tsp) then mix and the cucumbers are ready. Sesame seeds optional
  10. Scoop out the radish from the vinegar and place into a bowl.  You don’t need to drain it completely of the liquid.  You can add red pepper flakes if you want a kick to it, but I didn’t add it for the kids’ sake.
  11. Heat the pan and cook the meat until ready.
  12. Serve cooked rice in large bowls then place each of the vegetables and meat on top and mix.  Add a little more sesame oil if desired and also red pepper paste if you can handle the heat. 🙂

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My kids ate really well tonight!  The girls actually asked for seconds and my boy asked for a huge bowl of food to start off with and finished it!  We love bibimbap!!!  Try making your own~

Thanks for reading and have a wonderful, fantastic, awesome week!

-Flora

DIY: Striped Red/White Knit Dress

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Now that school is out and I have all three of my sweet, wonderful, perfect children at home (always playing nicely, sharing their toys, never whining or pushing my buttons), I can’t imagine why I have no time to sew or blog.  I never realized this end of school year period would be so busy, even with a Kindergartener.  You would think it would be wind down time, but nope.  Just the opposite.  Plus, we had my father-in-law in town visiting from Hong Kong and we got to take a family trip together to Yosemite as soon as my son got out of school on Friday.  It was the perfect place to finally relax after the end of school year fiasco was over; surrounded by nature and no cell phone reception!  I don’t know about you, but I get nervous when I don’t have reception and that’s probably a sign that I am relying too much on this “smartphone” contraption and dumbing myself down… Ode to the days when we could remember all our family and friends’ phone numbers and could actually read a map.  Speaking of maps, I was the designated navigator once we got into Yosemite Park and I panicked (secretly) when I realized I couldn’t use Googlemaps and I actually had to look around at signs and terrain to figure out where we were and where to go.  Imagine my joy when I found our location on the little loops and squiggly roads drawn on the map after confirming we had actually passed the two tunnels that the map said we should be passing through! I had to give myself a pat on the back for navigating us through the park 🙂

Now this red and white knit fabric is from my past Knitfix purchase from Girl Charlee and I must admit, I had the hardest time trying to decide what to make with it.  I finally found an inspiration for this dress after I saw this “Beachcomber” dress by Shabby Apple, which unfortunately, is no longer available.  I loved the look of the dress and how the stripes on the skirt was cut on a bias to create a unique look.  Their dress has pockets, but I didn’t do the pockets because their fabric is a lot more “drapey” and soft, while my fabric is a cotton jersey knit, therefore, thicker and has more structure.  So the feel of the dress is a bit different from the loose, soft, flow of the inspiration dress, but I still like my dress.

I drafted a rough pattern for this dress using a loose top I have for the bodice of the dress then did some math (I know, crazy) to figure out how to split my waist measurement into four pieces for the skirt while adding enough room for seam allowances.  Then I measured the length of the skirt and when cutting out my skirt pieces, I cut it carefully so I could get the right look with the stripes.  When I finished piecing all the parts together, I realized it was too big, so I had to go back, cut, rip seams, and sew it again to get it just right.

I used a straight stretch stitch on my (very basic) babylock and used about a 3/8″ to 1/2″ seam throughout.  I ironed my hems when folding it and pinning to get clean, straight hemlines.

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This top works perfectly since it doesn’t have separate sleeves, which is the look I was going for.

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Trace the shirt and add seam allowances, then cut out your piece for the front and the back. I tried to make somewhat of a v-neck for the front.

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Pin and sew the sides up to the bottom of the sleeve.

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PIn and sew the shoulder and upper sleeve part with right sides together

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Divide your waist measurement by 4 then add 1/2″ seam to each side of your 4 pieces and cut. I tapered each of the skirt pieces so it gets gradually wider as it goes down.

Carefully eyeball the stripes so you get the right diagonal design for the skirt. I did horizontal lines for the middle front and middle back of the skirt. Then cut on a bias for the two side pieces of the skirt.

