Saturday, May 25, 2013

My secret (now not so secret) love affair with Rae

          The blog Made by Rae is written by a very cool lady named... you guessed it! Rae! I'm saying she's very cool, not because I actually know her or have met her, but because she makes awesome things, has adorable kids (like me), and is super duper creative. Her blog was one of the very first I started following when I began sewing a few years ago. Her patterns are some of my favorites. They are easy to follow, have clear instructions, and come out pretty perfectly every time. If you have been sewing for years or are just beginning, I would highly recommend using her patterns. Like I said.... I think I'm in love!

Here is my tribute to Rae and her awesomeness....

The very first dress I ever made for a grown up was the Washi Dress. It was surprisingly easy to put together and since it has shirring in the back, it didn't require any zippers or buttonholes. Hurray!

I liked it so much that I made one for my sister for Christmas! This sure is one comfy dress! And, I get so many compliments on it....

Then I decided to make a Washi tunic. Awesome! I got this fabric at my favorite fabric store SuperBuzzy!

I have to admit that I didn't follow Rae's suggestion when I decided to make this a sleeveless shirt so the shoulder part is a bit too wide. Lesson learned!

You can spend hours on the Washi flickr pool getting inspired by all of the amazing dresses and tops that people have made.

One thing was missing from this pattern in my mind... The kids size version.

Rae read my mind and made me....

The Geranium Dress!!!!!

Wasn't that so nice of her?

So, I made one for Bronwyn...

I used Heather Ross's new linen from her Nursery Versery Line... I absolutely love this print! I will save the story of my love affair with her for another time....

I love love love the three buttons on the back. This dress was my first attempt at making buttonholes on my Janome. My old machine did not have buttonhole making capabilities. I am not sure what I had been afraid of... it was pretty darn easy!

Then I made my favorite twins some matchy-matchy Geranium Dresses.

And then I made one for Kajsa for her first birthday! Who can resist making a strawberry Geranium Dress for such an adorable, sweet girl?!


Check out the Geranium Dress flickr pool too. So so cute!!!

Dresses are fun! One of these days I will show off some of my other projects that I have made from Rae's patterns.... Show Off Bags, Parsley Pants and more, oh my!!!!

I don't want to overwhelm you all in one day!


Friday, September 14, 2012

It's been a while...

     Sometimes it feels like I have way too much to do. The house is never clean enough. The piles of cut quilts, tops, and bags taunt me from my cutting table. Babies just keep on being born. I often wonder what it would be like if I didn't feel the need to have my hand in everything. Would I have a clean house? Would dinner be on the table at 6 every night? Would I actually be home for bedtime? Would my life be simpler?

I'm sure it would....

But, my life is full and I am blessed. I have the most fulfilling of jobs between being a mother and helping growing families, I always feel useful, needed and loved.

So, I've been busy and happy! Here are some things I've been doing and making this summer...

A sweet elephant-themed baby shower cake

A new Show Off Bag for my sister... get the pattern here...

A baby kimono for sweet miss Rowdy

July 20th Miss Bronwyn (aka Rowdy) arrived and I had the pleasure of witnessing her amazing birth at the Santa Barbara Birth Center where I work as a birth assistant.

A baptism cake for Serena and Olivia

A Mexican-themed bridal shower cake made with Margarita cake :)

Madelyne needed a new ballet bag to go with her new yellow leotard color for this year.

Yeah, I've been busy. And there is so much more that I can't wait to share. I hope that I will have more time to write down what I have been up too.... 


Tuesday, June 12, 2012

A Carousel Cake

I love to make fondant cakes!
Some people say, "Alissa, you need to do this for a living!" I say, "Hell no!"
Decorating cakes is so rewarding and so fun and soooo stressful! I think I would be a nervous wreck if I did this more than a few times a year. You all get to see the cute pictures at the end but, what you don't see is the crazed, powdered sugar-covered maniac cursing at a ripped piece of fondant at 2 in the morning. It's not pretty... ask my husband. That being said, I am getting better and better and more and more efficient. I am not sure if more episodes of Cake Boss would help me or hurt me at this point. Up until now, it would just make me frustrated that I was incapable of making such perfect, magnificent cakes. I think I have finally come to realize that people aren't paying me thousands of dollars to make these cakes. A couple of cracks in my fondant will be ok. I'll keep telling myself that.... and you, you enjoy these pictures of my newest cake. I made it for a sweet girl who is turning 3 tomorrow :)

