In my crafty exploits, although cross-stitch is my first love, I really enjoy working with felt.  It’s forgiving and easy to work with, comes in a bunch of fun colours and patterns, and works up quickly into something recognizable.

I’m not quite sure how I missed the first round, but back in May, I happened upon Round 2 of a Twinchie Swap on Craftster.org.  What’s a twinchie, you ask?  I’m no expert, but it’s a 2″ square felt patch with some sort of picture or pattern appliquéd onto the front.  Some of the ladies on there take this stuff seriously, and plan to amass enough different twinchies to combine into a wall hanging or something similar.  That part felt like a lot of commitment (how many swaps does that take, Mr. Owl?), but piecing together four patches for a partner?  No sweat.

My partner provided me with a list of five areas of interest, and since I didn’t feel quite capable of translating Harry Potter characters into felt, I chose her “things from the sea” theme.

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The jellyfish turned out to be my partner’s favourite, though it was the least-embellished.  The floaty tentacles are stem-stitched, using Petite Treasure Braid from Rainbow Gallery.

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This was the first one I completed.  I was so excited to have a use for all those beads I kept after my jewelry-making phase in high school!

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“Especially seahorses” showed up on my partner’s swap questionnaire as an addendum to “things from the sea”, so I delivered.  The colours remind me a bit of Pinkie Pie (My Little Sea Pony?).

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I think this one was my favourite.  I appliquéd the black stripes onto the yellow fish shape, and then backstitched the fin detail.

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All together.  Because the squares were 2″ x 2″, each creature is about 1.5″ – 1.75″ at its widest spot.

As always, thanks for looking! 🙂

* What’s a Smoot?  Glad you asked!

“…allig8r!”

June 16, 2017

Those of you who have been following my exploits for a while will know that I’m a bit of a stickler for grammar.  There was the tea towel, the t-shirt, and the rant about “whatever“.  (Oh, yes, and the snarky cross-stitch for a friend.)

It probably shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to anyone, then, that abbreviated text-speak annoys me to no end.  There might have been a case made for it, back when SMS messages were allotted only 160 characters, and you had to key “4-4-3-3-5-5-5-5-5-5-6-6-6” just to say “Hello”.  (Remember that?)  But with the proliferation of smart devices – or worse, when someone’s using a real computer and keyboard?  That’s just lazy.

Despite my aversion to that “How R U?” kind of stuff, I found myself drawn to “C U L8R” from the “Cats Rule” line by Heritage Stitchcraft.  For one thing, the cat looks a bit like mine; also, I figured it would make a great companion piece to “Whateva”, and by extension, a great birthday gift for my mom.  I love Heritage Stitchcraft’s designs for their detail and nuance – and for the fact that each pattern comes with two sheets: one for cross-stitch and one for the backstitch – but oh, my, those squashed fractionals!  Evenweave is a must with those guys.

Weekly progress shots are available on my Instagram feed, but I present to you now the finished piece in all its glory:

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It’s particularly appropriate since I’m the one who taught her how to text – back when “4-4-3-3-5-5-5-5-5-5-6-6-6” ruled the airwaves.

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Beside its companion piece, whose subject looks utterly disinterested in being Cn L8r.

As always, thanks for looking! 🙂

Note: This post was originally written and meant to be posted on Sunday; however, because of some technical issues with WordPress first obscuring my photos and then abruptly deleting my entire text, there has been a slight delay.

My neighbours, who are DINKs (to clarify: very nice people, who happen to be Dual Income, No Kids), made the rookie mistake of going out for breakfast this morning.  The restaurant, they reported later, was absolutely packed.  You people have no children!  That’s a free pass from having to do the Mother’s Day brunch mob!  That’s one big advantage to not having kids!  Of course, the advantage to having children who are old enough to use the stove without summoning the local fire department is that you also get to avoid the crowds, and enjoy a home-cooked breakfast, possibly still in your pajamas.

I had mulled over a few ideas for what to make for breakfast, but decided to go with an old standby: giant(ish) baked apple pancakes, which I’ve posted on here before.  They come together really quickly, and yet look so impressive – because whoa, that thing’s the size of my plate!

Just after coming out of the oven, all puffed-up and golden at the edges.

The butter and brown sugar create a built-in syrup of sorts as it bakes, no maple required.  Fun fact: I once forgot to add the brown sugar to the pie pans before baking, and although they released super-easily, they were a little dry and not…quite…right.

I also wanted to make something for dessert, but not the same-old.  Cupcakes are nice, and all, but it’s been done.  While flipping through my collection of cookbooks, I found a recipe for flapper pie in the Kitchen Magpie’s book.  (Hardly surprising, since said book is titled Flapper Pie and a Blue Prairie Sky.)  The recipe took me a little bit out of my comfort zone, but seemed fairly simple, so I thought I’d give it a go.