Carefully eyeball the stripes so you get the right diagonal design for the skirt. I did horizontal lines for the middle front and middle back of the skirt. Then cut on a bias for the two side pieces of the skirt.

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Pin and sew all four pieces of the skirt together with a 1/2″ seam with right sides together.

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The skirt portion should look something like this.

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With the top wrong side out and the skirt right side out, tuck the skirt (bottom hem first) into the top then pin and sew. It helps to make center and side marks on the bottom hem of the top and the top hem of the skirt to match you evenly when you pin.

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Double fold the neckline then sew. I cut my neckline too wide and it could almost be off-shoulder… I was trying to go for the wide boatneck look with a slight V. Oh well.

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Hem your sleeves to desired length. I only single folded the hem for the sleeves.

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Double fold and iron the skirt hem then pin and sew.

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Aaaaaaand you’re done!!!

Hey, this dress would be perfect for the 4th of July!  I just need to add some blue and stars and I’m the US flag!  I’m excited to add this to my small, but growing, knit dress collection.

Thanks for reading!

-Flora

P.S.  Thanks for taking the time to take pictures of me modeling the dress this morning before you left for work, Ken hubby!  Love you!

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DIY Tutorial: Girls Peplum Tankini and Bottoms

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This week, perhaps due to the Memorial Day holiday, has just flown by and I can’t recall anything particularly special about it (aside from remembering our Soldiers and Veterans), what with it being jumbled together with the repetitious motions of LIFE and having a husband MIA for most of it due to a business trip.  Oh yes, there was a “memorable” incident that will be, I only hypothesize, the first of many more to come, and I chuckle now, but I do dread the days when drama will set up house in my home.  Of course my house is filled with drama now, but this is drama of a different sort of which I speak.  My 6 year old decided he would run away and handed me a note which stated he no longer loved me and that he would leave and never return because I didn’t take him to Burger King after school.  And the punchline is this: there was a girl from his class he wanted to go with.  He would abandon mom for a girl!  Too soon!  Okay, maybe he just really wanted to eat a burger, but I admit I chuckled to think my son had so easily pushed aside me, his mom, for a girl and a burger.  Then it dawned on me that this was a foreshadowing of events to come.  He is my little momma’s boy now but I will have to move aside sooner of later… and so goes life.  It definitely is a reminder to cherish this time of innocence and sweetness of my children before they all grow up and decide mom’s no longer cool.  ha.

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Now on to the swimsuit.  Does this apple fabric look familiar to you?  If you’ve browsed through my “DIY Tutorial” page, you might have seen this same fabric for another swimsuit I made several years ago for my now 5 yr old.  It has recently been retired due to major wedgie issues so I wanted to try another swimsuit project for my C because it’s been in the 50’s/60’s here and that’s perfect weather for swimming in a “supposedly” heated pool!  (sarcasm)  Finally, today was the first day in weeks where I was able to take off my sweater and sit outside in the sun without freezing my butt off, so what better way to welcome the return of our sun than to make a swimsuit!  I tried to find cute swim fabric at Joann, but was disappointed with how unappealing and boring all their active fabrics were and ended up getting some solid pink active fabric; because you can never go wrong with pink with my girls.  I racked my brain and scoured the internet for some ideas for a solid colored swimsuit and was left unimpressed and uninspired.  As luck would have it, I found the remnants of this apple swim fabric left over from my previous swimsuit venture and after some careful measuring, was able to use almost every inch of that scrap of fabric to make this cute swimsuit for my little C.  The peplum idea came out of necessity because I wouldn’t have been able to cut one continuous piece for a tank with the scrap fabric, but cutting separate pieces for the peplum worked beautifully.

To make your girl’s swimsuit, you will need some swim (knit) fabric that has a a good amount of stretch in all directions.  I probably made this swimsuit (3T) with about a quarter of a yard of fabric remnants, but I really had to cut and measure carefully.  I didn’t use any elastic because the fabric has great stretch and fits her nice and snug and I used bias tape for binding the upper edges of the tank which extends into a ribbon to tie behind the neck.

