2013 in review

2013 ends today. It wasn’t a particularly easy year but it turned out to have a positive balance. I must keep the truth of things and say that there were many bad things, things that made me question, doubt, despair and look at the stars for hours looking for answers or just a bit of silence to listen and to feel myself. It was a year of difficult decisions, sleepless nights, lots of pros and cons analyses… for everything. 2013 was kind of a long battle that left me exhausted but happy to have succeeded in overcoming it. Winners? I do not know if there are any.

But it was a year with many good things, was a year that began with a big secret and that no major mishaps brought a new life into my life that held me from the first second. And living motherhood for the third time was even more magical and much easier than might be supposed.

It was a year of challenges to overcome me, to learn me, and above all to reconnect with me. 2013 brought me back the ability to talk hard things without shame or fear and re-taught me how important old friends are. And that has made all the difference. It’s easy to forget that I am not an island …

It was also a year of new friendships that I hope to keep for many years .

I hope 2014 is a good year, a productive year and if its not asking too much I wish 2014 to be a prosperous year. And what I wish for myself i wish for you! Happy 2014 !

Tagged

Minnie Birthday Cake

Friday was Teresa’s birthday. Having to birthdays in the same week in almost insane and I’m still officially with a “hangover” of both stress and all the stuff I had to do and organize. But she had a happy day and was happy and it is always good to have my home full of friends and family.

Last year I made one cake for the two girls but this year each one wanted a different theme. Teresa is on mickey and minnie mouse stage so I made her a red minnie mouse cake. And as my family was all gathered here, Mafalda was entitled to a second birthday cake with the Monster High theme!

Now I’ll be back to my normal routines but we will be partying until almost the end of January! Most of my family birthdays are in September, November and December!

Now I’ll just rest here a little longer and maybe eat one more slice of cake. will you make me company?

Monster High Birthday Cake

There is no party without cake and here is generally the cake that sets the party theme. As expected, Mafalda wanted a Monster High birthday cake. My biggest concern was not to let the cake too “gothic”, after all it’s just her 6th birthday and I black cake is not my style in this context. Nor am I an adept of coffin-shaped cakes or tombstones with the name of the children written… Call me what you want!

I also wanted it to have a doll included, so I could offer the cake as a birthday present. And so this is what Mafaldas 6th anniversary birthday cake looked like:

Do you want a slice of my coconut cake with mango curd?

Waldorf Doll #3

The first Mary doll was born in May. It took me just a few days till I have a wig and a face, legs and arms. But it took a long time till I got her dressed, first because I wanted to make a poncho and then because I wanted to make some pants and finally made the shoes!

Dressed and with the right haircut my first Maria doll is finally ready!

I really like the way she looks. Anyway I’ve always wanted a doll like this. Waiting 33 years to see it coming out of my hands was well worth it. Despite being happy with the result, the doll pattern needs some changes, first in size and second in the shape of the feet. But for that other dolls will be born.

And the next one will be much smaller, not only to match the head, but also to have children friendlu size. You see, this doll is almost the same size of a 3 months baby!

Now she just needs a name. Have any ideas? Share them in the comment box!

Waldorf doll #2

When I decided to make the first Waldorf doll (you can read more here) I already knew it had the potential to become an addiction. Of course being as I am, I challenged myself to create my own doll, with my own pattern. It seems easy to do, after all one head, one body, two arms and two legs should not be so hard to do right?

Maybe. But I have a problem with the scales. Always had and always will have. When I was little there was this dog that in my memory was as big as a German Shepherd and was a disappointment to me that after all the dog was no bigger than a small poddle! And if I have to give directions to someone and draw maps, chances are you need a whole A3 sheet, because I start to make roads and roundabouts and easily have no space left to draw the destination, and it’s even worse if I have to draw a house plan, forget it! is the total disaster !

