Friday, January 31, 2014

LeSportsac Rip-Off #4

Earlier in the week, I posted about a little bag that I made for a friend - it was my LeSportsac Rip-Off version 3.0. It turns out that after opening and closing my beloved original one multiple times a day, the zipper gave out. I have never seen a zipper rip apart from itself the way this one did, but needless to say I needed to make myself a new bag.

I bought the cassette fabric ages ago and had been waiting for the right project to use it. I absolutely adore it, so it was a difficult decision to make, but I finally settled on using it as the lining of this bag. At the same time that I went shopping for version 3.0's fabric (read: months ago), I bought the outer fabric for mine as well. Ugh, I love this fabric as well. I adore how the bright colors are so perfect together, yet the themes of the fabric are so very different.

I did this bag the same as all of the others, except I thought I would add a small pocket to the outside as well for the odd reciept. It turns out that I don't use it at all and it was a bit of a waste. From now on I will just stick to the inner pocket only.

I am so stoked on how this bag turned out. More than anything, I am happy to have a bag that things don't fall out of and that I don't have to adjust the zipper perfectly to either open or close the bag - it started to get a bit stressful in the grocery store lines!

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Bento Thursday - Just a Triangle

It was bento day again today - wahoo!! K requested the same lunch as last week, but instead of carrots he wanted green peppers. I asked him if he wanted me to make him an animal for his onigiri. Apparently remembering the bear/cat disaster of last week, he looked at me and said, "uhhh, no mama. I'll just have a triangle." Has he lost confidence in my onigiri-making skills!!?? Oh no!!! At first I was a little sad, but then I realized that really, a triangle is way easier and takes about 30 seconds to make - good news because that's about 1 extra minute I get to spend in bed before waking up to deal with lunches.

Y's lunch consisted of carrots with tofu, green peppers with sesame seeds, cucumbers with furikake, green peppers cooked in dashi (fish stock), ground beef, potato and cabbage croquette, and white rice. Yum yum!!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

LeSporstsac Rip-Off #3

This is a post that has been sitting in my draft box for literally months. In fact, you may notice that my nails are the same as in my Halloween posts!! I am still in love with this little pouch, which is why I keep making it for friends (as well as a second one for me that I'll post about in a few days). During the summer, I made a shopping bag for a good friend of mine. This little pouch was to go to the same friend. While I didn't want the fabric to be the exact same, I did want them to match or at least look cool together. I found a fabric by the same designer that was in the same colors as the bag fabric, but instead of flowers it had little birds on it - perfect! Once I decided the outside fabric I took ages wandering around the shop looking for a lining. I ended up with a blue patterned fabric that I really liked. First things first, I cut out all of my pieces. (If anyone is interested in making their own pouch, leave a comment and I can post the measurements that I use for mine.)

The next step is to sew on the pockets, prepare the zipper and sew the inside and outside pieces together.

Next sew the zipper to the bag. I am always careful to mark the middle of the long end of the zipper piece and the middle of the bag and then pin starting from the middle and working my way out.

Sew one side of the zipper on and then open the zipper before sewing the other side on, otherwise you won't be able to open the bag and you'll probably cry.

Next baste the wrist strap between the main bag fabric and the short end of the zipper piece.

Next sew on your side pieces.

Then cut around the bottom edge so it is flush with the bag.

Flip the bag right-side out so you can make sure the stiches are all on the inside and the corners look nice.

The final step - my most hated step - is to sew on the bias tape. I love how it looks, but bias tape tends to stress me out. Just like that, your bag is ready for your keys, phone, wallet and a few band-aids (in case you have a rambunctious little boy to be chasing after). I hope you get as much use out of your pouch as I have out of mine, B!!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Healthy (?) Brownies

I wrote last week about how we had 17 people at our house two weekends ago, 9 of whom were kids. In addition to the two cheesecakes I made, I thought a batch of brownies might go over well with the kids. Around the same time I was planning my desserts, a friend of mine of Facebook asked a general question if anyone had ever made brownies with spinach in them. What? I looked online and found that Jessica Seinfeld had a recipe from her "Deceptively Delicious" book for brownies with spinach and carrots in them. The recipe was online, so I figured I would give it a try.

I made my spinach puree. At this point, I thought about just stopping the madness and finding a new recipe. T is close to starting solids, I could just freeze the puree for when he needs it in a few weeks.

The carrots were already steaming, however, so I figured I might as well keep going. But yikes, this did not seem like a good idea to me. I followed the recipe closely, only substituting butter in for the margarine.

As I mixed it all up, it did start to resemble brownie batter, but I just couldn't get the bright green and orange out of my head.

I baked them up regardless, and let them cool down completely before trying one (as per the recipe). In the end, I just wasn't all that impressed as they didn't seem brownie-like to me. I had Y try one, he said it was fine. K seemed to like them just fine as well, but I am left unconvinced. At the party, only one or two were taken - the cheesecake was obviously better.

