Tip of the Week

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Have a Heart

In honor and celebration of Heart Health month I created little heart ornaments.  These also serve as a great Valentine's Day table center piece or other decoration for the holiday.

I used wooden hearts in various smallish sizes and drilled in holes with a Dremel.  The Dremel, I found, was easier than a normal drill for this project.  You can find wood heart ornaments or ones with holes at some craft stores.  Any colors of paint that work on wood of your choice and paintbrush.  For writing words or phrases I like the liquid gel pens in silver and gold, but any color or type of pen would work.

Some of the phrases I thought appropriate for these hearts included love, life, laugh, faith and family.  Happy Valentine's Day worked on the larger hearts, while small designs were best for the smallest hearts.

I arranged them with metals hooks instead of ribbons on a wire tree.  I even found a few crochet heart ornament patterns to the mix, but that will be another project on the list.   Just check out Raverly, Red Heart Yarn and Lion Brand Yarn for knit and crochet heart patterns.

Friday, February 24, 2012

A week of crafts

In my absence from the blogging world I have been busy working and crafting.  Here's a quick review of my projects, finished and in-the-works.  A few projects I don't have photos of yet and they include a crochet poncho on my crochet hook and a hat on my knitting needles.  As for sewing I am working on a knitting needle case.  Happy Friday!

Valentine Lavender/Cedar Sachets: A quick and easy sewing project.  These are going in my chest drawers

Crochet Child or Doll Crown

Crochet Placemat: The final step is to felt and then I will show you what I have in mind.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Another yarn shop - Anna's Yarn Shoppe

So here's another (and one of my favorite's!) yarn shop and it's not because of the spelling of shop.  Anna's Yarn Shoppe in Elk Grove, California is the perfect, quaint yarn shop for the fellow crafter.  When I first arrived at the shop I found that there was so much to look at that I didn't know where to start.  The owner is awesome and very helpful.  And if you are in the area you will find a great group to sit with while you knit (or crochet) and chat.  It's such a great atmosphere that describing it does not do it justice.

There are plenty of classes and even events going on to keep the beginner or expert busy learning.  Check out the website, listed above, for a list of on-going classes.

And if you are looking for yarn, look no further.  There are so many choices you will spend hours deciding.  I really love the specialty yarns that are available to pick from.  But if you are not looking for those specialty (or "trophy yarns" as those at Anna's refer to them) you will find a rainbow of colors in different weights.  The yarns are arranged by weight which I find very useful when you know what weight you need for your pattern or project. 

If you need another reason to check out the shop and the website you don't need to look further.  Anna's offers complimentary ball winding in-store and online.  Now go find your projects so you can go shopping (you know you want more yarn for your stash)!

Happy yarn crafting.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Pizza Night!

Any night can be a pizza night and if you are like me you make your own pizza.  I admit I used to order pizza, but now I only make my own pizza.  Why you ask?  Well that's because I can control the ingredients from the flour in the crust to the toppings. 

What I avoid when selecting my ingredients:
-Sodium Nitrate
-Sodium Nitrite
-GMO foods/wheat
-non-organic vegetables and sauces
-non-organic diary products
-canned foods

There are plenty of reasons and research to support an organic lifestyle, but you can pick and choose what you want to buy organic.  I even use organic, non-bleached all purpose flour.

Other kitchen products you will need:
-Pizza store or Pizza baking pan
-Pizza cutter or good knife

Now let's get started.. . . Making pizza dough.  Any recipe for dough, regular, thick-crust, whole wheat, etc.  I use Guy Fieri's recipe from his cookbook, but there are many even on Foodnetwork's website.  Through trial and error you will find what works for you.  I keep my bag of yeast in the refrigerator which keeps the yeast inactive until I'm ready to use them.  The water used to dissolve the yeast shouldn't be too hot, just warm/lukewarm.  I have also found that adding the salt (if you choose to) is best at the end of mixing all the flour, this gives the dough the best chance to rise properly.  Personally I love using a stand mixer with a dough hook, but you can mix by hand (it's just more work).

After the dough rises, you will have to knead it by hand a little bit before you can stretch it out.  Using your hands work best in stretching the dough, but I have also used a rolling pin to make the process faster or in combination with hand-stretching. 

Pizza dough after kneading

Now for the really fun part . . . assembling the pizza.   You can use plain tomato paste and add herbs, or store bought (in a jar) pizza sauce, or store bought pasta sauce (in a jar).  Typically I use an Italian herb pasta sauce (like Organicville or Muir Glen), it's really up to you and your own preference.  That's what pizza night is all about.  Same goes for cheeses, though mozzarella, Parmesan, goat cheese, feta cheese or some mixture tend to be my favorites.  You can even splurge for the Mt. Tam from Cowgirl Creamery to make Guy's BBQ Chicken pizza.  And the BBQ sauce is AMAZING!  Better than any bottled stuff I've tried, it's worth checking out the recipe if you love BBQ sauce (you can freeze it for later too!).  Recipe is here.

