April 30, 2011


Last Friday we went to a birthday gathering for Bobby, where we were asked to bring a snack to share. Since I had the day off I wanted to make something new, so I perused the internet and my cookbooks. I came across a recipe for empanadas on Laylita.com. Not only did they look delicious and seem like a good snack food, they also allowed me to use up the crockpot sante fe chicken leftovers. Making the dough was very easy, though rolling it out thin enough was less easy. I rolled out the dough in batches, then used the top half of my OnionSaver as the circle cutter. The cutter made 4" diameter circles, which were large enough for the snacks, but next time I'll make the circles larger so that I can fit more filling inside.

Rather than make a new filling I used the Sante Fe Chicken leftovers from earlier in the week. This was tasty, but perhaps not flavorful enough. When we ate it the first time we served it with cheese, spicy carrots and salsa, so a lot of additional flavor was added. When it's alone inside the pastry it's just lacking a little something. Next time I'll add more seasoning, or perhaps some cheese.

After they were filled I wet the edges with water and sealed them with a folded crimp.

Then I applied an eggwash over their tops.

Then I decided that the folded crimp may not be enough of a seal, so I took a fork and tined all the edges as well. They definitely held together - success!

April 22, 2011

I had a hankering for elephant

I wasn't looking for a new craft, I swear. I was happy with the 100 or so that I already have materials for. But this sewn soft toy thing is just addictive. It combines my desire to build 3D objects and my desire to create cuteness. I lie awake at night thinking of ways to add gussets to animals - it's ridiculous.

I am currently obsessed with the color gray, so earlier this month I decided to make an elephant. My goal was to make him out of several pieces so that he'd have as much dimension as possible.

I started my process by searching the internet for images of interesting-looking elephants. I came across a "Softie-along" from some time ago where everybody crafted an elephant and submitted photos of it. I found many cool looking elephants, so using several photos for inspiration I drew up my pattern. Much like the Dinosaur-making process, I made several paper patterns and taped them together before cutting into fabric. I draw my patterns on the computer, because that's what I do. But I do tweak the patterns by hand, then translate those back into my digital pattern.

Similar to the Dinosaur process, I made two fabric elephants (one by hand and one on the machine) as practice. Unlike my first attempt, I didn't even bother to finish the first two fabric elephants as I could tell right away that they were not right. But third time's a charm!

This little guy was sewn on the machine except for his foot pads and tail which I sewed by hand. I used three shades of gray (for visual interest, but also because I didn't have enough of one shade).

His eyes are black buttons that I bought from Fabric Depot, then I added felt lashes and lids (the buttons are really cool - I used them for this monkey, where their detail is more clear).

 A little felt crown, a la Babar

April 20, 2011

A few new recipes...

In between projects and work, I tend to surf the web looking for new things to cook. Particularly this time of year when it feels like I've been making the same things for months (as opposed to other times of year when I find new things to cook but I don't make them because I just feel like cooking the same things over and over again).
Recently I came across the website SkinnyTaste by Gina, who's goal is to take recipes and reduce their calories while obtaining great taste. A wonderful goal, and one whose effectiveness I thought I'd test. Of the three recipes I tried I would make all of them again, however one thing to note about this source is that some of the recipes are a bit abbreviated in their instructions. For those who have been cooking for awhile, it's not really an issue to figure out what you're supposed to do next. For those who like step-by-step instructions, this may be a problem...

Asian Peanut Noodles with Chicken: In short, this turned out pretty well and Mike said it was good. I only had a couple of issues with it.
  • The ingredient list called for Sesame Oil. I went to the store, bought an expensive bottle of it, then noticed that she never noted where to use it in the recipe instructions. I threw a little in with the chicken and called it good. I didn't notice the additional flavor so I'm not sure that it was worth the purchase. 
  • The other issue was that the ingredients called for "Better than Peanut Butter" as a PB substitute. This is available at Trader Joes but I didn't have time to drive across town and fight parking at TJ's so I just used real peanut butter. I reduced the amount a little though, and as a result the PB flavor was overpowered by the Sriracha sauce. Next time I'll use the PB substitute or reduce the amount of Sriracha sauce.

Crock Pot Santa Fe Chicken: I really liked this and it was very easy (as crock pot cooking should be). It took about 10 hours to cook on high, which is exactly how long I'm gone each day so the timing was perfect. The only variation was that I didn't have scallions - I didn't miss them.  I served it atop Chipotle's Cilantro Lime Rice and chopped romaine, then added spicy pickled carrots and shredded cheese.

Then of course, there is my favorite cooking website, Smitten Kitchen, where Deb impresses me with her kitchen prowess, humor and photography skills. I've made several of her recipes, but most recently I tried the Sally Lunn Bread. It turned out very well and didn't last long. I made this on a Saturday night and we had it for breakfast on Sunday morning. It went fast and I will be making it again very soon.

