Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Searching for Some New Year's Eve Recipe Inspiration

Kyle's helping me plan a New Year's Eve feast by checking out recipes in one of my favorite cookbooks. (He talks about Isa as if she's a close personal friend who lives nearby. I kinda wish she did.)

I think he found a good one.

I'm actually leaning towards making Dim Sum after reading about it in the latest issue of VegNews. Those recipes aren't online but here are some others.

Spinach and Vegetable Dim Sum
How to Make Vegetarian Dim Sum
Dim Sum: Steamed Money Bag Dumplings, Rice Paper Rolls, Hot and Sour Soup
Fun Yum Dim Sum

Monday, December 29, 2008

That's a Wrap!

It's hard to find time to post when everyone is home but I'm sneaking this quick post in. Here's a peek at a hat and mitten set I made for my niece. I was especially pleased with this one because it's the one that used three strands of fingering yarn to create a worsted weight equivalent.

Can you believe I even got the boxers finished? Each son ended up with 8 pairs. Here's a peek at a few of them.

I confess to going right down to the wire on the crafting. This included staying up to almost 3:30am on Christmas morning as I frantically put the finishing touches on two forgotten sock projects, one knitted and one sewn from fleece. Naturally, because of their frantic finishing there are no pictures of them, which is a shame. They came out really well.

The fleece sock pattern is one I'd tried before with minimal success. I think it came out much better this time because I had a better understanding of how the sock went together. The allowed me to customize the fit to the recipient, who fortunately has the same size feet as I do.

I've gained a lot more confidence in my sewing skills which probably explains why I tackled a last minute sewn tote bag for my sister. Clearly I was out of my mind because I formulated the plan and cut the pieces out right before going to bed, at about 2:00am. The sewing didn't happen until Christmas morning between our brunch guests and our dinner guests. I felt really good about it though. In fact, I felt really good about the way the holiday went in general.

I'm especially pleased with the way my kids all pitched in and made their own handmade contributions. They made Leen made scarves for her brothers, a sleeping cap for Jim and Tasha, slippers for me and mug cake mixes for the rest of the family. Tasha made bulletin boards for her brothers, helped make mug cake for the rest of the family and gave gift certificates for haircuts and manicures to everyone. Rob made potholders, bookmarks, ornaments and dishcloths. Kyle also made potholders, bookmarks and ornaments. They all worked hard and they were rightfully proud of their work.

The secret of their happy participation seems to rest solely in the fact that they chose their projects. The ones I tried to get them to do, like those damn dinosaur ornaments that didn't get done last year either, were just a source of frustration. They were very good at knowing what they were capable of and joyfully dove into those tasks. (FYI, I tossed the dinosaur ornament kit, it was a frustrating mass of kiddie hell mascarading as holiday ornaments and no one else should be tortured by it.)

As 2008 winds down, I'm spending my time organizing (it's an ongoing challenge for me!) So far I've attacked my recipe binder, mainly because it fell on the floor and 10 or so years of recipes dumped out. The result was a grocery bag full of recycling. I also put all my sewing and knitting patterns back into the binder I keep them in. Next up, my crafting supplies. Time to look over what's left from all this Christmas crafting and store the useful stuff in a way that I can find it. I've also gotten some requests for things to be made so I'll be looking to see what raw materials I have for those projects.

My posts will likely be sporadic until Monday but let me know how your frugal holiday went. Let's inspire each other.

Happy Holidays to All!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Christmas Crafting Down to the Wire

I'm practically too busy to post as we come right down to the wire. The whole family is in on the crafting at this point. Here's a peek at the headbands that I made.
Here's the box that I put them in. Can you believe how well they fit?
Here's another hat and mitten set. I think the pompom is the best part.

So what's the point of me showing all this stuff? I mean honestly, how does what I've made help you? I was wondering about this myself the last few days.

Ultimately, I hope to inspire you the way some of the blogs I read inspire me. Look at how many different mittens you can make with a variety of scrap yarn and the knowledge/mastery of one pattern. (Although mastery is a strong word when it comes to knitting thumbs. Perhaps general understanding would be more appropriate.) Same with the hats. Every hat I've made, with the exception of the beret, comes from one basic hat pattern that has variations in it for different sizes and styles.

The hat and mitten set that I'm working on now (the last one thankfully) uses three strands of fingering weight yarn knit at the same time to create a worsted weight product. I use what I have on hand and hope to inspire you to do the same.

Tasha was looking for ideas for her brothers when she thought of making bulletin boards for them. Would you believe I have a roll of cork? Someone was getting rid of it and it ended up in my basement. She was looking for a backing when I remembered some picture frames I had gotten from freecycle. She's using two of the 10" x 13" ones to create her bulletin boards. I can't wait to see how they turn out.

