Friday, February 27, 2009

Back in the Kitchen

Thanks for the pretzel recipe links. I have them filed away for future reference. We ended up trying this copycat recipe for Aunt Annie's pretzels. The dough was still kind of sticky, so we ended up making sticks instead of twists. They tasted very close to Aunt Annie's, which made the kids happy. They love Aunt Annie's pretzels. We don't get them very often, so it was extra fun to make them at home. I didn't take photos of our second pretzel session.

The kids had this past week off from school, and what with me still recovering (but really feeling better every day), we stayed close to home. My dad sent me a recipe for Microwave Chocolate Cake in a Mug, which has vacation-at-home written all over it! I let the kids each make their own one night after dinner.

You mix up your ingredients in a microwave safe mug and cook it in the microwave for 3 minutes.
It pops up over the top of the mug while it's cooking, but then plops back into the mug the second the microwave shuts off.

It looked completely unappetizing dumped out on a plate, so I didn't take pictures of that! Whipped cream gets sprayed on just about everything in our house, most definitely on chocolate cake. I think ice cream would have been a better accompaniment, but we didn't have any.
Each cake has an egg, 4 T of sugar, and 3 T of oil (in addition to other ingredients). I told the kids they wouldn't sit down and eat a whole egg, 4 T of sugar, and 3 T of oil plain in one sitting, so I only let them eat half of their cake in one sitting. (Common sense says if I was only going to let them eat half of the cake I should have only made one cake, but Mom sense says it is more fun if each kid makes their own cake!) They got pretty full on one half anyway, and ate the other half the next night.
I had a small bite of the cake. I didn't think it was very good. It had a slightly burned taste, and was very dry. Maybe we didn't need to cook them for the full 3 minutes. But it was an entertaining dessert, that's for sure!
Here is a very similar recipe to the one we used. The only difference in our recipe was to use regular flour, and add a dash of vanilla.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009


We tried to make soft pretzels today using this recipe.

Result: the stickiest dough I've ever tried to work with.

Attempts to fix the dough failed.

I threw it all away.

We will try again tomorrow.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Valentine Monsters, a little late

Due to unforeseen circumstances last week, I wasn't prepared to set up our traditional Valentine's Day Treasure Hunt until yesterday. Every year I write up a set of rhyming clues and send the kids on a hunt all through the house to find a small gift. They each have their own hunt, beginning at their places at the dining table, and I set up a trail that ideally takes them through the entire house. I try to coordinate it so that they are hunting in different rooms at different times. The whole thing takes some time to plan and set up, but I enjoy doing it, and the children love this tradition.

Some years I buy them some inexpensive little thing, but this year I made them each a little Valentine Monster. I had an idea in mind for these, and they turned out pretty much as I pictured them. I rarely work without a pattern (someone else's pattern, I might add!), but my idea was simple enough that I was able to make this up as I went along.

I wanted to experiment with felting. I read somewhere that the best crochet stitch for felting is half-double crochet, so, using Patons Classic Merino Wool yarn, I chained 17 and then did 15 hdc across until the piece was 4 inches long. The base of each ear is 5 stitches, and I shaped them by decreasing once on the inside portion of each row until it came to a point. I made two pieces, a front and a back, for each Valentine Monster.

To felt the pieces, I washed them in my washing machine twice with Woolite on hot with a cold rinse. Here is a rose-colored piece before felting, next to a red-colored piece after felting.

The eyes and mouths are made from acrylic felt. I use freezer paper anytime I want to cut shapes out of felt. This is probably a trick you are all very familiar with, but just in case you don't know how this works, I'll share how to do that.

Using Freezer Paper (which you find in your grocery store in the aluminum foil and plastic wrap section), draw or trace your shapes on the dull side of the paper. I free-hand drew the eyes and the mouths of the Valentine Monsters.

Then, with an iron set to medium heat, iron the paper, shiny side down, directly onto your felt. The freezer paper will stick right to the felt, allowing you to cut your shapes out with ease. When you are done cutting your shapes, the freezer paper peels right off the felt, leaving the felt in perfect condition. I love this method. Since the lines are drawn on the freezer paper, you don't have tell-tale trace lines around your cut-out felt pieces, and the paper also stiffens the felt just enough to make the shapes come out crisp and neat. Good, sharp, small scissors also help with that!
Here are my eye and mouth patterns, ironed to the felt, just prior to cutting.

