Friday, June 29, 2012

Pants for the Kid

At the end of July our little family is taking a trip to Fuji Rock. It is a huge music festival that Y and I have been to many times, the last of which was just before I got pregnant with K. This will be our first time to go with a kid and I'm sure it will be a different experience. I doubt we will see all the bands we want to and we won't be camping in a tent with all the cool kids, but we will spend heaps of time playing in the forest jungle gym and kid area, sleep on a futon in a small inn, and likely be able to bathe (which will be nice).

K no longer owns a pair of pants that fit. He only has one pair that fit lengthwise, but they need a belt. While it is summer, the festival is in the mountains, so the days are blistering, but once the sun goes down it can get a bit chilly. Homeboy needs some pants.

I came across these in a sewing magazine and thought they could be really cute for K.

We ended up getting a linen for the main fabric with a patterned fabric from India. I loved the patterned fabric we got, but also liked the South American vibe in the ones above. I couldn't find anything similar in our shop, so the Indian fabric won out.

All in all the pants weren't particularly difficult to make. They are so teeny, however that some of the top-stitching was a bit of a challenge.

This was the first time I'd done a waistband in a different fabric - I usually just double fold it and sew - and I thought it would be a huge pain, but it wasn't. In fact, although no one sees it, it ended up being my favorite part of the pants.

K woke up from a nap as soon as I had finished with them. I couldn't wait to try them on him. He really liked them and didn't want to take them off. They are roomy enough so he is comfortable, yet still fit his waist. He loves them.

The bottom patterned bit folds up if needed and is held up with a little fabric loop. I think this will be perfect for daytime; fold them down and they are perfect for night as well! Wahoo!!

He wore them over to our friends' over the weekend. I was super stoked when they commented on how cool his outfit was. I love when people comment on clothes I've made for K without knowing that they were handmade.

It kind of feels like a secret - like I've pulled the wool over someone's eyes. "You think I bought those, but ha! I made them!!" Writing that out doesn't sound nearly as cool as it does when I feel that way. Ah well, guess you'll just have to trust me.

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Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Chocolate Cheesecake with Salted Caramel Sauce

Yesterday we went to a friend's house and I brought her daughter a bag. I also brought something for the mom.

Ages ago she told me that she really likes cheesecake, so cheesecake it was. As this was to be my third cheesecake for the month, with more coming next week, I wanted to do something different. I came across an Emeril recipe for Chocolate Cheesecake that sounded delicious. As I love salted caramel with my chocolate, I couldn't pass up the chance to make caramel sauce yet again.

When I went to make the cheesecake, I realized that the only chocolate wafer cookies we have here are Oreos. Not bad, but maybe also not your typical cheesecake crust. I figured the cream would hold it together and Oreos are sweet enough, so I didn't use any butter or sugar in the crust. I just crushed them up and pressed them into the bottom of a cake tin.

Making the cheesecake filling was really straight-forward, although it ended up looking and tasting like mousse (what?? Of course I lick the beaters!!).

There was a lot of filling, but I didn't think it would rise too much and since there were no fruits to go on top this time, I filled the pan quite high. The cake ended up rising though - I'm lucky it didn't overflow!!

After cooling and refrigerating though, it fell back down.

While the cake was baking, I made the salted caramel sauce. I could watch the bubbles from the sugar and water for ages. Some people like babbling brooks. I like bubbling sugar.

Soon after it started to turn amber, I turned off the heat, added the cream and salt and that was done.

All I had left to do was cut a few pieces, drizzle some caramel sauce on top, and eat!

It was (obviously) super rich and it's possible the caramel sauce was overkill, but that won't stop me from pouring it on my next piece!!

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Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Birthday Purse

Ages ago I made a handbag for K that we still use nearly every day. I made the same one for a little boy of a friend for Christmas. They seem to like it as well. The bag is a winner!!

Today we went to a friend's house. The little girl turned 2 a while ago, but we hadn't met since her birthday. What little girl doesn't need an extra handbag?!?

This was the same style as the the other two, but a super girly version. Sweet Jesus do I love making girly things!!

I loved using all the different fabrics, as well as lace and pompoms. Seriously, I need a daughter!!

I made the inside a vinyl material for easy clean up of spilled drinks, sticky lollipops, and dirt-covered rocks.

