Here’s the little cupcake dress I finished the other night. OK, mostly finished — it still needs buttons and buttonholes (any suggestions for button color?) but otherwise is done. Oh, wait. I need to rip out the hem and redo it. See how wonky it looks? It’s not just the picture. The hem really is that wonky. That’s what I get for sewing so late.
The dress is a pattern I picked up at the Expo (I can look it up if someone is that interested). Cupcakes are again from Sublime Stitching; I’m really enjoying that book and just embroidery in general. I have lots of ideas for other projects. For the record, I’m still plugging away on my crocheted scarf. I’m determined to have one wearable object, even if it takes a while. The experience has convinced me that I’ll need to sign up for knitting and smocking classes if I want to actually make something I’m willing to show off.
I think this dress will be perfect for all those special events and parties we’ll be hitting when the weather warms up. For now, it’ll be virtual party wear for …
The Ultimate Blog Party! I’m joining the fun at 5 Minutes for Mom and taking part in this year’s global blog event. I even put up a nice glittery banner just for the party! The Blog Party is a great way to find other cool blogs and also win some pretty nifty prizes. I’ve already found quite a few great reads to add to my Bloglines, plus “run into” a couple of friends whose blogs I already read.
For those who are stopping by for the first time, I’m Mary, the self-professed craft addict. My blog is about a year old and documents my many adventures in crafting — some more successful than others. When I’m not crafting, I’m hanging out with my three kids or spending time with my very cute and tolerant husband (aka Honey).
What’s a party without food? Gotta feed my guests so I’m going to share one of my favorite recipes. It’s actually what I made for dinner last night! I found the recipe for Spicy Chicken Cakes with Horseradish Aioli in Cooking Light magazine last year and it was an instant hit with the fam. That’s no small feat around here, since there are five very picky eaters in this house. I have made a few modifications to the recipe, namely using Ian’s wheat panko breadcrumbs instead of making my own. I also use packaged ground turkey breast instead of grinding my own chicken. Martha Stewart can do everything from scratch if she wants. I have three kids, a husband who works too much and no interest in doing every little thing. We also like our aioli a little hotter, so I add a lot more horseradish. Enjoy!
I love baking. It’s such a satisfying exercise, combining ingredients and creating something so delicious that can be enjoyed by so many.
The past few years, I’ve been a bit restrained in my holiday baking, making only two or three types of cookies. Good for my diet but not nearly as fun as baking a great variety of goodies. And that’s what I did this year. So far, I’ve made banana nut bread, gingerbread, Reese’s Chewy Chocolate Cookies, chocolate crackles, butter cookies, chocolate chunk bars and caramel pretzel bars. Oh, and the best little yummy raspberry crescent cookies on the planet. The dough isn’t sweet — just cream cheese and flour — but they’re like soft little nuggets of crack. There’s no eating just one (which is why there were none to share; I ate the entire batch).
To save myself, I started putting the bags of cookies in the freezer. It mostly worked: my sweet daughter found the bags in the freezer and started snacking on them at her convenience.
There were enough, however, to fill a few cookie boxes so Honey could take them to work and share with his colleagues. The boxes to the left are part of the Martha Stewart line found at Michaels. Just the right size for giving as cookie samplers. I picked up some larger boxes at Target to give the partners in his section. All told, there are 20 boxes of cookies headed to work with him tomorrow (plus a mini loaf of gingerbread).
My baking is not yet done. I still have to make cookies for Miss L’s holiday program at school, and I’d like to take a few to our neighbors here on the cul de sac. Plus, my kids are clamoring for more cookies. Because the ones they’ve been sneaking haven’t been enough.
They’re all so pretty. I just want to leave them on the counter and admire them, but that’s a bad idea with two cats and a dog that can sniff out chocolate from 100 yards away.
Oh, more cookies! Aren’t they sweet? I had to try my hand at some felt ones. Well worth the effort, in my opinion. Of course, I’ve had them cut out for weeks but procrastinated until the absolute last minute assembling them. I used another of the Martha Stewart boxes to package them, and boxed them up with the apron as a Christmas gift for our niece, who is 2.5. It’s so hard to send away gifts like this. I put so much time and effort and thought into them, and worry if they’ll be appreciated or if it’s another “Tante Mary made more crap” kind of thing.
