Monday, July 16, 2012

Need a Sack for Your Back?

My kids are great travelers.  My son has been great since he was a little guy.  My daughter has come around this last year.  :)  We are planning a longish vacation this summer that will include car travel where my children will be strapped into booster seats.  While they travel well, we don't want to push our limits.

I had this idea to get them special bags in which I would put fun activities to amuse them and also for them to stash the treasures they will invariably attain along the way.  My mother made me such a handbag for a trip to Disneyland when I was just 4 years old.  She made one for my cousin too.  We loved those bags and traveled all over the place with them for years to come.

My bag was simple - just two rectangles with some handles and an applique' of my name.  I wanted my kids to have a special bag like that.  I thought of the pre-made handbags that one can purchase at various craft/fabric stores and decided that I would start there and dress them up with a pocket (maybe from old denim jeans).  My mind was spinning.  I had my project all planned out!  And then, I didn't.  :)

It turned out this way instead:

All tricked out and ready to travel.

I went into my local Joann's looking for just the right bag.  There were several great options from which to choose, but then I spied THESE.  Well, they weren't those exactly, but that link is the closest thing I could find to these...

Green for my son, and black for my daughter.
This style of bag is called a "sackpack."  I abandoned my handbag with a pocket idea as soon as I spotted these for several reasons.  First of all, they are bigger than the handbags that I was looking at.  Second, once the top is cinched shut, they are more secure than the handbags.  And third, once the packs are on their backs, the loose ends are long enough to tie around my children's hips.  AWESOME!  These were WAY better than my crummy handbag idea. :)  These sackpacks will be perfect for schlepping (my son's new favorite word) around souvenirs and such on our trip.  I certainly wouldn't recommend using these for hiking or purposes like that. 

I decided to sew a liner with pockets to the inside of the bags complete with pockets and secret hiding places.  To begin, I turned the bags inside out and drew a pattern on freezer paper.

I designed the configuration of pockets to be one large pocket with a flap on one side.  The flap stays closed using a magnetized purse clip that I had in my stash.  The other side has a triple pocket.  The small sections are perfect for pencils, a bookmark, sunglasses, or any long, thin item.  The center pocket is held closed with Velcro.  I cut the liners from more of the leftover sheet fabric from my project making Sleepy Shorts.  The bags are dark so the light fabric of the sheets really brightened up the interior of the bag, and I still have tons of fabric left for more projects. 

Here are the finished liners.  (Notice my "helper.")
You will notice that the original bag is rectangular in shape.  I cut the corners of the liner so that the liner would not interfere with the grommets at the bottoms of each bag.

Inside/outside view of the corners.

The magnetized purse clip, again with help!

This clip is very strong.  I reinforced the pocket and flap by sewing a circle around each side of the clip.  

I sewed the liner together completely with all of the pockets and fasteners before attaching it to the bag.  To attach the bag and the liner together I turned both inside out.  I pinned the seams of each together and sewed them together.  I sewed along the bottom of the bags and then along the sides.  I sewed in the seam allowances so that the stitching would not interfere with the stitching of the original bag.  To finish the top of the bag I folded down the top edge of the liner and stitched the liner to the bag along the seam of the drawstring.  That way I didn't interfere with the ability of the drawstring to tighten.  I did have to be careful to keep the strings out of the way of the sewing machine, but it wasn't difficult. 

The top edge.

Look at how bright the inside of the bag looks!  It is a real change from the dark original unlined bag.

I think it looks a little like flower petals.  The top of the picture shows the large pocket with the flap.  The bottom of the photo has the segmented pocket. 

Before I sewed the bags together, I decorated the outside.  For my son's bag I made a stencil out of freezer paper and colored in the space with Sharpie marker.  I wanted a weathered look for his initial because I was looking for a military duffel bag look.  My daughter got some iron-on bling and pink paint for her initial.  Her initial was so much more difficult than I thought it would be.  I got the template from HERE.  Isn't it cute?  I love it, and so does she.  I went over the "C" three times with paint pen, but I had to pool the paint in a small plastic bowl and use the paint pen like a brush to apply the paint.  The silver paint pen was much more cooperative.  I'm not sure what the hang up was.

I LOVE the finished bags!  (And so do they!)

Travel ready!

Here they are ready to go exploring!

Here she is, ready for adventure!

Check out the tie!  ( I had to get the shoes in the picture.)

I love the faded look from the marker, and the stencil made the lines very crisp.

Tie Close-Up
I can hardly wait to stuff these cute sacks full of road trip treasures! 

I purchased the bags for $4.99 each, but everything else to make this project came from my stash of stuff.  What fun things can you make from your stash?  I'd love to hear about them!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Yo - Yo, It's an UPDATE!

Waaaaaaaay back in 2010 I had this great idea.  That idea was to make a king-sized bedspread out of little tiny yo-yos.  The finished yo-yos are 2" in diameter.  You need A LOT of itty-bitty yo-yos to make a king-sized bedspread.  (Plus two pillow shams)  Sheesh, you cannot forget the pillow shams.  In total I needed to make 2,808.  That is two thousand, eight hundred eight in expanded notation.

Last year I posted about my endeavor and gave a tutorial on how I make each yo-yo.  You can find that post HERE.

Let us remember WHY I took on this crazy project in the first place!

A lot has happened since I authored that post.  I got strep throat shortly after I wrote that post (detailed HERE), my husband started his own law firm (HERE is his awesome website), and my son started Kindergarten. Those events and countless others have been my life this past year.  Throughout them all, though, I have continued to make yo-yos. 

Today I'll give you an update on my progress.