This is all to say that the first head I did for the first doll seemed very small. In my mind distorted bt my scale problem, this head would require a smaller body than the one I had imagined. So I did a second bigger head, and then a body to match, and I ended up with the doll I have written about before. But then I ended up thinking she was too big to be used by young children .

I then returned to the first head decided to finish it and give it a decent body! I started from the end, which is also typical of me, and did her wig before everything else.

Now I’m starting to draw a matching size body pattern so I can end this doll.

Planning a perfect cake

October it’s almost over. October is, for me, the one month of the year that it’s almost nonexistent. It goes by so fast that I just can’t feel it. Even my vacations seem to last more than October .

Why? Because much of this month is spent organizing Novermber birthday parties! Two birthday parties four days apart, plus family and friends. Usually it is a marathon! Last year I baked four birthday cakes in less than 7 days, plus the rest of the party food! It was hard work!

This year, because I’m home with my baby I want to take things slowly and simultaneously want to enjoy all the joys of baking, something that I usually don’t have time to do. So I’m looking for new things to bake, cake batters different than those I normally bake but still compatible with our taste and the cake design they want.

My girls are already used to having a mother who does everything, including the best birthday cakes they have ever seen. It is even without modesty! Of course there are better cakes than mine but they haven’t seen them yet! Mine, for now, are still on the top of the list !

And so I have been thinking about cakes, building the concept of each one, to make what they asked and still be able to surprise them.

So, how to bake the (almost) perfect cake? Well, the first step to a (almost) perfect cake is… Draw it!

Does it seem strange? Drawing the cake lets you get a sense of the amount of cake you’ll need. I like cakes with 3 levels, but I don’t want to end up with an infinite amount of cake, so I chose to buy smaller cake pans, so I can stack the some number of levels, but with smaller cakes.

It also gives you an idea of the materials you’ll need to buy. If you have ever entered a cake design supplies store you know how it’s hard, almost impossible, to leave the store without beeing completely broke! There are so much cute and usefull things, and a millions of possibilities … Knowling exactly what you’ll nedd will help you keep your mind focused on the essentials letting aside the accessory.

Draw a cake also helps you understand the kind of cake batter you’ll have to use. Why? Light and fluffy cake batter, like sponge cake, is not suitable for stacking. The weight of the layers would be sufficient to squash the bottom layers, plus the weight of the sugar paste! Therefore this cake batter should only be used in single layer cakes.

The cakes with several levels should be made with a more compact batter, it does not have to be a brownie! Them you just have to choose the flavor. Now here is mostly a matter of personal taste.

I’m on this demand for new delicious cake recipes and by that I’m also saying that there have been a lot of cake arround here!

In this phase of recipe testing you should have a way to drain the excess of cakes… I’m no longer pregnant so I do not have the excuse to eat cakes that many cakes! So today the lucky winners of my testing cakes were the girls teachers!

The cakes were decorated by them, to their taste. I did the finishing touches, and you know what? Decorating cakes is a good activity to do with them: they are entertained, develop fine motor skills and cordenation, they shake the dust is their creativity and we get to spend quality time together!

And waht about you? What are your tricks for baking perfect cakes ?

Party Planners

Much has been written about birthday parties and strategies for organizing stress free parties. To me it is a recurring issue for many reasons! In my parents’ house it has always been a family habit to celebrate our birthdays with our family and because our family has always been big and close, organizing parties was always a great logistics exercise!

After marrying I inherited another family, also big and close, and so birthday parties at my house are a real strategic challenge! Why? Because fitting 30 people in a space where usually are only 4 requires rethinking the space and create alternatives that are comfortable for everyone. It’s necessary to adapt and reinvent all spaces! It is still necessary to consider that cooking for 30 people is not the same as cooking for 4 to 8 or 12 people . Because it’s physically impossible to seat them all at the table together. And of course, there is the budget issue! Unfortunately I am not rich, even if I do not want it the budget is always a major concern .

And there is the interesting detail that the big girls have their birthday in the same week, so I have to make their birthday party special and unique as though they were not sharing it.

