Saturday, March 31, 2012

K's Birthday Present (Part 2)

This week I finished up wall three of K's table tent. I am super stoked with how it turned out. The window was a bit of a challenge, but it got done. I am planning a window for wall four and am already dreading that bit. I was wrong in my math, so the curtain (it's rolled up in this photo) wasn't as I was envisioning, but it works so it's all good. The main bit on the wall is of course the vegetable garden. I LOVE LOVE LOVE how the veggies turned out.

I think they are simply adorable! I started with the romaine and was a bit stumped as to how to do it, so it is quite 2D, but I still think it's cute.

Next up were the carrots.

Then were the onions (I think these are my favorite!).

And finally the potatoes. I didn't know what veggies I wanted to do, but before leaving Japan I bought felt in a bunch of different colors. My sister recommended daikon (Japanese white radish) which would have been so cute, but I didn't have any white felt. I ended up with some extra brown, so the potatoes were born!

I think they look so cute as a little group. I wish I would have done the romaine a bit bigger and also somehow more 3D, but I am super happy with all of the little veggies. I hope K likes his root vegetable (and romaine) harvest!

Wish me luck on the final wall (and window). It should be done within this next week -- or he's not getting this for his birthday!

Friday, March 30, 2012

French Macarons

About a year and a half ago, I made my first batch of French Macarons. I had read about them online and while they sounded delicious, they seemed nearly impossible to perfect. My first batch was awesome - there were about two macarons that were a bit off. I didn't understand what all the fuss was about. A week or so after that, my husband asked for another batch. With all the confidence in the world, I whipped up a second batch - they were a complete failure. I was devastated, but realized that they are not as simple as I first thought. Clearly, I was super lucky that first day. 

The failed second batch, however, lit a fire in me - I NEEDED to figure out what went wrong. I NEEDED to perfect these little guys. I studied, bought books, baked batch after batch, and finally figured them out. There are so many variables that need to be worked out and it seems a major factor in their success is in the mixing, but once you get the feel for how mixed they need to be, they really are quite simple. 

I had raved to my mom about them for months and she bought the ingredients ages ago, but wanted to give them a go together. Last night we baked up these guys. The plain colored ones have an almond dark chocolate ganache filling and those with the brown swirl have a simple dark chocolate ganache. Although my mom thinks we added a bit too much almond flavoring to the first ganache, I think they are both delish! K does too.

The macaron gods must have been smiling on us last night, because we killed it. We had one that cracked a bit at the top, but all of the others were parfaite! (I'm no French speaker, but I'd like to think that macarons are feminine.)

We have about 30 of them sitting in the fridge - if you're interested, stop by!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

K's Birthday Present (Part 1)

About 6 months ago, I decided that for K's birthday I wanted to make him a fabric house to fit over our dining room table. It would be kind of like a tent. I thought it was such a cool idea that I went out and bought all the fabric I needed to make it immediately with full intentions of working on it little by little. Alas, other things came up and when I thought about making it, I decided it was a bit daunting. I wasn't working off of a pattern, or even a general guide. This was all me. I was really worried that I would totally mess it up and all of that fabric would be such a huge waste. I put it off for so long that if I really wanted this to be a birthday present, I needed to haul all of the fabric to the US with us and work on it here. I'm going to be pretty busy preparing for his party when we get back - pinatas and cakes and snacks to make - so I have about 2 weeks left to get this project done.

I started the house last week. I figured I would start with the front door. The frame was a bit of a pain, but it worked out. The post box has the Japanese postal symbol on it. I made a huge button hole for the mail slot and it is velcro-ed to the bottom of the mail box. I hope to draw little pictures for him at some point and stick them in the slot for K to find. I couldn't decide how to actually make the door, but settled on a hanging door that can be tied up.

After making this wall, I started on the opposite wall - an apple tree in the back of the house.

K can go apple picking and take the apples out of their pockets.

I hope to keep adding to the tree by making other fruits he can pick off - pears, peaches, oranges, etc. But I think I will get the bare bones done first and then work on adding other fun bits. I kind of envision this as an ongoing project that maybe he can give ideas for at some point. If he decides he wants lemons on the tree, then I'll whip some up!

With that, I have half of the house (minus the roof) done. I am very pleased with how it is turning out so far. I hope he likes it - although I am fully prepared for him to not be into it.

I've started the third wall, but this one is taking some time. Hopefully I will post it later this week.

I know I've been a bit lame with posting recently, but I've been working on this and just enjoying my time with my family. I plan to do a bit of baking this week and as above working on wall #3. Keep checking back!!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Lion Bento

K and I arrived in the US nearly a week ago today. Everything has been just perfect! The weather is unreal (I've had to go shopping for new short sleeved shirts for K, as I only brought one), K loves my parents and they adore him, and I've been taking a bit of a break from all the normal house-things that I usually have to waste so much time on. As a bonus, K slept through the night last night - I don't want to jinx it, but could his jet lag be over already!?!?

