Spring Top Week Submissions…CLOSED!

Just wanted to say thanks to everyone for submitting your tops!  The judges are right now as we speak (OK, maybe not all of them) scoring your tops.

We’ll take the Top 50 and post those next week for your votes.  You may vote once each day of the week, Monday through Friday, but each batch will be voted on for ONE DAY only.  The top five tops will then have a final vote the following week to determine the Reader’s Favorite.

The judges‘ scores will also be used to determine the Judges’ Favorite.  Two winners!

Rae goes blahdeeblahdeeblah about herself over on luvinthemommyhood

Almost everything you ever wanted to know about me can be found in an interview on luvinthemommyhood.  Shannon puts together some really neat interviews of mommybloggers called “moms in the mommyhood” that the voyeur in me finds oh-so-fascinating and this month she’s got one of me.

Read about

  • how I both love and hate blogging (oops, did I really say that…ack)
  • my strong opinions about menswear (bring back the puffy shirt!)
  • what I don’t do around the house 

and see

  • what is probably the cutest picture ever of my kids
  • a picture of MR RAE
  • a slightly embarrassing shot of my sewing room (honestly it’s usually even more messy than that)

By the way, Shannon put all that together while at the same time taking deep cleansing breaths through her Braxton-Hicks contractions.  Now that’s what I call dedication.  Me on the other hand…well let’s just say that weeks before Clementine arrived last summer I was “on maternity leave” (code for: too lazy/large to blog).  She’s going to have that baby any day now, very exciting!  Thanks so much Shannon!!!

A rainbow of tops

Pinks: 1. Dotted Swiss Simplicity by Sonja, 2. pinkie by joeysews, 3. red floral by tere, 4. Spring Top #4 by Molly, 5. Fluttering Rose Top by BumblebeeGrace

Reds: 1. Simplicity Pattern 2594 by Jenny, 2. Japanes bias tank by Heather, 3. Pullover Top with Neckline Slit by HeatherM, 4. red voile blouse by perdoozy, 5. Boxy to Foxy by Meg/Brassy Apple

Oranges: 1. Yellow Flower Tunic by Jenny, 2. Patricia Tunic by Rileygolden, 3. sexy back by chia, 4. Ruffle Tank by Zaaberry, 5. Voile Maternity Top by Kelly

Yellows: 1. Yellow cherries top, 2. Soleil top by Chia, 3. McCall’s 5522 by Katie, 4. spring top 1 by Ana, 5. Weekend Voile Blouse by Ginger

Greens: 1. Ruffle me up! , 2. voile shirt by corinnea’s chaos, 3. Cotton V-neck by Trisha, 4. Spring Leaves Maternity Top by Kelly, 5. Green Flowered Halter by Zaaberry

Blues: 1. Cabo Halter by Kay, 2. RTW copy tee by Katie, 3. V-Neck Pullover Top by Steph, 4. Chambray Top by Holly, 5. Cobalt Blue Pullover by Jodi

Purples: 1. The Liverpool Tunic by Kim, 2. the shouldhaveironedit shirt by Olive-olive, 3. Purple floral blouse by Rhilborn, 4. Pink Passion Top by Joy 2 Sew, 5. Stripe play by Sarah

Greys:1. Tunic ‘O’ from Stylish Dress Book 1, by Sylvie, 2. B&W Knit Top by Thread Fancy, 3. gray ruffle top by wan-nabe, 4. sweet top by chia, 5. Cynthia Rowley Simplicity Pattern 2593 by Jenny

 Blacks: 1. Flower Shell by Kristin, 2. Men Tshirt to Summer tank top – by Molly @ Me and Madeline, 3. BWOF 04/2009-112 by Katie(Kid MD), 4. Flowers and Lace Spring Top, 5. Darling Top by Jodell

 Browns: 1. Schoolhouse Tunic by Faith, 2. Jazzed up tee by Sarah, 3. vintage copy knit flowers_Edith, 4. Knit Top by DavidandDaisy, no pattern, 5. Ruffles…can we call it a cardigan?  by Raining Gumdrops

Whites: 1. Ruffle Top by Sarah Seitz, 2. White Linen Blouse by Jenny, 3. Light white ruffle wrap shirt by StacyCK, 4. Sascha’s Schoolhouse Tunic, 5. “In Full Bloom” by Sarah from 2 Giggle Boxes

Spring Top Week is next week (ack!) and this is the last week to enter your tops in the Official Spring Top Entry Pool.  For those of you who haven’t been perusing as obsessively as I have, I thought I’d put together a collection of the entries as a preview*. And can I tell you how fun this was?  So many lovely colors and prints and styles. 
*I know this probably goes without saying, but I’d like to remind everyone that inclusion in this post has nothing to do with final scores; I merely plucked these beauties out based on color and their presence here says nothing about my opinions about them or those that didn’t happen to make it into this post.