Materials:

  • about 1/2 yard of swim fabric (depends on the size of your child)
  • bias tape
  • coordinating thread

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Please excuse C’s cute elephant undies, but this is what I used to make my pattern for the swim bottoms.  Add seam allowance and trace around the undies, then cut out the pattern and fold it in half, vertically.  Trim so both halves are identical; that way you have an even piece that’s not lopsided. This is the back piece for the swim bottom.

∗Pick a pair of undies that fit nice and not too loose, then you won’t have to add elastic to the leg opening and waist and your life will be a lot easier.

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Trace your back bottom piece onto a new piece of freezer paper, then using the undies as a guide, draw a curve (like above) for the front bottom piece on one side of the leg opening.

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Cut out the pattern piece, fold it in half vertically, then trace and cut the same curve on the other side of the leg opening to complete your front bottom pattern piece.

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Now, please excuse C’s little undershirt.  Use a tank top that fits nicely, not too tight and not too loose, fold it in half and trace, adding seam allowance.  I traced right at the edge of the tank top and didn’t add extra seam allowance because this undershirt is a bit loose on C and I don’t want the tankini to be too loose.

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So you should now have pattern pieces that look like this.  I used the same top pattern piece for both the front and the back and later ended up slashing the tank pattern piece across the waist to make a peplum.

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Draw a straight, horizontal line across the top of the tank perpendicular to the armpit point of the tank, as shown above.  That will be your pattern piece for the back of the tankini.  Then figure out where the waist is on your tank piece and draw another horizontal line across so you have a tankini bodice and the lowest third of the pattern piece will be the peplum.  Make sure to cut your upper bodice piece at the waistline (2nd line) that you drew.  Your peplum skirt piece should be 1.5x the width of your entire bodice width and cut 2.

* just fold down the pattern piece at the lines when cutting out your back and Peplum pieces.

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You should have a front bodice, back bodice, 2 peplum skirts, a front bottom, and a back bottom piece.  Make a center mark on the bottom hem of your front and back bodice pieces and for the upper hem of your peplum skirts.

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Take your peplum skirt and run a gather stitch (zero tension, longest stich 4) and pull the thread to make even gathers.  Repeat for the other skirt piece.

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With right sides together, pin one skirt piece to the front bodice piece, evenly distributing the gathers and matching the center marks.  Repeat with the 2nd peplum skirt and the back bodice piece.

∗I used a zigzag stretch stitch and straight stretch stitch to allow the fabric to stretch throughout this project.

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Sew the skirt and the bodice pieces together and you can already see it coming together nicely!

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With right sides together, pin the sides of the front and back tankini pieces and stitch.  Hem the peplum skirt piece if desired.  I was indecisive but ended up hemming mine.

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Pin bias tape to the raw edges of the back and underarms area but leave the neckline.  Sew it together.

∗Upon completing the swimsuit, I would have the neck-tie extend from this strip of bias tape rather than the neckline binding, so the tie will naturally extend to the back of the neck.

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Pin a long piece of bias tape to the neckline that extends beyond the neckline of the tank to create the tie.

∗In hindsight, I would have the tie extend from the back and underarm (in the previous step) bias tape instead, so the tie is not warped when tied behind the neck.

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Pin the bottom pieces with right sides together then sew the sides and the bottom of the pieces together.

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Fold over about 1/4-1/2 inch of the the leg openings and stitch.  (If your leg openings are loose around your child’s thighs, then you will have to make a casing and add elastic)

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Fold over 1/2″ of the waist hem, pin, and stitch in place.  (Again, if the waist is too loose on your child, then you will have to make a casing and add elastic) That’s why we used undies that fit nicely so we can make use of the stretch already in the fabric to keep the bottoms from falling off and having to add elastic (which can be a pain).

