Friday, February 22, 2008

Ready for the Weekend!

Aaahhh! Friday.
Nothing makes a bad week better like Friday at 5pm. And this has been a particularly bad week! But what makes it so great is that I don't think I'll have to work any this week to keep up with my work load. Can you imagine my happy dance?

This means that I have a whole weekend, 2 blissful days to do all the things I want to do. I don't have to cram everything into one day! Saturday we're going to the SC Book Festival. We went last year and it was great! We met several authors, got some books autographed and got lots of reasonably priced books. After that we're planning on renting all of the Godfather movies, ordering pizza for supper and just generally relaxing. I'll probably take a nap too so that I can stay awake through Saturday Night Live. Of course, while we're parked in front of the TV, I'm going to be working on my knitting.

I have several projects that I want to work on. One is a hot dish carrier that a co-worker wants me to see if I can make. So it looks like I'm going to have to pick my engineering minded husband's brain on making a pattern. I also found some patterns for a bib and burp cloths, but I don't know any women who are pregnant right now. Until I have a specific reason to make them those are going on the back burner for now. Last weekend I bought 2 embroidery projects. I'm thinking about one of them for a friend's wedding. I also have a simple knitting pattern for an afghan that I want to try.

So many projects, so little time!!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Adaptability and Adjustability

Overall, I am not a “roll with the punches” kind of person. I like predictability. I need predictability. I do make an effort to deal with change, however. I’ll bitch and complain about it ad nauseum, but I’ll deal with it.

I feel like I have to be even more adaptable when I’m dealing with anything that has a pattern. My brain just does not comprehend parts of some patterns. I’ll be sewing something and when I can’t figure out how the instructions say to put the pieces together, I get so frustrated! I’ll sit (and cry, bitch and complain) and read the pattern and try to fit the pieces together until something finally clicks or someone finally takes mercy on me and tells me what I’m missing. I end up feeling like the dumbest person on earth when this happens. This is what intimidates me about a lot of things. I am so scared to move on to something new knitting-wise. I don’t have an experienced person that I trust that I can turn to. I have to muddle through or go to a craft store and throw myself on someone’s mercies. And the thought of doing something like that and asking someone else *gasp* for help scares me to death, because then they might really validate my fear that I really am dumber than a box of rocks.

Anyway…not the topic…

Sometimes crafting (and I’m counting cooking as a craft) doesn’t work out like expected and you have to be creative coming up with a solution. I found myself in just this position last week when I was making a cheesecake to take to work for an office lunch we were having.
Here’s the recipe:

Chocolate Caramel Pecan Cheesecake

11 oreo cookies
3 Tbsp chopped pecans
3 Tbsp Butter, melted

Combine all ingredients in food processor and then press into bottom of springform pan.

24 oz. cream cheese
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
¼ cup dark corn syrup
2 Tbsp cornstarch
3 eggs
1 egg yolk
1/3 cup sour cream
1 ¼ tsp vanilla extract
1 ¾ cups milk chocolate chips, melted
1/3 cup chopped pecans

Cream cream cheese, brown sugar, corn syrup, corn starch until smooth.
Add eggs one at a time beating well after each.
Stir in vanilla and sour cream.
Stir in melted chocolate and pecans.
Pour over crust.

Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes and 200 degrees for 1 hour and 10 minutes or until cake no longer looks shiny in the center.
Turn over off and leave cake in oven for 1 hour.

Chocolate Caramel topping:
¾ cuo milk chocolate chips
¼ cup sour cream
1 Tbsp dark brown sugar
3 Tbsp chopped pecans
10 individually wrapped craft caramels
2 Tbsp sour cream

Melt chocolate over low heat, add sour cream and brown sugar.
Spread warm mixture over cheesecake.
Melt caramel over low heat. Stir in sour cream and pecans.
Drizzle over cheesecake.

I checked my cabinets to see what ingredients I needed, bought what I was missing and went to work. My first creative solution was for getting the most servings out of the recipe and the easiest way to get it out of the pan. Most cheesecakes call for a springform pan. When made in a springform pan, the bigger the slice, the easier it is to get out, but I needed it to feed a relatively large number. I doubled the crust and made it in a 9x13 inch pan.