It's not that they tasted bad. For the most part you couldn't taste the spinach, although I did feel something tasted strange in there. The consistency was also a tad off for me. But most importantly, given that there is 1 cup of purees and then the pan is cut into 12 (I did mine into 16) pieces, I wouldn't really consider these a way to get in the veggies. With 16 squares cut, that equals out to a whopping 1 tablespoon of vegetable puree per brownie. That's not really worth the lack of deliciousness to me.
That being said, I am lucky in that K is a little veggie monster. His favorite food is asparagus, closely followed by brocolli. He doesn't care much for pork or beef, but he loves every other protein imaginable. I guess if my kid wouldn't touch a veggie, I might make these again, but for the meantime, I think I will stick to my full fat, full sugar, nothing-healthy-at-all brownies ;)

Friday, January 24, 2014

Chocolate Oreo Cheesecake

As I posted about earlier in the week, we had a house full of people last weekend. So many, in fact, that I ended up making two cheesecakes, plus a batch of brownies (stay tuned). One of the cheesecakes was plain with fruit topping and the other, this one, was chocolate with Oreos mixed in. I have made numerous chocolate cheesecakes before, always following the same recipe. I follow it pretty closely, the only major change is to just crush up some Oreos for the base, with nothing else added to it. For the cheesecake bit, I follow the recipe exactly.

Once the batter was mixed up, I crushed up about 10 Oreos and mixed them in as well.

Then I baked it in a water bath and it turned out delicious. At the end of the party, the cheesecake with fruits was completely gone. This one was left with five pieces. Knowing that few of the kids got their own piece of cake, it seems that a number of the adults had two pieces each - good thing I made them both!! This cheesecake was gone pretty quickly from our house as well. We are headed off on a vacation soon and the last thing I need is cut up cheesecake sitting in my fridge. Y requested one piece since he only had one piece of the other cheesecake. The other four were plated and taken straight to a neighbor's house. Done and done!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Bento Thursday - It's a bear, not a cat

It's been a while since I've done a bento post. To be honest, it's been a while since I've made a bento. There were a few here and there - all before the holidays - but they weren't all that interesting so it would have been more of a look-at-what-my-kid-had-for-lunch post. Kind of boring, in my opinion. Today, however, was a bento day. Last night I asked K what he wanted in his bento and he requested "an onigiri with sesame seeds, carrots, cucumbers, fried chicken and M&Ms." Luckily I had all of those items on hand - wahoo!! To add a little bit of interest to the bento, I cut the carrots into stars and tried to make the onigiri into a little black and white cat face. I also added in strawberries because six M&Ms for dessert just sounded sad to me.

K got home from school today and was all proud of himself since he ate his entire bento. "Great job, babe! Did you like your cat onigiri?" "Yeah, but Mama, that was a bear, not a cat." Looks like I need to brush up on my animal onigiri making skills.

Y also got a bento today. It's been probably two months since I last made one for him, whoops!! He ended up with rice with salmon furikake, fried chicken, herbed carrots and beans, and broccoli and sausage with parmesan cheese.

One of my friends in the neighborhood recently had a baby, so another friend and I went over to see her and meet her new baby girl. We decided to make our own bentos and take them over so we could all have lunch together with minimum hassle - today was bento day for their older kids as well. My bento contained fried chicken, strawberries, cucumber with furikake, herbed carrots and beans, and (becuase I ran out of white rice making the other bentos) a sekihan (mochi rice with black bean) onigiri. Yum!!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Cheesecake with Fruits (Again)

Over the weekend, we had a house full of guests. Y invited some of his work friends and their families over for lunch and to just hang out. We ended up with 17 people! There was no way I was going to make lunch for 17 (we ordered pizza instead), but I figured I could certainly handle a side dish (roasted root vegetables) and dessert. I asked Y what he wanted for dessert and he decided on cheesecake. With that many people, however, I figured I would need two cheesecakes. I made one regular and one chocolate, which I'll post about on Friday, probably.

If you've followed my blog for a while, you will know that I have made plenty of cheesecakes, each of them only slightly different. I have done a cheesecake with fruit topping at least two other times. The only real different is in how I do the fruits on top. I always use the same recipe. It is followed for the most part. The only differences are: the crust, I just smash up cookies and press them into the bottom of the tin, the topping, I don't make a sauce, and I halve the recipe instead of doing the full one.

Once the batter was all ready, I made the water bath, as instructed. I think I have mentioned this before, but I'll say it again. I really do recommend the water bath. It is kind of a pain and takes longer to bake, but (!) the top always ends up so beautiful.

Look at how perfect it is - no cracks or bubbles.

Once it was cooled, I chopped up some strawberries into rounds and slightly layered them around the outside.

