Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Cheese bread interlude

Before the big garland reveal, I must show you that asiago cheese bread I made back on Super Bowl Sunday.


It was made of win, not only because of its tastiness, but also because of its uncanny resemblance to an overstuffed bird and/or a blowfish.

Right?! You see it. The beak. The gills. It's all right there!

A crusty, soft, and cute little loaf of bread with chunks of cheese inside. Effing yum! 

It had a nice hint of black pepper flavor to it, and I'm told it went really well with the chili that our friend made. I recommend! 

Recipe is in this book. Super easy to make. If you like bread and you like cheese (and who doesn't), you should make it. 

And that's what the blowfish bird cheese bread and I have to say to you about that. Make it!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

The garland begins

The next phase of the making of the garland...

Printed out the template onto regular printer paper. Felt a little chumpy about using the template since it's just 3 circles in ascending sizes, but let's be honest. I'm not going to figure out how to make circles in the designated sizes, so I'd best just be grateful they're giving this away for free.

Cut out the paper circles. Took a deep breath.

Noticed some thick cardboard poking out of one of the bags in my crafting room. Is it silly to mount the paper template onto this thick cardboard? Can I even cut through the cardboard with my scissors? Does it even really matter?

Oh, it always matters. Lest ye forget. It always matters.

Figured I might as well give it a go. Used some of my awesome adhesive that I use when making cards, adhered one paper circle at a time to the thick cardboard, and started cutting.



That cardboard doesn't look particularly thick, I realize -- it's probably 1/8" max -- but it still wasn't terribly fun to do in that it required using some hand strength. Delicate flower that I am, I prefer tests of hand endurance over tests of hand strength. Oh, I'll knit or hand-quilt for hours at a stretch, but don't make me squeeze something hard. I just don't care for it.

But I did it. And I'm glad I did.


It really came in handy later.

So now there I was, face to face with these three circles on cardboard and a pile of untouched felt. This is a place I've been before. I know it well. Somebody's got to make the next move. And that somebody is me. But which oh which move to make? Answer: The one that yields 200 felt circles being cut without anyone losing a limb or a week.

How about if I just hold the mounted template down onto the felt then cut around with my rotary cutter on my self-healing mat?


FAIL. This was impossible. No way to get around the circle well. Just blech. What's funny is that this was so close to the best solution, yet it would take me several more flings with fails to finally get there. (Flings With Fails might be a good band name, but I think it's really better in the "Flings featuring Fails" configuration, you know, the way all the hip kids are doing it these days. I am so cool.)

Then I remembered the tremendous success I've had with washable markers. Yeah! Let's do that! Washable Marker!


No. Let's not. What am I gonna do, cut this out and then carefully wash away the residual purple ink along the edges? For 200 circles? No. I am in fact not going to do that.

How about using something lighter like those Chacopel Fines that I won't have to wash off?

Yes. This seemed to be going well -- tracing around the template with the pencil, then cutting the felt circle out with my fancy scissors. (Eeep! If you follow that scissors link, there's a futuristic looking seam ripper they've got going on that looks like no joke. Whoo-eee. What will they think of next?!)

So, after about an hour of tracing and cutting, here's what I had:

Seventeen circles and the sinking feeling that this was not the best way.

Also! Friendly tip!

In case you're thinking that you like this pencil method and that you'd be able to speed through it more quickly than I would, fair enough. But be warned: using the handy Chacopel brush to get rid of the marks you've made en-fuzzens the edges, because that's what happens when you BRUSH felt. If you decide to leave the marks on to keep your edges intact, the whole thing will look faded and crappelle. But to each her own. Do what you must.

Gee, if only there were some way to mark the fabric without leaving some visible residue.

The Hera marking tool! Makes a crease rather than a mark! Oh, right. FAIL. Can't get around the circle well. Can't see the crease. I made a crappy mark and a crappy circle. So sleepy.

In the process of trying to clean up the mess that this method made, I held the cardboard template against the felt between my thumb and forefinger of my left hand and used the scissors in my right hand. Turning my left hand in a circular motion while keeping the scissors relatively stable, I zipped around that thing so fast I think I actually laughed out loud. 

At the two hour point, I had this many:

And by the next morning, I had all the circles I needed:

200 circles... plus a few to grow on, just by holding the template in place against the felt and cutting around it with scissors.

