Monday, December 12, 2011

Rockets, buttons, and a whole lot of laundry

Phew! What a day! I spent my morning teaching about rockets in a middle school. Now normally a day in a middle school is pretty tiring, but today was one of those days where it was just plain exhausting.

I've been packing to go home for the break since coming home from school so I didn't have time to be crafty today. So instead, here is a little known fact (at least I didn't know it).

Do you know why women's buttons are on the left and men's are on the right?

Photo by Egilshay/stock.xchng
I found out today that it's because when buttons were originally invented they were expensive to make and only the rich had them. Seamstresses put the buttons on the right because most people are right handed so it was easier to push the button through a hole on the left. However, the rich women who were able to afford buttons were usually dressed by maids so they put the buttons on the left so that they were on the maid's right. How cool is that?!

Right, so now you know and you can go impress all of your friends with how smart you are. As for me, I've got to get back to packing.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

It's a Bundt!

Maria: What is it? Its a bundt. A bun? A bundT. A Bondt? BUNDT BUUNDT!! I know, its a cake-y!…. there’s a hole in this cake.

I can't help but say bundt with a strangely Greek accent because of this wonderful scene in My Big Fat Greek Wedding. It makes me chuckle. And then she goes and puts a flower in the hole. What could be funnier.

Okay I'll stop reminiscing about the movie and get on with it. Today I made a Bundt cake (I wish I could spell Bundt like its said in my head... so funny). This recipe came from a friend of my mom and got passed onto me a few months ago. Its moist and chocolatey and so very delicious and super easy to make so I thought I had better share it around.

There are only 7 ingredients and its one of those recipes where you throw everything together and stick it in the oven. My original recipe called for 1 cup of oil but I'm all for substituting applesauce whenever possible because it tastes even better and is better for you too.

1 cup milk
1 cup applesauce
4 eggs (I only had 3 left from our chickens at home so I had to add in a store bought one also)
1 box german Baker's Chocolate
1 box vanilla instant pudding
1 box of vanilla cake mix
1 bag of chocolate chips

See super easy. The only difficult thing besides resisting licking the entire bowl is dealing with the bar of German chocolate. My original recipe says to either grate it or throw it in a food processor but I hate grating and I don't have a food processor so I went for the blender. It worked fine except that my roommate ran out because she thought I had dropped something in the disposal and was sitting there letting it run anyway. Haha. Guess I should have warned her.

Chocolate before blending
Chocolate after blending
 All you have to do is throw the first 6 ingredients (aka everything but the chocolate chips) in a bowl and mix until well blended.

Mmm. All ready for the oven. I have a strange (or maybe reasonable) fear of beaters and getting fingers stuck in them so if you are tempted to have a taste please unplug the mixer first. It'll make me feel better. 

Spray and flour your bundt pan first to keep the cake from sticking. Although my cake still got stuck...

Time to add in those chocolate chips. You can never have too much chocolate. I saved about a handful of chocolate chips from the batter to drizzle on top at the end.

I didn't keep track of how long it was in the oven for... I'm really bad about that. The recipe says 50 minutes so that would probably be a good place to start. I usually go by the toothpick test and add a couple extra minutes for good measure. 

Here's where those few extra chocolate chips that I saved away come in. I stuck them in the microzapper for a few seconds to melt them and then put them in a piping bag.

NOTE: Most people probably already know this, but I will share in case you don't. NEVER microzap chocolate for any length of time. Like really, go in 15 second increments stirring in between. I was babysitting once when I was maybe 17 and we were making cupcakes. I stuck a block of chocolate in the microwave for like a minute and a half and I looked over and it was on fire. Like flames. Coming out of the chocolate. It was bad. I worked at a camp two summers ago and the boys I was babysitting (who I hadn't seen since the fire) came up to me and said, "You're the babysitter who caught the chocolate on fire!!!" So count this as your warning: STIR THE CHOCOLATE!

Drizzle your now safely not on fire chocolate all over your bundt cake and you're done!

P.S. You will definitely want a glass of milk with this one. It's quite chocolatey.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Top Secret Christmas Gift

I promised I would share with you our top secret christmas gift that JO, Noah and I made yesterday so here it is. We made candles!

