Friday, December 21, 2012

Christmas Treats # 4 & 5: Baking Storm

Last week before Christmas = Baking! Baking! Baking! 

SUGAR COOKIES
 These are my favourite sugar cookies to make (and eat). The recipe comes from the older Better Homes & Gardens Cookbook. I was sad, as was my mother to learn the new cookbook does not have this same recipe. In fact, many of their 'updated' recipes are rather disappointing. Unfortunately, my mom upgraded her cookbook at the same time she bought me one, so many of those recipes I grew up with are now gone. Luckily, I had photocopied the recipe out of her cookbook for when I was off dogsitting and felt the need to bake (which in any given week will arise). 
The recipe is for 'cut-outs' but I always make pinwheel/swirl cookies because it's faster/easier (although I will make the dough up one night and bake the cookies the next) and I love the look of them. With less rerolling, the dough also stays softer. I will use practically any holiday as an excuse to make them (I've made them for Halloween, Valentine's Day, 4th of July, President's Day, Easter, and Thanksgiving, as well as Christmas).

Sugar-Cookies (pinwheel/swirl instructions)
-1/3 cup margarine or butter
-1/3 cup shortening
-2 cups all-purpose flour
-1 egg
-3/4 cup sugar
-1 tablespoon milk
-1 teaspoon baking powder
-1 teaspoon vanilla
-Dash of salt       

Beat margarine and shortening with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Add about half of the flour, the egg, sugar, milk, baking powder, vanilla, and salt. Beat till thoroughly combined Beat in remaining flour. Divide dough in half. Color as desired. Wrap in saran (I know it's evil and wasteful, but it's the only thing I use plastic wrap for). Chill for an hour or hour and a half. 

Roll out one of the lumps of chilled dough (I roll it out directly on the saran wrap to prevent it from sticking to the counter or becoming discolored by the flour/unable to stick to itself) until it is about 1/4" thick and is a rectangle. The wider it is, the larger the cookies will be. The longer the rectangle, the more cookies you will get. Roll the second colour out to the same size rectangle as the first. Transfer onto top of the first (or vice versa... keep the colour you want on the outside on the bottom). With the long side parallel to the edge of the counter, begin to roll the far edge of the dough towards you (the saran wrap will help you start this, and pull on it for an even pressure while your roll it up). You will have a tube of cookie dough now. Rewrap tightly and chill for another three hours. 

Simply slice dough into 1/4" thick slabs, place on cookie sheet about 1 1/2" to 2" apart and bake in 350 degree F oven for about 8 minutes or until bottoms are lightly browned and tops are no longer shiny. Our oven only takes about five minutes.  

Beware! These are highly addicting and you won't stop eating them until your stomach feels like it's going to explode. 

...
CRANBERRY-GINGER
SHORTBREAD
New-to-me recipe... Not sure I like the ginger. I used much less than it called for, since I was afraid it would overpower the cookies.

From Betty Crocker Cookies Cookies, a birthday present from my mom.

...
And finally, able to pack up the goodies! To the Post Office tomorrow! (Okay, I do have to make one more triple batch of sugar cookies so that they are fresh to give at Friday's Christmas gathering).

 

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Christmas Treats #2 & #3: Stove Top Slavery

This weekend, I took care of the stove-top cooked candy/treats... 

TOFFEE!
So the first attempt at toffee, I used a recipe from a book called Rose's Christmas Cookies by Rose Levy Bernanbaum. MAJOR FAIL! Ms. Baranbaum's recipe tells you to cook the coffee to 285 degrees F or the soft crack stage. Had I checked the internet instead of blindly trusting published works (which would theoretically have functional, tested recipes), I would've discovered that toffee has to be cooked to the hard crack stage (300 degrees F). Trial two  (using this recipe) was a success, with two more batches to follow, for a total of between 6 and 7.5 pounds of toffee!

