Monday, July 30, 2012

Fuji Rock Recap and a Big Quilt

In a nutshell, Fuji Rock rocked! We had so much fun over the three days that I really wasn't ready to leave the grounds for our hotel on Sunday night. It was sad to go.

Before going to Fuji Rock, I made a quilt for us to take along. It ended up being quite perfect for dancing, relaxing and playing on. I originally saw it here and though it was so sweet. I decided to do greens with one patch of bright purple instead of yellows. I LOVED the starburst pattern though, so went with the same idea. Also, I wanted it waterproof on the bottom since it has down-poured at Fuji Rock for the past 11 years (not this year, though!!). Instead of duck cloth on the bottom, I went with a striped vinyl-type fabric. Same as the original, it folds up all nice and neat and has a handle for easy carrying.

Every time I quilt something, I always tell myself I'll never do it again. Yet I do. I don't know why I find quilting such a challenge. Perhaps all the cutting involved? Maybe the quilting itself? I don't know, but if you hear me talking about doing yet another quilt, please remind me of my issues with quilting.

It started out fairly simply. I taped a bunch of newspaper together to make the pattern. Then drew some lines and labeled the sections with numbers one to seven.

I cut out the first two segments, sewed them together and then kept cutting/sewing until the top half was done.

Then I flipped the pattern over, cut it a bit to fit the bottom sheet and did the same process. Surprisingly enough, this was quite fun and simple. Straight lines are a breeze. Even getting the middle to match up wasn't that much of a challenge.

This is where things started to fall apart. The batting wasn't wide enough, so I had to connect two pieces. I looked online about how to do this and everything seemed to recommend connecting the pieces by hand. I started to do this and got about 10 centimeters in about 30 minutes. Y finally suggested I just do it on the machine. This was way faster, but looks like Frankenstein.

Then I pinned the old quilt sandwich up and got cracking. This was a mess. The vinyl plus batting plus top layer made it really difficult to maneuver in my tiny sewing machine.

It got done, but it wasn't pretty. If you look too closely at the finished blanket you can see what I mean, but luckily no one noticed (or they were all too nice to point out my quilting skills).

Then I had to cut the batting, make the closure, and connect it all with bias tape (another thing I love the look of, yet secretly despise actually doing).

I love how it turned out. It was really nice to have a bit of padding, particularly at some of the rockier stages.

You can see the edge of the blanket while checking out K's mad dancing skills.

As above, Fuji Rock was amazing! It was really different going with a kid, but it was so kid-friendly, that it was not difficult at all. Kan loved the music and danced like a crazy person a lot of the time.

They had a kids' area that we took him to that I'm pretty sure he never would have left had we allowed it. There was an amazing jungle gym volunteers had built complete with stairs carved out of tree trunks, ropes for swinging on and jumping off of onto a huge net that acted as a trampoline. In the same area they made a stage with rocks and pieces of wood that kids could use as instruments - K loved this.

In front of the stage, as you can see, there were logs and stumps for the audience. Towards the back there were huge swings hanging from trees.

On the other side of Kids' Forest was another huge jungle gym, this one complete with a slide and sand pit.

There was a gigantic teepee to play in and get a break from the sun.

Inside tents, activities were going on all day (the photo was taken in the evening, so those activities were finished), like face painting, picture painting, instrument making and snack time.

A huge room full of toys was set up and had fans going, so the kids could get a break from the heat and sun. While we didn't need either of these things, also in the room were separate nursing rooms and a kid's toilet.

Aside from the stage where K had his Fuji Rock debut, I'm pretty sure his favorite part was the carousel. He probably rode this fifty times over the three days.

From the kids' area, you could hear the music from the main stage. I'll forever have memories of K riding the carousel to Elvis Costello.

At a few of the stages, they had priority tents set up that were meant for families or pregnant women. At the hippie stage (Field of Heaven), K had such fun looking at the artwork on the walls.

He was in awe of the walk from stage to stage. There was always so much going on - of course tons of people, but also creeks and huge, lit-up sculptures.

There were stars in the sky and eyes in the trees.

Disco balls shining light guided the way.

He used the boardwalk as train tracks and played for hours in the forest, listening to music and smiling at the people walking by.

We had a blast! It was such a great three days and although K is too young to remember, we will always have beautiful photos of him to remind him of the fun he had at Fuji Rock when he was two.

We got home this afternoon, and are headed to the US in two days. I have a lot of laundry to do before then. Ahhhh, back to reality.

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Thursday, July 26, 2012

Last Minute Project

Wahoo! The first leg of our trip to Fuji Rock is complete. K and I left the house today around 4:30 today, got to the airport, met Y who was coming from work, jumped on the plane and flew to Niigata. We are in our first hotel for the weekend awaiting our final leg to the festival tomorrow morning. Provided we make the 9:11 Shinkansen (bullet train), we will be there in an hour. If not, it's a 3 hour train ride of local trains before we see any music. Wish us luck for a good start to our morning.

