Duke Blue Devil Capes

by ilene on April 22, 2014 · 1 comment

in sewing, travel, tutorial


A couple weeks ago, my twin sister and I fulfilled a dream of ours and took our families back to Duke University in North Carolina, where we graduated over a decade(!!!) ago.   We’ve always dreamt of one day stepping back on campus with our husbands and children in tow, showing our kids where their mommies went to school and sharing college memories with our hubbies.  Some of my happiest memories took place during those college years and I was so lucky to experience it all with my sister.  My older brother (Surprise! Betchya didn’t know I had one! I rarely mention him on this blog!) also went Duke so we are truly a Duke family.  You will not meet a greater Duke basketball fan than my mom and my hardworking dad somehow put all three of us kids through private school.   Duke University has a special place in our hearts and we couldn’t wait to get back on campus and share it all with our families!

For this trip, I whipped out new Blue Devil capes for Zoey and my baby niece Rylie.   The cousins already have matching Duke cheerleading outfits that my sister got them for Christmas but I decided to sew these capes up the night before we left because they are so darn cute:


I’ve made plenty of these blue devil capes, and superhero capes, in different variations as gifts forfriends.  (Scroll to the bottom of this post to see other variations of the Blue Devils capes that I’ve made in the past.) This was by far the simplest version I have ever made since I didn’t use any velcro or bias tape and because of that, it was also the cheapest version that I’ve made!   Zoey actually already outgrew the newborn cape I made her when she was born.   She never even got it wear it!  So this time, I made them a little on the bigger side in hopes that they will last an extra season or two.

I was walking through the fabric store and found this glittery satin fabric in Blue Devil blue and knew it was perfect for this project.   It had just enough fun little sparkles for our little baby girl devils.  I don’t have a pattern for these capes, I short of just eyeballed it and drew a rough outline on the fabric and cut it out.   Its basically a giant triangle with a slight curve cut out at the top/neck:



I folded all the edges (except for the neck) under and sewed them like a hem.  For the tie closure, I happened to have blue satin ribbon that matched the fabric perfectly, so I just sewed that along the neckline:


I used my silhouette machine to cut out the “D” symbol out of white iron-on transfer material and then just ironed it onto the back of the cape:

You can see some of the sparkle in the photo above.  I love how it glitters!

The girls got SO much attention walking around campus with their little cheerleading outfits and capes on!   So many people stopped and asked us about the capes.  They were a big hit!   Our daughters were so cute in them!  We actually have adult-sized capes that my sister made one year for the NCAA tournament but the men were too shy to wear them around.  It would have made quite a scene if the 6 of us were walking around in capes.

Here is a picture of Rylie (10 months) and Zoey (16 months) hanging out at the student center:

It was hot day and Zoey had to be bribed with icecream to sit still for that shot.

And THEN, we went to take pics in front of Cameron Indoor Stadium, our famed basketball court, and we were pleasantly surprised to find the doors unlocked (and the court air conditioned!).  So we got to go inside and run around for a bit and snap some pictures of the girls at half court:


It was such a thrill to be able to walk around Coach K court, we rarely got to do that even as students!!  Zoey even got a diaper change on it, hehe.  Running around Cameron Indoor Stadium capped off the day for us and it made us all giddy with joy!  This was by far the best part of the trip for our husbands, too.  They didn’t go to Duke but even they were impressed by our basketball stadium!

I love this shot of Zozo strutting around like she owns the court:


And how cute is Rylie sitting there?!


We had a trip of a lifetime!   My sister and I felt so lucky that we were able to go back on campus and re-live so many sweet memories together.  The campus has changed so much in the last 10 years, we were walking around confused with dumbfounded looks on our faces in some areas, but it was just as beautiful as I remembered it to be. We had a fun, happy homecoming and we look forward to going back one day….when Zoey and Rylie are freshmen!  ;)

Here are other versions of the Duke cape that I’ve made in the past. Click on the photos to see those tutorials:




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Easter Egg Centerpiece

by ilene on April 18, 2014 · 0 comments

in holidays




Happy (almost) Easter, everyone!!

I made this easy centerpiece for the holiday and its been a colorful, fun addition to our dining table.



The wooden box was a Homegoods find.  The rest was from my favorite store- Target!   I was planning on making my own glitter eggs but then I happened to walk by the Easter display at Target and saw that they were selling these and they were perfect and only $5!  Don’t you love when that happens? I love the rainbow colors.  I added a couple bags of metallic green grass and  it all came together.glitter_easter_egg3

We are taking Zoey on her first egg hunt tomorrow.   Hope you all have a great weekend!!

