Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Butterfly Effect

For tomorrow's Wednesday Review, I am going to talk about one of my favorite baking books - Hello, Cupcake! I thought as a little preview I'd share the one cupcake I've actually made from the book: Butterflies!!

I made these for a friend's housewarming party. It was in the spring and I wanted something fun so I poured through Hello, Cupcake! until I found these.  The butterflies are made with melted down chocolate wafers. I traced a pattern on wax paper with the milk chocolate, and then filled it in with the orange-colored white chocolate, using a toothpick to make the swirls. Once the chocolate hardened, I peeled them off the wax paper, set them on the cupcake (using a mini chocolate chip under each wing to prop them up) and then piped on some more melted chocolate in the middle for the body. To finish it off, I attached the antennas and wala! I present to you - the Monarch Butterfly.  

Monday, January 30, 2012

Thank God For YouTube

I did it!! I finished my *top secret* project this weekend! I went to Michael's to pick up a few supplies for the finishing touches. Did you know there's a Michael's App you can get for you phone? It's amazing! You can access the coupons directly from the app so no more getting to the store and panicking because you realized you forgot to print them out.

I immediately dove into my next project - knitting socks! There are a lot of new knitting techniques involved in knitting socks that I've never done before. I read a few descriptions online and was really having trouble picturing what they were telling me to do. Then it hit me - YouTube! After watching a few videos of a lady with a cool accent knitting them, it was much easier to follow my own pattern.

Yay for technology!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Friday Musings #4

Maybe it's because I've been enthralled with Downton Abbey the past few weeks, or because the weather has been weirdly warm, or because I bought a bright yellow lace dress yesterday, but I REALLY want to throw a tea party. A fancy tea party where I can wear a hat and said yellow dress; maybe even some gloves.

There are so many fun things you can do with a tea party from invitations to creative treats and morsels. Once the weather gets warmer (and stays warm) I can host it in the sunroom. 

Who doesn't love scones and finger sandwiches??

Just need to pick a date now....

Thursday, January 26, 2012

My Very First Sweater

The summer of 2006 I decided it was time to learn how to knit for real. I was going to teach myself how to do all the fancy stuff and how to read patterns. If you're a non-knitter, then you you'll know how I felt when I looked at patterns:

Lace Panel A
Row 1 (RS):
 K1, yo, k to end - 24 sts at the end of this row.
Row 2: K1, yo, k1, p to last st, k1 - 25 sts at the end of this row.
Row 3: K1, yo, k1, *k2, yo, k2tog; rep from * across to last 3 sts, k3 - 26 sts at the end of this row.
Row 4: Rep Row 2 - 27 sts at the end of this row.
Rows 5-12: Rep Rows 1-4 - 35 sts at the end of Row 12.
Row 13: Rep Row 1 - 36 sts at the end of Row 13.

(taken from a Diagonal Eyelet Baby Blanket pattern)

Mumbo-jumbo right?

I taught myself what the abbreviations meant and practiced a few of the techniques (yarn-overs, decreasingcables, etc.) and decided I was finally ready to make a sweater! I thought a baby sweater would be best because obviously a smaller sweater would be less work! (wrong) I found a free pattern online and it was easy enough at first. It has you knit the entire thing continuously. (Instead of in pieces and sewing together at the end which is how every other sweater I've made is done). I even had to use double ended knitting needles to knit in the round for the sleeves. I had some holes here and there where I had lost a stitch - but my aunt showed me how to sew them up so they're unnoticeable.

Caron's Simply Soft yarn is the BEST. They have wonderful colors and it is really soft. I still need to add buttons - I was thinking purple flowers or something along those lines. Someday I'll get around to adding those.  

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Wednesday Review: Handmade Weddings

Handmade Weddings is a book that has over 50 DIY wedding crafts. They range from invitations and centerpieces, to party favors and ring pillows. The book is well laid out and has excellent pictures, but overall I wasn't thrilled with it.