Couldn’t leave out the brother of the aforementioned niece, so I whipped up this cape and shield from the Winter 04 (I think) issue of Ottobre. I made the cape entirely out of cotton instead of lining it with satin. I also skipped the pieced applique on the cape, instead tracing the pattern and scanning it into Photoshop, where I colored it. Printed it on fabric paper, added Heat n’ Bond and stitched it down.
I also altered the shield and made the whole thing out of felt. A little floppy but I think it was easier than dealing with turning an interfaced shield right side out. OK, and I also wanted to get this thing done really fast because it had to go out today.
And it did.
I’ve had such a wonderful experience with the latest Sweet Goodness Swap. My amazing swap sister, Jessi, sent me a beautiful garland — the picture really does not do it justice. I only photographed a small section of it; it’s super long and just lovely. My package also included the cutest gift tags. I don’t know if you can tell from the photo, but they are cardstock layered on fabric and they are so special. It will be hard to choose what recipients will get them; I want to make sure they are appreciated! She also sent a tasty bag of chocolate that did not make it until today’s photo session. Jessi, thank you so much for my wonderful swap package! I love it all!
I made these monogrammed ornaments after seeing some similar ones on Ali Edwards‘ blog. They’re made with alphabet rub ons and clear glass ornaments. They were a little trickier than I expected. Luckily, it’s easy enough to start over — just scrape off and start again! I did find that my results improved when I taped each letter to the ornament. Also, it was much better to use my metal rub-on tool than the little popsicle stick that comes with the letters.
The holiday decorating is happening a bit slowly around ye olde Craft Addict abode this year. The boys got the tree up and decorated right after Thanksgiving but the remainder of our decor as stayed in the boxes.
Over the weekend, I tried to get a little more out and up. Putting the runner and place mats on the table was pretty quick and did a lot to festive up the dining room. This may be the last year we use these. I love them but they are dry clean only — not the family-friendliest linens in the bunch. I’ve seen next year’s Christmas fabrics from Robert Kaufman and the alternate colorway will be perfect for my house, so I believe I’ll be making some new table decor. Never done it before, so obviously I’ll have to give it a whirl and make some more spring-ish ones to use before then. It’s not just another excuse to buy more fabric, I promise!
Holiday baking has begun in earnest. In the past couple of years, I’ve made fewer types of cookies but decided to revert to the good ol’ days and make several varieties. I even made a banana nut bread, which I haven’t done in more than a decade (Honey doesn’t care for pecans or walnuts) and I’m itching to slice off a bit to sample. There are two more batches of dough in the fridge and I’m planning to make at least three more types of cookies. So far I’m resisting temptation quite well.
See what my little elf was up to while I cooked? Yep, she camped out on the bottom of the butcher block and ate up her soup. She loves soup and she loves to be in the middle of the action. Normally, she would not be able to sit there, as my Kitchen Aid stand mixer lives in that very spot when it’s not in use. She’s cute AND an opportunist! She was also quite willing to sample as many cookies as I would let her. Ah, my child, for sure.
I’ve been sewing whenever I get the chance but finding time has been a challenge the past week or so. I miss it! It’s such a stress reliever to cut and piece and sew. Luckily, I managed to squeeze in a little time over the weekend and whipped up this pretty little purse for my cousin. She is 16 (about four months younger than my oldest child) and loves the color tangerine and the combination of pink and tangerine.
I have to be honest: it’s not my best work. You can’t see the sides, where the lower pocket pieces do not match up. Or the pucker in the quilting.
You see, I had this brilliant idea to modify a pattern I’d never before sewn. I wanted the outer pocket actually quilted — with batting and everything. Nice in theory but the execution? Oy. By the time I had to stitch through all that batting and fabric to make the corners of the bag, I knew I’d made a grievous error in judgment. If I had more time, I would sew another and keep the screw up, even though the colors really aren’t me. *sigh*
My original title for this post was “Hump Day,” but it set me off into such a fit of giggles that I had to change it. Why, yes, I am 12!