Did I say “a little bit out of my comfort zone”?  This thing had me tense.  It was only the second time I’ve had to make a thick, pudding-like filling using cornstarch and heat as my catalysts (the first time was the pudding for my Brooklyn Blackout Cake), and I thought it was never going to thicken.  When it did, though, did it ever.  One minute, I was stirring what was in essence a pot of liquid, and the next it was producing a diabolical plopping sound as it came to a boil, and I’m pretty sure I could have gotten my spoon to stand up in the middle of it.  Also, I had never had occasion to make meringue before, and was convinced I would never get stiff peaks out of what seemed like fairly benign ingredients.  But lo (and behold!), the Kitchen Magpie did not fail me, and before long I was topping my pie and popping it into the oven to brown up.

It didn’t come out of the pan quite as neatly as I would have liked, but it did stay more-or-less intact, and tastes like it’s supposed to.  Certainly the Woman of the Hour was impressed – and that’s what matters, right?

Thanks for reading – Happy Mother’s Day! 🙂

“Glass…glass, hmm…I’ve got it: ‘alas’!” – Linus Larrabee, Sabrina

With Easter approaching (or, ahem, upon us), I wanted to make something light and springy – in taste and appearance, not texture.  No one likes rubbery cake.  Years ago, my grandmother used to make a dessert we called “Broken Glass”.  A quick Google search reveals that yes, this is still something that people know about, and recipes abound.  I used this one, but I think I’ll re-write it for myself to better order the steps.

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If you decide to make this, you really ought to consider making your gelatin first.  The recipe calls for strawberry, lime, and orange, but I opted for a cherry-lemon-berry blue combination.  You’re limited only by your imagination, your personal preferences, and what’s readily available in your local grocery stores.  (There, that’s not very limiting, is it?!)

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Although the crust is the first step in the recipe – and the second, if you count “chill” as a step – I held off on making it until my gelatin was nice and firm.  The crust really doesn’t need to chill for that long, and you want to make sure you’ll have sufficient fridge space for everything.  If you’ve got a gloriously large and/or empty fridge, good for you; feel free to shove everything in there at once to chill and/or firm up.

A word about the dreadfully ambiguous eighth step “Set aside until slightly thickened”: I have no idea what “slightly thickened” means, especially since at no time are we told to put it in the fridge to start the thickening/setting process.  At last, something that doesn’t go in the fridge!  When I made this, I let it cool to room temperature so that it wouldn’t completely dissolve my formerly-frozen, now-thawed whipped topping.

And a quick word about pineapple juice: make sure it’s pure pineapple juice, unsweetened, and untainted by other “filler” juices.  My friend made this recipe using a pineapple/apple/pear blend, and it left a funny taste to the filling.

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You should wind up with something that looks like this.

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Isn’t it pretty when it’s cut?

This makes a light, fruity dessert that goes down easily.  It’s also a great recipe for summer because there’s no oven involved – and no stovetop, either, if you boil your water and pineapple juice in the microwave.

Thanks for looking – and Happy Easter! 🙂

D’oh! Nuts!

March 19, 2017

I had never really been a huge fan of doughnuts/donuts.  Sure, if a box happened to appear at work – as was a near-daily occurrence at a different job, what feels like a lifetime ago – I was happy to grab one and continue reviewing commodity codes on a sugar high.  But they never really excited me in one of those oh-boy-gotta-have-one ways.  They have a tendency to go stale quickly (particularly when stored in their original, not-airtight boxes), or else melt and ooze glaze all over the place.  That’s not to say I don’t still consume the odd one today; I just do so much more judiciously than the Witty Child of yore.

When a new, “gourmet” donut shop opened up a block or so from my office, despite the buzz of excitement from my coworkers, I remained at first impervious.  It was nearly two months before I made my first trek over.  Lemon meringue?  Chocolate-peanut butter cup?  This wasn’t your parbaked Tim’s fare.  They were certainly delicious, but at $3 or $4 each, were definitely a treat.  And so I more or less regained my immunity to their siren song, at least until the day I decided to go for a walk and found the shop boasting a vegan yeast donut with a root beer glaze.

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Who would have known that something so deceptively simple could be so good?!  Words can’t describe it.  This is a full-on-Snuffles-float, lick-the-glaze-off-your-fingers-until-they-turn-pruny delight.

Naturally, I decided I had to try to recreate these.

I’m not a fan of deep-frying (or, let’s be honest, pan-frying) at home due to the inherent chance of setting the kitchen alight, and also because everything in the house will smell like nasty fried oil after.  Fully aware of this self-imposed limitation, I was pleased to find a recipe for baked donuts in Chloe Coscarelli’s Chloe’s Vegan Desserts.