Then I started working on the filling. I was going along great until I discovered that the box that I had only glanced at when I was making my grocery list was not dark brown sugar, but corn starch. After trying to come up with a solution that would work with the ingredients I had, I batted my eyes at my husband and convinced him to go to the store for me. He came back with a box of dark brown and a box of light brown sugar. My hero had saved the day again! The crisis was averted and I watched tv while the cheesecake was in the oven.

I made it through waiting and it was finally time to take it out of the oven. I looked at the cookbook and realized that I had made a booboo. I had used all of my milk chocolate in the cheesecake. I didn’t have any to make the glaze. I knew there was no way in hell I was going to be able to coerce my husband into going back to the store so I decided to forego the chocolate glaze and just make more caramel for the top. I used the whole bag of caramels and 6 Tbsps. of sour cream, melted it together and added about ½-1 cup of chopped pecans.

It was still a great cheesecake even though I messed it up.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Knitting Needle Case Instructions

In my last post I told about the knitting needle case I made. Here are pictures and instructions in case anyone is interested.

You will need:

2 pieces 26x22 inch fabric in coordinating colors/fabric. One is for the outside, the other is the lining.
1 piece 22x7 1/2 inch fabric (small pocket)
1 piece 22x11 inch fabric (large pocket)
2 pieces medium weight fusible interface cut to same dimensions as pockets
ribbon (2 pieces, approximately 20 inches each).

Before starting, iron all pieces of fabric.
Fuse interface onto correct fabric.
Pin a 1 inch fold in both pockets, iron, hem and iron again.
Put pieces together, right sides together in the following order:
Outside fabric, right side up.
Fold ribbon pieces in half and pin one piece about 11 inches from bottom, and the other 5 inches from bottom.
Small pocket, wrong side up.
Larger pocket, wrong side up.
Lining, wrong side up
Sew bottom and sides, leaving edges at top unsewn.
Trim edges and corners.
Turn rightside out and iron.
Turn down unfinished top edge so that unfinished edge is not showing. Sew across.
Measure out how big you want the individual pockets to be, mark and sew.
Once finished stock with your needles, scissors and other paraphenalia.
Fold the top flap down and roll together, starting with the ribbonless edge.
Securely tie with the ribbon.
Voila! A cute and handy place to keep your knitting tools!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Project Completed!

Woo Hoo!!

Since starting to knit I've already collected several sets of knitting needles and other paraphenalia. At some point I realized that I couldn't continue to toss them in the bottom of my knitting bag and not have them get broken or whatever so I knew I needed to come up with an alternative. I hunted on the net for some type of case, but I couldn't find one for my price range that looked well constructed. So I decided to make my own. I already had the fabric, why not? I went to JoAnn's Craft store and looked at some patterns, looked some more online and decided to try to just eyeball it instead of doing it by a pattern.

I enlisted the help of my husband to help measure and cut since he's much more prescise than I tend to be. We got everything cut out Monday night and I started sewing at my newly set up crafting table. I pinned the pieces together, sewed the bottom and one side and realized that I missed some crucial steps in the middle. I forgot to put in the fusible interfacing and to hem the pockets. I was so disgusted with myself for forgetting all that I just left it until the next morning.

On Tuesday I got up and ripped out all of my handywork from the night before, went to work and then came home that evening ready to get some crafting done. I finally got everything put together properly and the main part sewed up and turned rightside out. I had to call it a night because the tv does rule my crafting life for the most part.

I didn't work on it last night because I had to bake a cheesecake and I didn't wnat to be back and forth with food in one room and fabric in the other. This morning though I was able to finish it. It's perfect!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Tales of a Serial Crafter...

I love crafting. Always have. I can’t compare the sense of satisfaction with having created something beautiful with anything else in the world. I started really crafting the summer I was 9 years old. My grandmother spent that summer teaching me to embroider. She would draw a pattern on an old sheet and then show me the stitches I needed to use to complete the pattern. I can remember her painstakingly drawing those patterns in her scratchy hand with her tongue sticking out the side of her mouth. She kept that embroidered sheet until the day she died. I wish I knew what happened to it.

