Sunday, August 01, 2010

What I've Been Up To

Which, by the way, is HORRIBLE grammar but I'm going to go with it because "That up to which I've been" isn't very catchy, is it?

I'm still on my felt food kick here. I made more felt strawberries, bringing my grand total for these up to eight. They're so stinking cute I almost want to keep them for myself! Don't they look so nice in that vintage milk glass compote I found at the Goodwill? Directions here.

Little gyoza (potstickers). These required no sewing at all, much like the tortellini. I think I'd like to make a whole set of different dumplings for dim sum. Wouldn't that be fun? Potsticker directions here.

Corn on the cob, with a husk! I used the same directions as for the banana I did the previous day. Before sewing together the inside part, I just stitched across the felt in a grid to make the corn kernels. Corn/Banana directions here.

I made the new additions to Bubba's pantry while I was working on another cupcake order. It's funny, because I' seriously have gone almost a year without a single order then BAM! Two for the same weekend. I'm not complaining though, as we could use the money. I mean, who couldn't, right?

So uh, if you're local and you need cupcakes, check out my pricing and photos on my La Confectionista blog. (okay, shameless plug over)

One of Bubba's friends from our playgroup was celebrating his second birthday today and his mom commissioned me to make the cupcakes. I made the little hard hats and traffic cones from royal icing. They were so hard because of the detail! My smallest #1 Wilton tip didn't fit into the little crevices left by the black outlines, so I actually had to use a toothpick to get the icing in there. Crazy.

Of course, after all that it's been raining here and the humidity made the black icing bleed into the colors which totally made me so mad! Even worse, last night we noticed that the boy had a slightly drippy nose and even though we specifically told him he was not allowed to get sick, he woke up at 8:00 am hacking. This meant no party for him because I am not going to be "that" mom. You know the which one I'm talking about, the one so desperate to get out of the house that she's oblivious to her own kid's suffering and doesn't stop to think that maybe no one else wants to catch what her kid has. Uh huh.

Instead, he stayed home where he played with his newest truck (a cement mixer from his party goody bag) and his father made him some hot cocoa. You can see where his cup hit the bridge of his nose perfectly when he drank. See his poor little nose is all red because we're out of Boogie Wipes and had to use regular baby wipes. Boogie Wipes are TOTALLY worth the money folks, especially if you buy the grape scented ones.

I went and dropped off the cupcakes and our gift (we got the birthday boy a Bilibo, which looks weird until you know what it is) and then headed back home to my guys.

We had a few cupcakes leftover after I made my delivery, so I just piped on some butter cream and sprinkled little multicolored nonpareils on them. So simple and pretty. I bought the black and white gingham cupcake liners at Smeeks in Phoenix, but you can order them online at Bake It Pretty or the Layer Cake Shop. The nonpareils are just the Dec-A-Cake ones from the grocery store, nothing fancy.

And that, with the exception of the photos I forgot to post of our visit to the fire station last Wednesday, brings us to the end of July! I am glad to see it go because it kinda sucked this year. Later, July!

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Thursday, February 04, 2010

Just call me Ambassador M

I was working on my makeup case entry, when this was brought to my attention:

Do you see it? Here, let me help you...

That's right folks - that's MY name with MY quote from MY blog on there!!! This is the first page (after the Flash intro) that you see when you go to their site. I'm on the front page baby!

(enter excited girl-squeals here)

I'm no Hemingway, and my experience with being published in print will probably end with those scrapbook layouts I had published long ago, but dang it, this is exciting. It's especially exciting when you notice the links for the other blogs on there... I'm the only one that isn't a dedicated food blogger.

So, if you're new here and visiting from that link, Welcome. Thank you for visiting my blog! This is my journal of sorts, so there is a little bit of everything that interests me here. If you're not interested in my knitting projects, or embroidery, or all the pretty junk food I make, or seeing photos of the cutest baby EVER or hearing the minutiae of the life of this housewife, and you just want to see posts where I've babbled about my undying love for All Clad, click here. I've tagged them all for easy reading because I'm guessing you didn't come here to hear about how I'm ridiculously enamored of MAC makeup.

