Saturday, December 30, 2006

Bags o' cheer

There was a mad rush of sewing last week...mostly bags for Christmas gifts. I finished my second Downtown Purse, this one for my friend Cheya. Since the first one for Joanne was slightly floppy, I used the recommended Timtex interfacing this time...that is some sturdy stuff!

Downtown purse for Cheya
Blue and pink purse

Inside the downtown purse
Polka dot lining

Unfortunately my sewing machine did not cooperate when I tried to attach the handles, so I attempted to hand-sew them onto the bag...still too hard to get the needle through...luckily the expert seamstresses at Stitch Lounge took pity on me and helped with their super-duper industrial machine. Phew! Not sure if I will attempt using Timtex again though.

I also made a couple of Swing Bags, a cute reversible tote bag that I like to think of as a mini-Nappy Bag. This one was for Dan's sister Cecilia...

Swing bag for Cecilia
Red Japanese floral

And a peek at the lining, which can also be the outside, since the bag is reversible...

Inside the first swing bag
Kaffe Fassett floral

And this one was for Joanne...who just got engaged to a great fellow...go congratulate her!

Swing bag
Swinging in the new year

Friday, December 22, 2006

Winter solstice

The amaryllis St. Nicholas left at Chez Arrow last year is blooming again...just in time for winter.

Amaryllis
Pretty in pink

There were Christmas carolers on our street last night! We heard them during a break in the rain...so festive and neighborly. They sang "Little Drummer Boy" outside our house...one of my favorites. Dan and I brought the beagle outside to listen, and there was another pooch with the carolers, in a Santa suit...tee hee hee! It has been horribly cold at Chez Arrow so we got the beagle a sweater...but she wriggles out of it all the time...so now she is referred to as "Houdini," and sometimes "the great Splendini"!

Arrow in her winter sweater
I'll be taking this off soon...

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Crafternoon tea

As I love the festive cheer of the holiday season, I was disappointed I could not host a Sweet 'n Knit this year (Chez Arrow being an unbearable icebox as well as just a big wreck waiting for improvements)...but I need not have worried because Joanne had a wonderful Crafternoon Tea at her abode! I made peppermint bark...

Peppermint bark
Christmas candy

...and tried my first biscotti recipe, but the cookies turned out very hard. Definitely required dipping...

Orange nib biscotti
Orange nib biscotti

What could be better than an afternoon of knitting with tea, mulled cider, and many delightful treats? Joanne's crafty friends also shared other crafty endeavors, like origami and scrapbooking! It was so much fun. Thank you Joanne, and all the crafty ladies!

Monday, December 18, 2006

Holiday greetings

I love holiday cards...giving and receving them...and I enjoy looking at the different designs each season. (All part of my paper fixation...mmm...pretty paper...) My favorites usually are letterpressed, but the cost can be prohibitive. So this year I decided to make my cards.

Holiday greetings
Green square cards

The beautiful rubber stamped creations at Paper Source are always so enticing, but my stamping efforts never turn out so lovely. Ah well, there is always next year, I suppose...

Christmas card close-up
Gingerbread snowmen and silver stars

The cards were sealed with stickers and mailed in brown square envelopes... don't forget the extra postage!

Inside the cards
A peek inside the cards

Friday, December 15, 2006

Sweet 'n salty soak

The seemingly endless gray days and constant rain inspired me to make lavender bath salts for a few friends. A mixture of Epsom salt, pink mineral salt, sea salt, lavender buds, and a few drops of lavender essential oil...and voila!

Lavender bath salts
Festive green ribbon

A couple years ago I included little rubber duckies with the salts, but alas I did not plan so well this time...I think tissue holders would also make a nice pairing, as they are another winter weather necessity!

Monday, December 11, 2006

How to knit

Knitting in the Sunday funnies...



The hands often hurt, but I'm thankful I have them!

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Buttons in my hair

Brrr...it is cold this week! And Chez Arrow is without a working furnace, so its occupants are shivering and bundled up in sweaters and blankets. Despite icy cold hands, I have been crafting a bit...I used some fabric scraps to make covered-button hair ties. Some of those buttons are so hard to snap closed, very frustrating! Luckily Dan helped with the especially tough ones.

Hair ties
Stocking stuffers

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Pie on the brain

Yesterday one of my students was toting her birthday cupcakes in one of these...



I had never seen such a carrier before...it stacks! Far superior to the round cake carrier I have (cupcakes can jostle) or using the disposable trays from Safeway (flimsy, difficult to wash, yet wasteful to throw away).