I had never made candles before and I have to be honest and say that I wouldn't be sad if I never made them again. JO and Noah each got to pick out what color to make their candles but that was about as involved as they cared to get in the actual candle making process. It was hot, time consuming and the candles kind of sank in weird places. And to top it all off... they won't stay lit. All in all, a flub. BUT the boys had fun decorating the outside of their candles and were very excited about sneaking the gift under the tree so that mom wouldn't see it (although as soon as we got home Noah said to his mom, "I'll tell you about the gingerbread cookies but I can't tell you about the green box we put under the tree... its a secret." Way to keep the secret, goofball.)

But even though candle making was a flub and not an experience I wish to repeat, I did promise that I would share it, so here it is.

I had the idea of making colored wax using crayons and paraffin wax, pouring it into ball jars (I ended up getting candle glass things at Michaels instead), and then letting the boys mod podge the outside of the jars with colored tissue paper.

I'm so glad that I read somewhere to melt the wax in a tin can instead of an actual double boiler. Wax is crazy difficult to clean up so it saved me the trouble of trying to wash the pan, all I had to do was toss it in the trash. The can is also sitting on a jar lid. When doing any kind of canning or double boiling you don't want the thing you are heating directly on the heat source. Apparently that's bad.

I bought candle wicks at Michaels. To get them to stand up straight when pouring the wax in I dipped them in wax first and stuck them to the bottom.

After melting the wax and crayon I was ready to pour. NOTE: Always warm up the glass with hot water before pouring the wax in to avoid breaking the glass. Really hot things and fairly cool glass things don't get along. I cooled the candles in the fridge but I kind of wonder if this super cooling process was what made the candles sink in different places. I probably should have left them sitting on the counter to cool but with the little boys itching to decorate I was not as patient as I normally am.

The boys had a great time decorating. Noah decided that the tissue looked like little pieces of colored glass, which was the effect I was going for! JO made his all different colors while Noah stuck with red, his favorite color.

After a coat of mod podge over all the tissue paper, the candles were ready to dry.

The candles weren't finished drying by the time we needed to head for the boys' house so we carefully packed them in a box, wrapped it in tissue and decorated it. We were very careful not to tip the box and JO drew a tag on it that said "Do Not Tip." Unfortunately, as soon as I picked it up to leave, the weight shifted and I slow motioned dropped and caught it. A bit of ripping and retaping later we were all set and put back in place. Hopefully the boys' mom will assume that the boys wrapped it which would explain the terrible wrapping job.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Gingerbread Fun

I am a frequent babysitter of two very sweet boys, JO and Noah. On Monday we all went to a movie and on the way home they were asking when they got to come to my house. Because they're mom is swamped with secret Christmas stuff she was dying to get them out of the house so today we packed up the car and headed here, to my "village." The boys couldn't quite grasp what an apartment complex was so it only made sense when, as we pulled through the gates, Noah pipes up from the back seat and says, "Cwaire? Is this your village?" Why yes, yes it is.

Once the boys got over the novelty of my apartment we set to work making gingerbread cookies and a special gift for their parents. My exhaustion prevents me from displaying both tonight so the special gift will have to wait until tomorrow.

We didn't actually make the gingerbread (Shh don't tell!) It actually came from Costco. Baking with the boys in addition to decorating was more than I could take on in one day. We had gingerbread men, christmas trees and my letters of the alphabet cookie cutters.

All those happy gingerbread men :)

JO decided to do his initials right on the pan so he wouldn't have to try to pick them up. What a smart cookie.

We had all sorts of toppings and icings with which to decorate. I considered actually using piping bags but am SOOO glad that I chose to go with the mini icing writing pens. They were much easier for the boys to use and really worked splendidly.

JO was much more patient with his gingerbread men and xmas trees than Noah was. He was particular with every detail.

Noah's "N" was super sprinkley. I wish I had gotten a picture of his six eyed cookie monster.

I made the mistake of telling Noah he could only lick the icing when he accidentally got it on his finger. Suddenly he "accidentally" got icing on his finger about every two seconds. I did however catch him taking a big lick of the knife after we had finished decorating. Oh Noah.

All our pretty gingerbread cookies. Ready to be eaten. The six eyed cookie monster is on the left in the front.

Gulp Gulp Gulp. I'm drowning!

