Category: crafty

It started with legwarmers

Mad crafting skills, eh? When I was about 10 years old, I was obsessed with a book series called “Satin Slippers.” This was in the throes of my ballet obsession and my desire to be a ballerina even though I’d only had a year or so of dance classes, didn’t have any especial talent, and wasn’t able to continue dance lessons. I would dance in my bedroom, making up my own steps and dreams of ballet stages and futures flowing around me.

Somewhere around then, I found my mom’s Better Homes and Gardens craft books. They were a series of books you could use to self-teach various things, and one of them was about knitting. The ballerinas in my book series were always knitting their own leg warmers, and I suddenly saw a way to be even MORE like them. Never mind that I didn’t understand knitting in the round or seaming, my stitches were twisted, and gauge was WAY beyond me. I taught myself how to knit, how to purl, and I went after it. Eventually the fascination faded and my knitting, such as it was, went back in the closet.

I think I picked up the needles again to try and make baby presents or other Christmas gifts … Something like that. Maybe a dog sweater? That was at least 10 years ago, and since then I’ve become more of a real knitter. I’m not that adventurous (no steeking … I can’t even get brave enough for color work) and I’m a lazy knitter. I like seamless, I hate double pointed needles, and I even decided I’m just knitting toe-up socks because I suck at joining in the round for socks. But. I’ve made so many baby blankets, sweaters, scarves, socks, etc., that I know I CAN knit. I’m not the most amazing and definitely not the fastest, but I can create something from string. That’s amazing to me. I love making something and giving it away … The process of knitting is more soothing to me than the product, a lot of the time. I like small projects so that I can see progress and change quickly. Hats, cowl, shawlettes, baby sweaters, many socks that are destined to forever be alone out of their pair …

And just think … All of this warmth is owed to a ballet obsession and leg warmers. Mysterious ways, indeed.

A sweater for the baby: Hoot Cardigan
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Cocoon Link of BFF Cowl for a swap

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Elementary, Watson sock(s? … time will tell)
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Pinned That, Did That. Sort of.

I love trying out new sites, gadgets, apps, etc. Love it. I jumped on the Pinterest bandwagon early on, and it’s been more useful than I thought it would be. Many meals, some clothes, knitting projects, room design, etc. have come from that wonderful Internet crowdsourcing.

Christmas seems like practically the main reason Pinterest exists. I mean, decorations, food to make, craft projects to aspire to and never actually complete, plus lots of starved half-naked women to motivate you to put down the Christmas cookies (or drink another winter sangria). (Seriously. Stop with the creepy/skanky “motivational” fitness pictures. That’s not what healthy looks like.)

So yes, I’ve done my share of pinning in the hopes of making spirits bright this holiday season. I don’t know if it’s nesting or what, but I’ve had wild hairs you know where to actually attempt some of them.

Exhibit A: Snowmen sandwiches.

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I like making fun shapes with cookie cutters, but I am definitely not up to bento competencies. I just admire from afar in the “You actually MADE lunch?!” seats. So this was a big deal for me!

Exhibit B: tomorrow our office is having a cookie exchange. My original plans waffled between pillsbury slice and bake cookies or faking labor to just not bother (but maybe also get a sympathy cookie. Shh.). Then, at supper tonight, I got inspired to make these:

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That’s right: marshmallow reindeer pops. They aren’t as perfect or perky as the original pinspiration (yeah, the lingo does get annoying), but they’ll do. Of course, then we have …

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Exhibit C: the also-rans from the reindeer pops beauty contest. Pins tell the happy successes and usually gloss over the “omg … why did I ever start this project ?!” moments. This project was fun and cute and all, but definitely not one I’d do when my kids are awake and wanting to help!

They will, however, enjoy the imperfect reindeer just as much as the pretty ones when they get a special snack after their (likely not to be pinned) lunch tomorrow. So lesson learned, Mom: keep it light and if you’re not enjoying it, quit pinning it.

Sweet Tooth Factory, right here.

We’ve been busy little people around here, thus the lack of actual updates!

I’ve been stretching out my maternity leave (unpaid Family Medical Leave) by working 20+ hours a week and taking the unpaid leave the rest of the time. While it’s good to have the time with Nora and at least some sort of a paycheck, it does make things a little harried trying to balance what needs to be done at work and at home. Then there’s the stuff I want to do, too … most of the time that gets shunted aside in favor of sitting on my butt on the couch, relaxing with Will while we watch something on Netflix.

One thing I wanted to be sure and do was thank you gifts for Seth’s preschool teachers. I absolutely love them. My mom was a preschool teacher for a while, and I know from her that they love the little gifts from their kids. (Except really, they probably don’t need another candle or coffee mug. But they’ll love every one they get.) I wanted to add gift cards but that just wasn’t in the budget this year – see the aforementioned half-paycheck since this summer. So we baked and melted.

Christmas Tree Cookies
Christmas Tree Cookies

I had seen kits for making cookie Christmas trees out of star-shaped cookies, but I already have three sizes of star cookie cutters. We used this Sugar Cookie recipe from Cooking Light, and it was pretty good. I actually ran out of sugar and had to substitute agave nectar for part of the sugar, so who knows what that did to them. They were still yummy!

We made the frosting in the recipe, put it in a piping bag, and then Will lowered the cookies into the can while I drizzled frosting over each cookie. The frosting did help glue the layers to each other – three of each size cookie, alternating points – but we had a couple of anxious moments when we thought one tree was going to slide into the side of the paintcan container. (Which came from Hobby Lobby and are food-safe, btw.)

Hot Chocolate on a Stick
Hot Chocolate on a Stick

The other, chocolate-y things are Hot Chocolate on a Stick. I’ll warn you about this: reading the very precise directions on tempering chocolate got me stressed out beyond belief. It turns out it wasn’t that bad, and you just suck it up and add some oil or shortening (my mother’s recommendation) if your chocolate gets ugly. Ta da. We used Semi-sweet chocolate and then dipped them in melted white chocolate bits. We put some in candy molds (the shaped ones) and the rest in a mini-muffin tin. I actually liked the muffin tin ones best! And don’t get all “fancy” like I did and think you can pipe in white chocolate first so you can skip the second round of melting and dipping after the chocolate cools. You don’t see the wrecked second batch where the two chocolates separated from each other when I took them out of the molds. Whatever!

The chocolates are delicious, and as I shared on Facebook, make great mochas if you stir them into your coffee with a little milk. We’ll definitely be making these again! Actually, we might be making them tonight to give to some more people …

And yes, Seth helped me with the cookies. That was an adventure in itself, but he does love to cook with us. It’s worth the mess. 🙂

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