But if you decide that you want to sit and stay a spell, well, new blog friends are okay with me too! :)

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Thursday, January 07, 2010

Highlights from my Kitchen - 2009

YES, another recap of sorts. Shh! 2009 was pretty good! Anyway, the Queen of Quirky put forth this set of interview questions for foodies on her blog. Since I am starting to think I may have a little bit of the "foodie" in me, I decided, why the heck not? Besides, the baby is napping and I don't feel like cleaning anything else today!

Highlights from my kitchen 2009: A Q&A interview with myself.

Q: What surprised you the most in your kitchen this year?

A: How stinking EASY it is to make homemade pasta, and how good it tastes. It's amazing what the power of two simple ingredients can do! I was also surprised at how good fried sweet potato chips were, because I really do not like sweet potatoes.

Q: What 3 ingredients in 2009 became your favorites to work with?

1. Sugar - in all it's shapes and forms. Fondant, powdered, colored, sanded, molasses, corn syrup...it's all good. It's insane the amount of powdered sugar I went through this year. I'm thinking at LEAST 15-20 two pound bags! I always buy two or three at a time now.

2. Shrimp - but honestly, that's always been a favorite. There are just so many things you can do with it!

3. Fresh vegetables - Growing up, what little vegetables we did consume in our home came from cans. Things that were supposed to be green were more of a gray color due to the canning process. We ate a lot of canned corn! Then I got older, and I moved on to frozen vegetables. They were already cut up and cleaned for me and I didn't have to worry about them spoiling if I went a week or two without actually cooking anything. The only things I ever bought in the produce section were lettuce, potatoes, onions, garlic, and maybe lemons or the odd fruit here and there.

This past year, however, I've started trying out more fresh vegetables. We discovered the simple joy of roasted green beans and asparagus. Making my own baby food brought a lot of different things into the house. We joined the food co-op and had to learn how to cook and eat new foods. (Persimmon sorbet, anyone?)

Q: What was your greatest culinary achievement?

The fondant shoes on that baby shower cake. They took six hours to make and I had no clue what I was doing. I just sort of prayed and winged it, and they worked out.

Q: What intimidated you the most before you tried it?

Definitely the fresh pasta. It sounded like so much work - why go through all the trouble when you can just grab a box for a buck or two at the supermarket? Then I tried it, and boy, did I feel dumb. Sure, it's a lot of work, but it's definitely not hard at all.

Q:What cooks inspired you this year?

Hands down, the Pioneer Woman. It was great getting to meet her, and I've made a lot of her recipes. I'm looking forward to trying more in the coming year.

Q: What was your biggest failure in the kitchen?

I still can't find the "perfect" chocolate chip cookie recipe. I have really high standards.

Q: What new dishes would you like to tackle in 2010?

More ethnic foods. I want to try making new Japanese, Indian, Italian, Chinese, and Mexican foods at home. I have a ton of cookbooks, yet I rarely open them. It's a goal for the year to use them more often.

I also am dying to try the Parmesan Truffled Popcorn Jaimee Rose posted about on her blog. My mother in law got me a jar of the Truffle and Salt for Christmas and it smells SO GOOD!

Q: What 1 event was your culinary turning point in 2009?

I don't know if I would call it a turning point, but I finally figured out how to make bread rise when it was cold outside. Don't laugh! I know most people get into the bread baking as it starts to cool off, but for me, it was always a summer time activity. I'd simply cover the dough with a kitchen towel and put it outside on the patio!

Of course, in the winter it was too cold to do that. Some people said to put the oven on warm and stick it in there, but then it would get all nasty and dried out. Some people said to stick it in the microwave, but that wasn't warm enough to get it to rise. Neither was an oven that was turned off. Finally, the answer came to me on a bag of frozen loaves of bread.

I was supposed to bring rolls to Thanksgiving dinner, but I ran out of time, so I had to go buy some at the grocery store. Of course they were out of the frozen unbaked kind, so I just got a package of five loaves. There, on the back, I found their "rapid bake" method. Preheat the oven to 175 degrees, then TURN IT OFF.

Duh. It works. You just stick your bread in there to rise without worrying about it getting a dried out crust. Now I can bake bread year round!

