Friday, September 28, 2012

Little Boy Pants - Genius Adjustable Waist Idea

One of K's best friends turns three early next month. I usually don't like to post gifts before I give them, so as to not ruin the surprise. In this case, however, I'm not even sure if the boy's mom knows this blog exists, so I think I'm safe.

For these pants, I used the same pattern that I used when I made K these pants before Fuji Rock. I still love the pants when K wears them, but they are already getting on the short side. This kid grows like a weed!!

K's friend is really quite tall for his age, so I made him size 100 pants (toddler size 4) to compensate for the length. He's pretty slim, however, so I had to figure out what to do about the waist. I didn't want to make them too tight, because if we're lucky, he could likely wear these next year, particularly since they look cute rolled up, too.

One thing I love about many GAP pants/shorts, is the adjustable elastic waist. There are button holes all down the elastic, so you can adjust as necessary. This is perfect for my tall(ish), skinny boy!! I imagine you could buy this somewhere, but I couldn't be bothered going from shop to shop, or even looking online (ummm, how do I say button-holed adjustable elastic in Japanese??) when I can make buttonholes!

I made a few buttonholes on one end of the elastic and then zig-zagged down the edge to give it a bit more strength since my holes went right to the edge. Then I sewed a button on the other end. I really should have used a smaller button. Whoops, now I know.

Other than this bit, I followed the pattern as is and I continue to love the product! The blue is linen and the stripes feel like linen, but are just a looser woven cotton.

I'm pretty sure that as with K's pair, the inside of the waistband is my favorite bit. I love the little surprise!!

The back pocket is pretty cute too.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Cinnamon Muffins

K and I were invited to a friend's house for the morning. This little boy also loves trains and cars, just like K. I'd planned on making some car/train-themed dessert to bring along, but hadn't decided on what. Then yesterday, the mom mailed that a little girl will be joining the play date. I started to question my car idea.

I've been wanting to bake cake since cookies have been my thing as of late. Thinking about this, I remembered that I have a car cupcake mold, as well as a heart cupcake mold - perfect solution to the boy/girl situation.

I didn't want to frost them because taking frosted anything to some else's house knowing that three two-year olds will be making a huge mess of things is just wrong. I settled on cinnamon muffins. I used this recipe - it was fast enough to make in the morning before going, easy and I didn't have to run to the grocery store for any ingredients.

K wanted to help, so I have few photos of the process. It is only matter of time before K makes a huge mess when handling a bowl full of dry ingredients and a whisk. I beat the clock today!!

After filling up the car and heart molds, I still had some batter left, so I used these adorable paper cups given to me by my best friend from college. I was waiting to use them for something special, but I've had them for nearly a year and while not special, I thought they'd look cute with these muffins. OMG did they look adorable! Little red tulips - I wish I would have used them during the spring. Thanks, Lees!!

The cars and hearts turned out pretty cute as well.

The kiddies gobbled them up without making too big of a mess. Success all around!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Gateau au Chocolat

I have a bit of unfortunate news. I updated the app that I use to write my blog posts over the weekend and it no longer works. It seems I'll have to update my phone, but I really don't want to do that since I don't want to lose GoogleMaps. What a conundrum. I'm writing on a new app tonight, but it seems it may not let me put my photos where I want? I'm not really sure, but please just be patient with me until I work this out.

Edited: It put all the photos in a random order at the bottom of the post. Booo!!! I`m fixing it on the computer now. Does anyone have an app recommendation? I used to use BlogPress.

Ages back, I taught a cheesecake class (apparently I can't set links either...gaaaa!!! ahhh, but the computer can.) and my same students have requested that I teach them to make Gateau au Chocolat for round two. That's great, except for the fact that I've never made one before.

I mailed my French/Swiss/Italian friend who gave me links to a bunch of recipes (in French), but alas he's never made one either, so it was a bit hit or miss. I eventually found a recipe that seemed doable and not crazy expensive, so I settled on that one.

It was quite simple - mix the dry ingredients, add in the sugar, mix the wet ingredients and add to the dry.

