Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Years

Wow another new year is upon us again, and hard to believe we are well into the 2000's now! New Years here has always been a fairly quiet event for us, especially since he had Ike. This year will mark the third year we have been invited over to the neighbours for appetizers and I am looking forward to a relaxing evening. There have been lots of things going on here and some changes yet to take place so I am really REALLY looking forward to the chance to sit and chat with the neighbours a bit. The diet can start tomorrow.



I think they (the neighbours) all know what I will likely bring so I don't think I will surprise them either. These are my two favourite standby, really quick appetizers... And they are Bacon and Waterchestnut Rollups and Hot Chicken Wing Dip. The Bacon Rollups are always popular....well come on...who doesn't like bacon right? Well I've never met a smoked pig I didn't like.....and I think I'm pretty normal?? Some of you might argue.....I know...I know! And the Hot Wing Dip is something I tried at a lady's home down in Atlanta and is usually popular with the guys. It's just the perfect thing to make for a Superbowl party or some other manly type event. But since I like hot and spicy, it's right up my alley too:)





Bacon & Waterchestnut Rollups

1cup ketchup
1 cup brown sugar
2 tbsp vinegar
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce

2 small cans whole water chestnuts
2 lbs bacon

Cut bacon strips in half and cut water chestnuts in half. I usually count the number of half strips of bacon and cut enough waterchestnuts in half so the numbers of each are the same. Roll chestnut pieces in bacon and secure with wooden toothpick through the chestnut. Place the rollups on a rack on a cookie sheet and bake at 350F for about 1/2 hour or until the bacon is almost crisp. Mix all sauce ingredients together in a small saucepan and heat. Once rollups are cooked, drain on paper towel and move to a covered casserole dish and pour heated sauce over. Heat in 325F oven for 1/2hour with the cover on. Can be reheated the next day.





Buffalo Chicken Dip


4 boneless chicken breasts (about 2 pounds)
1 (12 ounce) bottle Frank's Hot Sauce
2 (8 ounce) packages of cream cheese
1 (16 ounce) bottle blue cheese salad dressing (or ranch)
8 ounce shredded cheddar, Monterey Jack or a combination

In a large saucepan, boil the chicken in water until cooked through (about 15 minutes), drain and shred with two forks. Preheat oven to 350 F. In a 13X9 inch baking pan, combine the shredded chicken meat with the hot sauce, spreading to form an even layer. In a large saucepan over medium heat, combine the cream cheese and blue cheese dressing, stirring until smooth and hot. Pour the mixture evenly over the chicken. Bake uncovered for 20 minutes, then sprinkle the shredded cheese over the top and bake uncovered for another 10 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes before serving. Serve with taco or corn chips.


I have used left over chicken meat from roasted chickens for this if I have some around and I have also cooked chicken breast in the oven rather than using the method above. Today I used left over turkey breast from the Christmas turkey dinner and it was great too.




Friday, December 26, 2008

Seasons Greetings to Everyone

Well, it's been a very busy season for everyone including us. I hope everyone had a great Christmas day! We are now on to boxing day here, so after a bit of post Christmas shopping, it should be a nice relaxing time from here on in. Ginger found her cozy spot under the tree as I was off cooking the turkey and Ike was off playing with new toys. I am super happy with all my Christmas gifts and looking forward to get my time to start playing with them too. Now that the house is well stocked with left overs I should be able to find the time. Wishing you all the best of the holidays:)
During the holidays especially I may find myself in need of a really quick and kid friendly supper option. This recipe was given to me by a swap-bot swapper (Adolpha) in a recipe post card swap. It was interested to try this recipe for my son......but after trying it.....I also liked it. You do need to be very sparing on the bottom (first macaroni layer) as those boxes of KD are not as big as they used to be. And I use an extra 1/4 cup of cheese and salsa over what is called for in the recipe below.

TACO BAKE
1 pkg (14oz) Macaroni and Cheese Dinner
1 lb. ground beef or turkey
1 pkg (1-1/4 oz) Taco Seasoning Mix
3/4 cup water
3/4 cup sour cream
1-1/2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese, divided
1 cup salsa

Preheat oven to 400F. Prepare macaroni dinner as directed on package. While macaroni cooks, brown meat, and drain any fat. Add taco seasoning mix and water to the meat and simmer 5 minutes. Stir sour cream into the prepared macaroni and cheese. Spoon 1/2 of the macaroni into a 8 inch square baking dish. Top with layers of the meat mixture, 1 cup of the cheese and the remaining macaroni and cheese dinner. Cover with foil and bake 15 minutes. Top with the salsa and remaining 1/2 cup of cheese. Bake, uncovered, for an additional 5 minutes or until the cheese is melted. You might want to make sure to use mild salsa if you are making this for your kids.
And just in case you don't have a packet of taco seasoning mix....like me.....Here's a recipe to make your own.

TACO SEASONING MIX

1/4 cup dried minced onion
2 Tbsp chili powder
2 tsp paprika
2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1-1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp marjoram
1 Tbsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
2 Tbsp cornstarch
1 Tbsp garlic powder
1 tsp ground cumin

Mix all together in a small bowl. Store in a sealed container. Use 2 Tbsp to equal 1 packet of taco seasoning mix. Makes enough for 6 packets.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Handmade Holidays Idea #9 Beaded Jewelry

Another Christmas Swap I sent out has been received. This one was a surprise pick based on your partners profile, and in a Christmas/Winter theme. Mine liked the colours turquoise and pink so this is what I ended up with. There is a flower shop that offers beading classes quite close to my home and still having last years Christmas gift certificate in my hands......I booked a private lesson on bracelet making. They let you pick out any beads you were interested in , let you pick a layout and showed you how to use the crimping beads and tools to string up the bracelet. I ended up adding the snowflake charm a few days later after I realized the swap was to be in a winter theme. I figure she can switch out the seasonal charms as the weather dictates. The longest portion of time was spent arranging the beads in a pleasing layout........and this is really a matter of personal choice as you can see. If I had been thinking more when I made this, I would have put in another split ring about a 1/2 inch in from the end to make the bracelet more adjustable since I had no idea how tiny or how big the wrist of the recipient was going to be.........but this was my first kick at the can. I can see that going down the road of beading could be a very large money pit. It's so easy to buy beads like candy hoping for the right time or project to use them. Much like fabric and yarn I guess. No need to contain my purchasing addiction to just fiber I suppose? Now I have some beads that I picked up at Michael's on sale just waiting to make something with.....Now if I only get some tools for Christmas.....I'll be all set.
Along with the bracelet, I sent a few other turquoise and pink things and this felt ornament as well.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Good Old Chocolate Sauce N Cake


What better to warm you up on a -35C day than a bowl of Chocolate Sauce N Cake. Perfect with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Since at -35C I did not feel like making a batch of ice cream, I just picked up a tub of Cool Whip at the grocer. I cannot say for certain if there ever was a tub of Cool Whip in the freezer in my house while growing up....but I don't remember it at all. This is much better with a scoop of vanilla ice cream......IMHO.......but I was out voted:( Chances are good that if you have a container of cocoa powder in the cupboard....you already have everything you need to make this little number.......So give it a go.....If you like chocolate........You are bound to love this!

