Baby’s First Birthday!

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It was Pon Pon’s first birthday (insert happy dance here!) and we celebrated this special day with our family over the weekend.  We wanted to invite a bunch of our friends but we settled on having a small, intimate gathering at our apartment instead.  We figured she won’t remember a thing now and it’s best to keep our sanity (planning a party is hard work!) and save a few bucks until she starts asking for it in coming years.

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Because we hosted a party here at our home and cooked our own food (except for birthday cakes), we were able to keep the cost somewhat low (and it was relatively stress-free because I was able to prep most of the dishes the night before).  The entire ingredients set us back about $100, but it’s not bad considering that we were able to feed 15 people, with lots of leftovers to feed us for days!

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Salad Nicoise-Inspired Platter

Instruction:  Arrange boiled haricot vert, red potatoes (cut into halves, quarters, or even sliced, depending on the size), and eggs (sliced, preferably using a nifty egg slicer), with mix greens and smoked salmon.  Decorate the platter with lemon wedges and some capers sprinkled on top of salmon.  I made a simple dressing with grated garlic (more flavorful than minced), olive oil, vinegar (1:1 ratio), Dijon mustard, and salt and pepper.  Put all the ingredients into a small bottle and shake vigorously.

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Arugula and Prosciutto Pizza

Instruction (Kevin made this pizza so I’m assuming this is how he made it but I can be wrong):  Follow the instruction on the pre-made dough before proceeding (it usually asks that you leave the dough out 30 minutes before baking).  Spread the dough onto a baking pan.  Smear garlic-infused olive oil onto the dough and bake until the dough is golden brown.  Top the pizza with handful of arugula, prosciutto slices, and shaved Parmesan cheese.  Drizzle balsamic vinegar.

Kevin made another pizza with pepperoni but I forgot to take pictures!

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Smoked Salmon and Goat Cheese Canapé

Instruction:  Slice a baguette loaf.  Smear a generous amount of goat cheese, and top it with sliced cucumber (two slices, if they’re small) and smoked salmon.  Top each canapé with capers.  I like to make these about an hour before serving to soften the baguette a bit.  If you’re using crackers, serve immediately before they become soggy.

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Greek Salad

Instruction:  Chop tomatoes and cucumbers into small cubes and toss them into a bowl.  Add minced garlic and onion, and mix them with vegetables.  Add a crumbled feta cheese, olives (preferably pitted), olive oil, lemon juice, and salt and pepper to taste.  Mix well and let it sit overnight before serving.

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Osekihan:

This was a courtesy of my mother, who made this auspicious Japanese “red” rice to celebrate the baby’s first birthday.  We eat this on special occasions like anniversaries, graduations, and of course, birthdays!   Check out this video by Cooking with Dog for instruction on how to make this rice, if you’re interested!

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We’re so grateful to have an amazing family (and my BFF Maya who flew from PDX to attend the party!) who spoiled us rotten with love and gifts.  And we’re incredibly blessed that our baby is growing up healthy.  We’re the luckiest people in the world.  Thank you.

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Dim Sum and Then Some

26 weeks

It feels a bit narcissistic to post a picture of myself posing with my belly bump, but here it is, at 26 weeks. This is my first picture of my growing belly!

Speaking of pregnancy, I found out recently that seven of my friends / family are expecting a little bundle of joy in 2013 – SEVEN! That’s a lot of mommies-to-be, and I’m so happy about it. I’m looking forward to sharing the journey with them, and partake in play dates when the little ones arrive next year.

Anyone else out there with a little bun in the oven?

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Since we’re on the topic of buns, we had a great breakfast / lunch on Sunday. It was my mother-in-law’s birthday so we went out to a nearby Chinese joint for some dim sum fun! I’m trying to reduce the seafood and sodium consumptions so some dumplings tasted slightly bland (without the hot sauce), but they definitely hit the spot.

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My favorites were the garlic chive dumplings (right) and steamed cake (not pictured).

I hope you all had a wonderful weekend, and ready to take on another great week!

