Sunday, October 25, 2009

If recent weather is any indication, we'll have a cold Halloween here in New England. I wanted to make sure my little Tinker Bell is ready. I've been saving this handspun yarn from my friend Lisa for a very special project. It matches the costume perfectly. And coincedently, it also matches our favorite bear - Binky Blue. She is so named since she contains the girl's binks (aka pacifiers). Knitting to accomodate ears is a little tricky - but not too bad thankfully. I suspect that the bear will actually wear her version more than the girl. The girl likes to walk out of the house with hats on, but she seems to have something against keeping them on! This one, however, is wonderfully soft so maybe...

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

What The?

This is thing that sort of looks like a crocodile carcas is -- indeed -- a crocodile carcas, ala the Twist Collective (thanks Allison). I started it in July. Yes, July. I thought it would take a couple of weeks and I could hand it over to my young nephew. Silly me. It's now on it's way to becoming a Christmas present.

This is the blocked body ready for stuffing before finishing off the head. Just don't look too closely at the short rows - they were a total disaster. I even practiced on scrap yarn and I can't seem to get rid of the holes. I've tried several methods and it's still a problem. I may need to go in to a shop for remedial help. I managed to sew them up well enough to hold the stuffing in. I don't think the recipient will notice - he's not much of a knitter after all.

What's left is the nose, kitchnering, four legs and a hoodie. I'm thinking maybe a matching hat for the boy.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Happy Birthday Ruby

The child - if at 16 she can be called that - requested a Teletubby cake for her birthday. It's actually the third (fourth?) year for the request. I had no more luck finding Teletubbies this year than any other. Maybe I could have looked on line but I swear her birthday came out of the blue. One day she was turning 15 and the next she was turning 16. Poof. Just like that. Really.

So her birthday was here and no teletubby figurines. I want ed her to be happy. It is the big 16 after all. So we drove all over town to several stores, but nothing. What to do? What to do?

And then a little voice in the back of my head whispered a reminder of a long-forgotten craft: Shrinky Dinks! Why didn't I think of this before? The incredible shrinking toy. Color, cut, bake and play. What could be better? From big to little in under 3 minutes. So much fun.

Also, great project for little sisters to help out with. They were so proud of the cake - or at least their contribution.
The cake itself is supposed to be the Teletubby house. It is not, I freely admit, the prettiest of cakes. I certainly won't be lining up for a job in the bakery any time soon. But I think I get points for creativity.
I'm not sure, however, it will satisfy the longing for a teletubby cake since it's not the one she wanted...hmmm....should I go on line now?

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Happy Birthday to DS

It might be easier to decorate a cake if I could give it some thought at least a few days rather than a few hours before it has to be done - but that's someone else's life! Mine is speeding along at a breath taking pace and so we improvise a lot. I got the idea for a football cake and discovered via the internet that there are plenty of cute football related items for a cake, but of course I had no time for ordering them. Off to Michaels. There are figurines playing golf, soccer and baseball but not football. So, we headed to the scrapbooking aisle for the next best thing. I think he liked it - as much as any 15 year old likes a cake his mom made anyway...
Next up is the 16 yo who wants Teletubbies - and you thought football players were hard to find!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Happy Birthday to DH

October is our birthday month, which means way, way too much cake. (is there really such a thing?) So, this year, we decided to kick off the season with a birthday pie - apple to be exact. And not just any pie, but one made with the special help of a delighted 4 yo who said, "When I get big and I'm a mumma, I'm going to bake apple pie." That made it all worth the effort. The big grin on DH's face when he saw his present was just icing on the pie. We used the miracle baking powder crust recipe from except that we used butter instead of shortening because we didn't have any shortening. Also, we didn't refrigerate it because we didn't have any time. The real miracle was that I actually made a pie crust since that's something I hate doing since I always have such problems with it. I come from a long line of excellent pie making bakers but the excellent pie gene seems to have skipped me. (It could just be that I need more practice.) Honestly, I would have bought the crust, but the store had none.
A note of caution - we learned the hard way that hot apple pie melts birthday candles quicker than you can blow them out. Thankfully, give DH's "advanced" age, we used just one.

Monday, October 12, 2009

spoiler alert for grandparents

I have come to the conclusion that crafting is something that can not be denied. It builds like a fever and the only way to quench the burning thirst is to craft. And the longer you wait, the more crafting you will be compelled to do. And so we had a crafting explosion this week fueled by my discovery of bloggers making incredibly cute and creative things from neglected treasures at the dollar store.

