Waldorf doll #2

When I decided to make the first Waldorf doll (you can read more here) I already knew it had the potential to become an addiction. Of course being as I am, I challenged myself to create my own doll, with my own pattern. It seems easy to do, after all one head, one body, two arms and two legs should not be so hard to do right?

Maybe. But I have a problem with the scales. Always had and always will have. When I was little there was this dog that in my memory was as big as a German Shepherd and was a disappointment to me that after all the dog was no bigger than a small poddle! And if I have to give directions to someone and draw maps, chances are you need a whole A3 sheet, because I start to make roads and roundabouts and easily have no space left to draw the destination, and it’s even worse if I have to draw a house plan, forget it! is the total disaster !

This is all to say that the first head I did for the first doll seemed very small. In my mind distorted bt my scale problem, this head would require a smaller body than the one I had imagined. So I did a second bigger head, and then a body to match, and I ended up with the doll I have written about before. But then I ended up thinking she was too big to be used by young children .

I then returned to the first head decided to finish it and give it a decent body! I started from the end, which is also typical of me, and did her wig before everything else.

Now I’m starting to draw a matching size body pattern so I can end this doll.

Planning a perfect cake

October it’s almost over. October is, for me, the one month of the year that it’s almost nonexistent. It goes by so fast that I just can’t feel it. Even my vacations seem to last more than October .

Why? Because much of this month is spent organizing Novermber birthday parties! Two birthday parties four days apart, plus family and friends. Usually it is a marathon! Last year I baked four birthday cakes in less than 7 days, plus the rest of the party food! It was hard work!

This year, because I’m home with my baby I want to take things slowly and simultaneously want to enjoy all the joys of baking, something that I usually don’t have time to do. So I’m looking for new things to bake, cake batters different than those I normally bake but still compatible with our taste and the cake design they want.

My girls are already used to having a mother who does everything, including the best birthday cakes they have ever seen. It is even without modesty! Of course there are better cakes than mine but they haven’t seen them yet! Mine, for now, are still on the top of the list !

And so I have been thinking about cakes, building the concept of each one, to make what they asked and still be able to surprise them.

So, how to bake the (almost) perfect cake? Well, the first step to a (almost) perfect cake is… Draw it!

Does it seem strange? Drawing the cake lets you get a sense of the amount of cake you’ll need. I like cakes with 3 levels, but I don’t want to end up with an infinite amount of cake, so I chose to buy smaller cake pans, so I can stack the some number of levels, but with smaller cakes.

It also gives you an idea of the materials you’ll need to buy. If you have ever entered a cake design supplies store you know how it’s hard, almost impossible, to leave the store without beeing completely broke! There are so much cute and usefull things, and a millions of possibilities … Knowling exactly what you’ll nedd will help you keep your mind focused on the essentials letting aside the accessory.

Draw a cake also helps you understand the kind of cake batter you’ll have to use. Why? Light and fluffy cake batter, like sponge cake, is not suitable for stacking. The weight of the layers would be sufficient to squash the bottom layers, plus the weight of the sugar paste! Therefore this cake batter should only be used in single layer cakes.

The cakes with several levels should be made with a more compact batter, it does not have to be a brownie! Them you just have to choose the flavor. Now here is mostly a matter of personal taste.

I’m on this demand for new delicious cake recipes and by that I’m also saying that there have been a lot of cake arround here!

In this phase of recipe testing you should have a way to drain the excess of cakes… I’m no longer pregnant so I do not have the excuse to eat cakes that many cakes! So today the lucky winners of my testing cakes were the girls teachers!

The cakes were decorated by them, to their taste. I did the finishing touches, and you know what? Decorating cakes is a good activity to do with them: they are entertained, develop fine motor skills and cordenation, they shake the dust is their creativity and we get to spend quality time together!

And waht about you? What are your tricks for baking perfect cakes ?

Party Planners

Much has been written about birthday parties and strategies for organizing stress free parties. To me it is a recurring issue for many reasons! In my parents’ house it has always been a family habit to celebrate our birthdays with our family and because our family has always been big and close, organizing parties was always a great logistics exercise!

After marrying I inherited another family, also big and close, and so birthday parties at my house are a real strategic challenge! Why? Because fitting 30 people in a space where usually are only 4 requires rethinking the space and create alternatives that are comfortable for everyone. It’s necessary to adapt and reinvent all spaces! It is still necessary to consider that cooking for 30 people is not the same as cooking for 4 to 8 or 12 people . Because it’s physically impossible to seat them all at the table together. And of course, there is the budget issue! Unfortunately I am not rich, even if I do not want it the budget is always a major concern .

And there is the interesting detail that the big girls have their birthday in the same week, so I have to make their birthday party special and unique as though they were not sharing it.

