Friday, January 28, 2011

In a fog...

Frustrating week. I hate Helmsley. You hear that Helmsley? You piss me off!
He's not coming together the way I had hoped. I guess I was expecting to jump back into the puppet building business without any hitches, but that's not the case. his arms are too short, his lips are in bad shape, I have no idea what to do about his hair/hat situation anymore...rawr. I put too many white components together at once, he's got white teeth, cream skin, and a white button-up's too much white! I don't think a color tie will break it up enough. Speaking of which, the tie I made was too short, his neck is wider than a person's neck so I have to go buy a regular least that means a trip to the thrift stores.
So anyway, here's a look at what Helmsley's up to these days.

He has a teeth plate now, I haven't decided whether or not to draw in teeth or to leave it as is. I also put the felt inside his mouth to cover the mouthplate.

He also has a torso and shirt.
He hasn't any pupils yet as that is the trickiest part, making sure they're even and looking at you.

So that's Helmsley so far...making me cranky. Hopefully I'll have a brainblast this weekend and figure out what to do about him, 'cause I'm ready to chuck him in the trash.

On a more cheerful note, I had a lovely tea party with my cousins this week, using the lovely dishes I picked up at a thrift store last Friday, and serving a lovely Japanese cheesecake. The tea was delightful, the company was charming and the cake with lime curd was delicious. I like the recipe so much I am going to post it here, with respect to it's author,  i bake for you.

Japanese Cheesecake

1 cup light cream cheese, softened
3 1/2 tbsp butter
1/2 cup milk
6 eggs, separated
2/3 cup sugar
2/3 cup cake flour (low protein flour)
2 tbsp corn flour
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
1 tbsp lemon essence (or 3 tbsp lemon or lime juice)

Bake at about 312F
Melt cream cheese, butter and milk in a double boiler.
Allow to cool.
Whisk egg whites until soft peaks. Gradually add sugar while whisking until stiff peaks.
Sift cake flour, corn flour and cream of tartar in a large bowl. Mix in cream cheese mixture, egg yolks and lemon essence.
Gently fold in egg whites.
Transfer mixture into a greased/lined baking pan. Wrap the sides and bottom of the baking pan/s with aluminum foil. Do not cover the top! (This helps prevent water from seeping through to the pan and cake mixture.)
Place baking pan into a large roasting pan. Fill roasting pan with boiling water about up to half way to the baking pan.
Bake for about 1hr or until cooked. (Will depend on pan sizes. Check with skewer. If it comes out clean, it is cooked)
Leave door ajar for about 45mins. (ie. leave an oven mitt in between door and oven to give about 1 inch gap for heat to slowly disperse. Don't open the door fully!)
Allow to cool completely on wire rack.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Lentil Soup and Plans for the Week

I am on a SUPER tight budget this week, so that means cheap meals! Lentils are insanely cheap in bulk and are full of protein and yumminess and other good things I'm sure, but the protein is the most important to me right now. And yumminess. That's important too.
So I whipped up a recipe that would tackle all the things I'm craving at the moment while being supremely healthy and it used up several of my home canned goodies and my homemade taco seasoning! Taco/Tortilla Lentil Soup/Gumbo/Chili is the result! Damn it's good. Come here so I can feed you.

Taco/Tortilla Lentil Soup/Gumbo/Chili

1 Cup Lentils, rinsed
3 Cups water, rinsed...
1 pint jar (or 1 14oz. can) crushed tomatoes
1 half pint jar unsalted tomato paste (8oz. can)
1 pint jar (1 can) sweet corn, drained
3-4 Tablespoons Taco seasoning (or one packet of storebought)
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 pearl onions, minced

Boil the water in a large saucepan, add garlic, onion and lentils. Bring back up to a boil and add tomatoes and tomato paste and seasonings. Simmer, covered, for ten minutes. Add the corn and continue to simmer, stirring occasionally, until lentils are al dente or to your liking.

Serves 4
Points Plus= 6 per serving
*Serves great with some sourdough bread and a sprinkling of cheddar cheese and a dollop of fat free Greek yogurt.*
Now for the week's plans...
Helmsley, the newly named puppet-in-progress, is going to be completed this week! I decree it! Besides, I got to get my butt started on the others.
He's coming along fine, I had to redo the fleece head covering once, and I have a lot of hand stitching to do on this one, but it's looking alright so far, huh?
Sorry, the photo's blegh, but I wanted to get this written quickly and I spent the majority of my effort on making dinner (see above).

He still needs a neck, a neck tie...yeah I didn't get it done last week...hands and rods and all the little finish-y bits like painting the eyeballs and adding the teeth. I don't anticipate any delays in completion, I have a better handle on what my shift change entails so that shouldn't factor in this week. The reach will be starting another puppet before the week is out, that may not happen. 
Apart from Helmsley, I have no lofty ambitions this week. I just want to complete a project and get that accomplishment under my belt.
I will update mid-week to show what's been changing with the little man.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Weekend Accomplishments and Citrus Jelly

I finished several of my produce bags and they couldn't have been easier! They weigh .1 of an ounce, don't have to be pretty on the edges and will perhaps lighten my footprint...or whatever. They're so simple it's not really worth posting pictures of the instructions because the mesh is so see through. All it is is two squares of mesh zigzagged on three sides and ta da!

Oh, and I am once again reminded of how poor my estimating skills are, each yard makes 4 bags, so 12 not 6 were made...I will never be a quilter.
Since I haven't zipped them all up, I might curve the bottom of a few to see if I like that better.

