Thursday, February 26, 2009


I made cupcakes today to take to a party tomorrow because let's face it -- who doesn't love cupcakes? I won a cupcake cookbook at a Christmas gift exchange thingy last year, and I've been dying to try out some of the recipes. The one I chose is for Strawberry Cheesecake Cupcakes, and it uses white chocolate in the cheesecake-y icing. I like real chocolate, so I made two batches, one following the recipe and one subbing Scharffen Berger 70% bittersweet chocolate for the white chocolate.

Strawberry Cheesecake Cupcakes
from Cupcakes by Susannah Blake

4 T butter, at room temp
5 T sugar
2 eggs
1/2 c self-rising flour
1/2 t pure vanilla extract
2 T milk

for icing:
3 oz. white chocolate, chopped
3 oz. cream cheese
6 T creme fraiche or sour cream (I used whole milk Greek yogurt, actually)
1 1/2 t vanilla
6 T powdered sugar
fresh strawberries

Makes 1 doz. big cupcakes, or 2 doz. mini cupcakes.

Preheat the oven to 350 and line muffin pan with paper liners.

Beat the butter and sugar together in a bowl until pale and fluffy, then beat in the egg, a little at a time. Sift the flour into the mixture and fold in, then stir in the vanilla extract and milk.

Spoon the mixture into muffin cups. Bake for about 10 minutes until risen and golden and a toothpick comes out clean. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

To decorate, check that none of the cupcakes have risen above the rim of the paper liners. If any have, carefully slice off the top using a serrated knife to create a flat surface.

Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water or in a microwave, then set aside to cool slightly (make sure the microwave is on low power, or you'll burn the chocolate and it's really gross. Just sayin'). Beat the cream cheese, creme fraiche, vanilla and powdered sugar together in a separate bowl, then beat in the melted chocolate.

Smooth the cream cheese mixture over the cupcakes, up to the rim of the paper liners, then chill for at least 1 1/2 hours until set (the dark chocolate mixture didn't need to set). Decorate with fresh strawberries and serve.

Another toy

A week ago, I promised pictures of the elephant I was making. I used this pattern I found on Ravelry and a skein of Bernat CottonTots 100% cotton, machine-washable and -dryable yarn in Koolade.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Toys! *pattern update*

When I started crocheting and knitting, I asked my husband if there was anything he wanted me to make for him. His request? A frog puppet. I had a terrible time finding a free pattern anywhere for a puppet I liked, so one night I sat down, chained 29 and started working. I hate finishing -- seams, making up, all that stuff -- so I really tried to not have to do any of that. The result wasn't bad. A bit lumpy and bumpy, but he loves the puppet.

I also made some finger puppets from Knitty for my boss's birthday (she's a former-children's librarian-turned-library-director and still does some storytimes and a puppeteering workshop).

Here's the frog puppet pattern. I have been knitting instead of crocheting for a while, so I'm a little rusty. Also, it's my first pattern, and I wrote it down after making the puppet instead of while making it, so if anything's confusing, please comment and I'll try to clarify! I'm also planning to draw a diagram and post it later this week, along with a cute picture of the knitted elephant toy I just made.

Frog puppet *updated pattern - now includes pictures of technique*
materials: 1 skein Lion Brand Jiffy in Apple Green (135 yd bulky)
J10 or K10.5 crochet hook (6-6.5mm)

ch 29. sl st to join as ring.
rounds 1-10: use the totally awesome futuregirl’s seamless crochet technique to sc 29 around. sl 1, ch 1, turn. this forms the neck.
row 11: skip sl st from previous row, sc 15. ch 1, turn.
12-16: sc 15, ch1, turn.
row 17-20: sc across, decreasing by 1 sc at center of each row, ch 1, turn at end
row 21-26: 11sc, ch 1, turn
row 27-33: decrease by 1 sc at center of each row, ch 1, turn at end (end with 3 sc)
row 34: sc2tog, sc (2 sc). this forms the top of the upper jaw.
row 35: turn work over. ch1, then sc 2.
row 36: ch 1, then slip stitch into the side of the triangular piece you just did, then sc a row, then slip at the end of the row to form a pocket.

in other words, ch 1, sl st into the edge space of row 35, 2sc, sl st into the next edge space (shown with red paperclip).

row 37: ch 1, sl st into next edge space (shown with blue paperclip), 3sc, sl st into next edge space down. this will make it seem like you're skipping rows, but it makes the puppet fit better.

row 38-57: continue in this manner, increasing 1 by sc in the sl st of the previous row. this forms the bottom of the upper jaw (roof of the mouth).

