…my true love gave to me: a hoop that says, “Heeeeere’s Johnny!”

Can you believe it’s that time of year again?  And that I was insane enough to attempt Craftmas yet again?  Okay, it’s not as bad as all that: I did do a bit of planning this year and started my stitching early, but there are still a few projects that are freaking me the heck out right about now.  Why aren’t they finished yet?  Stay tuned, kids; this is going to be a wild, crafty ride.

One thing I have going for me, however, is that I had the presence of mind to start early on the one project that has to cross international borders via a wholly reliable and never delayed or overpriced postal system.  What does one make for the writer who’s a Stephen King fan and who collects typewriter paraphernalia?  I did what I do best, and perused Etsy for inspiration.  Good thing, too, because that’s where I found these tiny typewriter charts.

I wasn’t crazy about the phrases on the typewriters’ paper, though.  They were cute, sure, but not quite what I was looking for.  Some divine inspiration struck, and I was reminded of The Shining, where no TV and no beer make Homer…something, something, uh, where Jack Nicholson goes stir-crazy.

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It looks big there, I know, but that’s actually a four-inch hoop it’s framed in.

Also, I didn’t much care for the fact that the carriage return and paper-guide-bar-thingie (note the pains I take to use the technical terms) were originally supposed to be stitched in plain cotton embroidery floss, and substituted in DMC E415.

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Et voila, a hip, pop-culture-y hoop, with minimal stress or fuss.  It was put in the mail Sunday; I hope she likes it!

Thanks for looking! 🙂

I haven’t done a ton of baking lately (including a “gee-but-I-really-wanted-to” Halloween treat), fixated as I have been on Christmas crafting, but a dear friend celebrated his birthday last week and I thought it was time to get off my heinie and get baking!  This is somebody who, if you ask him, will request vanilla over chocolate every (every, every) time – and although I don’t have a problem with that, it’s been done.  There’s just not a lot you can do with that.  I still didn’t want to do the rather obvious chocolate option, however, so I put my thinking cap on.  And, inspired by the best! freaking! donut! I have ever eaten, I came up with…drumroll….root beer float cupcakes.

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In a nod to his usual preference, I used the basic vanilla cupcake recipe from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World, and substituted in root beer extract instead of vanilla.  Shocking, right?  I had initially planned on a vanilla buttercream frosting to mimic the ice cream found in a float, but I was worried the root beer flavour wouldn’t carry through, so that is root beer buttercream gracing those beauties.

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…because he is!

Waiting for a wish:

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De-papered and -candled, and ready to eat:

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I like that these are kind of like stealth cupcakes…to the casual observer, they could almost pass for an unassuming vanilla – they’re only oh-so-slightly less white – but pack a flavour wallop when you bite in!  In fact, the birthday boy didn’t even question what they were when I first dished one up.  It wasn’t until he was about halfway through that he looked up and asked, “What is this?  It tastes almost fizzy!”  I don’t know about fizzy, but like a favourite soda?  Absolutely!

Thanks for looking!

…or maybe just sleeping.

October 5, 2016

It’s October, and you know what that means!  Pumpkin spice season?  No!  Well, yes, but…  Anyone who’s been reading this blog for a while knows that I love (love!) Halloween.  I don’t think a more perfect holiday exists.  Need reasons to love it?

  • No matter how old you are, you get to dress up in an awesome costume, without judgement or being deemed “eccentric”
  • It’s kind of all about the candy.  And not that gritty, aimed-at-kids stuff that populates the shelves around Easter!  No, you get miniature versions of your favourite chocolate bars, plus lots of spooky, seasonal goodies.
  • There’s no pressure to spend face time with weird relatives, or buy gifts for everyone, or fill your calendar to capacity with boring dinners and pageants.
  • There is no better excuse to rewatch It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown! or any of the umpteen Treehouse of Horror episodes (with I through VI being preferred).

Yep, I love Halloween.  Know what I’m less fond of?

Stitching on black aida.

But I made an exception (had to, really) when I saw the “Sorry We’re Dead” design on Satsuma Street’s Etsy shop.

 

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Honestly?  Stitching on dark fabric isn’t quite as wretched as I remember it being.  A bit challenging, sure, but no way would this have looked 1/10 as good on white.

