Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Animal Crackers

Today I hosted a sort of birthday party for a bunch of kids that are all right around E's age. As per my normal obsessive compulsive self, I decided that I had to make something crazy. So I decided to make some fancypants animal cookies. I will say though that unlike my usual, I did do a little bit of forethought and planning this time around. I took advantage of the fact that my in-laws were here all last week, which gave me time to bake the cookies over the weekend and at least get started on the decorating.

One thing that a lot of people don't realize is that the icing on these types of cookies takes
forever to dry. So you usually have to do one part, like say, the outline, and then give that time to dry. Then you fill in the middle part and that has to dry (usually overnight), and then any little embellishments have to be done last and allowed to dry as well. So on average, between baking and decorating, they take about 3-4 days to make.

Overall, I'm pretty happy with how these turned out. I think that they could've been neater, but I always think that. The colors could've been brighter too, but I was trying to save time by just adding to pre-mixed colors. There were actually 10 animals in the set, but I skipped the monkey, polar bear and camel. The monkey just seemed like an odd shape, the polar bear seemed boring, and the camel just didn't seem to fit in with the others. In retrospect, I probably would've made more lions (I somehow only made one) and skipped the gorillas and rhinos. They were kind of blah. I think the giraffes turned out the best.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

C is for Cookie

I really miss doing pastry-related stuff. Lately, I've been dying to get back into cookie decorating. So I was happy when I got a chance to make these palm tree cookies for a mom-friend for her daughter's first birthday.

I'm in the process of finally using my set of Williams-Sonoma animal cookie cutters to make some cookies for a playdate I'm hosting next week too. I've got them baked but not decorated yet, so I'll post those when I'm done. Oh, and my mother-in-law and I are dying & decorating Easter eggs today too (also from a WS kit), which I've actually only ever done once in my whole life. I know it sounds nutty to have never dyed eggs, but my family never really celebrated Easter when I was growing up. The one time I did it was when I convinced my mom to buy one of those Paas kits from the grocery store and my brother and I did it on our own. Let's just say that most of the eggs turned out gray or brown.

I have to confess, it's kind of fun to have an excuse to do stuff like this, even though I'm not religious and E is really still too small to enjoy any of it just yet.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Sewing Project #3

I finally got to work on something new! After pretty much burning out on babylegs, I decided to try my hand at making some bibs for E. All of the ones we had were either way too dinky to do more than catch drool, or they were too plastic-y and distracting. She'd spend the whole time messing with her bib, trying to pull it off. Not to mention that you can't throw the plastic ones in the dryer. I did recently find this cute toddler bib, which is nice and big and not all vinyl-y, but at $10 a pop, I wasn't willing to buy more than one.

For a while, I toyed with the idea of making my own giant bibs by cutting up some old towels and just slapping on some bias tape and velcro, but well, let's be honest. I wanted E to have something cute. So the other day, I was at Hancock Fabrics and they had all their cotton flannel on sale. And I remembered seeing some cute little custom bibs on Etsy that were made out of flannel, so I thought, why not? It doesn't have to be super absorbent or stain proof. I mean, they're bibs, right? They're meant to get dirty and go into the wash. I figured what the heck, I'll buy a yard and give it a shot. Worse comes to worse, I wasted $5. (You gotta love that about baby stuff. It's all small, so you don't feel like you're investing as much money.) Besides, how cute is this fabric?

At first, I was going to double it up, so it was reversible. Then I thought about putting a layer of something in the middle, to make it more absorbent, either terry or jersey. After I made a little pattern (out of a paper grocery bag) and cut it though, I actually found this pattern for a bib almost exactly like the Bumkins one. I decided to stick with what I had already cut though and give that one a whirl next time around.

A few amendments to my original plan: I realized that the reversible thing was probably a waste of time since it's not like I'm going to dirty one side and then turn it over and put the dirty side against E's clean clothes! So instead, I decided to just do one layer of the flannel, and then back it with an old cut-up t-shirt. This also has the added bonus of doubling the number of bibs I can make. I also put the bias tape on (my first time ever using the stuff) and then added the velcro after. I hadn't intended to do it that way because it looks messier, but I realized after putting the velcro on first that the bias tape would cover up about half the velcro, making it easier for E to pull off.

All in all, I'm pretty happy with how it turned out. It's not as even or symmetrical as I'd like, but I can live with it. I'm going to make a few tweaks and make another one before I tackle that other pattern. I had no idea though that this one bib would use up all my bias tape! So I'll probably have to make another run to the store for more this weekend. Or I might just use the yellow tape I already have, even if it doesn't exactly match.

Here's an "action shot" of the bib:

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Red, White & Blue Beanie

I've been holding off on posting this hat because I didn't want to ruin the surprise, but I think I should be safe now, as I dropped it in the mail yesterday. I made this little visor beanie as a thank you gift for a photographer friend who took photos of us last week for E's first birthday. The pictures turned out amazing. I'm not normally the sappy type, but I think I actually teared up when I first saw them.