Chocolate Self Saucing Pudding Cake (10 minutes to make......45 minutes to bake)

Cake
1 cup flour
2 tsp baking powder
2 tbsp cocoa powder
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup milk, plus a bit extra
1 tsp vanilla
2 tbsp butter, melted

Sauce
3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 3/4 cup hot water

Grease a 2 L ( 8cup) ovenproof dish and preheat oven to 350F (convection) or 375F for non-convection. Sift four, baking soda and cocoa powder together in a medium bowl to make the cake batter. Add the 1/2 cup milk, vanilla and melted butter to the flour mixture and stir well with a whisk until smooth. I aways find the need to add about 3 Tbsp extra milk to be able to stir it easily. Batter will be a bit thick, like a brownie batter. Pour into prepared dish and set aside while making the sauce.
Combine the brown sugar, 1/4 cup cocoa powder, and hot water in a small bowl. Stir until all is dissolved. Slowly pour this liquid over the back of a spoon as you pour it on top of the cake batter which is already in the pan.
Bake for 40-50 minutes until the pudding (cake) is firm to the touch. You can make this in individual ramekins if you wanted to be a little more fancy. This has many times been my quick dessert when we have company for dinner and I have not planned a dessert since it is so fast to make up.......it can bake while you eat your dinner.
Serve a generous scoop of cake and sauce and a scoop of vanilla ice cream to yield about 6 servings.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Handmade Holidays Idea #8 Amigurumi

How happy is he? This little guy just arrive a few days ago to his new home in the US. If you can crochet....(and even if you can't because I really can't) these are a really quick and cute gift idea. Of course if you're gifting these to a very small child you might want to sew on crocheted features rather than buttons etc....and like for the crocheted ball......it could be an excellent cat toy if stuffed with a little cat nip etc. There are plenty of free patterns available on the net for these like here and here and here and here. The one shown here was made from a purchased pattern. I had to modify it so much because it looked nothing like the cover photo that I'll have to make note of what I ended up doing. This was for a swap-bot mushroom stuffie swap I hosted and I have a feeling I'll be making quite a few more of these as there seem to be still quite a few no sends in my swap:(

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Ho Ho Hectic Holidays


Wow, it's been very busy here as I'm sure it has been everywhere. Finally finished with all the Christmas parties, cookie exchanges, school parties, Christmas concerts, mailing parcels etc . Just a few odds and ends now to finish up. I just cannot seem to stop knitting these slipper socks....they're so quick, easy, (and forgiving due to the felting process). I had it on my list to make a yellow pair for a swap and had absolutely no luck in finding the right colour. So I ended up dying two balls of cream coloured Bernat merino into a mottled cream and yellow. I had always wanted to try koolaid dying, but at this time could not find any yellow coloured flavours........so the koolaid dyeing is still on my to do list...for someday! So....I bought a packet of yellow Rit dye and with some hints from a library book unrolled the ball and wound it into a skein. Once in a skein, I took plastic wrap cut about4-8 inches wide and wrapped them the yarn at random places. At either end of the plastic wrap covering the yarn, I tied the ends of the plastic wrap down with 6 inch lengths of acrylic yarn to hopefully stop the dye from transferring to the plastic covered areas. So it was kind of like tie dying. Then I dissolved the dye packet into hot simmering (not boiling) water and submerged the two skeins. I actually had to add more water to be able to submerge both skeins. After gently poking at the yarn to make sure it all submerged for 30 minutes, I removed them to the sink and rinsed them several times to remove excess dye. You needed to be careful not to agitate the yarn too much or it would start to felt. After squeezing the excess water out with an old towel, I let it set by the fire to dry until the next day.
Then I rolled it into a ball with a ball winder I just happened to have in the basement. I was very happy with the way the yarn patterned up with the cream and yellow, and even happier with the overall result after felting in the washing machine. I did have some concern that the yellow dye would get washed out in the hot water felting process in the washing machine.
There was a little loss of dye into the wash water, but no noticeable loss in the colour of the knitted item. Thank goodness. I had a spare packet of yellow dye just in case I needed to redye the slippers afterwards, but there was no need. They turned out a very happy yellow indeed. I also finished felting up the (purple/blue/turquoise)Lion Brand wool slippers I had shown here. And was much happier with the look of the colours after the felting was done.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Handmade Holidays Idea #7 Something for the Cat?

Well as an update to Non Commercial November..........I'm happy to say it went along quite well......until we got this cat. After a lot of debate over the work and responsibility involved in caring for a pet we came to the conclusion that we could fit a cat into the mix. Ike has really liked playing with the kitten so far. I'm sure much more, in fact, than the cat has enjoyed it. Well so far she has been highly entertaining for everyone. So this Christmas we are faced with the opportunity to share Christmas with a pet. While it seems that 'Ginger' has been quite happy to play with scrap yarn (and some that was not), a ball of tin foil, a bell on a string, and let's not even talk cat nip what are some proper cat toy options? So this really begs the question.....do I really need to even get something for the cat to play with?

But....if you feel the need to make something like I did...here's an idea. A simple crocheted ball, much like a hakisack is a quick and fun toy. Make 3 or 4 and fill them with rice or pellets and you are good to juggle or even play hakisack. Fill them with light stuffing, some crinkley paper, and a bell and you have a safe baby toy. You may use any scrap yarn you have laying around. I had left over variegated red yarn from a knitted scarf project which was a nice colour for the holidays. I stuffed mine with some crinkley paper (wrappers from pop tarts), a bell, polyester stuffing, and some cat nip. It has no hanging or sewn on parts that might be detached and pose a choking hazard. With out any more fuss....here it is.







Crocheted Stuffed Ball

Supplies:
4 mm crochet hook
scrap yarn
polyester stuffing
bell
crinkley paper
darning needle


To start...chain 2
Rnd 1: Work 6 sc into the first chain. Place marker.
Rnd 2: Work 2 sc in each sc all the way around ( you now have 12 sts)Move marker.
Rnd 3: *work 2 sc into next st, sc into next st, repeat from * (you will now have 18 sts) Move Marker.
Rnd 4: *work 2 sc into next st, sc into next 2 st, repeat from * ( you will now have 24 sts)Move Marker.
Rnd 5-11: sc into each sc all the way around. Move marker.
Rnd 12: *sc2tog, sc into next 2 sts, repeat from * (you will now have 18 sts) Move Marker.
Stuff with desired stuffing.
Rnd 13: *sc2tog, sc into next st, repeat from * ( you will now have 12 sts) Move marker.
Rnd 14: sc2tog all the way around (you will now have 6 sts)
Break end of yarn and fasten off. With darning needle weave in yarn ends.