We love Dollar Tree. Everything there is less than a dollar. Yes, everything. It's a kid's nirvana.

Most of what I made is cribbed from other bloggers with original twists inspired by the imaginations of the 4 yo, 7 yo and an extra 7 yo who has a particular penchant for crafting. There was one sort original craft, however. It's Halloween Cards!

We found these very cute paper gift bags at the store and now that my eyes have been opened to thinking about things for uses other than what they were intended, we did just that. We cut out the great pictures, attached them to heavy paper and added googly eyes. It's perfect for a note to go with the specially designed original picture frames we're sending to the grandparents (see below). We coated them with a glossy varnish, but that step could be skipped.

We have fallen in love with googly eyes. It started with a frame by Swell Life. Once freed from the idea that you should use just two to fill in as eyes on a drawing, we were off to the races putting them on everything and anything that didn't move too fast. (The dog wisely went upstairs)

The eyes started the frame frenzy. We went from eyes to glitter glue and eyes to paint. Those are poka dots. We figured that would be a little more fall for grandparents who might like to keep them out past the upcoming holiday.

Once we started, we just couldn't stop. This bowl of bones is a take off from another decorating idea.

There were some great terrarium ideas with moss and other fancy items, but we live near a beach and we're frugal. Our version uses only things found on the beach, except for the skeleton and the spider (dollar store).

Next came the wreath. The one I saw was a lovely feather and fancy ball version. We were going in that direction when I found a pre-made black wreath at Michael's for 40 percent off. It's embellished with plastic party favors from (can you guess?) Dollar Tree!

There's more, believe it or not. We found these two great pumpkin stands at Target on sale after Halloween last year. I didn't want to use them for the pumpkins because I feared they would roll off. We were going to get the fake pumpkins, but they were $10 each on sale. At the dollar store, we found black buckets and fabulous masks. (Notice the googly eyes on the witch?) $4 total.

True confessions - after all was said and done, we had a great time and ended up with lots and lots of stuff while keeping busy for an entire three-day weekend, but in total it wasn't exactly cheap. Even at $1 a pop, things add up more quickly than one would expect. Add in a few $4 and $5 items from Michaels and pretty soon, we're talking big bucks. Still less expensive than department store, however, and way more fun.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

I'm in that phase of week (okay that phase of life) when I have not nearly enough time to try all the crafts I'd like, so I've been living vicariously. For those of you who appreciate creativity, check out the swell designer, who is doing a 24 crafts in 24 hours. There are some unbelievably great ideas.

And in the really appreciating creativity realm - check out dollar store crafts. I guarantee you will never look at a dollar store the same way again. I have long appreciated the dollar store for kitchy kid birthday favors and such but my mind is blown by the possibilities. I am in awe of the people who walked down the aisles and saw treasure where I saw junk. I can hardly wait to go to the store and try my hand at it - if I can ever find the time!

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

boring, not crazy or wise beyond imagination

It's October and that means just one thing for parents of enthusiastic tots in America: Halloween is coming. Plans must be made.
Costumes must be chosen.
So we trucked off to the fabric store, the 4yo and I, in search of black and red material to make a cape so that she could be the cutest vampire ever.

Then something happened on the way to the bolts of velvet and satin - we passed through an aisle of (gasp) ready-made costumes. Before I could say "shield thy eyes from the evil ways of marketing my child," she had grabbed a tinkerbell costume off the rack and began dancing around with that gleam in her eye - that "my life will be perfect and sunshine will last eternally if you buy me this," look.

All is not lost, however. We're in a fabric store - surrounded by patterns and gorgeous fabric. I turn my attention from black to green. Never mind cheaply made (but not cheap) ready made, I can create the best most wonderful Tinker Bell outfit ever. After all, I've been watching Project Runway - that practically makes me a designer.

So we page through the books and we stroll down the aisles looking at the brocades, the satins, the tulle and I dream of what could be. All the while, she dreams of what already is - namely a soft velvety dress with curly green wings and a shiny wand with a star.

She grows impatient as I pile up the bolts in the cart and puzzle over math in my head. This subject isn't my strong suit but I am competent enough to realize that as the yards add up, so does the bill. Soon, I'm approaching the price of the costume even with a 40 percent off coupon for the $15 pattern.

There is the priceless satisfaction of seeing my child running around in something I made and being able to boast that it is my creation to be considered. There is the amusement and thrill of trying to make a deadline and blogging about how crazy it is to try to get everything all done.
But then there's also the often under appreciated peace of not having way too many projects on the books. Breathing room? A schedule that isn't overstuffed? The ability to spontaneously do some fun activity because I don't have to run upstairs to cut/sew/baste? Huh. What a concept.

