May 31, 2010

DELICIOUS Thousand Leaves Torte!

Okay? Are you drooling yet? Well it tastes even better than it is beautiful, if you can believe it! My very talented hubby surprised me with this home made treat when I came home from work the other day! I was just delighted! And it was all for us!
This lite dessert originated in Sweden and has alternate layers of cinnamon pastry, applesauce, and custard. Just the yummiest thing ever! It was actually even better the next day, when all the layers ran together after resting in the fridge overnight.

Here's what the Torte looks like in Betty Crocker's International Cookbook, page 314-315. I prefer Steven's addition to the top of ours:thin-sliced raw almonds and a touch of natural cane turbinado sugar to make it gleam!
This is the cookbook. Available to buy here or here. But, if you would like me to email you just this recipe, then please leave a comment below with your email address. Soon, you too can enjoy this decadent dessert too!

May 25, 2010

Happy Birthday, Courtney!

Sunday was the celebration of my 2nd cousin, Courtney's birthday! I have been wanting to make her something special for her 9th birthday, but after working such super long hours, I was left with little time. I awoke Sunday morning (yes, I know...the day of the party), and couldn't wait to get started on my special project for her...now that I finally cleared the time.... What to make/sew? My first thought was to make her some cute stretchy headbands, but I looked, and I had forgotten to buy some elastic. Hmm....new idea: a cute summer-y dress. I would have to design it, and guess her size....but, I love doing that....so on with the project.....
Picked a super-cute fabric I had already from a clearance sale somewhere in Florida (where we just moved from). Then, I know she is definitely more slender than me (and of course shorter), so I grabbed an xtra small shirt and skirt I had and laid them out on the backside of the fabric. I know I'm mostly crazy to make a pattern like this, but.....well, I think it worked.... I then traced around my clothes with a piece of tailors chalk.

And this is how it turned out.....Aww.... I loved it, and hoped she was going to also! I put puffed sleeves on it 'cause every young girl looks so cute in puffed-sleeves (remember Anne of Green Gables?) ! I added some ribbon around the neckline, and a short zipper in back. When I got done (in 4 hours) I realized it looked a lot like my Easter dress this year. I must have kept that design in my head...

And what's better than to have matching accessories? So, I made this cute rosette hair clip to match, and threaded it through the birthday card. I made the flower with leftover ribbon and scraps of purple fabric, and then sewed a bendy barrette to the back of it.
I hope you have a super special birthday this year, Courtney! And...I hope the dress does fit : ). If not, you know I'd love to fix it till it does : )!
**Update: 5/31/10: The dress did fit and Courtney wore it to school that week. I only should have used a much longer zipper in back to ease getting it on... This will be remedied shortly : )!

May 18, 2010

HOMEMADE Fabric Softener!

As you may know by now, I am always looking for ways to save us extra money, especially these last 5 months. My wonderful better half found this recipe in blog land, and he tried it.... and.... we love it...well, with a few of our own modifications....

Here's what you need to make your own Fabric Softener at home: Vinegar, water, and your favorite hair conditioner (I think I got this dove at CVS for less than a dollar....see how I coupon here.) ....The recipe:
  • 2 parts hair conditioner
  • 3 parts white vinegar
  • 6 parts tap water.

Mix three ingredients well together and mixture will look milky in appearance like this: (Side note: Alternate method is to eliminate the vinegar and just use a mixture of hair conditioner and water). Note: the vinegar smell DOES NOT come off on your clothes, but rather the conditioner is the clean scent you get upon completion of the laundry. As pictured above, you can add the homemade mixture to a Downy dispensing ball (if you have one),

Or, as pictured below, soak your own cloths into the homemade mixture, wring out, and toss into dryer before starting cycle. We recycled already-used Purex 3-in-1 dryer sheets, but you can also cut squares of fabric from felt or fleece instead. That's it. You can make up a batch and keep it in a sealed container, or make small amounts as you go. How simple is that? And it works great....and saves even more money.

