Monday, December 31, 2007

Secret Christmas Projects Revealed: Cinderella Topsy Turvy Doll

The next Secret Christmas Project: Cindrella!

This Cinderella Topsy Turvy Doll is 100% of my own design/improvisation. I gave it to my niece for Christmas :o)

My sisters and I had one that we all played with and that doll which is long gone was the inspiration for this one. I think by the time I was playing with her, she was a bit worn, but I loved her so much. That doll was blonde, kind of 70's, and made of fabric. On one side, Cinderella is in Rags, you flip the doll over and expose the hidden "Glam" cinderella. Two Dolls in One.

This site has interesting information on the history of these dolls... and here is one you can buy through FAO Schwartz.

For my version, I made her with brown hair since my niece has brown hair. I think every little girl likes to have a doll that looks a little bit like them.

I was planning on changing too things to the design - redo the tiara on the glam side (it currently looks like a sweat band a la Olivia Newton John) and I was going to add a broom to the Cinderella in Rags side.

But, I was crunched for time and wanted to give it to her as soon as I could... so without further ado...

Cindy's Daytime Look:

The Very Odd Two-Fer Shot...

Glam Cindy!

Thanks for looking!

Secret Christmas Projects Revealed: Dragon Toddler Jacket!

Well... now that my secret projects were given as Christmas Gifts, I can reveal them on here!
I was excited about both of these projects and it really was hard to not post about them...

First up: Dragon Toddler Sweater for my Nephew

Ages ago, I made a Dragon Baby Sweater. The orginal pattern was from the amazing Marnie MacLean... but it was in knit and crochet. When I made my version of the Dragon Baby Sweater, I used a hoodie from a book that I had.

For this updated version, I used this pattern from Caron for a hooded baby jacket .

Per usual, I didn't follow the pattern exactly. The changes I made were to not crochet in the back loop only and also to not skip those stitches... I wanted it to be totally solid so I could sew on the "spots". I also edged it with a picot edge... and then added spots and a crocheted tie. For the original, I did ears like the ones on Marnie's pattern.. but for this one, I went with "Shrek-style" ears. The spine on the back of the jacket is an improvised wave/shell stitch. I used Caron Simply Soft in Dark Sage and did the accents in Dark Country Blue.

I was so worried that it wouldn't fit... but luckily it was the perfect size and my nephew was able to wear it during Christmas!


Saturday, December 22, 2007

Christmas Sneak Peeks

This is a very special sneak peek at some of my Christmas Projects this year. I will post full pictures after the gifts have been given...

Sneak Peek : Skirts

5 wrap skirts one for each sister and one for my sister-in-law. They get to decide who gets what. Full pic of each skirt after they are given - for now a glimpse of each fabric with the trim. Secret Gift #1:

Whatever could it be?

Secret Gift #2:

I hope everyone has a great time celebrating the holidays.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Sew Happy :o)

My current Crochet Projects are TOP SECRET works in progress for the holidays... so I figured I'd post on a new crafty obsession of mine!

I started taking some sewing classes at Craftorama on South Congress- this super-friendly, hip, fun shop.

My interest in sewing began when I made handbags a few years ago for Christmas. I wanted to line the bags, but had no idea how. I attempted to whip stitch them by hand, but the result was messy and the construction was shoddy.

Sewing machines seemed ridiculously intimidating to me not to mention prohibitively expensive.
But, recently, when I made my crocheted dress, I realized how great it would be to sew a dress that had crocheted embellishments or was lined. In addition, I've become interested in making more crocheted bags which I would love to line. And I also thought that understanding sewing patterns would help me with designing more crocheted clothing items.

So, I signed up for a beginning sewing class at Craftorama.

It was shockingly easy and a lot of fun. It was almost bizarre to me how fast I could make something. I frequently tease knitters whose projects take longer than my crocheted ones... but this machine sewing thing really beats all. I love it!

I made an adorable little tote bag in cowboy print.

Isn't it fun?

Here is the back and the detail on the button and pocket.