On Monday night, Y decided that maybe we should invest in some new chairs that would be more convenient for the trip. We have two that work fine, they just don't fold up too tiny. I convinced him that our chairs are okay, we just need a better bag to carry them. (I hand-sewed the previous bag roughly 5 years ago and it was falling apart.)

The only problem was that I had to actually MAKE a bag, with no previous plans/thinking as to how to do it. I also had to pack for K and I, make Y's meals since K and I are headed to the US two days after getting home from Fuji Rock, clean the house, plus all the normal doings of my day - you know, like being the mom to a 2 year old boy - all in 2 days.

Just before midnight on Monday, I took all our measurements and got to cutting. As we were planning on checking the bag, a zipper was of the upmost importance.

I started with that (on Tuesday during K's nap), modeling it after K's backpack, which, for the record he now loves. I took the width of the bag (14 centimeters), decided by 2 and added a half a centimeter (total 7.5 centimeters), then cut two strips that width by the length of the bag, and sewed them to the zipper.

The next step was to sew my width pieces together. I had a bottom that was the same length as the top, and two side pieces that were 5 centimeters longer, as per the size of our folded chairs. I sewed these to the zipper piece to form a big loop.

The next step was to sew my front and back rectangles to the loop and the zig zag all of the edges - the last thing I need is this bag falling apart on us.

Then I made the strap. The chairs are about 2.5 kilograms, so I thought padding the strap would feel a bit nicer. I quilted padding to the front of the strap, then sewed on the back, flipped it and topstitched (the photo is just the quilted front - that's why it looks pretty crappy).

Finally I sewed them to the bag and called it a day, literally. I was beat and went to bed. The bag was really simple to make, and completely adjustable to any size you might need. From Monday night until finished product, it probably took about 4 or 5 hours.

I'm pleased to say, however, that everything else got done in time (it always does, doesn't it?!?) and now I'm going to enjoy my holiday. I have a few more posts planned for while I am away, but I might only do one or two posts a week for the next month. Don't forget about me though!! I've got some big things during the month, hopefully including the wedding dress!

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Monday, July 23, 2012

Cucumber Sorbet

Paletas, Mexican ice pops, are one of the most delicious things about Summer. They are quite different from your standard ice pop in the sense that the flavors can be crazy - salty plum, spicy tamarind, and my favorite, spicy cucumber! There are also your standard fruit flavors, but the unique ones are so much better.

Our little family are members of our local "Farmer Club." This is exactly what it sounds like. You go to the farm near our condo and work - plant seeds, weed the fields and harvest. As it's summer, cucumbers are growing like crazy. We have so many from the farm and they are massive.

That photo doesn't really show the size unless you look at the salad bowl in the back. This one maybe gives a bit of perspective.

I've been trying to figure out what to do with our abundance of cucs. Slice and eat? Check! Slice and put in water? Check! Stir fry with chicken? Check! Then I remembered my favorite paleta - cucumber!!!

As I madebanana ice cream last week, the maker was ready to go. Cucumber sorbet, here we come!!

Cucumber Sorbet

1kg cucumber (about 3 massive ones)
2/3 cup sugar (it's all I had left, but I'd probably do a bit less next time)
2/3 cup water (keep the sugar to water ratio 1 to 1)

Peel and chop the cucumbers. place them in a blender and blend until smooth (I only have a hand blender, so I had to do this is batches). Meanwhile make a simple syrup by heating the sugar and water until the sugar dissolves.

Once you have your puree ready, run it through a sieve to make sure any big chunks don't get in the mix.

Place your strained puree in the ice cream mixer (or a large Tupperware) and stir in your simple syrup. The let the machine do it's magic (or give it a stir every once in a while).

When it's all ready, it really is a beautiful shade of green. I think it's delicious as is, but Y said, "mmm, it's not my favorite. Can you make the banana one again?" Fair enough. I think you have to get it out of your head that it's a sweet. It's more savory, totally light and refreshing.

Next time, I think I'll grate some extra cucumber and mix it in at the same time that I added the syrup. I think little baby bits would be nice. I also might squeeze a lime in there as well.

While it is delicious on it's own, if you add some spice, preferably Chile con Limon, which I'm sure you could pick up at any Mexican grocer, it is even better!!

I've just gotten K to bed. Time to sneak off to the kitchen to grab another bowl!!

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Friday, July 20, 2012

It's too hot to bake (Banana Ice Cream)

This week has been so super hot and humid. Today we had a huge storm, so it cooled down a bit, but it's still pretty crazy humid.