Me being me, I couldn’t be bothered with following the instructions to a T; I left off a skull and some arrows along the bottom of the design (partly as a time-saver, and partly because skulls just aren’t my thing).  I also chose to ignore the colour key, and instead substituted in my own choices: the orange and pale yellow (chartreuse?) are from a super-cheap package of Day-Glo polyester threads I bought at Michaels and which heretofore had only been used in friendship bracelets.  The white “We’re” and the stars are done in DMC E940, which looks like regular white floss but which glows in the dark.  It’s a shame no one will get to appreciate it, as the finished product is currently hanging in my cubicle at work.

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Look at that back!  This is probably a more accurate representation of the colours.

Thanks for looking!

P.S. I have some limited-edition kitchen towels up on my Etsy shop…once they’re gone, they’re gone!

At the risk of sounding like a crazy cat lady, Saturday was my cat’s birthday.  I’m not the best cat-mom when it comes to remembering stuff like that; in the eight years that I’ve had her, I think I’ve only remembered once before this.  But hey, my bad parenting/sieve-like memory doesn’t mean she shouldn’t have a fabulous celebratory cake, right?  The stars were aligned: it was a long weekend and I had icing sugar in the house.  And truthfully, I had been looking for an excuse to do up something like this, and what better reason than a birthday?

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Say, that looks tall.  How many layers did you say it was, again?

I didn’t, but: six.

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Proof that “vegan” ≠ “healthy”.  I used the basic vanilla cupcake recipe from VCTOTW, doubled it, and divided it amongst six bowls to tint each one separately.  You definitely don’t want to attempt this if you have a serious aversion to artificial colours – but my theory is, as long as the majority of my diet isn’t neon-coloured, a piece of cake now and then isn’t going to kill me.  I made a huge batch of the fluffy buttercream frosting recipe from the same book, and barely had enough to finish the cake.  Even though each layer is only 6″ across, it still used a lot!

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The birthday girl was somewhat intrigued by this candy-coloured confection, but quickly lost interest and resumed the nap from which she had been so rudely awakened.  Hey, more for me!

I’m not sure if I’d try this again.  It’s not difficult, just a bit fiddly, and is a bear to store as none of my cake-takers are tall enough to house it.  But I can cross “rainbow layer cake” off my baking bucket list.

Thanks for looking! 🙂

Far out, man!

August 15, 2016

When I was a Young Person™, I went through a massive hippie phase, but in the whitest, most uptight way possible.  No illicit drugs or free love for this honey badger; my hippiedom was confined to doodling peace signs and rikki-tikki flowers on my notebooks, wailing along with Big Brother and the Holding Company, and bemoaning the fact that I never got to Woodstock despite having parents who were barely old enough to attend (an older, more self-aware Witty Child knows this was probably for the best, since I like hygiene and dislike crowds, but still…all those musical acts…).  Oh, and tie-dyeing like it was going out of style (it was).  I eventually stopped doing it when I ran out of places to wear it and people to give it to, but still always liked the look of it.

When I found out from my friend a few months ago that he had tried it as a child, with limited success due to some faulty technique on his mother’s part, I decided it was time to break out the rubber bands again.  We turned his apartment into a sweatshop – literally: it was boiling hot out-of-doors, and because we were situated on the linoleum floor of the hallway in order to minimize damage from drips and to allow access to both the kitchen and bathroom faucets, neither of us benefited from any breeze the open windows might have provided – and got our hippie on.

We had to soak the shirts in soda ash in batches due to space constraints, but found that each 20-minute soak was approximately just enough time to get the current shirt finished and wrapped in plastic, and rinse off our gloved hands before starting all over again.

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Not exactly awe-inspiring, are they?  In order to shower, he had to gingerly remove them and try not to drip dye out of the ends while they did their overnight soak.

But when he unfurled them and rinsed them out the next morning, well:

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Has anyone ever tried this with children?  I’m appalled that they market some of these kits as a fun birthday party or day camp activity, considering the mess that two grown adults with fully developed motor skills made.  I can’t imagine that being relaxing!