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Hello!  Sorry my blogging has been sporadic!   We just got back from a two week trip to North Carolina (visiting Duke University and the outerbanks) and Southern California. It was a special birthday trip for my twin sister and I, made even more fun that we brought our kids and hubbies along.   Zoey completed her 21st flight and has been quite a trooper with all the flying, driving, unusual sleeping arrangements and interruptions to her daily routine.  One day I plan to blog about some tips for traveling with young children.  Not that I am an expert or anything.   We’ve had many meltdowns and tears (mine, not Zoey’s) on these trips but afterwards, I’m always so glad that I pushed myself to go on these adventures.   I still get super nervous about traveling with a now very active toddler, but the more prepared I am and the more often I do it, the more confident I become and the more willing I am to jet off again.  Plus, Jeff and I love traveling and we want Zoey to experience new things! She loves it, too!

On this past trip, we flew across the country from San Francisco to Raleigh/Durham, which is a really long almost 6 hour flight.  The longest flight before this was our flight to Hawaii  when Zoey was 13 months old, but somehow that flight seemed more manageable because Zoey was less mobile back then.   We are taking advantage of flying as much as we can  since she is under 2 years old and free but that means these long flights with an active toddler on my lap can be painful for all of us.  I try to stock our diaper bag with small, portable, quiet activities like books, finger puppets and animal cards, hoping that some of them will hold her attention for more than a few minutes.  Recently, Zoey’s been showing an interest in drawing so for this past trip, I  made this portable chalkboard for her to doodle on:


This was the easiest, fastest and cheapest project I have ever done!   I used supplies that I already had and whipped it up in 5 minutes.  All I did was stick chalkboard contact paper (which I already had from making chalkboard frames from Zoey’s 1st birthday party) on top of a piece of thick cardboard.  I think the cardboard I used was from the bottom of a box and the perfect size.  You can also use foam core or whatever light but sturdy material you have around the house.

I wrapped the contact paper around the edges of the cardboard:



Then I took a piece of chalk and “seasoned” the surface:chalkboard_portable2

Wiped it off with a damp cloth and it was done!

We have a bunch of store-bought heavy chalkboards around our house but the beauty of this homemade version is that its portable and I don’t care if it gets damaged or lost on our trip.  The chalkboard is thin and lightweight and slipped easily into our diaper bag.  I just added a little box of chalk to go with it and this simple project kept Zoey entertained on the plane for a good chunk of time.  Here she is doodling on our flight to North Carolina:


You can see that Zoey also started drawing on my jeans but whatevs! I’m just glad she was happily occupied for a few minutes and not yelling “Outside?! Outside?! UP!!! All done!”

She also played with it on the 4.5 hour drive from Raleigh to the outerbanks and it kept her busy at restaurants, too!

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Parents of picky eaters unite!!  If you’ve spawned an offspring who refuses to eat and try new foods, I feel your pain!  I know your frustration because I have one of the pickiest toddlers when it comes it eating.  Especially worrisome is that Zoey is now hovering at 2% in weight and I fear she will probably fall off the charts at her next checkup.   The girl only wants snacks.  Sigh.  I kid you not, the moment her eyes open in the morning, the first thing that comes out of her tiny mouth is “Elmo?!!”  accompanied by frantic pointing to the television.  Once she is settled on the couch watching her favorite fuzzy red creature, she will then demand “SCHNACK!”.  This all starts at 5am in the morning, every morning, so in my bleary-eyed, sleep-deprived state, I have absolutely no willpower against this pint-sized firecracker so I cave and give her a little container of processed food so that I can snooze for a few more minutes.   Her love of snacks is especially aggravating to me when it seems to me like I spend my whole day either feeding her (or more likely begging her to eat), shopping, cooking or cleaning up after her untouched meals, all of which I try to make homemade, organic and free of sugar.   Anyone else out there relate?!