Q: What was your go-to kitchen tool/cookware/gadget in 2009?

Kitchen tool - my KitchenAid stand mixer. Cookware - All-Clad Saute Pan. Gadget - Onion chopper thing. Don't judge. I hate chopping onions!!! (Sorry, P-Dub)

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Thursday, December 31, 2009

ABC - The Aftermath

As I stated way back at the beginning of the month, my motto for the month was ABC - Always Be Crafting. I may not have crafted every minute of every day, but man, it sure felt like I was coming close sometimes! I had so much to get done before family came to visit. Being on a very strict budget made it all the more necessary to stick with it as well. Here, in no particular order, are the projects that I can remember off the top of my head. I'm pretty sure this is almost all of them.

Pajama pants

I wanted us to all have matching pjs on Christmas morning, but it's really hard to find ones that come in both adult and infant sizes. I'm sure even if I were to come across them, they would not be cheap. I also have a problem buying things in holiday themes because then you can't wear them past the end of the holiday without looking like a total doofus. I ended up buying three pairs of men's pj pants on sale for $8 a piece at Target and making the third pair into baby pants using the directions in The Creative Family. I'm not so good with the pattern making though, so the baby's pants fit a little bit big and had to be pinned up in the back. That's okay, it just means he'll grow into them, right?

Knit washcloths

I made both my mother in law and my sister in law a half dozen each hand knit cotton dishcloths. I switched to these myself from cellulose sponges a few months ago, and we love them! They're textured just right to make them great for scrubbing, but they won't scratch anything. They're better for the environment because they're reusable. You just toss them in the wash at the end of the day so you don't have a sponge in your sink breeding bacteria. Some people think you can toss the sponge in the dishwasher and that sanitizes it, but oh, is that a yucky, yucky myth!

I forgot to take a photo of the finished ones. Duh.

Baby Non-Skid Socks.

Bubba was slipping and sliding all over the kitchen floor when it got cold enough so that he needed to wear socks. Someone told me that if you put puff paint on the bottom of them it would make them non skid. I also read it in Parents magazine, so I decided to try it. Not only did it not work very well, the paint peeled off after a couple of washings!

I like to call these his "Bad Word" socks.

Pinwheel Quilt

I don't even know if I should count this one. I bought the fabric, cut the squares, started sewing and pressing and sewing and piecing... and then ran out of time. I even managed to get about half of the actual pinwheels completed using the directions on V and Co's blog, but I was insane to think that I would be able to finish a full sized quilt in time for Christmas with all the other stuff I had going on. As a result, my sister in law and her fiance received a box with all the pieces and a promise it would be done in time for the wedding in May.



Felt Food

Now that Bubba as a play kitchen with pots and pans, I decided he needed some play food to go along with it. I know there are tons of play sets available out there with play food that are very reasonably priced, but the problem is that they're usually A) plastic and B) made in China. I'm not giving that to my baby who still feels the need to shove everything into his mouth! EW! There are some wooden ones that I liked (and plan to get in the future) as well as some really nice felt food on Etsy, but they're also kind of spendy. It's just not in the budget right now.

Fortunately, felt is super cheap! So is embroidery floss. I actually happen to have a ton of both in my stash of craft supplies already (I bet you're so surprised) so I decided to make up some things. I didn't have patterns, and just was winging it. I looked at photos of felt food on Flickr for inspiration. There was also a couple of orange wedges and a few slices of tomato for the sandwich that I didn't photograph because they were done after I took the photos. Oh, and the syrup on the waffle is detachable!!!

I sewed all these by hand while watching Bewitched on Hulu, starting with the first episode. That's also how I passed the time for a lot of my knitting!


Glitter Buckles for Ribbon

When I saw these on Jaimee Rose's blog a few months ago while going through her archives, I knew I had to make them. She said she paid $12.50 for eight of hers at a local shop called Melrose Vintage. Again, not only am I poor, but I am cheap as well, so I made some. I sketched out my own pattern before learning that Martha had one available on her site. Duh. I then traced it on scraps of chipboard leftover from other projects. Next, I took a Bic Mark-It marker that coordinated with the glitter I was using for that particular buckle and used it to color in the edges of the chipboard. Finally, I took Stickles and covered the fronts of the buckles. They had to dry overnight because I put a really thick layer, but they were worth the wait because the Stickles don't flake loose glitter everywhere like regular glitter and glue does.