I alternated between strawberries and defrosted blueberries until the whole cake was covered.

For the glaze I put 1/4 cup of orange marmalade into a pan with a tablespoon of water.

I heated it up until it was nice and melted.

Then I strained out the orange peel, reserving the liquid in a small bowl.

I put the liquid back into the pan and heated it until it thickened a bit.

Finally I brushed it over the fruits and chilled it until it was ready to serve, which ended up being a few hours. As I mentioned above, we had 17 people in total - there were a total of 10 adults, one nine-year old, three three-year olds, two one-year olds and T. I cut this cheesecake into 12 pieces and it was gone in about 5 minutes. I got two of my most favorite compliments ever on it - one husband asked me to tell his wife the recipe and a different husband didn't believe that I made it, he thought it was store-bought. Another successful cheesecake in the books.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Pocketed Infinity Scarf

Let me preface this post with: I am the worst selfie taker in the world. For some reason it takes a lot of concentration for me to take a photo of myself. As a result, I always looks strange. Moving along...

We are going to go on a little vacation soon and while at the airport between the four of us, I will need to juggle six passports. Why, you may ask. Both K and T need two - one American and one Japanese - plus mine and Y's. Embarking on an 8 hour flight with the two little boys, my bag is going to be a mess of toys, books, snacks, clean diapers, and changes of clothes. Finding passports between all of that is going to be quite the task. One thing that I always take on any flight is a scarf - easy to take off when it's toasty, simple to put on when I get a bit chilly. Given that a scarf is a must, I figured I could just devise a way to have the scarf securely hold our passports. The pocketed scarf was born.

I started out with 60cm each of two different colors of jersey. The jersey I picked was the tube kind, so after cutting two 30cm lengths out of each color, I cut a slit down one of the folded ends of each of the four pieces.

Next I sewed the grey rectangles together to create one 30cm by really long rectangle, and the same for the pink.

Then I looked through my scraps to find a fabric that I liked and that was big enough for the welt pocket. Keep in mind that you will need two rectangles of the same size to create the one pocket. Once I found one, I cut the fabric in half and put one half on top of the gray fabric where I wanted the pocket to be and marked with pins about 2cm in from the edge of the pocket fabric.

Then I pinned the gray and pink rectangles together. My fabric didn't have a right side, but if yours does, you will want to be sure to pin them right sides together.

Then I sewed the gray and pink rectangles together leaving an opening where the pocket will go. I stopped sewing at the blue pin and started again at the white pin (see the photo above).

Following this tutorial, I worked on the welt pocket. I will roughly show what I did, but trust me, take a look at that tutorial because it is much better explained that I could ever do. I placed the pocket fabric on the scarf fabric, both right side up. That was a mistake, however, the pocket fabric should be right side down. Then mark on the pocket fabric where the zipper will go. Draw a rectangle about 1cm tall by the length of your zipper, being sure to center the height of the rectangle on the slit between the gray and pink fabric. Also draw a line down the middle (where the slit is). Stop about 1cm from the short edges of the rectangle and draw two diagonal lines to the corners to create a triangle on the edge.

Super carefully, sew along your rectangle. Since our main fabric isn't one single piece, I was super careful to not sew the seam allowance into the pocket. To do this, I started by flipping the allowance down (the gray allowance was folded to the pink side) and sewing the 1/2cm on the edge of the rectangle, across the top and down the other 1/2cm edge.

Then I flipped the allowances (this time the pink allowance folded to the gray side) and sewed the bottom half of the rectangle - starting with the 1/2cm edge, across the bottom and up the final 1/2cm edge.

Then cut the pocket material down the middle and on the little diagonal lines as well.

Flip the pocket through the slit and iron it all down.

Line up your zipper - mine was super long. No big deal, just cut it to the length you need. Pin it on and super carefully sew it on.

Flip over to the right side of the fabic and admire your work! The hard part is done.

Next put the other piece of pocket fabric face down on top of the piece that is sewn to the scarf and sew all around the outside of the pocket. Then take a look! Your zippered welt pocket is done!

At this point, you might want to anchor the pocket to the scarf. I doubt this is necessary, but I think it would just help to keep the pocket in place once you put something in it.

Sew the long edge of the scarf together - in my case, the pink to the gray.

Once the two long ends of the scarf are sewn together, reach through the tube and pull one end of the scarf up so that the open ends meet. The right sides should be together.

Sew around the circle, in my case, pink to pink, gray to gray, leaving a little opening to pull it all right side out.

Pull it right-side out and all you have left to do is to sew up the little turning hole.

Wrap it around your neck and start throwing things in that pocket! (Putting my keys into the pocket, while taking a selfie clearly takes a lot of concentration.) So far I have used this pocket to hold my keys, my phone, pacifiers, toys for T, and some cash. It turns out that having a pocket there is quite handy!