In any case, her daughter is really into all things Americana, so when I saw this yarn at the store, I couldn't resist buying it to make something for her. It's self striping, which was nice because it meant almost no loose ends to weave in, although it did make for some wonky "stair-step" effects in the striping. But I think I'm the only one really anal retentive enough to notice. I also struggled with the sizing because I have no idea how big kids' heads are, other than my own, and that's only because I can take a tape measure to her.

This week, my in-laws are here visiting, so I'm hoping to get some extra craftiness in since I'll have lots of help with the baby. Oh, and just as a bonus, here's one of my favorite pictures from our photo shoot last week.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008


I can't believe I'm going to do this, but in an effort to shame myself into finishing some of the umpteen projects I have laying around, I'm going to catalog all of the current Works in Progress that I have going. Some have been laying idle for years. This might turn into a series of posts. First up, a stuffed rhinoceros. I started this as a gift for a friend's baby. He's almost 2 now. Oops. I had a really good start, and I'm actually about 75% done. But doing all the little pieces and sewing it up just doesn't seem to appeal to me. Maybe I'll finish it in time for my next kid.

rhino Then there's a couple pairs of booties, also intended as baby gifts for children who are definitely too big for booties. The pink ones are super close to being done. I just have to sew the soles on, and then add a button for the t-strap. It's just...the soles seem to be a big small for the top part of the shoe, and I'm annoyed/embarassed at how off the sizing is in general. And YES, I did a gauge swatch, and it still came out all wonky. The green stripey one, well, I made the one and it was enormous and I got discouraged and abandoned the other.
I feel compelled to mention that both of these booties, as well as some others that I attempted before came from this evil book, which had gorgeous pictures and made it seem like it would be so easy, and if it weren't so damn expensive, I would probably chuck it out the window or maybe set it on fire. This book is largely responsible for my hatred of following patterns. Grrr.

Next up, here's a hat that I started about 4-5 months ago for Evy. This is actually the second attempt, as the first ended up unraveled.

Here is an amigurumi bunny that I started a while back, when I first got obsessed with amigurumi. I don't know why I didn't finish this guy. He's about 90% done. Just needs another ear, 2 arms and a leg.
This is a scarf I was making as a Christmas gift for my brother's girlfriend. I'm actually going to see her next month in California, and now I'm debating whether I should still try and finish this to give to her or just make something else entirely. Argh.

This is the dishcloth that I started a couple weeks ago. It's actually almost done (the picture's old). It's the easiest, most mindless project I've got going, which is probably why I've been working on it the most lately.

What else? Hmmm...

Oh, there's the needle roll, but I won't bother posting a picture since that post is fairly recent. not to mention that nothing's changed since the last time I wrote about it. Still working on the cables...boring.

Ay, I just remembered this sad project.

It's the bottom half of what was going to be a cardigan and pants set, made from a felted sweater. The problem is, after using the sleeves to make the pants above (which still need to have an elastic waistband put on), I realized that I don't have enough material left to make the sweater. And now I have the added issues of E being too big and the weather being too warm out for wool sweaters. *sigh*

Last, but not least, I have this sleeveless top that I was going to give as a gift for my mom's birthday...5 years ago. Egad. I'm also not that far from done on this one. I don't know what my problem is. Maybe I can get it done for Mother's Day this year.

I think that's actually everything for now. I have a few pairs of knee socks that need to be converted to babylegs for a friend, but I'm actually going to knock those out tonight. So all in all, not great, but not as bad as I really thought it was going to be.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Ultimate Blog Party - woo!

Ultimate Blog Party 2008Thanks to Shannon, I just discovered the Ultimate Blog Party! As usual, I'm late, but I'm going to blame the child (also, as usual) and I figure there's still plenty of time. Basically, it's a way to share your blog with others, and maybe win some prizes too! See the link at right, or above.

So for those of you who are new to my blog...about me
...hmm...well, I'm crafty, as the title implies. In fact, I guess I'd say that my craftiness borders on compulsion. You'll know what I mean if you've ever seen my giant collection of yarn. Or my "office." Mostly I like to knit, although I also occasionally crochet, and try to sew. I pretty much always have at least 3-4 projects going at any given time. I also love food, which I know technically doesn't qualify as crafty, but if I can't break my own rules, then who can? I also randomly pick up a new hobby here and there, and at this point I've probably tried everything out there at least once.

I also have a "sister" blog which is a little more...shall we say, snarky in nature? Although these days, it mostly focuses on TV, since that's pretty much how I spend my evenings - knitting in front of the television. But other than watching too much TV, I'm a stay-at-home mom to a very active 1-year old. Originally from Chicago, now living in Texas. That probably sums it up. I love comments (who doesn't?), so comment away on anything you like, hate or whatever.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Rusty rusty

I don't want to go into too much detail, but I've been working on a hat as a gift and it is not going well. I'm trying to make a crochet hat, for a change, and I'm realizing now just how rusty I've gotten! It doesn't help that I'm not using a pattern, just kind of making it up as I go along. I think I've ripped back and started over at least 3 times now. Grrr.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Hot Pot!

