Saturday, October 30, 2010

The Mister and I Cook Up Some Fun: Kitchen Date- October

BC (before Little C), my husband and I were always out and about heading to the movies, dinners, or travelling. We also dated for six years before we got married and during that time we probably had
hundreds and hundreds of dates. We must have been subconsciously filling our date quota for the future, b/c since the little man showed up, we rarely go on dates anymore.

This can be hard for me and for other parents of young children in a similar boat, but it does have some benefits.: 1.) When we do get the opportunity to go out alone, we always have a great time. Before, we went out so much that we took it for granted, and it wasn't always as fun as it could have been. 2.) It forces you to find other ways to have "date"-type fun at home.

A couple months ago my husband randomly brought up the idea that we should bake something together. I love cooking, baking, oh, and definitely eating! And I thought it was really sweet that he wanted to do something that was clearly more in line with my hobbies than his.

We made a really simple recipe (on the back of the canned apple pie filling) for Caramel Apple Cheesecake . It was really delicious; the cheesecake was light and creamy and the sugary caramel-apple filling added the perfect amount of gooey sweetness. After sampling it to make sure it wasn't poisonous, we wound up bringing most of it to a family dinner for dessert.

Even if it tasted rotten though, the whole baking experience was so much fun. It felt like the perfect date (even though the Little Man was napping upstairs and my husband and I were only in our kitchen and not at a trendy restaurant eating a gourmet meal). Some parts of it were even like scenes out of a romantic comedy: there was witty banter, lots of laughing, and there even might have been some dancing in the kitchen with a few kisses here and there. I know, gag me, but it's true.

So with the success of our first Kitchen Date, I knew we had to try to make this a bit of a tradition. Obama and Michelle might make date night a monthly priority, but even though we're not running the country, my husband and I will be lucky if we get a chance to do this every few months or so. We just don't seem to have the time to do it with more frequency.

Anyway, I figured a quick and easy Kitchen Date idea would be to combine my husband's enthusiasm for rice krispie treats with my love of Halloween. I thought back to when I was a kid trick-or-treating at a childhood friend's house. There was one woman in her neighborhood who always made popcorn balls. As a kid I had ambivalent feelings about these treats. When it was early in the evening they couldn't compete with the alluring peanut butter cups and and crunchy butterfingers, but after noshing on such sweet candies for awhile the popcorn balls beckoned attractively to us--almost offering us the palate cleansing promise of a real food as opposed to a sugar and corn syrup concoction.

These modern day popcorn balls are made from real air popped popcorn with a hefty dose of M&M's and salted, mixed nuts thrown in. They're held together with the same butter and marshmallow mixture used for rice krispie treats. The recipe can be found here.

I wouldn't go as far as to call them healthy, but compared to peanut butter cups and butterfingers, these sweet treats contain healthy fats, fiber, and protein. Just the right touch of healthiness on Halloween night.

If, of course, they make it to Halloween night. In lieu of dancing during this kitchen date, my husband and I kept shoving these in our mouths instead. Hey, we had to make sure they were safe to eat!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Girls Night: October

What's more festive than fabric stenciled Halloween shirts?

Well, ok,  probably lots of things, but it was pretty festive at the past Girls Night with stenciled spider webs,


 candy corn,


and googly eyes scattered about

After the usual conversation and hors d'oeuvre gobbling we retired to the kitchen to drink some blood

And cast some craft spells. Oh, but mostly to eat this monkey bread:

Who doesn't like monkey?

About the craft: It was easy and practical; the kids can wear their shirts this week to school etc. About a month ago I drew out some designs on manila folders and then used a razor blade to cut them out. I had some ideas for a Frankenstein head, black cat, haunted house, and scarecrow, but I ran out of time and there were plenty of choices for the girls to choose from in the end anyway.

I wish I had done a better job selecting fabric paint colors. Ahem, yellow would have come in handy for the candy corn stencil. I recall Little C. being antsy in the craft store when buying them. Or it could have just been that I didn't think of it. Nah, I'll just blame Little C.