Then just bake. It seemed fine while baking, but as it cooled, the middle just sank and sank. I HATE when that happens. It's so disheartening.

Once I cut a few slices, covered them in powdered sugar, added a bit of whipped cream and a chocolate covered macadamia nut, however, it started to look much better.

As with many cakes, the taste was heaps better than the looks. It was moist and dense and the perfect amount of sweetness.

That being said, I might still try one more Gateau au Chocolat recipe before settling on this one. This teacher has a lot of thinking to do yet!

Friday, September 21, 2012

The Irish/Lei Intersect

Photo: Go Irish!! Love from Osaka, Japan

In 2000 I graduated from high school and went to college about 6 miles from my parents house. Those four years at the University of Notre Dame have left me with some of my best friends in this world, and of course some of my favorite memories to date.

Notre Dame has a saying, "God, Country, Notre Dame." That, however, is not what I took away from my four years there. For me, the saying is more like, "Family, Football, Notre Dame."

Notre Dame is a big (American) football college. Historically, they are a great team, but let's be honest, we haven't won a championship since the '80's. Yet the fans are extremely loyal. They are a team that you either hate or love. I, of course, growing up just miles from their stadium was raised to love them.

As an aside, I remember being about 4 years old and my older brother, who was in high school at the time, taught me the words to a rival team's fight song. He then told me to sing it to my dad, also an ND fan, and I did. It is probably one of my most shameful moments to date. While at the time, I didn't quite understand what the problem was, I realized I did something wrong when my dad gave a different older brother a dollar to sing the ND fight song. Clearly I screwed up.

Notre Dame is constantly talking about our "family." When you go to ND, you hear this all the time. We are not allowed to have fraternities or sororities (a total American college scene), because we are meant to be like one huge fraternity/sorority.

All across the US there are ND clubs where if you need help with something - anything - you are encouraged to ask your club members for help. If you need a job, people will try to help. If you've just lost a loved one, someone will be there to support you. If you are new to an area, you now have insta-friends. This isn't just true for the US though, these clubs are all over the world. The closest to me is in Tokyo and I've met for "game watches" a few times since moving here.

This is all a long-winded way of saying that one of our "family" members faced serious tragedy about a week ago when both his grandmother and girlfriend passed away within a 24 hour period. This young man, Manti Te'o is one of the football team's stars. Although he is from Hawai'i, he chose to stay with the team and led the team in a win against Michigan State last Saturday.

This Saturday, to honor and show him that our family supports him, people are wearing leis to the game. I, obviously, won't be at the game. I'll be watching it live from my living room sofa on Sunday morning (thank God it's a night game) and you can bet that K, Y and I will be sporting leis. We'll upload a photo to the Facebook event page to show Manti that while his family is in Hawai'i, he has support flowing in the world over.

The kink in my plan is that we don't have any leis laying about. Since we really only need them for a photo and not for a day of tailgating, I figured tissue paper leis should be just fine.

Luckily I had a lot of green and yellow, but unfortunately, no blue. I got to making a ton of little tissue paper flowers.

Then strung them up and made leis. K's favorite color is yellow, so he got an all yellow and orange one.

I'll post a Sunday morning game day photo of us later!!

In the meantime, watch this video and get stoked for the game!! Go Irish!!!

Edited to add:
Here is our family photo of leis and jammies. Also, Manti Te'o played a great game, again and the Irish are now 4-0!!!

Photo: Go Irish!! Love from Osaka, Japan

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Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Birthday Packages, Roses and Cake

Over the past two weeks, I've made batch, after batch, after batch of cookies. While I didn't say it at the time, I was making them for my little brother who turns 23 today!

Oddly enough, one of his first and best friends at Purdue is a lovely young man who shares the exact same birthday. This guy has become my adopted little brother, meaning I get to give him unsolicited advice whenever I want! I sent identical packages of cookies to the both of them for their birthdays.

I put about 10 of each type of cookie into each box, giving both of these boys a sweet birthday treat.

Also this week, two of my English students will hit the 200 point mark. Their requested felt items were a rose and a slice of birthday cake.