April 12, 2011

4 adults + 1 teen + 4 kids + 4 days: Things to Do in Portland

Last week was spring break for Skagit County schools in Washington state and we invited Susanna and her entourage to come hang out with us in Portland. Susanna arrived Wednesday night with Aidan, his cousin Vanessa, and friend Isaiah in tow. We were joined Thursday night by Susanna's sister-in-law Adrianne, her daughter Alexis and niece Savannah. Are you counting? That's right - 7 people. In our glorified 1-bedroom/1 bathroom house! It was our challenge to make sure that all 9 of us had someplace to sleep and something to do for the next four days. For those of you wondering what to do with four adults, one 19-year-old and four kids ages 2 - 12 for four days, read on.

Susanna kicked off the entertaining on Thursday by taking Isaiah, Vanessa and Aidan to the Children's Museum. I'm not entirely sure what they all did there, but Susanna brought me back a small clay bird to paint and decorate, which is pretty darn cute.

Mike continued the good times by taking the same three kids to see the Winterhawks play at the Rose Garden on Thursday night. Susanna and I relished the adult time by going out to dinner and crocheting a little.

On Friday, everybody (sans Mike & I) went to the Clackamas Aquatic Center to play in the Big Surf, which was then followed up by dinner at Old Town Pizza on MLK Blvd. We chose this restaurant for three reasons: 1) they serve pizza, which pleased everybody's palate, 2) it has very nice atmosphere and good beer, 3) it was the only place I could think of that would seat all of us.

On Saturday, while half of us headed to the Crafty Underdog craft show and Powell's Books, Mike took the same three kids to see some gorge waterfalls along Highway 30.


(try to ignore the large sodas in their hands - it was vacation)


He also took them to the Bonneville Lock & Dam and the Bonneville Fish Hatchery to see Herman the Sturgeon.


 And finally, we finished up the vacation with a quick lesson in needle-felting for Vanessa and Isaiah.
Vanessa made a yellow duck and Isaiah made a ladybug. They were both excited to learn, and while a few comments were made about how long it was taking to finish, they both stuck with their projects all the way to the end. Vanessa even came back to add a few more details.

Mike and I both had a great time, though we were thoroughly exhausted when everybody left on Sunday. We would definitely have them all back again, though hopefully next time we'll have that second bedroom finished!

April 3, 2011

Lamb Sweater & Three Dinos!

In February my stepsister Alicia welcomed baby boy #2, Josh!

To extend my own personal welcome, and to congratulate Max on becoming a big brother, I crafted two special gifts for the boys.

For Josh, I made a baby kimono wrap in two shades of charcoal. I used the pattern from Susan Visch, available on Ravelry. I used this pattern once before to create a purple wrap for my friend Kristin's daughter, Annie. The pattern is a little tricky at first because it's not written with stitch counts but rather in metric measurements. However, once I downloaded an iphone conversion app, it was easy going.
In order to gussy up the gray sweater I added a felt lamb applique. All of the pieces are felt handsewn onto the sweater. I stuffed the head and body a little to give some added dimension, embroidered the eyes and mouth, and needle-felted the little pink cheeks.

For 3-year-old Max, I wanted to make a stuffed dinosaur. Since I've been sewing so many small softies lately, I also decided to try my hand at creating a pattern. Not so easy, I found.
So far I've ended up with three dinosaurs in the quest to perfect my pattern. 

The dinosaurs are about 7" - 8" high

Dino #1: This was my first attempt at a pattern. I wanted to make a green dino, but only had green felt in thick wool felt. This felt is from Hobby Lobby, and while it worked great for my fish mobile, it was not so great for handsewn toys. It may be thick but it's not that dense, and it didn't hold hand stitches very well. The result was a bit sloppy looking. However, it was a nice project to work on while traveling from Sanibel Island to Orlando early last month.

Dino #2:  For my second attempt, I changed the position of the head gusset to see if a different head shape would be better. I also bought some dense, thin wool felt in a more vibrant green, and I decided to sew this one on my sewing machine. While I'm not sure I like the head shape more, I definitely liked the rest of the look better. Also, I chose to needle-felt the eyes on this one, and to embroider a mouth.

Dino #3: I decided to make one more attempt at altering the pattern to see if move-able legs would work better and to try a fabric other than felt. Using some polka-dot cotton, I changed the pattern to have jointed legs, and I found a third position for the head gusset (also had to add a belly gusset so that the legs would be far enough apart - I figured this out at the very end and had to handsew the belly gusset to the body; which was tedious). I used safety eyes for the leg joints, which ultimately worked well, but were difficult to work with in such a small space. I like the look of the move-able legs, but realized that move-able legs on a dinosaur don't work so well when the large dino tail doesn't move (it's not like he can sit down or anything).

After all that, which dinosaur did I decide to give to Max?

Dino #2, with a removable bone necklace!

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