Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Business Card Holder - Take 2

This project is really quite old at this point, but things on the blog got busy from the beginning of October because of Halloween. My little brother's girlfriend started a new job a few months back and since this was to be her first job after graduation, I thought she could use a little business card holder so she could look all official and stuff. She always has such beautiful style, so I wanted to make the card holder pretty. I picked out a satin with big, delicate flowers on it, as well as a purple satin for the strap and lining. Then I went to look at my button stash. (I had just bought a new bag of mixed buttons at the fabric shop.)

There were so many pretty ones to choose from. The ones below were some of my favorites. 

I made the card holder the same way I did one ages ago, but instead of a hairband to hold it shut, I made a little strap. 

I love how it turned out. I think it is so feminine and pretty, just like my brother's girlfriend. 

I tested it on one of Y's business cards, but it was a shade too small. I totally panicked and then tried it on my other brother's wife's card and it fit perfectly. Who knew business cards come in all different sizes!?

Good luck with your job, B!! We love you over here and think about you a lot!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Sweet Potato Snackies

Today K went on a field trip to the zoo. (For those who are curious, this week, he went to school like a champ - very little crying and puke-free!!) For field trips, the kids have a special backpack that is a bit smaller than their regular one. As a result, while he needed to take a bento, it had to be a small bento (generally just onigiri or a sandwich) and not even in a bento box, but wrapped in foil. They were also instructed to bring a snack. Since K's onigiri contained no fruits or veggies, I thought I should make a snack that had some sort of vitamins in it. I realize these are not healthy in the least, but they do have sweet potato in and that has to count for something, right?

Start by steaming 400 grams of sweet potato. I use a tagine for this, but anything works. You could probably even do it in the microwave, but I've never tried that.

While the sweet potato is steaming, put 70 grams of sugar, 30 grams of fresh cream, 70 grams of milk, 50 grams of butter, and one egg yolk into a pan.

Once the sweet potato is soft, peel and mash it.

Add the mashed sweet potato to your pot and mix it up with the heat on medium. Keep cooking it like this until the liquid is gone and it starts to get kind of stiff.

Put it into a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and put it in the fridge for about an hour or until it is cool enough to handle.

Once it has cooled down, divide it into fairly equal portions, I got 12 out of it, but the original recipe said you could probably get 15. Put each little ball in a foil wrapper.

Form each little portion into an oblong shape. I don't know why we do this, but these treats are super popular in Japan during the fall and they are always this shape. I like to think it's because it looks kind of like a sweet potato (or a football?? Both equal fall to me.). Once they are all formed, crack open another egg and separate the yolk. Mix the yolk up a bit and use your finger to put some on the top.

Then bake them for 15 minutes at 200C. They should have a few brownish spots on them. If not, put them back in for another 2 minutes or so. Then eat! K begged for one of these after dinner last night, and of course I gave him one. He absolutely loves them. He was so super stoked to have one at the zoo today - in fact, according to him, that was his favorite part of the day today. What a cutie!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Bento Thursday - The Mother of All Bentos

Every fall, it seems that each school in Japan holds an Undokai (Sports Festival). It is something the kids spend weeks preparing for and if you are like me, the moms spend days working on the bento for. I suppose it really is just like any other bento, except it is for the whole family to enjoy. I ended up making way too much, but just as well.

K's Undokai was meant to be held on a Saturday last month. The whole week, the forcast predicted rain the afternoon. Since this is a morning thing and the school hadn't made any announcements, I figured it should be fine. I started making bits of the bento on Thursday night. I believe I started with the carrots and broccoli, but I don't quite remember. Friday night I did a bit more, and Saturday morning all I had left to do was cut up an apple, make some onigiris, fry up some shrimp and put it all into the bento boxes.

Because T's sleep is weird and he can wake up in any sort of mood, I set my alarm for 5 on Saturday morning. When I woke up it was just barely drizzling, but we were still three hours away from game time. I figured it might stop and the weather at the Undokai would be just glorious. I got the whole bento ready and was packing up the stroller, when Y checked his mail - Undokai cancelled. Are you kidding me!?!! Not to let an entire bento go to waste, we had an indoor picnic on the living room floor.

The Undokai was rescheduled for the following Saturday. Again, starting on Thursday night, I did the veggies. On Friday, K came home from school with a note saying that instead of Saturday (as it was still meant to be raining), the Undokai would be on Sunday. I put off the rest of the prep until Saturday night. Sunday morning rolled around and I did the exact same bento as I had done the previous week - dude, I was all out of ideas.

The big box contained onigiri and proteins. K got a plain onigiri in the shape of a bear. Y got two salmon furikake pig onigiris and I got an umeboshi heart onigiri.

I made fried chicken, Japanese-style omelet, and fried shrimp.

The next layers were the fruit and veggies - apples, grapes, broccoli, carrots and cucumbers. I cut the carrots into bears, flowers and hearts and also decorated with little ham flowers and banners.

The Undokai day was really nice. It was quite chilly in the morning, but as soon as the sun came out, it was nice and warm.

K's class did a few songs and a race - they are two and three years old, it was adorable. In the end, each kid was given a medal from their teacher.

The little dude was stoked. Adorable.


Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Stuffed Bunny

Ages ago, I made a little doll for K so that he could practice being a big brother. He played with it for like two days and then it went to the stuffed animal basket rarely to be seen again. The good news is that he is an awesome big brother anyway! One of my English students asked if she got 500 points, could I make her a doll like K's. That's a lot of points, so I decided it was a fair trade. When she got to about 450 points, I asked her what she wanted the doll to look like. It was like opening Pandora's box. It turned out that she actually wanted the "same doll, but instead of a person, it should be a bunny. And I want it wearing a skirt and holding a vegetable." "Uhh, okay. What vegetable?" "It doesn't matter. Anything is fine." And so I got started.
First up was the face. I used my machine to do the eyes and nose and then embroidered the whiskers and smile. 