I made the rose the same way I did last February when a different girl requested one. Since I had the whole thing figured before, I got this rose done in less than two hours last night. I was stoked I got it done so quickly because I was beat and just wanted to get to bed.

The other little girl requested a slice of birthday cake. I thought this was odd since it was the same girl who I gave a slice to last month for her birthday. I asked her why she wanted a second slice and she said that her friend's birthday is coming up and she wants to give it to her. Seriously, that was one of the cutest things I'd heard in a while. She worked so hard to get her points and then wants to spend them on her friend. Gaaaa!!! Adorable!!

The girls come for their lesson tomorrow. Hopefully they like their loot.

Also, happy, happy birthday to my little brothers, Alejandro and Hermes!! Much love to the both of you.

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Tuesday, September 18, 2012


Y's brother and the brother's fiancee came to stay with us last weekend. I made a big dinner for us on Saturday night and was looking for an Italian dessert with which to finish the evening. I looked in my Italian cook book and found a recipe for Amaretti. I'd never even heard of these before, but they sounded so nice.

As usual, there were a few ingredients that proved challenging to find here, so I googled it and found a recipe that seemed much more doable. It also reminded me of French Macarons - one of my all time favs. I love a chewy cookie!

The recipe was really simple to put together. The author says how it took practice to get the right consistency, and I suppose I don't know what that is, but mine were hard on the outside and chewy in the middle. Perhaps it was beginners luck. On the other hand, perhaps they simply aren't right. Either way, I think they are delicious!

The recipe called for a silver dragée on the top of each one. The only ones I had on hand had a slight pink tint to them. I put them on regardless, but they ended up bleeding a bit.

I left them off the next few trays and I think they look much better. I also doubt the taste was highly compromised.

The only other changes I made to the recipe were to only mix up 2/3 of the suggested amount since I only had enough almond flour to squeeze out that much, and to make 11g balls instead of 13g balls. The only reason I did this was because the first scoop using 1/2 tablespoon yielded 11g. It seemed simpler.

Although a tad time consuming - weighing, rolling, coating, baking - these cookies were really nice. I imagine I'll do them up again when the mood strikes!

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Friday, September 14, 2012

Salted Dark Chocolate Shortbread

I really love a salty/sweet combo and while salted caramel is definitely my favorite, I also quite like salted dark chocolate.

I found this shortbread recipe years ago and I made it for Y for this past Valentine's Day. That time I used regular cocoa powder and drizzled white chocolate over it. This time, I used dark cocoa powder and then sprinkled with kosher salt before popping them in the oven.

The recipe is so super simple and you likely have all the ingredients you need in your house already. Although the dough has to sit for 30 minutes before baking, I recommend it as a quick treat to whip up when you need a chocolate fix.

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Thursday, September 13, 2012

Cookie Fail

I adore s'mores. They are one of the most delicious treats in my book. That being said, I haven't had one in years, but with the end of summer nearing, they have been on my mind.

I looked online and sure enough, there are heaps of S'mores Cookies recipes. Unfortunately, however, the majority of them call for graham crackers. I would say that we don't have graham crackers here, but that's not entirely true. You can sometimes find them at foreign food stores, but there aren't any near us. I really didn't want to take a train an hour downtown and then check all of the foreign food shops until I found them.

I figured I could just do a chocolate chip cookie and add in marshmallows. "What would the difference be?" I thought.

I was so, so wrong.

I started out with the Nestle Toll House recipe -- a tried and true classic. Then I added two and a half bars of chopped chocolate and a couple handfuls of chopped up mini marshmallows.

(I think it is at this point that I should mention that we don't have Jet-Puffed marshmallows, or whatever the brand is at home. The most common marshmallow is a medium-sized, colored, and tropical-flavored "marshmallow".)

So far, so good, right?!?

So I mixed it all up and dropped 1/2 tablespoons onto a sheet, as per usual.

I popped them in the oven and returned 8 minutes later to find this.

Are you serious?!? I spent the next five minutes going through the batter and pulling out the marshmallows.

