i’m still around! just lazy.

The jury is in and I’m guilty of being the world’s laziest blogger. I’ve been happily unemployed and crafting…and not updating my blog. Without an excuse in the world. Anyway, I’ve got a backlist of creations to report, which I shall do.

Oh yes, and in one week’s time I will be on a plane headed to Belfast, Northern Ireland for a year-long M.A. program…or “programme,” rather. (I should get used to having to switch off US spelling mode). Feeling excited, nervous, and all those things one would be expected to feel when leaving home and husband for a full year in a foreign land. So, yes, the Incurable Homebody will actually be away from home for a while. 😕

Now, onto the neglected creations:

It occurs to me that I never blogged last year’s Christmas creations for fear that the recipients might have their surprises spoiled. So in the spirit of better-late-than-never, here they are:

A couple of improvised mug cozies. Great projects if you’ve got leftover yarn lying about.

  

  

Teddy bear baby hat. Made two of these — one for my sis-in-law’s wee girl, and another for my brother’s youngest (the little lady pictured below, throwing up a peace sign before retiring for the evening). I couldn’t find a pattern that I liked in its entirety, so created a mashup of these two: The Hat Menagerie bear and Bernat’s Cottontotts hat. As you can see, I made the lined beanie and ears using the Bernat pattern (though shorter so not to have a fold-over edge) and for the face, I used the Hat Menagerie pattern. Note: the afterthought nose is something of an upside-down heart shape sewn on and stuffed with some fiberfill.

  

A stuffed kitty made from scrap material:

More long-overdue updates to come!

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low-carb chocolate madeleines

Being borderline obsessive, I knew that the moment I decided to significantly cut my carb intake would also mark the beginning of a feverish quest — to seek out then hone low-carb recipes which best mimic their high carb counterparts. It’s been a formidable challenge, not to mention a pricey endeavor, but so worth it as my energy level has skyrocketed. And today, folks, I have stumbled upon my greatest success thus far:

Low-Carb Chocolate Madeleines

1 stick of unsalted butter (softened)
1/4 c. granulated (1 for 1) sugar substitute of your choice*
3/4 c. brown sugar substitute. I recommend Ideal Brown.*
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 c. vanilla whey protein powder. I recommend Biochem Whey Protein Isolate
3/4 c. almond meal
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp unsweetened cocoa powder
Preheat oven to 330 F. Cream butter, Splenda and brown sugar substitute. Blend in the egg and vanilla. In a separate bowl, combine the whey protein powder,  almond meal, baking powder, baking soda, and cocoa powder. Add dry ingredients to the butter mixture and mix by hand until incorporated. Your mixture should now have the consistency of chocolate chip cookie dough. Spray your madeleine pan with non-stick coating. Spoon the batter into the madeleine cavities ’til they’re about 3/4 full, then use your fingers to pat them down flat. They’ll rise considerably when baking, but the initial puffiness will subside quickly while they cool. Bake for about 10 – 11 minutes or until the edges have browned. Enjoy with a hot beverage of your choice and a good book. I recommend tea and Proust. 🙂

 

Yield: 20 madeleines

*UPDATE:  I originally listed Splenda as the granulated sweetener, but have since cut sucralose out of my diet. I currently use xylitol, but it seems a whole lot of people have also gotten terrific results in their sugar-free baking using Swerve (which contains erythritol), though I haven’t tried it myself. Regarding the brown sugar substitute, for whatever reason, Ideal Brown doesn’t appear to be available anymore—a shame, because it worked so well! I haven’t made these madeleines since running out of my stockpile of Ideal Brown, but I’ll probably give Just Like Sugar a go. Will update when I do!

fabric appliques + old boots = new boots!

First, a Facebook friend posted this…and then I remembered seeing this…and so I did this…


…using some leftover outdoor fabric I used for bistro chair cushions a few months back. These old faux leather boots had been sitting in the back of my closet unworn for over a year, as I have too many brown pairs of boots  to keep track of. After today, no longer shall these be lost in the crowd! I simply cut out some pretty floral motifs from my fabric, coated the backs with Fabric Mod Podge (paying close attention to the edges), and applied them to the boots. I’m currently waiting for them to dry so I can seal the appliques with more Mod Podge. Before I actually wear them out, I plan to treat them with a couple more coats of Outdoor Modge Podge (once I buy some, that is). Now I’m off to see if I’ve got any more footwear needing a makeover!

the “winged-it” purse

Operation stash bust is in full swing, and this red/gray crocheted handbag is the result of my latest yarn closet raid. Ignoring the fact that I had a sizeable yarn stash of my own, my sister decided to gift me the entirety of her stash. (Could you say no?) So, little by little, I am chipping away at my towering mount everest of odd skeins. A couple days ago, I picked up a deep red skein of some sort of workhorse acrylic yarn (no label to be found) and began crocheting these pretty triangle motifs from my Reader’s Digest stitch encyclopedia. Two triangles turned into 4, then 6, then 8. I’ve got this strange habit of working first, then figuring out what I’m making later. Before the second hour was through, the yarn spoke — and it said it wanted to become a handbag. Fine, I said. So I stitched together my red triangle motifs into semi-circular shapes, picked up another unidentifiable skein of yarn (gray in color) and continued working the semi-circular body by adding rows of shell stitch and double crochet. When it came time for a handle, I braided together 9 crocheted chains and stitched them on. Lining? Used some gray woven material from my fabric stash and added a couple of inner pockets. Finally, I threw in a button loop and one of my freshly made polymer clay buttons to take care of fastening duties.