Normally, this is a pretty easy dinner to throw together, but we hit a few complications today, both weather-related and not. First of all, I didn't manage to get to the store because we had both sleet and snow! Yes, in Texas in March! Crazy! But luckily, T came home early and I decided to venture out on my own to the Chinese grocery store down the street to pick up a few supplies. The roads really weren't as bad as everyone make them out to be.

So the hot pot, or "shabu shabu" as it's often called (which is actually the Japanese word for it) is pretty straightforward. You sit around a pot filled with broth (I usually use chicken) and add whatever you like to it, cooking and eating as you go. It's great because you can pick and choose what you want to eat, and add or subtract anything you like. You could do a vegetarian version, or all seafood, all meat...you get the idea. It was always a favorite winter meal when I was a child, and I'm pretty sure that it's the reason why my parents put an electric stovetop in the island in our kitchen, even though they used a gas stove for everything else.

Nowadays, I use a little camp stove, although today it ran out of gas about 30 seconds after we got started, which led to T leaving to go on an insane hunt to 4 different stores for the little gas canisters...yeah, don't get me

I use the same giant Corning casserole that we used growing up (also swiped from my mom), but any wide pot will work just fine as well. You just want to use something that's not going to hang off the edge of the burner and potentially tip over, since you're going to be sitting so close to it, dipping food in and out. Did I forget to mention that there's an element of danger to this meal?

And here's a picture of the all stuff that I bought to throw in the pot; most of it raw, and most pretty standard for shabu shabu:

Thinly sliced beef and pork, bought pre-sliced from the Chinese grocery store; shell-on shrimp, fish balls, shrimp balls, fried tofu, napa cabbage. The weird stringy looking things are enoki mushrooms. The stuff soaking in the silver bowl is a bundle of bean thread noodles. We usually add those at the very end and then eat them with the remaining soup.

I forgot I had some baby portobello
mushrooms laying around too, so they're not in these pictures, but I added them later on. I also had some daikon, but it was already in the pot because it needs to be parboiled for a little while. And I sometimes have spinach, but I wasn't in the mood for it today (too lazy to wash). Oh, and yes, this is kind of an insane amount of food for just two people. And yes, we're pigs and we ate almost all of it.

I also bought these cute little wire baskets for 99 cents, which help keep you from losing the meat in the broth. They have these nice little divots in the middle which keep them from sliding all the way into the pot. And they don't get hot either.

I usually bring the broth to a boil on the stove first and parboil or heat up anything that needs to be cooked a little longer, like the daikon. Even though they're precooked, I threw in the fish and shrimp balls since some were still a little frozen. And the tofu I just threw in for the hell of it. Then I poured everything into the casserole.

Almost forgot about the condiments! That's one of the most important parts. I have no idea if this is typical or not, but we use soy sauce, Chinese vinegar and this stuff that calls itself "Chinese Barbecue Sauce," in the can.

Now, I have no idea why it is called that as it is nothing like any barbecue sauce that I've ever tasted, and I've never used it on any kind of barbecue, Chinese or otherwise. It's really kind of a sludgy, slightly salty sauce, for lack of a better description. It's good, just take my word for it. Even T likes it. My mom also uses hot chili paste, but I'm a spicy wussy, so I don't mess with that. Everyone mixes up their own combo of whatever they like, and you pretty much dip everything in it.

As I mentioned earlier, we had a slight hitch when we ran out of gas for the camp stove. So we ended up just doing it on our stovetop and eating standing up. It still tasted really good, just a little different from the norm. It helps that we were way too hungry to care. Here's an "action" shot of food cooking.

Basically, the meat is sliced super duper thin. So you put it in, it cooks in about 10 seconds. Then you take it out and eat it immediately, usually scalding your tongue in the process.

After we ate up almost everything, I added the bean thread noodles to the pot. They cooked up pretty quickly and then we added the noodles and some of the remaining soup to the bowls with our dipping sauce. I was way too full and lazy to take any more pictures.

I think this is now officially the longest post I've ever made.

Ooh, what's for dinner!

It is a yucky, dreary, chilly rainy day here today. I thought I moved away from Chicago to get away from things like SNOW in MARCH! In any case, days like this make me long for comfort food - things that I ate growing up, which in my case usually means Chinese food. And not the junk that you get from the take-out place either. Home cooking, which they don't really serve in most Chinese restaurants. Unfortunately, my rice cooker died an unfortunate death recently, so I've been a bit lost without it.

This morning in the shower though, I had a stroke of inspiration. I can't believe that I didn't think of this before, but I'm going to set up a "hot pot" tonight, also known as shabu shabu. You'll see why this is on the crafty blog when I get some pictures going. Yay! I'm all excited now!


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