I just love it. It's a bit small to be at all practical, but it was a great first project and it really got me excited to try more stuff. Of course, later that week, by some fluke, our holiday bonuses paid out early. I went to "just look" at the Austin Sew and Vac store around the corner from my apartment. They were in the process of packing up the store because they were moving 2 miles down the road that very week. The owners were there with their daughter and her toddler son. Her son was playing with quilt squares on the floor. Even though the store was somewhat chaotic, they were very helpful.

I was able to get a Janome 625 at a HUGE discount. It was used as a floor model at the Maker Faire in Austin and so was "out of the box". Originally, I had been planning on getting the cheaper, base model... but the 625 is one that I can grow into... not to mention with the discount, they were very close in cost.

The Sew and Vac store offers a free session on getting to know your sewing machines and are experts at fixing them. In their new space, they are going to offer lots of sewing classes and will have tons of fabrics.

I was still a little bit intimidated, though, so I decided to take another class at Craftorama to get more comfy with the machine.

I took a wrap skirt class and check this out!

I totally want to make a ton of them. I think it'll be great practice at sewing straighter lines... and not only that, but the skirt is super cute and one size fits most!

whoop! whoop!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Silent Auction + Benefit Concert for the Mexican Flood Victims

Some of my crocheted items will be auctioned off during this concert to benefit the Mexican Flood Victims...

good music + fun people + great cause = super happy fun time

Mexican Flood Benefit Concert


Sunday - December 2nd
2 p.m. to 7p.m.
301 West Riverside Austin, Texas
2 p.m.: Southpaw Jones
3 p.m.: The Daze
4 p.m.: The Harold Ambler Project
5 p.m.: Sam and Henry
6 p.m.: The Shelley King Band

Hosted by your emcee, Spike Gillespie.
Silent art auction.
Admission $10; $5 for 18-and-under.
On Sunday, December 2, local musicians, artists, and businesses are holding a benefit for the victims of the recent flooding in Tabasco, Mexico. Although no longer in the news, Tropical Storm Noel and its aftermath have left devastation in Mexico that will take months and years from which to rebound. In addition to damaging the homes of almost a million people, or about half of Tabasco's population, the flood also devastated crops of corn, bananas and beans that provide the livelihood for thousands.

For Adoption during the Auction: Miss Bunny

Miss Bunny is a freehanded crochet doll complete with Swarovski Crystal earrings. Fancy!

The varigated yarn is actually Belgian yarn that my Aunt Kathy gave to me. She bought it years and years ago - and like any yarn that's taken care of, it's in excellent condition.

The solid color yarn is in lion brand microspun... and the scarf is in fancy fur novelty yarn.

The majority of Miss Bunny was done in single crochet... with the exception of parts of the heart and part of her ears. She is 100% one of a kind.

Also up for auction...

The cutest lil' boots in Texas!

Adorable Cowboy Baby Booties for a brand new Native Texan ;)

They are soo tiny and cute. I want to make a ton of pairs in every color. These were done in Caron Simply Soft Chocolate and Red Heart Buff yarn. I actually followed a pattern for once... and was impressed with myself for not changing it up too much ;)

If you are in Austin - please try to come on Sunday!

Friday, November 23, 2007

Orphan Thanksgiving - Part I

This year for Thanksgiving, I hosted some friends at my place for an Orphan Thanksgiving. Anyone is invited who is around and doesn't have family around for Thanksgiving and everyone who comes contributes something to the meal.

At first I was worried because most of my friends had plans or things to do. And for awhile, I thought it was going to be just me and my friend Dawn. The response to my orhpan thanksgiving email was mixed - with one person actually thinking I was having real orphans over to my place for dinner. Oops.

As the day grew closer, more and more friends were excited to come and it ended up being 6 of us... which is really the perfect number.

I don't have the pics yet from the dinner... but I do have some pics of the things that I made and wanted to share some recipes and variations that I did.

