Sunday, January 30, 2011

Ginger Bread

My family has had a gingerbread competition for two years in a row now, and when I was planning this year's design, I had to find a recipe that I thought would work. I used this recipe, and got...

It was kind of the recipe's fault, and kind of mine. I tried to use margarine. Out of a tub. Huge no-no for buildings. 

On the bright side, this stuff was delicious :)

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Christmas Hotpad

Gather Your Materials:

around 2 sq ft of cloth (this is a great pattern for scraps)
1/8 yd batting (or more if you want a thicker pad)

One of my family members found this great piece of cloth for me. Mr. Nicholas' momma loves butterflies - and when is the last time you saw a butterfly Christmas pattern?

Step 1: Measure your cloth and batting.

Use another hot pad to measure out how much cloth you'll need. Don't forget to double the size of course :) You don't necessarily have to double the size of the batting, depending on how thick you want it to be. Since I bought the cheapest batting in the store, I decided to double it.

Step 2: Stack your cloth.

You want to have your two pieces of cloth (right sides together) on top of the batting. This is very important. Layer both pieces of the cloth on top of the batting, or things will turn out wonky and your batting will be outside the hot pad :)

Step 3: Make your loop (optional)

You know how some hot pads have a little loop you can use to hang them up? If you want to include that in your hot pad, cut out a 2 inch by 5 inch strip of cloth.

Sew it right sides together across one short edge and the long edge.

Trim your corners. It will be nearly impossible to get a nice, sharp corner if you don't get these very close to the seam (but of course you don't want to cut your stitches either!)

Turn right side out...

And iron flat (pretty :) Here's where you find out if the cloth you're using can be used for a hot pad or not. If the heat ruins the cloth, you should probably find something else to use it for! Unless you're one of those people who hangs hot pads on the wall that you don't plan to use?

Here's what not to do: (even though it looks like it makes sense!)

Instead stick your look between the two pieces of cloth. Pin the little guy if you need to make sure he stays in place. In this photo you can see again the order of your stack:

Step 4: Sew everything together, leaving a 2 inch gap.

Step 5: Trim the edges & corners.

Step 6: Turn right side out.

If you did it right, all the batting should be inside the hot pad. It works better that way :)

Step 7: Iron & close the hole.

To close the hole, sew the gap closed a little in from the edge, after tucking everything in. That may look weird at first, so just keep on sewing around the whole pad when you're finished closing the hole, making a nice border around your hot pad.

Step 8: Diamond Quilting. (optional)

I guess you could technically stop here and have a plain hot pad, but I like the ones that have the diamond quilting. Start with a big X from corner to corner, and then keep cutting  halves to get nice diamond shapes.

Step 9: Cut your threads and use :)

Purty, right?

Friday, January 14, 2011

21 Before 22 (Mr. Nicholas)

1. Learn the art of fishing.
2. Catch my first fish (stingrays don't count)
3. Do most of the reading for every class. (Don't want to say all...that's impossible.) 5/11/11
4.Use my gift certificate to Chez Panisse. 5/24/11
5. Get my hair trimmed (for the first time in 6 years) 1/30/11
6. Purchase a bottle of alcohol! And get my ID (so I can prove I'm 21. Ridiculous.) 2/19/11
7. Own a (the) Little People CD! 1/29/11
8. Eat more vegetables. (Yeah, Cassie). And fruit.
9. Be nicer to random strangers so they're not scared of me (I think I just look angry to other people).
10. Find clothes that suit my image (present a more adult image of myself).
11. Learn to sew.
12. Read more for pleasure than for school.
13. Tame Lady Grey.
14. Get better at Chess.
15. Try to enforce the idea of "biracial" more (I'm neither black nor white, people).
16. Watch more than one movie in a day.2/11/10
17. Go to the Berkeley Pier.
18. Do some at-home exercises (push-ups and sit-ups)
19. Floss every night!
20. Find more excuses to use Draino (that stuff is pretty intense). 11/6/11

21. Continue to refuse to get drunk.

This is Mr. Nicholas' 21 before 22 list. He actually turned 21 back on December 21st (21 on 12/21) and we just now got around to writing this, but it was fun so it's ok. I love these lists :) I stole the idea from Elsie though, so just nobody get mad at me :/

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Tunisian Crochet Zelda Tapestry

I didn't make this, Mr. Nicholas did. But it's pretty amazing, so I'm sharing anyway :) Project page here.