Note:

sc2tog= Insert hook into st and draw up loop. Insert hook into next st and draw up a second loop. Yarn over and draw through all three loops.















Saturday, November 29, 2008

Daring Bakers Challenge #3 Caramel Cake

It's month three with the Daring Bakers Challenge and I'll admit I was really quite a little disappointed that the savoury recipes had stopped and we were back to the sweets. Don't get me wrong......I like sweets as much as the next person......well probably more.....maybe even a lot more....but that's another story. In any case..... this months recipe for Caramel Cake with Caramelized Butter Frosting, the signature cake of Shuna Fish Lydon of Eggbeater, was on the agenda. This months hosts were Dolores, Alex, and Jenny with some gluten free input from Natalie from Gluten A Go Go.
As it happens, my disappointment was short lived as I can honestly say I LOVED both the cake and the frosting recipe. I did have trouble with the caramel syrup. I made it the day before as it needed to cool before it could be added to the recipe. It made up beautifully and with out incident.....but the next morning I could see sugar crystallization occurring in the syrup. I used it anyway.......and the recipe turned out absolutely beautiful. I chose to make the cake into cupcakes as I had seen a few people had tried this already and in the interest of sharing ease it was the best option for me. Well......the cake was spongy, moist with a nice fine crumb, and I will definitely be making this one again and quite possible again. I did not use the unsalted butter called for in the recipe as there was no way I was going to spend $6 for butter for a untried recipe, and given the how it turned out so well.....I still wouldn't. I cut back on the salt amount listed in the recipe and obviously I also used the same butter for the frosting and even found I needed to add a pinch more salt.....so it all turned out quite well. I loved the frosting! No question it is extremely sweet....but it had a delicious hint of caramel from the syrup and a wonderfully noticeable flavour from the browned butter. The icing recipe made just enough to frost the 24 cupcake the recipe made. The flavours of this recipe are sweet and subtle and I could not think of another add in that I wanted to add that would not detract from the its simple deliciousness. I brought a plate of cupcakes over to the neighbours. I'm sure I'll soon hear if I am alone in my love of these little cakes.

So, here it is.......THE RECIPE..... click on it, should you chose to try it....And I say "Alison you have got to try this"!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Handmade Holidays Idea #6 Everybody Loves Candy

Candy is always a perennial favourite. It can be quick, easy, and fun too! Here are some of our standby candy recipes that we commonly make for the holidays. Funny, that I really never make these recipes throughout the rest of the year. There are lots of nice packaging options available at this time of year. The traditional Chinese take out container has to be one of my favourites!

Sponge Toffee

1 cup sugar
1 cup dark corn syrup
1 tbsp white vinegar
1 tbsp baking soda, sifted

Line an 8 or 9 inch square cake pan with foil. Generously butter the foil. Combine the sugar, corn syrup and vinegar in a heavy deep sauce pan. Stir over medium heat until the sugar dissolves. Continue to heat without stirring until thermometer reads 300F, swirling the pan occasionally. (about 18 minutes) Remove from heat and immediately add the baking powder and stir to combine well. Quickly pour into prepared pan. Cool completely. Lift out of pan using the foil edges. Cut or break into large pieces. Store in an air tight container. Small bite sized pieces are delicious dipped in chocolate coating. This is a really fun recipe to make with kids as it really foams up when you add the baking soda. But remember that the candy is hot and be careful not to get burned!

Almond Roca

1 cup butter
1 cup sugar
3 tbsp water
1 tsp light corn syrup
1 cup finely toasted almonds
1 cup milk chocolate chips

Melt butter in a medium sauce pan. Add in the sugar, water, and corn syrup. When the sugar dissolves and the mixture begins to boil raise the heat and bring to 290 F on a candy thermometer. Quickly stir in 1/2 cup chopped toasted almonds. Immediately pour onto a baking sheet lined with foil. After 2-3 minutes sprinkle the top of the candy with the chocolate chips and let them soften for a few minutes. Once softened, spread them in a smooth layer over the candy. Then sprinkle with remaining chopped nuts. When the chocolate has hardened, crack candy into pieces and store in a covered container.

Clodhoppers Candy

3 cups white chocolate melt wafers
2-3 cups cashews chopped
2 cups golden grahams cereal crumbled

Melt wafers in a double boiler. Crush cereal in a zip loc type bag until pieces are slightly smaller than 1/4 inch. For the cashews I usually buy a tin of broken cashew bits and further process them to a little smaller size. Not too much though. Add nuts and cereal to the melted wafers and stir to coat. Pour out onto cookie sheet and chill to set the chocolate. Once hard, break into serving sized pieces and store in a covered container. This recipe is also good with milk chocolate wafers substituted for the white melt wafers. Dried cranberries is also a nice addition.

Tiger Butter Fudge

1 lb of white chocolate
1 lb milk chocolate
3/4 cup peanut butter

Chop chocolates and set to melt in separate bowls. To the melted white chocolate add the peanut butter and stir until smooth. Stir the milk chocolate until smooth.Line a 8 X 12 inch pan with waxed paper. Pour in the milk chocolate. Pour in the white chocolate and peanut butter mixture randomly over the top of the milk chocolate layer. With tip of a knife, drag it through the surface of the candy making a swirling marbled pattern over the entire surface. Be careful not to get carried away swirling or you will mix it in too much and not keep a marbled appearance. Chill until firm. Slice at room temperature.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Handmade Holidays Idea #5 Mixes


Handmade Holiday ideas continue with mixes. Over the years we have tried a few of these. We have tried drink mixes, brownie mixes, popcorn seasoning, dip mixes and even dog biscuit mixes. A quick google search will get you a list of mix options in no time at all.......but here are some recipes that we have tried over the years.

Drink Mixes

Hot Cocoa Mix

2 cups powdered milk

1 cup sugar or (splenda sugar substitute)

3/4 cup cocoa

1/2 cup non dairy coffee creamer

Add all ingredients together in a food processor and process until mixture is powdered.

*To make raspberry cocoa, replace 1/2 of the sugar with raspberry powdered drink crystals.

*To make mint cocoa, add 6 hard peppermint candies and process. Use sugar free if you are making sugar free cocoa mix. To serve, add 2 heaping tbsp of mix to a cup of hot water.


Toffee Coffee Mix

1 cup instant coffee

2 cups milk powder

1 cup powdered non dairy creamer

1/3 cup cocoa

1 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup white sugar

1/4 cup instant butterscotch pudding mix


Mix all together in food processor until finely powdered. To serve, add 2-3 heaping tsp to a mug and fill with boiling water.


Vanilla Spice Latte

1/2 cup instant coffee

2/3 cup sugar

1/2 cup powdered milk

1/4 cup dry non dairy creamer

1 tsp cinnamon

1/4 cup vanilla instant pudding mix


Mix all together in food processor until finely powdered. To serve, add 2-3 heaping tsp to a mug and fill with boiling water.