My favorite ones were the ones made with the Platinum Stickles and gray Mark-It. The Black Diamond didn't turn out very well. I think it would have worked better if I had colored the chipboard base black before covering it in glitter. After they were dry all I had to do was thread some wide ribbon through them. These would be great for gifts that had to be shipped because they look pretty and you wouldn't have to worry about the bow getting crushed.


Cake Pops and Cake Truffles

I decided to stop calling them "Cake Balls" and start calling them "Cake Truffles." I think that sounds nicer. I had someone order some cake pops, and had a lot left over. Then I ran out of sticks so I had to switch from pops to truffles.

Pops are DEFINITELY easier.

Stockings

Since family was coming over, we were going to need more stockings! No way in hell was I going to pay $15 each for six new stockings (because you know they HAD to match) so I started to troll local thrift stores in search of fabric to make into stockings. I found this large lime green check for $5 and had enough to make them all with some leftover. I got the red burlap at Hobby Lobby for $3. Grand total - $8 for six new, MATCHING stockings. Not bad!

Tamales

I'm counting these as crafting because they are a LOT of work. I had my friend (pictured above) over to help. This was only my third time making them myself, and it was SO NICE compared to last time. I had the stand mixer to make the masa instead of having to hold a hand mixer. I had the Multi Pot which held a lot more water under the steamer basket and needed less monitoring than the smaller pot I used last time. I also had better help - he didn't whine and complain the whole time and was eager to learn. That's always nice! We made about 8 dozen, which isn't a lot compared to what some people made, but we also only ever had two people at a time working on them.

I just lack a posse of tias and cousins to help, I guess.

Peppermint Marshmallows

Another thing I got from Jaimee Rose. I tell you, that woman is a bad influence on me! The recipe is from Martha, the containers are from the Dollar Tree, and the labels I made in Photoshop and punched out using my EK Success scalloped punch. I was surprised at how easy they were and am no longer a candy-making virgin. I even have the candy thermometer to prove it!


Sugar/Gingerbread Cookies

Again, technically not a craft, but still requiring a lot of time and work and some level of craftiness, so I'm counting them! I made so many of these. Some were sold, some were given as gifts, many were eaten. I hung most of the gingerbread ones on the tree in lieu of ornaments this year as I didn't want the baby knocking any of my ornaments off and breaking them.

Ornament Wreath

Yet another thing found by Jaimee Rose, this wreath was made using the directions given by Eddie Ross on his blog. I was lazy and skipped the hot gluing part, and regretted it when I lost a couple ornaments. I used shatterproof ones I got for $10 at Target. If I put this out again I'll go back and do that step. I also ran out before I completed the loop and just filled the gap with a big-ass bow.

Christmas Cards

I went super simple this year - the boy's photo with Santa photoshopped into a simple background with a short greeting. I made them 4" x 6", sent them off to Walgreens with a coupon code, and had them printed for ten cents each. They were then mounted on a rectangle of plain white cardstock to make them feel more "finished" and mailed out in envelopes that I ran through the printer.

Play Kitchen "Art"

I made this little sign in Photoshop for the baby's play kitchen. It got printed out here on photo paper and then put into a frame that my husband found at the Walmarts for $3.

So there you have it - I spent more hours making stuff than I did sleeping. Come to think of it, I didn't sleep a whole heck of a lot this month. There were more than a couple of all-nighters pulled. It's the only way I was able to work without Bubba Grabby-Fingers distracting me. I would just take a nap with him in the afternoons to try and catch up a little. I had a few moments here and there where I worked on my own December Daily album. I do still need to wrap that up though, as having family in town puts a serious halt to projects like that.

People are always asking me how I find the time, but the truth of the matter is that you find time for what is important to you - this was important to me. If you think about it, I really don't go out much, I hardly watch television, I don't go to the gym or work out at all, and I don't have a job besides caring for my child. I decided that since I wasn't very good at anything else, I was going to rock this domesticity thing as hard as I could.

