I decided to make my coworkers a ginormous batch of cookies for the day after Christmas. All but one of us in the precinct is working the day after (aka “the Show”), and I think we’ll need some extra cheer during our busiest – and likely lowest attitude – day. And JT had us close a little early this evening, so that we could get home to our families, and I to my oven.
And I baked, dear reader; I baked.
I made a double batch of my favorite oatmeal-chocolate-chip cookies, and a regular batch of my Christmas tradition cookies (this time with actual sprinkles!).
This is but a taste of the baking that ensued when I got home.
That’s great, but that does not explain my title. Oh, no. Feeling particularly bold, I decided to try something new. A month ago or so, Eric and I bought a donut pan. I have since made a batch, but as I said…bold. So tonight I thought “I know what’s Christmasy! Booze!”
I switched up the recipe that came with the pan and made chocolate donuts. And then I dipped those suckers in a Bailey’s glaze. BAM!
The batter for these is always a little thin, and after two batches of cookies, it was strange to work with. And also, I am messy, so there are little bits of batter all over the pan. Mmmmm!
It’s amazing what I can do with only about 4 combined feet of counter space.
And then, because I was feeling so very fancy, I decided to sprinkle a little sea salt on these bad boys to offset the sweetness.
So, yeah. I don’t mean to brag, but I made some chocolate-bailey’s-glazed-donuts tonight. Merry Christmas to all!
I’ve traded my 5am part time shifts for full time work and occasional late nights. That means, of course, that instead of leaving work, coming home, and being too tired to do anything, I get up at a reasonable time and don’t go to work until the afternoon. I also need more pairs of khakis that I previously owned, so I bought a new pair. Alas, they were too long.
Luckily, I have a sewing machine!
For whatever reason hemming pants is a difficult task for me. It seems easy enough when I start – measure, cut, sew. Once I get into it, though, I start second-guessing and fretting over details and length and such. So I re-measure, hesitate about cutting, and then measure again.
Today I spent 3 hours working on the pants, and they came out okay, all things considered. I mean, the length is right (that is a first for me!). But this wouldn’t be a Crafty Polymath post if something hadn’t gone wrong with the whole process, right?
My sewing machine decided, somewhere at the end of the second leg, that it didn’t like…sewing, I guess. I’m not entirely sure what it did, but it started making a weird noise, and then when I looked at the finished product, there is a knot of thread just kind of…there. I’m not sure what went wrong, and honestly, I’m not that upset. The pants are the right length, and the knot isn’t that obvious.
So I’m quite proud of my accomplishment. Pants all hemmed and with an hour to spare before I leave for work.
In other news, Ann Coulter is at it again, being a big, mean-spirited source of evil. And I mean evil.
Anyway, there we have it. Ann Coulter is evil, and I hemmed some pants. I guess things sort of balance out…maybe.
Fall is a busy birthday season for me. I have my bff/college roommate’s birthday, dad, Eric, mom, grandma, and a few others interspersed. There goes my Christmas crafting time, no? Especially with November’s focus being writing fantastic fiction stories.
Hopefully I’ll have birthday gifts done completely soon.
Today is dad’s birthday (Happy Birthday, Dad!), so I am showcasing his handmade goodie today.
I struggled and awful lot with this one. My initial idea has been something along the lines of Atlanta Braves memorabilia…that I made. Then I thought about some sort of music-themed gift. I had a really hard time coming up with a fun way to use that theme, though, so I went back to the drawing board. The drawing board, of course, is mom.
She had a brilliant idea, as usual, and I took that as a spring board and went forward. She suggested a clock, and I ended up with this:
I went through a few prototypes in my mind. The first was a clock with various song titles with numbers, but I couldn’t find enough good ones that would translate well. Then I thought perhaps a family clock, where each number was a family member, but the numbers didn’t add up. Besides, I really liked the idea of using “One ring to rule them all.”
