Pretty Close to Perfection

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Say “hello” to my new favorite top! 

I sure feels good when a make comes out exactly how you planned, especially when it is made from a pattern that you feel kicked your butt not that long ago.  This “Pretty Perfect” tunic was made using the same pattern as my not so great charcoal tunic earlier this fall.  Just after a few changes, of course.   

After taking an inch off each side, moving the darts, narrowing shoulders, lenthing the sleeves, and adding side gussets it was the perfect size and style.  I suppose I should have just used a smaller size, but I am infamously cheap and when the smallest size in the envelope (one size smaller than my measurements) is still mammothly huge I just make do.  I am going to get every penny I can out of this thrift store pattern.  

Talking about pennies…this entire sew was rediculously cheap, even though it doesn’t look it.  It was made from 2.5 yards of 6o wide crepe (I originally thought it was poly crepe, but from the way it behaves when wet I have decided it must be a poly-rayon blend) that has a lovely drape and weight.  It was a $3.00 thrift store find.  The “artsy lady” interior is a poly lining fabric that I bought an entire blot of of $1.00 a yard several years ago.  All together, with out subtracting the left over crepe, I have less than $5 in this tunic.

Use a darning needle to pull your serger “tails” back through the stitches for a nice finish.

Even though I lined this top, I used my serger a lot on this project.  I stitched then serged, but next time of this top I will serge all my pieces before stitching to avoid crowding in the gusset area.  

I also used my serger to make a rolled hem for this garment.  Since I was unsure how to deal with my hanging “tails” on the hem, I used hand stitches to tack them down.  It appears to have worked nicely, but I won’t really know until I launder the top.  

When afixing the lining at the armhole I did cheat a bit (having three small children, I allow myself to do that once-in-a-while).  I just zig-zagged the two serged edges together.  Not quite professional, but it is still quite neat and tidy so, I accept it for what it is.  

Wow!  My only pair of LuLaRue leggings are getting a bit big.  It’s sad because I love the houndstooth, but exciting because it means I’m trimming back down.

Really, I promise I’m just about done bragging for the time being.  First, I have to say one more time that I love, love, love this top and then I need to mention the wool scarf.  It’s another me-make.  I knit it for my husband the first winter we were dating and it is wonderfully warm and cozy.  I am wearing it here because I was just about to head to the grocery store when hubby shot these photos (I wanted him to shot outside, but he said it was too cold to stand around in the yard) and it makes a great accessory.   

Coniferous Crackers

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A few days ago, we ran out of crackers.  

It was a cool rainy day building up to snow and we were out of crackers for the third time in a week.  The girls were in a particularly nasty rainy day mood and I desperately needed something to keep them occupied.  So, we made crackers.

The idea of making my own crackers has been floating around in my head for a few years now.  Ever since the day my step-mom and I brought this cookbook home from the thrift store.  I love collaborated cookbooks and this is one of the best I’ve ever owned.  If I’m going to use a cookbook, this is almost always the one I turn to.

Well, in this cookbook is a recipe that caught my eye the very first time I thumbed through it-REBECCA BOONE’S HOMEMADE CRACKERS.  Such a grand sounding recipe, in a very rustic backwoodsy sort of way.  I can just imagine Rebecca Boone standing over a rough plank table wearing a calico dress and apron, sleeves pushed up to the elbows, rolling out crackers.  What an industrious woman!  

So, I made crackers with the girls.  The reality was diaristicly different from my day dream.  

The ingredients were all simple and items I keep on hand.  The process it self was easy as well.  What was not straightforward was Dark Moon.  She was swinging wildly from sweet and helpful to ornery and destructive.  It was too late for a nap and too early for bed, so I just had to bite the bullet and go with it.  

I measured out the ingredients and let the girls combine them in a bowl.  Then I worked the dough by hand.  It was a bit stiffer than I expected.  Since this is was my experience with crackers, I just decided to go with it.  I took a little taste and it was pretty tasty, so I proceeded to roll it into a sheet on the table.  