Dip Mixes

Garden Herb Dip


1T dried parsley

1 tsp dried dill

1 tsp granulated garlic

1/2 tsp dried rosemary

1/4 tsp dried sage

2 T dehydrated onion

3-4 T dehydrated carrot, celery, scallions


Mix all together and store in Ziploc bag until needed. To make, use 3-4 T of dip mix and mix into 1/2 cup mayonnaise and 1/2 cup sour cream or yogurt. Mix well and let sit in refrigerator for 2 hours before serving. If you cannot find dehydrated carrots, celery and scallions......you can make your own by mincing vegetables and placing them on a baking sheet in a 250 F oven for 45 minutes. Watch them carefully to make sure they dry completely but do not brown.

Ranch Dip Mix

1 1/2 T dried parsley

1 1/2 tsp dried chives

3/4 tsp dried tarragon

1 1/2 tsp lemon pepper

1 T salt

3/4 tsp oregano

1 1/2 tsp garlic powder

Mix all together in a medium bowl and keep in ziploc bag until needed. For dressing, whisk 1 tsp dip mix together with 1/2 cup mayonnaise and 1/2 cup butter milk. Refrigerate 1 hour before serving. For a dip, Combine 2 tbsp mix with 1 cup mayonnaise and 1 cup sour cream or lowfat yogurt. Refrigerate 2 hour before serving.


Special Brownie Mix

3/4 cup flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 cup cocoa powder

3/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup white baking chips

3/4 cups chopped walnuts

1 50 mL bottle of liqueur like Baileys or Grand Marnier

Layer all ingredients in a one quart jar and screw lid on. Attach liqueur bottle with ribbon. Include directions.....

Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease bottom of 8inch or 9 inch square pan. Melt 1/2 cup butter or margarine. Beat melted butter, two eggs, and the liqueur in a medium bowl until blended. If you are not using the liqueur substitute it with 1/4 cup water. Stir in brownie mix. Spread batter in prepared pan and bake 30-35 minutes for 8 inch pan and 25-30 minutes if using a 9 inch pan or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool and slice into 16 squares


Popcorn Seasonings

Chili Cheese

1 1/2 tsp chili powder

1/3 cup powdered cheddar cheese

1 tsp garlic salt

1/8 tsp cayenne pepper

Combine all in a small bowl. Spoon into small jars with tight fitting lid. Makes 1/3 cup.


Mexican Blend

1 1/4 oz (one envelope) taco seasoning mix

1 tsp dried oregano

1/2 tsp basil

3/4 tsp garlic powder


Combine all in a small bowl. Spoon into small jars with tight fitting lid. Makes 1/3 cup.


Mediterranean Blend

1 tsp chili powder

1 1/2 0z ( one envelope) of spaghetti sauce mix

1 tsp sugar

1/2 tsp garlic salt

1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

Combine all in a small bowl. Spoon into small jars with tight fitting lid. Makes 1/3 cup.

Dog Biscuits

1 3/4 cups flour

1 cup whole wheat flour

1/2 cup rye flour

3/4 cup corn flour

3/4 cup bran

2 T kelp

2 T wheat germ

1 cup corn meal

2 T garlic powder

1 T parsley

1 1/2 tsp rosemary

1 T beef soup base powder

2 T skim milk powder

2 T instant yeast

Mix all together. Divide dry mixture into two equal portions. To prepare biscuits, add 1 cup tomato or vegetable juice to one portion of dry ingredients to make a stiff dough. Add an additional 2 T of water if necessary. Roll out dough, cut shapes and bake in a 300 F oven for 1 hour. Turn off oven and leave in oven to dry.




As with all handmade gifts, the trick is in finding the right packaging or presentation. The coffee and Hot Chocolate mixes fit nicely into empty tins from General Mills 'Internationals Coffee'. I just printed up some paper labels to wrap over the sides of the tins. If your house is tidier than mine because you actually throw things out, you may not have any empty coffee tins laying about.......in which case a quick trip to the paint store may be in order. You can purchase empty paint tins there in a size you feel is appropriate and than print up your own custom label or decorate the tin in a scrapbook style.

For the dip mixes, I found the tall size baby food jar worked very well, and again if you don't have these floating around your house, there is probably a new mom in the neighbourhood who would love to part with some. For baby food jars, I again printed up a label to wrap around the jar and painted the lid with acrylic paints in a coordinating colour.

The brownies presented a problem for me as they are meant to be packaged in a canning jar, and I really was not overly fond of the country look associated with this packaging. I ended up packaging the brownie mix in clear cellophane bags from the dollar store, and then putting them inside a brown paper lunch bag with a personalized label glued to front and back with instructions on them. To close, I folded down the top of the bag inch, then again and punched two holes with a hole punch through the folded top about one inch apart. Run a piece of ribbon through both holes and tie in the front with a gift tag and you are done.

Popcorn seasonings were quite easy as you can purchase empty spice bottles from the bulk section of the grocery store or from your dollar store quite easily. Again a simple label from the printer and you're done. All my label making has been done with regular white paper which I cut to size and wrap the container with about a 1 cm overlap. Just enough to glue it in place. If you have scrap booking supplies at your disposal, two way tape will work well too.

The dog biscuit mix was packaged in the same fashion as the brownie mix with the addition of a bone shaped cookie cutter which I tied to the top of the bag closure.

Well, there are a few more ideas for you. Mixes are generally quite quick to prepare especially in larger numbers as you get a bit of an assembly line going.


Thursday, November 20, 2008

Handmade Holidays Gift Idea #4 Knit & Felt Slippers



Handmade Holiday Gift # 4

This one requires some very basic knitting skills. But only very minimal ones as the felting process will hide any lack of knitting skill. I found this pattern at knitty.com and found that they could be easily knit up in just a few evenings......and of course the felting is a bit addictive. You'll need one ball of Bernat Lana or Patons Classic Merino wool or two balls of Noro Kuyreon. Any wool which has a high percentage wool (at least 85%) will do. If you catch them on sale, all the better. The Noro Kuryeon has some absolutely beautiful colourways, but is more expensive and does not felt up quite as quickly nor as thick as the Patons or the Bernat. If you are looking to do this on the cheap....you are better off with the Bernat, Patons, or Lion Wool. Those, you can get on sale at Michaels with a 50% off coupon or at least on sale most days. Here in Canada that means a cost of probably about $3.50 to $4.00. Which is really not too bad. If you go for the Kuryeon it will be more like $20.00 as it is tough to catch on sale. The Patons Classic is now available in variegated shades so we'll soon see how those turn out. I have a set on my needles right now. Another fun option is to purchase the off white wool yarn and give your hand a try at kool-aid dyeing. This is another thing on my "to do" list.......One of these days....Maybe pretty soon??? Anyway, they do knit up quite quickly and I am told wear very well. So click here to go Knitty.com and get yourself a free pattern and make yourself (or someone else) some Fuzzy Feet.....Good Luck:)