This has slaked my craving for a while, but I’d like to get my hands on a softer, cotton-poly blend shirt rather than the $4 Fruit of the Loom special from the men’s department at Wal-Mart – now that we’ve got our technique down, spending a little extra on raw textiles wouldn’t break my heart.

Thanks for looking…and peace out! 🙂

I try very hard to adhere to my Birthday Cake Rule (longtime readers, you know what I’m talking about!), but every so often, a wrench gets thrown into the works.  Take my dad’s July birthday; the first thought that popped into my head was, “Ugh, it’s too darned hot to bake!”

(In all fairness, I had that same thought last year and took what I thought was an easy out by ordering an ice cream cake from Dairy Queen.  Their regular decorator was on vacation – though no one told us this when we special-ordered it a week in advance – and the resulting dessert fell firmly into the “can’t-sleep-clown-will-eat-me” nightmare category.  But hey, all cats are grey in the dark, right?)

To my credit, I had a plan this year.  I had made the Peanut Butter Cup Icebox Cake from the Brown Eyed Baker for Father’s Day, and it was a resounding success.  Chocolate and peanut butter appear to be the way to his heart – so why not make it again?

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I’ve started to think of this as my “cardio cake” (which is really stretching to make something sound far healthier than it really is): because the instructions indicate that each layer needs to chill in the fridge while the next one is prepared, and because there’s never a 9 x 13″ chunk of spare real estate in the upstairs fridge, I had to keep running it down to the basement fridge for its solitary confinement and then back down to retrieve it when I was ready to proceed.

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But was it worth it?  Just look at those layers of chocolate-peanut butter-y goodness!

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It does generate a lot of dishes – and necessitates the dirtying of that clunky monster, the food processor – but for a cool and creamy finish to your meal, you could do a lot worse!

As always, thanks for looking! 🙂

For oh, years and years, I had ignored the random cherry-producing plant (logic would suggest it’s a tree, but it really doesn’t look tree-like) in the front yard.  It never really seemed to yield that much fruit, just a smattering that would be left for the birds.  Somehow, it decided to make up for lost time this year, and its branches became so loaded with cherries that it became impossible to weed-whack underneath as the sheer weight made the lower branches sag right to ground level.

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And that’s not all of them!  That front pail was full, and you can’t see the extra-large mop bucket likewise full on the bottom shelf of the fridge.  While they’re certainly edible, they’re tart as all get-out, which rather curbed the urge to try to snack on them unadorned (imagine trying to eat a cranberry straight up: not vile, but not something anybody ever does).

I had tossed around the idea of making Cherry Mountain Cake, a recipe given to me by one of the underwriters that makes for a spectacular and show-stopping dessert.  The logistical headache or storing the finished product, however, quickly struck that from my list.  Maybe I could preserve them somehow…

Full confession: I was a Jam Virgin.  I’ve always loved the idea of turning summer-fresh fruit into a lovely homemade spread to be enjoyed year-round, but it was an intimidating prospect.  Canners!  Water baths!  Making sure a tight seal is formed so you don’t inadvertently poison your lucky test subjects with botulism!  No, I needed something simple; maybe a freezer jam of sorts.  And so I happened upon this recipe.

What I Liked

  1. It was really, really simple.  If you have a pot and a spoon, you can make this.
  2. It’s a cheap recipe.  Granted, I got the cherries for free, and all I had to buy was the jelly powder in place of pectin.  Risk vs. reward ratio is excellent on this one.

What I Didn’t Like

  1. It’s so simple that it leaves out some really important information.  Cook for 15 minutes?  Okay, but at what heat?  Also, if your fruit is exceptionally juicy, do you have to adjust/eliminate the water, or increase the jelly powder?  Or do you drain the fruit?
  2. It’s sweeeeeet.  Crazy sweet.  I started out with tart fruit, and I find it sweet – I can’t imagine what a version made with a naturally sweeter base would taste like.

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Partway through the fifteen minutes of unspecific cooking.

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“Jarred”, and ready to eat-or-freeze.  Since the motto of simplistic jams the world over appears to be “use whatever containers you want, just leave me alone”, I opted for the sturdy yet versatile number seen above.  I had no idea if it was going to turn out, and I figured if it didn’t, I could at least wash these babies out and use them for something else; the last thing I wanted was to be stuck with a bunch of breakable Mason jars I’d never wind up using again.