What I like:
·         The book is divided into sections on the kind of wedding you want - "Retro Homespun", "Girly Romantic", and "Organic Minimal" are a few. Each section starts with a color pallet and the crafts take off from there.
·         There is a handy guide at the beginning describing which projects you should definitely DIY and which are better to buy/rent/or plan ahead for.
·         Each craft has a key for the level of expertise needed, the time it will take to make it, how far in advance from your wedding you should start the craft, if it’s a group or individual activity, and the estimated budget.
·         There's a whole section on calligraphy! I love writing things by hand. I generally use calligraphy markers to shortcut the time actual calligraphy takes but I'm glad that there's a step by step tutorial in this book for each letter.
·         Some of the crafts - Heart shaped programs that can double as fans is a brilliant idea, cute and I think would be fun to make with your bridesmaids - definitely a craft I can get behind.

What I don't like:
·         Most of the crafts - There are a lot of crafts in this book that I think are too kitschy for a wedding: yarn-wrapped bottles, fabric-wrapped favors, paper-link chains, and fabric-scrap hair clips.

Really!?!? I think this is more suited for a toddler's birthday party than a wedding.

Maybe these things just aren't my style and somebody else would love to have them at their wedding - but I find it hard to believe the majority of people would like any of these. I think they could be cute in a shower or even rehearsal setting, but not for the actual wedding.

This book can be a great resource to get ideas but I wouldn't recommend buying it. Borrow it from the library or a friend (me!) who already owns it. You'll probably only like about 5 of the 50 crafts they have to offer and you want to get your money's worth! 

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Rainbows for a Dreary Day

The past few days have been rather dreary weather-wise so I think its time for a rainbow post! If you know me, you know I love bright colors - I mean really, I own these shoes:

Rainbows are a great way to cram lots of bright colors into one. A few months ago there was a baking contest at the Church I attend. I entered into the cupcake category. I tried to decide on a cupcake that could clinch the winning spot and went back and forth between zombie cupcakes and tie-dye cupcakes. I wasn't sure how church-appropriate zombie cupcakes were so I went with the tie-dye. My mom had made full-sized tie-dye cake for my brother once, so I figured I should be able to do it with cupcakes. I started with a yellow cake mix, divided it into four and dyed each a different color (red, blue, green, & yellow). Then I spooned each into the cupcake papers.

When all the batter was in the papers, I took a toothpick to swirl it around a bit. It was a process but they came out really well! I decorated with blue and green frosting to compliment the aray of colors beneath.

Sadly I didn't win the competition, which I blame on the fact that I had to cut the cupcakes in fourths for the competition so the cake hardened a little - but they were definitely beautiful! 

Monday, January 23, 2012

Happy New Year!

Good-bye rabbit, hello dragon! Today kicks off the celebrations for the Chinese New Year. I myself am a Rat so I won't get to celebrate again until 2020.

Whether they come from a mysterious blue egg, participate in a Triwizard Tournament, or are voiced by Sean Connery, Dragons are just plain fun! (I may have a little Hagrid in me) In fact, they're the only mythological creature in the Chinese zodiac.

There are a lot of fun things to do for the Chinese New Year - If you're in the DC area, you can head to Chinatown on Sunday 29th 2-5pm for their Chinese New Year Festival. And then of course there are crafts! Martha Stewart has a template for this fun Chinese Dragon.

There's also Chinese Lanterns. They're festive and very easy to make. All you need is construction paper, tape, and scissors. (of course some glitter glue never hurts either!) If you have your paper facing you in portrait, cute a 1 inch strip off the top for the handle of the lantern. Fold the remaining paper in half and measure another inch on the top of that so you know where to stop cutting. Then you cut even strips across the sheet. I didn't have red construction paper so I just used white and decorated with red. But yellow and orange would be nice too.

Once you've cut all the strips, open it up and tape the 2 long sides to each other and the handle to the top. You can try making different sizes and colors for some fun table décor. 

Friday, January 20, 2012

Friday Musings #3

The Hunger Games comes out March 23rd. (62 days!!!) I'm already trying to decide what to dress up as at the midnight showing. My current idea is Effie Trinket. I always feel like I need to go as a blonde - sorry Katniss. Plus Effie is just fun.