So let's all check in. How are we doing? Do you have any last minute ideas to share?

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Holiday Crafting Day 10

Yesterday was not the crafting extravaganza that I'd hope it would be and, so far, today isn't shaping up much better. Fortuntately, my commitments outside the house are limited today. I'm hoping to make a lot of progress.

The headband project continues. I'm knitting one now with multicolored ribbon yarn. What an absolute pain in the rear to work with. I'm finding you have to be very careful that you don't stab through it as you knit. I do like the way the finished project is looking though. The plan is to wrap up headband production this evening and move on to another pair of mittens.

I mentioned kit type gifts yesterday. The idea for this comes from my sons. They've been pestering me about wanting to build something. I keep saying wait for your father so he can tell you what's ok to use and what's not. It occurred to me that a collection of wood, nails, screws and maybe even a screwdriver and hammer that were for them to use as they pleased might be a really good gift. I'm not sure if we'll actually do this but I like the concept. I'm sure there are many ways it could be incorporated to fit any kids' area of interest. Hmm...must be time for more planning.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Holiday Crafting Day 9

Here's a peek at the finished earflap hat and beret.

Here's the other side of the beret.

Here's the beginnings of three headbands. One of the funniest things about knitting is the reactions my teenagers have to my projects. At first there's often the shrug that says, "what are you knitting now??" Later when the projects are closer to looking like the final project that is replaced with the raised eyebrows that says, "that's cool, can you make me one too??" The headbands are no exception.

All of the crotch seams are sewn on the boxers. Next it's time for the leg seams. The leg seams are probably the biggest pain in the butt to sew, since the legs have to be even. I may just wait to start them until tomorrow since the two hour delay we had this morning is giving me a late start.

No new projects to discuss yet. I'm just going to focus on finishing up the current ones for the moment. Although, there are some "kit" ideas being tossed around but more on that tomorrow.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Holiday Crafting Day 8

The hat with earflaps is finished and the beret is moving along. I confess to not touching the boxers at all yesterday. The thought of setting up the sewing machine on the kitchen table only to put it away an hour later, exhausted me mentally.

Tonight the boys have promised to help me make some gift wrap out of the brown bags that our bulk beans, grains and flour comes in. I still have everything in the baskets that my yarn is usually in which makes me feel like I've accomplished very little. It will be good to see the pile begin to grow under the tree. BTW, if you're letting kids decorate wrapping paper let them do it before you wrap the presents. You never know when a marker might run through the paper onto the project you worked so hard on.

Are you still stuck for ideas? Check out this post from Threadbanger with links o'plenty to get your creative juices flowing.

Here are some alternative gift giving ideas from buynothingchristmas.org.

Here's a site I just stumbled on with some idea for kids presents. You have to scroll down to see the handmade ideas.

I'm looking for some headband and hair accessory ideas for a little girl. Here's what I've found so far.

Ribbon Headband

Easy Knitted Headband

Silky Headband

Easy Headband

Monday, December 15, 2008

Holiday Crafting Days 5, 6 & 7

I fixed the links for the beret patterns in my last post. I'm not sure how I messed those up in the first place but at least they work now.

I had a request for a hat with earflaps in shades of blue. It's almost done. I just need to finish the i-cord and add tassels at the ends.

While I was working on the i-cord it occurred to me that I hadn't a clue how to make the tassels for the ends of the cord. I shrugged it off and decided to search the internet after I blogged. Then it hit me, it is so much easier to be frugal now than it ever was before. Think about it, almost any information you could need on frugality is available with a simple google search. Do you need to learn how to fix something or make something or use something in place of something else? It's all out there for us. We don't even need to run to the library hoping the book with the information we need is checked in. It's right here on our computer. Now do a search on some aspect of frugality that you were curious about, right now!!

If you were wondering about making tassels to embellish your knitting try these sites.
Knitting About.Com

Here's a video
that shows you how to make pompoms and tassels.

Here's the beret that I'm making for Tasha

The boxer project continues...All side seams are now sewn, all the seams that were mistakenly sewn have been ripped out. It's time to sew the crotch seams together. Progress is slow but steady. The next project coming up on the horizon is some mittens for a little girl and a cloth checkerboard bag.

Tasha and Leenie gave a test drive to this recipe. It was quite good and they to use it as a gift for their friends. I think it would probably make a nice teacher gift as well.

Since Christmas is my holiday to entertain, food is on my mind as well. I made this fig cake recipe last night. It was easy to make, tasted good and I still have a lot of dried figs so it will probably be on my holiday menu.

How are your holiday preparations progressing?

Friday, December 12, 2008

We Interrupt Day Four of Holiday Crafting to Ask, What Did You Put In the Split Pea Soup??