Isn't he good? This is Tunisian Crochet - I haven't even learned how to do this yet!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Inspiration Book

When I took the perfumes class with Lori, she talked about keeping a notebook of all the perfumes you've made and what you think of them, etc. etc....

And I don't make a lot of perfumes, but I do make a lot of other things, so I decided to put everything in a small "inspiration" book.

So this is where I keep things I want to try, make, or whatever. And also comments about what I think once an item is made. Here's a glimpse of a couple pages where I found a couple items of clothings I want to try to sew/knit:

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Cranberry-Banana-Walnut Bread

So I'm pretty sure this is the best loaf of bread I've ever made.

Except for the part where I was worried about a soft spot in the middle and re-baked the rest of the loaf, only to leave it rock hard and inedible.

But before I ruined it, it was amazing.

And I had a loaf that my mom made from the same recipe, which was equally amazing.

Here it is (and see the recipe here):

Before I decided to make this one, I considered this one instead...if anyone makes it, be sure to let me know if it turns out better.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Cranberry Spice Jam

Yikes, I suck. Please forgive me?

Here's something else I made for Christmas: Cranberry Spice Jam. I was already buying cranberries for Cranberry Vodka, so this is what I used the rest of them for.

The recipe is here:

Cranberry Freezer Jam

I don't need to give you directions, because that's what the link is for :)

But I suggest going with the spiced version. It's super yummy. We gave a lot of it away, but I have two 16 oz jars of it reserved for us. We're a little greedy :)

For Christmas Nick's grandmother gave me another jam recipe, some jam jars, pectin, sugar, and fruit to make more jam. I love my family :) (I like to claim them for my own. Nick doesn't know. Don't mention it to him, k? Awesome, thanks).

So you'll be seeing more jams soon :) But here's the Cranberry for now:

MMmmm six cups of sugar :)

Monday, January 3, 2011

Candied Fruit

Talk about a learning experience. I didn't exactly use a recipe for this, it's more like I researched four or five recipes and figured it out from there. What I did read is that some fruits are well suited, and some are poorly suited. For example, citrus does excellently. Berries do fairly poorly. Apples and pears do meh. Mango, and apricot do pretty well.

I chose to do orange, mango, and pineapple.

Pineapple was a terrible, terrible idea.

But here's the "recipe".

Simple syrup, sugar, fruit.

Boil your fruit in a simple syrup for an hour. Yup, an hour.

Lay on a baking sheet, after coating in (uh, huh) sugar. Bake at 250 degrees for an hour.

Coat in (you guessed it) sugar.

Bag, and give.

If you dare. I'm actually really unhappy with how these turned out. But they're really pretty :D

P.S. I think it's only fair to say that the only reason I'm so unhappy with these is because the smell of sugar still makes me sick after making them. I'm sure they taste fine (Nick assures me they do) but I just can't stand to try them.

And don't tell me sugar doesn't have a smell. It does. Even if I can't exactly remember it at the moment.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Menu 12/14

Wednesday: Tangy Chicken Breasts from More Than a Cook Book: The reason this was supposed to be "tangy" was because of lemon or lime juice. Which we forgot to add. Not surprisingly, this was fairly bland. We're pretty much world class cooks.

Thursday: Hot Bean Dip from Taste of Home: We fairly frequently eat appetizers as meals. This was beans plus meat plus cheese, plus taco sauce, and we ate it with chips some days and in tortillas with more cheese and sour cream other times and oh man. It was delicious.

Friday: Asian Mango Chicken from Taste of Home Magazine December/January 2010: I wasn't really fond of this, because the salsa over it included bell peppers...but it also included mango and cucumber, so I just picked out the nasty bits.

Saturday: Quesadilla de Wisconsin from No More Than 5 Ingredients: This was the weirdest meal. We baked cheese, and sausage onto a tortilla in the oven. Pretty dull. It was supposed to have jalapeƱo on it, but neither Nick nor I like it...oh well.

Sunday: Cheese, Mushroom, and Bacon Pie from Taste of Home Magazine August and September 2010: This is a quiche. I don't know why they called it a pie, but it's a quiche. And oh man, what a quiche. I love love quiche, I think it's the most amazing food in the world. If you don't love quiche, well maybe you didn't have a very good childhood. You never know.

Monday: Italian Sausage Grinders from Taste of Home Magazine October and November 2010: You know how the last recipe was a quiche, but they called it pie? Well they're calling these "grinders" but let me just tell you, folks. These are chilli dogs. (Delicious, delicious chilli dogs).

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Christmas Gifts

Gosh, did I just disappear for over a week?

