Sunday, March 29, 2015

Springtime Bandit for 2015

My first knitting project for 2015 is the Springtime Bandit by Kate Gagnon Osborn.  How many have I made already?  Five.  So this will be number six!  I can't help it.  I love a good pattern repeat that is easy on the eyes as well as easy to memorize.  There's something comforting about the familiar.  And I can't let the leftover Madelinetosh sock yarn in Iris or the Malabrigo sock yarn just sit in my stash unloved.  They make a perfect Springtime Bandit as I'm changing yarns every two rows.  Take a look:

I hope your knitting is bringing a smile to your day.  I know these yarns and colors are making me smile just looking at them.  I'm using my trusty printed Excel chart for the pattern repeats.  How do I love Excel...let me count the ways.  Happy Spring!

Sunday, February 01, 2015

Coming Out of Hibernation...Hello 2015!

The past several weeks have been a time of reflection and relaxation.  I should bring you up to date on the past year.  In case it's been a while since we last spoke, I have been in graduate school for the past two years, and last month I passed the comprehensive exam for the Master's in Public Administration, so I have officially completed graduate school!  It feels like this two year marathon is finally finished, and I can now shift my focus on areas of my life that have been neglected - things like spending more time with my family, exercising, knitting, cooking, baking, reading for pleasure, journaling, photography, and blogging.  The MPA program was worthwhile both in terms of time and money, the instructors were very encouraging and teaching focused, and the curriculum was an ideal balance of theory and practice.  I also met some incredibly talented and wonderful colleagues.  Perhaps one of the most rewarding benefits of being a student again was that I got my passion back for learning...it was something that I lost somewhere along the way and needed to rekindle.  The very nature of classroom interaction, inquiry, of engaging in discussion, debate, analysis, and application reminded me of how much I love being a student.  The process of acquiring new knowledge through the means of inquiry and having a curiosity about the world has a transforming quality - as every educational experience ought to be.  At the same time, I'm relieved to get back to giving attention to things I truly have missed the luxury of indulging in.  And speaking of indulging...we will be indulging in a few tasty things for Game Day that I've been testing out in the kitchen.  Please read on for more details.

I made Kalua Pork using two separate methods:  oven method and crockpot method.  Hubby and I love both methods.  It's amazing how three ingredients (pork shoulder, Hawaiian salt, and liquid smoke can taste so good!

So the Game Day menu will be Kalua pork, steamed rice, macaroni salad, pineapple-upside down cake, and pineapple martinis.

I'll be back later with more food highlights and other food discoveries.  For now I will leave you with this latest appetizer:  fried zucchini corn sopes.


Monday, October 28, 2013

A Few More Fall and Halloween Treats

This weekend I made a few more sugar cookies for fall and Halloween.  There were some great sales at Michael's this weekend, so I grabbed a few new-to-me cutters.  I also went ahead and bought a few clear bins to categorize my growing collection of cutters.  So far I have separate bins for the following categories:  Halloween, Fall/Thanksgiving, Christmas, Spring/Summer Holidays, Guy Stuff, and Girly Stuff, Shapes, and Animals.  I can't figure out yet how to subcategorize animals though.  I'm thinking maybe mammals, reptiles, birds, marine creatures, and insects. 

The colors for the leaves came out better than I anticipated.  I was especially happy with the rusty red maple leaf.  I was going for the color palette of the plate below, and it came pretty darn close.  I used variations of orange, brown, burgundy and copper for these cookies.

 
I still can't figure out how to make the broom look like a broom.  It keeps coming out looking like a spatula.  The green has some yellow added to it to make it more electric green.
 


And the mini cookies were more fun than I thought.  A little cookie and icing goes a long way when making miniature cookies like this.  They are perfect size for little hands, and make sharing a breeze.  The Halloween candy bowl is full of chocolate fun size bars, so I think we are ready for trick-or-treaters now. 

