Tuesday, June 5, 2018

DIY Mickey Mouse Ears: Merida

My 3 year old likes princesses.  I'm sure most people with 3 year old girls say the same thing.  So, we decided it was time to go to Disneyland and meet some princesses.  When we stopped by the gift shop after dinner I saw all the new styles of ears.  When I was a kid they were just the felt and plastic beanie like Mickey Mouse ears, now you can get headbands and hats in sequin and plush with some different themes.

You can check out the official Disney ears at Shop Disney.  And if you want a fancy bow for your Minnie Mouse hat I recommend choosing one from there, if they have your princess or character.

I think you really need a sun hat in the park, it is hot and sunny here in Southern California, and I like a hat that keeps the sun out of my eyes and a little shade on my face.  I liked the baseball caps, but, I needed an adult sized cap and I wanted a Merida themed hat.*

There are a few DIY blogs and YouTube videos out already on making Mickey ear hats, so I won't go into a detailed procedure again here, just google for instructions.  There are downloadable patterns (circles), but I just found a cup that was about the same size as my daughter's store-bought (or OTS, Off The Shelf) ears and traced it on the fabric.

I used plaid fleece from Joann's craft store.  I went into the small brick and mortar store so I could just buy 8 inches from the bolt.  (The website usually has a minimum order of 1 or 2 yards for each fabric.) I also picked up a plain, black baseball cap and gold perle cotton for the embroidery.

I would have liked to get plaid felt, but I couldn't find any and I really wanted plaid.  The advantage of fleece and felt are that they don't fray and don't need hemming and won't fall apart while you are working on them.

I found a printable "coloring page" bow and arrow that would work for hand embroidery and copied it into MS powerpoint**.  I used the image sizing with copy and paste to get a couple of different sized on the sheet, and then copy-flip to get a mirror pair of each size.  I decided what size I wanted after I printed it out and compared it to my circles. You can find it on my Merida DisneyBounding Pinterest Board.

Transferring the pattern to the dark plaid fleece was a challenge.  I finally ended up using the tissue paper transfer method. You can read about it over at one of my favorite blogs, "Needle 'n Thread".

I later learned about an interesting, iron-on paper that will wash away after you embroider.  I have ordered it from Amazon but I haven't tried it yet.

This has rave reviews all over the internet, now I have to think of a new project to try it with.

The gold thread is not easy to work with, especially on fleece which is not really a woven fabric.  I think if I was to do this again I would use a cotton weave plaid fabric, with an inside hem instead of the blanket stitch to hold it together.  I thought it would save time to skip hems and fraying, but I lost that time in struggling with the embroidery.

Here is the finished embroidery on 1 ear.

I used the gold perle cotton again to blanket stitch the back and front circles together. I like this stitch for fabrics like fleece as I don't have to worry about fraying and it looks pretty.

Here is the blanket stitch after stuffing the ear.

I stuffed the ears with "Doll and Toy" stuffing left over from some other project.  Some of the tutorials suggest that you cover a stiff circle with the fabric, and you can do that if you want, but this seemed like the easiest way for me to make ears that are durable and can get wet.

I sewed the ears onto the hat.  I had left a section of the blanket stitch open for the stuffing and I just folded out the part of the circle and sewed it down.  I had to tear out the blanket stitch and start over leaving a new place open a couple of times. I'm still not sure I have the ears oriented to the hat perfectly, but it works.

I added a plain bow made from 1 inch orange gross-grain ribbon.  I couldn't see a good way to sew on the bow neatly. So I gave up and hot glued it down.  If you are more confident about your ear placement you might want to hot glue them and then tack down the flaps for neatness.

In the end I wore this hat around the Disneyland Resort for 2 days.  It was comfortable and fun. I liked the simplicity of it highlighting the embroidery.  I am considering an addition to the front, maybe a horse or bear silhouette. Or maybe I will add that to my Disney bounding Merida dress.   If the official Mars tartan wasn't ~$100 per yard I would consider using it. Merida on Mars would be awesome.

This is the Mars Tartan, you thought I was joking didn't you?

