Saturday, October 31, 2009

How to freeze cookie dough

I'm sure many of you domestic divas already know this fabulous trick of the trade, but I promise no one told me about it and I just figured it all out myself. So let me tell you about my Low Mess Cookies...

First of all, I love cookies. Oatmeal Chocolate Chip are my favorite, but I'm not that picky (just omit the raisins, please). I have a serious problem with cookies. Like, if they're in my house, then it's not long before they're in my belly and then once in my belly, my thighs beg for them, and the belly always gives in. Cookie cravings usually come to me on cold-ish to cold days (many days in Edmonton) in the evening. And I have always thought that it is somewhat pointless to haul out the flour and sugar and all the other ingredients to make just a dozen or so cookies. But it is a bad idea to give my thighs that many cookies at once. And even if I manage to forget about them for a couple of days, the rate of flavour-deterioration in homemade cookies is incredibly fast, that the few-day-old cookies are something of a calorie-full disappointment.

So to solve these problems (ever the problem-solver, I am), I thought I would freeze the cookie dough, just like Pilsbury does, you know, in a roll that I could cut nice little round cookies and bake them at a later date. This was quite disappointing. Although I have never purchased Pilsbury cookie dough, I would hope that they cut up better and don't flatten at the bottom end. And I still had the work of cutting them up, which I didn't like so much.

So, I tried again. This time, I prepared the cookie dough, baked a dozen cookies and then (using my Pampered Chef small scoop), I scooped the cookie dough onto the pan just like I was going to bake more, except for I placed them right beside each other, instead of giving them the usual 1-2 inches of baking room. I got the rest of the dough on one pan and, instead of the oven, I popped them in the freezer. I let them freeze (an hour or so) and then popped them into a resealable freezer bag.

Now, whenever I want cookies, I preheat the oven, put a dozen frozen cookie balls on a baking tray and by the time the oven is hot enough, the dough has thawed a little.

I pop 'em in the oven for 10 minutes and eat warm, melty-chocolate, oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. Mmmmm....

Although they do retain their frozen cookie scoop shape, they're just as yummy as if they were flat. If you have a toaster oven, you can easily just make 2 or 6, just what you need for the evening and always serve delicious, fresh baked cookies to unexpected guests or the kids as an after school snack.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

I made this: Owl Toque

I made this toque (winter hat for non-Canadians) last winter from some leftover yarn I had. I was going to make S's knit pants with stripes along the side, but I made a pair like that and I wasn't especially happy with them and they took a LONG time to make and were generally frustrating. So, this was going to be the stripe colour. And now it's a hat.

It took me a while to get those buttons. I had a hard time finding just what I wanted. You know when you get something in your head that has to be just right and you figure it's simple enough so it shouldn't be too difficult to find? That's what happened to those. I thought that orange irridescent buttons would be perfect, but they were not easy to come by. I eventually ordered them off Etsy for a pretty good price. Using the motif from this sweater, I figured out how many owls I would need to go around my head, made sure the stitches needed for that many owls was divisible by 4 (for 2x2 ribbing... I may have had to decrease a few stitches and increase after the ribbing) and cast on. It was actually a pretty easy pattern to create out of the sweater pattern. The ravelry pattern download is available here.

If I were to make it again, I think I would make a ribbing that would better suit the owls, so that the knit stitches matched up perfectly with the owls' feet. And I would do something different about the way I finished it because it has a pointy-ish top that I don't like so much. All in all, not so bad.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Halloween Cookies

Last week, Z and I bought some Halloween cookie cutters. A bat, a pumpkin and a ghost. Today we made sugar cookies and icing and decorated some cookies. I was really happy with this recipe that I found on All Recipes. I once read a critique of All Recipes, which stated that the recipes used a lot of processed foods. Perhaps it is also full of casseroles with mushroom soup in them, but I find a lot of great recipes there, and this one is no exception. As the reviews all state, it makes an icing that will dry nice and shiny like a bakery cookie. That's totally what I was looking for: a nice smooth icing. My bats up there don't look all that smooth, but they would have looked a lot different with a buttercream icing. I didn't fuss a lot with the icing. I put some of the black icing in a ziploc bag and cut a tiny hole in the corner for the details, but that is it. Nothing fancy.

I managed to be fairly relaxed while making these with Z. I let her make a lot of her "moons" (circles) and so she and S decorated those with their icing. S (he's 2) got the white icing to prevent him from colouring our carpet orange or black. Basically, Z slathered 2.5 cookies with pink icing (she insisted I make pink) and ate the rest of her icing right out of the container. S iced and ate all at once.