I need to find a dress/pattern and try to make something like this. I will probably try to find something at a Goodwill since 62 days doesn't seem like a long time to learn how to sew. I also already bought these eyelashes:

They're paper lashes that Sephora sells - I bought 2 different kinds - these and ones that look like peacocks. They're amazing and were only $10! If I can get a good enough costume together, I think I'll also dress up like her at Comic-con in July. Hope you all have a great weekend and may the odds be ever in your favor!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Because I Love All Things Harry Potter

The first adult sweater I ever made was of course, Harry Potter themed. I made it as a Christmas present for my college roommate (also a big HP fan). My Aunt Robin who is a ferocious knitter gave me a bunch of her old patterns and told me which ones would be easiest to make at my skill level. I picked a simple pull-over pattern which has you knit the front, back, and sleeves separately and then sew them all together at the end. 

I love you Ron!!!

I bought Red Heart yarn in Maroon and Gold (Yeah Gryffindor!!) and plunged in. Red Heart isn't the softest yarn so you'd definitely need to wear an undershirt. Knitting a present like this is so fun. The whole time I was knitting I kept chuckling to myself thinking of the look on Katie's face when she opened the present to find a Weasley sweater with her initial on it.

I made another one the following Christmas for our other roommate Barb. Again at this time I still didn't know how to knit with 2 colors so I embroidered the letters. The sweaters turned out great. The pattern is kind of a chunky sweater which I think is perfect - looks just like something Mrs. Weasley would make!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Wednesday Review: Martha Stewart Living

I realize this isn't a book but the February issue of Martha Stewart Living arrived in the mail yesterday and I can't stop looking through it! With sections on Healthy Living, Beauty, Cooking, Homekeeping, and Technology there's a ton of information you can glean from this magazine.

Each issue starts with "Martha's Month" a calendar with "gentle reminders, helpful tips, and important dates" for the month. Feb 1 - "Look through photos to determine which can be framed for Valentine's Day gifts." This is how Martha stays on top of her 'A' game. Though I am surprised that "plan menu for Super Bowl party" is 2 days before the actual Super Bowl. Maybe Martha is a procrastinator deep down inside just like me! She also suggests when to sow and plant seeds for different plants. (Something I would love to get into!) Some of the suggestions on the calendar however are things that will never ever apply to me: "Order baby chicks for the chicken coop."

There are great recipes inside with eye-popping pictures and step by step instructions. They even include detachable recipe cards for some of them. Nutritional information is provided as well which is always a plus for me.

I'm in full Valentine's mode (if you couldn't tell by yesterday's post) so my favorite section is on make-it-yourself Valentines. There are tips and how-to's for accordion cards, garland cards, and plain illustrated cards. A great thing about Martha Stewart is all of the templates are included online and there is also a "Workbook" section in the back for more step by step instructions on crafts found throughout the magazine.  I think I will round up all the Victoria's Secret tissue paper I can find to try to make the wall heart from the cover.

Martha is definitely the hostess with the mostest. She has wonderful tips about throwing parties and how to give them that extra "wow-factor." I love this magazine and look forward to seeing it in my mailbox every month!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Woopie Pies & Pops

I know a lot of single people hate Valentine's Day but I love it. I love the cheesy Valentine's cards, the fact that I can wear red and pink together, that the Arlington Drafthouse shows Princess Bride every year, and all the Valentine's themed crafts and goodies there are to make!

I have recently become obsessed with Williams-Sonoma. Whenever I get a catalogue I find myself flipping through thinking "of course I need a mini pie-maker!" In the last issue I found a whole section of Valentine's treats you can buy.

 I WANT THEM ALL…. but Williams-Sonoma is nothing if not expensive. Why spend $50 on 12 heart-shaped woopie pies when I can make them myself??

Yup, I bought the woopie pie pan at Michael's (with a 40% off coupon) last time I was there. I also bought the lollipop rods to try and make the Pie Pops. The pan comes with a recipe for the woopie pies, but I'll be winging the Pie Pops. I'll let you know how they turn out.

Also, I really want to give these out as my Valentines this year

Monday, January 16, 2012

Putting My Money On Red

I may have lost a lot of money and sleep this weekend but I had the BEST time at Sara's bachelorette party. We spent the weekend in Atlantic City and per usual it involved tons of sparkle, alcohol, and dancing. The theme for the weekend (as thought up by the v. clever MOH - Susan) was "Painting The Town Red Before Sara Is Wed". We even had matching T-shirts!!