The fact that the cardboard was thick meant I wasn't shaving slivers off of the template as a cut around it, so I do recommend a thick mount. (Oh, get your mind out of that gutter, pervs!)

I found the whole thing quite soothing and fun in the end.

I'd like to think that my process of discovery here can help someone out there. Not only does that make me a super-helpful blogger friend, but it also keeps me from having to admit that I may very well be the slowest kid in craft school.

Next step: Sewing!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Wool. Felt.

I remember! I remember! Crafting is SO fun!! Aaaargh!

Ok. So. Big Alice really hooked me up. The other day when I wrote about my longing for some affordable wool felt, she left a comment real casual-like about how maybe I should try this place.

(I'm realizing this post may turn into a gush-fest, so you might want to put some galoshes on.)

Over at this place, the wool felt is totally affordable. Not only that, they've done you the giant favor of making color bundles for you. Really adorable bundles! In adorable colors! So many great combinations, it was all I could do to order just one. I have my prudent and wise mind to thank for this.

You've never ordered from them before, and neither has Big Alice. You don't even really know how you feel about wool felt. Yes, the colors are great. But let's just take this slow.

But also? Right next to the bundles? Embroidery floss. Floss that coordinates with the wool felt bundles. They went all Garanimals on my ass! No agonizing over which color goes with which thing. All I had to do was pick the color combos I liked the best.

Dude, slow down. Yes, they've done you the giant favor of making everything go together. But, to reiterate, you don't know how you feel about wool felt. And your plan is to make garland with this felt. Nowhere in the garland recipe is embroidery floss called for. Slow your roll.

So all I did was order the Carnival bundle. That was it. I showed restraint. I was testing it out.

And then it got to my house super fast!

Just because it got to your house really fast doesn't mean you should go right back on there and get more! You haven't made anything with it. You just took it out of the box! Your ability to be wowed is really remarkable. Really.

But look look! 

Is this not the perfect bundle for the garland?! I say yes! Perfect! And it's the perfect excuse to go into that room that I'm trying to make into a craft room and get crafting!

Oh! The excitement is almost too much to handle! I will push unpacked boxes aside. I will find extension cords. I will properly install the new lamp that my Sidekick bought me, and I will officially get crafting!

Way to show restraint in this post. You and I both know you have already begun sewing the garland and that you have photos of the whole hilarious process, and yet you are doling it out across several posts. Prudent. Wise. Stay strong, crazy lady. Stay strong.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

On snafus

Jim Lahey's got me. He's really got me.

That's how I was going to start the blog post called The Cheese Bread. I was going to go on and on about this asiago cheese bread I made from Jim Lahey's book. All about the cheesiness and the glory of it all. But the little elves in my computer weren't having it. They were absolutely not interested in supplying me with the necessary photos that I know are in there.

I won't bore you with what didn't show up where and who cursed at what. But I will say that I decided to treat it as an exercise in equanimity. It just is what it is. No cheese bread photo. No cheese bread post. For now.

I took the opportunity to sit here quietly and look out my window into my new backyard. Thinking about what a beautiful day it is and how lucky I feel about that and so many other things, I spied a little grey bird sitting on a post back there.

That little bird is a regular on that post. Well, I see a bird out there every day, and I've decided it's the same one. As I watched him, he flitted from the post to a branch and back to the post again. I was struck by the loveliness of the idea that it might be the same bird -- some little guy who flies all over the city but then comes back here to this post. You know, to chill before he heads back out into the world. As I thought that, he looked right at me. And I felt a very sweet connection with that bird in that moment. I really did. And it was in that quiet moment, that moment of perfect stillness, with our eyes locked in a peaceful and seemingly loving gaze that he pooped on my lawn and flew away.

True story.

I would've never had that experience had the computer elves complied with my wishes. So, see? It's all to the good. Now, whenever I'm having a sweet moment of appreciation, I have a bit of shtick I can employ that I didn't have before today. It's like a free gift from that bird! I have to come up with a good name for it, though, because "the poop and fly" really isn't up to the very high standards I have for my bits. Any and all suggestions welcome.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

The Bread

Baking is weird.

First of all, it's mostly washing dishes, I'm discovering. What no one tells you is that Sewing is mostly ironing, Football is mostly getting up off the ground, and Baking is mostly washing dishes. That's ok. That's cool. I can handle that. I just wasn't expecting it, that's all.