I usually start to organize the party with one month in advance. It seems too early does not it? Yeah, but it is not. The first thing to do is the Guest List to give you a ballpark numbers of people. Provalmente you’ll only have a definitive number on the party day, with the unexpected and sudden illnesses, but this is normal, especially if there are many children in your family. Anyway you know that there are always those who can not miss the party such as grandparents and uncles in the first line!

Once you have an estimate of the number of people you can start thinking in the Party Menu. This is a difficult step for me, because this is when I get to try new recipes and be a little more daring in how I cook. And here you have the biggest challenge of rationalizing: you must ensure that you have enough food for all your guests but not to much food so you don’t end up eating leftovers for two weeks. It’s hard, I know. I ‘m still perfecting this art. My problem is not so much behing afraid of not having enough food but wanting to cook a lot of things, this party is a great opportunity to express myself through cooking!

If you have family members who also enjoy cooking you must count with the food they will cook, and if you do not like cooking ask them to cook something for the party.

And how do you choose the menu? The number of guests makes all the difference. The first criterion to consider is if you can sit everyone at the table. If you can not you have to provide a meal that does not need a knife and fork to be eaten, something that is already cut into pieces and it can just be eated with a fork.

The second criterion that you must consider is the party hour. Whether it is lunch or a dinner. For me it is usual to start the party arround 4:00pm. The dinning table is set with appetizers and drinks, cheeses and pâté with toast and bread and other things. The guests will be eating and drinking as they please. Around 8:00pm (because we have a lot of kids coming) I serve the soup, then I put the main course with their side dishes on the table. Desserts usually come after dinner. Not everyone has the stomach to eat the dinner after a afternoon eating but it is critical to serve it if there are children because they play the entire time and barelly eat during the afternoon .

The third criterion is the existence of children. You may choose to have a meal aside just for them or opt to cook a more conventional sish that all children enjoy.

When you have closed the menu you can divide the tasks and see when you need to go shopping, what you need to buy, what needs to be done in advance and in how much advance. If you will order the birthday cake or savory make it with time so nothing goes wrong in the party day. If you’re going to bake the birthday cake you can devote yourself to plan how you will make it and you still have time to try new recipes !

Usually two weeks before it is time to invite everyone and formalize the invitations. This gives your guests time to organize their schedules and program their time.

If you’re organizing a birthday party for children you’ll also need this time to deal with any decor and invitations. The kids always choose a theme and we tend to follow them. Being a party for two girls, and because this year they want different theems, I have the enormous challenge of articulating the Monster High with Minnie Mouse in the same space! And with the time I have left until then I hope I’ll get this solved!

On party day You must have a minimum of things to do. Just the things that can only be done on that day. This way you can enjoy your party and your guests without stress!

Hopefully my method will help you parties lighter and fun! And to help you further I offer you a .PDF file with my planners ! I’m offering a Party Menu planner, two formats of shopping lists, guest list and the party planner!

Party Planners

Share your strategies to make the perfect birthay party in my comment box!

Singer Knitting Machine

I have it for five years now. I bought it in one of those times when all my stars were aligned and the universe seems to be on my side. I found someone who wanted to sell me exactly what I wanted to buy: a knitting machine!

At the time Mafalda was almost a year old and I was hungry to learn everything I could create with my mind and make with my hands, and full of determination to try new things .

It was a bit like buying a car without knowing how to drive, and still feels like that! But I have to be honest and say that knitting is sometimes a bit boring to me, as I find it takes a lot of time until something gets done, and always requires so much attention! So I ended up getting obcessed with the idea of the knitting machine!

Especially because one of my childhood memories is precisely to see a cousin of my mother using a knitting machine and dis she knit fast! But this was back in the golden days of Singer, when buying a machine was also buying the classes to learn how to use it. Now Singer is dead in Europe and so those days are over .

