Friday, November 30, 2007

Quilty Cat

While D was away I had the whole place to myself, so I moved all my sewing things out to the dining room. I forgot to pre-wash all my fabric, so it took some time before I was ready to cut and sew. I did a ton of ironing as well - here is Gatsby sitting on my nicely ironed pile of quilting fabric. What a pain. Unfortunately I don't have any pictures to share - somehow I let the whole day go by without remembering to take some, and then it was too dark to take any good ones. But it was hard to resist this one:

I like to sit on anything people don't want me to sit on

I've been working on a bunch of different things - coasters, toys, pincushions, real cushions, knitting, beading - and getting very easily distracted by each project so it's hard to finish any one thing. I know I said I'd have projects every day, but the camera situation messed that up. And also the fact that some of the projects are Christmas gifts that won't be a surprise to the recipient if they are reading this blog. Oh well.

This week I also lined up to get my social security number, quite an embarassing experience really. I turned over my documents (passport, application form, etc) to the SSN person and then passed over my driver's license thinking it was my work permit card (forgetting I now had two pieces of Ohio photo ID). Of course, the SSN person just kept saying, "Ma'am, this is not a work permit. You need to talk to Immigration Services and get your work permit". And so I insisted, over and over, that that very card (in fact, the driver's license) was the only thing that I was sent and that it was definitely the work permit. Sigh. At some point I did realize what was going on, but couldn't they have just said "Ma'am, this is a driver's license"?

Thank goodness this is almost the last of the paperwork...I'll be happy when it's all done.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Traveling Camera

I forgot that D took the camera when he left yesterday for his trip, which means there won't be any pics for the vast amount of crafting I am planning to do today and tomorrow! Oh well. The finished objects will be more exciting than the progress shots. That said, it all depends on whether or not I bought the right quilting foot for my machine. I will snap the finished (hopefully) objects on Friday.

This morning I am going to the library to return some way overdue craft books (I didn't want to part with them, particularly Last Minute Patchwork and Quilted Gifts) but someone else is waiting in line for them. I am also going to pick up an artificial Christmas tree today - a real tree would be better for sure, but this is more practical (and environmentally friendly too).

Monday, November 26, 2007

Cotton Baby Raglan Cardigan

Pattern: Baby cardigan with fully-fashioned raglan shaping
Source: Debbie Bliss Beginner Baby Knits
Yarn: Lion Brand Cotton Ease in light grey
Yardage: Just over 1 skein

A quick easy knit, baby stuff is always fun to make because you end up with a finished little sweater quickly. If I make this again I will do it in the round - too much finishing to do at the end. I'm making a little hat to go with this since I've got yarn leftover.

And some bitty baby socks made of leftover Fleece Artist:

...and another Koolhaas Hat, this time knit in the larger size. A better fit for sure. I've been productive, haven't I? This week I'm going to start on some sewing, really...

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Good News & Bad Khaki Tragedy

The Good:
In all this crafting excitement, I forgot to share my good news: My work permit arrived in the mail this week!! This means I am now eligible for employment in the U.S., which feels like a major relief. I was starting to get a little restless, so this is just in time. I'm also waiting on one more application that was reviewed this month (for licensure) - hopefully it will be approved as well.

The Bad:
I finally sewed buttons on the Khaki Jacket today and put it on and...well, first I'll show you the nice pictures:

Looks OK, right? It's deceiving. The fit was pretty terrible. Far too drapey, floppy all around the bottom, and saggy at the elbows. Sigh. Very disappointing. I already had a bad feeling about it after I finished the first front panel, but I soldiered through to give it a chance (there's something to be said here about Intuition). After about 15 minutes of wear, it looks like a different beast altogether. I also made several other stupid mistakes with this project. First, I forgot to make button holes, duh. Second, I cleverly decided to graft together the shoulder seams for invisibility, but when do you ever see invisible shoulders on garments? I was clearly not in my right mind. Plus, it added to the frustrating stretchiness of the whole thing.