During the days my parents have to go to work, but they are both home early, so it's all good. My mom works in a kindergarten and takes her lunch to work each day. I decided that while I am here, I will do up a bento (lunch) for her every once in a while. I even brought a few goodies from Japan to help me out.

Last week I made the cutest bunny bento with a bunny-shaped hard-boiled egg and "some bunny loves you" cut out of my mom's PB&J (I totally should have made a cheese sandwich - ha!). It was adorable. I didn't let her see it while I was making it and she kept it a surprise until her lunch time. She obviously got a kick out of it. My mom took it to show her friend, who took a photo of it, while the others just had a good laugh. (For the next few days, she had people asking to see her lunch, but I only made her that one last week.) I took a photo with my mom's ipad, but for some reason, it won't let me email that photo to my email so that I can upload it on here. You'll just have to take my word that it was adorable.

Today's bento was a cute little lion. The mane was pasta (sauce on the side) and his face was an egg with nori (seaweed) features. I tried to make the broccoli look like little trees with a mini lion hiding behind them. This one was a surprise from my mom as well, but just like the other, she thought it was cute.

I hope to make a few more bentos for the mama in the coming weeks, so stay tuned!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Baby Booties for a Brand-New Cutie

We will be meeting a new baby girl during our trip to the States. She was born just a few days ago to a very loving family.

I decided to work up a pair of girly little booties for the little sweetie.

I added a little bow at the toe for additional cuteness.

They are meant to be for 0-3 months, but they seemed a tad big. To help them stay on her feet, I turned them into baby Mary Janes.

I hope she likes them!

Welcome to the world baby girl!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Monday, March 12, 2012

Chocolate Almond Bread

With all of the excitement/preparation yesterday surrounding our upcoming trip, I totally spaced on making bread for Y for the week. Whoops!

It was freezing here today and I really didn't want to leave the house with K. Instead I decided I'd whip up the bread using whatever we had in the house. I found sone sliced almonds and a chocolate bar - Chocolate Almond Bread was born! For the base of the bread, I chose a recipe that sounded it'd be quite rich. The liquid was milk, instead of the usual water.

The bread is delicious! It's soft, sweet and creamy with both chocolate chunks and almond slivers.

We leave Japan tomorrow evening, but I'll have one more post before the flight. After that, the next post will be written from my parents' house! I hope to keep up with the baking and making stuff while I'm there, so keep checking back ;)

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Friday, March 9, 2012

Fully Stocked Freezer

K and I leave for the US in just a few days. I'm so excited, but one thing has been stressing me out a bit - Y's food.

Y usually gets home from work quite late and both the grocery store and the ONE restaurant in the area are well closed. There are a few places near his office, but I really don't want him eating in restaurants for a month. As I mentioned in a previous post, I planned on making Y dinners for while we are gone.

Over the past 11 days, I have been cooking up a storm and as of tonight, there are officially 24 full dinners in the freezer.

There are 24 mains, 6 options (an even 4 of each) and 48 sides, 20 options (either 2 or 4 of each). There are also 25 breads, 5 different types for his work snacks. Each portion is wrapped up and then set in labeled ziplock freezer bags. It took ages to make all the food and then to weigh out each separate portion, but it's all done.

All Y has to do is move one main and two sides to the fridge either the night before or in the morning, then come home from work and pop the food into bowls and then in the microwave. He's money!

I ordered some frozen yaki-onigiri and chicken wings that can be warmed up in the microwave in case he's still a bit hungry after dinner or needs a late-night snack.

Now that I'm over that hurdle, it's time to get packing! See ya soon, Mommy!!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Homey's Gettin' the Boot

K will be two next month, but he's still crashing in our room. His crib is right next to our bed and he sleeps much better there than with us. So, the time has come to send the little guy packing to his own room across the hall.

For the past few months he's been sleeping much more soundly if we aren't in the same room. As a result, I've spent numerous nights either on the sofa or in K's playroom on a futon. I'm over it.

There are a few reasons the move hasn't happened sooner - we need a heater/cooler for the room, we are going to the US for a month starting next week (!) and it seems big changes aren't a good idea to do in tandem with others, and the current curtains are worthless in terms of keeping the morning light out of the room.

This is looking at the curtains. You don't really get how bright it is in that room until you see this photo:

I kid you not. This photo was taken with the curtains closed at 7:30 in the morning. Clearly, it looks mid-day at 7 in the morning here. The LAST thing I need is K waking up early because of the sun.

So we bought some adorable "sun-blocking" curtains to alleviate the situation.

I forgot to close the door so you can't tell exactly, but these are way better!

This is what the curtains look like in normal light.

Judging by the amount of times K randomly ran to the room (notice the train in the photo above), pointed, smiled and made his "elephant sound," I think he's pretty stoked on them.