I decided to make a banner to decorate the room. I knew I wanted glittery red paper for it so I headed to the scrapbook section in Michael's. It's been a while since I've shopped in the scrapbook section, I forgot how awesome the paper is. Thankfully Valentine's Day is right around the corner so there is no shortage of red sparkly things at Michael's. I think my favorite purchase is the red glitter clothespins.

 The supplies.

Final product!

I also made heart shaped sugar cookies decorated to look like bras and panties. This is the first time I've made real royal icing. (I also added 1/4 tsp vanilla extract) Usually I just mix water and powdered sugar because it's easy and I love the way it tastes but it doesn't harden quite as much as I need it to. I was a little worried that adding the meringue powder would change the taste, but it didn't.

I used Wilton decorating tip #4 to outline the cookies. You can see the first one I did I started with 2 circles, but decided that didn't look good - so I went with the general outline for the rest. 

I used Wilton tip #2 for the "lace" dots.


Friday, January 13, 2012

Friday Musings #2

Happy Friday the 13th! I'm heading to Atlantic City today for a weekend of bachelorette shenanigans. Luckily I'm not driving so I'm hoping to get some quality time in with my *top secret* project. Probably a good 5 hours worth when factoring in traffic. I need to download some good tunes for the ride up. For now I will leave you all with this:

Enjoy the weekend!  

Thursday, January 12, 2012

This Is Why I Don't Make Blankets Anymore

My friend in California was having a baby girl so I decided to knit a blanket. (This was before I had discovered the Marshmellow Dress) I bought a few skeins of Bernat Baby Coordinates Sweet Stripes - its yarn that is colored so that when you knit your blanket, it automatically has stripes! SO COOL - right? 

The pattern I followed had you start from a corner and slowly increase the width until you get to the middle, then you decrease the width - so you're knitting in a diamond shape. The great thing about this blanket is its all knit stitch which I think is easier than having to switch between knit and purl. So I begin - and the blanket is looking pretty cool!

I get to the middle and start decreasing the stitches. I'm diligently working on it for days - knitting, and knitting, and knitting. After a while I start to notice that I've knitted an awful lot and it doesn't seem like my blanket is getting any smaller. I check the pattern again. It looks like I'm doing it right, decreasing every row, just like the pattern says. I'm half way through a row when it hits me like a ton of bricks. Yes - I've been decreasing every row, but I was still doing the increase stitch as well! So basically I was adding back the stitches I was decreasing - keeping it the same width. TRAVESTY. If you're a knitter you've probably had a moment like this. Your stomach sinks to the floor as you try to decide: "do I try to fix it from here on out or do I need to unravel to the original mistake?" I stared at the blanked for a long time before I decided the only option was to unravel. Unraveling is the WORST. And I had to unravel an ENTIRE SKEIN! For those of you unfamiliar with knitting, that is A LOT of yarn.

So I fixed my mistake and finished the blanket (which went a lot quicker once I was knitting it correctly). However it didn't turn out quite as square as I would have liked.


It looks more like a sting ray. But luckily babies don't really care how square their blankets are. It was still soft and warm - just how a blanket should be. After I made this I decided that sweaters were a lot less time consuming and you figure out when you've made a mistake much faster. It was a good learning experience, but I haven't made a blanket since.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Introducing - The Wednesday Review!

I have close to one bazillion books on various crafting subjects (mostly knitting, and baking) so each Wednesday I will review one of them here for you! There's not actually a review today because I just thought this up this morning - so instead I'll tell you my main sources for books.

1.)    Rummage sales. My Aunts are super bargain hunters and they LOVE rummage sales. I've gone with them to a few and have found some pretty awesome stuff. Its true what they say - "One man's junk is another man's treasure." When I go I usually stick to the kitchen goods, holiday décor, and books. I've bought some knitting and embroidery books in the past. I think everything I've bought was printed in the 60's but hey - I like vintage. You can also find yarn, fabric, and craft sets at most rummage sales and everything is under $2 - great for the bargain crafter!

