Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween!

Ah, Halloween. I love thee greatly, but I sadly had little time for thee this year.

Most of my Halloween projects this year were taken from amazing projects found online. I made a pair of sock zombies following Becky Stern's tutorial on the Craft Blog:

I gave one to a friend as a thanks for taking care of our cat when we were out of town and kept the other for myself. The socks I used have had holes in them for ages, and I actually was using them to clean the kitchen for the last little while. I love the fact that even rags can be reincarnated as awesome zombies!

I also made these amazing chocolate tree cupcakes from Cheeky Kitchen. My boyfriend makes amazing chocolate cake, and these were no exception.

I was hoping for the icing to be as orange as Brooke's, but I ran out of red food colouring, so they were a little pale.

The trees were easy to make. My only beef with them is that they get soft at room temperature. Instead of letting them harden on the table, I put them in the fridge and they were hard when I checked back about 15 minutes later. But they started to droop when I stuck them in the cupcakes and let them sit for a few minutes. Granted, my friend's apartment where I put them together is always a little on the warm side.

I wanted to bring the cupcakes as a gift to thank them for hosting the party, but we also traditionally bring them booze to stock their tiki bar (yes!), so I made some Irish Cream as well. I forgot to take photos of the bottle I gifted to them, but luckily, I still have some leftover for myself!

There are numerous recipes for Irish cream online, and the one I use has been tweaked a little, but is basically the same thing. Let me tell you, it is delicious (and easy)! Here's how it's made:

-1 cup whipping cream
-1 300 mL can sweetened condensed milk
-1 cup Jamieson Irish Whiskey
-1 tsp instant coffee crystals
-2 tbsp chocolate syrup
-1 tsp vanilla flavouring
-1 tsp coconut flavouring

Throw all ingredients in a blender. Blend on high for 20 seconds. Done!

This recipe will make roughly 3.5 cups of Irish Cream, and should be stored in sealed containers in the refrigerator. You may need to shake it a little before pouring. I think it can be kept for a couple of months, but honestly, I've never had it sit around quite that long.
Best enjoyed on its own over ice.

If you prefer stronger Irish Cream, you can add more whiskey, and it will probably store longer that way. I think the alcohol threshold for preventing the growth of bacteria is around 20%, meaning your Irish Cream would have to be half whiskey and you'd be able to store it on the shelf instead of the fridge, but that would probably be a bit too strong... Also, don't take my word on the storage thing.

Here's a photo of our Margot and Ritchie Tenenbaum costumes, sadly missing the signature fur coat (it was way too warm in there for fur). Last-minute, but fun costumes nonetheless.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

How I Relax

One of the things Mike and I love to do to chill out is that I will work on crafts while I watch him play video games. I love games, but I'm not nearly as good at them as him. He is THE video game nerd. He and his friend will get together for video game marathons, and he's the one they pass the controller to if there are areas no one can get through. It's pretty amazing to watch sometimes, and it's nice to live vicariously through him. I have to admit, I also do a little "backseat gaming" from time to time, yelling at him when he goes the wrong way...

One of the advantages of borrowing his parents home for part of our vacation was their huge television. It's ginormous, really. We had purchased two games to bring with us on our vacation - Castlevania: Lords of Shadow, and Kirby's Epic Yarn. This game is amazing "Gabe" from Penny Arcade commented in a post that "If you have a Wii this is a must own game. It might even be reason enough to get a Wii if you don’t already have one", and I am in full agreement.

As either a gamer or a crafter, you would pretty much have to have been living under a rock to have not heard of this game, but here's the idea: Kirby has been turned into yarn and is making his way through a world of fabric, yarn, string, buttons and beads with his sidekick Prince Fluff to stitch Patchland back together. It is amazing!

The best part for us is that it is a two-player cooperative game. I am extremely competitive when I play games, and I think Mike gets tired of me trying so seriously to beat him at everything. The cooperation in this game is really fun, too. It's much better than in the new 4 player Super Mario Brothers, where you just end up getting in each other's way. Some have even nick-named it the "divorce game"...

In kirby, the enemies are fun, the items you collect are really funny, the graphics are total eye candy for any crafter, and even some of the music is really good. I loved it and recommend it for anyone out there.

