Monday, December 27, 2010

Crafty Gifts, 2010

Gift Guide, 2010

Handmade Gifts

Jack and Barney Ornaments

Crocheted "Barney" Ornament, for Mr. and Mrs. Kinne.

Barney Ornament

The pattern is by Nekoyama (ravelry link here). It was originally in Japanese, so it's "translated" into pictures, which actually worked to my advantage, as I'm new to crochet. I added a Santa Hat and scarf with the year.
Model: Mr. Barney himself:

Crocheted "Jack" Ornament, for Beth and Bob.

Jack Ornament

Same pattern, but I was able to make the legs and tail longer because I had more yarn to work with. The Model:

Crocheted "Jasper" Ornament, for Megan.

(Can you believe I forgot to take a picture of it before I gave it to her?)

Pattern from Lionbrand here. It's a little smaller, and the I improvised the ears to make it look more like Mr. Jasper.

Homemade treats . . .

For my work friends, I made a bunch of different Barks.

1) "Christmas Bark" - White chocolate, dried cranberries, and pistatios

2) "Layered Peppermint Bark" - White chocolate, candy canes, and chocolate ganache

3) "Spicy Chocolate Bark" - Milk Chocolate, chili powder, cashews, and pecans

4) "Almond Bark" - Milk Chocolate, slivered almonds

5) "Toffee" - Butter toffee and walnuts

The Takeaway:
1) Toffee is tricky. This recipe did a great job explaining what it should look like and when it's done. Still, I found it difficult to cut it, get it out of the pan, and keep it solid.
2) Don't mix the nuts into the chocolate before spreading it out (like it says to do the Almond Bark recipe). You'll see that that batch looks "muddy" and messy. Compare it to the Spicy one with all the nuts: the spicy one looks much cleaner and more like candy.
3) My apartment is a little too warm for candy-making. I had to put each batch in the freezer to make it firm enough to break.
4) The peppermint with the ganach is AMAZING!!!! Technically, I messed up the top layer, because I didn't let it cool completely. But I still turned out pretty good!

Photoshop Card
Getting two people, a dog, a belly-hat to look good all at the same time, in an apartment without the best lighting, is not easy. Good thing I'm decent at photoshop.

Happy Holidays 2010

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Holiday Crafty Roundup

Because I can't post the actual holiday crafts I'm working on, because the recipients may actually read this, I will post crafts that hopefully I'll remember to tackle next year.



I want . . .

Silver Footprint Pendant on Chain

I just emailed the link to Chris. I'm not subtle.

Friday, December 3, 2010

My need to plan . . .

So I love calendars. I love planning. I love lists. I love applications to allow me to make calendars and lists. I just signed up for Evernote, where you can link online, on a desktop app, and on my phone (and maybe Chris's phone) all sorts of notes and lists. There is also a web clipper where I can bookmark a website and add notes. It's coming in handy for making Christmas lists.

There are a lot of things I need to plan, Christmas probably being the least important actually. Last month I printed out blank calendar pages from November through April and began filling them in with things like "sign up for childbirth classes", "finish painting the living room", and "don't freak out that you're overdue".

Today I took it one step further and planned one for all the knitting that needs to get done before April.

According to this, I should be done with my Alphabet Blanket squares by March 30, taking appropriate breaks for Christmas gifts, Doula Training weekends, baby birthday-presents, and having something do over of New Years (we're going to St. Paul for a wedding . . . in December . . . it's going to be -20 degrees. I need a project to keep me in-doors!). Also, I took into account my commute; between now and January, the commute needs to be reading time to get through the required books for my training; after that, I think I can take some time for knitting squares. Now I know which colors I need to pack when I leave town for Christmas and New Years.

And finally, on a more micro level, I feel the need to fill my calendar with the minutia that I have to get done on any given day. I'm feeling a little overwhelmed with everything, but somehow "finish painting the living room" is less overwhelming than thinking "on Monday, take off the grates and paint behind them", and "on Tuesday take out the A/C and paint the rest of the trim". I'm hoping that if I write it all down, I can see the small steps as just small steps, and not freak out about the whole.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Yarn winding . . .

So Chris turns to me one day, very slyly, and says, "Would you use a yarn winder, if you had one?"
"No, not really", I told him.
I felt bad afterwards, when I realized that he was 1) proving his knowledge of the knitting world and had clearly looked at the Webs catalogue that came that week, and 2) trying to lock down a birthday present for me. Bless 'im.

Back-story . . .
Sometimes yarn comes in balls (or "cakes") . . .

sometimes yarn comes in center-pulled skeins . . .

and sometimes it comes in hanks . . .

Personally, I find the hank the most annoying, because you can't just pull the end from it and knit away like a center-pull skein. You have to undo it and ball it.
Really nice yarn often comes in hanks. Sometimes they have a winder in the store, so when you buy it, they will ball it for you.