Anyway, I've been thinking about pie more than cupcakes lately. Last night I started on pie crust for butter pecan pie, which I plan to make with a mixture of maple syrup and honey instead of corn syrup. Also on the to-do list are pumpkin-orange marscapone pie, roasted Brussels sprouts, and Dan is making sweet potato biscuits.

Have a wonderful holiday!

Monday, November 13, 2006

Pumpkins 'n peanuts

The monthly sit 'n knit at Chez Arrow has been on hiatus, and will be for awhile...this weekend Maia kindly hosted a gathering at her new abode across the bay...the perfect occasion for pumpkin cupcakes!

Frosting cupcakes
A rare action shot, taken by Dan

The kitchen is a mess, stuff piled on all surfaces and boxes overflowing along every wall...but then so is the dining room, aka my makeshift sewing area.

Pumpkin cupcakes -- closeup
Are those pinking shears I spy?

There were not enough pumpkins in the autumn mix, so some of the cupcakes were topped with candy corn-and-gumdrop turkeys.

Turkey and pumpkin cupcakes
Festive fall fun

One of the knitters attending cannot eat wheat or gluten, so I made flourless peanut butter chocolate chip cookies. The recipe is super easy to make, and omits not only flour but also the butter. No butter! But surprisingly tasty, really! I took some cookies to Joanne's dinner party and most were eaten.

Peanut butter chocolate chip cookies
Using fresh peanut butter made by Dan

It was so nice to be in the company of knitters again. Maia made mulled cider, and the whole place smelled of autumn spice, so cozy. I knit a few more rows and finished the increases on Green Gable, but there is no visible difference on the sweater. I hadn't knit in a few months, trying to rest my hands and wrists. I am doing my exercises and trying to be patient with my body. But it really was nice to knit with others, and I hope to do it soon again!

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

All Hallows Eve

Our new neighborhood is the place to be on Halloween! Dan and I had heard from a few neighbors that it is a popular street for trick-or-treaters, and many pumpkins and decorations showed up as the end of October creeped closer...but wow, what a night!

We sat on the front porch with Arrow-as-Snoopy, and handed out six bags of candy (Twix, M&Ms, Kit Kat, Snickers, Reese's and Heath bars) in less than an hour. Our neighbors two doors down transformed their garage into a big Halloween party, and another house on the block was decorated as an elaborate pirate ship. There were so many children and adults and pets in costume...we even saw a little pug mix dressed up as a spider...tee hee hee! I was super-excited because all my past Halloweens in San Francisco have been sadly lacking in trick-or-treating....the evening was so festive and fun, I am looking forward to next year! (We'll also be prepared, with more candy.)

And, my Halloween candy swap arrived on the actual day! Heide sent a wonderful package filled with orange and black goodies...

Halloween candyswap
Mmm...spooky...

Spooky spider chocolates, skeleton chocolate lollipop, chocolate-covered pretzels, cranberries and almonds, and a huge bag of gummy bears! Thank you so much, Heide!

Monday, October 30, 2006

Strawberry pie

I usually associate strawberry pie with summer, but really the best berries are picked at Farm Day, at the end of October...this year Dan and my mother picked enough berries for a pie!

Strawberry pie
Mmm...pie...

The graham cracker crust turned out a bit thick, but not too bad. I brought the pie to a Fall Back BBQ, and it was a sweet finish to a delicious repast. Here is the recipe!

...Strawberry Pie...

Crust
1 1/2 c graham cracker crumbs (I used Trader Joe's Thick & Hearty Cinnamon Grahams)
1 c almonds
1 1/2 T lemon zest
1/3 c sugar
6 T butter (3/4 stick), melted and cooled

Filling
~ 6 baskets strawberries
1 c sugar
1/2 c water
3 T cornstarch

- Preheat oven to 350°F
- In a food processor, finely grind almonds with graham-cracker crumbs, sugar, and zest, then blend in butter
- Press mixture into 9" pie plate and bake until lightly browned, about 15 minutes
- Cool crust
- Mash strawberries to make one cup
- Heat mashed strawberries, sugar, water and cornstarch over low-medium heat, stirring constantly until thickened
- Cool sauce
- Arrange remaining strawberries in cooled crust, then top with cooled sauce
- Enjoy! (Especially good with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream...)

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Beagle as beagle

Getting ready for Halloween! Dan's sister Cecilia got Arrow a Snoopy costume, which she tried on last night...

Arrow in her Snoopy costume
Hee hee ha ha...beagle dressed up as a beagle!

It is a bit small though, the velcro did not fit around her deep chest. Apparently, beagles are deep-chested dogs...or this one is, anyway.