And it’s done!  It was really a quick afternoon project with no elastic, buttons, clasps, etc.  Super simple and super cute!  I love the way it turned out and now big sis wants a swimsuit like this too!  Too bad I’m out of this adorable apple fabric.

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Thanks for reading! Have an awesome weekend!!!  Maybe it’ll be warm enough to go swimming! (One can hope)

-Flora

DIY Tutorial: Girl’s Tunic Dress

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I have a growing problem: I like to hoard pretty fabric.  The clothes that I used to toss into the “donate” bag are being stored in every nook and cranny of our home if there’s even an inch of fabric to be salvaged; all because I will “someday” make use of the fabric to upcycle the garment and give it new life.  I think the TLC show “Buried Alive” may soon come knocking at my door if I don’t start whipping out some projects from this stash.  So I decided to use hubby’s old, nice, striped dress shirt with some floral fabric from my other stash to make a tunic dress for my little A.  My little princess loves dresses and every day is a battle to get her to wear pants with the much cooler weather that has been blowing into the bay area as of late.  I am usually successful in threatening convincing her to wear pants or leggings under her dress but my victory only lasts a couple hours when she takes them off at preschool.  I hope to whip out many more dresses and skirts for my girls so I can reduce the ever-growing pile of “fabric” in our already cramped home.

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Here’s hubby’s shirt that he doesn’t wear anymore because it wrinkles too easily? Sure~ I’ll take it!

I originally used a tunic block pattern from the book: “Pattern Making for Kids’ Clothes” but ended up using one of A’s play dresses to make adjustments after cutting the fabric because it would have been much too big for my A.  The book does a great job in explaining the purpose of a block and sloper (which I had never heard of before… linguistics major here) as well as how to use these basics to create an entirely unique design.  This book was also a loan from my library and it really makes me feel like I’ve hit the jackpot when I can gain access to these awesome pattern books without having to buy the book myself!  I love shared reading. 🙂

To make your own pattern from an existing dress, just fold the dress in half, lengthwise, trace, and add seam allowance.  I ended up doing basically that since the tunic block needed to be adjusted due to it being too big.

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Tunic dresses like these are my favorite to make and to put on my little girls. I love pockets on dresses too and my A totally agrees.

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Trace the tunic block and make adjustments to make a tunic dress.

I printed the tunic block following the link given in the book, pieced it together, traced it onto freezer paper, then made my adjustments.  This tunic block is the 5-6yrs size and it was much, much too big for my 5 yr old.  I wanted to make a tunic dress so I lengthened the skirt, slashed through the armpit of the pattern to make a separate bodice, and added 1.5″ to the skirt width to make gathers (since it’s on a fold, you would be adding 3″ of fabric for gathers).

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After all the adjustments for the front of the tunic dress.

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Trace the back tunic block and make adjustments, keeping in mind the foldovers for button plackets

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I did basically the same thing for the back of the tunic: lengthened the skirt, slashed horizontally through arm curve, added 1.5″ width to make the skirt gathers.  But this time, I adjusted the back bodice portion so I have enough fabric to fold under twice and overlap for buttons and button holes.

Add 1.5″ from the first line for one side of the back bodice, then add another 1″ from the middle line you just drew for the other side of the back bodice. Make sure you cut mirror images of the bodice pieces, one should have a longer “flap”.

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These are my pieces all ready to go.

I ended up having to adjust and cut a narrower shoulder width for the bodices later…  Also, eyeballed and cut out a pocket pattern and used the sleeve from the tunic block, just shortened it since it came as a long sleeve.

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Iron 1/2″ then 1″ for both sides of back bodice.

Add a strip of interfacing to the buttons/buttonhole plackets and then iron a 1/2″ then 1″ to the main bodice line for bodice with the shorter flap.  Do the same thing for the other bodice: you fold over 1/2″ then 1″ and iron.

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line it up to overlap an inch. Should match your front bodice piece.

You should have a 1″ overlap of the back bodice like in the picture above so you can have your buttons on the bottom placket and buttonholes on the top placket.