2.)    Amazon.com. I've always been a BIG Amazon shopper. Back in the day I bought (and sold!) all of my college text books there. I have the Amazon credit card and recently became an Amazon Prime member - which turns out to be a blessing and a curse. It's amazing what a difference "free" 2-day shipping makes! Now I want to buy EVERYTHING. I rationalize my Prime membership with the fact I can also stream TV and movies for free and Amazon really does have a great selection. When I see a book I want, I make sure to check the price at Amazon first as it's usually 25-50% off.

3.)    Crafter's Choice. I know book clubs can get a bad rep, but I love Crafter's Choice. This is probably where I get the majority of my books. When you join you get 4 books for $1 and then you have to buy 2 books within a year.  They're generally reasonably priced, but as with all online shopping, S&H prices are a slap in the face. However, CC has great sales. I always wait until they have their 2 for $22, 3 for $33, or 4 for $44 sale with free shipping. Its good for any book up to $35 and they have a TON of craft books, cookbooks, and even novels. They sell combo packs (2 books they bundle because they are on the same subject) that I used to be able to use as 1 of my 4 for $44 books so I was essentially getting 5 or 6 books for $44. It was awesome but sadly they have sinced closed that loophole. The only annoying thing is every month they have featured selections that you have to make sure to DECLINE or they'll send them to you and charge you. But you get an email with an easy link to decline so its not too bad.

Anybody else have a good source for crafting books?

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

One Ring To Rule Them All

I am a nerd. I love fantasy and sci-fi and am therefore uber psyched for the new Hobbit movie!!

My whole family loves Lord of the Rings - in fact, my parents took my brother, sister, and me out of school to go to the very first showing the day it was released. I think we saw each movie at least twice in theaters. We own all the extended versions on DVD and may or may not also own this life size cutout:

Another thing I love? THEMED PARTIES! Over the summer a few friends and I got together for the ultimate marathon - all 3 LOTR movies (extended versions!) in one day. Twelve pure hours of Middle Earth geek-awesomeness. it. was. fantastic. One of my friends works for an interior design firm and printed out a giant map of Middle Earth so we could move the characters around as the story progressed.

All our meals were themed around the movie as well. (which basically just means we ate British food all day) For breakfast we had scones and tea. Fruit for second breakfast. A nice stew for dinner. Trail mix for elevensies. And I made this Hobbit Hole cake for dessert!

I used a cupcake for the Hobbit Hole bit and melted down chocolate for the stepping stones and fence. I had to fill in a lot of the gaps with copious amounts of frosting but its delicious so a little more wont hurt anyone. I think the pearl sprinkle finishes it off pretty nicely as the door handle.

I plan on being at the midnight showing of the Hobbit so maybe I'll throw a pre-viewing party and make some more fun Middle-Earth themed foods. Dwarf cupcakes?

A few more photos of the party after the jump.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Next Up

I made some good progress on the "top-secret" project this weekend. I can't wait to finish it so I can start on something NEW! Next in line on the "to-craft" list will most likely be this:

I found this pattern a few years back but haven't been able to make use of it as the first round of my friend's babies were all boys. Where this may have made a good present for a boy a few centuries back, I just don't think it'd fly today. But now I'm getting this pattern back out of the craft-vault as my friend E is 6 months pregnant with a baby GIRL! I wont have it ready right when the baby is born (unless I have some crazy crafting miracle?) but I'm still excited to try this pattern - I mean, it has PUFFED SLEEVES. Anne would be so proud.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Friday Musings

I picked up a project last night that I haven't worked on in MONTHS. Not that that means a whole lot, there are other projects I haven't worked on in YEARS. (I have a few half finished sweaters and scrapbooks that got thrown to the wayside when more attractive projects came by) But for this particular *top secret* project, I am giving myself a deadline of March. I'd say I'm about 80% done so hopefully that's realistic. What is it you ask? You'll have to wait until March to find out!!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Blanket for Baby P

This was one of the first blankets I ever made - not my best work, but I do love block pattern. It was for my roommate at the time to give to her newborn niece.

The block pattern is alternating stockinette and garter stitches. I embroidered the 'P' into the blanket because at the time I didn't know how to knit with 2 different yarns. Speaking of yarn, I used Bernat Baby Coordinates yarn which is very soft and kind of crimped - great for newborn projects! And who doesn't love a good pink/green combo?