Our recent battle has been getting Zoey to drink cow’s milk.   This on-going saga has now stretched to a 4 month-long war.    She hates milk.  She spits it out, dumps it out, tosses cups of it on the floor.  I ‘ve tried every possible way to give milk to her- warmed up, cold, with strawberries blended, mixed with ovaltine, chocolate milk, in a smoothie, in a sippy cup, in a training cup, in a straw cup….. none of which have worked.    She’s starting to come around but its been a hard fought battle starting from her first birthday.  After 16 months, I’ve officially weaned Zoey (hooray!) and one of my fears is that she is not getting enough dairy in her diet.  She refuses cheeses and regular yogurt so one way for me to get more calcium into her  is to spin some yogurt in our icecream maker until its thick and creamy.  I then tell her she is eating “ice-cream”.   Kid falls for it every time.  She does not like yogurt but she sure loves her ice-cream!  It’s kind of like how I have to get creative with tricking getting Jeff to eat his vegetables ;)


Making froyo at home is super simple and requires very little ingredients, unlike making ice cream.  I blogged a whole series on my adventures in ice-cream making which not only requires a lot more ingredients but also involves a complicated, time-consuming custard making process.   Froyo is super easy, just throw in store bought yogurt into the icecream maker.   (You can also make your own yogurt to use, too.  I’ve tried making homemade yogurt before, using these instructions, but every time, it just wouldn’t thicken enough and the whole idea of live bacteria cultures freak me out.)  I wrote about making homemade tart & tangy frozen yogurt (similar to Pinkberry’s) last year.   This time, I decided to make plain vanilla froyo, which is a similar process but minus the sugar.

All I did was buy a 32 oz carton of vanilla yogurt:



I whisked in some pureed fresh strawberries into the mixture so that Zoey would get more fruits into that belly of hers:froyo_strawberry1 froyo_strawberry2

Then throw it into my cuisnart ice-cream maker for 20 minutes:

You can see how in just 20 minutes of churning, the yogurt turned all creamy, smooth and fluffy.  Yum!


I like to serve my homemade froyo immediately because the consistency at this point is a lot like soft-serve.  You can also freeze for enjoying later or freeze into popsicle molds, but it does harden a lot and you have to thaw a little bit to be able to scoop it out.    It’s much better when its soft and fluffy!

And Zoey gobbles it all up!   She loves her “ice-cream”!


Look at that happy face!

Click on the photo below to see how to make tart & tangy pinkberry-style froyo!




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Yesterday, I shared how I made a sushi cake for my friend’s birthday.  Today, I’m sharing how to make its equally yummy counterpart- a sashimi tarte! sashimitarte_title

If you haven’t read the sushi cake post (part 1),  click on the photo below to read that post first because it explains the basic ingredients and techniques that I used to make these “pastries”:


Unlike the triple layered sushi cake, the sashimi tarte is a single layer of rice and a single layer of sashimi on top.   I used another cake stand as the platter for this “tarte”.  Because this sashimi tarte is flatter and I wanted it to be easy to cut and serve, I first made a seaweed base layer:


The seaweed base keeps the rice from sticking to the cake platter.  I pieced together several pieces of seaweed and used the ring of the springform pan as a circle outline.  I used a pair of kitchen scissors to roughly cut out the circle shape.

As with the sushi cake, I used the ring of a springform pan wrapped in plastic wrap as a mold.  I put it on top of the seaweed base and spread  a layer of rice inside it.  Then I pressed the rice down with my hands, using a sheet of plastic wrap on top so that the sticky sushi rice didn’t stick to my fingers:


The rice layer should be pretty dense and even:



I removed the springform pan mold and then came the fun part:  layering on lots of delicious sashimi:


I used salmon and tuna sashimi to make a fun, colorful design on top of the rice.  I got my fresh sashimi from San Francisco’s Japantown grocery store.  I would be cautious buying raw fish from any sketchy places.  The sashimi is normally sold in a large block and slicing it up is a lot of work, I’m not going to lie.  Make sure you use a really sharp knife and slice perpendicular to the “grain” of the fish. Or rope your husband into doing it for you. *wink*  Also, when working with raw fish, be careful not to contaminate anything, wash your hands a lot and work quickly.  Keep the fish refrigerated until you need to use it and serve the dish immediately.

I ended up with this design on top:


I used sliced avocado to make a little rose in the center:sushitarte4

I contemplated leaving the rose as is, but since I had a lot of fish roe, I scooped some of the ikura roe into the center:sushitarte5

I’m sure you can come up with all sorts of creative, pretty designs on top.  I was trying to work as fast I as I could since I didn’t want the fish to sit out unrefrigerated for a long time.  I was also frantically trying to finish this during Zoey’s nap time so it wasn’t perfect, but I’m pretty happy with it.  I love how colorful this turned out!


It’s really fun working with food!  You can really make a lot of foods into a cake form.  Once, I made a meat cake for one of my meat loving guy friends.  It was meatloaf on the inside with mashed potato frosting on the outside.  Ketchup was used as icing.  There are so many possibilities!

I hope you enjoyed these tutorials on how to make a sushi cake and a sashimi tarte!



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