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!

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…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.  🙂

…my true love gave to me: a Minion from Despicable Me!

Oooh, this was a fun project!  I love those projects that give me a chance to create something I would normally never make otherwise.  (But which I still want to make, obviously.)  One of my nearest and dearest is a Minions fan despite having several decades on their target age group.  I used to roll my eyes at him, but have gradually come around and warmed up to them – when I found the Minions patterns by Let’s Make Crafts on Etsy, I knew I had found his Christmas present!

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I’m so happy with how this turned out!  It was a “larger” small project (if that makes sense), but uses only whole stitches, a handful of colours, and just the tiniest bit of backstitch to really bring out the details.

***A NOTE ABOUT THE IMPORTANCE OF BACKSTITCH***

I know a lot of stitchers moan about backstitch.  “It’s boring.”  “It takes too long.”  And while I know how it feels to put in that very…last…stitch, only to realize you now have to go over the entire piece again to add the backstitch, it really does make all the difference.  Stuart, up there, only has a bit of backstitch, for his hair and for the strings on his guitar.  No big deal, right?

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Without it, he looks like Telly freakin’ Savalas.  Who loves ya, baby, indeed!  Seriously, kids, take the time to add your backstitching.

***THIS HAS BEEN A PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT***

Now that he’s got…hair…and guitar strings, I’m really excited for the big unveiling at Christmas.  Good thing I found Minions wrapping paper at Dollarama.  Only one more week to go…

Thanks for looking!   🙂

…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! 🙂