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pin and sew across shoulders

With right sides of fabric facing, sew the shoulder seams.  See how wide the shoulders are?  I cut it down to size using a nice fitting dress as reference after I had already sewed the shoulders together.  Zigzag stitch raw edges.

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Pin the two back bodice pieces together or you can baste it together, if you prefer.

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Gather stitch

Stitch straight across the top of the skirt piece for both the front and back skirt pieces using a long stitch length (4) and “0” tension.

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Pull threads to gather

Pull the thread on the ends to make gathers and evenly distribute them to fit the width of the bottom of bodice.

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attach skirt to bodice front and back. Skirts are still two separate pieces.

Pin the two skirt pieces separately onto the bodice front and the bodice back with rights sides facing.  Then stitch in place.  Zigzag stitch raw edges.

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topstitch skirt seam to bodice.

Iron the seam up towards the bodice then topstitch along the edge of the bodice close to the skirt.

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attach sleeves to armholes.

Pin your sleeves onto the armhole curve and stitch in place.  Zigzag stitch raw edges.

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prepare pockets

Prepare you pockets by ironing your raw edges onto the wrong side of the pocket.  You can baste the edges if you want to.  I added elastic to the top of the pocket to create gathers and also to give it stretch when the hand goes into the pocket.  Forgot to take pictures of that step.  Basically, cut a thing strip of elastic to the width you want the pocket top to be, pin the elastic to both top ends of the pocket, pin the middle of the elastic to match the middle of the pocket top, then stretch the elastic as you sew it onto the pocket top.  Here’s an example tutorial by Indiesew.  They use it on knits, but basically the same thing I’m doing here.

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prepare pockets and attach to skirt. I did it at the end, but it may be easier while two skirts are not attached.

Find where you want to place your pockets on the front of your skirt, pin it on, and stitch in place.  Think where their hands would naturally fall.

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sew on the pockets

Backstitch a small triangle into the top corners of the pocket for added durability.

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Finish neckline

Cut out a strip of 1.75″ wide fabric and make your double fold bias tape then pin and stitch in place.

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sew sides of skirt all the way to the bottom of the sleeves. I wasn’t going to do sleeves but changed my mind later so this picture doesn’t show sleeves.

Sew the skirt sides and the lower sleeves together with right sides facing.  Zigzag stitch raw edges.

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sew on the “hem” part of skirt.

I cut out about a 2″ strip of fabric to match the width of the skirt to hem the bottom for a cleaner look.

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finish the hem

Fold and iron at the seam then iron the raw edge onto the wrong side, pin, and sew.  Hem your sleeve as well by folding in and ironing about 1/4″ of the raw edge onto the wrong side then folding in and ironing again about 1/2″, pin and sew.

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find desired button placement

Now figure out how many buttons you want and place them on the back bodice.

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mark where you want your button holes

Carefully mark where the buttonholes need to go, make you button holes, and sew on your buttons.

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Finish buttonholes and add buttons!

Finished buttons and buttonholes always leaves me with such a sense of accomplishment!  Perhaps because I was afraid to buttonholes for the looooongest time.

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Voila~ Done!

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My little girl wanted to wear it to school the next day and I couldn’t say no when she was so willing to wear her denim leggings under them and put on her cardigan.  Good thing I took pictures of her in the dress before school because when I picked her up, she had pink glittery paint all over her dress.  I started to worry the paint wouldn’t wash off and couldn’t get my mind off of the paint the entire drive home.  Needless to say, I hand-washed the dress right when we got home and the paint did come off with a bit of scrubbing.  Don’t worry, I won’t freak out next time.  It’s just the day after I finished it, so I was a bit sensitive (and sleep-deprived).  🙂

Go ransack your hubby, brother, whoever’s closet and there’s bound to be shirts they don’t wear that have perfectly good fabric for making children’s clothes.

Until next time… Have a great week and thanks for reading!

-Flora