Sunday, December 28, 2008

Taking It Easy

Our holiday weekend is finally wrapping up. Wednesday we spent over 7 hours on the road and in a stint in the ditch getting to our holiday destination. It didn't bode well for what was to come. But to our delight, the rest of the trip was relaxing, uneventful and heartwarming. It was fun to watch Wee Pumpkin get loved by his whole family and so nice to eat some really really good food and see friends and eat armloads of cookies. After our return trip in the car, however, I now will spend the next week recovering. I'm so thankful not to need to drive anywhere far in the near future!

Now, for a week of rest at home. It doesn't get any better, does it?

Monday, December 15, 2008

My Holiday Plans

I made these felted ornaments from my all-time favorite knitting book, Holiday Knits. Now, I'm by no means a knitting book expert seeing as though I only have 3 or 4 of them total. But of those 3 or 4, I've knit more out of Holiday Knits than any other. Anyhoo, the ornaments are super easy to make, provided you do NOT felt your own hand with the needle felter. OUCH!

I'm starting to formulate all of our holiday time. Here's what's on the Pumpkin Itinerary for the next two weeks:
1. Trip to the grandparent's for eating, drinking and being merry
2. Visiting with lots of friends from "back home" possibly including State Street bar hopping
3. A rousing game of Big Ass Bingo with some "choice" prizes we've found throughout the year and have been stashing
3. Sledding, provided that the grandparents get the foot they are expecting today
4. A tour of Capital Brewery for Mr. Pumpkin
5. A trip to Grand Rios water park with the wee Pumpkin and his cousins
6. Some Golden Gopher Hockey (wee Pumpkin's first hockey experience)
7. Baking more scones
8. Possibly a little Peef the Christmas Bear
9. Enjoyment sleeping past 6 a.m. (this one could be all too optimistic)

What's on your holiday agenda?

Sweater Knitting and Scone Baking

I have a tradition, two years in the making, to make (rather than buy) Little Pumpkin's Christmas and birthday gifts. The way Mr. Pumpkin and I see it, he gets spoiled enough by his grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins, that he doesn't need more from us.

Last Christmas I knit him his first stocking and this year I decided to knit him a sweater. I chose a free pattern for a ribbed baby jacket that I got online that originally appeared in Prima back in 2005. The pattern is also in the book Special Knits by Debbie Bliss. I only saw it pictured for girls, but I think my version in indigo (and I chose not to do wool so it would be washable) with a manly leather-covered vintage button turned out pretty good. It's kind of his "old man" sweater. Now, I'm going to wrap it up and he can open it on Christmas and act surprised.

In other news, baking-wise I think I may be back in action. I baked these scones this weekend from my Dorie Greenspan baking book and they are PHENOMENAL. I substituted whole milk for buttermilk, and they are still awesome. I could seriously sit down to a plate of them, breakfast, lunch and dinner. Three days later they are still tasty and delicious. Maybe cookies just aren't my thing right now. We'll see, though. I have a batch of Greenspan's Midnight Crackles chilling in my freezer. Here's hoping they're edible!

At work lately we've been doing a lot of recapping of 2008 accomplishments. I think I might have to recap my personal accomplishments this year, just to see if I've been more productive at work or at home. It's going to be a tight race between "refiled random papers in cubicle to appear more productive" and "taste tested many batches of cookies to determine missteps and correct errors." If I do the recap, I'll post it here.

Save Handmade!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Vintage Wreath Goodness

I really wanted to write about how I got a new baking book, Baking by Dorie Greenspan, and how I made some awesome cookies out of it and how I am now the queen of the universe, at least by baking standards. I mean, I am a pretty good baker. I do bake a lot. Usually things turn out delicious. However, for the last two weeks, I have been cursed by the totally flat, crisp cookies (not like good crisp, but weird, greasy crisp). I so wanted to join Tuesdays with Dorie, but alas, I suck. My cookies are a wreck, and I decided I better hope I get invited to a cookie exchange where I just get to take the cookies and don't actually have to give any.

BUT, I did accomplish the patching of a few pairs tiny pants and finishing of a wreath I started last holiday season all in a night. See, when these things start to pile up in (what once was) my neat and tidy sewing room, I get anxious. So I get a few things crossed off the list and moved to other piles and I breathe a small sigh of relief.

This wreath has a kind of funny story behind it. Well, okay not really, but I have to write about something, right? Well, I saw so many awesome wreaths on Flickr that I wanted to make my own. Like this one from Alicia Paulson, or this one by SweetImaginations or this one wrapped in yarn by KatieRunnels or this cute quilted style one. So last year I wrapped my styrofoam wreath in a nice, felted sweater and there it sat. Then over the summer my hubby, whilst stay-at-home-dadding around town, stopped by a granny's garage sale and bought the "mystery bag" of craft supplies for me. It was mostly a bag of total junk, but I did manage to store the little santa head, wreath with bell, gold leaves and weird flower thingie that I incorporated into this wreath. Not bad for a buck, I think.

Can you believe it's December 10th? Shit, only like 10 more days to figure out why I suddenly suck at baking!

Monday, December 08, 2008

What I Bought at No Coast Craft-o-rama

I did spend a sizable sum of money this weekend at No Coast. Here's the roundup of items that can be disclosed...