It didn’t firm up quite the way I had hoped (and naturally, the recipe didn’t indicate what sort of consistency it should have or how long it should take to set).  But…it’s not completely liquid, either, which I consider a half-victory.

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It spreads nicely and pairs excellently with peanut butter.  Spills are best prevented by holding one’s bagel completely level.  And hey, it’s tasty!

Has anyone ever tried a recipe like this?

Thanks for looking! 🙂

Happy Canada Day!

July 1, 2016

I think the name says it all – and I hope everyone is enjoying the day off!  (I know I am.)

I knew I wanted to bake something, but the question was: “What?”  I didn’t want to mess around with Nanaimo bars and all their layers, and butter tarts evoked a “been-there-done-that” response in me.

Ultimately, I decided on this:

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I’ve always been drawn to those American flag cakes done with blueberries and strawberries, but knew if I tried that I’d wind up with a terribly unbalanced fruit load, with some slices being covered in berries and others with none at all (and my poor maple leaf would likely come out looking all Picasso-esque).  Some simple coloured sugar made an excellent substitution, because who cares if they get or don’t get a little sugar?  It’s strictly decorative, with no real effect on the flavour of the cake.

But make no mistake; this is no ordinary cake with a handful of sugar tossed artfully on top.

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Ta-dah!  Poke cake!  Little rivulets of cherry Jell-o run through it, livening up the otherwise basic white cake considerably.  The test audience seems to approve wholeheartedly.

I hope everyone has a safe and happy long weekend – thanks for looking!

Tin roof, rusted

June 14, 2016

Back in February, I was sick.  Not seriously, but my cold/flu-like symptoms showed up around Valentine’s Day and eventually caused me to miss five days of work – and that never happens.  I spent a lot of time spaced out on the couch, or heading down for a 12:30 nap (I miss the naps), and I discovered that fuzziness from sleeping poorly, when combined with fuzziness from a cocktail of over-the-counter and prescription medications, makes me prone to buying stuff online with little regard for whether I need it.  I bought this, for example.  And when I got an e-mail from Etsy touting last-minute instant-download Valentine’s gifts, well, that was just asking for trouble.

I bought a Love Elephant.

Whyyyy?  I certainly didn’t need another stuffed animal, or another sewing project.  But hey, there I was, with my freshly printed PDF pattern.  I promptly “filed” it and forgot about it (hooray for NeoCitran!), until my friend was over one evening some time later and saw it.  He had recently been through a bad breakup – that is to say, they’re definitely over, but she keeps popping up like a bad penny – and I thought he could use something to cuddle, so it was off to the fabric store for us to find a suitable colour of fleece.

The end result:

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The recipient has named him “Cupcake”.  But before he went to his new home, he spent some time exploring the jungles of the back yard.

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I’m really quite pleased with the finished product.  I made a few changes: for example, I was too lazy to add the extra centimetre recommended for a seam allowance, so he is oh-so-slightly smaller than he ought to be, but with no adverse effects.  And because I was using a slightly more “masculine” colour and left the hearts off the ears, “Love Elephant” didn’t seem appropriate, so I came to think of him as the “Love Pach” (as in, pachyderm), which might have been a mistake as it led to a B52s earworm like you wouldn’t believe.

Cupcake’s owner thinks he’s the berries, and is fitting in well in his new home by all accounts.

Thanks for looking!

I’ve always been drawn to those nifty kitchen towels with the crocheted tops that allow one to hang them from a handy hook on a kitchen cabinet or drawer pull – I think it’s because my grandmother used to make them, and we always had one around the house.  The only problem was that up until recently, I didn’t know how to crochet (this has since been remedied); discovering that you can sew a fabric topper pretty much opened up a whole new crafty avenue to me.

I had the perfect fabric in my stash: a cool, sparkly American flag-patterned cotton that’s a bit bold in large doses but adds just the right dose of flair to an otherwise utilitarian object.

Hanging in the backyard:

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I’ve put these for sale in my Etsy shop – I think they’d make a lovely hostess gift with the summer party/barbeque season heating up.

Thanks for looking! 🙂