If you're looking for a good sugar cookie dough recipe, I think the next time I make sugar cookies, I'm going to give this recipe a try. The recipe I have is good, but today I used non-hydrogenated margarine in place of the butter (I was out of butter) and I don't know, maybe I measured wrong or something, but the dough was WAY too soft and I ended up adding probably another 1/2 cup or more flour to make it manageable.

Happy Halloween!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Heffalump Cake

Last year, when it was my son's first birthday, I made him this cake. S has a stuffed Ty elephant that Z affectionately named "Lumpy" (after the Heffalump from Winnie the Pooh), so while I thought at first that I would model the cake after S's stuffed toy, it was infinitely easier to use the Heffalump from Winnie the Pooh. Here was my inspiration:

I printed this picture off the Internet and took a picture of it.

Then I traced the cake pan, and sketched the picture onto the paper. I had some help because I copied and pasted the picture from the Internet into my Paint program and drew a rectangle around the main part of the body, so I knew about how much to sketch onto the main part and how to make the leftovers work for the rest of the pieces.

The taped-on pieces are "leftovers" from the rest of the shape being cut out. I placed this image on the cake and cut the cake around it.

I decided to use the rounded top of the cake (that I had cut off to level the cake) to shape a 3D nose for Lumpy because the cake just didn't seem challenging enough (ha ha ha). Here is a picture with all the pieces pasted together before icing. Just about every edge was raw (a cake decorator's nightmare).

Then, I iced the cake. I used a buttercream icing flavoured with peppermint extract instead of vanilla (mint chocolate cake...mmmmm...) and coloured it light blue (like S's stuffie instead of light purple like the Heffalump).

Not too bad. It's hard to get a smooth finish on a "Lumpy" surface (pun intended).

After putting the main coat of icing on, it was time for finishing.
So, here he is all drawn on and outlined.

And here we are posing with the cake, before or after singing to S at the park.
That's my sister holding S.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

In which I fail at knitting mittens

So, I was going to knit Z some mittens to match her new hat, which conveniently matches her coat. I'm new to knitting mittens. I knit myself a pair and they're falling apart because I just tried to get away with tying the yarns together and cutting them instead of weaving in all the ends. That was dumb.

Anyway, this is a brand new fail. I tried to knit these mittens on 2 needles and just seam up the sides. I can totally do this in crochet, but I like knit mittens because they use less yarn and they're not as holey as crochet mittens, so they can be a little warmer. Look how nasty the seam on the side is. Yuck. And they don't have a nice cute shape or anything. Now that I have one mitten, I have no desire to make the other one equally as ugly.

Incidentally, I used this basic mitten pattern formula. I do not think it's the fault of the pattern formula at all. Perhaps it was just the combination of yarn and size of mitten and my newbie mitten knitting skills and not knitting it in the round...

(sigh) What do I do now? Crochet a pair?

Saturday, October 24, 2009

I made these: wool pants

Here are the pants (or longies) I made for S a year or more ago. They're wool so once they are properly lanolized (coated with lanolin), then they act as a great breathable, water-resistant, natural diaper cover. He's been wearing them since I made them and as you can see in the picture above, they're a bit long on him there, but since the stockinette bottoms roll up a bit, they worked on him then and they still fit him now.

They're actually really lovely to knit. The pattern is so easy I don't even have to look at my hands, which makes it a great project for my Stitch & Chat group or watching TV. And they're so cute. I modified the pattern slightly, increasing a stitch down the pant legs every 5 or 6 rows which added an extra inch or so to the leg width to make them a little wider legged. D asked how many balls of yarn it would take to make a pair big enough for him. When asked he said he didn't want a pair, but I don't believe him.

Here are the wool shorties I made for Simon. These were made before the wool pants above. They were great for summer (last summer, but I can still squeeze him into them) They're cargo shorts, a little tighter than I'd like, maybe, but I really like them anyway.

This was taken before I added the drawstring.

S modeling the shorties with the drawstring.
I think it makes them look kind of beach-y.

My handsome boy.

Friday, October 23, 2009

I made this: Olivia's Butterfly

I made this super cute and super easy and super fast crocheted butterfly hat. I'm all about free patterns and Vallieskids has them in spades. She's also got a super generous policy with her patterns, which I love. The true spirit of craft generosity. I made this in about an hour (? I don't usually look at the clock while I crochet). Her instructions are really simple to follow and the simply beautiful design is just lovely. I increased to a chunky yarn and kept the hook size the same, which increased the size enough to fit my big-headed daughter without modifying the pattern.

That's my beautiful girl up there. Wow. I still can't get over how gorgeous she is.

