June 2, 2012 § Leave a comment
…yes, I meant to post here about it. I kind of…put it off. I wasn’t sure how to say ‘by the way, I arbitrarily decided to change the name of my blog to something else and jump ship just because I felt like it.’
But that’s exactly what I did, way back at the start of the year. I migrated the whole blog over and have been posting at Domestic Warrior Goddess ever since.
Why Domestic Warrior Goddess? Well, because it’s something some of my friends call me, and because I think it’s funny.
Sooooo if you didn’t realize that I’d moved and would like to still keep up with my shenanigans, please follow Domestic Warrior Goddess!
January 29, 2012 § Leave a comment
Have you ever heard of a picture book called ‘A Near Thing for Captain Najork‘? It was one of my favorites as a kid, and I can still recite the opening lines: “One day Tom was fooling around with his chemistry set, and he invented anti-sticky. Then Tom fooled around with jam, and wheels and connector rods, and he invented a two-seater jam-powered frog. Tom and Aunt Bundlejoy Cosysweet took the frog out for a spin.” (okay, I may be paraphrasing slightly because I’m too lazy to get up and cross the room to check the book, but you get the idea!)
Anyway, this weekend I was in the kitchen fooling around with cake, because I was doing a trial run of a cake I’ll be making for a friend. Then I fooled around with cream cheese and peanut butter and I invented the best peanut butter mousse cake filling ever.
And because I love you, I’m going to share my secrets with you.
The chocolate cake was my standard recipe, straight from the back of the Hershey’s cocoa box, but while I started out making peanut butter mousse from a recipe I abandoned it almost immediately and made it up myself. It’s the perfect chocolate cake filling.
I used extra crunchy peanut butter because it was all we had, but I ended up loving the texture it added to the cake. If you prefer a smooth filling, though, just use creamy peanut butter.
Perfect Peanut Butter Mousse
8 oz of cream cheese
1 1/2 or 2 cups of peanut butter (crunchy or smooth)
1 1/2 cups of brown sugar, firmly packed
1/2 cup of heavy whipping cream
Let the cream cheese soften and come to room temperature. Whip the heavy cream until it is fluffy and thick enough to form soft peaks, and set it aside. Using a stand mixer with the paddle attachment (or a hand mixer) combine the cream cheese, peanut butter, and brown sugar, beating until thoroughly combined and fluffy. Remove the bowl from the stand mixer and add half of the whipped cream, folding it in gently until well combined, then add the other half of the whipped cream and fold it in as well–be gentle to avoid deflating the whipped cream, just keep folding until everything is combined.
Pile your mousse onto a layer of chocolate cake, top with another layer, cover with chocolate buttercreme, and get yourself a glass of milk, because you’re going to want it!
January 22, 2012 § 1 Comment
Something about the character Kaylee from Firefly gives me the craft bug–last week I posted about the very first doll I made, which was a Kaylee doll, and a few months ago I posted about my friend Angela’s Firefly birthday party and the Kaylee cake that I made.
Well, I’ve been at it again, and here she is:
A new Kaylee doll! This time she’s wearing her party dress from the Firefly episode ‘Shindig’
In the episode her hair is down, but this doll was a Christmas/12th Night present for my friend Angela (yes, the same Angela!), and by special request this doll has her hair in buns.
This Kaylee doll is handsewn from felt, ribbons, sheer ruffled trim, and tiny buttons. I based her on Mimi Kirchner’s pattern for The Purl Bee, but I adapted the instructions as I went.
In the Firefly episode it’s never possible to see Kaylee’s feet, so I have no idea what shoes she might have been wearing under her enormous fluffy dress! I decided that she’s just the kind of girl who would wear her boots, though, so I made boots with pink laces–and left them untied, because how would you tie your shoes while you’re wearing an enormous fluffy dress?