FUDGE!
I can't seem to make fudge from scratch... it turns out all grainy, so I cheat and use the Marshmallow Fluff recipe. I made two large batches, making a total of ten pounds of the sweet treat.

That puts me 2/3 of the way through my Christmas baking...
 

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Steampunk Bodice (& the TARDIS)

We went to the Victorian Stroll in Troy a couple weekends ago, and of course steampunk'd it. Guess who else decided to show up there? The Doctor parked his blue box outside a tea shop (they were doing a Doctor Who theme during the stroll... very awesome)!

At any rate, I already had a full Victorian skirt (from my Mrs. Lovett costume) which seemed fitting for Christmas time shenanigans, being red and white candy stripe. But a new bodice/ jacket was in order...


McCalls 6710 
+ tails
- about an inch (along shorten/lengthen line)
+ welt pockets                                               
= STEAMPUNK BODICE




I've had these neat swirl brass buttons for quite a while. There's actually a couple on the sides of my goggles, holding the strap to the goggles. Anyway, they were perfect for this piece, and that's the last of them! Also, welt pockets! Forgot how much I love them and they are perfect for pocket watches!

I lined the bodice in leftover stripe fabric to match the skirt, and also trimmed my topper out with a band, bow and long drapey ties. The belt I pulled from my old steampunk pirate outfit, finished grommeting it (I had only done the first few holes because I had limited resources when I made it and not enough grommets), attached my aetheray gun in holster, threaded a compass on a watch chain through the grommets, attached a reticule (made from the same black dot on black cotton as the bodice) and was kitted out.
(Plus this totally justifies the expense of that custom made red stripe silk-cotton fabric I got through spoonflower, since I've now used it for two events... right?)

Friday, December 14, 2012

Christmas Treat #1: Why is the the rum gone?

The rum is gone because I made RUM BALLS!

Quite possibly everyone's favourite... ;-) I make these early so they have a week or two to mature...




RUM BALLS
2 1/2 cups Nilla Wafers (about one 11 oz box)
1 cup confectioner's/powdered sugar
3/4 cup pecan pieces
2 tablespoons cocoa
3 tablespoons corn syrup
1/4 cup rum

Crush/Crumb Nilla wafers in food processor/blender until fine (Should measure 2 1/2 cups after crushed). Place in large bowl. Chop pecan pieces in food processor/blender until fine (again 3/4 cup measure should reflect after being chopped/ground up).  Add to bowl. Add the rest of the ingredients to the bowl. Mix, using hands is probably best (kneading together the ingredients until thoroughly combined). Form into balls about 1" in diameter by rolling between palms, and then coat in topping (ground nuts, sprinkles, cocoa, powdered sugar) by rolling in a bowl or plate of the topping. (May have to add more rum as necessary to maintain desired consistency).

For best flavour, let mature a week or so in a sealed container.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

My First BURDA patterns!

I do rather like some of their styles, but being a cheapskate, I only buy patterns when they're $1 on sale at Jo-Ann fabrics. I'll go for the $1.99, too, but Burda never seems to go for less than $4 and some change. This time, however they were on sale for $2.50, so I picked up a few, but limited myself to only a few. I'm pretty excited about them...

...

BURDA 7179 (at simplicity)



If you're not aware, I LOVE me some shirt-dresses. Perhaps because I remember my childhood with fondness and grunge made an impression on me. This one however, combines the shirt dress with the retro 50s look. Double love. Also, this pattern is not only for the dress, but for accessories! Collar variations, a tie, a bow tie (bow ties are cool) and best of all, the belt! (matching belts are honestly what makes many 50s looks, and are neglected in most patterns... perhaps because they think, oh anyone can make a belt? Not an excuse!)

...

BURDA 8488 (at simplicity)

So... I got lazy with this one. I've wanted some 'sailor' style (or old school breeches, if you prefer) pants, but haven't gotten around to playing with drafting them up. Unfortunately, in this pattern, the front piece is decorative rather than functional, and they have an invisible zip in the side. I think this can be easily remedied, however... The ones with the lacing reminds me of these pants I made a number of years ago now...