Then the ears. I didn't know how big to make them; they ended up being about the same size as the arms.

Then I had to make the actual arms (and legs). I started with the arms just like K's dolls, meaning they had opposable thumbs. But really, that was a pain to do and bunnies don't need them, so I ended up making them rounded instead. Much easier.

Once all of the parts were ready, I started the assembly. First I basted the ears to the front of the face.

Then the head to the body. The shirt arms to the actual arms was next, followed by making the arms and legs and stuffing them.

Then I sewed it all up and it looked like this. Pretty cute!

But she was missing a tail. I used my little pompom maker to whip one up.

Then I sewed it to her little bum.

Next was the skirt. I started with a long rectangle. Then I zig zagged all edges, folded both of the short ends and one of the long ends in, and sewed them down.

Then I sewed the two short ends together leaving a little open space for her tail to stick out. I folded over the top edge to make a casing, threaded some elastic through and sewed it up.

I love how it looks with her little tail sticking out.

She was almost ready, but still missing her vegetable.

You know, just chillin' on the chair, waiting for me to finish up her veggie.

Naturally, I picked a carrot. The orange bit is stuffed, but I thought it would be a huge hassle to stuff the leaves, so instead I sewed some lines onto a piece of green fabric and cut around it.

I finished it up with a little ring of elastic so that it could be taken off her hand.

I just hand sewed the elastic on to the back.

And it was done! Here she is from the back.

And here she is with her lovely little friend! The little girl (and her sister, mom and grandma) was very pleased with her new bunny. Mission accomplished.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Bento Thursday - Dinosaur!!

As I mentioned in yesterday's post, K is having a difficult time with kindergarten. While he actually loves kindergarten, his teachers and friends, he hates leaving me. Ugh. It's so hard - for both of us. I hate to see him cry and he hates getting on the bus. Anyway, he went again today. He cried. A lot. The silver lining was that it's bento day today!

He requested a dinosaur bento. He wanted a dinosaur ham and cheese sandwich, eggs, broccoli, carrots and cucumbers. All of my dinosaur cookie cutters were too big to fit into his bento box, so T-Rex's tail got snipped a bit. I thought it would be cute to make the eggs into a sun and the broccoli to look like trees. Using a straw, I cut some cooked carrots and strategically put them in the leaves to look like fruit. It was cuter in my mind, but K seemed to like it regardless. The cucumber was just cut into rounds and the carrots into hearts. Although I usually do fruit for dessert, today K got a cookie.

While I didn't go into specifics yesterday, K's been vomitting on the bus. I think it's probably from a combination of both crying and stress. Regardless, I feel awful that the teacher is cleaning up his vomit. Gross. Once he gets to school, someone puts K in the shower, cleans him up, and washes his uniform (and often shoes). To me, this seems all above and beyond what is expected from a teacher.

This morning, I tried to give the cookies to the teacher who rode the bus, but she wouldn't accept them. She and the bus driver said that this was all just part of their job. I still felt awful though. So this morning, right around lunch time, Y (who had the day off, hence no bento) and I took the cookies to the school. When we were there I saw one of K's teachers who said that he was all excited about his dinosaur bento and showed it to her. I guess making all these crazy bentos is worth it if it makes him so happy. He's off to school again tomorrow. Fingers crossed his breakfast stays in his little tummy.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Chocolate Chip & M&M Cookies

We are back to K having a rough go at school. I won't get into all of the details, but his teachers and the bus driver certainly deserve a little treat. They have all been so great and so supportive of K and I feel a bit indebted to them. Y's mom was a teacher and she said that people would often send flowers or some sweets to school. Since I like baking, she suggested that I just bake something for them. I originally intended on making French macarons, but to be honest those are a lot of work, I'm still a tad sick, and T has not been sleeping that well. I need all the sleep I can get. Something quick and easy seemed best - chocolate chip and M&M cookies won out.

I tried Alton Brown's recipe and while I was a bit spectical at first, these ended up being delicious. You start by blending melted butter with the sugars. I think this was the first time I started cookies with melted butter.

Once that is blended you whisk up the eggs, milk and vanilla, then pour it into the butter mixture and blend again.

Then you add the flour mixture. The dough was a bit sticky, but looked good.

Finally I added the chocolate chips and M&Ms. Alton's recipe only calls for chocolate chips, but I think M&Ms brighten them up a bit. I added about 6 ounces of each.

When it was all mixed up, the dough looked so festive.

After refrigerating for an hour, I used a level tablespoon to roll the cookies into balls. I baked them for 8 minutes, even though the recipe called for 15. Fifteen minutes seemed like a lot to me for cookies. At eight minutes, the edges had gotten slightly crispy, but the middles were just barely set. I really wanted a soft, chewy cookie and was a tad bit disappointed.

I put them in a ziplock overnight and when I ate one for breakfast (don't judge), it was surprisingly soft and delicious. Perfect!

This afternoon, I put three dozen cookies into individual bags and then closed each bag up with a little strip of washi tape.

Then I loaded them up into two boxes and they are sitting on the counter waiting for K to take them to school tomorrow morning. I really hope tomorrow goes well for K. I think all of us - K, myself, the teachers and his bus driver - are all hoping this. Please send loving thoughts to him tomorrow morning; he seems to need a bit extra these days.