P. turned that little spot at the bottom of her spider web into a spider. I don't have a picture though. This "mistake" actually turned out really cute. 

I know I ate way too much (time to get back on the perpetual diet) and some people may have drunk too much (not saying any names here!) but it was a fun craft night. It's P.'s turn to host next, but instead of crafts she will be having a dinner party where we all pretend to be mature adults. I'm going to recommend that we unveil our individual, long-term craft project ideas then. I already picked out what I'll be working on. It will be a nice monotonous and easy project to work on once the Christmas knitting sweatshop closes at my house.

Thursday, October 14, 2010


It's starting to get a little chilly where I live, time for the bears to head into their respective lairs, get under their covers, turn out the lights on their night tables, and snuggle into their pillows for a long hibernation.

But these WIPS have been hibernating already for quite some time in a closet in the spare room. I thought I'd pull them out of their slumber and decide whether or not they're worth keeping around.

First up: Little C's Big Boy Blanket. I love the colors, it will be perfect for Little C to cuddle with on the couch, or look cute when it's folded up at the end of a big boy bed. (Which I don't want to rush at all. Why do kids have to grow up so fast???) I definitely want to continue making this. This WIP is free to return to it's lair.

Next up: Little C's yellow cardigan. This was my first real foray into knitting. There were mistakes all over it. So I turned it into this:

 RIP, little WIP. I'll have to find something else to do with this yarn.

Third up: Crochet Beach Tote. I had the best intentions when making this. I could totally see myself sporting this circular hemp crochet tote on the beach, but I lost interest and then it wasn't beach weather any more. And then I realized that I hardly even went to the beach this year, and that when I did I had to carry a huge bag to lug all the STUFF a mom has to carry. So, my cute, dainty little hemp tote was 100 % impractical.

In spite of all this, though, I'm not ready to give up on this yet; I'm not willing to give up on the beach dream--the one where I actually relax and read a book, with a tropical drink in my hand. Okay little WIP, you may return to your lair unscathed.

Final WIP: Light and Airy Crochet Nightgown. This was an attempt to merge crochet and sewing together. I gathered some materials together and started to crochet some circles using a tiny metal hook.

These were going to be the straps to my Light and Airy Nightgown. I figured I would also use some crochet trim to embellish it. When I look at this now I want to ask only one question: Was I smoking crack?! The amount of time needed for me to make this would be ridiculous. I also have no idea how to sew a garment and did not have a pattern to follow. Oh, also add to the equation that I would be spending a ton of time on a garment that I would never wear outside the house. I won't even mention the fact that I do not wear nightgowns (Light and Airy or otherwise) at all to bed. I wear my husband's old t-shirts. That sounds really cute, but it's, um,  really not; It's all about comfort over fashion these days. I'm ready to forget this project and fast! RIP, Light and Airy Crochet Nightgown.

Ah, that feels better. Cleaning craft house. If your heart isn't in a project it's either not going to get done or it won't be done well. Now I can concentrate on the other projects I'm excited about.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

First Taste of Lace

This has been quite a year of firsts when it comes to Little C.; we tackled first steps, first teeth, first words ("Mama", "Daddy", and my favorite: "Good boy!")--but I've encountered several firsts when it comes to knitting as well.

I learned a lot (how to M1, other increasing, decreasing, SSK, K2 tog,  provisional cast on, kitchener stitch, long tail cast on, three needle bind off, how to use DPNs, how to make an I-cord, etc.), but it seemed like there were certain levels of ability that I felt challenged to pass. In my head, if knitting were a video game then Level 2 would be cables and Level 3 would be lace.

Even though I've barely made it to Level 2, I feel compelled to try my hand at level 3. Armed with my tokens of acquired stitches, extra lives, and game hints/ codes from Ravelry, I decided to try an easy beginner lace pattern called Matilda. It was a journey that Mario or Zelda would be proud of. (This is how long it's been since I've played video games; My point of reference is from about twenty years ago!)