What's really weird, though, is the anxiety about whether or not something is gonna turn out ok. With other crafts, I certainly have the same anxiety (see all my posts about being sure I'm on the verge of ruining something completely). But here's the difference: you're not going to feed a quilt to somebody. If you make a scarf that has a weird flaw in it, no one's going to actually throw up. Different game, different stakes with the baking.

Since I don't cook, I don't spend any time with this I-might-be-poisoning-people fear, and I imagine it passes. (I should say on the record that I really appreciate the fact that my Sidekick hasn't poisoned me yet, what with my not cooking and everything.) To be fair, I am exaggerating about how big a deal this particular fear is. I follow instructions closely, and I mostly figure it'll all work out. But still, the outer edge of failure here is poisoning. With other crafts, it's just humiliation.

That being said, I've made bread.


My first go at bread ever was using this recipe. As it turns out, there's a major craze associated with this bread and its no-knead method. I am quite late to this crazy party, but it doesn't make me any less enthusiastic about it. (I had a similar experience over Thanksgiving when I took a train from New York to Boston and was all, "Traveling by rail is absolutely delightful!" Super late to that party.)


These are pictures of my third try with this recipe. Forgive me for asking that you imagine the first two, since no blog meant no photos.

My very first try was marked by the bread being partially burned. When you think your Sidekick has put the rack on the very bottom of the oven explicitly for you, and he hasn't? You get a burned bread bottom. Don't think I wasn't real salty about this. In spite of this flaw, the bread did make for the most delicious grilled cheese sandwiches of all time. What really kicked it over was the Cougar Gold cheese, courtesy of my wasband. My Sidekick, my wasband, and I could not believe our good fortune eating those sandwiches. Highly recommended!

The second try at the bread was less eventful and totally delicious. And as you see here in try number three, I scrapped the oat bran and went with only flour on the outside. Fantastic in its own right.

What's not weird about this whole baking thing and me is that I've now bought the cookbook by the bread guy and a new dutch oven to make all kinds of this bread, and all I want to do is make more bread. In fact, a loaf of asiago cheese bread from that book is cooling on my counter right this moment. Photos to follow, provided everything goes according to plan. May no one be harmed in the eating of that bread. Amen.

Monday, February 01, 2010

I forgot

In the time I've been away from crafting, I've managed to completely forget some pretty fundamental things. How to thread my sewing machine. Where I put my knitting patterns. Things like that. But there are three really big things that I should've remembered but didn't, until today:

1. There are * a billion * beautiful items to make out there in the world.
2. The Purl Bee is a source of many of those beautiful items.
3. Purl wants all of my money. ALL of my money.

So, I want to make this garland, right?

Photo from The Purl Bee

Yes, yes. We all want to make this garland. Well, it's a MILLION dollars. So if you have an extra million lying around, this is the project for you. It calls for 10 colors of wool felt at $ 8.50 a pop. That's eighty-five dollars, y'all! For garland! For adorable garland, sure, but ow-wee.

I really want to make it, though. So I thought I'd be all clever and do some bargain shopping for wool felt. I figured it was worth a try.

First, I tried this place. Felt was a little less expensive there, but I couldn't really be sure about the colors. So, I couldn't pull the trigger.

Then I remembered that this place is right around the corner from me now. If it's good enough for the LA season of Project Runway, it should be good enough for me! I went there, thoughtfully looked at all the colors, carefully touched all the weights. Then, before I got in too deep, I checked the prices. Hey! $25-35 a yard! Great! Oh, wait. Not great. Not great at all. Still around the same price as my beloved Purl, I'm pretty sure. I left the store with the invisible thread that the garland pattern calls for, spending a whopping $1.92.

Can you imagine how beautiful my garland is going to be? It will be 5 strands of invisible thread draped from my dining room ceiling. It'll be grand. 

Harumph! The only thing that may save me here is a Purl gift certificate from a year and a half ago that I still have not redeemed. I could throw that at this problem and see where we get. But, really? Shouldn't there be some other way? (Please don't say acrylic felt. I'm so very afraid you'll say acrylic felt. Isn't it a fire hazard? Aaaaargh.)

This whole thing fills me with a gnawing, swirling, crazy mix of desire and trepidation. Hey, there it is! I'm pretty sure that very specific cocktail of feelings is the sign that I'm officially back! No matter what happens with the garland, it was all worth it to get to that.