The new Castlevania, Mike seems to like, but he's always been a fan of the series. I have a few issues with the graphics in some places, but it's otherwise entertaining to watch. I at least got a lot of crafting done. I finished a cowl I had been working on for a while with some amazing blue alpaca/silk blend yarn that was a Christmas present last year.

I also finished my first ever granny squares for a patchwork blanket swap. I love how much the textures change just by adding an extra row of each colour in the square!

We go out and enjoyed the temperate rain forests during one of the brief periods of sunshine we get this time of year. The paths were overgrown and beautiful, and there were mushrooms everywhere! I leave you with a couple of photos; I love the wet coast!

Friday, October 29, 2010

New Blog Design

Well, I finally learned a little more about Blogger and managed to fix a few of the issues I had with this blog. Aren't the colours pretty? I took them from the most unlikely of sources - Iqaluit in the summer. Traveling in the Arctic helps you appreciate the small things. Mostly because nothing grows higher than your ankles, but I digress.

Unfortunately, these changes meant that I had to say goodbye to my beautiful banner *sigh*, but I think it was time. I do believe that the positives will outweigh the negatives.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Making of a Drop Spindle

So, I am finally getting around to the post about how I made my drop spindle. We were both sick for a very long time and burnt out from a crazy summer of work, so we took a vacation and borrowed Mike's parents house in the "hills" for some soaks in the hot tub and walks in the woods. A very much needed vacation indeed...

Anyhow, I gathered a bunch of supplies from around the apartment and made it for pretty much nothing. I apologize for the fuzzy photos, the light was not good.

Necessary tools and equipment:
-pencil (with eraser on end)
-a sewing pin
-piece of cardboard about 4" square (size not critical)
-sandpaper (both for metal and wood, grit not important)
-white glue
-wire cutters
-pliers (flat- and round-nosed)

Step 1:
Push a sewing pin into the eraser end of the pencil

Step 2:
Cut off the head of the pin with the wire cutters and sand the cut end smooth. Use the flat-nosed pliers to bend the pin 90 degrees near the eraser end, then curve it into a hook with the round-nosed pliers. If your pins are anything like mine, they will flake when you work them. Just sand them smooth again when you're done.

Step 3:
Draw a circle in the cardboard. Size doesn't really matter - mine has a diameter of about 4" (10 cm). Mark the center. Cut out the circle, then cut a notch in the cardboard.

Step 4:
Sand the coating off the pencil all the way around near the eraser end. Brush away any dust left on the pencil.

Step 5:
Poke a hole in the center of the cardboard circle and push the pencil through until the cardboard is over the part of the pencil with the exposed wood. Paint the area where the cardboard and wood meet with white glue on both sides. Let dry completely.

Step 6:
Use your spindle to spin yarn!

I only had a small bit of raw wool, but I love the way the handspun yarn turned out. If anyone reads this and they have sheep (or alpaca, or rabbits, or really anything with long fur other than boyfriends with back hair), please let me know... I keep staring at bags of cotton balls in the drug store... One of these days...

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Desert Bus and Magic Yarn Ball!

So, I have completed my project for the Desert Bus Craft Along! Since I have been really into the underwear creation lately, and I had an appropriately nerdy T-shirt that had run its course (Thanks Mike's mom for the awesome shirt!), I thought I would put one out there and see how it does in the craft-along!

I will post a link to the auction once it's up!

I have also finished a Magic Yarn Ball for Swap-Bot! I had never heard of a magic yarn ball before, but soon got excited once I found out. Basically, you wrap up a ball of yarn with gifts inside that the receiver will discover as the ball unravels! How fun is that!

I was hoping to be inspired by my partners profile, but found myself strangely uninspired with respect to what to put in the yarn ball - I just ran out of ideas. I was not that happy with the gifts I had come up with for the ball, until I went to wrap them up, and decided I was going to make something to put in the middle - and took a bunch of stuff I just had lying around the apartment to make an awesome pair of earrings:

They're made of wire, beads and buttons, and I think I'm going to have to make a similar pair for myself very soon...

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Making Envelopes

Today, I made a whole bunch of envelopes for my Swap-Bot partners. I'm sick and tired, but I signed up for this thing, and I'm damned well going to do it!

The envelopes are pretty fun - I like the ones made from the topographic map. I make these things all day at work, so it was really fun for me to destroy one for a change...