Roasted Garlic Rosemary Mashed Potatoes

I followed this recipe with just a few changes. I used a little extra butter (probably 1-2 extra Tablespoons)... and I also stirred in Garlic Salt into the potatoes. I used a ricer (which is the BEST way to make mashed potatoes quickily and easily - it's amazing). Also, used whole milk... probably about 1/2 a cup. My other addition was Rosemary. I cut some up fresh rosemary and stirred it in at the very end. I used more fresh rosemary to garnish and sprinkled Garlic Salt and Pepper over the top. I made these early and put them into the oven to warm them up just before serving. My apartment smelled amazing from the roasted garlic (pictured at left).

If you are planning on putting them into the oven for a long time to warm, be sure to add a little more milk, as this helps to prevent them from getting too dry.

Apple Crisp

Apple Crisp is one of my absolute favorite things to make. It's very simple and quick and seems to encompass all things Autumn. There are tons of recipes out there... and I've basically combined several... but also have made it so many times that I don't really follow a recipe. So I'll just write down what I do.

You Need:
2 Large Apples - I normally use Gala or Granny Smith, but those varieties were looking very picked over at the market. So for yesterday's crisp- pictured above, I used 2 HoneyCrisp Apples.

Lots of Cinnamon Sugar. I go through a lot making this recipe, I would get a new bottle of it - or make your own by mixing Ground Cinnamon with Sugar.

3/4 Cup Brown Sugar
3/4 Stick of Butter (I use unsalted sweetened butter)
1/2 Cup Flour
1/2 Cup Oatmeal (uncooked)
1/2 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract (I actually don't measure this or the spices, so it's an estimation - feel free to use more or less!)
3/4 Teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
1/2 Teaspoon Ground Nutmeg
1/8 Teaspoon Cloves (optional)

What to Do:

Pre-Heat Oven to 375.
Grease a square or round baking pan.
Pour cinnamon sugar onto a plate in a thin layer.
Peel and Slice apples. I use an Apple Corer which cuts the apples into 4 slices, then I cut those slices in half.
Roll apples in the cinnamon sugar, lightly coating them.
Place apples into the baking pan. Feel free to layer them evenly. I usually end up with about 2 layers of apples.
In a bowl, mix together the Brown Sugar, Flour, Oats, Spices. Cut in the butter and mix it all together. Pour the mixture over the apples in the pan.
Bake in the oven for about 30 mins... or until the apples are nice and tender (ie, you can easily slide a knife into the apples).

Voila! Yummtastic! I recommend serving warm with a scoop of Vanilla Ice Cream on top. The vanilla ice cream really brings out and balances the spices.

I made two of these yesterday... one for the dinner and one for a friend who doesn't love baking. Apple Crisps are very quick to make and always are a big hit.

Apple Butter Pumpkin Pie

The above picture is the only one I got of the pumpkin pie that I made... kind of an afterthought!

I love pumpkin pie... and love making it. It's very easy and the smell is always just amazing. I'm a big fan of making pumpkin pie from a real pumpkin... but, this year I didn't have the time. Actually, I wasn't even going to make pumpkin pie this year... but then I saw this Paula Deen Special on the Food Network on Sunday... and her pie recipe inspired me to give it a shot. She used APPLE BUTTER in her pie. I love love love apple butter... so I knew I had to try it.

I made about 30 mini pumpkin pies from the recipe for work on Wednesday. Actually, I did 1/2 of the pies from the Paula Deen recipe and 1/2 from my old recipe. Both went quickly. I made a few changes, though, from that trial run to the pumpkin pie that I made yesterday.

This is the Paula Deen Recipe....

and here's my input :o)

I added a little more brown sugar... and I also added 1/8 teaspoon of Cloves. I love Cloves in pumpkin pie. I used organic canned pumpkin. Also, for my trial run, the apple butter I used was not that great. It was very thin and light - almost like an apple jam. The spices in it were very light. I really recommend using as "authentic" an apple butter as you can, ie as close to homemade as possible. It should be dark in color and very thick. You should be able to smell the AllSpice! The second time, I used Apple Butter that was more authentic. It cost me more, but it was the right consitency and made a HUGE difference.