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The batter came together really quickly, which I loved, and baked quickly, too.  However, I’m starting to suspect I’m not such a fan of baked donuts due to their propensity for getting distinctly darker on the bottom (think muffin bottom vs. muffin top).  The recipe also called for way too much nutmeg which made them smell suspiciously like a baked ham as they cooked, but that can easily be altered if I make them again.

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But ah, it’s all about the glaze, isn’t it?  My stockpile of root beer extract from Watkins came in handy, and let me double-dip these bad boys.  Hands down, the best part of the donut!

As always, thanks for looking! 🙂

Oh, George Harrison…[sigh]  I had Beatles tunes running through my head a lot while working on my latest project.

A few weeks back, I decided to participate in my first organized swap on Craftster.  I had always felt a little intimidated before: what if what I made wasn’t good enough and looked like the efforts of a dexterity-challenged preschooler?  Some of the crafters on there are crazy talented, and fill a swap box like nobody’s business.  The pressure!

When I saw the Box of Sunshine Swap open for sign-ups, I knew I had found my swap.  This was to be low-cost and low-stress: five or six items, a few hours of crafting, nothing too outrageous.  The only other guideline was that items – crafted or otherwise – should ideally be in warm, sunny shades of yellow and orange, so that the recipient might open a box of sunshine to cheer up a gloomy winter day.  I could do that!  And who doesn’t love getting cheery mail?

Although I dabble in a variety of crafts, longtime readers of this blog will know that needlework, and cross-stitch in particular, is my area of expertise (?).  I spent ages trawling through Etsy (of course) until I found this design by Sewingseed.  Whole stitches only, no backstitch?  Yes, please!

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I didn’t much care for the steel grey fabric used in the original stitched piece – but I get it, it’s to illustrate the sun breaking through a grey sky – and instead substituted some 28-count Summer Sky hiding in my stash.  I also altered the colours oh-so-slightly, on “comes the”since the original ultra-light yellow would have been lost on my fabric.

I love how this turned out!  It’s the perfect harbinger of spring days ahead, and I had a lot of fun stitching something that I might not ordinarily stitch for myself or for someone in my usual circle of craftiness (although I do have more Summer Sky, so one never knows).

Have I opened a Pandora’s Box of swapping?  Stay tuned…

Thanks for looking! 🙂

So, recently I had been part of a project at work informally known as the “Blackout Blitz”.  In all fairness, its name comes from its ties to production quotas and inter-departmental deadlines; however, from the very beginning, it made me think simultaneously of the Blitz of WWII and of the blackout drills held during the war.  Hardly unusual, given the name.

(This raises an important question: why do so many people glorify the WWII era?  I do it, too, but why?  I’m perfectly able to wear oxfords and listen to big band music today, but without all the hassles of rationing, polio, wartime casualties, the marginalization of women and minorities…  I can only chalk it up to there being a heckuva spin doctor there somewhere, who made the whole damned thing seem so glamourous and wholesome.  And, let’s face it, the Bomb Girls of the eponymous television series seemed to know how to make a blackout drill a real gas.)

Needless to say, by the time my mom’s birthday was approaching, I had blackouts and blitzes on the brain, and so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that for her cake, I decided to duplicate Ebinger’s Bakery’s famous Brooklyn Blackout Cake.

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I turned to Chloe Coscarelli’s Chloe’s Vegan Desserts for the basic how-to and for the killer chocolate pudding to slather between layers and all over the outside – and was I ever excited when the mixture smoothed and thickened exactly as it was supposed to! – but deferred to Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World for the cake portion.  Their Basic Chocolate Cupcake recipe is moist and foolproof, and with the addition of black cocoa powder to make it extra-dark and rich, there was no going wrong.

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I was concerned that the step of pulsing part of the cake in the food processor to make crumbs to be sprinkled on top would detract somehow from the finished product, but au contraire!  They only add to the chocolatey goodness.

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Moist chocolate cake sandwiching rich chocolate pudding?  Sign me up!

Thanks for looking! 🙂

The Boy Scouts were RIGHT!

January 8, 2017

Is it just me, or does January seem interminable thus far?  It’s cold, it’s miserable, and there are no holidays from work until April…ugh!  While discussing the molasses-in-January (ha!) qualities of the calendar with my friend, I realized something: when it first became cold and snowy in December, I would think, “Well, December’s already [1/4, 1/2, 3/4] done.  It’ll be spring before we know it!”  January is not moving along nearly so quickly, and I joked that perhaps if I started trying desperately to get Christmas gifts finished now, the month would be gone before I knew it.  That has to be what made December so fast!