Arrow as Snoopy
Can I take it off now?

Monday, October 23, 2006

Weekend fun

Over the weekend I baked one of my favorite sweet treats: lime squares!

Lime squares
Mmm...like key lime pie, but easier to eat

And sewed a few small crafty presents: tissue holder, zipper pouch, and headbands.

Crafty gifties
Ready to wrap up and mail

It has been awhile since I made my first zipper pouches. I think a zipper foot might make it easier. Here is a peek at the lining...

Lining of zipper pouch
Itty bitty flowers on brown

And it was Farm Day! Joining the CSA last year really has changed the way we eat and think about food, and Dan and I love it. This was the second year we visited the farm. Arrow enjoyed the hayride...

Arrow on the hayride
Panting pooch

This year my mother, brother, and his girlfriend also came along to pick strawberries, tomatoes, and peppers. It was very warm, so I was really hot and foolishly did not take any pictures of the fields we picked or of our bounty. Oops.

Terra Firma Farms
Lettuce fields, pretty hills in the distance

There are a lot of farms to choose from, so check it out if you are in the Bay Area!

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Canadian treats

Lookie, my Knitters Tea Swap 2 package arrived! All the way from Canada!

Knitters Tea Swap 2 goodies
Mmm...I love regional goodies

Dave sent Canada's Book of Teas, a wooden box full of ice wine tea, maple tea, and blueberry tea...doesn't that sound intriguing? There were also delicious fruit gummies - apple, pear, peach, and cherry - as well as a box of ginger cookies, which I plan to enjoy with my tea. And a beautiful skein of Fleece Artist merino sock yarn in an autumnal red and brown colorway. Let's have a closer look, shall we?

Yarn close up
Hand dyed loveliness

Thank you, Dave! And thank you Suzie, for hosting another great swap!

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Belated birthday bonnet

Behold, my first bonnet!

Birthday bonnet for Veronica
Modeled by Don Don the dog lamp

Very belated for Veronica's 2nd birthday...I followed the child size pattern from mailorder #2. I had hoped for a little more gathering at the crown, but I think it still turned out okay. The inside is lined with soft cotton flannel.

Closeup of birthday bonnet for Veronica
Don Don models hats too

Hope she likes it!

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Fall into orange

Finally, a finished item! Yes, it's been slow going at Chez Arrow...perhaps it's the shortening days of fall...but I did manage to finish an Uptown Bag, which I decided to make despite the hugeness of the Downtown Purse.

Uptown bag
Orange floral for fall

Despite its large size, I still love the shape of this bag...but I am not happy with the fusible interfacing...it did not seem to fuse evenly and there is a rumpled look that is not attractive at all! Next time I definitely will opt for heavyweight sew-in interfacing.

Uptown bag lining
A peek at the lining

Of the Amy Butler patterns that I've tried, this was the most challenging...stitching around the top of the bag after the handles were attached was very awkward! Hence a slightly lumpy unevenness along the top, which I think distracts from the shape...but perhaps with a bit of wear I won't notice it as much. I may try making this bag again...after all, the holidays are lurking...just a couple months away!

Friday, September 22, 2006

Autumnal Equinox

It's official...fall has arrived. Although it has felt like fall for awhile now, since returning to school last month. Not much crafting at Chez Arrow lately, but I am excited about Knitters Tea Swap 2!

The beagle had a birthday last week...three years old! Last year she had a cupcake for her birthday, and this year I was going to get her a doggie cannoli, but the store was out of them...maybe a belated doughnut if there still are no cannoli this weekend...

Arrow with her ears turned back
Arrow, how did your ears turn back?

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Bags & cakes

I finally finished the Amy Butler Downtown Purse this weekend, just in time for Joanne's birthday celebration...

Downtown purse
Lavender birthday bag

I am mostly pleased with the finished bag, it is just slightly lopsided and a bit floppy. Britex does not carry Timtex, so I used regular heavyweight sew-in interfacing...next time I will have to order Timtex or use a double thickness of interfacing. Also, it is a very wide bag! I thought the Nappy Bag was big, but then I figured a baby diaper bag is meant to carry lots of stuff...now I wonder if all of her designs are big...perhaps the bags are for very tall people?

Inside the downtown purse
The lining

And every birthday celebration needs cupcakes! I made lychee coconut cupcakes with ginger cream cheese frosting...

Lychee coconut cupcakes
Topped with candied ginger

Somehow I foolishly left out the coconut cream and realized the omission near the end of baking...so I decided to make chocolate cupcakes too, just in case...