Earlier in the week one of K's favorite friends came over with his mom. We'd set up K's pool the day before and K can't get enough of it. I asked the friend's mom to bring his swimsuit along. While the boys played in the pool, the moms ate Banana Ice Cream. It's a fair trade in my book!

The boys played in the pool the entire morning. We finally got them out for lunch, but it was a struggle. After lunch it was nap time, but K's friend didn't want to go. I don't think K wanted him to go either and we had no plans for the afternoon, so I invited them back for post-nap play.

They came back around 3:30 and the boys were in the pool until 6 when it was time to go home. They were so cute together - I love that K is actually playing with his friends now. They're all growing up!!

Anyway, back to the ice cream. It was super banana-y and such a nice, cold treat. Homemade ice cream is the best. It's really simple to make as well!

Banana Ice Cream
2 egg yolks
60g light brown sugar
70 ml milk
100ml whipping cream
2 super ripe bananas

Combine egg yolks and brown sugar in a saucepan. Stir really well. Add the milk and keep stirring, over medium-low heat. Once it starts to thicken, turn off the heat.

Put the whipping cream in a bowl and whip it up until fairly stiff.

Mash up the bananas and add them to the egg yolk mixture, stirring really well. Fold it into the whipped cream.

I have a small ice cream maker, so I poured that into the maker and threw it in the freezer. It takes a few hours, but then the banana creamy goodness is yours for the eating.

But! I didn't always have an ice cream maker. In the case that you don't have one, this deliciousness is still possible: Pour the mixture into a Tupperware and pop it in the freezer. Every 30 minutes or so, pull it out and give it a good stir. It will take a few hours (so does the maker) and a tad bit of effort, but it is worth it!!

Once it's all ready, you can eat it out of the freezer just like you would a pint of Ben & Jerry's (what I wouldn't do for some of that right now - we finished the Banana Ice Cream this afternoon) or scoop it into a bowl and top with banana slices and chocolate chunks.

(I should have put more banana slices on top!!)

Whatever you do, it's sure to disappear soon.

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Thursday, July 19, 2012

Monster Cookies - Version 2

About six months ago, I made my first ever batch of Monster Cookies. I thought they were pretty delicious and for some reason, terribly addictive.

For no particular reason, I changed the recipe up a bit and used this one. Again, these little devils disguised as cookies got the better of me - I ate way too many. But, I guess that's a good sign, right?!?

Instead of the 1 cup of chocolate chips and 1 cup of M&Ms, I added 2 cups of candies.

I used little white chocolate balls stuffed with chocolate cookie bits, milk chocolate balls filled with caramel, M&M-type chocolates, and 1 Snickers bar and 1 dark chocolate bar, both chopped into pieces.

All those sweets were then added to the dough.

After mixing, the dough looks like a party - wahoo!!

As I've mentioned before, I like my cookies on the small side. I used a 1/2 tablespoon measure and they ended up the perfect size for me.

I like the fact that each cookie is a bit different. I think that may have something to do with why I ate so many though, "awww, I was really hoping for one with caramel. I guess I'll have to have another," seems to be my thinking on these.

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Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Look, Ma! No Hands

If K had to decide between never being held and never using his own legs, I'm pretty sure he'd pick being held. This is all fine and good, but I'm worried that it is going to get a tad tiresome holding him for three days at Fuji Rock.

We have two different wraps, and they both work great under certain circumstances. One is simply a super long length of cloth and I used it roughly every day for the first year of K's life. It was amazing. Our favorite hold was either tummy to tummy or on the side. Now that he's heavy, however, the knot you have to tie digs into your back and gets pretty uncomfortable really quickly.

The other wrap has a pocket for K's body and four straps to tie around your body. This is great for when I am at home and need to run out and take him someplace. I don't like to tie it outside because the straps are so long, they drag on the ground and get quite dirty. Not great for a muddy outdoor festival.

I took a look online and found a tutorial for a sling that has no knot and is meant for a side hold. Perfect!!

I wanted this to be reversible, because reversible things for babies are always nice. Picking out the fabrics was such fun. I settled on a bright pink train pattern and a plain tan linen.

I love the way these fabrics look together! Making the sling was really easy, measuring and cutting seemed the most difficult part.

The final bit to sew is a French seam, which has always kind of intimidated me. Turns out it is so super simple! All you do is sew your seam, trim the ends,

flip the fabric inside out, sew again,

and then sew the new seam that sticks out down to the fabric.

Reading that, it sounds fairly complicated, but I assure you it's not. The tutorial gives a simple explanation with much clearer photos than mine.

K loves this sling and I find it quite comfortable as well. Another huge bonus is that it folds up to be quite tiny. This is great news as bag space is always limited.

I'm looking forward to using it, but also looking forward to passing the little guy to Y. No matter how you do it, at this point, K weighs a fair amount after a while.

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