...

BURDA 7198 (at simplicity)



Love this for several reasons.

1. I have been grooving on the nightgowns lately, and I think the tunic version would be a great lounge item.

2. After about 5-10 years, my long sleeve shirts are starting to bite it hard core, and I could use some more.

3. Most shirt patterns one finds have very high, tight necklines. I'm quite liking this boat-neck and front tab, which my friend/room-mate/Jo-Ann buddy has dubbed the 'her-ley', or female henley.

4. Darts in the front equal a better fit for us busty gals!

...

CAN'T WAIT TO GIVE THESE A TRY!


Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Emergency Baby Shower Gift (Romper ca. 1981)

Found out that the day after I get home (Yay! Vacation!), my mom is attending the baby shower of the daughter of one of her friends. Since I am familiar with both my mom's friend and her daughter, I'll probably tag along, too. And you can't show up to a Baby Shower without a gift! So into the stash, I go...

Leftover fabrics from making a baby quilt for a friend last year (happy to find there was more left than I had thought... and just barely enough stripe to make a piece of clothing). Pattern pulled from my roommate's massive baby/child clothing pattern collection (Simplicity 5333 from 1981).

I think she's having a boy... so I hope this isn't too 'girly'...

Sunday, November 4, 2012

The Most Important (Mrs. Lovett) Accessory

Almost forgot to share this part of my Halloween Costume...
 Mini Meat Pies
Arguably the most important accessory for a Mrs. Lovett costume, the meat pie. I don't have any in-progress, cooking shots, but here's how I made mine...

Tools: Besides the usual pots, pans, bowls, beaters, measuring cups, pot holders, etc...
  • mini muffin pan
  • parchment/freezer paper (cut into strips)
  • tart tamper 
  • food processor/blender 

Ingredients: (proportions not included, since I ended up with a bunch of filling leftover that I had to freeze)

  • Ground Beef (1/2 lbs would probably serve)
  • Ground Pork (1/2 lbs would probably serve)
  • onion
  • Savory and other spices
  • bay leaf
  • cream, half-n-half, or milk
  • 6 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 2 cups flour
1. Chop onion finely, saute in butter (with garlic, if desired).  Add ground beef and pork, spices (to taste). Cook meat until meat is completely done. Remove beef and onion (I used a strainer), reserve juices/grease.

2. Make gravy from the reserved juices, adding flour and cream/half-n-half/milk, and gravy master (if you have it is handy) as desired/needed.

3. Since I was making mini-pies, I knew the chunks of ground meat wouldn't settle/fill them up correctly, so I opted for pureeing part of the meat mixture (about three-quarters) in the blender, using the gravy to smooth it out (find and remove bay leaf if you used one). The result is a little nasty looking, slightly reminiscent of slop served in school lunches back in the day.

4. Prepare 'crust'. For mini-pies, I find this cream-cheese based recipe works better, creating a smooth dough that holds together. First, cream butter with the cream cheese. Add the flour and mix well.

5. The original recipe I used for this says it makes 48, but I got 24 and barely enough for the mini-pie top crusts. Cut parchment/freezer paper strips and lay across the cups in the mini-muffin pan (these work like little tabs and let you easily pull the pies out after baking). Form little balls of dough, place on top of strips in cups, and use a tart tamper (frequently flouring) to press into a tart shell shape.

6. Fill the crusts with the meat filling. Roll out and cut rounds (I magically had the perfect size glass to do this with) out of the remaining dough for the top. The cream-cheese base also makes it very easy to stick the top crusts onto the shells. Cut tiny slits in tops to vent (probably not necessary) and for decoration.