Anyway - other than that, I followed Paula's recipe... and it was a big hit ;o)

Thanks and hope everyone had a great holiday! I'll Post Part II when I get the pics from my guests!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

A *gasp* Healthy Dessert?

So we all know that I love to make insanely insinful, uber-decadent desserts. That being said, like to avoid giant swings in my blood sugar...
I finally found a dessert for ME.

Awhile back, my friend Miriam and her son were visiting Austin and we went to Home Slice Pizza. They accidentally brought us the wrong pizza. While we waited for our new one, they brought us a consolation prize - in the form of a small dessert cup with a spoonful of dessert ricotta.

I had never had anything so creamy and delicious. It was like ice cream, but richer - creamer, and fresher. Amazing.

I was at the grocery store and saw ricotta yesterday and thought - hey, I wonder if I could make a healthy version of that thing?

I picked up the part-skim variety of it... and created a tasty treat!

Basically, you take a 1/2 cup of part skim ricotta cheese. Get the good stuff that's nice and smmmmmooth.
Stir in some Vanilla Extract and a packet of splenda.

That's it.

I thought I was really smart- then I googled it this morning and discovered that this is actually a huge Low-Carb/South Beach Diet dessert.
So, I'm not that clever.

But.... it is tried and true... and there are lots of other ideas all over the internets like adding a bit of peanut butter and some chocolate syrup...
or lemon extract! or strawberries! or... chocolate chips!

The dessert has lots of protein and not a lot of sugar... so it doesn't cause big swings in sugar for me...

and it tastes great :)

Monday, November 19, 2007

Blanket for Mon Craiggers

About a month ago, I saw a lot of Caron Simply Soft yarn on supersale in Autumn Red and ended up buying quite a bit of it. It's a very deep, dark red - warm and reminds me of the holidays.

I used a bit of it to make my dress... but then still had a few skeins left over.

I had been eyeing round ripple afghan patterns and thought that maybe it would be a fun project to try. I didn't know who I was making it for, but figured that I would decide on that later on.
So, I took my autumn red and started going around and around and around.

I thought I was following the pattern... but I really do have a habit of getting "creative" with instructions and doing my own thing.

Rather than being a round circle, my blanket started to spiral.
I thought it was beginning to look more masculine.

As I neared the end of my first skein of red, I got an email from my friend Annette from film school.

She's in some exotic location or another shooting a reality show. She wrote to let me know that our close friend Craig's mother passed away.

It was so hard to hear the news - Craig and his mother were amazing together and really had an impressive mother-son relationship. She was so caring, witty, supportive, and wonderful.

I'm miles and miles away from Craig and I was sad that I couldn't give him a big hug and support him more as he goes through this.

I thought about what I could do - and my mind immediately leapt to the round ripple blanket that I had started. The red was almost like a merlot color - and his mother was very into wine tasting and collecting. And a blanket is comforting and great to snuggle up under.

I finished stitching up the blanket as quickly as I could, alternating with rows of Caron's Simply Soft in Grey Heather. The end size is approx 60" point to point. For the pictures, it is spread out on a full sized futon.

The result is a warm, snuggly, albeit masculine blanket that Craig can snuggle under while he is reading or watching a movie. It's kind of almost in the shape of a ninja star or something - which is a result of the spiral instead of doing this in the round, as I was supposed to. I kind of like the effect, the blanket has an interesting shape to it.

I'm hoping that it will remind Craig that he is loved and in my thoughts.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Chocolate Covered Prezels

So... I've been crocheting a secret project for a friend that I can't post about yet. In the interim, I made these scrumdiddlyumptious treats for a friend's birthday... and then made them again for coworkers for Halloween.