My sister also uses a smart-saving method of extending her fabric softener:

She purchases one bottle of Downy or her favorite fabric softener, and mixes it with the same amount of water (so 1/2 downy, 1/2 water..or you could make it 1 part downy to two parts water...depending on how long you want it to last. Keep this mixture in a sealed container. Cut up regular size plain sink sponges into 2"x2" squares and throw into sealed container with liquid you've made. When ready to run the dryer cycle, open the container, squeeze out 1-2 sponges and toss into dryer. You will have fresh smelling and de-static'ed clothes always...and still for a very low price!

If you want to try our homemade laundry soap too, click here! Please share with me if you try it as well, or want to share your own recipe!

May 15, 2010

HOMEMADE Laundry Soap

step #1: Grate 1 bar of Kirks Castile soap (or Fels-Naptha) soap bar. We used our large-hole standing cheese grater, which worked great and went fast. You can find these soap bars usually in the laundry aisle at your grocery store. Our soap bar was about $1.50. Step #2: Add grated bar of soap to saucepan with 4 Cups hot tap water. Stir continually over medium-low heat until soap dissolves and is melted completely.

Step #3: Meanwhile, while my husband stirred the soap on the stove, I filled a 5 gallon bucket (available at WalMart in the paint section for about $2.50) in the bathtub with hot water half-full.


Step #4: Then I added 1/2 Cup Borax (less than $2.00 in laundry aisle at grocery store), and 1 Cup washing soda (made by Arm & Hammer - less than $2.00 as well - in the laundry aisle, but not at Walmart this time).

Step #5: Make sure your husband is still stirring the soap on the stove. I love you, Babe!

Careful the bubbles don't leave the pot.....ewww...need I say more? It was close for us, but it didn't get messy after all....

Step #5: Pour the melted stove-top soap mixture into the half-filled 5 gallon bucket and stir.

Step #6: Keep stirring....and stirring (well, like for 5 minutes) until the soap is all dissolved.

Step #7: Place bucket back in shower, and fill bucket with additional hot water to top of bucket.

Step #8 to whatever... Stir once more. Put lid on bucket loosely. Let sit until water temp cooled down...about 8 hours. Mixture should start to gel. When cooled, you can add essential oils to add more fragrance. We used just 45 drops of fragrance oil (like the kind you add scent to candles with). After 24-48 hours mixture will be ready to use in your top-load or front-load washing machine. This soap mixture is concentrated, so it actually yields 10 gallons of laundry soap! Yes, that should last you well over 6 months...for us two...probably over a year... for less than $10! Now that's what I call saving money!
So, you can either add just 1/2 cup of soap gel to water at beginning of top-load washing cycle, or only use 1/4 cup in front-load machines. Are you ready to start saving over $100+/yr?
An extra special thanks to my sister, Amy, who gave me this recipe for homemade laundry soap, who taught me everything about couponing, and saving, and living in love! Thanks and I love you!
Now....Stay tuned for homemade fabric softener too!

May 10, 2010

How Does your GARDEN grow?

My husband is so awesome - and in a lot of ways we are a lot alike! We share craft ideas constantly with each other! We are ALWAYS crafting something up! AND....this is our recycled attempt to start our seedlings out indoors: We started with soup cans that we had been saving (with labels removed, top removed, and inside thoroughly cleaned out). We made sure to use our handy side-opening can opener so that there were no sharp top edges:Grab a few supplies: A hammer, and straight nail (not a screw):
Gently tap the nail into the bottom of each can. I did about four holes in the bottom of each. It will work much better if the nail holes are spread out as pictured:

A drip tray was needed here and usually works best for most plants to drain properly. We found a clear ham & cheese tray that we had saved for recycling....so we just "recycled" it into a new purpose... And, what do you know, the soup cans fit perfectly inside!


Here they are after just being watered: I choose to leave my cans plain, BUT if you are doing this project with the kids it would be a terrific idea to add some color to the soup cans with construction paper, stickers, or chalkboard paint!