Sunday, November 16, 2008

Idea #3 Felt Covered Book

Back again with Handmade Holiday gift idea #3 for you. Here's one that's quick and easy and cute too....I think. I used to have tonnes of these free 4X6 picture albums. The kind the developing shops used to give away free with each roll of film developing. (Remember film developing???) They are usually quite junky looking so I didn't mind covering them up. What I found was that you can make a quick cover for one with felt quite easily. Felt is fun to work with because you can leave the edges unfinished as it will not fray and it is really very inexpensive. If you can find wool felt, that is even better. It will cost a little more, but your project will be more sturdy. You could also do this project with ultra suede if you are lucky enough to be able to get some and this would be the most sturdy option but also a little more expensive. I just happen to have a pile of acrylic felt that needs to be used up, so that's what I'm using today. I also happened to find a stash of these photo albums for 19 cent each at my local liquidation world, so I stocked up on them. Once you are finished with this project, you can use it as a photo album if you like, but I've found that I like to fill them with 4X6 recipe cards and give them away as little recipe books. It works out pretty well as each recipe is inside the little plastic sleeve and is protected from spills and splashes etc. You could also use them like a mini scrap album too.

So to start with...you'll need a cheapy little photo album like this one, two sheets of felt for the cover, some felt scraps, some embroidery floss for embellishment and a needle.......You could try your local dollar store, Walmart or Michaels for all of these supplies.

Then, open it up and take it's measurement. Mine measured 9 1/2 inches by 6 3/8 inches when open. The fabric needed to cover this book will have to be slightly larger to allow for seam allowances. So...... add 1 inch to the shorter side, and 1 1/4 inches to the longer side. I added a little extra ease (1/4 inch extra) to the longer side since this side will need to bend around the spine of the book and you don't want it to be tight. This means in my case I needed to cut my felt out to be 10 3/4 inches by 7 3/8 inches. You will also need to cut two pieces of matching felt for the inside flaps. Cut these to be the same width as your cover piece, and tall enough to cover a good way up the page. In my case this was 2 pieces cut out 3 1/2 inches by 7 3/8 inches. You can decorate the front of your book in any way you see fit. Keep in mind where the cover will be folded, and arrange your design accordingly. I have chosen to embellish the book front with blanket stitched shapes and some embroidery like this.......I did all my embroidery with 3 strands of embroidery floss.



Once you are satisfied with your cover design, then you can machine sew the inside flap pieces to the ends of your cover piece using a 3/8 inch seam allowance along the three outside edges of each flap, wrong sides together like this.......

To finish, if you'd like, clip along the edges with pinking shears and you are done! If you are opposed to machine sewing, you could sew the flaps on using a blanket stitch with a coordinating embroidery thread. This would have a more country look which is cute too, and would look very similar to the wool felt needle books I made here. Now you have a felt covered book ready to fill with photos, recipes or what ever you might like to gift. My project cost for materials was under $1 and it took a little bit of time depending on how much you wanted to embellish the cover. I spent about an hour watching TV and embellishing this cover. This makes a nice little gift filled will family recipes for those kids leaving the house or newlyweds starting out or anyone who just likes to cook. Of course you could use it as a photo album or fill it with craft pattern instructions written on 4X6 cards, or instead of starting with a photo album, you could start out with a blank journal.....you see.......lots of possibilities:)

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Handmade Holidays Idea #2 Baked Goodness


Now who doesn't love home baked cookies??? Most people like to have home baking around for the holidays, but not everyone likes to bake themselves. So if you don't mind baking, why not make someones day with some serious home baked goodness. Here's a recipe that is perfect for the holiday season. It's easy, it keeps well, looks beautiful, and is just right for the Christmas Season. Of course it's all in the presentation, but do make it a tightly sealed container as these are a delicious chewy cookie and you want them to stay that way. I had not made this recipe in over 25 years, and today I made them.......and they were as good as I remembered and I'm so glad I made them again. I think you might be too.......Go on...you know you waaannnnaa.


Ginger Sparkles

Ingredients
1 1/2 cups butter
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 cup molasses
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 1/2 cups flour
4 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground ginger


In a large bowl cream the butter and sugar. Add eggs, molasses, and vanilla and mix well. Stir in baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, cloves, and ginger. Add flour and mix to incorporate. Roll into 1 inch balls, then roll in a small dish of white sugar to coat the ball of dough. Place on cookie sheet and bake 8-10 minutes at 350 F. No need to flatten the dough balls as they will spread out as they bake. The recipe makes a whole bunch....over 80 for the one inch balls I made and is a total snap in a stand mixer.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Non-Commercial November

I had a conversation with a friend a few weeks ago about commercialism in North America. It seems that in North America, we do a lot of unnecessary shopping, in comparison to other developed countries. This conclusion was reached after a move to the other side of the world by my friend, and by what she noticed while settling into her new neighbourhood. The number of kids toys that her family owned was well in excess of that of the kids in their new neighbourhood. It seems that where she now lives, children are pretty much only receive toys at Christmas and Birthdays. And the comment was made that there is not nearly as much window shopping or hanging out at the mall as there is in North America. Now, at first I thought she was not thinking clearly with too much blood flow to her head.....I mean she is living upside down now....it could happen. But as I thought about it.....I could not argue that my child alone has enough toys for 4 kids... mostly because of a parent who is a gadget freak. I'm sure in general this happens in North America for the most part just because we can. I'll admit that I have a bad habit of buying things that I don't need immediately. I tend to squirrel things away as I find them on sale. This tactic is OK if you can keep track of your inventory, but really falls apart if you don't keep on top of it.
So in light of this new realization that I purchase too much junk, I've decided to have a non-commercial November. For the month of November, I'll be trying to not purchase anything other than the basics. No new toys for Ike, no hot crafting supplies on clearance. I'm even going to try and use up all the stuff deep down in the bottom of my freezer!
Your probably thinking......"no spending in November with Christmas coming up???"......that's just crazy isn't it! So it I'll be posting my Handmade gift giving suggestions through the month of November to help give you some less expensive options than buying gifts from the store.
To start out with, how about a homemade Salt Scrub? I love these and find no difference in what you buy in the store vs what you can make at home. In fact, I made some last night. This one is so easy it's an ideal gift for kids to make for mom or teacher. You just might want to supervise the addition of the essential oils.


Handmade Gift Idea #1

Salt & Sugar Scrub

1 cup Sea Salt
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup grape seed oil
1 tsp glycerin
10 drops essential oil or fragrance oil

Mix all together to combine. You can start with less than the recommend amount of oil and add all or more if you feel it's necessary. I've used sugar scrubs before and have a preference for the salt scrub as I think the sugar scrubs dissolve much too quickly. You may want to pulse the sea salt a little in a food processor to reduce the particle size a little bit. Chunks that are too big will just fall away from your hand when you go to use them anyway. You can use coarse pickling salt if you happen to have some of that, and substituting in some Epsom salts will work as well.