xo Alissa
Taylor's 3rd birthday carousel cake

I used a kit from Michael's which contained the plastic pieces (the top, the horses and the supports). I made a two layer 12-in. round cake with a fantastic chocolate cake recipe (it took two batches) and covered them with marshmallow fondant. I would never cover a cake with anything else! It is not what you eat at a wedding, you know, the kind that you peel off your cake before you eat it? This stuff is delicious and pretty easy to make. You should try it! Let me know if you need help :)
Happy Birthday Taylor!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

My perfect dessert: Mini Blackberry Syrah Cupcakes

Those who know me know that I love wine! And, I obviously love cupcakes! I had been hearing about a place in Los Olivos called Enjoy Cupcakes that sells wine cupcakes and I was intrigued! It is such an obvious collaboration. I had heard that the blackberry syrah was their signature flavor so I tried one of those first... hooked! I don't need to ever have any other cupcake again... ever. It was a delicious chocolate cake infused with syrah with a blackberry frosting, on top of which is a wine-soaked, sugar coated blackberry. It was HEAVEN! I am fairly certain that these cupcakes were the inspiration for my wine and cupcake party.
So, without further ado, here it is! Make some of these for yourself! You deserve it!
Mini Blackberry Syrah Cupcakes

The Chocolate Syrah Cupcakes:
(adapted from Epicurious)
2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup dutch process cocoa
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
1 3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/4 cups of your favorite syrah (don't skimp... the good stuff)

Preheat the oven to 350. Place mini cupcake liners into mini muffin pans. 
Place the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt into a bowl and mix with a whisk (trust me, it is better than sifting!)
Cream the butter in an electric mixer until well beaten. Add the sugar and continue beating for about 5 minutes until the mixture is light and fluffy. Add the vanilla and then the eggs, one at a time. Add a third of the flour mixture and mix until combined scraping the sides when necessary. Add half of the wine and alternate adding flour mixture and wine, adding flour last. Fill liners 2/3 full with batter. 
Bake for 15-25 minutes until set. Let cool for 10 minutes and remove to a wire cooling rack until completely cool. 
Makes 48 mini cupcakes.

The Blackberry Frosting:

1/2 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
1/2 cup fresh blackberry puree*
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 Tablespoon orange zest (I used tangerine)
1/8 teaspoon salt
5 cups of powdered sugar

Beat butter in stand mixer until smooth. Add blackberry puree, vanilla, zest and salt. Mix until blended. It will look curdled. That's ok! Add the powdered sugar one cup at a time. Scrape down sides of bowl as needed. 
Place frosting into a pastry bag with whichever tip you would like to use to decorate. I used a 1M tip. I do have to say that I skimped on the powdered sugar and paid for it! Can you see how the frosting isn't really holding up to the decorating? Classic mistake! Don't make it! Add more sugar if you have to. 

*Blackberry Puree
1 cup blackberries
1/4 cup whole milk

Blend berries and milk in a high powered blender (I use my Vitamix! Love it!) until smooth. 

To Decorate (Syrah soaked blackberries):

Take enough blackberries to place one on each cupcake. I cut mine in half because the berries were huge! Place the berries in a bowl and pour enough syrah in just to cover the berries (the same stuff you used for the cake). Place in the refrigerator for 10-15 minutes. Drain and roll in granulated sugar. Place one on top of each cupcake. 

xoxo Alissa

Sunday, June 3, 2012

A Wine and Cupcake Fundraiser

I adore our preschool! It is a co-op so I work there one day a week and take a class there every Wednesday night. It is a lot of work, but I like to get my teaching fix, see what the kids are doing, and make connections with other parents who are in the same boat. Every year we have an auction to raise money for our school and this year we decided to do an adult party book. I quickly offered up our patio and my culinary (uh hum) skills and added a "Sunset Wine and Cupcakes Party." Right up my alley, right?!
The view from our patio, unfortunately it wasn't this spectacular for the party...

