December 28, 2009

The Menagerie

Oy, my hands hurt. For the last month I've been fervently crocheting Amigurumi for Christmas, Birthdays and baby gifts.

The crochet patterns that I used are from many sources, most of which don't want you to post their patterns or sell any products that you make with the patterns. I understand the former, but am surprised by the latter. It's like saying, "I'll sell you this butter, if you use it to make cookies, then you better not take those cookies to the bake sale, dammit!"

Luckily for me, none of the Ami will be sold, but will be lovingly handed out to family and friends (albeit, with very sore hands).

For your viewing pleasure, in no particular order:

A little rabbit for my niece, Leaira. This pattern is free from the Lion Brand® Yarn Website, though I did not use Lion Brand® yarn (shhh).

This little penguin has yet to find a home, but he just may stick around with me. His free pattern is also from the Lion Brand® Yarn website.

The heart ornament is one of my favorites - in no small part due to the fact that there is no sewing-on of body parts and nor embroidering of faces. The free pattern is for three sizes, and was created by Owlishly. The little bird was also quite simple to make, and I took a few liberties with the overall design. The free pattern is available Lion Brand® Yarn. I hope that they look good in their new California homes.

The monkeys... Both monkey patterns are from Ana Paula Rimoli's book Amigurumi World. I changed up the faces from those shown in the book, and in place of a skirt on the little monkey, I went for the orange tutu (and gave her some modest white undies). This little monkey is for my 5-month-old neighbor Lilly, while the big ol' monkey hangs out on my bookshelf.

The peeled banana is one of 3 that I've made so far, and with each one I keep getting better. I would say this is my favorite pattern to make, with the exception of having to embroider the faces. I made two into rattles for two new baby boys; one born, one to be born soon. The free pattern is from Amigurumi Paradise.

This little pear is also from Amigurumi World, and is made from a bamboo yarn. It's very soft and squishy. This is a gift for my nephew, who when asked which one he'd like, paged through the book, looked thoughtful for a moment, then announced that it was between the penguin and the pear, and that he'd like to go with the pear. So random, but very Aidan.

And since I adore my nephew, I also made him the penguin.

This little owl has a bottom weighted with pinto beans so that he doesn't fall over. The bottom also has a cool "starfish" pattern, which is sadly only visible when it is lying on it's side (which of course it doesn't do because I weighted the bottom). I also forgot to embroider his feet on - just noticed that now. This free pattern is from Coats & Clark.

A sweet little snail turned into an ornament, from Amigurumi World. This should look good year-round hanging in my mother's house.

More hearts from Owlishly, joined together with a large jump ring.

A fuzzy wool and acrylic owl ornament for my Uncle - fastest pattern to make, hands down. The free pattern is from Roman Sock and at first glance looks very detailed with lots of photos. However, it's not actually a pattern, just some guidelines to follow. But after making a dozen Amigurumi, the "guidelines" were all that was needed. And as soon as I meet more people with a thing for Owls, I'll be making plenty more of these.

December 13, 2009

Chicken Pot Pie

Last Sunday I tried out a new recipe from Real Simple: Chicken Pot Pie. I've never made a pot pie before, but I do have fond memories of the ones from the frozen food section that my sisters and I occasionally picked out when we had a babysitter. This recipe promised to have all the taste, but fewer calories than traditional pot pie. I think that it holds true, but there are a few things I'd do differently when I make it again.

1) One issue I ran into was that when we cut into the baked dish, we found that the insides were very runny. I don't know if that has anything to do with the 1% milk used, the frozen peas or if the recipe just needs more flour. But next time I will add more flour and defrost the peas first, in the hopes that it will be a little "firmer" inside.

2) The second issue was that the dish only uses one 9-inch pie crust. This greatly helps to reduce the calorie count, but it left the top a little thin. I think next time I'll use a deeper dish with a smaller circumference, or I'll actually use two crusts on top.

All in all, this dish turned out really tasty, and I will definitely make it again.

Serves 6

Hands-On Time: 35m

Total Time: 1hr 10m


1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 onions, chopped
4 carrots, diced
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 cups 1 percent milk
1 10-ounce package frozen peas

1 tablespoon fresh thyme
(my grocery store didn't have any in, so I had to use dried thyme - still tasty)
kosher salt and black pepper

1 9-inch store-bought piecrust, thawed if frozen


Heat oven to 400° F. Cook the chicken in a pot of simmering water until cooked through, 10 to 12 minutes; let cool, then shred.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the onions and carrots and cook, stir-ring, until they begin to soften, 6 to 8 minutes (do not let them darken). Sprinkle the flour over the vegetables and cook, stirring, for 1 minute.

Add the wine and cook until evaporated, about 5 minutes. Add the milk and simmer until the sauce thickens, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the chicken, peas, thyme, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Transfer to a shallow 1 1/2- to 2-quart baking dish.

Lay the crust on top, pressing to seal. Cut several vents in the crust. Place the pot pie on a baking sheet and bake until bubbling and the crust is golden, 30 to 35 minutes.

December 6, 2009

Thanksgiving Projects

This Thanksgiving everybody arrived at Pop and Sharon's house with food in one hand and a project in the other.

Adrianne worked on her syllabus for her next class.

Susanna came prepared to make felt Christmas stockings for the family.

Savannah's goal was to spend 2 days in the blue room rereading the Twilight books.

Pop and Sharon opened the doors to the shop and studio for multiple projects:

Mike worked on planing the reclaimed Fir for our mantle.

Pop taught Vanessa and Aidan how to make a birdhouse.

And Alexis focused her attention on the Monster Book.

Thanksgiving Food

Thanksgiving 2009 was spent at Pop and Sharon's house again this year, and it's wonderful to see how far it's come along since last year.

Everybody contributed a dish to the feast, and many of the vegetables were harvested from Pop and Sharon's garden.

Mike and I made two dishes for the table: Mike's favorite, Sweet Yam Bake, and a new one from Martha Stewart, Marinated Cauliflower Salad.

Sweet Yam Bake

3 cups mashed yams
1/2 cup white sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup melted butter
1 cup coconut

1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white flour
1/3 cup soft butter
1 cup chopped pecans


Peel, boil and mash the yams. Mix them with all the other ingredients (except the ones for the topping) and pour the mixture into a butter 9" x 13" baking dish.
For the topping, mix together all the ingredients and sprinkle it on top of the yam mixture.
Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes.

Marinated Cauliflower Salad

1 large head of cauliflower, cut into small florets
1/4 cup white-wine vinegar
1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons brine-packed capers, drained and rinsed
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil. Working in batches, blanch cauliflower until just tender, about 2 minutes. Drain; transfer to a bowl.

Whisk together vinegar, onion and mustard in a small bowl. Pour oil in a slow, steady stream, whisking constantly until emulsified. Season with salt and pepper. Drizzle vinaigrette over warm cauliflower and add capers and parsley. Stir to combine.

Cover, and refrigerate overnight or up to 1 day. Serve chilled or at room temperature.

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