The batch I made last night is scented with peppermint for the holidays, and tinted green with some spirulina powder that I had in the cupboard. Once you've finished the mixing then you just need to find a pretty container to put it in...... Something with a well fitting lid so the oil won't leak out. A nice little gift tag, and a bit of ribbon and you're done. Perfect for girlfriends or teachers gifts. Your cost to make this is about $2, compared to $8 for the store bought version.

What kinds of things has your family tried for a Handmade Holiday Gift?? Leave a comment......I'd love to hear your ideas.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Congratulations Shannon the Coffee is on Me

This morning we picked a winner for the Canadian Tim Hortons Gift Card. The winning comment was chosen by a random number generator and was comment 15. Congratulations to Shannon....your Gift Card will be in the mail soon.

Random Integer Generator

Here are your random numbers:

15 

Timestamp: 2008-11-02 16:39:05 UTC


Thanks to everyone who participated. See you all next time:)

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Goodbye Great Pumkin:( ....See you Next Year

Now that Halloween is behind us (and it was a great Halloween this year as far as weather goes) it's on to the next major Canadian holiday. Christmas! Halloween and Christmas have to run a pretty close tie at our house and we might even decorate a little more for Halloween come to think of it. And I think if you'd ask the average kid here which was more fun, Christmas or Halloween, it would be a pretty close tie as well, as they are very much enjoyed events here. I mean who wouldn't love an all night costume party where you get to pretend to be something you're not, running around in the dark........ Now that's just FUN 'on steroids' isn't' it?....Well it is if you're a kid......or a kid at heart. There is no doubt that Halloween has become more commercialized here and people are moving away from putting together homemade costumes and more are purchasing off the rack costumes.......I think it's really sad when peoples lives are too hectic to spend the time working on a project like this with their kids. But before we say goodbye to Halloween 2008, here's a few photos to share with you from our Halloween Day.

This is the pumpkin Ike Carved (I helped at times) from a free Pumpkin Masters pattern.
Here is Ike cleaning out the Pumpkin getting ready to carve it.

Trying on last years costume and giving it a spin.

These are some of the tomb stones decorating our entrance way.



More Stones...............

And some more.......................................We made these many years ago using Styrofoam insulation which we cut into the shape we wanted, then engraved them with funny but actual real epitaphs. We used a drawing package, but you could use word, to write the epitaph in full size. We printed out the writing and tacked it to the front of the stone and either melted it in with a soldering iron by burning through the paper and into the Styrofoam, or in later years using an exacto knife to cut through the paper and into the Styrofoam. The soldering iron method gave off what I'm sure were terribly unhealthy fumes so my preference now is using the exacto knife. You could also use a dremel tool, but it would raise a lot of dust that you would not want to inhale. After engraving, the engraved areas were painted with medium dark grey latex paint while the surface over the rest of the stone was painted with an off white since it's what we had at the time. Then we used spray paint meant to create a granite speckled finish and finished with a few coats of spray varnish. I've seen instructions to drill holes up into the bottom of the stones to place stakes in to attach them to the ground, but we have not bothered with this since we always put them in the dirt. We just bury them in a few inched of earth. Usually we set out wooden frames lined with landscaping fabric in the shape of a grave plot and put a few of them on the lawn piled with fresh earth to make a few fresh graves. But since this year was promising rain we opted not to.


This is a shot of the front of the house.



This is the front door and a shot of Ike's pumpkin. Behind the black curtains are skeletons and black lights.



Neighbours glow in the dark decoration.


Another Neighbours entrance way. That's Ike in his Turtwig costume going to the door.




This neighbour had a 100 lb pumpkin on their doorstep.
Out for a walk after Halloween and there were still some decorations up in the neighbourhood.

Bye Bye Little Birdie

The little birdie felted purse will soon be flying south for the winter to it's new home. The winner (comment 88) was chosen by a random number generator. Thanks to everyone who participated! Maybe we'll see you again next time.

Random Integer Generator

Here are your random numbers:

88 

Timestamp: 2008-11-01 17:14:07 UTC

That's Michelle Chappell. Congratulations Michelle! Check out Michelle's photography skills if you have a minute. She does beautiful childrens portraits you really should go check it out!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

October Daring Bakers Challenge is Complete


This came right down to the wire, but I got it done. I was so very excited that the bakers challenge was again for a savoury item and doubly pleased that it was for hand tossed pizza. How cool is that! This is exactly the reason I decided to join the bakers challenge in the first place. We make pizza from scratch fairly often, but never......and I mean never would I have even dreamed of trying to toss my own dough. Well fortunately for me, the Daring Bakers have Dared me to try something new and I LOVE IT! It was really much easier than I had anticipated and making the dough was a snap in my Kitchenaid mixer. Don't get me wrong, there is definitely some skill involved in the tossing process....especially to get height to the toss and keep it moving and not collapsing on itself. However.....I was able to toss to a height of about 8 inches and I was amazed at how quickly the dough became unmanageably large for me. I did cut the dough into 4 balls rather than the recommended 6 and perhaps a smaller size ball of dough would have been more easily managed. In fact I have two balls left to try and I can hardly wait......hopefully my family does not tire of pizza while I practice on them. Aside from the fun of the tossing, I will say that I believe the dough really does benefit from the proofing time and the tossing method as well. This was a very well received pizza! I made a plain pepperoni and cheese pizza to cater to my son's picky pizza palate, and I have included my sauce recipe below in case you're interested.

Pizza Sauce
1 (24 oz) can tomato sauce
6 tbsp water
1 1/2tsp sugar
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp basil
1/2 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp thyme
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp lemon juice
1 bay leaf
pinch onion powder
1/4 tsp black pepper
Mix all ingredients in a sauce pan over medium heat. Bring to a simmer, reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes. You can can the remaining sauce in jelly sized canning jars for later use or keep refrigerated for about 1 week.






~ BASIC PIZZA DOUGH ~Original recipe taken from “The Bread Baker’s Apprentice” by Peter Reinhart.Makes 6 pizza crusts (about 9-12 inches/23-30 cm in diameter).




Ingredients:


4 1/2 Cups (20 1/4 ounces/607.5 g) Unbleached high-gluten (%14) bread flour or all purpose flour, chilled


- FOR GF: 4 ½ cups GF Flour Blend with xanthan gum or 1 cup brown rice flour, 1 cup corn flour, 1 cup oat flour, 1 ½ cup arrowroot, potato or tapioca starch + 2 tsp xanthan or guar gum 1 3/4 Tsp Salt


1 Tsp Instant yeast


- FOR GF use 2 tsp


1/4 Cup (2 ounces/60g) Olive oil or vegetable oil (both optional, but it’s better with)


1 3/4 Cups (14 ounces/420g or 420ml) Water, ice cold (40° F/4.5° C)


1 Tb sugar


- FOR GF use agave syrup


Semolina/durum flour or cornmeal for dusting


DAY ONE


Method: 1. Mix together the flour, salt and instant yeast in a big bowl (or in the bowl of your stand mixer).