With thought rattling around my mind, I decided that since I had had such a positive reaction to my Craftmas series of posts this year and last, I should document:

The Witty Child’s Tips for a Successful Craftmas*

*(or festive occasion of your choosing; really, these can be applied to almost anything)

  1. Be prepared – that is to say, have a plan.  I don’t want to go all life-coach on you and chirp that “failing to plan is planning to fail”, but doing a little pre-Craftmas brainstorming will prevent a lot of stress later on.  Think about whom you wish to bestow crafty goodness upon, as well as what that crafty goodness might be, and make sure you’re going to have enough time/money/supplies to make it happen.  If you spend a third of your life asleep, and a third of your waking hours at work, time is a precious commodity.  You don’t want to start trying to hand-knit scarves for your list of 45 on December 2.  All the faux-sick days in the world won’t help you there.
  2. Reconsider your Christmas list.  I used to stitch up little pictures for my Avon lady, but after not…getting…much feedback (I didn’t expect gushing tears of thanks, but even a quick, “Oh, that was cute!” would have been nice), she now gets a thoughtful storebought gift, and my crafty time gets invested elsewhere.  Make sure your intended recipients are going to fully appreciate your mad skills.
  3. Reconsider your idea of crafty.  If someone on your list might not appreciate the blood, sweat, and tears that go into a Real Project (see #2), might a tin of homemade cookies or candy go over just as well?  Consumables are always nice because there’s no pressure to wear/display/utilize constantly, and as a bonus, they can come together fairly quickly – perfect for those of us who skip Tip #1.  A group of coworkers got gift boxes packed with monster cookies and Cuban Lunch candies, and were thrilled to find these care packages on their desks.
  4. Realize that things can change, and be prepared for plans to go awry.  If you’ve grossly underestimated how long it’s going to take you to finish a project, or you get slammed with a spate of last-minute invitations that you can’t pass up, things might not get done as you had planned.  Don’t sweat it.  Depending on the person/project, you can always try to postpone your gift swap, make an “I.O.U. one gift” coupon, or procure a backup gift and quietly tuck away your handmade project to be finished in time for next year.
  5. Learn from your mistakes.  This sort of hearkens back to Tip #1, in that you can do a post-mortem and make appropriate changes in next year’s plan.  Didn’t get the response you hoped for?  Found yourself super-stressed and pressed for time?  By knowing what worked and what didn’t, you’ll (hopefully) prevent undue stress going forward.
  6. Have fun with it!  After all, it’s the thought that counts, and you’re crafting/baking/creating because you like these people and want to do something nice for them.  No one should feel bad when this is over!

I hope that you guys find these tips at least vaguely useful – and I hope I take my own advice and start in on Tip #1!  😉

Thanks for looking!

…my true love gave to me: a shirt with a duck who’s daffy!

I am so!  Freaking!  Excited!  about this one.  This was a labour of love which, despite all odds, was finished around 10:00 on December 23…with a day and change left to go.  No early-Christmas-morning stitching for this honey badger!

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you’ll know that I have a tendency to stitch up railway logos onto the pockets of shirts for my dad.  (Last year’s offering, for example.)  After scooping up an out-of-print book of Looney Tunes cross-stitch designs online, I thought I’d try something different.

“Daffy Drops the Ball” is done in three pieces, which makes it three times as annoying to stitch all centred-and-straight and whatnot.

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I love the colour of the shirt, and how the black pops on it!  I am less fond of the fact that unlike simply stitching on the pocket (which I take off and then reattach), working on the shirt itself meant I couldn’t access it from the left, which is a real problem for this southpaw.  To stitch Daffy and the bowling ball, I actually worked holding the shirt upside-down, and somehow it’s all reasonably lined up.

Close-up of the design:

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I can’t wait for him to unwrap it!

Merry Christmas, everybody! 😀

…my true love gave to me: a hedgehog to hang on the tree!

I’ve probably mentioned on here before that my mother collects all things hedgehog.  As such, I try to accommodate her on special occasions: there have been hedgehog birthday cards, Mother’s Day cards, cakes, t-shirts…

Fast-forward to the Christmas crafting season, when I realized the project I had originally picked out was simply not going to be finished by December 25.  (That’s okay, folks, her birthday is coming up shortly, so I like to think of it as having a head start on that.)  While entering random keywords on Etsy at work one day, I stumbled across trellis & thyme, who, wonder of wonders, boasted a PDF hedgehog ornament pattern in their shop.

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It’s difficult to tell in the photo, but he has little prickles embroidered all around his front side.  The pattern instructions indicated these should be placed randomly, but…I can’t handle random.  So instead, they run in two staggered-but-kinda-concentric circles around his underside.

As always, thanks for looking – and may your holiday crafting be running on-schedule.  🙂