It's quick, easy... and doesn't even use your oven.

you'll need:
a bag or two of pretzel rods
a bag of milk chocolate chips
chopped peanuts/hazelnuts/toffee bits/ cookie crumbs (you can put oreos in the blender/food processor or chop finely).
shortening (you can get one with no trans fat... you might be able to go without the shortening, but I find it helps it all stick better).
what you do:
1. Pour 1/2 a bag of milk chocolate chips and add 2 T of shortening into a microwave safe bowl.
2. Melt microwave for 1 min... then take it out and stir until well mixed. Depending on your microwave, you may have to nuke it again for an additional 30 seconds. Don't over nuke. (alternatively, you can melt the chocolate in double boiler)
3. Wait until the melted chocolate cools a little and thickens. I got the best results when I waited for it to get really thick - being impatient, I put it in the fridge for about 5 mins.
4. Spoon mixture over 3/4 of a prezel rod (or, if thick, take a big spoonful and roll the pretzel in the chocolate on the spoon.

5. Then roll pretzel rod in chopped peanuts, toffee bits, cookie crumbs, whatever.
6. Refrigerate for 30 mins.


Thursday, October 04, 2007

Weekend Dress Design

So after a few weeks of doing way too much, I decided last weekend that I needed a veg weekend. Just me, my kitties, some yarn, and the Gilmore Girls.

I had some caron simply soft on hand in autumn red and started stitching a tank top. I decided to do an empress waist with a lace skirt.

I took my measurements and did the lace skirt first, using the Strawberry lace stitch from my
fav crochet stitch source: Donna Kooler's Encylopedia of Crochet.

Then, at my waist, I did a few rows of single crochet alternating with 2 rows of shells. For the bodice, I made it in single crochet to my measurements.
The results, weren't great. The top was too stiff and it was like wearing cardboard.

So, I ripped out the top and remade it in a net stitch. Though, I'm not 100% convinced that I like the results.

Regardless, I went on to do the back in the same way...

and then I tried it on again.

I decided to make the strawberry skirt longer... and then I got carried away. Eventually, I ended up making a dress instead.

The quality of these pictures is not great... but I will finish weaving in the ends and add the final touches and have a friend take some pics. The dress is a little more fitted than it looks in the pictures. but, I took the pictures myself in front in my kitchen... so... the quality leaves a lot to be desired. I think I'm going to add a few rows of single crochet to the bottom to make it lay flat... and I might be adding some sleeves.

If I figure out how to write patterns for wearables (ie, make adjustments for size), I will write this baby up.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Scrapghan for My Dad


The week of my dad's birthday (July 29th), I decided to make him a blanket. I had made him one hurriedly the last time I visited that I was not impressed with. I really wanted to take the time to make him something that I thought would better suit him.

I had skeins and skeins of yarn of various colors that I thought could potenially work well together and I realized that a scrapghan might be both a good stashbuster and something that would look more interesting.

I went through my stash and found mostly cool colors that were more masculine (somehow, I didn't think fuscia fun-fur would float my dad's boat). I ended up with about 14 colors that I thought might work and decided that my Caron One Pounders of Navy would be a good main color.

I looked through my books and decided to make the scrapghan in the double wave stitch from Donna Kooler's Encylopedia of Crochet (my favorite resource for stitch descriptions). I took her explanation of the stitch and just multiplied it out for the length that I wanted it to be (long enough to cover a full sized bed). After I was about halfway done, I found this awesome pattern by Dot called Scrumptious Scraps Afghan... which is not the same (she has an extra row that I don't have- and hers is horizonatal instead of vertical)... but if you are looking to do something similar, I think her pattern is really cool! Most importantly, she explains how to do the Russian Join... which I sooooooooo wish I had learned before I started this bad boy. I mean, check out these evil demon ends (picture at left). For those of you that don't stitch, all of those ends must be woven into the blanket when you are finished (unless you choose to make fringe). Those ends took me several hours to weave in and it's pretty mindless/tedious work.

To be honest, when I started this, it just looked hideous to me... and I started refering to it as the ugly blanket! (sorry, Dad!). The very beginning, it just looked odd. Didn't quite blend well and I really wasn't sure if I was going to finish it! Though, the ugly blanket and I had good days and bad days. Some days, I looked at it and thought, What was I thinking?