Does the fact that I think the thumbs on these mittens are just adorable mean there is something wrong with me? I kept showing them to everyone in the house while saying, "Look at the thumbs!" My sanity must be slipping.

If you've forgiven me for the thumb thing, beware what I did to last night's dinner is a doozy. I was making a batch of split pea soup, which I've done a thousand times before. I got the brilliant idea to toss in some frozen radishes because their peppery spiciness is lessened during cooking and pepperiness is good in split pea soup. (I think Ruthie made this observation recently as well.)

I went into the freezer and took out what I thought were frozen radishes and tossed them in but alas I was incorrect, they were frozen apples. Of course I didn't notice this until almost an hour of cooking. (Hey, I was busy pinning boxers, because I'm just too cowardly to go freehand. Ruthie and AnnMarie you are my heroes. I'm going to try one freehand but I'm scared!!) So there I was standing in the kitchen staring into a pot of split peas and apples, with the peels on so there was no hiding them!

I figured blending them would get rid of the visual evidence but what about the taste. I added a little extra vegetable broth as well as a bit of tamari and hoped for the best. Rob commented it was the best split pea soup he'd ever had and ate a second bowl. In fact everyone enjoyed it. I couldn't take it, I had to confess when the meal was over. Everyone was mildly horrified. I promised to be more careful. Tis the season for forgiveness so all was okay in the end.

My crafting agenda once again returns me to the sewing of the boxers and the finding of a knit beret pattern. Check out these sites for beret ideas.

This is the one I'm doing to match this pocket scarf I made for Tasha

Mock Beret Pattern

Taos Beret

A directory of hat patterns

Purl Beret - thanks Ruthie for letting me know about this pattern

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Holiday Crafting Days 2 & 3

You know that old saying, haste makes waste? I sure proved it on Tuesday when I accidentally stitched part of the boxers together that weren't supposed to be stitched. I did it on 5 pairs. Thankfully when I got back to sewing on Wednesday I caught the mistake before I made it another 11 times! However, it still meant ripping out 10 seams, all the while ranting under my breath. Fortunately I was home alone, no child should see their mother cursing while sewing, or unsewing, Christmas presents.

Here's my basket of partially finished boxers. The good news is, the first set of seams are now done, correctly, on all 16 pairs of boxers. Today I'm aiming to get the side seams done. The sewing goes quickly, it's the pinning that slows me down.

The hat and mitten project is going well. Two hats and one set of mittens are already made. I started the second pair of mittens this morning. I really like that mitten pattern I mentioned Monday. It's the least scary mitten pattern that I've ever seen. It doesn't even use double pointed needles. Try it, you'll like it!

I've also vowed to finish sewing the last seam on this pair of socks which has been sitting unfinished since September! (What is my problem?) These will make a perfect gift for...

As the end is in sight for these projects the time has come to choose the next round of holiday crafts. Ruthie has some great links for ideas the other day.

I'm especially interested in homemade games this year. Money's tight for everyone and we're no exception I want to see if we can really buy nothing this Christmas without anyone feeling cheated. In some ways this is easy. Leen's & Tasha both opted for one big present for their birthdays and Christmas this year. That still leaves the boys. Hmm...

Here's some links I'm planning to peruse for ideas. Feel free to jump in with your own ideas and links.

DIY Network

Five Stones Game

Making Your Own Children's Book

Dime Store Games

Here's a cool slipper pattern that has absolutely nothing to do with games but what the heck. Wait here's an even cooler one. If you wanted them to be non-skid and you happened to have a beat up yoga mat lying around (and really, who doesn't?) you could add a sole.

Oh the wheels are turning...
There are so many great things on the web, share what you've discovered. We all need the ideas.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Day One of Holiday Crafting...

CHeck out all my raw materials. What a mess!

I cut out and pinned 18 pairs of boxers, made one hat and started a pair of mittens yesterday. I also donated all the shirts (a rather large stash) that wouldn't be made into boxers. The cleared space almost made me happier than getting the boxers cut out.

In keeping with the season, while being inspired by Chile's ever present need to clear clutter, I also put together a bag of clothing that's being picked up today by a family in need. I can't justify having spare, spare coats (yes, that's two spares) when other people are in need of one. It feels good to help in whatever small way that I can.

Today, I plan to get some sewing done on the boxers and maybe finish up a mitten or two. If things go well, I may start another hat. I know I'll be sitting and waiting for at least 1 1/2 hours later today so I'll save knitting for then (it's portable) and I'll focus on sewing now (because it's not).

BTW, for anyone in search of a simple mitten pattern, check this one out. It's super simple and she even says in the materials description, a great project for using up leftovers! What more can a frugal gal ask for??

Monday, December 08, 2008

On Your Mark, Get Set, SEW!!