1. An ornament and coaster set from Keen Olive
2. A perpetual calendar by Cassie Medema Design so that I can keep track of family birthdays (not my strong suit)
3. A cute onesie from Happify
4. A really cool pencil box from Mogo
5. A shirt from Campfire Goods for Mr. Pumpkin

Here are some vendors I saw that I thought were really amazing and might have to patronize over the interweb:

1. Aaron Sober ceramics were so original, I was really impressed; I really loved the animal shapes
2. Hat Menagerie's cute hat knitting kits were cleverly packaged and even cuter knit up
3. Numsi had a really cute picture of a digger suitable for the Wee Pumpkin's room that I'm considering
4. Loved the great camera straps by Souldier

...and really, so much awesome stuff. It's hard to write about it all!

Sunday, December 07, 2008

I Survived No Coast Craft-o-rama

Phew. I can't remember the last time I was this exhausted. Oh, yes. I can. It was last year after No Coast Craft-o-rama. It's so draining both physically and emotionally to put the whole thing together that, despite requests to do it more often, I can't imagine doing this more than once a year.

I bought a ton of stuff which I will round up in the next day or so. I only bought myself two things and managed to spend the rest on gifts (like I should). I was telling a fellow volunteer that I wished that we could enforce a "checkout" policy whereby every shopper had to show us what they bought. It's so fun to see all the great things that people find; even after going through everything four times or so, I was still seeing new things.

The highlights of my weekend were the Como Ave Jug Band (and accompanying kids pictured above) and the Craft-a-thon. Big shout out to all the judges, the MC and the contestants. I loved it! But in the end, the Minnesota Rollergirls went home with the grand prize, which included two Janome sewing machines and a bunch of other fantastic stuff from our sponsors (Crafty Planet, Sublime Stitching, Handmade Nation, Venus Zine, Craft Magazine...).

Did you go? Likes? Dislikes?

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Here's a Holiday Gift Suggestion: Boob Slippers!

If you're under 18, avert your eyes.

Some of you might remember that I bought these slippers back in September from Piddies. In said post, I commented that [ha ha] Mr. Pumpkin had loved them, even asking if they had any designs for guys, like with boobs on them [ha ha]. Well [ha ha], the good people at Piddies thought that was pretty darn funny [ha ha] and we got to talking and decided [ha ha] that it must be done.

Several email messages later, after talking through boob and fleece coloration [ha ha] and nearly wetting my pants hearing about the design process, involving product design advisors [conferring over drinks] and testers and such [ha ha], the final product arrived in my email box to review before shipment. They were wonderfully bulbous and perfectly perky. Perfect, I said! Just what the doctor ordered! These one-of-a-kind beauties must be mine! My own Piddies slippers on my feet, I shot the email back: send 'em my way!

I couldn't have been happier when the goods arrived. They came with their own pasties, also handmade I suspect by Piddies [devious genius] craftswoman herself. I was in complete boobtopia when I saw the bottoms: clever traction provided by "sitting ladies" painted in silver sparkly fabric paint on the bottom of each slipper. Genius!

I predict a new niche for Piddies. Ladies will be running over to the Piddies Etsy shop to buy these this holiday season. They are an absolute hysterical (yet functional, fuzzy and warm) gift. I'm pretty sure if you ask, she'll make you a pair, too. Don't give your guys a lame sweater this year, girls. Get him the gift of boobs.


Garland Crazy

Photo from Country Living

I am so in love with this kitchen I might have to hunt it down and move in. It came from a slideshow on Country Living's web site about holiday garlands, which I am also obsessed with. See, I need to move in, right?

I'm going to make a holiday garland this year, rather than use the one I have. I have a garland made out of real feathers. It's really cool and rustic looking (not the fake, bright colored craft store feather style) but it's just not exciting me any more. I'd love to do the natural pine boughs on the mantle this year, and make a garland from fabric to hang on the tree.

If anyone knows where I might find that kitchen in the photo, let me know. My bags and pots and pans are already packed.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Make It Yourself: Grilling Rubs to Give Away

I always love to make some edible gifts around the holidays. It gives me a nice break from sewing and knitting and such, and it's also a great option for the men on your list who really don't want another hat or scarf. My dad specifically asked for grill rubs this year, and I happily obliged. It's a really simple, but totally fun homemade gift you can make on a fairly small budget.

Here's what you'll need:
--Herbs and spices of various types from World Market/grocery store/etc.
--Spice jars with shaker/measurer lids (mine are from Ikea)
--Some kitchen twine
--Cardstock to print the labels
--Recipes; I made Dry Chimichurri Rub, Basic Barbeque Rub and Brisket Rub but there are tons of options out there
--A funnel is really helpful, but not required

I didn't find it too difficult to find most of these ingredients, but then again I wasn't super picky. I didn't have hickory smoked salt or savory, so I just made do with what I did have. I did use whole pepper and ground it in my coffee grinder. I also did use coarse sea salt and I think that will make a difference. After you mix the ingredients in a bowl, use a funnel to get them into the jars. Make sure you wash your mixing bowl after each recipe!

At first I tried to use stick on labels, but I hated that they didn't exactly form to the curvature of the jars. I realize that these round tags are probably a bit over the top size-wise, but I still think they look cute. If you'd like to use my designs, feel free to download the images here.
Just cut around the circles and hole punch them, and done! Instant handmade holiday gifts!

What handmade stuff are you making this year?