5 years ago I tried to work on the machine , and even I have read all the instructions, and followed every step as stated, I never got more than a big tangle of wool on the needles. Of course having a small child did not help the process! And then there was almost no information on the internet to help me work with the machine. It was in 2008 and it is fantastic how much things have changed. Today there are hundreds of videos on youtube!

Moral of the story: the machine ended up back inside the boxes and set aside until a future filled with more free time.

But then THIS happened and I just knew that it was time to bring my machine back to the light! And I was lucky because Filipa is a sweetheart and offered to help me understand the mechanics of it and give me some tips to get started.

So by now i already now how to start and stop my “car” but I still have a lot more to learn! Especially because the machine has lots of supplements and accessories for special stitches that will make beautiful things!

Now that my knitting machine is finally operational do not be surprised if you get a scarf in Christmas!

Fabric Applique

Today I want to share with you a simple, fast and easy way to turn a simple thing into a lot more! Have I mentioned that is simple? And easy? And fast?

So here it is:

Grab a simple piece of cloth, like a plain t-shirt in any color you want. You can also use long-sleeved sweaters, jackets, jeans, skirts … Anything you want.
Choose any motif you want and the size.
Applique the motif in your garment.
It is as easy and fast as this, and the best is that you cease to have a simple piece of clothing to have one of the favorite pieces of clothing of your children. You can see Teresa proudly wearing her cake T-shirt, as she calls it. This T-shirt is now one of her favorites and is certainly one of the cheapest!

These applique are very useful and I have been making them since I started sewing. It’s great because you can buy plain sweaters cheaper than the printed ones and decorate them with any design that your kids choose .

Applique is also a exelente way to hide those stains that will no longer disapear or mending clothes .

Of course you can also use this method to make applique in your own clothes, just choose the fabrics and the motif that works for you.

Well… but this is done with a XPTO sewing machine and I have a XPTO_less_100 sewing machine that its no good for this. Nope, you can do this, just like you see here, in your sewing machine as long as it has zig – zag stitch, and most machines do! So do not fear you can not do it on your machine because with my directions you will do it as well or even better than me!

Well… but this is for those who have a sewing machine and I don’t so it’s no good for me as I can’t make it. Truth but I provide you an alternative by sewing it by hand. Which is more or less the same thing but hand-stitched. And no, it doesn’t take more time and yes, it’s that easy, and results in the same way. And it has the same charm.

So how do I make this? Good question! To make these applique you need:

My new tutorial “Applique in Fabric”. If you’re a a subscriber you already have it free on your mail box. If you’re not you can buy it here:

Applique Tutorial

A piece of clothing of your choice.
A motif to apply and materials suggested in the tutorial. Alternatively you can buy the applique kits in Store, all pieces cut and ready to be sewn, and kits are available in different sizes.
And what about those shiny things you added to your applique? My tutorial will also show you how to sew them on your garments!

Now you just have to get to work and transform your simple piece into something more!

Feel free to leave a comment on the comment box above and share your projects made from this tutorial!

Sofia

Sofia, my latest love for life. My lioness, was born on August 5th at the end of the day, from a quick and easy delivery which was preceded by the longest and painful labor that I had so far. When I finally saw her I thought she was big, and to my eyes she still looks bigger than the others, though in her record is stating that she was born with and 50cm and 3300gr. Maybe I’m just seeing her soul, maybe Sophia is wisdom, as the saying goes.

She is a sweet and calm baby, calmer than her sisters. I am also a calmer mother. Living this for the third time makes me sure that time will solve everything, and inevitably she will grow, so all my concerns regarding this first age are now lighter to me than they were with the sisters.

And I also know that everything will pass too quickly, so I have a certain anguish of not being able to stop time right here and right now, like I wanted to do so many times before. Because I know that this newborn that I now hold in my arms will soon grow wings and fly. So now I have this urge to enjoy my third daughter as much as I humanly can.

Today I am a richer person.