Stay tuned for my husband's Stitch themed ears and some Disney bounding posts.

* Remember Merida from Brave?  Liked to gallop through the woods on her horse?  She is my Spirit

**If you don't have Microsoft Office you can use Google Slides in Google Drive.  You need a
Google/Gmail account but it is free to sign up and you get some storage space on Drive to keep
your stuff.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Busy Moms Pump into Bags, or How to Wash Fewer Bottles

Medela is one of the most popular breast pump makers out there, and they have some great ideas on making pumping easier.  They are the gold standard in pumps.  Which is why the fact that their bags are not the best is very surprising and dissapointing. So the question is how can we use better bags with all of the Medela awesomeness?

First, what makes the Lansinoh bags better?
  1. Double Zippers: Lansinoh bags have 2 "ziplock" style seals at the top, so if I don't get 1 quite closed, or something gets set on top of a milk bag the chance of all of our milk leaking out is less.
  2. Soft Plastic: Partly it just feels nicer, but it is also easier to handle because it is more pliable.
  3. Lay Flat for Slim Storage: Lansinoh bags are designed to lay flat to freeze so you can fit them into your freezer more easily and a flat bag will thaw faster when you need to make a bottle.
  4. Bigger: Lansinoh bags are a little bigger if you need more than 4-5 ounces occaisionlly.

"But I really like pumping directly into bags!  Or at least I like not washing extra pumping bottles," you cry.  Good news, there is a solution for us!

The Medela bag hanger is the key.  If you have a Medela pump, then at some point you have probably bought, or been given, a box of Medela bags.  That box of bags should have included 2 plastic hanger attachments, keep those with your pump for bag pumping.

You will also need a pair of scissors.  I keep a pair with my pump.  I cut my bags in sets of 2 as needed.  If you wanted to mass produce hanging Lansinoh bags for yourself you could try an exacto knife and a cutting pad, I'm not an expert on exacto knives though.

We'll start with 1 bag for this demo. Take your Lansinoh bag and gently fold the top in half, then cut a small slit, about a quarter inch in the plastic.  I like to cut along the purple line as that seems to be low enough so that the hanger reaches just below the zippers, so milk doesn't get into the zippers, but high enough that I don't worry about accidentally cutting the top zipper.

Assemble your pumping setup including hands free bustier if you use one, screwing the Medela hangers in where you would usually put a bottle.  Then open your Lansinoh bags and pull them up over the hanger with the hanger inside so milk will go into the bag.  Then slip the cut slits over the hooks on the hangers.

Start pumping!

When you are done, carefully unhook the bag from the hanger (this is where I appreciate the hands free), check the volume in the bag, press the air out of the bag and seal the zippers.  Before you forget, label the bag with the date and volume.  You now have a bag ready for the freezer!

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Lactation brownies

I wanted an easy and quick recipe for lactation cookies, but I didn't want to take the time to spoon out individual cookies. I bought brownie bars with oats at Trader Joes, but they did not taste as good as real brownies.  I don't understand how and why they put so much sugar into something and then make it taste healthy. I wanted something I could eat when I get a chocolate craving that tastes good.

These are my experiments with boxed brownie mix.

The Internet research pointed me to a babycenter group (The Exclusive Pumpers) who had tried this back in 2013. One poster suggested adding 3 Tbsp flax meal and 2 Tbsp Brewers yeast straight to a boxed mix. That sounded easy.  I wanted oatmeal too though so I added half a cup, that didn't seem like quite enough so I added another 1/4th cup for a total of 3/4 cup.

I pick up brownie mixes when I see them on sale and keep them for when I need a quick dessert.  The first mix I had in my cupboard was Duncan Hines Dark Chocolate Brownie Mix.  I hoped to find a recipe that would work with any mix.

The brownies were delicious, they tasted like fudgey brownies.  They did not rise at all though, I probably could have used the 2 eggs for cakey brownies.

Here is my suggested recipe:

1 box brownie mix and ingredients listed on the box (usually eggs, water, and oil)
2 Tablespoons Brewers Yeast
3 Tablespoons Flax Meal
3\4 cup rolled oats.
1-2 Tablespoons extra water.