I dig how the purse’s body juts beyond the straps on either side — as if its wings are unfurled and ready for flight.  Perfect, given how I winged the design from start to finish. 😉

I’m considering writing this all out as a proper pattern and posting it here — but that requires far too much planning for the likes of me.

the curious craft of baking buttons

After quite a bit of online research regarding all things polymer clay, I’ve finally taken my first leap into the medium — crafting homemade buttons. I started out with some el-cheapo clay (Sculpey) which a lot of people apparently gripe about in terms of durability. But as I don’t plan on machine washing these buttons nor do I predict any delicate figurine sculpting in my future, I reckoned it was safe to take the thrifty route for my first attempt.

I thought that it would be a good idea to make molds out of some buttons from my stash, so I bought some of this molding compound which was super easy to use. I simply followed those abbreviated directions on the side of the box and it seemed to work fine. Thing is, though making the molds was easy, using them was another thing entirely. Too impatient to look up more online tutorials, I set my molds aside and proceeded to roll little balls of the clay and stamp them down into discs using some textured trinkets (pendants mostly) from my jewelry box. I made texture stamp molds of some decorative surfaces so the designs on my buttons would be in relief rather than in grooves (make sense?). I pricked buttonholes with a toothpick, baked them as directed, let them cool, and went to town with acrylic paint. Also decoupaged a few (like the green one pictured at bottom right below) with some ink-jet-printed tissue paper. I love the results! Really can’t believe how quick and easy these were to make. Now to practice my molding skills.

accidental oatmeal coconut lace cookies

These cookies are actually the result of a happy accident whilst I was attempting to bake another sort of snack entirely. To my surprise, these delicate, crunchy, buttery, melt-in-your-mouth-y cookies actually turned out so amazingly tasty, I almost shed a tear. They’re quite similar to Trader Joe’s Chocolate Almond Laceys, minus the chocolate. Though, I must admit, I believe these are better. 🙂

Oatmeal Coconut Laceys

3/4 c softened unsalted butter
1/2 c granulated sugar
1/2 c flour
1/4  tsp salt
1/4 c flaked coconut
3/4 cup rolled oats
1/4 c finely chopped almonds (optional)

Cream butter and sugar. Combine flour and salt separately, then gradually add to the butter mixture. When the batter is well blended, mix in coconut, oats and almonds (if using). Spoon teaspoon-sized dollops onto ungreased baking sheet. The dough will spread very wide, so space cookies accordingly.

Bake in 350 oven for approximately 14 minutes, or until the edges are browned and crisp and the centers are golden. Cool and enjoy!


cloche crazy

As I couldn’t stop wearing the previously blogged cloche — the Sideways Grande Hat from Boutique Knits by Laura Irwin — I decided to make more. I’ve also decided that hats are my favorite short-term knitting project.

Another sideways grande hat adorned with a crochet applique instead of a cable…

…and also from Boutique Knits, the Side Slip Cloche…


this year’s christmas goodie line-up is…

…pavlova (the Australian/New Zealand favorite shown above), “tropical” mince pies, and two types of shortbread buttercream sandwich cookies. I’m exhausted, my kitchen’s in ruins, but my sweet tooth is sated!

My husband hails from Northern Ireland and for most people far from home, the nostalgia looms large during the holidays. I try my best to recreate the Christmases he’d grown accustomed to, and this year I attempted to tackle the mince pie — a British yuletide staple…but with a twist, of course, as the called-for raisins, dates, and prunes for the mincemeat filling aren’t exactly foods that make my mouth water. I, instead, used sultanas, pineapple, mango, cranberries and substituted macadamias for almonds. The result was rather good, I must say.

And finally, a duo of shortbread sandwich cookies: one filled with lemon buttercream and another a chocolate and mint buttercream combo. I altered Nigella Lawson’s Custard Cream hearts recipe (on the fly!) for both of these. As they actually turned out quite well, I’m upset with myself for not having written down my recipe alterations while I made them and I can’t quite remember the exact proportions. Ah well. Guess I’ll just have to make another batch of both. 🙂

ornament today, afghan tomorrow

I’m in the early stages of my first granny square afghan (my first because I’d never before had the patience for the undertaking!) and wanted to be able to display these delightfully colorful crochet flower motifs right away. It being the holidays, the answer was staring me in the face — deck the tree with them, of course!

I’m sure they’d make a beautiful garland if sewn together at the corners, but I’ve just hung them up as is. The crocheted snowflakes are from this pattern and the mini sweaters are from various free patterns I Googled a while back. Happy Holidays. 🙂

feelin’ “grande”

Whew. It’s been one crazy year. I won’t go into the why’s, but simply say I’m breathing a sigh of relief to see it come to a close. The good news is that my time has freed up the last month, allowing me to grind away at holiday gift-making. I’m nearly through (hurrah!) so thought that I’d knit myself something as a reward for being ahead of schedule.

I’m currently a fan of ’20s and ’30s fashions, in no small part to HBO’s terrific new series Boardwalk Empire, so pulled out my knitting books to see what retro-esque patterns I had at my disposal. I decided on the Sideways Grande Hat from Laura Irwin’s Boutique Knits. It’s a chic cloche knit side to side on straights embellished with an afterthought twisted cabled. The yarn was donated to me from my sister’s stash and it came with no label, so I don’t even know what it is. Anyway, it was the right color and weight, but I’ll have to do a burn test to figure out what this mystery yarn is comprised of.

Although the book referred to this as an “oversize” hat, it didn’t look quite that big in the photo…but oversized it truly is. Next time I make this lovely pattern, I intend to take it down a notch by using lighter weight yarn and smaller needles — or by simply decreasing the number of stitches. Nevertheless, it was an overall success! Now back to finishing off the rest of my gift list.