7. Bake at 350 degrees F until golden brown.

8. Have a little priest...

Learning to Crochet

So far, I'm having difficulty understanding some of the stitch directions in the books I got from the library. Ironically, 'Crocheting School: A Complete Course' was the most incoherent. I think part of the problem is that I have too small a crochet hook for the gauge of yarn and I can't see the stitches clearly. I'm also noticing that I probably have a tendency to have the tension way too tight... same as when I gave knitting a go. Seemed to work for these little loop flowers, however...

Next project will hopefully be a hat, with a thicker yarn and larger hook.

Not sure I'm going to have the patience to see this through until I can make lace trims, which is my ultimate goal and primary reason for learning crochet, since most of the aesthetics of crochet or knitted items just doesn't appeal to me.

Also could be a problem, this hurts my hand (again, probably holding the hook too tightly). If it causes any fatigue to my fingers whatsoever, this is probably not something I should do, since my hands get tired from hooping garments for embroidery all day, and I had planned to do my crocheting during my commute by bus to and from work.

But we'll see.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

NOVEMBER TO DO:

(probably wise to pick up this habit of organizing my thoughts/projects)
  • alterations (by commission... hopefully my last for a very long time. I don't like doing them. It's boring and I have so little free time)
  • resurrect my poor L.L. Bean backpack
  • 40s style overalls (preferably, but if I don't have enough olive twill, just pants. I'm initiating another spending moratorium for fabric -for my self, presents are another story)
  • Hat tab: There are currently pins keeping my favourite hat to size.
  • start to learn crochet!
  • tackle the pile of repairs (of my own clothing)
  • umbrella? (I lost my good umbrella that I painted to match my raincoat and boots... but soon rain won't be our issue, now will it?)
  • finish off lingering Mrs. Fitzsimmons Costume and repost on etsy
GENERAL TO DO: (projects stewing in my brain)
  • Teal knit Steampunk shifts
  • TinkerSue Series
    • Smock
    • Underdress
    • Bloomer-Romper
    • Coveralls
  • 60s Dresses
  • Plaid Shirts 

Saturday, October 27, 2012

By the seaside, By the beautiful sea! (Only without the Sea)

So... Here's the reason why I haven't been posting lately. Firstly, I've been ridiculously exhausted. And the first thing to go is blogging (both reading and writing). Secondly, any free time I've had for the past month has gone into this project, my Halloween costume! It was totally worth it, though. Yesterday (Yes, I know it was only the 26th of October, but the 31st is a Wednesday this year!) was my Halloween party. Games of croquet, pumpkin bowling, sangria, cookies and candy, lots of fun with friends, and...  
Mrs. Lovett's Red Stripe 'By The Sea' Dress!
(Only without the 'seaside' part, since I don't live by the sea...)
Fabric I got through Spoonflower; designed myself, since upon analysis of the reference photos,  I determined three distinct stripe patterns were used, and being crazy, I couldn't settle on using just one type of stripe for the entire piece. It's the silk-cotton blend that they offer (which I thought most resembled the fabric used in the original... which was possibly a silk organza?). The ruffled organza trim, I made by running strips of red organza through the serger set to a picot edging with white thread, and then ruffling the strips. This trims the upper part of the ruffles, the sleeve cuff, and along the bodice center front-neckline. The cuffs have hand-pleated organza trim.
The parasol began as a plain white umbrella. The 'polka dots' upon study are in fact circles with a little extra partial ring that makes them look sort of like holes. I painted mine on by hand with an acrylic painters pen. The trim is hand-pleated organza.
I almost went with only one petticoat, which was from the Laughing Moon #102 pattern. However, this is an under the bustle petticoat, and I feared would not give the proper volume to the skirt (Also being that I used a plain muslin). Thus, I made a second petticoat that was just the skirt pattern (drafted from an original Victorian skirt pattern in Authentic Victorian Fashion Patterns) done in muslin.
The bodice was drafted using these helpful reference photos as a guide. The center-front is interfaced muslin with strips of organza pleated directly to the pieces. The lace trim is attached to the center front with hand-embroidery chain stitch in red thread.