Mix all dry ingredients in a large bowl (brownie mix, oatmeal, flax, brewer's yeast)
Add egg(s), oil, water, per box instructions. Mix the batter together with a mixing spoon.  The batter should be easy to stir but not runny, if it is too stiff then add an extra Tablespoon or two of water.

Spread into a greased pan and bake per the box instructions.

Some tips for the novice baker:
-Set you timer for the shortest time in the baking directions, check if they are done, if not close the oven for another minute or two.  Repeat at the end of that minute.
-instructions usually say to insert a fork and if it comes out clean they are done.  You are looking for drippy or gooey batter on the fork, that means it needs more time. A crumb or two on the fork means they are done.
-set the pan on a cooling rack or hot pad or trivit on the counter to cool.  The heat from the oven will continue to cook the brownies if you set the pan on the stove.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Muffins for Horses

I have been reading some notes on vegan baking and decided to try making vegan muffins.  Of course my favorite vegans are horses.  I went with the banana-for-egg substitution and swapped in juice for milk.

The first batch I made the oatmeal variation and added sliced strawberries.

For the second batch I followed the "banana" variation in the book reducing the apple juice and adding extra banana as well as adding a mashed banana for the egg.  I didn't mash these bananas as thoroughly so there were some banana chunks in these.

The results:
-The horses and humans all liked the strawberry muffins, although some humans pointed out that they were not as sweet as traditional muffins.  They were also very moist, to the point of being too moist I think.  I decided to cut back on the liquid a little in the future.

-Most of the horses liked the Banana Chunk muffins.  The exception being the thoroughbred mare who picked up her piece of muffin at the edge, thought about for a moment, then spit it out on the ground and delicately stomped on it.  She's a sweetheart.  However, after seeing her human and the boys (the geldings around her) eat the muffins she decided that she did like them.
 -The humans all enjoyed the banana muffins.

Recipe for Banana Chunk muffins:

1 3/4 cup flour
1/3 cup sugar
(The one thing I don't like about this recipe is that you use every measuring cup in the set for these 2 ingredients.)

2 tsp baking POWDER
1/4 tsp salt

Mix all of the above in a medium mixing bowl and make a "well" in the center.

4 bananas mashed with chunks (I smash them in a bowl with a fork)
1/4 cup apple juice
1/4 cup vegetable oil

Mix the bananas, juice and oil together and dump them all at once into the "well" in the dry ingredients.  stir everything together quickly.  Fill 12 muffin cups with the batter and bake at 400 deg F for about 20 minutes.

My Better Homes and Gardens New Baking Book tells me that using the paper cups with banana muffins is not a great idea.  That was demonstrated with the strawberry muffins which stuck to the papers.  So for the Banana Chunk muffins I just sprayed the muffin pan with a squirt of Pam in the bottom of each cup before filling them.  I have one of those nifty plastic muffin trays that can go in the dishwasher so clean up is easy.  If you have to scrub by hand you might want to use papers anyway.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Last weekend Pepper and I won "prettiest bonnet" at the Easter Bonnet contest sponsored by ETI.  He was thrilled as the prize included a bucket with horse cookies in it.  Far more exciting than a ribbon! At least from a horse's perspective.

We did not win the egg-and-spoon race however.  It turns out that the galloping and lead changes so useful in a barrel race do not work as well in an egg-and-spoon race.  He tried though.

Pictures of our winning bonnets:
This is Pepper's bonnet with flowers.  It also has a reflective trim in case I want to use it at night.

This is a picture of my helmet cover hat from the test run the day before.  I based the look on an old painting I pinned on pinterest: http://pinterest.com/pin/161425967863730443/

Thursday, March 29, 2012

My new Blog

This is my new blog. I plan to share some of the stuff I think up in my everyday life.  From baking (for horses and humans) to fixing lawn chairs with bailing twine.

About me: I am an engineer with a darling quarter horse Pepper, a handful of kooky friends and millions of  random ideas.  I plan to use this blog to push me into actually exploring and trying some of those ideas.

Real content to follow soon.