Second time around, I got my 1/2 tablespoon of dough and wrapped a marshmallow bit in it. Then after 5 minutes of baking, I put a new marshmallow on top.

Right out of the oven they didn't look too bad, just not very cute.

Then they cooled.

They didn't even taste that good. I mean, the standard Toll House bit was as expected, but the marshmallows ruined it. They were either super sticky and gross to chew or they were hardened, melted sugar.

I decided I could at least salvage the last round and keep the marshmallows out all together - best idea of the night!!

The melting marshmallow issue really perplexed me. Why did it seem to work in EVERY OTHER recipe I found online? Most were "bake at 375 for 10 minutes," I baked at 350 for 8. Surely the graham cracker powder can't make that much of a difference. The only explanation I can come up with is that our marshmallows are simply different. A higher sugar content, perhaps?

The awful thing is that I'm still really pining for these cookies. I think I'll have to take a trip this weekend to see if I can't find the right marshmallows and hopefully even some graham crackers. Fingers crossed!!

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Tuesday, September 11, 2012

30 Extra Minutes of Sleep

In his short two years and four months of life, K has been a good sleeper for roughly four of those months. I'll spare you the gory details, but trust me it's been a rough ride.

Just before two, we moved him into his own room. This was trauma-free and a really good decision for us. The problem, however, was that without me in the same room, it seemed he didn't know when it was actually morning/time to wake up.

We don't have daylight savings time here, so it is bright as can be at roughly 4:30/5 during the spring and summer. Although technically morning, this is no time for me to be woken up.

Enter the best nightlight EVER.

You set nighttime mode, i.e. when you want the moon to be shining and morning mode, i.e. when you want the sun to be shining. Brilliant!! (In case you're wondering, I got it from I have the moon set for 8pm and the sun set for 7am.

The unfortunate bit is that occasionally, K wakes up before 7. And then he gets bored. And then he wants me to come play with him. Crap.

I would have just tossed some toys in his crib, but he uses his mattress as a floor routine mat during the night, rolling around and getting to all the corners as much as possible. This meant that I couldn't simply drop a bunch of his wooden trains in with him at night and wish him the best. I needed a way to corral the toys, yet make them accessible to him.

What's the solution? A gigantic pocket that ties to the end of his bed.

Each night, before bed, he carefully picks out all of his favorite trains and we put them in the pocket.

Every once in a while I hear him at about 6:30. He knows not to call for me, but I hear him playing with his trains and making up stories. These usually involve one of the trains getting stuck in a tunnel (under his blanket) and then calling out for help. Inevitably one of the kind train souls comes by to pull him out. Crisis averted.

Very occasionally, K seems to be so into playing trains, that I don't get the, "Mama, it's yellow! Play?" call until nearly 7:30. I'm pretty sure this is my best parenting idea to date.

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Monday, September 10, 2012

Pink Hamster...of course

I teach English to a few little girls each week. If you've been reading my blog for a while, you know the story here. During the lessons, the girls get points for correct answers and such. Once they get 200 points, they can request something, typically made out of felt. Their requests have spanned everything from cakes, to Santa Claus, to roses -- and this time a pink hamster.

What seven-year old doesn't need a pink hamster in her life?!?

To be honest, I don't even really know what a hamster looks like, but luckily google does. In fact, I found a blog where someone made a felt hamster! Total jackpot!!

The blog included a template to print and use, but I couldn't be bothered. Unfortunately, mine didn't turn out quite as hamster-y as the original, but I showed it to my little student today and she was stoked.

Before sewing it all together, I thought it looked fairly similar to a hamster.

But little by little, that began to change.

I'm not sure what the problem actually is, but she kind of looks like a hamster/bear hybrid.

Maybe the stuffing made her look too thin? Maybe her eyes aren't beady enough? Maybe the placement of her mouth/nose is off? Maybe her legs aren't stumpy enough?

I really don't know, but to be honest, I'm ok with her and as above, the little girl loved her. I'd recommend, however, that if you need a felt hamster of your own, you just print off the template and go from there.

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