The clock face was pretty easy. I bought a pre-cut one at work, painted it with a metallic (copper) acrylic paint, and then wrote the words with Sharpie. I went with paint first, so that the marker wouldn’t bleed into the wood and get all blobby (that’s a technical term).
The hardware is sold separately in little kits. I bought one of those, and thanks to Eric’s finagling, we got it to fit and work. Fun story! It didn’t fit correctly initially, so I took a trip to the store for a Plan B. Good news: I have a Christmas present idea already!
I was so worried about getting it there on time, and it ended up arriving on Monday! Ha! It was a surprisingly easy process, all things told. I mean, once I had the idea. I would like to play with it a little bit more, but this was a great start.
I believe it was a success. Hooray! I was pleased with the outcome. And now dad has a very unique and fun clock! Time will never be the same…
I mentioned in my last post that I made a fresh meal for my mother-in-law yesterday, and I also promised to post about the ravioli I made. Before I do that, though, I have to explain why making ravioli is so important to me.
My maternal grandmother, Margaret, was, above all else, a very loving woman. She was also an insanely talented cook. I grew up on the East coast, and during that time, she lived in California. I can count on one hand the number of times I met her, and I can count on one finger the number of times I had her ravioli. But to this day, that ravioli haunts my taste buds. For years, I listed “ravioli” on my favorite food choice in surveys, though the truth was that it was specifically her ravioli that I desired. No store-bought or chain-restaurant-made ravioli has ever come close.
Mine didn’t, either, but I’m willing to chalk it up to years of being tortured by the lack of her ravioli. She died 11 years ago, and the recipe went with her, so I am left to try only what my infantile culinary skills can put together.
Earlier this week, I made cannelloni for Eric, and because I only made half of the package of the shells, I still had a good amount of the cheese mixture left over. While prepping the pasta for his mom yesterday, the thought struck me to make ravioli! My birthday present this year included the pasta maker and the ravioli press, so it only seemed fair to try it.
Since Eric’s mom doesn’t eat cheese, I still made some spaghetti, as well. I also made the sauce. But I used frozen veggies because, I mean, c’mon. How much work can one person really do these days? Also…I had forgotten to buy enough produce. Oops.
I learned from last time, when the pasta didn’t dry long enough. So this time, I started the dough around 9am, while talking to my mom on the phone. I let the ball of dough dry for about 3 hours (some people say to wait a whole day!), and then I ran it through the pasta maker, and used the ravioli press. Our guests arrived almost half an hour after I had finished with the pasta maker. We then went about going to garage sales and what not, and the pasta had about 4 hours to dry on its own. We put a fan on it, just in case.
It came out great! And so did the ravioli. There were quite a few compliments, which is awesome for a person who is hungry for a good ego-stroking, like myself. The sauce was the best yet.
It got me all excited and confident to try out the canning supplies I got.
This week has already been a whirlwind! How is it Wednesday? And before you ask, the whirlwind/Wednesday one was NOT intentional. They just happen so naturally!
I have been doing a lot – mostly work related stuff – but I have not made the time to post about it. Thus the “Woops!” But I’m not apologizing because, um, things have been basically awesome. That said, I don’t want to leave folks hanging, and with the exception of my failed pasta last night (another post, I promise!), I have been making some bang-up food lately.
The fresh produce from the farmer’s market has been helping immensely!
Sunday night, after finishing the porch project, I made “Skillet Gnocci with Chard and White Beans” from Eating Well. It’s, um, exactly what it sounds like. It’s gnocci (potato-filled pasta from North Italy. Scrumptious!), some sort of green (I used spinach), tomatoes, and optional cheese. And you cook it in a skillet.
Also, it’s one of our favorite meals.
It does not require cheese, for those who do not partake in dairy products.
AND, the original recipe calls for a can of diced tomatoes with Italian spices. Skip it! Buy fresh tomatoes, soak them in a little bit of oil, vinegar, and spices, and then add them as if they were canned. It’s the same thing, but it’s tastier and better for you.
So here’s what you’ve been scrolling past all these annoying “words” to see:
(2 yards of Spider Man fabric + approx. 2 yards of black fabric + aida cloth + bias tape)Sam’s frustration = ?