This doll has actually been a long time in the making–Angela asked me to make her a Kaylee doll, in her party dress, with her hair in buns, and that was four years ago. Two years ago I was going to make her this doll, and even cut out most of the pieces for her…and then never got around to it. So this year I was determined to get her finished! I was still two weeks late for 12th Night (which is when my friends and I celebrate Christmas and usually when we exchange gifts), but oh well 😉
Happy Christmas, Angela!
This Kaylee costume actually belongs to my sister, but look! A handy doll carrying strap!
January 16, 2012 § 3 Comments
A craft from the archives! It is, of course, a little plush doll of Kaylee from the TV show Firefly. I made this doll four years ago as a gift for a friend of mine, and it was my very first doll making projects. I used a pattern and a tutorial that I found online, but I’ve long since lost the address and I haven’t been able to find it again.
I made a huge number of mistakes–I chose fabrics that raveled horribly, like flannel instead of felt (what was I thinking?) and a nylon fabric for the shirt that raveled so badly that I had to singe all of the edges in order to sew it together. I made the entire project so much harder than it needed to be! It was really a huge fumble, from beginning to end, but I was so proud of her, and proud of myself for making her.
Sometimes it’s easy to be frustrated with my own skills–nothing is ever perfect enough. My projects are always fundamentally flawed in some way, and it can be hard to feel up to par with an internet full of people who seem to produce perfect projects (which are, of course, photographed beautifully). Maybe it’s just me, but I’m often proud of my projects and embarrassed by them at the same time, which is why I find myself trying to show things off to people while pointing out all of the flaws. “Look what I made! Do you like it? Are you impressed? You are? Yay! Of course, this and this and this were all wrong, and this part was a disaster, and actually the whole thing was terrible I can’t believe I’m showing this to you, I’ll go away and hide now.”
Anyway. I made this doll. I still think that she’s really cute, and I’m still proud of her–but I’m even more proud of the fact that I can look at this project and know that my skills have improved so much in the last four years, and that if I made this doll again it would be a hundred times better. Perfect I am not, but that leaves plenty of growing room.
…now, if you’ll excuse me, I think I’d better end this blog post before I start accidentally writing Hallmark cards 😉
January 9, 2012 § 5 Comments
Happy New Year! And happy birthday, Professor Tolkien! J.R.R. Tolkien was born on January 3, a birthday shared by my youngest sister, so of course I often make a Tolkien themed something. Last year I made hobbit hole cupcakes. This year I made a cake! And I’ve had The Hobbit on the brain (who doesn’t, lately?) so it had to be a Smaug cake.
Smaug, curled up on his hoard of stolen dwarvish treasure.
My Smaug is inspired/loosely based on this illustration by Tolkien:
I made Smaug out of fondant, molded mostly with my hands with a little help from a chopstick and a sharp knife. I used an icing tip to press ‘scales’ into the fondant of Smaug’s body, and the handle of my small offset spatula to press indentations for the arm and leg sockets, and made the limbs (legs/arms and wings) separately. I let the fondant dry and harden overnight, then painted the pieces with gel food coloring mixed with vodka, and then brushed it all over with sparkly yellow luster dust.
The cake itself is a chocolate cake, filled and covered with peanut butter mousse. Then I put a wire cooling rack across the sink, set the cake on it (holding it carefully with one hand to make sure that it didn’t slip and dump my cake into the sink!), and covered the cake with sparkly yellow sugar sprinkles for gold, red, green, and blue sugar sprinkles for gems, white nonpareils for pearls, and a sprinkling of gold luster dust for extra sparkle–a delicious hoard that would make any dragon proud!
October 2, 2011 § Leave a comment
Thin Mints from Ming Makes Cupcakes
1 ½ cups flour
¾ cup unsweetened cocoa
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp baking soda
1 ¾ stick butter
1 cup sugar
3 Tbs milk
½ tsp vanilla
1 ½ tsp mint extract
Mix together flour, cocoa, salt, and soda. In a separate bowl cream butter until smooth (I used the stand mixer with the paddle attachment, but a hand mixer also works). Add sugar and beat for one minute. Add milk, vanilla, and mint and beat an additional minute. Slowly add the dry ingredients while beating. Once mixture is well combined and resembles small pebbles use your hands to form it into a ball.