Center Front Piece With Pleated Organza
Cutting Ruffles On The Bias/45 Degree Diagonal
Math: designing fabric, calculating yardages
Weeping Angel, TARDIS, Mrs. Lovett, Elizabeth Bennet (Vanquisher of the Sorry Stricken)

Sunday, August 26, 2012

SAVING THE DOCTOR (T-shirt Revamp)

My favourite Doctor Who t-shirt had gotten to the stage of large holes in the underarm seams, but I couldn't let it go yet, so I turned it into a tank a la Meg.

(Life on Mars) 'Annie' Outfit: 70s Stylin'

I decided that I should pull some old stuff before I start working on new stuff, so out came this half-finished project. :-) I was looking at some 70s patterns, the reference photo I had and through my own pattern collection, and had concluded that Simplicity 2758 would serve quite well for the blouse; Wide collar with collar stand, flare sleeves with tight cuff. I got some awesome yellow paisley lawn a while back with this project in mind. Some black pinstripe suiting and alterations to s basic vest pattern I had, and the top was finished. For the skirt, I used a lightweight wool suiting and some random pattern, but did not like the drape/fit of it, and so opted to wing a simple knit skirt that flares at bottom (although not as nicely as Annie's). Unfortunately, still too warm this time of year to sport the suitings. Also, my hair sadly is much longer and no longer 70s-ish. At the time I started this project, it was the same length as Annie's cute feathered bob-ish look, if that gives you an idea how long it's been sitting around.

Monday, August 20, 2012

(Sort of Punkish) Jersey Dress and Matching Hat



I had this black cotton jersey with skull/clockface motif lying around for probably a couple of years, if I'm being honest. There had been various ideas about what I wanted to do with it, but apparently none of them were 'right' because it never got made into anything. For some reason I decided I wanted a jersey dress made from Simplicity 3775 (I didn't quite have the guts, and probably not the yardage to do the jumpsuit from Simplicity 2401- Plus, if it's one piece pants and zips up the side, that's a nightmare for someone who has to pee like 20 times a day). I accented with some more of the copious amount of pink chiffon that I still have no idea what I was thinking when I bought (and can't really remember ordering it). The midriff accent was made just by cutting the midriff overlay pieces from the chiffon. The neck and sleeve bands I overlayed over the jersey so that they'd still have enough structure to do their job.

The hat is from Simplicity 5508.
 I had made this hat once before, using a flannel (that's right, I made a flannel sunhat, judge me if you dare! It had pineapples on it!) and interfacing as instructed. It was super floppy. I wanted more structure with this one, especially since nothing is more sheer/flimsy than chiffon, so I interfaced the chiffon for both the shell and lining, and also used a layer of buckram (basting it to all the pieces of the shell). I'm not sure if I followed instructions, but I constructed the shell and then the lining, sewed them right sides together along the brim, leaving an opening, turned it, and topstitched around the edge to close it off (because that's how I roll). I thought about doing a scallop stitch in black around the edge, but decided simple was better in this case, and let the tie made from the jersey do the work (plus, as is, I can trim it to accompany various outfits).

Matchy, Matchy!

PS Did you notice my mistake that I was too lazy to fix? (If it was for someone else, I totally would have gone back and redid it, but as it was just for me... the design on the bodice front can stay upside down, and that's what I get for trying to conserve fabric!)

Saturday, August 11, 2012

TARDIS Wallets

Blue Base Coat with Krylon craft spray. Hand-painted detail in and out... Rustoleum Clear Sealant spray (tried Krylon, but it dried cloudy, definitely would not recommend it!)

DAVIES (9th/10th, Eccleston/Tennant) VARIATION:
My favourite Doctor being David Tennant, I of course went with his variation of the TARDIS...