Lessons learned:
  1. Cotton can be heavy and drapey.
  2. Getting gauge does not necessarily means it's going to work well with a pattern.
  3. Loose gauge means saggy elbows and pulling at the buttons.
  4. A structured little A-line jacket with an upright collar needs a denser wool or something to help maintain its shape.
  5. Don't forget to make button holes.
  6. Don't join shoulders with Kitchener stitch.
I haven't given up on this pattern yet - I'll give it another try in bulky yarn and see how it goes. After seeing the cute ones out in blog land, I still have hope!
I will probably rip it out at some point to turn it into the Hourglass Sweater - it's lovely yarn and doesn't deserve to be left as a bad sweater. 'All those hours of knitting, how can you bear unraveling it?' I've been asked. I think the answer, for me, is that having the failed object lying around feels more intolerable than seeing it converted back into a few balls of nicely wound yarn, with the potential of a fresh start. In fact, I've got a little pile of sweaters now, from when I started knitting, that are going to be recycled. I'll definitely take pictures of them so that I don't forget what my first sweaters were like - and all the amusing mistakes that went along with them.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Yellow Basketweave Cake

I should really come up with some more interesting sounding names for my posts, but honestly, I find it the hardest part. Simple and descriptive is good, but boring. Maybe it's because I start my post with the title, instead of writing the post and then coming up with one. Hmm. Any suggestions?

For the next few days I should have something to post every day! Exciting! I had another hospice birthday cake to bake, so I wanted to try practicing a new icing technique: basketweave. There are other patterns I prefer to basketweave, but nonetheless I think it's something I should get to know. This time it's a yellow cake with sour cherry plum jam sandwiched in the middle, covered in vanilla buttercream icing. I thought the cake needed a little colour inside since it's all very, very yellow.

Basketweave was fun to do, and not as hard as it looked, so I changed the tip to do a border. Of course, the more icing I had left in the bag, the more I piped on the cake, adding swirls, stars, and then soon it was looking a little garish. I have a tendency to over do things and forget the merits of a simple design. After the piping stopped, the cake looked incredibly crazy yellow so I stuck on some violets. These violets have certainly come in handy. I used melted chocolate again for the writing because it is much easier than mixing a new colour of icing and using up a whole other icing bag.

Friday, November 23, 2007

We're back from Toronto!

It's been a little while, hasn't it? Hope you all had a good week! D and I sure did - a week in Toronto flew by unbelievably fast. We drove home last week (with cat in tow) which wasn't too bad at all, about 6.5 hours. We stayed with my mom, where we, including Gatsby, were spoiled and pampered to death with delicious food every waking hour (thanks mom!).

On the Friday, we attended D's big graduation ceremony where he wore a rather stunning red gown and marched across the stage to be awarded his degree. And along with the hundreds of other family members and friends, I probably embarassed him by taking a gazillion photos of this entire process - but how often do you get to finish your PhD?

Just call me Doctor...

Afterward, we had a proper celebration with champagne, courtesy of Mr. C...

Delicious, delicious, delicious...

...followed by dinner out at Southern Accent, a cozy, yummy Cajun/Creole restaurant in Markham Village, where we gorged on blackened chicken livers, cornbread, piquant shrimp, crab cakes, jambalaya, pecan pie and creme brulee. If you are ever looking for a restaurant in Toronto, I highly highly recommend this place. I have sampled most of the menu and have so far never been disappointed by any dish. The only thing that can go horribly wrong is that one's judgment of realistic portion size goes completely out the window and you are experience 'eyes bigger than stomach' syndrome. Which is OK once in a while though, so no big deal.

We ate sooo much this past week - garlic-fried lobster, Japanese buffet, real Szechuan cuisine, steamed crab with ginger, dim sum, brunch... and being American Thanksgiving the day after we got back, we gorged on turkey, dressing, potatoes and pie. Burp. D and I could probably go without eating for 2 or 3 days and not lose an ounce.

All this eating has distracted me somewhat from crafting, but there are lots of things happening on the craft front. I'm a bit disorganized right now so I haven't got pics ready or done some final touches on things. I did go out and get some buttons for various projects, and I finished the baby cardigan as well. And I also acquired more quilting fabric for some Pointy Kitty toys I am planning to make. Today, I am going to plan out what I should work on over the next few weeks.