READER VOTING HAPPENS NEXT WEEK: EACH DAY A NEW BATCH TO VOTE ON
The judges have been diligently scoring away since the beginning of April and the top 50 from that round of scoring will be included here on the blog for reader voting each of the weekdays (M-F) next week. So make sure that you come back to vote next week, each weekday a new batch of tops will be featured and be voted on.  And I’ll say this again since it bears repeating: each vote will last only ONE DAY, so if you’d like to vote on all the tops you’ll need to stop by on a regular basis.  

STILL THINKING OF ENTERING A TOP?
And if you still plan on entering a top, please remember that the pool will close this Friday, April 30 at 8 PM.  Make sure to read through the entry requirements carefully so that your top doesn’t get left out of the judging frenzy that will happen this weekend.  

Time to go sew!

Rae goes into the kitchen and emerges with something other than an empty oreo box

Warning: this post is about food and not at all about sewing (I know, right? where did THAT come from?)

On Monday, in a not entirely unprecedented flurry of domesticity I decided to make whole wheat crackers.  I know, strange.  I’m not a huge cook, although baking is a little more up my alley. But you’re still thinking, crackers?  Let’s just say my kids (yes, both of them) eat about a metric ton of crackers each week and as most store-bought crackers have next to no nutritional merit I’ve been looking for a heathier replacement. Also: I always keep a box of flaxseed meal in the house and this seemed like a decent way to get it into our bodies where it could do some good.  I was pleasantly surprised a) at how easy they were and b) that they actually resembled crackers when I was finished. The key to a really good cracker is rolling it really super duper double dog thin and then baking the heck out of it so it’s nice and crispy.  Listen to me, I sound like a pro already.

Sorry if this grosses you out, I’m not exactly a food photographer.  Oh, did I mention I also made spinach and artichoke dip?  I mean, you can’t eat wheat crackers alone!?!

The crackers are a combination of this recipe from All-Recipes.com (yes, yes, the poor man’s Epicurious, but I am way too amateur for all that foodiness) and the comments that people left on the recipe, which you might want to peruse for tips and variations and such.  And would you also like my spinach dip recipe?  OK, OK. I made this one up myself after failing to find a single spinach dip recipe that does NOT call for frozen spinach.  We eat fresh spinach all the time over here and it seems like we always have the end of a bag sitting in our crisper.  Frozen spinach, on the other hand is something I would have to make a concerted effort to find at the store (or rather Mr Rae would, as it is he who buys all of our groceries) and is therefore, in my opinion, more annoying.

WHOLE WHEAT CRACKERS

1 1/2 c whole wheat flour
1 1/2 c all purpose flour
1/4 c flaxseed meal
3/4 tsp salt
1 c water
1/3 c olive oil
salt and garlic salt for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 350 F/180 C.  Combine ingredients until just blended (I ended up with some extra flour at the bottom and pretty dry dough.  Just toss the extra flour, you’ll still get plenty of crackers).  Divide dough into quarters and roll between two pieces of wax paper or parchment paper until it is super duper double dog thin, like a wheat thin.  If dough is a little sticky lightly flour it before rolling.  Place each rolled quarter of dough on an ungreased cookie sheet (you can bake it right on the parchment paper if you want but I reused mine for rolling).  Score with knife but don’t cut all the way through.  Poke holes with fork to give professional-cracker look.  Sprinkle with salt and/or garlic salt.  Bake for 15-20 minutes or until brown and crispy (tap them with a fork to check).  Cool a bit and then crack them apart by hand.  If they are bendy at all and don’t crack apart easily, put them in for another 5 minutes.