So... when I saw KrazyKitty's wallet on craftster, I knew what my new wallet had to be. I've had the same wallet for about a decade (quite literally, I think 10 or 12 years) and it's falling apart. Probably should have gotten a new one a while ago, but I so loved my wallet that it needed something pretty spectacular to convince me to move on. A TARDIS wallet definitely meets those standards!

Before (acquired at a thrift store)...
MOFFAT (11th/Smith) VARIATION:
Because I couldn't keep all the awesomeness for myself, and it was my friend's birthday, I made her a wallet of the newest TARDIS variation.

 

Friday, August 10, 2012

Steampunk Minion Necklace

My friend really liked the steampunk minions employed in the life-size Steampunk Expedition game from my birthday, so I made her a mini-version necklace.

Sculpey, googly eye, watch gear, wire, chain...

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Lovebird Summer Dress (Simplicity 4199)

So... yet another 'I bought this fabric forever ago and just finally got around to using it' project.  I made a dress with this pattern (Simplicity 4119 ) years ago and really like it, except the bodice is so skimpy that I always wear it with a blouse on top. So, I thought I'd try making the bodice a little larger for better coverage. But apparently, that was a fail :-/ I still think it's cute, though.

Have to say, quilter's cottons make the best summer dresses! Girlie lovebird design cotton with turquoise taffeta accent and bow.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Black Gauze Wrap Pants & Pink Chiffon Top

One of my favourite summer clothing items is a pair of wrap pants I made a few years ago from Simplicity 5508 (I believe it is no longer in print, but that there is a different pattern that has the same wrap pants currently in production).

This black lightweight cotton (gauze) with silver stripes was just begging to become a pair.

I had no idea what top I could wear with it, so I went through my stash and found the massive amount of pink chiffon (that I cannot even fathom the reason I purchased it for... probably because it was on sale), which seemed like a good idea for a lightweight summer shirt.

While I've utilized the pants pattern numerous times, as well as tried out the hat, I'd never given the (knit) tops pattern a go, and thought 'hey, why not?' Quite like how it turned out. Due to the sheerness, I opted just to finish the neck edge with a narrow hem instead of using facing pieces.

(Have to say this outfit turned out a lot more flattering than I had imagined, which is a nice bonus!)

Monday, July 16, 2012

STEAMPUNK EXPEDITION

THE PLAYERS

...
THE MISSION

 ...
THE GAME: STEAMPUNK EXPEDITION
  1. The ground is LAVA!
  2. Players must reach the end by answering trivia questions and charades, earning a KEY along the way, and saving Nikola Tesla.
  3. The captain (player who initially rolls highest number, and then those who answer cards with captain symbol correctly) wears the CAPTAIN (pith helmet) charm and can make up additional rules at the beginning of each turn.
  4. The SAFETY (wings) charm is earned by rolling a 5, and allows the player to move freely from space to space or between turns.
  5. Minions hold a players place in case of necessary absence.
  6. PENALTIES (skull and cross bone charms) are accrued by touching lava without safety or captain's permission or by breaking captain's rules.

...
TRACKER COSTUME
...
MINIONS!!


Monday, July 2, 2012

Falconer's Glove (for handling Jack the Raven)

















Jack, the best steampunk accessory! (Here's his story if you aren't acquainted)

Glove is variant on Butterick 5370 (historical gloves pattern), the forearm portion of the glove, with eyelets and lacing are alterations/custom design)

JULY TO DO:

  • finish STEAMPUNK EXPEDITION (life-sized board game)
    • die
    • spaces
    • trivia cards
      • Anachronism
      • Tesla vs. Edison
      • decorate
    • Tesla
  • Costume Accessories
    • eye augmentation patch
    • upgrade Jack (the raven)
    • compass/alethiometer (?)
  • Wallet
Randomly this past week, a character concept/costume series struck me and wouldn't go away...(maybe an August project)
Susie the Tinkerer (aka Tinker-Sue)