In Progress: Ribbon-Edged Cardigan

I’m happy when I’m knitting.  Sure, it’s not all roses when it comes to complicated patterns, dropped stitches, and losing count in the middle of a row, but all in all, knitting brings a smile to my face.

Now that we’ve officially entered fall (although that just means it’s 70 degree in Southern California — no, I’m not complaining), my craft fever scale has tipped slightly in favor of knitting over sewing.  There’s nothing more joyful than sitting on the couch and knitting a lovely project in a cozy home, while watching some silly television shows — all while the husband helps untangle the ball of yarn for you. This is what happiness is all about.  I’m so incredibly blessed.biggrin

Currently on the knitting needles is this adorable ribbon-edged cardigan from Debbie Bliss’ Special Knits that I’m making for our little Pon Pon.  I’m making one for 12-24 months baby so it’ll be a while until she gets to sport this pink cardigan, but I know how quickly the first year flies.

I was really looking forward to finishing it this week but it turned out that I didn’t have enough yarn!  I actually got these Rowan Amy Butler Belle Organic DK yarns in Hibiscus by accident a few years ago (I was actually trying to buy them in purple to finish this project but got them in a wrong hue), and only had three skeins on hand.  I just placed in order so it’ll be a good few days until the Pony Express delivers them to my doorstep and I can resume the project.

I think I’ll cast on a new project while I wait for the delivery.  I’m so glad that my arm is feeling better now.

Updated 12/7/12: I finished knitting the sleeve and the sweater is complete!   It is currently being blocked on the dining table. Weaving in ends took forever, but I’m happy with how it came out. It’s time to look for matching buttons.  Can’t wait to post the final photos soon.

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Baby Receiving Blanket Tutorial

I’ve been nursing a sore left arm for the last several days. I’ve read that many pregnant women suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome typically during their second and third trimesters, and I’m afraid that I might have fallen victim to this dull aches in my hand and entire arm myself. I can tell you that this is definitely not a pleasant feeling.cry

Thanks to my husband massaging my shoulders, back, and arms yesterday, I feel much better today, but he is still watching me like a hawk to make sure that I don’t make my way to the sewing machine, pick up knitting needles, or partake in activities that can possibly re-aggravate the pain. So, the only thing I can do right now is to quietly talk about my latest craft project here!

I made three matching receiving blankets this week, using Aloha Flannel Floral Surf fabrics in blue, green, and yellow. I personally don’t like designs that are too baby-like (like those overly cutesy animal prints, etc.) so this subtle and quite design definitely  struck a chord with me.

These receiving blankets are very easy to make and it probably doesn’t require a tutorial, but I’m posting a very rough instruction here, just so that I have a record of it. I’m honored if any of you out there find this to be helpful.

Handmade Receiving Blanket

Materials:

1 yard flannel with your favorite design (front panel)
1 yard solid flannel with matching color (back panel)
Sewing machine
Saucer or small plate to draw the round corners
Fabric pen or chalk
Rotary cutter or a pair of scissors
Ruler
Fabric cutting board

Instruction:

Cut the Front and Back Panels to measure 36 inches by 36 inches (you can make it larger or smaller).  I used a rotary cutter to cut the fabrics.

Put Front Panel and Back Panel together, right sides together. Pin all sides to avoid any unwanted creases and to ensure that fabrics stay together. Use a saucer or a small plate to trace the rounded corners on all four corners.

Sew around all edges (1/4 inch seam allowance), but leave a small opening at the bottom. Make sure to back stitch the openings to ensure there are no loose threads. Trim all access fabrics. Iron the fabrics open and turn the panels inside out.  Hand-stitch the lining opening (you can skip this step if you like, since we’ll top stitch the entire blanket).

Iron the fabrics. Top stitch around the blanket (about 1/2 inches from the edges).  That is all!

Mrs. Penguin seems to like the blanket.  Thank you for coming out of your hibernation to pose for the photo. razz

Another Baby Blanket

I finally got around to weaving in the ends and blocking the baby blanket I knit for our little Pon Pon this week! The blanket sat on the back of the dining chair for many weeks, because I just couldn’t get myself to sew in the loose yarn, wash the blanket, and pin it on the blocking board. In the knitting process, they are three of my least favorite things to do. I don’t know why but I just dread them sometimes.