Roll the dough into a log and wrap in waxed paper. Chill for 2 hours. Slice into thin rounds and place on parchment–don’t try and use a small knife. You’ll get much cleaner slices if you use a larger, heavier knife!
Bake at 350F for 12-15 minutes.
1 cup chocolate chips
1 tsp mint extract
Melt chocolate in bowl set in simmering water, OR just microwave it for 30 second intervals, stirring after each until chocolate is smooth and melted. Add mint and stir into the chocolate. Once cookies have cooled and become crispy, coat their tops in chocolate by dipping them or smearing with icing knife–I actually used a spoon to drop dollops of chocolate on top of my cookies. Leave them on a wire rack to dry, or put them in the fridge to speed the hardening process up!
October 1, 2011 § 4 Comments
What’s the perfect way to spend a Saturday morning?
In bed. Preferably with a book and a glass of milk and a pile of chocolate chip cookies. I love the hint of extra saltiness in these cookies, which mixes fabulously with the rich butter and the sweet chocolate (and by the way, while I made this batch with ordinary milk chocolate chips, this recipe is particularly good with dark chocolate! Just make sure you have that glass of milk handy).This recipe is an adaptation of many different recipes–it morphs a little each time I make cookies, because I’m always fiddling, but it’s starting to settle into shape!
And it’s always delicious.
Charis’ Chocolate Chip Cookies
3 1/3 cups flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
2 1/2 sticks (1 1/4 cups) unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups (10 ounces) light brown sugar
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (8 ounces) granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/4 pounds chocolate chips (or three to four large handfuls, or to taste)
Sift flours, baking soda, baking powder and salt into a bowl and set aside.
Using a mixer with a paddle attachment, cream butter and sugars until light and fluffy – about 5 minutes.
Add eggs. Stir in vanilla.
Reduce to low speed and add dry ingredients slowly, mixing until just combined. Fold in chocolate chips.
Refrigerate dough for 24-36 hours.
When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350.
Drop spoonfuls of dough onto baking sheet. Sprinkle lightly with coarse salt, if desired.
Bake for 10-12 minutes, then slide parchment paper off of cookie sheet and onto a wire rack to cool.
I scoop my cookies out with a tablespoon (which makes huge, delectable cookie), and put six on a cookie sheet covered with parchment paper. Since it’s just six cookies per sheet it takes a little while to get through the entire batch of dough, so I roll out balls of dough and put them back in the refrigerator. I also rotate two cookie sheets, letting one cool while the other is in the oven. When one batch of cookie is a couple of minutes away from coming out, I pull the balls of dough out of the fridge and drop six on the waiting cookie sheet, ready to be swapped out.
I call it the Dance of the Cookies.
If your cookies spread out too much and get very thin, try cutting back on the amount of baking soda in the recipe (this is the part of the recipe that I fiddle with the most!)
September 30, 2011 § 4 Comments
I recently made a thank-you package of cookies to send to the gracious couple who hosted us in Atlanta during Dragon*Con (thank you, Mr. & Mrs. Davis!) and while I was at it I thought I’d post the recipes for the cookies that I made! I made three types of cookie, and I’ll do a post for each recipe, starting with….
Earl Grey Shortbread
Many people believe that nothing is more pleasant than a cup of tea and a good book, but I have to confess that it’s difficult to feel enthusiastic about hot tea when it’s 100F+ every day for months! Fortunately these little cookies make an excellent alternative. They melt in your mouth and they’re easy to make–the dough comes together in minutes. Just be careful not to get crumbs on the pages…
This is an adaptation of a Claire Robinson recipe from the Food Network. The original recipe calls for loose tea leaves and a food processor—I eliminated both by using the contents of tea bags, and I don’t think it hurt the recipe at all. I still got a delicious cookie with a light tea flavor. The original recipe also calls for rolling the dough into a log and slicing off cookies, but I scooped out cookies with a teaspoon, rolled them into balls, and then pressed them between my palms.