Thanks for all the encouragement about my new life schedule. Jessica actually suggested checking out FlyLady. Ah, me and the FL go waaaaay back. She was my original declutter-and-clean mentor. After a while, though, I tend to bristle at the constant intervention. It’s just my nature. I still recommend FlyLady to others because the program absolutely works — you do have to make the commitment, though.
I’ve been using the FlyLady principles to get things on track here. One of her guiding concepts is that taking on a messy, cluttered house has to be done in little bites. Try to dive in and do it all at once will just result in
burning down your house with all the clutter inside giving up in frustration. So I’m taking baby steps and working on just one room or area of the house each day. And it’s not that bad. Have a peek at my schedule (subject to change):
Sewing (10 a.m.-1 p.m.)
Bathrooms (master & upstairs)
Mop/sweep bathrooms & kitchen
Sewing (10 a.m.-noon)
General cleaning as needed
Sewing (2-4 hours)
Basic, every day chores like dishes and cooking are an understood. Theoretically, I’m also exercising six days a week; however, I’m just now recovered from Saturday’s hilly-5K debacle so no exercise yet this week. There’s also a block of time set aside for “creative time” every day, as well as “Internet/correspondence.” So far, some of that has been taken up with mindless surfing and watching TV.
Like I said, it’s a work in progress.
The menu planning has been a nice change of pace from the habitual “oh my gosh it’s 6 o’clock what the heck are we going to eat?” mess our evening had become. Not to mention that I always spend more on those daily trips to the store than I would if I did one big grocery trip.
Honestly, if you really feel like you need to get a handle of things, start with planning your meals. Dinners, in particular. My basic starting point is to make a list of every main dish I know will be eaten in this house, then flip through a couple of cookbooks or magazines for ideas of new things to try. (As I add those to my list, I write down the source and page number so I can find it later when I make my grocery list, and then cook the dish.)
My next step is to make a calendar grid that covers at least two weeks. I check our family calendar to see if there are any evening obligations and make note of those, and then I just fill in the blocks. I try not to bunch up “like” foods, such as pasta or ground beef or chicken. Seriously, I could not eat chicken every night for a week. I also try to keep in mind what side dishes I usually prepare with something, so that I don’t end up with mashed potatoes two nights in a row.
I block out usually one night for leftovers (although many of our leftovers are packed and sent to work with Honey for his lunch) and I typically plan out at least one night for eating out. Then I use the calendar to make my grocery list and it’s all good from there.
It really is a simple thing and it makes such a difference, not only in the dinnertime stress level but also in the amount of money I spend at the grocery store. I don’t know about you, but I rarely get in and out with only what’s on my list. Boy, do those little unplanned purchases add up — especially if you go to the store every day!
I’m hoping to return to my regular crafty discussions soon. I have a hard time concentrating on projects when my house is not in order and that’s really where things have been lately. Actually, tonight I’m going to watch TV downstairs (the return of Project Runway!) while I reclaim my craft space, which has turned into the most chaotic mess of messes in the history of crafty messes. It’s so bad, in fact, that I refuse to take pictures and share it, lest I have to live with the embarrassment for the rest of my natural born life or be blackmailed.
A cupcake, that is. In the whirlwind of the birthday party, I neglected to take pictures of her birthday cake: two dozen cupcakes — half chocolate, half vanilla.
Luckily, I had a few leftovers and made a little plate of them today so I could preserve the memory.
Don’t they look tasty? They are, if I do say so myself. For the past few years, I have been a devotee of the Whimsical Bakehouse cookbook. Not only do the cakes taste delicious but they are beautiful, too. This year’s recipes were just as delightful and quite a hit with our guests. I used the House Buttercream to top them (just a large star tip piped on and then a sprinkling of decorating glitter) but my favorite icing is actually their Italian Meringue Buttercream. To. Die. For! Unfortunately, my success with making it has been mixed, at best. Raw egg whites combined with piping hot sugar syrup occasionally yields strings of cooked egg whites mixed with icing. Yeah, not an appetizing texture or something you’d want to put on a cake. When it works, however, it is divine.