But I’m happy that it’s all done now and I can cross this off the baby project checklist. I really love this blanket. I’ve made two of the same ones (with different color combinations, and this time, I used a worsted cotton yarn instead of wool) for two of our friends (here and here) and I knew that I was going to make one for our own someday.

All my life, I could only imagine having a girl, if I were blessed with a baby. I just couldn’t think of growing a tiny wee wee inside me and begging him to please take a shower when he became a teenager! But when Kevin and I learned about the pregnancy, we somehow thought the little bun in the oven would be a boy. I have no idea where that came from, but we were pretty convinced. So, when I first started picking out the yarns for the blanket, all I could select were blue, green, and other boy colors! I put in white and yellow, just in case, but there was definitely no pink in the picture.

Halfway through the project, we learned that we are expecting a girl. lol It was too late to add another color (the blanket was already long) so I just continued on with the original combination … and to my surprise, I loved how it turned out. There are no pink and other girlie colors, but I think it came out pretty gender neutral. I remember that my favorite blanket grown up was yellow so I hope Pon Pon will like these colors as well.

This blanket was inspired by Purl Soho’s The Super Easy Baby Blanket and Chevron Baby Blanket. I was actually pretty set on making the latter when I first picked up the knitting needle but changed my mind and decided to make it simpler. The colors were definitely inspired by the Chevron Baby Blanket. From the moment I saw the photo, I was in love.

All yarns are Blue Sky Worsted Cotton ($14.10 each) and purchased at PurlSoHo.com.

  • 607 Lemongrass
  • 608 Lemonade
  • 80 Bone
  • 635 Sleet
  • 628 Azul
  • 634 Periwinkle

Handmade Receiving Blanket

I once knew a friend in college who would buy an entire outfit when he went shopping. He would never walk out of a store with, say, one shirt. Instead, he would buy a patching pair of pants, and maybe a tie, to go with the shirt. He told me that this way, he would never have an unmatched shirt that would remain untouched in the closet with a tag still attached. The shirt will always have a place to go, as part of a complete ensemble.

I thought his shopping method was crazy at first. Seriously, why would anyone want to spend money buying an entire ensemble every time they shopped? Where’s the creativity in mixing and matching? Then I started thinking about his strategy some more and realized that it was actually very efficient!

While examining my growing fabric inventory the other day, I was saddened by the amount of fabrics I had stashed away completely untouched, simply because these orphan fabrics had nowhere to go, with no other designs to match.

Now when I shop, I try to incorporate the friend’s shopping strategy and have a solid game plan before I click “proceed to checkout.” I’m now committed to only buying fabrics that I have the intention of using, along with other matching fabrics that I would need to make a project. I won’t pick up a fabric, however pretty it may be, if I don’t have a specific plan on how to use it.

I’m happy to report that this plan worked on my last fabric purchases. I was able to use up all the materials that I purchased (made burp cloths and now, this receiving /swaddling blanket), without having any leftovers!

Burp Cloths: $2.50 / each

  • Michael Miller Flannel Dumb Dot Sea ($7.00  / yard)
  • Michael Miller Flannel Dumb Dot Blush ($7.00 / yard)
  • Terry cloth baby blue ($8.00 / yard)
  • Terry cloth pink ($8.00 / yard)

Receiving Blanket: $9.00

  • Wildflower and Sweet Treat Flowers Green ($4.50 / yard)
  • Comfy Double Nappy Flannel Lime ($4.50 / yard)

Total spent on the baby stuff: $39.00 (no tax included).  All fabrics purchased at Fabric.com.

Now, time to shop some more!

More Handmade Burp Cloths

I used to associate flannel with the grungy, thrift store shirts that I used to sport back in high school, decked out with a pair of denim cut off shorts and burgundy Dr. Martens 8-hole boots … but not anymore!

I love this material so much for its softness and absorbency. I also love the fact that it’s easy to sew. I think I’m getting addicted to sewing these flannel burp clothes!

Here are some more that I made, this time with pink Michael Miller polka dots!