I'm not sure how much the little girl liked the bag, but her mom liked it, so that's good news - another win in my book!!

Happy Birthday, Konomi-chan!!

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Monday, June 25, 2012

Mini Lemon Meringue Pies

On Saturday night, we all went over to K's friend's house for dinner. The mom asked if I could bring dessert - she knows I love to bake - so I got thinking and remembered I bought some mini pie tins when I was in the US last Spring.

I am a total sucker for anything mini, so I have been excited to use these. I decided on Lemon Meringue Pies because I love lemon in the summer (and meringue any time of the year).

I used my mom's recipe for the crust, filling and meringue. It is always delicious! I'll post the recipe below, but it's quite simple, really.

Start with your pie crust. Roll the crust into the pan, weigh it down and then bake. I baked them for slightly less time than usual since they were minis.

While those are baking, work on the lemon filling. It starts out pretty bland looking.

But, add some eggs, lemon rind and juice and voila! delicious, lemony yellow filling.

To be honest, I wasn't sure of the timing here, but I made sure the crusts were (mostly) cooled and then filled them. At that point, I busted out a meringue, topped the pies and popped them in the oven. (I didn't take any photos of this as I was worried about the filling cooling and the whole project going to pot, that I just did this bit as soon as possible.)

Each mini pie is 1/4 of a regular one, so we split one per couple (and I brought a third along just in case). K wouldn't touch it, but his friend loved it!! I felt bad not bringing the fourth for him.

We ended up having a great time. The little boys played together so well and it was so nice seeing Y talk with the dad - I just adore this family!! I'm looking forward to Wednesday when we all go out to a soccer game together.

And here is the recipe. (I don't know for sure, but I assume it is taken from some cookbook. It is not my original, nor likely my mother's. I'm not trying to rip anyone off, but I'm putting K to sleep as I write this and can't run off and call my mom.)

Pie Crust:
1 1/2 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
113g shortening (or butter)
4-5 tablespoons water (I usually don't need this much, but just give it a go)

Whisk all the dry ingredients. Add the butter and mix with your fingers until the flour is like small peas. Slowly add water until the dough holds together.

Roll it out and place it in the pan. Poke holes with a fork. Put tin foil on the bottom bit and top with beans or rice (or pie weights if you are that lucky - I use rice :( )

Bake at 450F for 10 minutes. Pull your tin foil out and let cool.

Lemon Filling:
1 1/2 cup sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
3 tablespoons flour
Dash of salt
1 1/2 cup hot water
3 egg yolks
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon lemon peel
1/3 cup lemon juice

Put first four ingredients in a saucepan. Gradually add the water stirring constantly over high heat until it boils. Reduce the heat and cook for two more minutes. Remove from the heat.

Put the egg yolks in a small bowl and beat slightly. Add a bit of the hot mixture, stir, then pour the yolks into the saucepan. Bring to a boil and cook for two minutes stirring constantly. Add butter and peel. Turn off heat and slowly add lemon juice. Mix well.

I poured it straight from here into the pans.

3 egg whites
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
6 tablespoons sugar

Beat whites, vanilla and cream of tartar until soft peaks form. Gradually add sugar mixing until stiff peaks form. Spread over the filling.

Bake at 350F for about 12 minutes.

Let it cool and dig in!!

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Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Baby and Big Sister Gifts

When K and I go back to the US to visit my parents, one of his favorite people is the little neighbor girl, Izzy. He loves Izzy and would blindly follow her around if he could. Izzy is nearly four, but always so sweet and kind to K. Her parents are also so incredibly friendly, sweet and welcoming - it's no wonder Izzy is the way she is!

This last time we were there, Izzy's mom was pregnant. She was such an adorable pregnant mom!! Soon after we left, their little boy, Adrian, was born. (Congratulations Kristen and Sal!!!)

I wanted to make him something, but boys are just so difficult!! In the end, I settled on a pair of bibs.

At our peak I was running through a few a day, so I figured they might bs useful. My favorite bib of K's Velcro-closed on the side which made it super easy to get on and off. I knew I wanted to make similar ones, so I used K's old one as a pattern.

I really wanted to do one that looked like Adrian was wearing a tie. I don't know why I had the idea or why I was so hell-bent on doing that, but I was. I really wanted it to look like a shirt a man would wear to work - collar and everything.