This was, by far, the biggest sewing project I've ever done. It wasn't particularly difficult - a bunch of straight lines - but took quite a while due to the sheer size of the curtains an also all the measuring that had to be done. It also weighed a heap, so I had to sew on the floor.

When I started at my usual spot (the dining room table), the fabric kept stretching. It was becoming quite the mess. So, to the floor it was!

The room still has quite a bit of work to be done to make it a cute, comfortable room for the little guy. But, the curtains were a huge issue. Y will move the crib into the room while we are gone, so the night we get back homeboy's on his own. It will be mid-April, so no need for heating or cooling yet. We will probably wait for the summer sales before buying that bad boy.

Get ready for some room boy-ifying soon after we get back from our holiday!!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Banana Caramel Bread

One of my best friends and her children came over on Monday. When guests come by, I always like to have something baked up. This time I chose banana bread with a swirl of salted caramel.

Ever since I'd made rock-hard caramel, I'd been dying to try it again to see where I went wrong. It totally worked the first time (and it totally worked the third time too - wahoo!).

I used the same recipe every time. The directions say to cook until the sugar turns a deep amber. I had suspected that I let it get too deep that second time, so this time around I stopped the heat a bit earlier. It was a very light caramel color when I stopped the heat and added the cream. It got deeper as it cooled down, but luckily stayed a nice consistency.

After making the caramel, I went on to the banana bread. I used Emeril's basic recipe, but of course I made a few changes. Instead of 1/2 cup of shortening, I used 1/4 cup shortening and 1/2 cup butter - let's all just admit that butter is worth the extra calories. I also left out the macadamia nuts and cinnamon and of course added caramel and bananas on top.

After mixing up the batter, I filled 2 mini bread pans about 1/3 of the way and then added a layer of salted caramel.

Then I added more batter and put sliced bananas on top and covered those with a caramel drizzle.

They smelled divine while baking and looked absolutely glorious coming out of the oven.

When a slice is cut, it kind of looks like the caramel is smiling, which is fitting because this certainly made me smile!

You can hardly make out the smile in this photo, but scroll back up to the top and you will see what I mean.

The only problem this left me with is some extra caramel. I know it's not really a huge problem, but when I eat caramel sauce by itself, I feel like I'm doing something naughty. I searched the kitchen for something to slather caramel sauce onto and finally found some French macaron shells that I made ages ago.

Nutella and caramel macarons anyone?? Delicious!!

I've still got some caramel leftover. Any good ideas to use it up??

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Monday, March 5, 2012

Travel Clutch Part Two

A few weeks ago, I made this clutch for our upcoming plane ride to America. After seeing it on here, one of my good friends, who is moving back to the UK soon, mentioned she would like one as well.

While at the fabric store, I asked what she wants it to look like -- mine was quite girly.

She requested something a bit more "metrosexual."

For Christmas, I made her son a bag almost exactly like this one (only the strap is brown and cream striped), which I'd made for K ages ago.

We decided that using the same fabric for the clutch would be quite nice. I picked the elephants and dots, hoping they were metrosexual enough.

The only major difference I added to the new clutch is a line down the front where the button is. I thought it'd be a useful spot for a pen/pencil. The line looks a bit pink, but it's actually the same neon green as the rest. I just drew a chalk like to guide my stitching and haven't cleaned it all off yet.

The inside is the same as mine - heaps of pockets for all those small bits!!

I can't wait to get it to her!!! But that means her leaving is getting closer - so it's actually quite sad. Booo...

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Friday, March 2, 2012

Double-Sided Puzzle

I recently came across this article that preaches the benefits of puzzles for toddlers. Ages ago we bought K a little knob puzzle and he has always liked it.

As we get closer to boarding the plane for our long haul flight, my mind keep thinking of small, lightweight toys that I can pack into the diaper bag to keep K entertained for 12 hours.

At the end of the above article, there are examples of 20 puzzles - some are store-bought and some are handmade. There was one with fabric on blocks that was great, but there's no way I'm bringing a stack of blocks with me.

My lightweight version is a double-sided puzzle that was ridiculously easy to make.

The full puzzle is 30 x 16cm, but is easily made smaller since the vertical cuts are all parallel.

To make it all I did was sandwich iron on, quilting-weight interfacing between two patterned fabrics, cut it into strips, then smaller rectangles and finally zigzag stitched around all of the edges.

I made a little pouch to carry it in that has two pockets. The puzzle can be stored in halves to make it a tad less daunting.

The puzzle has a lot of pieces and I fear it will prove to be difficult for K, but I figure it's worth a shot.

I just used fabrics I had on hand, but I think it could be really cool to use fabric with a large animal, train, or car print and focus each puzzle on just one picture. Like a regular puzzle, you know?? I think I'll keep an eye out next time we head to the fabric store.

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