Hope your week goes well, and don't forget to Fall Back an hour on Sunday, November 3rd.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Halloween Cookies

Today is the last class for public budgeting, and it also marks the halfway point of the Master's in Public Administration program that I'm currently working toward.  One year down, one more to go!  So a batch of sugar cookies were the perfect way to celebrate and also get in the Halloween spirit.  I normally don't like eating candy corns, but I absolutely loved making candy corn cookies.  They were so easy to shape without the use of a cookie cutter.  I used a thicker icing so that I could outline and flood in one step.  The black outlining really makes the colors pop and hides the uneven edges between the color changes.  I will definitely make these again this weekend.
 So the interesting part about not having a candy corn cookie cutter is that you get different sizes for each row of triangles that you create.  I cut out triangles, then snipped dough from each corner then rounded them off.
 I think my favorite of this group is the pumpkin.  It was my first time trying to mimic the wedges of a pumpkin.  Next time I will make the RIP lettering a bit bigger, and also go lighter on the brown for the acorn and the broom.  It was definitely a welcome study break.
 
Enjoy the candy, tricks and treats that you create this month.  And thanks for stopping by!
 
 
 


Sunday, May 19, 2013

Rainbow Cake Push-Ups and Unicorn Cookies

I volunteered at Commencement this weekend.  The weather was sunny with a mild beach breeze, and the experience in managing a processional and recession of graduating students was very rewarding.  Since my niece's birthday party was also on the same day, I spent Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday evenings preparing rainbow cake push-ups and unicorn cookies in rainbows colors. 


I watched a few tutorials on You Tube to get an idea of how to make these rainbow cake push-ups.  So what I did was get a box of cake (yellow or white, doesn't matter) and followed the package directions.  Then I divided the batter evenly into six bowls and added Americolor gels.  This yielded three cupcakes per color.  I used a cookie cutter that fit inside the push-ups to cut each cupcake, then trimmed the top and bottom and sliced the round cutout into three pieces (9 slices per color x 6 colors yielded 54 slices).  I used store bought vanilla icing and piped that in between the 4 slices of cake and topped it with rainbow sprinkles.  Michael's sells the push-up containers in sets of 6 and 12; I bought the set of 12.  You'll end up with a few extra slices.  Just throw the scraps together to make cake pops.  So there you have it...rainbow cake push-ups.

I made the unicorn cookies on Thursday night, then iced them on Friday night.  One batch of royal icing divided evenly into six bowls will be more than enough icing.  I chose to make the icing in one consistency and piped it with disposable sandwich bags.  Easy.  Then Saturday after the icing was completely dry, I added silver edible dust on them to give them a sparkly sheen.

My niece really liked the rainbow treats, and her Mom did a great job of making sure everyone - both young and older - had a good time. 

Now onto household chores and studying.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Hello Stranger!

What's up!??  I feel like a stranger on my own blog...yes, it's been 16 months since my last post, but who's counting, right?  There's still knitting and cooking going on around here, as well as a fairly new-to-me hobby: making sugar cookies with royal icing. 

Before I get into those fun topics, though, I should mention that my foot injury from October 2011 healed completely, thank God.  The combination of the bones fusing together correctly, albeit slowly, and physical therapy were just what the doctor ordered for my type of injury.  And another update you might not already know about is that I'm currently in graduate school.  Yes, after 20 years of working, who knew I'd want to step back in the classroom again?  Perhaps the biggest encouragement is working in higher education day to day with some of the nicest faculty around.  Their passion for teaching really inspired me to want to go back for an advanced degree.  Other colleagues had gone through Master's in Public Administration programs at CSUN and CLU and had positive experiences there, and recommended the programs to me.  Looking at the curriculum for the program seemed appropriate for my career path because I was already familiar with quite a few of the course topics.  So the big question was:  could I commit two years to school?  It's worth a try.  I'm certainly not getting any younger, so here I am.  Back in school.  You won't see me around the blog on a regular basis, but I will do my best to stay in touch!