A Spidey messenger bag!
A few posts ago, I mentioned making a tote bag out of the remaining fabric from the Super Birthday Project, but then I remembered that I don’t like totes, and I rarely use them. Besides, using a Spidey tote for grocery shopping seemed, well, sad – Spidey deserves better.
The reason I don’t like totes is that I don’t care for bags that sit on the shoulder and hang down. I much prefer them to across the body. You know, similar to a messenger bag.
But, as usual, there was a problem. Messenger bags are generally sturdy, and they tend to require thick cloth. I have a ton of cotton prints and some fleece. Show me a messenger bag made with thin cotton and fleece, and I’ll show you another item that does not exist anywhere. In answer to this, I wallowed in self-pity for about an hour, bemoaning my lack of good fabric.
Then I got crafty because that’s what I do.
About a year ago, I purchased some black aida cloth for a cross-stitching project that never happened. If you are unfamiliar with this type of cloth, it can be fairly rigid, but it is also riddled with holes, since it’s for cross-stitching. Of course, it’s also easy to wrap in other fabrics.
So that’s what I did.
For whatever reason, I don’t generally use patterns. For better or worse, I just go forward with my ideas when I get them.
I trace things, sure, but I am not a stickler on perfect cuts or anything. This is probably where a lot of my problems start, but until it becomes a major issue, I seem to fake it fairly well.
I could have done three completely separate panels, but I opted for one large panel in which I sewed three pockets, essentially. I used black for the outside and Spidey for the lining of the insider of the bag. I lined them up on the wrong sides, sewed around the edge, then flipped it back right-side and sewed the smaller middle pocket (which became the bottom).
My thought was that having one panel of fabric with three heavy inserts would be stronger than three panels sewn together. Once I had the main panel done, I just had to sew the sides together.
Luckily I had not finished sewing it all up before I remembered I needed a flap for the opening, otherwise it would not be a messenger bag. It would just be a cross-the-body bag. So I made that rather quickly.
I did it so quickly that the bias tape is not actually attached to the fabric in one spot. This is a relatively easy fix if I ever bother to do it.
And besides, you can’t tell it’s there unless I pull the bias tape up and out, and even then, you have to be close to it.
The other part that is rushed and looks bad, though I forgot to take a picture, is where the flap attaches to the bag of the purse. To cover the spot, I added a bit of bias tape (why did I not use this stuff before?!), but my sewing machine went a little crazy in the middle of it, and there is this fine curve right in the middle. Luckily, that is the side that rests against my person, so it’s not noticeable.
The straps I made with *gasp!* bias tape and Spidey fabric sewn together. I had not planned on making this, so I didn’t have anything stronger. To ensure it can hold up, though, I sewed probably close to a bazillion stretchy zig-zag stitches.
Things I might change if doing again:
1. I would actually buy some heavy cloth, though making the aida pockets worked great!
2. I would have made the pockets with all black fabric, sewn the straps on, then made a liner of the Spidey fabric, so that it would be reversible!
3. Had something more strap-appropriate.
All-in-all, I did a Happy Dance when I finished this project last night. I had a pretty important meeting today (more on that later this week), so I didn’t break it out today, but I definitely will tomorrow to see how it works. But seriously, I can’t believe I made that!
Last week, I bought the initial materials to make my brother’s birthday gifts. I have officially finished the project, and it is sitting at my dining room table, waiting for a box, so it can be shipped.
As I was making some finishing touches last night, I started musing on the benefits on homemade gift-giving. Apart from the obvious “it comes from the heart” bits of the homemade preference, I started wondering about cost, etc. So I am breaking that down using this project. Just as a preface, I think the homemade thing is cooler in general, and I will continue to make gifts if I can. I was just curious about this bit.
The Cost of Store-Bought
Spider Man Curtains with drapes and valance: combined $16 on Amazon.
Marvel Fleece Throw: $14 to $30 on Amazon.