SPINACH AND ARTICHOKE DIP

2 c chopped fresh spinach (doesn’t have to be exact, I think I used roughly a 1/4 of a small bag)
1/2 jar artichoke hearts, drained and chopped (12 or 14 oz jar)
2 garlic cloves, minced (this is really garlicky, maybe just use one if you’re not a huge garlic fan)
1/2 c plain yogurt*
1/2 c cream cheese*
1/2 c mayonnaise*
1 c mozzarella cheese*
1/4 c parmesan cheese*
1/2 tsp worchestershire sauce (“wooster”)
dash cayenne

Throw ingredients in a saucepan on low to medium-low heat until spinach wilts and cheese melts and it bubbles a bit. You can also bake this in the oven in a baking dish but I find that too fussy.  Let it cool and serve.  It’s good warm or cold.  With wheat crackers.

*I’ve found you can adjust the amounts of the creamy stuff and the cheeses quite alot without changing this dip.  For instance you can put more mayo in if you don’t have cream cheese, and one time I used sour cream instead of the yogurt and cream cheese and it was still great.  The mozzerella and parmesan are the same way; there’s a lot of play here which makes this recipe pretty fail-proof.  I mean honestly it’s just a bunch of deliciously bad things thrown in with spinach and artichokes.  Easy, peasy.

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Mommy Cards for Rae

Just have to show you these. I bought them all spur-of-the-moment one day a couple weeks ago and they arrived last week.  I’m pretty geeked.

I saw these at Sarah+Abraham and after discovering that you could custom build each child (hair, eye, skin color) I had to have them.  I guess I just love those little retro-cartoony faces.  Almost as cute as my babies themselves.  I should have put less hair on Clementine but whatevs, maybe it will grow in this summer and look just like that.  Her roots are threatening to be blond though so we’ll see.  

These would have made a great Mother’s Day gift but I already have a list about a mile long for Mr Rae. Fabric, patterns, chocolate, jewelry…

The childless me would have died if told one day I would have these, defined by my CHILDREN rather than myself?  But you know what, that’s exactly how moms at library story time, Kindermusik and the park all think of me.  They can never remember my name, but they always remember I’m Elliot and Clementine’s mom. And I couldn’t be prouder to be associated with these two cuties.  Being mom to these two is one of my proudest accomplishments and blessings.

Someday when I have more free time I won’t cover up the phone number so you guys can give me a call and we’ll chat, OK?  If you run into me at the park though, be sure to ask for my card.  I need to get rid of all these before my kids look different.

Behind the scenes at Spring Top Week

Just to give you a feel for the effort that’s happening here behind the scenes, in addition to the judges and sponsors, we also have a very capable set of moderators who are checking, stamping, and entering your tops.  So if you wondered who that person is who put the “entered!” stamp on your top or pestered you about putting your name in the title, they are:

Amber (who also put together an impressive moderator schedule to make sure we’ve got everything covered)
Kristin
Sabra
Heather
Shannon
Beth
Max

These women have been so on top of things (haha, no pun intended there!), pouncing on every new top that gets posted and whisking it off to the main spreadsheet.  It’s really made my life a breeze for the last couple of weeks.

In addition, my friend Myrnie is working as Spreadsheet Jockey, sending batches of tops out to the judges and helping to compile and sort all of the scores. If you can imagine how many bits of data must be juggled around here you can appreciate what a phenomenal help this is to me.  In a former life Myrnie was an accountant, so she is perfectly suited to the task, being both extremely efficient and intelligent. 

I also have a few more people who have generously offered to help out by putting together the photo mosaics for the Top 50 (which will be posted here on Made By Rae from May 3-7 so you can vote on them).  You’ll meet those people during Top Week. 

I’m pretty pleased with this setup; organizing and coordinating all of the little details for Spring Top Week really appeals to my physics-teacher side big time.  Also having so much fantastic help means I have more time to sew my tops.  Yaaay!

Thanks everyone!!!

A little Friday babble.

If it seems quiet around here lately, it’s because I really am working on my Spring Tops (can you hear the humming of my machine?)  I am hoping to have five new tops to show off and maybe this is a bit ambitious, but yesterday I started dreaming (and drafting) a new tutorial to post too.  It will have to be a sew-along (meaning it happens over a few days) but I’m really really hoping it will get off the ground in time.  If you’re interested, here’s the one I did last year to launch top week.  It’s funny how I look at it now and have about a bajillion things I’d change about it, but lots of you seem to like it, so if you’re happy, I’m happy.  