Now onto the fun stuff:  sugar cookies.  Since January (three months now) I've been making sugar cookies.  It all started with the fact that hubby and I both love sugar cookies from Royal Bakery.  They have this wonderful thick royal icing, and they keep things simple by making only round ones with yellow smiley faces.  Well, I got to thinking that $2 for a sugar cookie is worth it, but could I make one just as good here at home?  Why not give it a try?  My baking years were pretty much limited to high school and college, so I haven't baked very much since then.  I really didn't know where to start, so off to Google searching "sugar cookies with royal icing."  There's a whole world of blogs and fanatics out there, just like the knitting world, complete with its own convention called  CookieCon...just like Stitches West and ComicCon.  So there I go on YouTube to watch all the tutorials I can learn from, and you know there are some wonderful and brilliant gals out there who are patient enough to photograph, video, and share their knowledge to curious folks like me.  I especially owe thanks to the Dean of Cookies and Visiting Professors over at University of Cookie.  I follow each of their blogs because I learn so much from them!  Next trip to Michael's Arts and Crafts, go buy yourself a copy of Bridget Edwards cookie book:  Decorating Cookies: 60+ Designs for Holidays, Celebrations & Everyday.  With these resources I've been able to make some pretty cute cookies.  Take a look:
My personal favorite cookie because of my nickname Bea (pronounced Bee) and because they fit perfectly into little small hands like my nieces and nephews.  Now these I made for hubby's co-worker upon request:
And the knitter in me just loved making these adorable sheep cookies.  I've made them with gray feet and head before but this particular time didn't feel like making more icing.  So they got purple head and feet.
Here's a close up of the sheep.  Did you know that there is actually an icing color for white?  These were made white white Americolor gel.  So make sure you take the time to use white color gel.


The reason why these cute little sheep got purple head and feet is because I made them the same weekend that I made these purple owls.  I was inspired by a cute little dish at Michael's.  You know the bins that are strategically placed along the front registers so that you have something to contemplate on purchasing while you've already made your purchase selections?  Yeah, I fall for that way too often even though I'm fully cognizant of these marketing ploys. 

I'll have to practice a bit more on my owl...like giving him some feathers on his chest and some wing details.  It's a tulip cookie cutter with the center petal removed.  What a great idea, right?  Not my idea, so I can't take credit.  This last week, I made some miniature teddy bears and cupcakes with polka-dots because I've been itching to practice on flat polka-dots.  Flat polka-dots are pretty neat.  I'm already thinking of other shapes to make with flat polka-dots.
So much fun putting all of those dots on.  This minature teddy bear, much like the bumble bee, is the perfect size for tiny little hands.  Take a look:
And yesterday I made these Star Wars Stormtroopers.  I was inspired by Callye Alvarado from Sweet Sugar Belle and how she accomplished the perfect Batman eyes.  I still have to work on keeping the black icing coat from showing on the edges.
Here's a close up with more detail.  I tried adding the stripes along the sides like other cookies I've seen, but it didn't look good so I skipped it altogether.
So that about wraps up what I've been doing the last 3 months...besides working, studying and all the other stuff in between.  Who would have thought I'd take an interest in anything other than knitting?  Why would I want to take up another hobby?  Really?  There are only so many hours in the day.  These are questions that I've been asking myself, and the only honest answer I have is that it takes a bit of practice and technique so I'm enjoying the challenge.  And it involves sugar cookies, so my family and I have something to enjoy when it's all done (can't do that with knitting as quickly).
 
Hope you're doing well, and glad to see you stopped by to say "Hello Stranger!"

Friday, April 17, 2009

Balaclava for my Fishing Man

I made a balaclava for hubby. He's had one that I made for him when I first started knitting. The free balaclava pattern source that I used is found here and is designed by Nanette Blanchard. It worked really well. Now that it's been worn for quite a few fishing trips, he asked for another one and made some recommendations on personalizing it to his needs: a tighter knit gauge for extra warmth, a larger face opening and more stretchiness around the face opening. I used Nanette’s free pattern as a guide and made the following modifications:

Modification 1: a tighter knit gauge
I used size 6 needles throughout and more cast on stitches for a custom fit. The yarn I chose was a superwash worsted weight wool (Nashua Creative Focus – a little more than 100g for the balaclava)

Modification 2: a larger face opening
I knit flat rows for two inches after the first bind off.

Modification 3: more stretchiness around the face opening
· The bind off I chose is a variation of the Russian stretchy bind off that Wendy D. Johnson blogged about here and uses for toe up socks. This seemed like the best candidate for the bind off along the chin area.
· For the cast on after approximately two inches of flat knitting I chose a versatile and stretchy cast on that Stephanie shared with us from her Stitches West class this year. Here's a You Tube video that demonstrates this two-needle cast on. She said learning this cast on alone was worth the price of admission. I couldn’t agree more.



And now I'm off to make more progress on the second February Lady Sweater I'm knitting in red Cascade 220.

Oh, and you should read Pamela Wynne's recent post. If you like the February Lady Sweater as much as I do (I plan to make a few more), then consider a donation for all the careful math calculations, time and effort that Pamela put into this very popular pattern. I did.