I’m 32 now and I still embroider. Not as much as I used to, but it’s still a way to pass my time. Unfortunately, it’s not a very “useful” craft. Not many people want embroidered pillowcases, table cloths or wall hangings these days. Plus there’s the added problem of finding good patterns that aren’t for machines. (While I know that no one can see me while I’m saying this, please imagine the derision in my voice and the sneer on my face as I say machine. It’s a special tone reserved for things that are not handmade or homemade, but touted as such. That tone is usually reserved for cooking/baking from a box. *Please, please, please don’t think that I look down on anyone for any of these, it’s just not something that I do). Up until I got engaged I was fairly monogamous with my crafting. I embroidered and that was it except for a weak moment every once in a while. Here are a few pictures of a wall hanging I did a few years ago and a pair of pillowcases. The pillowcases won 2 place in the SC State Fair.

I tried crocheting briefly. My other grandmother crocheted. I figured I should have been a natural. I figured wrong. The only thing more painful for me, as a lefthander learning to crochet, was the removal of my wisdom teeth when I was 18. At the time I was the only lefthander who crafts that I knew of so I had to check out books at the library about learning how to crochet lefthanded. I knew it was a mistake when the first instruction said to hold the illustrations up to a mirror for a diagram of how to hold the crochet hook. I don’t know about you, but we lefthanders always craft in front of mirrors. I never progressed past the chain stitch. Crochet was my one night stand. I needed something that was a bit more satisfying.

Then I discovered jewelry making. I liked jewelry. Liked the colors, the shapes, the materials, the beauty. But I did not like the price. What else is a girl to do, but try to do it better but less expensive? That lasted about a year and, of course, cost me more than it would have had I went out and bought it. Although I do have some nice earrings from it. That craft got boring, too expensive and it didn’t put out enough, so I dumped it.

Then came sewing. Sewing, if I had more time, very well could be the be all end all of crafting for me. “The One” so to speak. I could learn how to make functional items like clothes, purses and other wonderful things for myself, but I could also sell! It’s crafty, functional and it has the potential for being profitable, which in my books is the trifecta. I love sewing, but have problems making sense of patterns. I just don’t have time to sit down and devote the time necessary. It’s not sewing, it’s me. I’m just not ready for the commitment.
Here’s a picture of some of the bags I’ve made in the past. One day I’m going to make it past making bags and maybe venture into clothing.

Right now I’m in the middle of a new craft. I’m learning how to knit. So far it’s been good to me, although I had my doubts when I realized there was a right versus lefthanded set of instructions. I didn’t let that stop me. I decided to walk on the wild side a little and knit right handed. I finished my first project this weekend and when it came out the way it was intended, I almost felt weak in the knees. I’m sure that once I finish something of any substance like a sweater or socks I will be so excited that my husband may think he’s no longer necessary. As long as it gives me that wonderful warm and fuzzy feeling, I think I’ll keep knitting around for a while.
Here are some pictures. The first is made from a Merino wool blend yarn. The pattern is the “Ribbed for Her Pleasure Scarf" in the Stitch n Bitch book.
I made this for my friend, Heather who is currently living it up on vacation in London.

Here’s my second scarf. It’s in a checkerboard pattern made from Lions Brand Thick and Quick yarn. I haven’t earmarked this one for anyone yet. It may end up as a future Christmas present to an undisclosed recipient.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Please Stay Tuned

Hi, I'm Monica.

Please be patient. I'll actually post more and update as I catch a few minutes here and there. I won't make any promises as to how often this will be updated though.

I'm a serial crafter. My main crafting choices are embroidery (none of this machine stuff), sewing (I'm still a beginner) and I'm learning how to knit. Crafts that have been tried and discarded are jewelry making and crocheting. I know there are others, but I can't think of them.

Like I said, I'm learning to knit right now. I've done a couple scarves and I'm working on another one. Once it's done I'm going to try my hand at dish cloths and then maybe hat or something.