Finally to add the toppings, anything from meat to veggies.  And put it in the oven to bake.  I love my pizza stone, it really gives the best crispy crust.  The pizza baking sheets, which are usually rounds work well, but not quite as crispy as the pizza stone.  Regular baking sheets are okay, but really don't produce crispy crusts.  You can also buy deep-dish pizza pans and those are great if you are a deep-dish pizza lover.

Here's a sampling of my pizza's:

BBQ Chicken

Mushroom and red onion

Yum!  It may be a lot of work to make pizza, but get the family involved in it!  Or have some friends over and make it a pizza night!  It's really fun and you will be happy with the results!  No more take out or frozen pizzas in my house.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

A quick sewing project . . .

Tissue Pockets.  These are great little sewing projects, whether you are a beginner or expert sewer.  I love this blog, Sew Mama, Sew and her posts for sewers.  Click Here to find the pattern for these tissue pockets.
The directions and photos are great.  Just remember to start sewing on a corner of the long side so you end up sewing all the short sides.  If you make a mistake you will see when you get to sewing the folded sides that you have the open ends in the wrong spot.

Any fabric or fabric scraps are perfect for this project.  You can even get creative with edge stitching in a contrast thread.

Happy Sewing!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Crochet Wand for Girls

A cousin's daughter recently turned 4 and I decided to make a little homemade gift for her.  I was really inspired and loved the Wand from Tangled Happy.  Here's the link to the crochet pattern.

The pattern is simple and easy if you know the basics of crochet.  I modified the pattern a bit since my stick was more narrow than the one she used.  This is a great pattern and I love the projects she shares on her blog.

With pink/glitter yarn I made the star then added the stick and ribbons.

My cousin's daughter loved her little princess/fairy wand.  To go with it I had a little princess-castle bag and crochet bracelet.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Crochet Hats of All Kinds for Toddlers

Here is one of my promised posts on some crochet hats.  In particular are hats for babies and toddlers.

The first one is from a Drops Design that I modified using some yarn I had from another project and thought would be cute for this.

Be careful with the size on this Drops pattern.  I gave this as a gift for a little girl turning one and it was on the larger size, but that's better than being too small or tight.

The second one is a cap for a baby boys (but you could change the color and make if for girls).  This is a design of my own and I will hopefully posting the pattern for sale online soon.  The size would also work for dolls clothes, like Cabbage Patch.

The last one is a snow day hat for babies, but can also be used for dolls clothes.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Happy Valentine's Day!

Valentine's Day is typically made to celebrate with your loved one (spouse or partner), but really it should be about celebrating those you love.  Family, friends and of course your pets.  A special day to tell those in your life that they are special and you love them.
Here's some flowers for you to enjoy.  Make some one's day and tell them that you care.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Learning to Knit

I have finally picked up a knitting book, yarn and knitting needles recently (that's partly why I haven't posted).  I spent some free time learning to cast on stitches, which was easy once I mastered it.  Then I took on learning the knit and purl stitch, which were challenging since it was all new. 

You can take a class, but there are plenty of other resources, such as videos online and knitting books, which I like.  A good resource book (or two) is important when learning a new craft.  I also find that sometimes one method or explanation may not be clear, you can consult another.  The books are also good references when needed.

Knitting is challenging, but if everything was easy we would all be knitting!

Here's a sample of some of my attempts (mistakes and all) of the knit and purl stitch.  This is not the stockinette stitch, which I am currently working with on a pattern.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Charles M. Schulz Museum & Snoopy

For all Snoopy and Peanuts & Gang fans this is the museum for you.  A whole building and grounds dedicated to Charles M. Schulz and his comic strip Peanuts.

Check out the website.  There are different events and exhibits going on as well as some permanent displays.  It is a hidden treasure in Santa Rosa and can be easily missed, but don't skip this attraction!

Tile Wall

Plan on spending a day as there is so much to see and enjoy, even some videos to watch in their theater.  If you are adventurous and have time head on over to the ice rink and give your ice skating skills a try.  And if you are looking for a place to take your kids or celebrate a birthday this is a great choice too.

On my visit I saw the "Level the Playing Field" Exhibit and found it very intriguing how Charles M. Schulz used current events to inspire his comic strip.  Now I understand why he had some of the girls playing sports.  And if you had questions the volunteers are very knowledgeable and helpful.

This is a gem and I enjoyed my day at the museum.  Be sure to check it out if you find yourself in Santa Rosa.  (You might be surprised to find out that Charles M. Schulz lived in the area and if you go to the museum you will learn why there's an ice rink next door!!)

Monday, February 6, 2012

Tip of the Month: Make your clothes last

Wow, it's Monday again.    Have you even noticed there's an extra day on the calendar?  Can you believe it's Leap Year?

On to this month's tip on making your clothes last.  Hopefully this will be helpful.

1.  Buy clothes that are good quality and will last.  This does not mean they have to be name brand or expensive. 

2.  Consider buying clothes that are fashionable (not trendy fashion) that you can pair with other clothes to make many outfits.  "Classic" does not mean boring or old.