Speaking of changing things, I also just started version two of the Itty Bitty Baby Dress pattern, this one in multiple sizes (which many of you have been asking me for, for YEARS!) and that Buttercup Bag needs a facelift too.  You can’t imagine how many things I want to improve about this blog (and my patterns) not to mention the NEW things I want to do.

Which brings me to the other thing I’ve been doing for the past couple weeks, looking for preschools for Elliot.  He’s three now, which still seems so little to me.  But he talks nonstop and counts (to 12!) and loves to play with other kids and lately has been asking to go to “playschool,” which is what his little TV-character friend Caillou* calls it.  I think he’ll really enjoy preschool and it will give me a couple hours more a week to work (do you realize I do all the work here during naps and after bed?  It’s hard to squeeze it all in!) while Clementine takes her morning nap.  I actually looked into and even visited a daycare too, thinking I’d maybe want to put both of them there a couple mornings a week, but I just can’t do it.  It’s too hard for me to think about right now.  It’s hard for me either way though: do I try to do it all and go insane, or do I sacrifice time with my kids to work or just let the work go for a few years and hope it will still be there when my kids are older?  A conundrum, I tell you.

* a show I can’t be in the same room with, it’s so annoying…but it’s his favorite, what can I do? At least since he watches it while I’m in the shower I can minimize my exposure.

I just read this post (and this one) on Bloom the other day about picking schools, and I know there are tons of conversations online about this.  So interesting to me, now that I’m there, and I know some of you are in the middle of this too, and might like to read it.

So tell me, how many of you are still working on your Spring Tops?  How many are we going to have this year?  I’m really curious.  Just two short weeks left!!!

Design my own shoes? Ack!!!

Here’s what I’ve been obsessed with lately.  I had seen Zazzle over a year ago and thought I’d try it someday, but seeing Heather Ross’ awesome shoes that she posted the other day really lit a fire under my rear.  Just wish I had half the design talent she has, but oh well.  These are all blog header graphics or fabric designs I’ve been meaning to get digitally printed, just uploaded onto a shoe. Anyway, you can make your own too (or buy these if you want).  You can even change the colors of the laces, trim, insoles…so much fun.  There goes YOUR spare time (hnah-hnah!).

I couldn’t help myself (another Pierrot Dress)

You might be thinking, shouldn’t she be sewing her own tops?  You know, for that Spring Thing happening soon?  I don’t know what happened.  Somehow another one appeared.  The red-striped tights needed something to go with them?  It’s just so hard to selfish-sew when you have a cute little goober to churn stuff out for.  And itty-bitty stuff, so it only takes ONE nap, instead of FOUR.

You might also be thinking, shouldn’t she at least strap said goober into her high chair?  And you know, that’s just what responsible parents would do.  We, obviously, are not those people.

Dress Details: The fabric is plain blue chambray from who-knows-where, the sort you can get anywhere.  The ruffle was serged to make it look fuzzy.  The pattern is mine, began as a tracing of a vintage baby bunting and ended up totally different, as a dress.  Also inspired by this pattern (I actually purchased the top in a 2T from Varenia last summer, knowing I was having a girl but before she released the pattern, which is for size 1T-6).  I’d love to make this baby version available, but who knows when I’ll find the time.  This version was not cut on the bias, and I’ve definitely decided I like the bias-cut version better, even if it does use more fabric.

* * * * * 
Spring Top Week is May 1-7.  Voting will begin on May 3.  Mark your calendars.
* * * * *

Sidenote/Rant Warning: I am totally hating on Blogger right now for deleting ALL MY COMMENTS FROM FOREVER when I switched over to made-by-rae.com (click on any old post to see what I’m talking about).  Also, search (in the top left corner) no longer works (I can’t even search for “Ottobre”, which is one of MY LABELS).  And yes, I tried exporting/importing the blog and yes if I switch back to the old domain (madebyrae.blogspot.com) they all show up again.  I have a computer geek for a husband, for crying out loud.

Blogger, I am breaking up with you.  It’s not me, it’s you.

I’m thinking Moveable Type or Typepad or Squarespace?  I know some of you know way more than I do about this.  Email me or comment.  Please.

UPDATED:  Huh.  Comments seem to be working now.  You know how when you threaten to break up with someone and then they make all these promises to change and your heart softens?  Hmm. That seems to be happening a LITTLE..but I’m not completely happy yet, as my search still doesn’t work.  Let’s just say I’m still on the prowl.  Call me a cheater if you want, I don’t care.