Comic Sound-Effects Pillow: $13 to $25 on Etsy for most similar item (smaller throw pillow).
DC logo wall art: $13 per logo x 3 logos = $39, not including framing.
Frame for ordered art: $7 and up
Total: $89 to $130ish
The lower end is not bad, obviously. Online shopping lends itself to lower prices, but for some of the items that I made, I would have had to move into the online hand-made sellers (art prints on Etsy) or art galleries online. The cost would have come from some of the more stream-lined items that I made (pictures at the end!).
Of course, the other issue is that I would have had just clicked a few buttons to get these items, so not much care would have gone into them. Also, I would not have ended up with the extra fabric that I now can use for other projects, which brings me to…
The Cost of Hand-Made
4 yards of Spider Man fabric: $30 at Joann Fabric **2 yards left over = $15 for fabric used
2 yards of Sound Effects fabric: $15 at Joann Fabric **1 yard left over = $7.50 for fabric used
No-sew fleece throw w/ Marvel Heroes: $20 at Joann Fabric.
Polyester Filler: $3 at Joann Fabric.
Frame for hand-made wall art: $5.25 w/ discount at Michaels.
Total: $50.25 for used items, $78.25 total
Even without taking out the cost of the left-over materials I have, I spent less by making the gifts. If you don’t count the extra fabric, then I spent a little more than half of the lowest cost of buying pre-made goods.
One might argue that I should calculate the cost of my time. I spent, all told, about 10 hours working on this project. In order for me to calculate the time, I need to determine what that time is worth based on what other tasks I might have been doing otherwise. The answer of course is…nothing. I love to craft. Had I not been making curtains, I would have been making something else. If anything, I would say that the added benefit of doing something I enjoyed for ten hours in one week would drive the cost down.
All told, I am happy with how most of the items came out. I hope they look good in his room.
The final bit was this:
Last night, I decided I wanted to make something that would grow up with him a bit more – something that had a little bit of a modern feel to it. I cut up some card stock into 4×6 rectangles, and since I had already sent some money toward Marvel, I thought I would show DC some love, too.
These were relatively easy to make, all things told. The hardest part was the Superman logo because I wanted to make sure the proportions were right. Nothing a ruler and protractor can’t help with, though. I also did not have my Crayola green marker, so I had to improvise and use a Vis-a-Vis wet-erase marker for the logo on the Green Lantern’s and a Sharpie for the background. It still came out okay, though. The best part? With the exception of the frame, this part of the project cost nothing. And the frame, as I noted above, I got a discount on, so it was less than $6. It came out better than I’d hoped, and I think it will make a great final touch.
So that’s it!
One week, 10 hours’ work, and $50 made my brother some nice new additions to his Super Bedroom.
I had the day off today, and with so much time on my hands, I have to admit I was not as productive as I would have liked. Sure, I could blame Netflix and X-Men or Janet Evanovich (guilty, fast food reading pleasure, anyone?), but the truth is, I was just feeling lazy.
Until about 2pm. Maybe the key for me to take away here is that, since most days I get home around 11, go through a normal morning routine, and start doing stuff (technical term) in the afternoon, my new start time is just after noon. I can make peace with that. I can work with it. And I did. In the past 3 and a half hours, I have been a busy polymath.
First, I spent some time in my craft room, which will be the highlight of my second post today, after everything is done. Between drying layers, I still managed to get some reading in, too.
And then I got it in my head that I should just go ahead and make homemade macaroni and cheese. Now, usually this entails just mixing some cheese in with the cooked pasta and baking it. That alone is more exhilarating, not to mention fancy, than the usual mac&cheese from a box. Relax, we buy Annie’s, so it’s not that bad. It’s not like I keep a box of Kraft macaroni around…all you foodie types eying me like that. 😉
So, onto my actual point here. I got it in my head to make a cheese sauce, yes, a roux, followed by a saucy béchamel, if you can believe it. Because I can’t. It actually worked, even. First try and everything.