Also, I finally finished my drop spindle - I took lots of photos, and hopefully will remember to post when I'm feeling less like the world just kicked me in the ass...

Monday, October 11, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

We had Thanksgiving dinner at my place this year, and it was AMAZING! My dad brought a couple of pies from the Tartan Pie Bakery in Errington, including their specialty, a Tartan Pie. I'd never had, nor heard of one before - it's basically an entire turkey dinner in pie form. And it's GOOD! There's turkey, stuffing, veggies, and even cranberries, all topped with a mashed potato crust. So tasty!

I made a delicious ham with help from the always incredible Jackson's Meats on 4th. The glaze suggestion of beer (I used Guinness), brown sugar and dijon mustard was fantastic.

I also made Mark Bittman's recipe for simmered sweet potatoes, as well as an herb-glazed carrots recipe I've been carrying with me since highschool. It's super simple - you just simmer carrots with a little sugar, butter, and a pinch each of thyme and oregano. They look fancy, but are a cinch to make.

But the part I was really excited about was the dessert. My brother has been raving for a while about a vegan Mexican restaurant he went to once that used cashews as a replacement for dairy products, and he was especially excited about their vegan cheesecake. I have been dying to try making one ever since.

I found this Vegetarian Times Recipe for a vegan raw cheesecake made with cashews, and decided to give it a go. Since I don't actually care if it's vegan or raw, I modified it a whole lot: instead of making a crust, I used a store-bought graham crust; I used cashew butter instead of raw cashews; I used honey instead of agave syrup, and I used vanilla flavouring to replace the ridiculously expensive sun-dried vanilla beans. The cheesecake was very rich and filling, and actually a little too sweet for me. Less honey may have been better.

My grandma also brought over a bag full of pears that came from her friend's tree - way more than we can eat, and some of them were already starting to spoil, so I decided to make up a big pot of compote.

Compote is basically a fruit stew - it can be made with just about any fruit, but I usually use apples. It's super easy to make: you just throw all the ingredients into a pot and simmer until the fruit is soft. For this batch I used:

-about 10 small pears
-2 cinnamon sticks
-about 10 whole cloves
-4 large shavings of orange zest
-roughly 2 tablespoons of sugar
-enough water to keep it cooking evenly.

I never measure anything when I make compote, but really, no matter what you put into it, it will always taste good - especially while warm!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Wine Glass Charms

This weekend is Thanksgiving, and I'll be having the family over for dinner on Sunday, which reminded me that I still had no way for people to tell their glasses apart on my tiny table. I purchased the beads for these charms probably about a year ago, but I didn't have all the wire I needed, and so they were never made. I figured it was about time to get them done, and so I stopped by Country Beads on my way home and purchased the memory wire, etc. needed to complete the project.

I'm a little disappointed that they were just made from a bunch of stuff I bought at a bead store, and that each item involved is being used for it's intended purpose, but I still love them. I wanted them to feel natural, and so each charm is made from natural minerals. Sadly, many of them are cut into slightly cheesy shapes (like flowers and fish...), but I'm still happy with them. At least they're colourful - and quick to make.

Craft Fairs Calendar and more!

I found a BC Craft Fairs Calendar - How useful!

I recently discovered the existence of Hair Canvas, and I'm not sure if I want to try it. Hair Canvas is used to stiffen coats, and can be purchased reasonably at B Black & Sons, but even reasonable costs are a little on the high-side for my frugal crafting self. Fusible interfacing can be substituted if desired - it's easier to use, but doesn't have quite the same effect. If you prefer interfacing, there is a table of various interfacings and their uses here.

And I love this umbrella stand idea from craftycuban on Craftster. I would like to use this idea to make cache-pots for my plants. So colourful!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Jersey Jackets and the New Wardrobe

I have seen a lot of dress jackets made out of jersey knit fabric lately - like the Diane von Furstenberg one above - and I am loving this concept. Especially since I am trying to put together a wardrobe, especially for the office, that works for me. The reasons knit jackets are wonderful are many:

-They are machine washable (hallelujah!)
-If ever there was a dress jacket that is comfortable to wear, this is it.
-They are not too dressy - which I love. My office is fairly casual, and a dress jacket just seems like too much.
-There are lots of fun knit fabrics out there to add a little personality to your jacket.