I usually start to organize the party with one month in advance. It seems too early does not it? Yeah, but it is not. The first thing to do is the Guest List to give you a ballpark numbers of people. Provalmente you’ll only have a definitive number on the party day, with the unexpected and sudden illnesses, but this is normal, especially if there are many children in your family. Anyway you know that there are always those who can not miss the party such as grandparents and uncles in the first line!

Once you have an estimate of the number of people you can start thinking in the Party Menu. This is a difficult step for me, because this is when I get to try new recipes and be a little more daring in how I cook. And here you have the biggest challenge of rationalizing: you must ensure that you have enough food for all your guests but not to much food so you don’t end up eating leftovers for two weeks. It’s hard, I know. I ‘m still perfecting this art. My problem is not so much behing afraid of not having enough food but wanting to cook a lot of things, this party is a great opportunity to express myself through cooking!

If you have family members who also enjoy cooking you must count with the food they will cook, and if you do not like cooking ask them to cook something for the party.

And how do you choose the menu? The number of guests makes all the difference. The first criterion to consider is if you can sit everyone at the table. If you can not you have to provide a meal that does not need a knife and fork to be eaten, something that is already cut into pieces and it can just be eated with a fork.

The second criterion that you must consider is the party hour. Whether it is lunch or a dinner. For me it is usual to start the party arround 4:00pm. The dinning table is set with appetizers and drinks, cheeses and pâté with toast and bread and other things. The guests will be eating and drinking as they please. Around 8:00pm (because we have a lot of kids coming) I serve the soup, then I put the main course with their side dishes on the table. Desserts usually come after dinner. Not everyone has the stomach to eat the dinner after a afternoon eating but it is critical to serve it if there are children because they play the entire time and barelly eat during the afternoon .

The third criterion is the existence of children. You may choose to have a meal aside just for them or opt to cook a more conventional sish that all children enjoy.

When you have closed the menu you can divide the tasks and see when you need to go shopping, what you need to buy, what needs to be done in advance and in how much advance. If you will order the birthday cake or savory make it with time so nothing goes wrong in the party day. If you’re going to bake the birthday cake you can devote yourself to plan how you will make it and you still have time to try new recipes !

Usually two weeks before it is time to invite everyone and formalize the invitations. This gives your guests time to organize their schedules and program their time.

If you’re organizing a birthday party for children you’ll also need this time to deal with any decor and invitations. The kids always choose a theme and we tend to follow them. Being a party for two girls, and because this year they want different theems, I have the enormous challenge of articulating the Monster High with Minnie Mouse in the same space! And with the time I have left until then I hope I’ll get this solved!

On party day You must have a minimum of things to do. Just the things that can only be done on that day. This way you can enjoy your party and your guests without stress!

Hopefully my method will help you parties lighter and fun! And to help you further I offer you a .PDF file with my planners ! I’m offering a Party Menu planner, two formats of shopping lists, guest list and the party planner!

[cryout-button-light url=”http://www.meiasmarias.com/documents/organizar%20festas%20EN.pdf”]Party Planners[/cryout-button-light]

Share your strategies to make the perfect birthay party in my comment box!

Singer Knitting Machine

I have it for five years now. I bought it in one of those times when all my stars were aligned and the universe seems to be on my side. I found someone who wanted to sell me exactly what I wanted to buy: a knitting machine!

At the time Mafalda was almost a year old and I was hungry to learn everything I could create with my mind and make with my hands, and full of determination to try new things .

It was a bit like buying a car without knowing how to drive, and still feels like that! But I have to be honest and say that knitting is sometimes a bit boring to me, as I find it takes a lot of time until something gets done, and always requires so much attention! So I ended up getting obcessed with the idea of the knitting machine!

Especially because one of my childhood memories is precisely to see a cousin of my mother using a knitting machine and dis she knit fast! But this was back in the golden days of Singer, when buying a machine was also buying the classes to learn how to use it. Now Singer is dead in Europe and so those days are over .

5 years ago I tried to work on the machine , and even I have read all the instructions, and followed every step as stated, I never got more than a big tangle of wool on the needles. Of course having a small child did not help the process! And then there was almost no information on the internet to help me work with the machine. It was in 2008 and it is fantastic how much things have changed. Today there are hundreds of videos on youtube!

Moral of the story: the machine ended up back inside the boxes and set aside until a future filled with more free time.

But then THIS happened and I just knew that it was time to bring my machine back to the light! And I was lucky because Filipa is a sweetheart and offered to help me understand the mechanics of it and give me some tips to get started.

So by now i already now how to start and stop my “car” but I still have a lot more to learn! Especially because the machine has lots of supplements and accessories for special stitches that will make beautiful things!

Now that my knitting machine is finally operational do not be surprised if you get a scarf in Christmas!