Next month though - I'm taking a break! HA!

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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Christmas Cookies!

Last week, I made a whole slew of Christmas cookies.

I made gingerbread cookies.



I made sugar cookies.






I also made chocolate chip shortbread and brownies, along with the peppermint marshmallows. Some of these were sold to clients, some were given away, and some were eaten. Many of the gingerbread ones were hung on the Christmas tree.

After cookies were done, I moved on to tamales. My kitchen has been very busy lately!!!

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Thursday, December 17, 2009

It's Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas!

Our new carpet is finally in and we were finally able to get our Christmas tree up!

(The photo looks good, but the attempt to have the baby put the star on top of the tree was not so very successful, let's just say)

We spent all weekend moving furniture back into the living room and making sure everything was placed just so. I rearranged a few things in here and changed how the books were placed on the shelves. Everything also got a good cleaning and all the wooden furniture got polished with a 50/50 mixture of lemon juice and olive oil. I'm telling you, that stuff works SO much better than anything you can buy, and it's all natural.

After all of the business stuff was done, we got to work with decorations. I decided not to put everything out this year because of Mr. Bubba Grabby-Hands. The tree is up, but it has no ornaments. I plan to put gingerbread cookies with white icing on it. That way, if he gets any off and breaks or eats them, it's not a big deal.

I hung the felt circle garland I made last year over a mirror, between the two tall bookshelves, and a faux pine garland on the shelf over the television. I've been clipping the Christmas cards we've received to it using teeny clothespins. Remember when those were THE thing in scrapbooking? Yeah, they were in the jar with my watch crystals, ha ha!

Here is a photo of the Eddie Ross wreath that I talked about in my last post. You can see that the bow just fills the blank spot in the wire. I know that purple in the ribbon doesn't really match, but I had this small piece that was just enough for this and wanted to use it up, so there you go.

Last August we found a Playmobil nativity at a local toystore, so I bought that. I feel it's important for Bubba to grow up knowing the meaning behind Christmas, and not just the Santa part. I didn't put out everything, because it has a TON of teensy parts. Just the basics, plus the larger animals. The baby Jesus is still in the box and won't come out until Christmas day.

I baked a whole slew of gingerbread (for the tree mostly) and sugar cookies yesterday, and stayed up all night icing them. I'll take photos of them tomorrow morning before I bag them up for delivery. I think they came out really cute. I posted some bad iPhone photos of them on Facebook, so if you're my friend on there you can check them out.

Tonight I decided to try something completely new - marshmallows! I've never attempted any sort of candy making before, because working with molten, bubbling sugar scares the crap out of me. I think I've mentioned before just how clumsy I am! Nevertheless, since Jaimee Rose said they were easy, I decided, what the heck? So there is my "New Thing" for December.

I've never worked with the unflavored Knox gelatine before either. It's really weird and smells funny! I also had to run to Michael's to pick up a candy thermometer. I have so many thermometers in this house, but due to never having made candy (not even fudge) I didn't have one of those. Hooray for 50% off coupons!

I doubled Martha's recipe, and I'm happy to report, they came out wonderfully. They're big, so you would only need one or two for a mug of cocoa. They're a slightly different texture than store bought ones, and are flavored with a teeny hint of peppermint. I swirled on red food coloring, per Martha's instructions. Word to the wise - when the woman says work quickly, do it! on one batch, the coloring set on top too long and it sank through to the bottom of the marshmallow mixture, resulting in the color not being swirled through. When I cut them apart, there were these tiny wells of red color that made them look like they were bleeding!!!

I bought the jars at Dollar Tree, and plan to make labels for them and hand them out as gifts. I think I may have to go back and buy a few more.

So that is Christmas here so far! I'm working on my December Daily, and I'll try to post what I've done so far soon. No promises though. I still have quite a bit of sewing to do in the next ten days so I'll be very busy. We've also got tamales coming up this weekend!

It's the most BUSY - uh, I mean wonderful - time of the year!

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Friday, November 13, 2009

November 2009 Twelve of Twelve

I forgot to do this last month, but luckily, since I've been using my iPhone as a white noise machine it's next to my bed in the morning. That means I can check Facebook first thing (bad) and see reminders before I get up and it's too late to do this when I remember!