I lightly glued the eye and mouth pieces to the front piece of the Monster, then stitched them down with perle cotton. I had heart-shaped buttons to sew on as accents, but you could just as easily cut a small heart (or any other shape) out of felt and applique that. I used a buttonhole stitch to stitch the front piece to the back piece, and stuffed each Monster before closing up completely.
These were a big hit. My kids love silly little things. Good thing, because I like making them!
edited: I actually used blanket stitch, not button hole stitch, to sew the fronts and backs together.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Recuperating with a WIP

Thanks for all your well-wishes on my previous post. My surgery went well, and I am recovering at home. I've been so tired! I try to move around every day, just walking around the house, and doing light household things, but I've also done a lot of napping and sitting. I've been watching seasons 2 and 3 of The Gilmore Girls in marathon stretches, and totally not getting sick of it, while I stitch away on this cross stitch project, Strawberry Garden, by Blackbird Designs. Yes, it's another ABC sampler, but I love it. The stems get filled in with a TON of lazy daisy stitches, which has me worried because my lazy daisies leave a lot to be desired, but hopefully after the hundreds I'll have to put into this design, I will finally master that stitch.

Dreary weather here today, so the photos turned out gloomy. The colors are really much more beautiful in person. I have a coupon for 55% off custom framing that expires on March 3, so my goal is to get this done before then. I know just where I want to hang it!

I actually despise crows in real life, but I don't mind them in cross stitch.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Lame blog

I haven't been posting much lately, which frustrates me a bit because I would like to have a friendly, happy place for people to visit. Short posts that come few and far between don't make for a very enticing blog. I've been dealing with a health issue for the past few weeks, though. I've been uncomfortable and often in pain, and now as it turns out, I need surgery to make it better, which I found out today has been scheduled for Thursday! As in, two days from now! This gives me little time to prepare, but I am determined to get my linen, floss, needles, hooks, and yarn in order, as well as my stack of books and my Netflix queue to keep me busy while I recuperate. I can't rely on my husband to know what I need. I can see me trying to tell him what supplies I need: "No dear, not the knitting needles. The crochet hooks. What do you mean, what's the difference?"

Needless to say, I haven't tackled that basement of mine yet (and I am horrified to see that those three photos of my basement I posted on Flickr are in the top 6 of most viewed photos in my photostream. Why? Why?) Maybe in March, when I am hopefully feeling better.

I'm supposed to be home by Thursday night (even though I'll be having general anesthesia--they don't keep you for anything these days), but I have no idea how I'll be feeling. Chances are my convalescence won't be blog-worthy.

I leave you with heart-happy valentine photos, most of which I took last year, with the exception of the felted hearts. I started experimenting with felting crochet before I started feeling sick, but didn't get very far with them.

Hope to be back in this space soon. Meanwhile, I will continue to visit your blogs to brighten my days!

Sunday, February 8, 2009


I made these refrigerator magnets a few years ago after I saw them on Knitting Iris. Love these so much! You can find the little boxes of Necco conversation hearts just about everywhere this time of year. I trim the front and back panels of the box so that the magnet is flat, and use double-sided tape to secure the front piece to the back. I put adhesive magnetic tape on the back. If you are giving these to a grandparent or someone else, you can fill in the "to" and "from" fields on the back.

Last year I bought 20 boxes of conversation hearts and had all the kids in my daughter's class make magnets for their parents. The teachers always have little ID photos of the kids, so we used those photos. We used the candy hearts to play games. Who could make the tallest stack of candy hearts in one minute? Who could pick the most candy hearts out of bowl in one minute using chopsticks? After so many little fingers handle the candy, you beg the kids not to eat any, but some of them always do.

(An aside: I feel like my camera has not been the same since I had it in Niagara Falls last summer. I think the lens needs to be cleaned. What is the best way to do that? Should I take it to a camera shop or attempt to do it myself?)

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Valentine Wreath

I haven't been working on anything new the past few weeks, so I thought I'd share something old. I made this heart wreath in the early 1990s following a pattern out of a Vanessa Ann's Holidays in Cross Stitch book. I loved those Vanessa Ann books. I discovered them in the public library when I was living in Minnesota, back when I had an easy job (easy meaning I went home at 4:00 p.m. every day, and didn't work evenings or weekends), lived in an apartment (very low-maintenance!), and had no children. My mind boggles now at all the free time I must have had back then! I would check the Vanessa Ann books out from the library, head to Frank's Nursery and Crafts to buy my stitch supplies, and spend my evenings stitching away.
As I get older, I appreciate now how much of my life is stitched into the things I've made over the years. When I see this heart wreath, I don't just see a heart wreath. I see myself as a young woman in a somewhat shabby apartment with a boring job in a happy relationship dreaming of a bright future. A little bit of my heart and soul is in everything I make.