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 Tablespoons or the contents of 2 to 3 bags of Earl Grey tea (to taste)
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, room temperature
sugar (if desired)
Using a mixer with the paddle attachment, blend together the flour, tea, and salt, until the tea is just spotted throughout the flour. Add the confectioners’ sugar, vanilla, and butter. Mix together at medium speed, just until a dough is formed. Use a teaspoon to scoop up dough and roll each scoop into a ball, then press it flat between your palms OR roll the dough into a log in plastic wrap, chill for half an hour, and then slice off cookies about 1/4 inch thick.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Place the cookies on baking sheets lined with parchment paper, 1 inch apart, and sprinkle with sugar (if desired). Bake until the edges are just barely brown–about 12 minutes. Let cool on sheets for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire racks (just slide the entire piece of parchment paper off of the cookie sheet and onto the wire rack) and cool to room temperature.
Makes about four dozen.
Store in an airtight container–these cookies keep very well! Not that they’ll last long, unless you hide them…
Serve with a cup of tea, a sunny corner, a comfortable chair, and a good book.
September 17, 2011 § 3 Comments
I keep promising myself that I’ll do more crafts, and take more pictures, and then post more, and maybe even get caught up on that craft project that I was doing….
….but I don’t. Because I am a bad blogger. On other hand, this blog is an exercise in vanity to a certain extent–it’s not like I have an audience depending on me for inspiration. So I try not to worry too much. And I’ve been working so many hours that it’s a miracle whenever I do any crafts at all, so. It’s an even bigger miracle when I take some pictures of my crafts, especially since I habitually make things in the middle of the night, when the lighting is terrible.
Oh well. I will just post bad pictures! Because I can, and I want to show you what I made. I made it at 2am, the night before I left to drive to Atlanta for Dragon*Con (I got an hour and a half of sleep–thank goodness that I didn’t have to drive at all! I had fourteen hours to sleep in the car on the way), because I was determined to have an appropriate bag to carry over the weekend.
And here it is:
If you aren’t familiar with Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog…well, 1) why are you here instead of watching it? and 2) you don’t get this bag. But in short, it’s a quote from Dr. Horrible, styled to reference the famous Keep Calm and Carry On poster.
Which, by the way, is a thing that I love. In fact I loved it before it was cool (/hipster). Not only do I love the original poster, I love the many variation on it, as you can see by the poster hanging over my bed, behind the bag (it says ‘Keep Calm and Don’t Blink’, a reference to a Doctor Who Episode). There are three more in my room (the original, ‘Now Panic and Freak Out’, and ‘Keep Calm and Carry Yarn’). So when I saw this t-shirt I had to have it. Unfortunately it looked awful on me! It was designed to be displayed on a flat surface, which is something that I am…not. I have too much curvature to be a good display surface, so of course I had to find another use for my awesome shirt.
I actually have a whole stack of t-shirts that I want to make into bags, so I’ll try to make a tutorial next time–it was surprisingly simple! Except that I couldn’t find the cutting mat, and it was 2am, and I was using a cardboard box (which was just not the same), so it was actually difficult and frustrating, but it didn’t have to be. And it turned out okay!
And it coordinates with the patch on my bag! After much searching I found the perfect suitcase for me–almost. I wanted it to have a splash of color, something that would make it distinctive and easy to spot, and after glancing around my room, I knew what would be perfect.
It’s a Keep Calm and Carry On patch on a carry-on suitcase. It’s so brilliant that I will be laughing at my own joke forever.
August 28, 2011 § 3 Comments
So, if you know me from anywhere else on the internet then you already know, but last week we celebrated my friend Angela’s birthday with a little Firefly-themed shindig! And it was awesome! In fact, it was shiny.
If you have no idea what Firefly is, then go forth and watch it. All of it. Then come back. We’ll wait.
…awesome, isn’t it?
It was very much a laid-back, small scale event for us—Chinese take-out, fresh fruit (strawberries!), cake, and party games while Firefly played on the TV.
My big project, which was a surprise for Angela, was a doll cake based on the fluffy ball dress that Kaylee wears in the episode ‘Shindig’!
She’s a vanilla sponge cake, carved into shape and then filled and covered with Swiss Meringue Buttercream. The doll came from the dollar store, and once upon a time she was a mermaid with really terrible hair–she came with a ponytail, so other than a ring of hair around the top of her head she was bald! I colored the bald spot with a brown marker, then used a hot glue gun to glue her hair into place (carefully covering her scalp). Then I trimmed her hair, cutting off the ugly matted fresh-from-the-box curls and making it the right length for Kaylee.
While I was gluing things I also glued all of the doll’s joints, and forced one of her arms to one side and glued it in place so that she could have a pose that didn’t look like a stiff-armed zombie! In fact I was so busy gluing and icing things that I didn’t take a single progress picture, but you’d rather look at more pictures of the finished cake, right? I thought so!
I didn’t time my cake decorating, but I estimate that I spent about an hour and a half piping the ruffles onto her skirt, then another hour and a half altering the doll and decorating her bodice (the single most time consuming part of the doll? getting icing onto her torso and making it smooth!). I know that I worked on the cake from about 4pm until 8pm, and I watched all of Wall-E while I did the bodice. My favorite part was making the ruffles–they were so fun! I could have piped ruffles for hours.
My hand was definitely hurting the next day, but it was worth it!
Birthday girl & cake!
There were also chocolate cupcakes with strawberry cream cheese icing, complete with parasols (another reference to the Firefly character Kaylee)…
Angela made a gorgeous Inara in her sari!
I decided to portray a character who doesn’t actually appear in the show–“Ma Cobb”. In the Firefly episode ‘The Message’, Jayne Cobb, the rough-around-the-edges-and-he-is-entirely-made-of-edges tough guy, gets a package from his mother containing a very cunning hat:
Imagining the tough old salt-of-the-earth woman who would raise a son like Jayne and send him a hat like that tickles my funny bone, and that is the truth. It was also easy! I just filled my apron pockets with orange yarn (and yes, I have this yarn specifically for the Jayne hats that I will get around to knitting sometime) and wore a ratty straw hat. I also borrowed a toy rifle. And I got to take pictures with llamas! A win all around.
And Jenn came as Jayne! …Mostly because it meant she got to carry around a big knife.
The party games were excellent–we played a game that I think some people call ‘Who am I?’, but which we call the ‘pieces of paper with names on the forehead game’. Most people play it as a mixer, with everyone milling around, but I prefer our version–everyone wrote a name, then gave it to the person next to them, who put it on their forehead without looking at it. Then everyone got three questions (‘either or’ questions, like ‘am I male or female?’, or ‘yes and no’ questions, like ‘am I from an awesome TV show about cowboys in space that was cruelly canceled after one perfect season?’) and a chance to guess their identity, and we went around the table like that. When someone figured out who they were, the person on the other side of them would give them a new identity and we just kept going. Most people figured out who they were within two or three rounds…in fact, most people had figured out two identities before I managed to guess my first! (I was Bambi. Thanks, Z!)
We also played ‘the sentence game’, which we sometimes explain to people as ‘Pictionary Telephone’–it involves each player having a stack of paper, writing a sentence, then passing the stack to the left, where the next person reads the sentence, draws a picture illustrating it, then passes to the left again, where the next person looks at the picture and writes down what they think the sentence might be. At the end everyone goes through their stack and hilarity never fails to ensue, especially when people add their own special interpretations…
Best party ever?
Best party ever.