row 58: 23 sc, ch 1, turn. you are not connecting this piece to the sides using the sl st technique.
row 59: 22 sc (sc2tog in center), ch 1, turn.
continue in this manner, decreasing 1 in the center until you have 2 sc left. this forms the top of the lower jaw (inside mouth, where tongue will be).
turn work.
row 80: 2 sc.
turn work over. ch1, then sc 2.
row 81: ch 1, sl st, sc 3, sl st.
row 82: repeat as in rows 38-57 until you reach the joint between the upper and lower parts of the jaw. your stitch count for the last row should be 14, and you should have about 1.5-2 inches left to do before you get to the top of the neck (the in-the-round cuff of 10 rows worked at the very beginning).
work the next 15 rows with no increase as follows: ch 1, sl st, sc 14 (skipping the sl st from the previous row), sl st until you reach the top of the neck. this forms the bottom of the lower jaw.
fasten off.

to finish: sew the lower jaw to the top of the neck.

tongue: ch5. work 11 rows sc.
row 12: sc 2 tog, sc, sc 2 tog (3 sc). fasten off. attach to puppet.

for eyes: using magic ring method, 10sc into ring, sl st to join and pull ring closed.
round 2: ch 1, 10sc, sl st.
round 3: ch 1, sc twice in each stitch (20)
round 4: ch 1, sc twice, sc (30)
round 5-6: sc 30
stuff each eye with yarn or fiberfill. use black yarn to stitch the irises on the eyeballs. attach to puppet.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

I'm like that girl in Juno who gives everyone the stink-eye

I'm so tired of my house smelling like soup. I like to make my own broth -- less waste, cheaper and it tastes better. It's not difficult, but it takes time. Luckily some genius invented crock pots, so there's not much to do except strain the broth at the end. Unfortunately, after cooking 3 batches for 16 hours each, I don't know if the soup smell will ever go away!

A few months ago, I bought a bag of chicken quarters then decided not to cook them, so I dumped 'em in the freezer. Sadly, I forgot that unless you freeze fresh meat in individual pieces, it freezes in a giant lump and is impossible to chisel apart (I tried). So I had to thaw the whole bag, which meant I had to cook it all. I don't think I'll ever need 8 pounds of chicken at once, so on to chicken stock.

Half the bag of chicken -- about 4 pieces, skin, bones and all went into the crockpot with celery, carrots, peppercorns and salt. It cooked on high for an hour (or until I thought, "Oh, crap! I forgot about the stock!" 3 hours later), then on low overnight.

Sixteen hours or so later, I had rich, dark chicken stock.

After straining the solids, I put the stock in the refrigerator so I could skim the fat off the top, then poured it into different containers for freezing. My favorite are the heart-shaped ice cubes I use for sautes.

The chicken got chopped and frozen in broth so later I just have to thaw it and add carrots and noodles for chicken soup.

Happy birthday, John!

I'm lucky -- my family appreciates homemade and handmade gifts. I've always felt bad for crafters who love to share their hard work, but whose family and friends would rather have something storebought or brand name. My cousin used to refuse to wear clothes that didn't have a label in them (when she was a little girl -- she's always been one of the coolest people I know, and isn't like that now), so my aunt used to sew labels in the clothes she made. Our grandmother made all our dresses until we were in high school, and my mom quilts and stitches. She still hangs the awful muffin-cup-aluminum-foil-toothpick-and-blue-nail-polish Christmas ornament angels (don't ask) I made in 4th or 5th grade.

Anyway, for my brother's birthday this year I decided to try my hand at pseudo screen printing and make him some t-shirts no one else in the world would have (except me, of course, because now I have these fantastic reusable screens and I'm putting those images everywhere).

The red t-shirt is Ray Bradbury, and the blue is of our childhood dog, Emily, in outer space. Emily died last fall, so I like thinking about her flying around out there near Saturn. The screenprinting method was pretty easy, although painting on the Mod Podge takes forever. I used this crazy stretch polyester mesh -- I can't imagine sewing with it because it is so slippery -- and it made the edges come out a little pixel-y, and screenprinting ink definitely beats fabric paint. John was happy with the
results, and now I'm just looking for more things to print.


When E.E. Cummings wrote about nonmakers, he placed them in opposition to Poets. I'm not a poet, but I'm not a nonmaker. I don't live anywhere exotic, my job is one of those that quietly saves the world -- I'm not a vocal activist or dashing or daring. I'm shy of eating alone in restaurants or travelling solo, so this won't be an adventure blog or a funny-tired blog about my job (there are enough librarian blogs out there already, without my mediocre offering).
I've always liked to make stuff, cook stuff, read stuff, and that's what I'm offering to share. Since my husband has been overseas, I've had more free time and have tackled new crafts, recipes and books, and many of them have been inspired by the amazing and creative people whose blogs are much better than mine will ever be. Thanks to them, I'm now adding my own mix of craft projects, cooking successes (and more than a few disasters -- the last couple of days have been memorable) and book reviews. I hope you enjoy!
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