:) I can't possibly be upset about it though, because aside from Christmas fun, I also unloaded and re-organized the craft closet (it made me scream and pull my hair out every time I opened it) and took down Christmas!

Mom and I discussed it, and Christmas decorations are awesome (really) but at the end of the whole thing, taking them down is a little liberating.

Anyway, on to Christmas gifts :)

These are flavored vodkas :) The peppers one is (clearly) just peppers, but it's meant for Bloody Marys. My brother tasted it and said it's very spicy. To make it, you just fill part of the bottle with dried peppers (these ones are from my Aunt Linda's garden, but you can find them with the Mexican spices) and then pour the vodka over. The longer it sits, the more pepper flavor is in the vodka, so be careful!

The red one is cranberry. This one is a little more time-intensive. First, you crush the berries using either a blender (just for a couple seconds!) or you chop them. Then you add just a little simple syrup. The amount you add is completely up to personal taste, so it might take a couple batches to get it just right. Just give away the batches you end up not liking, because someone's bound to like it :) You also have to be careful with what  fruit you're using. Cranberries are fairly sour, but if you were using strawberries you would want to use less (or maybe none at all?). It just takes some experimentation. After you put all the ingredients in a big jar together, you leave them for 5 days or more (depending on how much flavor you're going for) shaking occasionally, and then you strain out the chunks into a different jar.

The one in the brown bottle was another easy one. It's half a vanilla bean and a cinnamon stick. If you wanted more of one or the other, you could use a whole vanilla bean or two sticks, but I was going simple. We gave this to one of Mr. Nicholas' cousins, and he thought it was awesome and made everyone at the party taste it!

Because they're not difficult to make, flavored vodkas make good gifts, especially because most people can't believe that you flavored your own vodka. Other ideas: peppercorns (wouldn't they be pretty floating in there?), star anise (I see no reason why you couldn't leave it in star form), or orange (probably using the rinds, but be careful to cut off the pith). Your options are pretty much limitless :)

This, this my friends, is flavored coffee. Home-made, flavored, delicious coffee. I started with grounds for this batch, and added cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, brown sugar, and a pinch of salt (yup, salt). The salt helps cut some of the bitter of coffee, so it's just a way to get a super-smooth brew. The way me and Nick decided what we wanted is we made one cafe-press batch and then when we liked what we had we made the big batch. Be sure to keep good notes of what you add, you want to make sure you get the proportions right. There's some recipes out there if you want some guidelines, but I kind of recommend you just take it a step of a time starting with what you like.

If you're into grinding your own beans, you can add cinnamon sticks, allspice seeds, nutmeg chunks, or whatever you want to the beans before you grind them. I think it would be awesome to add a couple cocoa beans to the mix, too, but where you do find cocoa beans?

Just a note regarding store-bought flavored coffees: usually they're flavored with oils that are added to the beans to give them flavor. This is a way for you to add natural flavor to your coffees :)

Of course this one was probably obvious. Those are cocas. You can find recipes for these all over the place. I used powdered milk, powdered creamer, cocoa powder, sugar, and added a layer of peppermint chunks or marshmallows while jarring. I think they turned out cute, and we kept some here for us to try, and it's pretty tasty. The recipe I used said to put 1/4 of a cup of mix in each cup, which is just stupid. I used a mounded tablespoon and thought it was plenty strong. That person must have been writing his recipe for the taste of six year olds. We used two different flavored dry creamers: hazelnut and french vanilla. It added a nice secondary flavor to the cocoas :)

This is a meat rub :) You can find recipes for these everywhere, too. I would like to say that I knew enough about meat rubs to have just figured it out on my own, but I picked a recipe. I don't really know anything about cooking meat. I do know that this recipe took a heck of a lot of cayenne pepper, though. And it made me sneeze. We kept a little of this to try ourselves, so hopefully it's yummy :)

These are another obvious one :p Cookies in jars! I love these because I feel that at least half of the fun of cookies is making them with someone else! So yeah. You can find the recipe here. The recipe calls for chocolate chips but I switched it up with walnuts, butterscotch chips, peanut butter chips, and pecans. It was fun picking which person would like which recipe best! We gave the chocolate-peanut butter one to Nick's brother and his girlfriend because he likes peanut butter, but she likes was perfect :)

Other gifts we made included a Tunisian crochet panel, a knitted bag, a sewn hot pad, and a few beers. The beer was for my brother. He's the black sheep of the family because he's not a wino. I promised him a knitted sweater for Christmas and instead gave him beer. Am I a bad person?