Thursday, February 24, 2011

This week.....

For the past week I have been working on baby things. I tried one last time to work on the quilting stage of Steph's baby quilt, and finally threw in the towel. (I think it's funny that just now, while typing "quilting" I almost forgot the 'l' and typed "quiting")  I spent a few minutes online searching for machine quilters in the area, and found one who believed she could salvage the quilting stage.  Yay! I was just at that point where if I had put one more stitch in the quilt, I would have hated it and never wanted to see it again. And when you are giving something to you bf to use with the precious angel you love to visit, that's not a good plan, to hate the gift! So, it should be finished in about 3 weeks, and then I will bind it myself. Hey, I'm willing to spend a little more money, not a lot!

About 3 weeks ago, my husband's grandmother had open heart surgery. Knowing that we would be at the hospital for hours, I needed a small handwork project to keep me occupied. I pulled out a Christmas themed cross-stitch kit that I was only 1/4 of the way through.  Worked on that for the day of the surgery, and then took it to work so that I could stitch while the kids sleep.  The pattern calls for only a few actual cross-stitches; most of them are half cross-stitch, but the interest and detail is found in the thickness of the stitch (2,3, or 4 strands) and the blends.  I worked on that thing for 2.5 weeks before I finally finished the sky. I was determined to finish the sky. It was so large, with large chunks of one color at a time and no interest level, but if I ever started on the trees, I wouldn't want to return to the sky. Plus, with the sky complete, now the trees I'm working on can now be "happy little trees"!! Finished one tree today, and started on the first of 5 trees that are pretty similar. 

Lastly, I am trying to sew together a pile of baby gift sets so that in the future, when I get notification of an impending birth, all I have to do is run to the closet and select the colors and wrap them up.  Phew! Turns out to be quite an undertaking when my gift set is 5-6 burp cloths, one "taggie" and one simple blanket. Tonight, I sewed all the burp cloths into the first step before turning them inside out to reinforce the stitching on the outside with a complimentary color. Also turns out, I need more terry cloth. And blue.  I have no blue.  Tomorrow, I will finish the burpies and work on the simple blankets.  I will try to get pictures of the completed piles tomorrow.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

"Duck"-orating and Other Cupcake Stories

Just a quick interlude about the cupcakes! I never was able to get pictures from my friend, but I did take a few on Jon's crap-tastic camera.

For the baby shower: Ducks
My favorites are the duckie butts.  Since I don't have the completed pics, I can't show you the faces.  But they were adorable.  These are from the What's New, Cupcake book by Karen Tack and Alan Richardson. The feet and duck bills are made from Starburst. Duck tails are marshmallows cut along the diagonal. And how do I get them so sleek? Melting the icing! So easy!

For the Superbowl party we went to, I made football cupcakes....

Yes, some of them are not decorated. That's because Jon decided he didn't want to eat the choclate candies used to make the footballs. All they are is the Milky Way mini's with Tootsie Rolls shaped into the football tips.  Again, dipped in the melted icing.  Because some of the candies were Snickers, I had to ice them with more "astro-turf", since I am allergic to peanuts. 

Both times, these cupcakes were a HIT!! Everybody loved them. And I loved making them.  There will be many more cupcakes in the future, I can guarantee you!

Kitchen (Mis-)Adventures Part 1

Once again,  I have many friends who are pregnant, and one of them is suffering from severe morning sickness.  Last year, Steph and I discovered "Preggie Pops" could help her get through the nausea in the am, but they are extremely expensive.  So I set to work researching to find a recipe to make ginger flavored candy to alleviate morning sickness.  Alas, I could not find one, nor could I find a flavoring oil that was ginger flavored.  But  I persevered, and eventually modified a recipe for old-fashioned hard candy.  Which I bring to you today.

When you have completed the following recipe, you will have a batch of hard candy and a batch of candied ginger, as well as a 1/2 cup of ginger sugar, which can be used in other recipes.  I like projects like this. Three for the price of one.  Unless you experience a day like mine today, in which case you get 3 for the price of 3, including two batches that get tossed.  But I digress.....