Last year I was just over half finished making yo-yos.  This year I have completed over 2,700+ of the yo-yos needed to complete the bedspread.  I have less than 30 yo-yos to go before I move into phase two of the bedspread project.  I am really excited about the progress.

I have a bag that I carry around that holds my fabric circles, thread, scissors, and thread conditioner.  I take it everywhere!  I make yo-yos while watching television.  I make yo-yos during car trips.  When taking my son to karate class I always have my bag of yo-yos.  I complete a few here a dozen there.  I just keep making yo-yos. 

I am working on the last pattern of fabric right now.  It is a white on white pattern of spots.  It is super cute, but it is extremely difficult to sew through.  Sewing through it is rough on the thread and rough on my hand.

I solved this problem by applying the Thread Conditioner after each yo-yo I complete.  Let me tell you, this stuff is AMAZING!  I could not do this project without it.  Earlier on (like in 2010) I used beeswax, but it just didn't cut it.  You need a great Thread Conditioner if you are doing any type of hand sewing.  Your hand will thank you, your thread will thank you, and ultimately, your finished project will thank you!

A couple of weeks ago while I was watching my kids in swimming lessons, I settled in with my bag of yo-yos.  I had just begun to stitch when...SNAP...there went my needle.  The needle that was brand new when I undertook this project.  Of course, I did not have another needle with me so I was stuck playing Sudoku on my cell phone until lessons were over.  I felt a little out of sorts without the yo-yos to work on.  I took a photo with my cell phone, but I don't have a cool phone so I don't know how to show it here.  I took some shots when I got home.  Here they are...

Here is my sad little needle that worked so hard for me!

You can see the pattern of the fabric that is so tough to sew through. 

I have completed over 57 yards of fabric worth of yo-yos, and I have less than 1 yard of fabric yet to finish.  I am already planning phase 2!  Stay tuned for more updates!

Monday, July 2, 2012


From all of the posts I write about eggs, you would think that I cook them all of the time.  After all, here at Greetings From the Asylum I have made Deviled Eggs, Egg Salad, Cyclops Eggs, Baked Eggs, Steamed Eggs, and Hootenanny Pancakes with Eggs.  The only thing we haven't done is boil them.  So guess what, that's exactly what I'm going to do today.  I'm going to show you how to boil eggs - to make an omelette.  That's right, I said, OMELETTE!

This recipe uses a fancy French cooking technique called Sous vide.  The literal translation means "under vacuum" and in basic terms you seal the food to be cooked inside an airtight plastic bag and cook it in heated water for an extended period of time.  For accomplished chefs of both the professional and home varieties, you can purchase a fancy-dancy machine that will make duck confit that will make your heart melt (or so I've heard).  Then there is the vacuum sealer that no one should be without.  But hey, that is only if you have an extra $1000 lying around.  There are less expensive options out there, but I'm going to show you a Sous vide method that you can accomplish with common tools you probably already have in your kitchen.

Let's begin, shall we...

Begin by breaking three eggs into a Heavy-duty quart-sized freezer bag like THESE(DO NOT use thinner sandwich bags.  That would be a disaster!)  Crack the eggs straight in, don't worry about mixing them.  That will come later.  Then add your favorite fillings and a dash of salt and pepper.  You really can't go wrong.  Just add what you like.  Everyone chooses their own fillings so everyone gets a perfect meal.  

Add your favorite fillings.  This is what I could find in my fridge.  Sorry about the nearly empty egg carton.
Once you have added what you want, squeeze as much air as possible from the bag before sealing it and shake, Shake, SHAKE!  This is the perfect job for little helpers.  Just make sure you have a good seal or you will find yourself with a very messy child and/or kitchen!

Squeeze out as much air as possible and seal.
I made the omelettes for my children with only two eggs.  First, I didn't have enough eggs for three, and they are little and wouldn't eat three anyway so there is no use wasting.  

Here is my son shaking his dinner.

Here is my daughter shaking hers.

BOIL for exactly 13 minutes.  You can cook as many as will fit in your pot at one time - such an improvement over cooking one omelette at a time.  Also, think of how great this recipe would be for camping.  It is such a mess-free recipe.  If you're careful you won't even have a pot to wash!

These omelettes can all cook at the same time so everyone eats at the same time. 
 The air inside the bags will expand while in the water bath.  This is why it is so important to remove as much air as possible before placing the bags in the boiling water.

The bags will puff out while in the water bath.
Once your timer rings, remove the bags from the boiling water.  USE TONGS!!!  The bags will be hot even at the tops that were not in the boiling water.  (After all, heat rises!)

Here is a finished adult omelette.

Here is a finished kid's omelette.

 Open the bags and pour the cooked eggs onto plates and serve immediately.  I served mine with toasted English Muffins, and vegetable sticks, milk and juice.  I was drinking my homemade  lemonade in a Jimmy John's cup.  (Use the time while the eggs are boiling to prep the rest of your meal.)  It looks like a great breakfast, but for us, it was dinner.  It really doesn't matter when you cook these omelettes, they are delicious anytime!

My vegetable side dish.  It is perfect for a hot summer day!

Why, yes,  I will have some English muffin with my butter.  Thank you for asking.

Let's review...Cooking your omelettes by boiling them (Sous vide) is great because there is no mess, everyone can choose how to dress up their own eggs, and everyone's meal is ready at the same time!  What's not to love about that?  Plus, no flipping!  Just think of all of the possibilities.  These eggs are perfect for a lazy morning brunch, a sunrise picnic, great for a fast breakfast around a campfire, or even dinner on a busy night.  What's not to love?  Try it today!