2. Add the oil, sugar and cold water and mix well (with the help of a large wooden spoon or with the paddle attachment, on low speed) in order to form a sticky ball of dough. On a clean surface, knead for about 5-7 minutes, until the dough is smooth and the ingredients are homogeneously distributed. If it is too wet, add a little flour (not too much, though) and if it is too dry add 1 or 2 teaspoons extra water.NOTE: If you are using an electric mixer, switch to the dough hook and mix on medium speed for the same amount of time.The dough should clear the sides of the bowl but stick to the bottom of the bowl. If the dough is too wet, sprinkle in a little more flour, so that it clears the sides. If, on the contrary, it clears the bottom of the bowl, dribble in a teaspoon or two of cold water.The finished dough should be springy, elastic, and sticky, not just tacky, and register 50°-55° F/10°-13° C.


Or2. FOR GF: Add the oil, sugar or agave syrup and cold water, then mix well (with the help of a large wooden spoon or with the paddle attachment, on low speed) in order to form a sticky ball of dough.


3. Flour a work surface or counter. Line a jelly pan with baking paper/parchment. Lightly oil the paper.


4. With the help of a metal or plastic dough scraper, cut the dough into 6 equal pieces (or larger if you want to make larger pizzas).NOTE: To avoid the dough from sticking to the scraper, dip the scraper into water between cuts.


5. Sprinkle some flour over the dough. Make sure your hands are dry and then flour them. Gently round each piece into a ball.NOTE: If the dough sticks to your hands, then dip your hands into the flour again.


6. Transfer the dough balls to the lined jelly pan and mist them generously with spray oil. Slip the pan into plastic bag or enclose in plastic food wrap.


7. Put the pan into the refrigerator and let the dough rest overnight or for up to thee days.NOTE: You can store the dough balls in a zippered freezer bag if you want to save some of the dough for any future baking. In that case, pour some oil(a few tablespooons only) in a medium bowl and dip each dough ball into the oil, so that it is completely covered in oil. Then put each ball into a separate bag. Store the bags in the freezer for no longer than 3 months. The day before you plan to make pizza, remember to transfer the dough balls from the freezer to the refrigerator.


DAY TWO


8. On the day you plan to eat pizza, exactly 2 hours before you make it, remove the desired number of dough balls from the refrigerator. Dust the counter with flour and spray lightly with oil. Place the dough balls on a floured surface and sprinkle them with flour. Dust your hands with flour and delicately press the dough into disks about 1/2 inch/1.3 cm thick and 5 inches/12.7 cm in diameter. Sprinkle with flour and mist with oil. Loosely cover the dough rounds with plastic wrap and then allow to rest for 2 hours.


Or8. FOR GF: On the day you plan to eat pizza, exactly 2 hours before you make it, remove the number of desired dough balls from the refrigerator. Place on a sheet of parchment paper and sprinkle with a gluten free flour. Delicately press the dough into disks about ½ inch/1.3 cm thick and 5 inches/12.7 cm in diameter. Sprinkle the dough with flour, mist it again with spray oil. Lightly cover the dough round with a sheet of parchment paper and allow to rest for 2 hours.


9. At least 45 minutes before making the pizza, place a baking stone on the lower third of the oven. Preheat the oven as hot as possible (500° F/260° C). NOTE: If you do not have a baking stone, then use the back of a jelly pan. Do not preheat the pan.


10. Generously sprinkle the back of a jelly pan with semolina/durum flour or cornmeal. Flour your hands (palms, backs and knuckles). Take 1 piece of dough by lifting it with a pastry scraper. Lay the dough across your fists in a very delicate way and carefully stretch it by bouncing it in a circular motion on your hands, and by giving it a little stretch with each bounce. Once the dough has expanded outward, move to a full toss.


Or10. FOR GF: Press the dough into the shape you want (about 9-12 inches/23-30 cm in diameter - for a 6 ounces/180g piece of dough).NOTE: Make only one pizza at a time.During the tossing process, if the dough tends to stick to your hands, lay it down on the floured counter and reflour your hands, then continue the tossing and shaping. In case you would be having trouble tossing the dough or if the dough never wants to expand and always springs back, let it rest for approximately 5-20 minutes in order for the gluten to relax fully,then try again.You can also resort to using a rolling pin, although it isn’t as effective as the toss method.


11. When the dough has the shape you want (about 9-12 inches/23-30 cm in diameter - for a 6 ounces/180g piece of dough), place it on the back of the jelly pan, making sure there is enough semolina/durum flour or cornmeal to allow it to slide and not stick to the pan.


Or11. FOR GF: Lightly top it with sweet or savory toppings of your choice.


12. Lightly top it with sweet or savory toppings of your choice.


Or12. FOR GF: Place the garnished pizza on the parchment paper onto the stone in the oven or bake directly on the jelly pan. Close the door and bake for about 5-8 minutes.NOTE: Remember that the best pizzas are topped not too generously. No more than 3 or 4 toppings (including sauce and cheese) are sufficient.


13. Slide the garnished pizza onto the stone in the oven or bake directly on the jelly pan. Close the door and bake for about 5-8 minutes.


Or13. FOR GF: Follow the notes for this step.NOTE: After 2 minutes baking, take a peek. For an even baking, rotate 180°.If the top gets done before the bottom, you will need to move the stone or jelly pane to a lower shelf before the next round. On the contrary, if the bottom crisps before the cheese caramelizes, then you will need to raise the stone or jelly.


14. Take the pizza out of the oven and transfer it to a cutting board or your plate. In order to allow the cheese to set a little, wait 3-5 minutes before slicing or serving.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Hello Canada.... it's Free Coffee

This contest is now closed. Thanks to all who participated!
This Give Away is for all you Canadians out there braving the fall weather. (If you know a Canadian you'd like this sent to that's OK too....) It's beautiful and crisp out there today and I'm hoping for good Halloween weather for the kids this Friday. How about a nice cup of Pumpkin Spice Tea and a Pumpkin Spice muffin or donut or maybe a soup to knock the chill off. Why didn't they make a pumpkin soup???

If that's not your cup of tea....then make it a coffee....you get the picture......and take a friend that you haven't chatted with in a while along.....it's on me. I'll be sending the winner a $20 gift card from Tim Hortons to help knock the chill off and hopefully spend some time with a friend. Now who wouldn't like some of that???



The Rules


  1. Leave a comment below (on this post) with your favourite Halloween costume that you were when you were a kid or one you'd have liked and you are entered!

  2. You can enter once per day.

  3. Draw closes Saturday November 1/08 at midnight.

  4. Remember to leave an email or link at which you can be reached.

  5. Winner will be chosen using a random number generator, posted and contacted Sunday November 2 and you'll have to respond with an mailing address within 4 days or a new winner will be chosen.

  6. Please use the format of jane(dot)doe(at)hotmail(dot)com when providing an email so you won't get a whole bunch of spam.

  7. Remember this prize will only be sent to a Canadian address.

More giveaways at the Bloggy Giveaways Quarterly Carnival!