The collar bit was a tad difficult, and a bit wonky on the side, but I think it turned out fine.

Again, I don't know why, but I also wanted to have a "Hello my name is..." tag on a bib. I seriously have no idea why all these work/conference things were stuck in my mind. Weird.

As it turns out, bibs are small and the "Hello my name is..." tag was TINY!! I ended up only being able to fit a bit of the text, but again, I think it gets the point across.

As Izzy is still just a little girl, I thought I should make something for her too. I settled on a fabric flower necklace. I think it's super cute and want one for myself. It was a snap to put together. I show you the steps below.

It makes a cute corsage-looking bracelet as well.

I started out with a cute little button, some jersey cloth cut into circles the same size as the button (about 12 of them), ribbon and hot glue.

First string the ribbon through two of the button holes, making sure the button is strung on close to the center of the ribbon.

Then glue each circle in half and the half again so they make rounded triangles.

Once they are all glued up, start gluing them to the button. Make sure the petals all go the same direction. Once you get four on, glue another four the same way, but shifted over so they don't sit right on top of one another.

Once that is done, glue a few more into the middle so the top isn't just flat.

And you're done!! I really should make another for myself ;)

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Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Typhoon Days

What to do on a rainy, typhoon-y day? If you were in our house this morning, you would have made tunnels with every blanket I could find and crawl through to house. Then you would have gotten your toes stuck inside the holes of a crochet blanket.

While I was busy making lunch, you might have played with K and his container of rice.

Who knew drawing shapes and burying trains could lead to (literally) hours of fun?!?

Then you would have taken a nap, woken up and baked cookies!!

K loves helping me mix stuff and pour ingredients into bowls, so I figured it'd be a perfect activity for the afternoon.

I wanted to find a semi-healthy cookie recipe and found loads that need ingredients that I've never seen in this country. Then I came across one that was totally doable, without even leaving the house!! And the Chewy Caramel Cookie was born.

I followed the recipe, in terms of ingredients, pretty closely but used just 2 tablespoons of each butter and oil and 1/4 cup of unsweetened, homemade applesauce. After adding in the dry ingredients - including whole wheat flour - the dough is supposed to be stiff enough to roll. Mine certainly was not, maybe because of all the applesauce?!?

Instead of rolling, I dropped teaspoons of the dough onto a cookie sheet and baked as directed.

I thought they wouldn't spread too much, but I was wrong. We ended up with some mutants, but no problems other than that!!

The cookies are really quite nice. They are a bit crispy on the outside and chewy inside, with a caramel flavor and just a hint of the whole wheat taste. The recipe ended up making TONS of cookies - I'd probably half the recipe next time. Off to the freezer for about 3/4 of these guys.

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Monday, June 18, 2012

Cheesecake Redux

Last week I had friends over and asked Y what he wanted me to make. His first answer was "cheesecake." To which I answered, "no."

Given that he is a wonderful father to K, I decided that he deserved his cheesecake. Saturday night he went out with friends and I stayed home sick. I put the time to good use and once K was down for the night, I got to bakin'!

I soon realized that we were out of tin foil (a necessity for cooking the cheesecake in water). Crap! I googled what would happen without the water and the general consensus was that the cake would crack. I figured since it would be covered in fruit anyway, I should just go along with it.

Lo and behold, it turned out just fine.

Being the nice wife that I am, I let Y sleep in on Sunday. While he was still in bed, I topped the cheesecake with fruits - kiwis, strawberries, oranges, cherries and mini-grapes.

I researched a bit more about the glaze situation since I wasn't exactly stoked with the results last time, and settled on going the French route - preserves with a tiny bit of water mixed in.

It seems the standard is apricot preserves, but I didn't have any. I had pear, however, and figured it would be clear and taste just as nice.

I put a few tablespoons of the preserves into a small saucepan and added the tiniest bit of water. Then stirred it over low heat until it was liquid. Then I just poured it over the fruits and used a brush to make sure everything was fully covered.

As it cooled, it gelled back up, but not to a gelatin-y point, just as a nice covering. It looked glossy, which is exactly what I wanted. To top it off, it tasted just lovely! This will definitely be my go-to from now on. Glaze problem solved!!

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