Look! It's only day two, and I see a snap pea sprout emerging! How exciting!:

And now for our home-made recycled Terrarium! (Designed by my wonderful hubby!):

Here's what it looks like open... Right now it's hosting a wet bed for some starter sugar snap peas and heirloom pear tomatoes. Yum! I can taste them now!
My husband, Steven, cut out both sides from the top of one egg carton with an exacto knife. Then, he cut out 2 pieces of plastic off of a take home restaurant container, and attached them into the underside of the egg carton lid with double-sided sticky tape. (Note: glue gun will not work here...will only melt the Styrofoam.) You probably could also try plain Elmer's glue as well.

Here is our "window garden"...growing so lovely! The snap peas are starting to come up after only 2 days! New growth and new life makes me sooo excited!

We also had realized that we needed some drainage in our recycled Terrarium...so, we 1)poked holes in the bottom of each egg cup with a toothpick, and then... 2) took another lid off a 2ND egg carton, and placed the lid on the underside of the Terrarium. And voila! It worked great! What an awesome and easy project for kids..or just those who frequently forget to keep their plants watered (like me!)!

May 8, 2010

Final Top Submission (#5):

I did it! I am done! Hooray! I have completed my goal for April of submitting 5 newly made summer-y tops for Made By Rae's spring top week! I had so much fun! Though my tops were not selected for the final phase of judging, I came out a winner, not only because I made 5 tops, but because I actually finished something! What a great start to my summer with a weeks worth of cute new tops!


This was a fun jersey print that I picked up from Walmart's fabric section for 1.99 yd. (It only takes less than one for this halter). I just adore the cute multi-colored polka dot print! I used the Hilary Duff design - McCall's M5585 - below for the pattern (view A), but changed the shoulder straps to a halter top and used wide, 1" ribbon for the straps instead. Again, I usually try to work with notions I have, so I have to spend as little as possible. So, if you consider that I used ribbon, thread, and a little elastic that I already had, AND used less than the one yard that I purchased....well, then I guess this top cost me about $1.00.
Here's a couple better pics & alternate views (thanks, Babe)!

So, in review....Here is a review of the other four tops I had submitted! They were all so much fun! And...I bought additional printed jersey knit from Walmart to make even more tops! Can you believe it? And some of that jersey will become underwear...but more about that later! I will just leave you to wonder for now...!

Top #4:
Top #3:
Top #2:
and...Top #1:
So, yes...5 tops later and I'm still excited about sewing even more!
But, I looked back and I had also completed not just 5 tops but 2 dresses as well....
Now I'm wondering how I found the time : ).

















Anyways, some kinda craft or sewing project is always brewing here at the Hoover household!
And I just love it! I have so much in store for you, so be sure to stay tuned!

May 3, 2010

Pillowcase to Halter Top tutorial:

....a very wrinkled gold pillowcase.
Cut off the closed-end of the pillowcase. (I wanted to use the already open end for the bottom edge of shirt). Then, I folded the cut edge over and cut off about 8" of extra fabric length. "Try it on" first to see how long you'd like to keep of the length, and safety pin.

Then, fold the top edge down about 2 1/2" from the top and then make a casing (about 1 1/2" wide). Make the casing pretty large if you also choose to use a piece of 1"elastic (I had leftover) in the back gathering part. Next, sew around the casing lower edge, leaving an opening at both side seams to slip the elastic into.

Sew top edge of casing about 1/4" from top edge all the way around. Then, push elastic thru back section of casing only with a safety pin, attaching (sewing down) elastic at either side seam. Sew over lower casing openings (the holes that you threaded the elastic into). Now, it should look like this:

Next, attach the sequined trim to the front of top at top and sides only (not bottom of trim):
Your pillowcase halter top is now complete! And sew-easy to do! A closer look at the trim:
After it got all pressed by the iron:
And what it looks like on. I paired mine with a favorite jacket from Forever 21, and a black belt. (I hope to make a self-designed wider black fabric belt to wear with this instead...but you get the idea... It now can go easily from office to evening with the addition of a necklace, loss of the jacket and perhaps a stiletto.
And back view without the jacket:

So grab those spare pillowcases and get sewing! A child's pillowcase would make a super cute dress for a young girl, or provides enough fabric to restyle into a girls spring top (with sleeves). Happy sewing!