Please go check out Bloggy Giveaways for more fun !

Monday, October 27, 2008

More Bloggy Giveaway Carnival Goodness

This contest is now Closed. Congratulations to Michelle from North Carolina USA.

It's Bloggy Giveaways Carnival time again. Those of you who participated last time may remember my first giveaway was a vintage style apron and matching headband. It was a lot of fun, and I've been looking forward to again taking part in the carnival. Well here it is again........IT'S CARNIVAL TIME....small squeal......In keeping with the handmade theme, I am offering a chance to win this hand knit and felted wool purse. It is knit with brown Merino wool, felted, lined with cream coloured Shantung silk, and embellished with felt, embroidery and a vintage coat button. I've been liking this little bird theme in felt and have been putting it on everything it seems. In fact, I do like it enough....I think......to make another for me. Doesn't it just look like fall??? It is 5.5 inches tall (not including the strap), 8 inches wide, and 3.5 inches deep and is brand new...(just finished it yesterday)


The Rules, for those interested in entering are........
  1. This contest is international and open to absolutely everyone.
  2. Enter by leaving one comment at the bottom of this post before midnight on October 31. Make sure to leave an email address or link so I can contact you should your name be drawn.
  3. A random number generator will be used and the winner will be contacted for their address and announced here on Saturday November 1, 2008.
  4. The package will be posted to the winner within the week.

As always, when leaving an email address, I would recommend that you leave it in the format of jane(dot)doe(at)hotmail(dot)com . This should keep your spam down to a minimum. Please take the link to Bloggy Giveaways below to check out a tonne of other cool Giveaways! Have Fun:)


More giveaways at the Bloggy Giveaways Quarterly Carnival!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

6 Halloween Costume Ideas

Looking for some home made costume ideas??? Well here's what we've done so far......

I have so far, made all of the costumes my son has worn for Halloween. I remember the fun of Halloween being in the creation of the costume and I remember being very excited when one year I came home from school to find my mother sewing me a Halloween costume. It was really rather inventive of her.......she sewed up a clown costume using white and black garbage bags. My mother, while talented in many ways has no patience for crafting, so to this day I do not know what prompted her to this creative output. Although I don't know that I've ever thanked her for it since that time, it was and still is one of my most memorable Halloween nights. I remember that year it rained and it really came in handy.

Ike's first Halloween was a skeleton made from a thrifted terry cloth sleeper which I dyed black and cut white felt pieces out to be bones which I hand stitched onto the front of the sleeper. It was cute as a button and the easiest costume to date. The following year, Ike went to a wedding and so we had a pair of black dress pants, a white dress shirt to start with, so making a cape and medallion were very little work. The only red fabric available at the time was a stretch velvet with little sequin like red dots all over it, so that's what we used.

The biggest problem for outdoor Halloweening in my area of the world is the temperature. It can, and has snowed on Halloween and rain can be an issue as well. So for this climate the biggest issue seems to be having a costume warm enough for you child to wear. The first outdoor costume I made for Ike was a little bat. My mom had cut a picture from a woman's magazine of a little girl with a bat like cape on and that's what I started with. I had a friend that had reams of black fleece fabric available from her kids school and I have bought many meters of it over the last few years. What I make first is a black fleece set of GAP style pyjamas to start with. I take a pair of fitted pyjamas and trace the pattern from them onto Christmas wrapping paper. I usually add 2 inches in length to both the top and the bottom, and add at least an inch also to the width since Ike will likely be wearing a little something underneath the costume as well. The fleece is very easy to sew and using a zigzag stitch gives the seams a little stretch as well. I have often left the neck opening unfinished because this leaves is with more stretch, but I usually turn under the bottom hems and stitch for neatness. For the waist, I sew in a piece of wide elastic although the fleece is pretty stretchy and it may not need it. But it's a quick easy job so I usually sew it in with a quick zigzag. For the Bat wing cape, I traced a pattern out on some inexpensive wrapping paper taking into account the finger to finger span with both arms extended. This would be the over all width measurement. I also traced out a rectangular strip to be the collar attachment to be added at the top center of the bat wing cape. I made one layer (collar and bat wing) of fleece and one of a black mat nylon fabric that was a little stiff. It offered a little wind protection in case it was windy on Halloween night. Then, to assemble joined the front and back sections together wrong sides together and turned it right side out. To finish it off I top stitched the wings all around the outside edge, and from each point across to the top center of the wings. I had a mountain equipment co-op kids winter hat with the 8 little points around the top and made a copy with only two points ( to be the ears). This worked out well for warmth as well. Some black mittens and black boots or shoes and he was all done.


Another year I got to reuse the cute black hat with the ears and could have reused the pants had he not grown in height. This year Ike decided he was going to be a spider, so costume modifications were minimal. Again, I made a top and bottom based on good fitting pyjamas, but before I sewed up the sides on the pyjamas, I sewed together and stuffed, four fleece tubes of similar size to the arms and legs of his outfit. When it was time to sew together the the front and back of the top, I inserted two extra fleece 'arms' on each side seam and sewed them up. You have to think about what you are doing, and place the arms inside the body of the top while you are sewing or else you may end up with extra arms on the inside of your costume rather than on the outside. Yep, I've done it. In order to make the extra arms come to life, I sewed lengths of white ribbon between each successive arm in a spider web outline. This way, when he lifted his arms he would also lift the four stuffed arms hanging below. This one was pretty darned cute......I really liked that one:)
As a change in direction away from the usual black costume, Ike decided one year to be a mummy. This time, it as white fleece and the same old top, bottom and hat set up. In order to get that 'mummy' look I soaked cheese cloth in strong black tea to end up with a dirty off white colour. Then I wrapped the fleece costume in cheese cloth tacking down by hand as I went. This was a little time consuming to say the least.
This year I think will be the biggest challenge yet as Ike has requested to be the Pokemon character Turtwig. I did not have a lot of confidence in my abilities to put out anything that would be recognizable....but five minutes into the party last night someone recognized his costume without prompting or any guessing. Go figure??



I'll have to dig through some old photos to see if I have any photos of the spider and mummy....I know they are around somewhere.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Pink Soup

After a busy weekend of sewing for Ike's Hallowe'en costume (which is almost finished now) I've noticed that the weather outside is turning quite cold. I say this because I think I spent the entire weekend indoors, perhaps even in my pyjamas for longer than I would care to admit, planning and working on Ike's Turtwig costume. It was, I think the most challenging costume I've made for him to date. It's 90% complete now, only requiring a means to attach the shell and some fleece mittens to match because it looks like it's going to be a cold one......but hopefully not raining!
Well, all this cold weather makes me think of soup.........and here's a soup that I had never made myself. Growing up, both my grama and my mother made Borshch, but I had not made it myself until this past weekend. Well...here it is....and although it met with resistance from other unnamed family members....it tastes like it should and I like it:) While it's never the same as eating it out of gramas dishes by the warmth of the kitchen wood stove........it's as close as I can get.