I'm also going to take this opportunity to tell you about Ravelry, which is all kinds of awesome. "Ravelry is a place for knitters, crocheters, designers, spinners, and dyers to keep track of their yarn, tools, and pattern information, and look to others for ideas and inspiration." I mostly use it for searching for patterns and to keep track of the patterns that I want to make or look at again. I think you still need to request an invitation and it takes a day or two to get your invitation, but it's free and it's a great resource. I recommend it.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Daily Drop Cap

I love these beautiful illustrated letters from Daily Drop Cap "for your enjoyment and for the beautification of blog posts everywhere." They're so gorgeous. I might just start using them in all my posts. There are so many more beautiful letters over there. It's definitely worth checking out.

Here are some of my faves.

The evangelist who turned me onto this was How About Orange.

I made this: Bird appliqued camera case

I made this camera case earlier this year. It was pretty easy. I came up with the design on my own and it came together on the first try.

I'm most pleased with myself for using a leaf pattern that I found as a template, or rather inspiration? for this cute little bird that I came up with. I was also pleased that I was able to use up the very last bits of this brown wool to make a functional camera pouch. This came together in an evening. I'm thinking I might make more and add them to my Artfire shop. Thoughts?

Here's the other side. I was happy to find buttons we were no longer using that worked well for this project. I used to keep buttons and wondered why I did because I almost never used them for anything. Now I find uses for buttons all the time.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Pink pink party and cake

This is a modified re-post from my personal blog with cake pictures and a crafty birthday banner.

Z turned 4 yesterday. We threw a party.

With balloons

And birthday banner - heart pendant style

Z and I made this pendant. She stamped the hearts (ok, it was a Valentine's leftover), I cut them out and sewed them together... and wrote the words on it. Turned out super-cute.

The cake. It's a cherry bits cake trifled with strawberry mousse and
strawberry puree inside, covered first in strawberry buttercream, then again in
pink marshmallow fondant. It was pretty tasty.

The colour is a little off in these pictures because I took the pictures at night after the cake was finished (around midnight).

If any of you are trying your first layer cake, learn from me and do some research on layer cakes instead of just plowing ahead and stacking a smaller cake on top of a larger one. While there were no devastating effects of just stacking a cake on top of the previous layer of fondant, the cake melted the fondant below and it all came off with the top layer when we went about eating it. No one minded, but the bottom pieces didn't look very nice and didn't have much icing when we were serving. I actually preferred it because I find the marshmallow fondant too sweet. My Z, on the other hand, would gladly share cake with me; she'll eat all the icing (fondant, too) and leave the cake for me!

Birthdays are so much fun and they afford such a great opportunity to be crafty and to share that with friends and family. I love that I can share my crafty-ness with my daughter, and she loves it so. She is the sweetest kid ever. She is always so encouraging and thoughtful about her comments about the cakes I make. She loves them. She says they're beautiful and delicious with such sincerity, it is really a joy making her wondeful cakes and other things. I hope your efforts are as appreciated!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Fabric covered clips

I think I might make these.

I've had this tutoriall as an open tab in my browser for a few days now. And so I don't forget about it, or at least so I can find it again, I'm going to put it here. You might like to try it, too. My daughter wears this kind of clip in her hair almost daily, since we've just about got her bangs grown out. They still fall in front of her face a lot if she doesn't have a barrette in.

The author of mairuru, where the tutorial comes from is from Japan and English is not her first language. She does really well, but there are some little language quirks that betray her second-language-ness. I love it and I don't think it gets in the way of her instructions. She has lots of good Japanese cuteness on her blog. You should check it out.

To make list: Crocheted Racetrack Rug

I found this great pattern a little while ago for a Crocheted Race Track. It's super sweet. I think my boy is getting old enough to be interested in it and I think it will make a good Christmas gift. It's hard to find good handmade ideas for boys! And I know: I have 7 nephews (and no nieces) and trying to keep costs down by going handmade is always a challenge.

Lightning McQueen Cake

This is a re-post from my personal blog from this past March.

I make the cakes for our friends' kids' birthdays. I enjoy making cakes. I don't feel obligated to buy a gift and contribute to the many toys they already own and my friend doesn't have to stress about trying to make a cake or buying one. It works out well.

Here is the most recent cake I made. It is Lightning McQueen from the Disney Cars movie.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Swirly Cake

This was originally posted on my personal blog, but I am moving the crafty stuff over here (slowly).

I mostly have the opportunity to make cakes for kids, which I enjoy, but in April I got the chance to make a cake for a friend's 40th birthday party. It was a fun chance to take on a challenge. I made a 12 x 12 chocolate cake from scratch, thick and moist, with chocolate pudding between the layers. It was the biggest cake I've ever made, I think.

Here's the result.

This is actually a quilting design I found. Can you imagine quilting that?

Basket weave on the side

The birthday girl gave me the nicest compliment on the cake, saying it was nicer than her wedding cake. She went on to tell a wreck-tastic story, like one that would be featured on Cake Wrecks, so I suppose it could have been a better compliment, but still it was nice.

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