I woke up to the lovely sensation of something warm spreading across my back. Bubba tends to wake up at about 7 in the morning, and then I put him in bed with me because he'll usually go back to sleep there. This means I get about another 2-3 hours of sleep most days, which is lovely. This morning he woke up before I did and managed to undo the velcro on his diaper before crawling over to where I was. I was sleeping on my side, and he kneeled against me while trying to peek over at the dog who was sleeping on the floor. This meant his naked front was pressed against my back, and well, I guess nature called!

Luckily, my husband was telecommuting that day so that allowed me to be able to get the mess cleaned up and myself in the shower right away!

It's never too early to start good dental hygiene! (gotta love the bedhead)

I tried parting my hair in the middle. Not sure I like it. I also put on lipstick, which is something I rarely do.

I needed some more adhesive, so I drove out to the scrapbook store. Of course, they were out! I did look through the paper though. It's so frustrating to see so many pretty choices and not be able to buy them! Oh, and for those of you who aren't local - this is only a FRACTION of what they have there. MMMM paper room!

We swung by Michael's because I needed some candy boxes. I made cake balls (cake pops minus the stick) the day before and I needed something in which to place them for giving. They had this huge bin of ribbon outside but I was good and resisted the urge to look.

Bubba's socks. I love these and will be so sad when he outgrows them. They're from Gymboree, and we bought them when I was still pregnant.

We had marriage prep that evening. These are our facilitators. I'm actually not sure what their official title is, but I like to take them food, hee hee! They got a box of cake balls.

Afterwards we made a stop at Hobby Lobby to look for the elusive adhesive. No luck. That baby was out cold! He totally wore himself out crawling around the room and cruising around the tables while we were at church. He even took a few steps there. He's officially started walking, but we haven't been able to get any video because he gets too excited when he sees the camera and falls!

I sold a couple of my December Daily albums (I still have two left in my Etsy shop! Go look!) including one to my friend Cicely. We stopped and dropped it off on the way to marriage prep and I took her some cake balls too. I did take a photo of her with the baby that I intended to use in this post, but she was leaning into the car and I realized after the fact that I had managed to take a photo down her top. It wouldn't be very nice to post a pic of her girls on the internet, so that's why it's not here.

Anyway, I decided that we needed a treat and since I had the cash from her album in my wallet, I got my husband and myself our first red cups of the season from Starbucks. This was our first time there in two months. How's that for cutting back?

I got to work on some pages for my December Dailies when we got home from our outing. I love paper!

Bubba helped. He's taken to standing on this stool next to my table and keeping me company while I work. He'll usually stand there and play contentedly with paper scraps and some of the "safer" tools like the bone folder or Empressor for about 15 minutes before he gets bored.

I needed a bit of a break, so I went into the kitchen to box up some more of those cake balls. These are the 1 lb candy boxes I bought, and they held eight perfectly. Between the Wilton ones from Michael's, and the Make'n Mold ones from Hobby Lobby - I think I'll stick with the latter. They fold nicer, they have a nicer finish, they don't gap when you close them, AND you got four for the same price that you get three Wilton ones. They're the exact same size and shape too. No brainer!

I went with a Fall/Thanksgiving color scheme when decorating them. I thought I'd like cake balls better, because I felt bad wasting all those sticks, but MAN, what a mess!!! I think I'll try it again with the actual candy making tools (yay Michael's coupons!) instead of just a spoon, but if that doesn't help, it's back to cake pops for me.

I also think it's worth noting that fancier candy melts aren't necessarily better for this. I was excited to find Guittard ones at Safeway (it's what they use in the FABULOUS hot chocolate that they sell at Williams Sonoma) but it turns out they just didn't work very well. They melted nicely, but when the candy cooled the shell totally cracked across the center. (They were tastier than the Wilton ones however) So far I've tried three brands and the generic ones from the cake decorating store are my favorites. I do plan on trying the Make'n Mold ones next though. I think that's what Bakerella uses.

Of course, I totally got sucked into what I was doing and ended up staying awake until 4:30 am. Oops. So that was my day.

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