"Real" knitters will buy their own winders or "swifts" and do it at home.
Plastic and Metal Swift

 . . . I am not that fancy. I end up wrapping the hank around my feet and rolling it myself.
Sometimes I ask Chris to help . . .

This works too:

But I don't buy enough fancy yarn to make a swift a practical purchase.  However . . .

I came across this posting on the Craftzine blog . . .

DIY Yarn Ball Winder

Which led me to . . .

DYI Yarn Swift: desperate measures
DIY swift

But even better . . .

Winding a skein into a centre-pull ball
wind around the thumb

And, Chris, you are not off the hook for my birthday. Sorry.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Oh the crafty!!!

Lots of crafty potential! After my laptop slipped into a coma and suffered massive brain damage (fried motherboard), Chris and I discussed pushing up Christmas a bit and replacing both our laptops now (his is just as old as mine . . . age-ist, I know). After a little research, playing in Best Buy, and waiting for a sale, we celebrated an early Christmas last night with our new toys.


One problem: they are exactly the same. So I am now window shopping for skins for mine.

Knit Love Laptop / Macbook / Notebook Computer Decal Sticker

Knit Happy Sheep Laptop Notebook Macbook Computer Decal

And while I'm at it, might as well get a matching one for the phone.

I'm loving the super huge hard drive, so I don't have to exile my Harry Potter Audiobooks and Friends movie files to the external hard drive. PLUS!!!! I happen to have a sweet little set of CDs hidden at the bottom of my "things with cords and buttons" box, which happen to have a sweet little pirated version of a little something called Adobe Creative Suite 5. And now I have enough RAM or processing speed or magic computer juice to run it. I'm pretty excited.

I also had an interesting conversation with Chris last night as I was installing the new Microsoft Office and found to my disappointment that the one he bought didn't have MS Publisher. "What do you need it for?" he asked. "With CS5 you'll have everything you'll need! You don't actually use it to edit pictures, right?" Actually, I explained to him, I do. MSPub is my all-time favorite way to quickly add text or simple graphics on top of a photo. With all my computer and digital imaging skill, I can't seem to figure out how to put a g-d circle on a photo in Photoshop! Or to put an arrow on something! The good thing about Windows 7 though is that it runs previous versions of software pretty well, so that's on the To-Install list for this week.

I haven't downloaded photos from my camera in ages, so there are a few belly shots looking forward to seeing full-screen. And while I'm at it, my couch is full of knitting that needs to be documented (photographed, weighed, and Ravel-ed).

On to Food Craft! This week I experimented with Apple Strudel and Layered Jello Molds.



1) I overfilled the pastry, which led to a very high filling:pastry ratio.
2) I don't know how to work with Filo dough. I think I took too long getting it ready, because it dried up and didn't fold as well as I think it should have.
3) I can secretly feed Chris cream cheese as long as he thinks it's frosting.
4) Filo comes in packages of too many for my cooking methods. I ended up quickly experimenting with home-made Hot Pockets because I couldn't bear to throw away half the package.


Layered Jello Mold:

Was supposed to look like . . .


My first try looked like . . .


1) I need an actual Jello Mold and not just the bottom of my Big Top Cupcake pan.

2) I need to correctly mix the Cream-Cheesey layer, and not just mix in Cool Whip until I think it's done.
3) I need to not spill jello juice in the bottom of the refrigerator. 
4) I like how the top looks like a kiwi . . . unintentional. 

Saturday, November 13, 2010

"Battle Against Dysentery III: Wagon Train of Destiny"

It's that time of year again!!! The Geeks with Issues are hosting their annual Oregon Trail charity webcast and telethon to raise funds for Child’s Play and the Hillcrest Educational Centers in Pittsfield, MA.

The action starts on Saturday, November 27, 2010 at Noon et and runs for 24 hours, non-stop. If you live in Pittsfield, Dalton or Richmond, MA, you can watch the program live on Time Warner channel 18. If you live outside of that area, you can see the show on the GWI website. You can even chat with the hosts LIVE!

Busy over Thanksgiving weekend? THEN GIVE NOW! You can donate at any time at

Still not convinced? Ok, I'll let you in on a secret: there are some pretty sweet prizes for a few lucky viewers, including one from Tough Love Knitters!!! One person will win a custom-made, knitted, "geek craft" item. This can be anything the winner wants!* A hat and gloves, a pillow, a Nintendo DS cozy! I will work with the winner to design something he or she will really love. To get involved, just go to during the broadcast and join the live chat. You can also send an email to, saying you want to be entered. No pledge necessary to enter (though, of course, we would appreciate it).

Need an example? Last year's winner received this lovely, hand-made Firefly Jayne Cobb Hat and arm-warmers.

Jayne Hat (1)

Jayne Arm Warmers (1)

More Geek Craft ideas?


Please give what you can, and tune in November 27th!

* max $30 for raw materials