I cautiously entered into a realm of thin yarn (yarn thickness is called "ply"). If you want something to look light and lacy, you can't use a chunky yarn. The craft store I went to did not have anything available except for sock yarn and mohair. Although I love the feel and look of mohair I am extremely allergic to it; I always find it floating around in the air, getting sucked up my nostrils and stuck on my eyelashes. It's torturous. So I went with a variegated sock yarn with beautiful blues and greens instead.

This pattern calls for chart reading. It is a very simple design, but any chart requires some concentration. I muddled through it without too many mistakes, however it has become increasingly clear that I really don't have the lifestyle right now to concentrate on much of anything. There's a cute website called Petite Purls that features some child and baby knitting patterns. They have a level of difficulty key for all their patterns which takes a new mom's lifestyle into account. Instead of just using a key with Beginner, Intermediate, Experienced, they give these type of details:

"Beginner: Projects for first-time knitters using knit and purl stitches. [Totally do-able for a mama while breastfeeding or snuggling with baby]

Easy: Projects using basic stitches, as well as repetitive stitch patterns and simple color changes. [A simple knit when time is limited and you want everyone to ooh and ahh at that baby shower you were invited to next weekend]

Intermediate: Projects using a variety of stitches, including cables and lace and perhaps some simple color work. Use of circular needles as well as knitting on double pointed needles. [This isn't for when Grandma is knitting while babysitting. Unless Grandma is babysitting and mama is knitting!]

Experienced: Projects using techniques such as short rows, fair isle, and intricate intarsia, lace and cables. [Seriously? Wait until the kids have been dropped off at college to take on this project]"

---from Petite Purls

Even though this is a beginner lace pattern, peace and quiet would have made it infinitely easier to accomplish. I don't know if it required Little C. to head to college, since I knitted it when he was sleeping at night. I guess I have to blame the tv and my husband for distracting me while knitting it. Because the rows build on each other, you must have the exact number of stitches on the previous row. Almost every one of my rows had a missing or extra stitch. Sometimes I had a LOT of extra stitches. My mind was definitely somewhere else while knitting it, I guess. Good thing the pattern and yarn are very forgiving. I don't think you can see too many of my mistakes. It's a triangular scarf/ shawl that is worn kerchief-style. Here's another glamour shot so you can get an idea:

I think I want to return to a mindless knitting or crochet project now, something very Level 1-like in video game world.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Girls Night: September

K hosted Girls Night this month and decided to make....drum roll, please....PUMPKIN decor.

She was inspired by the lit grapevine pumpkins she saw in Grandinroad. (I love their fall and Halloween decor. They have the best decorations I've seen, and Martha Stewart has partnered with them too.)


I have to give K props. I would have thought this craft was too hard to do and wouldn't have bothered (especially with having her hands full with two little ones, working, and taking care of the house. Go K!) Anyway, you need a rolled up grapevine, gardening gloves, 2 small strands of lights, scissors, grapevine twine, and regular green wire. After soaking the grapevine (K filled up her washer to soak all of them), head out to a porch or somewhere where you can get messy, throw on your gloves so you don't hurt your hands, and start making loops around a "stem" that you've made with one end of the grapevine.

With each loop you need to use green twine to secure it in the middle. The gloves come in handy when you remove each of the little metal closures found all along the vine. When you're done looping, start fanning out the vine, and then add lights. We only used one grapevine strand, but using two or more will give you a fuller effect like the ones from the magazine.

I had a serious case of pumpkin envy when I checked out P and K's pumpkins. Mine didn't look so hot in comparison. Um, that might have had something to do with the large amounts of Pinot Grigio I consumed. (Boy, did I pay for that later, too!) Thankfully, P tried to help my sorry-looking pumpkin out.

I'm going to add some faux leaves to the top. This will look perfect on my front patio, nestled in between a real pumpkin or two, and some colorful mums. K has two black urns on her front steps; she's going to put the two she made on top of each urn.

It was a great craft and fun night with the girls. The kiddos were well-behaved, and the food and wine were too too good. I'm up next for hosting. I'm thinking about some more fabric stencils (these really are addictive). Halloween shirts, anyone?
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