Before we left for Toronto, I made some muslin gift bags to put the bear toys in, and put some little iron-on tags on them.

More updates to come, soon!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

i Heart Toronto

Yikes, the last six days just disappeared! It's been a busy week with visitors, packing and going home to Toronto - I had new project updates to share, and photos too, but unfortunately they are sitting on the computer at home instead of here on the traveling laptop. Over the last week, I had managed to finish the Khaki Jacket (which is now blocking and needs a few buttons), made some little pouches for gifts, bought some new quilting fabric and yarn, and started a baby cardigan for a friend who is due in December.

We are now in Toronto and I am relaxing and enjoying being at home. It's funny - we have only been away for three months, but it feels much longer than that. When we crossed Peace Bridge we both breathed out a sigh of relief, happy to be back in familiar territory. Strangely though, Canadian currency looks surprisingly foreign and monopoly-like. It's crazy what three months will do!

Gatsby is thoroughly enjoying his new surroundings. I would have thought he'd be a little scared, but he is roaming about as if he owns the place, and showing off his cuteness all day long (perhaps in hopes of being fed a few extra times).

On the drive up I started knitting a Debbie Bliss baby cardigan from her Beginner Baby Knits book. I'm using a pale grey cotton and the back and one front panel are done. I figured that babies probably receive a lot of pink, blue and yellow, so a neutral-coloured sweater might be appreciated as a wardrobe option. It's knitting up quickly, so should be finished soon.

This week I am planning to take in as much Toronto as possible: seeing friends and family, visiting our old haunts, eating a lot of Ace Bakery baguette, sushi and Chinese, getting my hair cut, perusing fabric shops and other window shopping. Have a great week and see you back in Columbus!

Friday, November 9, 2007

Weekend Baking: Pumpkin Pie

Pumpkin Pie - recipe from the back of a can of Libby's canned pumpkin

I had meant to post this earlier, but as usual, I started but didn't get around to finishing up. And what a short post this is. D's parents are visiting us this weekend, and so I made a pumpkin pie today and will be making a few other things over the next couple days, including coq au vin and mu shu pork. The coq au vin didn't get photographed as it was eaten for dinner yesteday, but maybe I will take a few photos of the mushu cooking since it is my first time making anything like this. It has so far involved 3 phone calls to my mother asking various kinds of things. Anyhow, more to come soon. Hope you are having a great weekend.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

95th Birthday Cake

Tomorrow is someone's 95th birthday at the hospice center - impressive eh? Hopefully she will enjoy the cake I baked for her. Cake baking and decorating went much better than the last time, and I enjoyed doing something other than white and purple. This time I made a chocolate cake with chocolate buttercream icing. I find that cake mixes always produce layers with a hump in the middle that I need to level - maybe I should try to use the baking strips that came in my monstrous cake decorating kit. Next time.

As usual, there is something to learn from each cake made. For the first time ever, I had enough frosting to cover the cake and do some piping. What a revelation. This made things much easier. I'm getting a little faster and neater at filling and covering the cake - without piping a barrier for the filling or doing a crumb coat. It definitely helped that the cake layers were not falling apart and had a uniform, smooth surface (probably from the baking spray and non-stick pan combination). The trick was to plop a huge mound of icing in the centre and spread outward in a circular motion, letting the icing protrude over the sides, and putting any excess back in the bowl. Cake crumbs begone!

I had bought a laaarrrrgge bar (over a pound!) of dark belgian chocolate from Trader Joe's last week and have been dying to use (read: eat) it. With a heavy knife, I carved myself a whole pile of chocolate shavings and attempted to coat the sides of the cake with this. It ended up looking a little patchy as it was rather difficult to hold the cake in one hand while rotating it and applying chocolate with the other (plus the chocolate started to melt in my hand and the cake almost slid off the board). Good enough for a first job. Next time I will wear gloves. For the writing, I melted some chopped dark chocolate in a ziploc bag under hot tap water and snipped a tiny hole for piping - by the time I finished "happy", the chocolate was already solidifying, hence the slightly wonkier "birthday" text. Adding 95th would have been a nice detail but I forgot and it was too late to add it in. Let's hope she is someone who prefers not to be reminded of her age.