Other days, I lay it out on the bed and just ran my hands over the texture and loved it. So, we had a love/hate relationship. This blanket was also my biggest project to date. I have done blankets before that were equal in size to this one, but this one was the most time intensive. I used a smaller hook (I) and mostly worsted weight yarn. In other blankets that I have made in just a few hours, I used a larger hook and either thicker yarn or multiple strands of worsted weight. Staring at the blanket over a period of a few weeks, there were times when I really questioned myself and the way that it was turning out. I was worried that the Ugly Blanket was getting Uglier instead of coming together.

Here is a picture of the blanket laid out on my bed when I had about 2 feet left to do.

Of course, the completed blanket really came together and it does look good. But I gotta tell you, there were days along the epic journey of the blanket where I almost stopped and started a new one.

But... I'm glad I did it. Beacause it actually looks good finished... and more importantly, my dad loves it.

Here are my cats testing out the nearly complete blanket (just prior to me making a border of 1 row of Single Crochet and 2 rows of double crochet). And yes, this blanket heretoforth will no longer be refered to as the Ugly Blanket ...

Of course, my dad is uber allergic to my fluffy kittens, so I washed it very well before I sent it :)

Because the worsted weight yarn was a bit rough (I used a lot of Red Heart yarn from my stash), I washed the blanket with fabric softener and also used 2 dryer sheets. The result is a very snuggly blanket!

My dad received it yesterday and is really happy with it! I guess it's just getting a little cooler in North Carolina, so he's looking forward to wrapping it over his shoulders for evening reading. He said that the stitches were very mathematical (uh, leave to my dad to see the math!) and he was happy to extend the celebration of his birthday a few months ;) .

So yay! Scrapghan Complete! Finished size? Large enough to top a full sized-bed... defintely perfect for my mom and dad to snuggle under while watching a movie. Total time? I think at some point, each color + main color (4 rows) were taking me just over an hour each.

I also just received pics of a hat that I made over a year ago for a friend of mine who was expecting! Here is the post from last June when I made it. Her little girl is now a year old and this hat hasn't fit her since her first week :o)

But, I thought I would share the pic of her wearing it!

Sooo cute!!!

Thanks for reading :o)

Thursday, September 20, 2007

I wanted to spread the word about a fundraising website that my friend Marty decided to start for her daughter Casey. Despite a healthy pregnancy, Casey has had a really rough start to her life. She is legally blind, has little hearing, and can't swallow, gag, or blink. Marty used to work with me, but after Casey was born she decided to become a SAHM so that she could make all of Casey's medical appointments, which are multiple every week, and give Casey the around the clock care that she needs. Marty is a good friend of mine and I'm really glad that they set up the new site to tell Casey's story and to help raise money for her care, which is mostly out of pocket. They are selling Casey bracelets (Like the Lance Armstrong ones) for $4 and raising money for specific goals – like a special needs stroller. Of course, keeping Casey in your thoughts and prayers works, too! She's a brave little girl and a figher, but she appreciates support and encouragement :o)

Here is Casey's site

Please feel free to pass along this info and let me know if you have any questions.


Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Bragging Rights...

My nephews and niece are obscenely cute.

evidence follows...


and ACL is Fun!

Here is a pic of the newly engaged Andrea and Evans at Austin City Limits - a 3 day music festival...

and here is a not-so candid very myspace pic of me and my buddy grant

Scarf for Miriam

I had made an adorable ami monkey for Miriam (posted here) which was stolen off her desk :o( boooo.

Luckily, she still has this scarf... which is slighly less adorable and not very pratical in Los Angeles for a lot of the year...

but... I think she'll get great use out of it once she CAN wear it.

The main part of the scarf was done in 3-4 skeins of Caron simply soft in Black. I improvised a shell stitch and made the scarf about 6 feet long. (Miriam really likes long scarves that she can double up).

The flowers were also improvised... made up of some random multi-color worsted weight yarn and some purple wool yarn that I had laying around. I added tassels to the corners to pull it together a bit.

Enjoy the pictures!

Close up of the stitch and the flowers:

This picture shows the actual color: