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!
March 31, 2011 § 2 Comments
Well, my craft for Suzy is now on its way to Australia, but before I move on to my next craft victim I want to share my new project with you!
For the last week I’ve been making piles of felt and paper roses and wielding a hot glue gun like a maniac. Why?
Because of Japan.
As I’m sure you all know, on March 11 Japan was hit by a devastating earthquake and tsunami. I don’t need to tell you how extensive the damage is, or how staggering the number of people left homeless, jobless, left with nothing.
Rewind a few years. A decade or so, in fact. I’m fourteen, and outside of the United States for the first time, living on a US air base in Fussa, Japan. We were there for three years, and it was easily one of the richest, most incredible moments in my life. Sometimes I’m still struck with pangs of ‘homesickness’ for the life that I knew there.
Even a decade later, my heart is still full of Japan. The news coverage of the disaster, the image of the wave that played over and over, was too painful for me too watch, and I had to get my news from the radio instead. I’m profoundly grateful that our friends and church family in Japan are all safe and well, but the need for aid is still great, so I’ve set up an Etsy shop and all proceeds will go to aid disaster relief in Japan.
What will you find there?
I have a lot more items to add over the next few days, so keep checking back! Tell your friends!
March 5, 2011 § Leave a comment
I made Chocolate Tiramisu Cupcakes for my sister and brother-in-laws birthdays a little while ago, and ended up with a bit of extra batter. Well, waste not, so I put it into a cake pan and baked it, and ended up with a thin little cake layer.
Hm, I thought.
I happened to have some cream cheese icing in the refrigerator, so it was the work of a moment to make tiny layer cakes:
I used a large biscuit cutter to cut circles out of the thin cake–I got four out of the 9in round easily–piped icing on them and stacked them up. Easy as pie. Or cake. Whatever.
I gave them a drizzle of chocolate topping (which I also happened to have), and gave them a little extra dollop of icing on top.
For a little finishing touch I melted a handful of candy coating chocolates in a bag and piped out their initials–I tried to make them fairly thick, so that they’d be easier to pick up without breaking, and I did several of each letter, to make sure that I got a good one!
I love them.
February 8, 2011 § Leave a comment
There are lots of tutorials out there about how to make a silhouette portrait. I mean really, lots, so I feel a little silly putting up my own tutorial. However, the tutorials that I read all varied in their methods, so I thought it would be worth it to explain just what I did (and what I will do differently next time)
First I found the picture (obviously). You want a simple picture that shows the person’s profile, and if there’s a good contrast between the person and the background it will make your life much easier. A closed or slightly open mouth is better than an open mouth or a really big smile (because those expressions don’t translate well into a silhouette). An interesting hairstyle is a plus. You can take pictures specifically for the project, but you can also look through pictures that you already have and look for good profile shots (especially if you want a silhouette of a child who won’t hold still for a portrait session- -it might be easier to get sneaky profile shots while they’re engaged in something else than attempt to stand them against a wall).
Once I had chosen the picture and cropped it, I uploaded it to Flickr and edited it in Picnik with the ‘pencil sketch’ setting–if you’re using Picnik, go to the ‘Create’ tab, click on ‘Effects’ in the toolbar, then scroll down the menu on the left until you find ‘pencil sketch’. If you aren’t using Picnik then check your favorite picture editing software–most will have a similar sketch tool. Or you could skip this step. It’s not essential, it just makes it a little easier to trace the outline in the next step.
I sized the image to fill a regular piece of paper and printed it out. Now, this made my silhouette large enough to require an 11×14 frame. Then I had to hunt and hunt for a frame that would fit (this would have been easier if I had been willing to settle for a rectangular frame). I really recommend choosing your frame before you cut your silhouette and sizing the image to fit.
I taped a piece of tracing paper on top of my printed image and then just used a pencil to trace around the outside of the picture. This was my chance to experiment with the image–this is when you have to make decisions about what to include. I used Jason’s collar and Sharon’s necklace as handy guides for where to end their necks, but I debated about how much detail to add. Should I try to cut out Jason’s shirt collar and tie? Sharon’s veil? The flowers that were in Sharon’s hair? Her necklace? In the end I decided that keeping it very simple would have the best look. The biggest challenge was Sharon’s shoulder, because of the angle, so I added a couple of tendrils of hair.
I also added their eyelashes–this is something that all of the tutorials I read agreed on. Most people’s eyelashes don’t actually stick out far enough to be visible beyond the bridge of their nose when they’re in profile, but most silhouette portraits include them anyway. Silhouettes without eyelashes look a little strange to me, and have less personality, so I just marked the level of their eyes when I was tracing the silhouette and cut a whisp of eyelash.
When I was satisfied with my outline I removed the printed picture and looked at my traced outline alone, to make sure that it looked okay on its own, before using masking tape to secure it to my black paper. I used black scrapbook cardstock from my local craft store and a fresh exacto knife. And a piece of very thick cardboard as a cutting surface. And a steady hand. I just cut through the tracing paper and into the scrapbook paper beneath, following my pencil lines slowly but firmly (so as not to tear the tracing paper and ruin everything forever). It took about thirty minutes. For some of the details–such as Jason’s hair–it was easier to cut beyond what I needed into the area outside the silhouette (NOT into the silhouette) to get a sharper point, if that makes sense.
When I’d gotten all the way around my outline I removed the tracing paper, and followed the cut lines that I’d made to make sure that they all went all the way through. It was hard to gauge through the tracing paper whether I was cutting deeply enough–it was also hard to make my cuts very clean (a ragged cut means a fuzzy edge to your paper). Next time I’ll either make shallow cuts through the tracing paper just to score the black paper, and then remove the tracing paper and go back to cut the silhouette out all the way OR I will transfer the outline onto the black paper with carbon paper or white pencil, so that I can cut through only one layer and really see what I’m doing.
Also, because my silhouette was joined at the nose, I had to be careful not to bend it. I made the mistake of cutting out one head entirely before cutting the second–I should have left the center of the image, the faces, for last, and cut out everything else before doing their features. It would have made things much easier.
Having the faces joined at the nose also meant that I couldn’t pick the silhouette up–if I were cutting a single profile I think I would pick it up and cut with scissors (one tutorial I read mentioned cuticle scissors, but I think that any small, sharp craft scissors would work). And when it was time to turn the silhouette over so that could attach it to the background, I sandwiched it between two pieces of paper, the way that you would flip a cake.
My background was just a piece of Bristol board, which is like a heavy cardstock. You can find it in the art supplies section of your local craft store, or (if you silhouette is small enough) you could just get a piece of scrapbook paper. Or a piece of fabric, or wallpaper, or anything else that strikes your fancy. I stuck to white, because I wanted this silhouette to be very classic (and to always go with Sharon’s decor, no matter what colors she uses in her home!). I turned my silhouette over and applied double-sided scrapbook tape to the back, then laid the Bristol board down on top of it (instead of picking it up and setting it on the Bristol board) and voila!
December 25, 2010 § 1 Comment
Here’s a hastily photographed sneak peak of my centerpiece for tomorrow–er, today’s Christmas dinner!
I think it might need more peppermints, don’t you?
Of course, my favorite place for these soft peppermints to be is in my hot chocolate, dissolving slowly and deliciously:
The fire is a definite bonus, of course.
And no Christmas Eve is complete without the greatest of all Christmas movies–no, not A Christmas Story. No, no, not Elf. No, not It’s A Wonderful Life, either. No, not Die Hard!
I mean The Muppet Christmas Carol, of course!
Stay tuned for an update on whether my cooking experiments tomorrow pan out–I’m pretty sure the cheesecake will be edible! the potato gratin, though, will be anyone’s guess–and to find out if I cave and put more peppermints on my centerpiece!
November 21, 2010 § 3 Comments
I love Autumn. Texas doesn’t get very much in the way of autumnal weather, unfortunately–we sort of skip straight from the heat of Summer into the everything-is-dead-and-cold of Winter, so I treasure the Fall. I fight the onset of Christmas in order to focus on pumpkins and leaves and turkey. (Christmas is my favorite holiday, but it seems to come earlier and earlier every year, and I run out of enthusiasm by December if I start getting into the Christmas spirit in September).
Here are some things that I’ve been doing with my Autumn:
Something about the weather puts me in the mood for baking, and last week I decided to try my hand at my very first pie, with my very first from-scratch pie crust. It was not at all as difficult as I had been led to believe! In fact, it was easy–easy as pie, if you will. It was time consuming (although a lot of my time went to assembling and then learning to use the apple peeler-corer-slicer that my mother inherited from my grandmother) but so worth it. I made the crust following the instructions in a recent issue of Better Homes & Gardens, and then made the basic apple pie filling found in the red plaid Better Homes & Gardens cookbook. I used six Granny Smith apples, although not all of the apple found its way into the pie…did I mention that there was a learning curve involved with the apple peeler-corer-slicer? Let’s just say that there was a certain amount of apple carnage (and by ‘certain amount’ I mean ‘all over the kitchen’) and leave it at that.
I made the pie for a Single’s ministry Thanksgiving potluck at church, and it came out of the oven just in time to be whisked into the car, so I only had time for one quick shot:
Rather than make slits in the top of the pie crust, I used cookie cutters in leaf shapes. The pie seemed to be a big hit–half of it was gone by the time I got to the dessert table (and there were three dessert tables, one of them devoted entirely to pies). I certainly thought it was delicious–so delicious that I’m anxious to try it again! Maybe this time I’ll have the presence of mind to devote a blog post to it…
If I could have an Autumn to spend, somewhere with leaves that turn real colors and air that gets genuinely crisp, with nothing but my knitting and a stack of books…I think that would be very nice. I love knitting, but my enthusiasm for it wanes during the heat of the Summer, when it is too hot to go around with wool in your lap. I haven’t been completing very many knitting projects lately, but I did manage to finish two items just in time to send them off to have adventures without me–they went with my friend Mary to Prague! (but are modeled in the pictures below by me)
A neckwarmer is a wonderful thing–I improvised the cable pattern on this neckwarmer, and made it with knit one, purl one ribbing so that it’s reversible, and it has a loop and button to keep it snug on the other side. The hat was made with the Sweatshop of Love’s Slouchy Beret pattern.
On the first Saturday in December I’m planning to share a table at a craft fair with some friends of mine, so I’ve been working on a few items to sell–today I finished painting these peg dolls, which all represent the characters from the fairy tale Snow White and Rose Red
And I worked on making these paper flowers, cut from dictionary pages coated in mod podge for durability
…there will be more on these crafts later, when I have completed projects to show you!
I did my crafting while watching my new DVD set of Doctor Who: Season 5, and speaking of Doctor Who…next Tuesday is TARDIS Day, when Doctor Who fans celebrate the first day that the classic science fiction show aired on British television. I’m celebrating my participating in a fan swap, and I put together a TARDIS themed package for my swap partner. I (of course) did a little crafting to go into it, so once my swappee has opened their package I’ll post pictures here!
The biggest thing that I am doing with my November, however, is NaNoWriMo–National Novel Writing Month. The challenge is to write 50,000 words during the month of November. Writing is hard work! Sometimes it’s delightful, sometimes it’s a dreadful slog, but it’s always rewarding. It helps that I decided to keep things easy this year–no complex plot for me! No attempt to say something profound about the human condition! The story I outlined is simple and (hopefully) amusing and light-hearted. There are nine days left!
November 8, 2010 § 1 Comment
Halloween is over, but I’m still behind on my October craft posting! I wanted to show you my pumpkins!
I am not a master of pumpkin carving. I carved my very first pumpkin last year, and discovered that pumpkin carving is great fun (gutting the pumpkin, however, despite the opportunity for macabre humor, is not my favorite. Slimy things! Augh!).
Last year my very first pumpkin featured the Other Mother, an appropriately terrifying figure from Neil Gaiman’s novel Coraline (one of my favorites).
I meditated on the design, then drew it on the pumpkin with a pencil. My pumpkin, by the by, was named Bertha, and unfortunately Bertha had a big rotten patch on her bottom. So I cut the bottom out of the pumpkin entirely. The Other Mother has a button eye and is brandishing the needle that she wants to use to sew buttons over your eyes. Scared?
You should be.
I carved the entire pumpkin using only kitchen knives, which was a frustrating experience (especially when I painstakingly carved out a curl of hair…and then accidentally sliced it off) and I swore never to carve a pumpkin again without that tiny saw sold specifically for pumpkin carving. Next year, tiny saw, I promised. Next year, you and me.
Then the next year rolled around and became this year, and I went to a Halloween party with my friend Angela, and we decided at the last minute to participate in the pumpkin carving contest. We were presented with a pumpkin, and a handful of kitchen knives.
No tiny saw to be seen.
Oh well. We had a kitchen knife and thirty minutes, so there was no time for tears. There had been a quick brainstorming session right before the contest to choose a design–we didn’t want to do a traditional Jack O’Lantern face, but we needed to do something simple that we could draw and carve quickly. In a moment of brilliance we said ah-ha! And this is what we carved:
Can you tell what it is? Yes? No?
It’s supposed to be a ‘witchy’ variation on the face/vase optical illusion–something like this.
It would have been better if the faces were perfectly symmetrical, but for a hasty free-handed drawing in pencil on a pumpkin with a natural wonky tilt, I think did pretty well. While we didn’t win an official prize, Angela and I know in our hearts that we are the true winners of everything.
The next day I carved this year’s real pumpkin, a pumpkin lovingly named Doxie. I decided to revisit last year’s Neil Gaiman theme, mostly because I re-read The Graveyard Book in preparation for Halloween and fell deeply in love with it, but also in honor of All Hallow’s Read, because Neil Gaiman is right–we need more holidays that involve the giving of books.
I was looking forward to using my tiny saw.
Guess what happened to the saw.
No, go on, guess.
I broke it. Snapped it in half almost immediately.
Fortunately I was able to borrow Angela’s tiny saw while she used the scraper tool on the other end of my saw’s handle, although I did use a kitchen knife a bit. At least the results were good!
My Graveyard Book pumpkin was really very simple–I just used the silhouette from Dave McKean’s cover art.
I think it made a nice, simple, striking pumpkin, don’t you?
Did you carve any pumpkins this year?
October 20, 2010 § 27 Comments
According to an article at NPR called Translating the Untranslatable, which is all about the book In Other Words: A Language Lover’s Guide to the Most Intriguing Words Around the World, there is a word in Greek that I want to be able to apply to everything I do:
meraki [may-rah-kee] (adjective)
This is a word that modern Greeks often use to describe doing something with soul, creativity, or love — when you put “something of yourself” into what you’re doing, whatever it may be. Meraki is often used to describe cooking or preparing a meal, but it can also mean arranging a room, choosing decorations, or setting an elegant table.
October 9, 2010 § Leave a comment
Welcome to my blog!
It’s brand new, and it is shiny and lovely and probably has some kinks, but it’s my very own. I’m putting out a welcome mat and hanging curtains. I will stay until the wind changes, I expect.
What is the point of this place?
This is a place for me to celebrate my creative side. I seem to spend a lot of time thinking ‘oh, that would be a good idea!’ and never using that idea, because I didn’t have an excuse. This is an excuse. This is motivation. You might even call this a self-perpetuating monster, but that might hurt its feelings…
This blog also exists because I decided that I wanted to be part of the cycle. I read a lot of blogs–book blogs, humorous blogs, thoughtful blogs, wedding blogs, parenting blogs (those last two are not at all relevant to me but are so fascinating), cooking blogs, craft blogs–and they all inspire me. They make me want to try new things, to put a little extra into making things around me special, to take better pictures, and while my creativity doesn’t have much room to grow in some areas of my life my blog reading keeps the creative spark alive and makes it easier to spend my eight hours a day at a desk daydreaming about crafting instead of beating my head on that same desk. And if blogging can do me so much good, then perhaps I can do some good as well–it’s worth a shot, anyway.
I may not be any good at craft blogging. This project may be a failure. But if it does work out–well, then I’ll become an internet celebrity, and go on Martha Stewart, and then take over the world. Shazam.
…that probably won’t happen. But if you enjoy reading this, and it inspires your creativity, then that’s almost as good.