I'm happy with how it turned out. Sometimes I wish I could cut a slice out before delivering the cakes, just to sample it, you know? And to see how the layers look inside. Yum. Although, I wouldn't want my birthday cake arriving with a hunk hacked out of it either...

Monday, November 5, 2007

Columbus Weekend & Chocolatey Vegan Goodies

crazy mural on the side of our building

Our wonderful, wonderful friends drove all the way from Toronto to visit D and I this past weekend (it was great to see you guys!) The weather was absolutely perfect for lots of walking, and we had a fun-filled few days of packed Columbus action. Maybe I can convince them to move here to keep me company. Almost all the photos in this post are courtesy of my uberawesome friend M, who, in addition to being a talented graphic designer/artist/painter, has got some maddeningly great photography skills.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies (made with tofu, soymilk and applesauce!!)

Friday I spent the day baking some vegan goodies to keep people well-energized (well-sugared) throughout the weekend. What I love about reading other peoples blogs is not only do you share common interests but you are also introduced to things you may not have tried yourself. And there are many talented knitters/bakers out there. I saw the cookies on the brown sheep's blog and from there, I was able to link to a whole other world of vegan delights. Cookie recipe is linked above - I subbed all-purpose flour because I couldn't find any whole wheat pastry flour, and I also found that it yielded about 70 or so large heaping teaspoon-sizes cookies, not 50 like it claimed. The more the better I guess. We ate them for breakfast, snacks, lunch, and dinner.

I also found this recipe for yummy chocolate cupcakes made with soymilk that produced moist, chocolatey dense cupcakes. I might start using this recipe even for non-vegans, that's how good they were. Unfortunately I didn't have enough icing sugar to make frosting, so they were not as pretty, but everyone agreed they tasted good plain. My friends are easy to please.

i have holes because jenny used a toothpick to get me out of the pan

We started Saturday at the North Market where T chatted it up with one of the Amish farmers.

walking to the North Market

mozart's bakery

(He had some kooky stories about chickens and frogs in his bed after a flood)

After a quick lunch (where we were serenaded by members of the Columbus Opera), we strolled through Goodale Park...

what's that in the pond?

Then we headed north through Victorian Village and walked all the way to OSU campus.

pretty ducks in the pond by D's office building

While on campus, we went to the William Wegman exhibit at the Wexner Center which was really good - definitely something we will take D's parents to when they visit next weekend. It's free admission and on until early December, so go while you can.

In the evening, we had a dinner at Dragonfly NeoV (delicious vegan cuisine) and went to the Gallery Hop in the Short North. A long but very productive day of tourism.

Sunday started with brunch buffet at Union Cafe, then a trip to the Columbus Zoo and a quick visit to Trader Joe's. The zoo was awesome. My favourites included the discovery aquarium with some of the biggest tropical fish I'd ever seen, including a unicorn fish. This tank was massive, probably about 10 feet tall. We were lucky to see feeding time, where a zookeeper in scuba gear got in the tank and walked around to feed the fish. The tiger and gorilla exhibits were great too, especially the indoor portions with plexiglass walls that let the animals come right up to you. Who knew Columbus had so many places to see? Having visitors is a great way to experience things you may not otherwise try.

i am a magical unicorn fish

N and T made us all a delicious dinner at home...maybe because I whinged about missing Mrs. T's homecooking they had on Friday evening. D.e.l.i.c.i.o.u.s. You guys are the best cooks ever!

aren't the hosts supposed to cook the dinner? instead they drink purple moon and pumpkin beer

And to leave you with a little knitting, here is Mr. Bear with his finished features, and Mr. Mini Bear too. The yarn is sportweight Misti Alpaca held doubled throughout - I bought two skeins and had enough leftover to make this tiny guy. This is for a friend's birthday, who will receive the little guys in a couple weeks.

i am mr. bear, this is my mini-me

And one last crazy cat picture.

gatsby looking like the devil