All in all, I am dying to try my hands at making one. I have briefly looked online to see if there are any tutorials or posts on the subject, but so far have found none, so I think I'll just have to go it solo on this one. When I have a moment to sew, that is.

On the subject of new wardrobes, I found an interesting post on Associated Content about developing your personal style, and it got me thinking about some things to consider when building mine.

Obviously, body shape is important, and taking into account what you want to accentuate and what you want to hide. I have a fairly curvy body with a well-defined waist, so I like to wear fitted tops that go in at the waist. My waist is, however, fairly long, making my legs look proportionally short. Add to that the fact that I don't wear heels, and my legs can look pretty small, but if I wear items with a higher fitted waist and a wider skirt, it can make me look like I have legs up to my nipples. I also have sloping shoulders, which means I have to be careful with the necklines I wear and the shoulders of shirts and jackets.

Skin and hair colours are also important. Now that I've cut all my hair off, I'm not against the idea of dying it, and I think a slightly deeper, richer, brown may be in order. My skin tone is definitely on the pink side (rather than the yellow side), making reds, purples and blues a better choice for me than yellows or oranges - I've always preferred wearing those colours anyhow.

Of course, lifestyle plays a role. Unfortunately for me, I currently have about 4 different wardrobes, and all of them are half-assed. I have my ratty, practical field work clothes, full of holes and stains. I have my work clothes, chosen because they were office appropriate, not necessarily because they looked good on me or were comfortable, so I don't wear most of them anywhere else. I have my jeans and roller derby T-shirts that have become my every-day wear, then I have some party dresses that I wear once in a blue moon. What I'd like to do is find some items that can be appropriate for several of these places. Jeans are good for field work and every day wear. The right dress can be worn one way at work, and another at a party.

I don't wear make-up. Some outfits might be great on my body, and be the perfect colour for my skin and hair, but would require some bold make-up to pull it off without my face being washed out. Generally, this means I have to go in the direction of simple, less bold and outrageous styles.

Also, here are a couple of random links for the day:

I have to make this knit Jack Russel from Best in Show.

And Good Life Eats has some tips on freezing cookie dough that I think we all can appreciate.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Turquoise Bracelet Tutorial

I love this turquoise bracelet tutorial from Ruby Mines at Cut Out and Keep. I want to go home and make one right now!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Rag Shag Rug

I haven't really been doing much crafting the last couple of days, so here is a roundup of some awesome links I came across on the Craftzine Blog:

I love this tutorial for a rag shag rug from Maggie Makes. What a great way to use up scraps!

And this Burda Style tutorial for making crochet loops for belts or buttons. Very handy.

And last, but certainly not least, how to make a storm trooper helmet out of milk jugs from Filth Wizardry. How awesome is that?!

An Erica Domesek (Author of PS - I Made This) tutorial on how to make marbled paper. So simple and so stylish!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Creative Destruction!

In order to force myself to not wear my destroyed or ill-fitting clothes anymore - and further encourage myself to create a new, better wardrobe, I have been busy destroying my old clothes and making them into better things. The above three pairs of underwear were made from 2 of my old, too tight roller derby T-shirts. I made some small adjustments to the pattern while I was at it, and they are super comfy. It's just a shame I don't play roller derby anymore, because they would make excellent derby panties!

I also took the following shirt and cut it up to make a pattern. I love the fit of the shirt, but it's getting a little old and holes are starting to appear under the arms... The picture is out of focus since I forgot the camera was still in manual mode from my attempts at outdoor photography, but it is a knit shirt with a scoop neckline and small puffy cap sleeves.

And here's the finished pattern:
I transferred markings onto the pattern for where the shoulder seams sit on the sleeves, and where the gathers begin and end. I have big plans for this pattern! I also cut up the remains of the shirt and will make that into yet another pair of panties!

And finally, I made something from scratch to add to my wardrobe. I used dark gray corduroy from my stash of free fabric I received earlier this year. I had a similar light-gray skirt made with the same pattern that I wore all the time, until I spilled coffee all down the front of it and completely destroyed it.

The skirt is a little wrinkled, but it's a simple A-line skirt with pockets on the back and a zipper down the front. I love it already!

Well, it's a start. Hopefully I'll get around to creating more in the days to come!