Boring? Perhaps. Wise? Maybe.

Regardless, last night she was running around in her costume instead of dragging around a bag of material. She was happy. So happy that she has asked to wear the costume night and day until Halloween comes. As for me, I happily said yes - lets get our money's worth out of it. I'll turn my attention to something longer lasting like maybe a knitted pixie hat?

The other pics were taken while pumpkin picking over the weekend. Despite all the news about what a poor year it was for pumpkins, there seemed to be plenty on the farm. Decisions, decisions, decisions...

Sunday, October 04, 2009

I'm lost...oh so so lost

This is my oldest UFO. I started it long, long ago. I discovered the pattern through a KAL started by Anna from France, who became a dear friend and showed me all around Paris. I remember knitting on it when the 3yo was still a wee one in diapers. It seemed back then that each row took forever and I didn't really get what was going on. That was yards and yards and yards of lace ago. I have since then learned a tremendous amount about how lace works and why patterns do what they do. Consequently, I had high hopes that the project would be easy to pick up even though it had been months and months and the paper on which I'd been keeping track of what I was doing had disappeared.
Thankfully, I had the pattern saved on my computer. I highly recommend keeping multiple copies of any pattern you like. I've learned this the hard way (I once watched helplessly as a pattern fly out the window when I was knitting in a topless Jeep on the highway).
So, I sat down confidently with my newly printed pattern and the North Roe shawl and I looked at the knitting and I looked at the pattern and I looked at the knitting and I looked at the pattern and after repeating that several times I came to the sinking realization that I had no clue where I was. I finally figured out which row it was sort of. The problem is that the rows sort of repeat within the chart. Eventually I was able to narrow it down.

But that's when the trouble started. The chart is supposed to be repeated 4 to 6 times depending on how big you want the shawl. I had no clue how many times I'd already repeated it having lost that valuable piece of paper on which I had kept track.
Grumble grumble grumble
I started knitting and kept pondering about how to figure it out. I did eventually - once I'd repeated the chart seven times. I'm not going back. I don't care if this shawl is big enough for the Paul Bunyan. There is simply too much mohair in the yarn to frog.
I finally made it to the second of three charts. I did something drastically wrong on the second row that I discovered on the fourth row. Like I said, however, too much mohair for frogging and the thing is way too big for tinking. And so, I dropped stitches back to the problem and tried as much as possible to fix it by picking up stitches. I now have the correct number although I am a little concerned about how it will look when it's blocked. Maybe everyone will be so dazzled by the color they won't notice.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

5 minutes to dash out the door delicious dinner

I realized very, very shortly before I had to leave for a meeting this morning that I was going to be gone all day and I didn't want to have to leave the park early just to cook dinner. This is when the slow cooker is supposed to shine, right? Excpet that it was very, very shortly as in ten minutes or less.

At least the roast was defrosted, but I had neither the onion soup mix or the can of cream of mushroom soup that my successful roast recipe called for. It basically came down to deciding I would just order pizza or forge out on my own. Here's what I came up with:

1 roast labeled "for slow cooking" (or other cut of meat)
2 cups of beef broth (made from beef bouillion cube)
1 teaspoon oregno
1 teaspoon thyme (I used a few sprigs of fresh 'cause that's all I had)
2 bay leaves (go figure - I've got bay leaves, but no Thyme?)
3 tablespoons worcester sauce
1/3 cup brown sugar
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar (apple cider vinegar would likely work just as well or red wine)
2 cloves chopped garlic
1 onion cut into pieces
a bunch of carrots (I used baby carrots, but chopped grown up carrots would work)
4 potatoes (add a couple more if you have them)
Cook on low for 8 to 9 hours (probably would be okay to do high for 4 hours)
I used the extra sauce to make a gravy thickened with cornstarch. It was fine but I don't recommend it. I think next time I'll try flour and butter to thicken.

I don't like beef generally - but I loved this meal! I even liked the carrots and I really, really don't like cooked carrots. More importantly - both the 4 and 7 year old liked it. The 4yo even asked for more, which is (you'll have to trust me on this) amazing.

Here are a few pics of the Ulmus being blocked. (not the day I'd pledged to do it, but shortly after that) Much to my surprise, it grew as much as
I'd hoped - happy dance. It's even cold enough that I really need it. Now I just have to figure out how to wear it! Pics of it in action are coming.