Honestly, now I’m a little concerned. I have this blister on my toe that is unnervingly large and a little painful, and then this comes out well. Am I trading culinary success for a strange foot disease? If I am, I’ll take a tough, discolored and unworkable roux over the disease any day.
But that’s not appetizing at all, and I apologize.
So here are some pictures of the sauce, the baking, and the final product with a few pinches of a paprika on top. Mmm mmm mmm! It’s the cheesiest…
If you read my wildly successful Guide to Failure, then you already know that my level of geekiness extends to painting miniatures. This is a source of entertainment and heartbreak.
After my descent into madness and decision to start all over, I put away Adelaide (the miniature) for a while. But today I was ready to pick up the brush again and give it another go. I would call this a success.
Because I like my “miniature magic” to be told in magical pictures, here you go:
Life really likes to throw curve balls. No. That’s not right. Life likes to throw knuckle balls and spit balls, then follow up with a fast ball, and finally throw a curve that swings in low and knocks you on your ass. That is what life likes to do.
And normally, I am standing at the plate, bat at the ready, my eyes focused on the prize.
Lately, though…lately, it has been too demanding. I cannot continue to juggle all of these required, important, necessary things. Not everything can be so required, important, and necessary. Not everything can take priority.
At work, my boss is consistently unaware of what is going on, preferring to let me do the work for the department. Then he asks for an update and plays boss for a while. When he is unhappy with a decision I have made or work I have done, I suggest ways for us to combat the issue -perhaps I should direct such decisions to him? But the minute I suggest that, he says “no, no, I want you to learn and make the decisions”. Translate: I like it that you do all the work, and I can just play boss when I am bored.
At home, E and I talk about work. And we spiral down the “whose position in the company is worse” road, until we both have nothing but one word answers for each other. We answer questions with “nothing” and “okay”. We don’t find peace or comfort because we just feed into each other. And then we end up resenting one another because we don’t feel heard, and awkward, silent nights pass by with nothing good brewing between us.
Today it was even worse because, due to winter conditions, we both worked from home, so our frustration of work that is usually confined to the office spilled out into our living and dining rooms. Now not only are we unable to be supportive of each other, but we’re having our work frustrations right out in the open. There’s no screen between the work and our slightly-less-frustrated time at home. To borrow a line from Frodo, we’re “naked in the dark.” This has resulted in a lot of angry, short responses from both of us. “I wasn’t paying attention, what did you say?” “Nothing.” “Okay, fine.”
I am so frustrated, and I am so unhappy.
But then just now I received a call from an unknown number, and it was a woman calling me about my resume on Career Builder. She said she thought I would be a perfect fit for the job, and I regretfully declined, since I am hoping to move back East. It meant so much to me just that she wanted me…it made me feel more confident.
So I decided it was time to write a post!
Earlier this week, I decided to make something with some frozen tortellini that I had bought on sale. I didn’t want a lot of sodium, so I opted out of a traditional sauce, choosing instead to just saute some vegetables for a light sauce.
1 package of tortellini, 3 roma tomatoes (diced), 2 zucchini (sliced), 1 can of white beans, 1/2 cup of cheese
While the water boiled, I threw the zucchini in a tbsp of olive oil and another tbsp of balsamic vinegar to cook for a while. Just before the rolling boil, I threw in the tomatoes and beans and some minced garlic. These were heated in the pan while the tortellini started to cook, and the tomatoes made a nice watery base. Once the tortellini was cooked and drained, I tossed it in the pan with the veggies, mixed it all together, sprinkled on some cheese, and took it off the heat.
It was a simple and filling meal, with a little bit of everything. E was happy with it; I was happy with it, and the ultimate calorie count (since I’m counting those things now!) was not too high.
Some days I wish I could just cook and craft. But I am grateful to have a job, and I’m even more grateful that that job makes me an ideal candidate for jobs just like it! Ha ha. Here’s to new recipes, and the ability to refrain from screaming. And to be wanted!
Forgot to mention: pair this recipe with a nice Cab Sauvignon, and you’re all set.