What a fun day we had! Stay tuned for the craft we did later as a Christmas gift for their parents.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Definitely NOT procrastination.

So I'm definitely not procrastinating. Absolutely, positively no time wasted today. None. At all. That being said... I felt that it would be an extremely wise way to spend my time if I made something Christmassy. Therefore, Rudolph the Pink Nosed Bookmark was born. I got my inspiration from some Monster bookmarks I made a while back.

While Monsters are fun... I felt the need to do some Christmas themed something.

To begin, I started with 3 squares in the shape of an L. The squares are each 2.5 inches.

Because I didn't want a straight across mouth like on the monsters but wanted more of a nose for my reindeer, I didn't cut the two side squares in half diagonally but instead cut a little less then half. I folded the squares and then drew where I wanted the nose to end before cutting.

Once the two side squares are cut, I folded the squares on top of each other and glued. Because I'm impatient and can't sit there holding the glue, I almost always stick one of my heavy glass cups on top of whatever is drying and come back to it a few minutes later.

To make Rudolph a bit more interesting I cut dark brown paper to add color to his face. I cut one piece to match the top shape and one to match the inside but then cut them about 1/4 of an inch smaller so that the tan would still show around the edges.

Next I just added some small details to his face: Antlers, eyes, eyelashes and a pink nose (I don't have any red paper...)

See what I mean about the glass? Super helpful. Although it does look a bit like I've killed Rudolph.

Poof! A Rudolph Book Mark! Now all I needed was a good book and some hot cocoa.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Holiday Reads

While I would love to say that I am planning on quilting and crafting all break I have to be realistic. When I quilt for too long at one time I tend to get sloppier with my work after a while. I mean, when I start a quilt I could easily work on it six hours a day for three or four days. I get into the quilting trance, watching (really more listening) to movies and working with my pieces of fabric. However, after a while I have to quit, put the pieces away for a few days and do something else for a while. To avoid sloppiness. SOOOO... I need other things to do! The answer: books.

I got to have a lovely chat with one of my best and oldest friends last night. Caroline is an avid reader and has similar tastes in books to mine. I was hoping to get some ideas from her but, alas, she's a law student and hasn't been tearing through any books lately. She did have one suggestion, The beekeeper's apprentice. Apparently its a Sherlock Holmes book that is set when Sherlock has retired, or so he says.

The rest of the books I have added to my reading list are books that I discovered (although some I had heard about before) from What a wonderful website! You add in books that you have read and give them ratings and it gives you similar books that it thinks you'll like. Kind of like pandora, for books. Here's my list.

The Soldier's Wife
The Last Time I Saw Paris
Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet
I Capture the Castle

Considering I'm a slow reader, there is no way I will make it through all of them... but as you know, I have a whole semester to myself! Plenty of time to read. :)

P.S. Entering html hyperlinks is way more difficult on here than expected! Luckily I just finished a computer programmy class and was able to figure out the html code. Small victory for the day.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011


I have an entire semester to myself. Of course I have to do some work, believe it or not the rent still has to be paid and I still have to eat. But I fully plan on working when I want to and crafting when I want to. The other day someone asked me what crafts I had been up to lately. She was on hiatus from facebook and missed seeing the things I was making. I was sad to inform her that I hadn't had time to make any but had been collecting ideas so I would keep her posted. Thank goodness I only have 1 more week of school until I am done! Christmas break will give plenty of time for all the craftiness I (and more realistically my mother) can stand. I have to include my mom in my craftiness because when I'm at home I take over the back porch. I don't just mean kind of take over, I REALLY take over. I set up my ironing board, sewing machine, and cutting station, none of which take up a small amount of space. Man! Just talking about it makes me want to go home and get started! I have been collecting projects for the break for some time now. Here are things I hope to accomplish:

1. Baby quilt
2. These cute fabric ribbons:
3. Quilted pot holders for mom

I am getting a free moving quilting foot for my sewing machine for Christmas in hopes of learning to stipple. Mom doesn't know it, but I'm planning on making her pot holders my practice squares. Hopefully they're good enough that I don't have to admit that I made her gift my practice, but I've heard stippling takes some getting used to... so in advance, "Sorry Mom! I love you! Thanks for letting me practice on your gift!"

8 days till the quilting commences!