It's Monday morning 8:59am. The last of the children got on the bus 30 minutes ago and I'm making a plan for my day. Since we're planning a handmade holiday, I've got some major work to do. Right now the living room is spread with fabric and yarn as I get ready to shift into high gear. Thankfully, the coffee is already brewed and the fire is already burning.

I've already know that my first project is making 7 pairs of boxers for each of my sons. That project which started off so strong over the summer just got so derailed. It's become a pile of partially cut fabric that just mocks me at every turn and is punctuated by both of my sons' wondering aloud, "when will mommy make the boxers?"

It must end now! I must complete this project and get the fabric piles out of the living room. (I've heard chairs are for sitting on, but I've no proof of it. I thought they were fabric resting places!) I've got all day to get them cut and at least the side seams sewn. I can do it!

I've also been cross stitching some ornaments and cards like this one
There's some knitting going on too but right now I must focus on boxers!

How's your holiday prep going? Do you have something you need to focus on as well? Are you still searching for ideas? Check out these links
Lion Free Yarn Patterns

Crunchy's Holiday Gidt Basket Ideas

Sew Mama Sew's Gift Ideas

Or check my archives under sewing, knitting and frugal holiday ideas.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

You Say Your Kids Loose Their Gloves? Make Them a Scarf With Pockets!

Here's a picture of the finished scarf with pockets that I made for Natasha. This is a super easy knitting project. If you can knit, own a pair of any size knitting needles and you have leftover yarn, you can make this project. Really, you can!!

It's a choose your own adventure sort of a knitting project. Here are some of the choices you need to make.

What yarn will I use?
I'm a big fan of knitting with two strands of yarn at the same time but then we already knew I was a chronic color combiner.

I start by choosing a base color, in this case deep pink. Usually I use the base color throughout the entire scarf and a secondary color or colors that I use along with the base yarn for the pockets and any striping I might want.

I choose what I want to use for the pockets, in this case a chunky multi color yarn. I divide the pocket yarn into two approximately equal balls. (Personally, I eyeball this but you could measure if you felt the need.) The reason for the equal yarn balls is to make sure I have enough to do both pockets since the scarf is knit as one long piece. (The pockets are made by simply folding over the ends of the scarf.) I like to use really funky yarn for the pockets. I used sparkly blue eyelash yarn on one that I made for one of my daughter's more funky dressing friends.

If you are intending to make yarn changes along the length of the scarf, always divide the yarn so you have approximately equal amounts so your stripes will be more or less even.

Make sure you use the same thickness of yarn or you'll need to do something like I did on this scarf. I accidently used a worsted weight and a sport weight and ended up with the middle section being narrower than the ends. It actually worked out well because I was able to crochet on a pink border around the black which really tied the whole scarf together nicely but I've had other accidents that didn't turn out quite so happy.

Now that you've got some idea about the yarn...

What Needles Will You Use?
Use what you have but think about what kind of yarn you're using too. Do you want a dense thick scarf or a looser knit? There's no right answer, it's totally up to you. I usually knit a row or two decide I don't like it and then rip out and start over a few times. This is not such a big deal because you're not really ripping apart that much, a scarf is just not that wide...or is it? That's up to you because the next thing you need to think about is...

How Many Stitches Should I Cast On?
Again, this is your choice. Natasha's is 22 stiches wide done on size 13 needles with two strands of yarn. I'm working on a more delicate one that is only 16 stitches wide done on size 6 needles using a double strand of yarn but one strand is fingering and the other is worsted weight. It's the blue one here.

How Long Should I Make It?
I like to make mine long enough to wrap around the neck once and have the hand fits into the pockets. Measure the person you're making it for or sit next to them when you knit so you can periodically drape it around them or use yourself as the model. Yarn stretches so you have some leeway here.

How Do I Make The Pockets?
There is one rule here, make sure the pockets fold over on the same side of the scarf! I pin them in place, right side facing in, using a knitting needle. This allows me to make sure they are the same size and make the join invisible. Don't forget to take into account the size of the hands of the scarf's intended recipient.

To join the edges together, I use the technique described for Step 2 in the instructions for this knitting tote bag here. This works well and is sturdy and invisible one you turn the pocket right side out.

So that's pretty much it. What do you think?

Monday, December 01, 2008

A Christmas Carol

Yesterday I started reading A Christmas Carol to the boys. I always wanted to do this with the girls but it never seemed to work out. Interestingly, despite the wordy, unfamiliar English of Charles Dickens, the boys are really into it. I'm sure telling them that when Scrooge keeps saying, "Good evening," he really means, "piss off," helped immensely. (You have to say it in your best Cockney accent or its just plain wrong. I'm kind of hanging my head in shame as I admit it.)

Jim's working nights this week so expect my posts to appear at odd times.