You will need:
1 lb. fresh ginger (it should snap apart between "thumbs" and not be wrinkly or show any signs of mold)
Approximately 1.5 lb sugar
2/3 cup corn syrup
1 fl.oz flavoring oil (I use LorAnn, comes in a 1 dram bottle and you use the whole bottle)
food coloring, your choice; a few drops

Peel and slice your ginger. If it looks all cactus-y and you fear you will never get all the skin off, just break the "thumbs" off to make smaller, easier to peel and slice pieces.  As for slicing, I use my Santoku knife. It is very sharp and allows me to make very thin slices.  If you have a mandolin slicer or a slicing blade on your food processor that makes THIN slices, you can use that, but otherwise, use the knife. You will get better results.  Do not worry about the fibers.  If you are slicing thinly enough, most of the fibers will be either pulled out or chopped.  I usually end up tossing about .5 in of thick ginger root because it is heavily laden with fibers and very woody.

Put your sliced ginger root into a heavy large saucepan with 5 cups water, on medium heat. Cover and let cook 35 minutes, or until the ginger is tender.  When you look at the ginger after this point, you will probably see many fibers loose in the water...these will drain out in the next step. Drain the ginger in a colander or sieve, making sure to reserve 1.25 cups of the ginger water.  Put 1/4 cup of the reserved water back in the saucepan, setting aside the remaining cup. You will use this for the candy.

Measure the boiled and drained ginger on your kitchen scale.  Measure out an equal amount of sugar (probably approximately a pound) and add the sugar and the ginger to the water.  Bring the sugar-ginger mixture to a boil on medium-high heat. This MUST be a rolling boil, where the sugar continues to boil even as you stir the mixture.  Stir frequently, i.e. continuously. Do not let the sugar stand still in the pan or it will burn (turn dark golden brown) and you will be starting all over again.  Once you reach a boil on medium high, lower the temp to medium and continue to stir.  Soon, the syrupy mixture will begin to look dry as the sugars recrystallize.  Remove from the heat and immediately spread the ginger onto wire racks to cool.  Once cool, you will have a pile of ginger sugar underneath your wire racks.

If your sugar is coarse, just toss in the fp and give it a whirl.  Store in airtight containers.  The candied ginger and the ginger sugar can be used in gingersnap and gingerbread cookie recipes. YUM!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Happy New Year/ Happy Groundhog Day!

Welcome to 2011! Okay, I know, I'm a month behind. I was actually sitting around thinking about closing down the blog because it was just becoming one more thing to do at the end of the day. But then I got a really sweet comment from a blog I follow and we exchanged emails for a few days. She helped me to see that 1)although I LOVE hearing from you all, the reason I write isn't for you, it's for me; 2) the blog DOES help me to focus a bit and reduce the crafty-craziness that I promised Jon I would work on for the new year. 

I have finished another box of felt food for my bestie in another city, participated in another I-spy swap, and made another stack of burpie cloths and taggies for yet another friend who is having a baby. I have no pictures for you however, because my camera was stolen. From my house, while we were home and being neighborly in the snow. I have made a police report and filed the loss with the insurance company, but I cannot afford to get a new camera until the insurance check comes in. And while Jon does have a camera, I HATE it. It is a true POS. It literally takes 45 seconds to recharge between shots, and it's a 2005 digital camera! I have taken pictures with it when desperately needed for family events, but it drives me nuts every time. 

My plans for the next post: I made cupcakes for the baby shower I went to Sunday afternoon, and a friend took pictures of the adorableness, but I need to get copies of them, which I should be able to do by the end of the week.  And if I can't get them by then, I will also be making cupcakes for the Super Bowl party. And even though it will just about kill me, I will use the crap camera.

Remember to craft for yourself, not for others. And get up and craft!!