Here is where I decided (between fighting with Dark Moon over rather she should be allowed to eat copious amounts of raw dough) that I had made a mistake.  I absolutely could not roll the dough thin enough to make a proper cracker.  Once again, I just keep on truckin’ and did what I could before taking a cookie cutter to the dough sheet.

Miss Busy did a great job poking holes in our pine tree shaped crackers.  The recipe said to bake them on a greased cookie sheet, but I was all out of cooking spray (add that to my shopping list with “crackers”) and used parchment instead.  It worked just fine.

By this point I was feeling stressed, so I spun some Elton John for the good vibes.  The girls and I danced in the living room while our crackers baked.

They turned out quite pretty little crackers, but not quite as cracker-ish as I would have liked.  Warm they were like small chewy biscuits with crunchy edges (not complaints here), but cold they were like munching on stones.  Overall, they ended up reminding me of the hardtack experiment I did a few years ago. 

I really want this recipe to work, so I will probably give it another go (with out my assistants) and pay careful attention to my wet/dry ratio.  With all the cooks involved, the somewhat disappointing results probably had more to do with us than the recipe.   

A Maker With No Makes

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Lately, it seems like I have to fish for blog content.  I’m not out of ideas, just short on time.  Since the whole premis of my blog is my role as a maker, if I don’t make anything it’s kind of hard to find something to talk about.  Kids take time, making takes time, blogging takes content.   Lately, the three are in a bit of a gridlock.

The girls recently received a little kitchen, so they will be having a cooking themed Christmas.


At the begining of the week I had some nicely laid out plans.  I was going to make the tunic I had just cut out, finish the charcoal watch cap on my needles, and start my Christmas sewing with two pint sized aprons.  

Yeah, that didn’t happen.  What did happen is that the baby cut two teeth, we spent one entire afternoon assembling the aforementioned kitchen, and I ended up babysitting for a friend a few times.  Furthermore, all three kids decided it was time to intensify the maditory bedtime protests.  

What I did get done creatively… 

The tunic is teetering on the very edge of being finished. All I have left is to stich the garment and its lining at the neck and then hand stitch the lining to the sleeve.

This might be my slowest knit ever. I am just now ready to start the crown shaping.

It’s Breakfast Time

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As a child, I hated squash.  My mother only knew how to cook it one way: baked with tons of brown sugar, a pinch of cinnamon, and topped with a mountain of marshmallows.  Talk about sweetness overload and everyone was required to partake.  Ugh!


As an adult and a momma myself, I have become a huge fan of squash.  When prepared properly they are a mouthful of nutty goodness and the options for preparation is nearly endless.  For years, I focused on only savory dishes (curries, stews, chili), but the past few years I have once again started trying squash in sweet applications.  

I must say, it is love.


Last year, it was scones and muffins, but this year I have moved on to pancakes.  Since Squash Chocolate Chip Pancakes doesn’t grab at the imagination in a nice way, lets call them Chocolate Chip Harvest Cakes.  Or just “yum”for short. 

The moisture and sweetness of the squash negate the need for any oil and greatly cuts the amount of sweetner needed in the recipe.  Plus, its a vegetable for breakfast, so it’s kinda healthy.  **Wink, Wink**

If you don’t know how to bake and prep a squash for baking/cooking I made a little how-to here.  

Chocolate Chip Harvest Cakes

2 cups flour

2 tsp baking powder

2 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp ginger

1/2 tsp fresh grated nutmeg

1/4 tsp cloves

Zest and juice of 1 orange

1/2 dark brown sugar

2 eggs

2 cups milk

2 cups mashed squash

1/4-1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips amount depend on how many you eat while cooking 


Mix flour, baking powder, soda, salt, and spices in a large bowl.  Set aside.

In another bowl whisk orange zest and juice with the eggs and milk.  Fold in the squash (I used a bright heirloom variety that I was unable to identify, but any winter squash-except spaghetti -will work).

Combine wet and dry ingredients and mix until everything is moist.  This will be thicker than typical pancake batter and will probably have a few lumps.


Warm a skillet over medium low heat and spritz with non-stick spray.  Ladle 1/2 cup of batter onto the skillet and top with 6-7 chocolate chips.

Use the tip of a knife to press the chips into the batter so they do not come into contact with the skillet when the pancake is flipped.  

Allow each cake to cook until the top begins to dry out and the skillet side is evenly browned before flipping and cooking the other side.   This takes a bit, so be patient.  

 

To serve, sprinkle with powdered sugar.  Voila!  That easy.  

Left overs make a great snack, even with out the dusting of sugar.  

Baking Winter Squash

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Squash are all over in the produce departments right now.  For most applications, squash needs to be baked before adding it to other ingredients.

Here’s how.  Hold on, take notes, it’s kind of a doosie.

Just kidding it’s really easy.

Set your squash of choice on a baking sheet and stab a few fork holes in the top for ventilation.  (Yeah, I’ve skipped this step and had an explosion in the oven).  Slide uncovered squash into a 350 degree oven and set the timer for 45 minutes.

Walk away and get all kinds of other things done. 

When the timer goes off, remove the squash from the oven (it should be soft to the touch). Let it sit until it is cool enough to handle.  Cut the squash in half and scoop out all the seeds and stringy membrane.  Throw that away.  

Scoop out all the yummy squash “meat” and place it in a large bowl.  Mash it up with a fork or potato masher and either store in an airtight container in the fridge or use immediately. (Spaghetti squash should be separated by “raking” not mashed.) Prepped this way, squash is an amazing addition to various baking recipes, stews, curries, or even chili.  


Irksome Issue

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As a seasoned fiber artist and a fairly obsessive knitter, I like to think I have it all together (at least in the creative realm).  My knitting/crocheting portfolio includes everything from sweaters to dolls and I usually believe there is nothing I can’t tackle.  


So when my middle son (age 15) asked for a new watch cap, I didn’t think twice about choosing a unique pattern and getting started.  The very pronounced rib is created by knitting in the back and creating a twisted stitch.  I was loving the results until last night when it came time to reverse my work so that the rib started jutting off at an angle.  From a distance it looks great, but up close…


A hole!  

Executing the turn was easier than I expected and is something I probably could have come up with myself if I had put a bit of thought in to it, but I obviously made a boo-boo.  Now I’m stuck with this irksome hole.  I absolutely despise ripping stitches when I knit, so I am hoping to minimize the damage when I block the hat.  If that doesn’t work, I’ll have to get out my trusty crochet hooks and hobble together a patch.  

I’ll give you an update when I blog the completed hat.  

It’s Nuts Around Here

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This morning, I decided that we needed a project intended for little helpers.  Something hands on and not too messy.  It also had to be more interesting than daddy’s project, since the girls were using up the last few drops of his sanity.  

A batch of Nutty Snack Mix seemed to be the answer.  It killed about twenty minutes (cooking with kids takes a lot longer than doing it yourself) and it will provide snack fodder all week.  

Nutty Snack Mix

1 tsp salt

1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp garlic powder

1/2 tsp ground habanero 

1/4 tsp celery seed

2 TBL olive oil

1 cup raw pumpkin seeds

1 cup raw sunflower seeds

1 cup raw cashews

1 cup raw almonds

2 cups raw peanuts

Mix spices and oil in a small dish and set aside.  Add more habanero if you wish, this is the family friendly version.  

Pour the nuts and seeds into a large bowl and mix well.  The important part is 6 cups of raw nuts and seeds.  Choose varieties you enjoy the most or use what you have on hand.


Add the spice/oil mixture and stir until everything is evenly coated.


Spread on a baking sheet and put in a 250 degree oven for 30-40 minutes.  Stir every 10 minutes to prevent burning.  Cool completely before serving or storing.