I’ve been on a bit of a cupcake kick, so it was only natural that I make cupcakes for Miss L’s birthday. I thought that might get the urge out of my system but no such luck. Instead, I baked another batch of the vanilla today and used my excess buttercream to top them so they could be consumed at a banquet tonight. There’s more to use up, so I may have to cook up something else before the week is out.
Of course, I hope the urge doesn’t diminish before this book comes out!
Honey and I share a fondness for s’mores. And, really, what’s not to love? Melty chocolate, gooey marshmallow and a little crunch. Yummmmm.
Actually, my sweet husband introduced me to the joys of having peanut butter on a s’more and that makes them even better. (While they’re tasty without, I can’t help but think something is missing. Peanut butter, you complete my s’mores!)
I rhapsodize about my dessert to share a little funny — at my expense.
We’re pretty lazy here in the ol’ Craft Addict house and many a s’more is made … in the microwave. Horrors! I made one last night and Honey asked how much time to set the microwave for his.
“Thirty seconds — but keep an eye on it because I took mine out after 12.”
“Wouldn’t it be smarter to just set the timer for 12 seconds?” he asked.
Maybe. But doesn’t that take the interactive quality out of the experience?
I picked up the latest issue of Cooking Light and drooled immediately over the Caramel Layer Cake recipe inside. With a picture. Caramel is one my my favorite flavors and I absolutely adore caramel cake. I decided to give it a whirl and make some cupcakes from the recipe (to cut down on calories a wee bit).
Oh. My. Goodness! Sooooo delicious. Well worth the wee bit of effort that goes into make a caramel frosting. Although I do wish we’d left the cupcakes uncovered overnight so the frosting would have gotten a little bit drier and chewier instead of staying so moist (what? you don’t like chewy caramel?).
Try it for yourself:
Caramel Layer Cake
Work quickly to spread the frosting on the cake before it begins to set. We call for light brown sugar in the cake to lend a subtly sweet flavor, but dark brown in the frosting to provide a contrasting rich caramel flavor. You can use light brown sugar for both the cake and frosting, if you prefer.
1 tablespoon cake flour
1 cup packed light brown sugar
7 tablespoons butter, softened
1/2 cup egg substitute
2 cups cake flour (about 8 ounces)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup fat-free milk
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
3 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
Preheat oven to 350°.To prepare cake, coat 2 (8-inch) round cake pans with cooking spray; line bottoms of pans with wax paper. Lightly coat wax paper with cooking spray; dust pans with 1 tablespoon flour. Set aside.
Place 1 cup light brown sugar and 7 tablespoons butter in a large mixing bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed 3 minutes or until well blended. Add egg substitute to sugar mixture; beat well. Lightly spoon 2 cups flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and 1/4 teaspoon salt, stirring well with a whisk. Add flour mixture to sugar mixture alternately with 1 cup milk, beginning and ending with flour mixture.
Spoon batter into prepared pans. Sharply tap pans once on counter to remove air bubbles. Bake at 350° for 25 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pans 10 minutes on a wire rack; remove from pans. Remove wax paper; discard. Cool cakes completely on wire rack.
To prepare frosting, combine 1/2 cup dark brown sugar and remaining ingredients in a medium, heavy saucepan over medium heat; bring to a boil. Cook 2 minutes or until mixture is thick, stirring constantly.
Place 1 cake layer on a plate; spread with 1/3 cup frosting. Top with remaining cake layer. Spread remaining frosting over top and sides of cake.
Yield: 16 servings (serving size: 1 slice)
CALORIES 298 (29% from fat); FAT 9.7g (sat 6g,mono 2.5g,poly 0.5g); PROTEIN 5g; CHOLESTEROL 28mg; CALCIUM 136mg; SODIUM 238mg; FIBER 0.3g; IRON 1.9mg; CARBOHYDRATE 48.5g
Cooking Light, JUNE 2007