3.  Jeans and sweaters can be worn more than once before washing.  Some clothes can be worn more than once before you need (or should) throw them in the laundry.  The less washing of your clothes the longer lasting, especially good quality ones.

4.  Read the label and follow the directions for washing clothes.  This will help you avoid shrinkage and other problems that take life away from your clothes. 

5.  Considering washing your clothes in cold water.  Many clothes recommend cold water and this helps the life of your clothes and cut your energy cost.

6.  Line Dry your clothes instead of using the dryer.  Again this cuts down on electricity and helps the life of your clothes.

7.  Mend small tears and rips.  Or re-purpose ripped clothes into a new item.

8.  Make your own socks.  I read this in a magazine recently that said knitting or crocheting your own socks is better than store bought socks.  Supposedly, hand-knit socks last longer than store bought.  Haven't tried this but I have patterns and may have to consider making socks.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Let's make tomato bisque with green tomatoes

Last summer was cooler and I ended up with baskets of green tomatoes.  There was no way I could cook and eat that many fried green tomatoes.  So I went in search of recipes to use green tomatoes and I really did not find many.  There was one by Mario Bartali that made a pesto-sauce for spaghetti with green tomatoes and this was pretty good.  But I still am left with baskets of green tomatoes.

Using two techniques I let my tomatoes ripen naturally.  One technique was putting tomatoes in a paper bag to speed up ripening, which does work.  The second technique was using a produce box (any size) and layering the tomatoes in a single layer.  Again this ripened the tomatoes a little slower than with the paper bag, but ripening them none the less.

Once the majority of my tomatoes ripened I decide it was time to cook them.  And since it is winter and cold, a nice tomato bisque would be perfect.  I did not find any true "tomato bisque" soup recipes so I adapted a basic tomato-basil soup. 

Here goes:

2-3 pounds ripened tomatoes (cleaned)
Spices (any mix, to taste): chili powder, cumin, cayenne pepper, oregano, basil, paprika
Pinch of red pepper flake
Salt and pepper to taste
2-3 tbsp tomato paste (more if it needs more tomato flavor)
Water (stock, broth or beer) to cover tomatoes
about 1/2 cup cream (or half-and-half)

1. Bring a pot of water to boil and place several tomatoes in the water.  Cook about 2 minutes.  Place immediately in ice water.  When cool enough to handle peel skins off (you can use the skins in other dishes or let your dog eat them).  Repeat until all tomatoes are cooked and peeled.
2.  Place tomatoes in a pot (or Crockpot) and mash by hand to avoid a mess.  (you can use a food processor or blender instead).  Add some water to cover tomatoes.  Bring to a simmer.
3.  Add spices, salt, pepper, red pepper flake and tomato paste.  Stir and let cook.
4.  Once it has cooked and you like the taste, puree with an immersion blender (or place in a blender).  Add cream if using and puree until just mixed.  Serve warm.

This is a very adaptable recipe and I let the soup cook in the Crockpot so I did not have to worry about watching it over a stove.  You can serve with toast, salad, grilled cheese, quesadilla or any other side dish.  The spices add a little heat which works to warm you on a cold night, but it really is to your taste.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Sew the Perfect Gift Giveaway

Calling all those who sew.  Here's a giveaway for you.  Hurry the deadline to enter to win a copy of Sew the Perfect Gift is February 6th.

Please click here to enter.

Sew the Perfect Gift
By That Patchwork Place
Publisher: Martingale & Company
There's something for every sewer in this book.  Household projects to accessories.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Just a little taste of Italy

Much of my baking time in January I spent making and using Panettone.  Basically everything was made from scratch, including the candied citrus.

Citrus peel drying
My lemon tree is a bright burst of yellow this winter so I decided to use some of the lemon peels to make candied citrus peel.  The process is a bit time consuming, but so worth it in the end.  I followed the recipe in The Williams-Sonoma Baking Book cookbook (click here).
Citrus peel rolled in sugar

Once I finished the candied peel I could start making Panettone from scratch.  I decided I didn't want to buy the imported Panettone for a couple of reasons, one being that some brands have added chemicals/additives that I did not want.   If you find a good Panettone or a fresh baked one at a local bakery then don't feel guilty buying it.  Be warned that if you want to make it yourself you should have a day to do it as it is a timely process.  Again I followed the recipe in the same baking book and here's my final result . . .

And it was delicious!  Well worth my time and kind of fun to make.  I ended up with two loaves so I decided to use the second loaf to make a bread pudding using Giada's recipe (you could use Ina's but she calls for more eggs).  Either use the recipe with Amaretto sauce (click here) or with Cinnamon sauce (click here).  I decided to try the Cinnamon sauce.

Here's the process in pictures if you follow her recipe:
cubes of Panettone

Whisking the custard sauce

Soaking the cubes in the sauce

Fresh our of the oven

Reducing the sauce

Completed sauce ready for serving
Time to serve and Enjoy!  I would definitely make Panettone again.