Chocolate cupcakes
Topped with marscapone cream and cacao nibs

The lychee coconut cupcakes were not too bad, once frosted...and the chocolate cupcakes always seem to turn out moist and chocolatey, thankfully...though I had some trouble piping the marscapone cream...next time I will use my mechanical pastry bag, which is still in its box. It is time for me to learn how to use it!

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Sweet treats

Lookie! Joanne brought these sweet treats from Thailand...Choco mint and choco coffee Tim Tams, Cappuccino and Lemon Cheesecake Kit Kats, and Choco Banana Pocky...yum!

Sweet treats from Joanne
Sweet treats and pretty chopsticks with elephant holders

I finally got to try Tim Tams, a lovely cookie indeed. And I just love the special edition flavors of Kit Kat...why oh why are they not available here?

Other sweets from the weekend: I made a fig and plum cake....my parents stopped by Chez Arrow and enjoyed the cake with a cup of tea...and now it is already all gone! (Dan and I had a few pieces too.)

Fig and plum cake
Plum, fig & walnut kuchen

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Back to school

It's true, summer's over. I was back at school last week, and the kiddies arrived this week. *Sigh* Where did all the crafting time go? At least the morning view is pretty...

Sunrise at Chez Arrow
Sunrise at Chez Arrow

I've been experiencing a tendonitis flare up the past few weeks, so no knitting progress...wahh! In food news, there has been a steady stream of wonderful tomatoes from the farm, so a lot of salsa is being consumed at Chez Arrow...I like to add an avocado into the mix...

Salsa with avocado
Yellow tomatoes + red onion= pretty colors

Still eating summery food, even though the daily routine is definitely unsummery....hope to get some crafting done this weekend!

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Birthday capelet

Summer is winding down...not much knitting lately, but I did finish my birthday capelet...this one is for me!

Prism capelet
Capelet in the backyard

Pattern: Anthrogologie-inspired capelet
Yarn: Colinette Prism birthday yarn, Moss colorway, 2 skeins
Needles: US 10 1/2 bamboo circulars (29")

It turned out to be more of a shrug than a capelet, maybe because I used smaller needles? I am mostly pleased with it and have worn it a couple of times. This project was a nice break from Green Gable, but I really want that to be done! So slow...

Prism capelet, side view
Side view, with apple tree

While Dan took the photos, Arrow sunbathed in the backyard...

Arrow in the backyard
Whatcha looking at, lil' beagle?

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Amish friendship muffins

Lookie, a package from a friend of celadon cupcake! Jenn, a reader in Binghamton, NY sent these cute cupcake cups for me to try…also in the box of goodies were a pretty green basket, a vintage-style sewing needle book, mango candies, and a fantastic card. I just love the knitting silhouette…in green! Thank you so much, Jenn! So exciting to receive mail from a faraway reader…it’s nice to know that someone is reading this lil’ blog…your package is on its way too!

Package from Jenn
Goodies from faraway

Of course I had to try the cupcake cups right away…Dan’s coworker had given us a starter mix for “Amish friendship bread,” where you squish the mix daily for a week then add a bunch of ingredients and make bread…so I used the extra batter for muffins. Not sure how authentic the recipe is, as it called for pudding mix powder…do the Amish eat pudding mix?

Cupcake cups
Muffs in cute cupcake cups

I noticed the muffin bottoms seemed a bit browner than when paper liners are used…but not sure if it was the cups or the recipe, since the loaf took nearly twice the bake time too…I’ll have to try a cupcake recipe next time…in the meantime, the cups are a very cute addition to the kitchen!

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Coconut cone cakes

Fellow Cancerian and Sit ‘n Knit regular Maia celebrated her birthday over the weekend, a perfect reason to make coconut cupcakes!

Coconut cupcakes
Toasted coconut & cacao nibs on top

I had been wanting to try this recipe for awhile, and it is a winner…even a non-lover of coconut said she enjoyed her cupcake. I also tried out my new ice cream cone cupcake pan! The ice cream cone cupcakes came out beautifully, but they were too top-heavy to stand on their own, even before frosting…wahh!!

Falling ice cream cone cupcakes
Falling ice cream cone cupcakes = messy

Maia wisely suggested I try using skewers to hold the cone cakes up, perhaps stuck in floral foam…I will have to experiment with this next time…Dan took a cupcake-to-go in the Cup-a-Cake carrier, a brilliant solution for cupcakes on the go...

Cup-a-cake
Coconut-to-go

I also made a knitting needle case with fabric from my Knitters Tea Swap pal, and a set of origami coasters, for the birthday girl!

Crafty birthday gifties for Maia
Crafty birthday gifties