Now, for the menu... I knew that I wanted to make mini cupcakes, at least three kinds.
I aim to please :) Mocha cupcakes with espresso frosting and margarita cupcakes are two of my favorites so I knew I would be making those. Then I thought about this great cupcake place up in Los Olivos called Enjoy Cupcakes. They have wine infused cupcakes in all flavors that pair perfectly with our mediterranean climate varietals that you find in our wine country. My very favorite is their blackberry syrah cupcakes. YUM-O! But I couldn't find a recipe anywhere! What's a girl to do? Research... I guess... I found a blackberry frosting recipe on one blog, a chocolate merlot cake on another site and made a few changes. Voila! 
Our party was on Saturday so I spent the past few months shopping around for wine to find a good deal on some nicer bottles. It was a big group so I knew I would need at least 2 cases. Being as I cannot stand running out of anything at a party, I bought 3 :) Thank goodness for Costco and BevMo's 5 cent wine sale! We ended up getting some pretty nice bottles for around $5 each. I baked all of the cupcakes on Thursday, made the frosting on Friday and frosted and decorated the cupcakes on Saturday afternoon. It worked out perfectly and was pretty stress-free (which is not normal when it comes to party prep for me)! It pays to do advanced preparation. I should do it more often!
The party was a huge success! Lots of laughter, lots of compliments and lots of wine...

More to come... including recipes!!!!!!!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Thoughts on a VBAC

     This last week I attended my first VBAC. It stands for Vaginal Birth after Cesarean. Unfortunately, many people don't know what they are because many hospitals won't let them happen, including the hospital here. About a month ago I received an email from a past client of mine. I will never forget her birth. It ended in a c-section which she was so determined to avoid. It happens though... c-sections, for many reasons. But, things look differently when you have a 2 year old at home. She was even more determined to have a vaginal birth this time around so that she could spend a day or two at the hospital versus three to five days. She emailed to tell me that she was going to attempt a VBAC at a hospital about an hour away and she would like my help. I was honored, and afraid. I had never been at a VBAC before. I believe in them. I think that women should be able to choose how to give birth and that they should be educated about their choices.
     The call came. Labor had begun and mama was working hard. When we arrived at the hospital she was dilated to 2 cm. She had been in labor for over 24 hours and she was exhausted. She opted for an epidural. Within 3 hours she was at 7 cm. In the next hour she was at 8 and by the time the doctor arrived shortly thereafter, she was ready to push! She had never made it to this point with her daughter. She had never made it past 8. We were all so excited! Exhausted but excited!
     Having never been at a birth like this, I had fears that I couldn't shake. What if she doesn't get the chance to have the birth that she wants? Will I be able to support her? Will I have what it takes to help her through it? Was the doctor going to start calling for interventions that weren't necessary? Would I have to fight for her?
      After about 2 hours of pushing I started to get nervous. I held on to my hope and faith as much as I could. I needed to be positive. I needed to be strong. It is a difficult place to be. My job requires me to be the rock, a pillar. I took a break and took some deep breaths. On my walk down the hall I saw this wall-hanging quilt. I just looked at it for a minute. It is true that a quilt would catch my attention more so than a painting. I am a quilter. It was colorful and beautiful. It rejuvenated me and it filled me with hope.
I walked back in and after another one and a half hours of pushing, she delivered a healthy baby boy. It was amazing as it always is, but it seemed even sweeter this time... a triumph.
Quilt at Los Robles Hospital in Thousand Oaks, CA

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Birth Break

It has been over a month since my last birth... too long.
Right when I was starting to feel overwhelmed with my appointments and hours away from my own children, the doldrums hit. I have two friends who are going to be giving birth any day now and I have been finding myself staring at their baby bellies with anticipation.
Was I just drooling?
Ok, I admit it... I am addicted to birth. I'm a birth junkie! Can't get enough! Seeing a baby and a new family being born is such a special gift that I am given at every birth I attend. I really love to give of myself to people, especially new parents. Selfishly though, there is a high that you get from being there. No matter how exhausted you are after hours or days of labor, you feel peaceful, joyous and energized when that baby arrives. It's almost like giving birth yourself, you forget the pain, agony, exhaustion and challenges and only see that sweet baby and those happy parents. It's pretty awesome.
So, let's have some babies people!
I'm jones-ing!