I also whipped up the curtain for my kitchen.
It's this great graphic Ikea fabric, cityscape kind of thing and I think the colors work great in the kitchen. The only problem is that I would have been slightly better off with either a sheer or making two panels as when it's down, it lets in zero light. But I had planned to keep it tied to the side most of time and the pattern would have been ruined if I had cut it down the middle...
Hmm... so it's not ideal. It may be temporary now that I think about it more. It's really pretty when it's down though. Adds another gray dimension to the kitchen that keeps it from looking too squee.
We will see once summer sun rolls around.

This was my Tuesday night project at work! Four Citrus Jelly!
I am at a different workplace than usual so I knew that I wouldn't have the noise liberty of traditionally water bath processing the suckers, so they are instead freezer jelly! They did seal on their own, but I don't want to kill anyone here with lurking botulism.

So here's the recipe:

Four Citrus Jelly
6 small limes, juiced
3 large Meyer lemons, juiced
2 small oranges, juiced
4 medium blood oranges, juiced
7 cups sugar

Strain the juice to remove the seeds and pithy bits. I used a colander lined with a coffee filter.

Add sugar to the pot and cook mixture down on medium high heat until it reaches 220 degrees and/or it sheets off a cold spoon.
Pour into prepared jars.
Now you can at this point, provided you preheated the jars and lids and such, process the mason jars in a water bath for 10 minutes, but as I couldn't make that much noise, I just let them cool and tucked them into the freezer when I got home from work.

I thought the blood orange gave them a nice color and the flavor is really bright and tart, it's not syrupy sweet or bitter, it's just a really enjoyable tarty taste. 
I had some reservations about not using pectin with this, but I'll have to post on that later.
For now, I think half of my week was fairly productive, we'll see about the rest of it!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Oh crap. It's been a week.

I don't mean to be cranky about it, but it has been a week since I posted. I don't want this to be something I dread writing, I really do like the process. I have done very little in the way of crafting and the one canning project I did at work...I forgot my camera of course.'s it going?

Really, as I accomplished very little this week, I will change tactics.
I'll photograph all my upcoming projects for the week!
My work situation for the next two weeks is new and unfamiliar so I am unsure what I can do while there, but I should be able to get in some quality time before I head there at midnight. Blegh. Midnight to eight shifts sound awful. Just awful.
First up: Reusable produce bags!
These three yards should make at least six to eight produce bags so I don't have to use so many plastic ones week after week. The mesh is light enough to not add any significant weight to the scale and I should make them deep so I can knot the top of the bags.

Number two!
A puppet tie!
Self explanatory. I need a tie for my current puppet so I need to sew one up...hopefully I can find someone to teach me how to tie it once it's done.

Numero tres:
Citrus jam and more canned mandarins

Number four:
Start coworker's Spit-up cloths
The fabric is ADORABLE! They will have plain white flannel backing to help stick to the shoulder and...well...swab up spit-up.

That's it for the week, I might work on this:
A leftover body I might use for the puppet.

But I might not get around to it, The costume and head covering needs to come first, I might not even use a padded body at all.

So that'll be my week! I'll do more posting as I complete each project.
Have a fantastic week!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

In progress and a kitten's birthday

I have finally started a puppet again.

It has been over a year since I completed one. I can't totally explain why I haven't wholeheartedly hot glued my head off the past twelve months, but I'm back on the right track now I believe. With a request from some lovely Bearded fellows (more on them later), I am pulling together the makings of four or five new talking foam heads!

I haven't quite determined the shape of number four, I'm waffling between a pajama clad little kid, or a hippie. Or a librarian. Or a...oh I have too many ideas.

Anyways, this is the progression of work so far. I build the mouthplate and fingertubes.

Then reinforce with fabric and tons of hot glue!

Cut out the head pieces.

Glue the head together and attach to the mouthplate.

Cut out and build the jaw and attach to the bottom mouthplate.

Then I attached the nose (which I adore) and place the eyeballs.

And apart from cutting some costume pieces, that's as far as I've gotten! But not a bad start.

This Saturday I made a cake for my cousin Sophie's kitten themed birthday party and did some quick makeup on her and her three little friends. See how they turned out!

Aren't they the cutest? Sophie's the one in her pink cat costume I made for Halloween.

Have a fantastic weekend!

Marmalade Mistake?

So the marmalade wasn't quite at the level I had hoped. I think for once (this is so horrible to say) I prefer the super-sweet store marmalade. However,  I wanted a second opinion, and my aunt Karen loved it! So...half success? Maybe?
The marmalade is strong, and has a real bite to it. It's a little bitter as I didn't remove as much of the pith as I should have.
So here's the recipe if you like your marmalade strong.

Orange Marmalade

16 small oranges, hand peel all but 5 and discard the peel, roughly chop
8 to 10 cups of sugar
3 cups water
1/2 of a lemon, juiced

Using a vegetable peeler, peel the remaining 5 oranges, reserve the peels. Cut the remaining pith off the oranges and roughly chop.

Add all ingredients to a large pot and cook down on medium high heat until it reaches 220 degree or it sheets off a spoon.
 Pour into prepared jars and process for 10 minutes.

Ta Da!
There it is.

I made another jam, with the Pineapple Guava I had, but it turned out so weird I can't see the point in a recipe for it. I just kept tossing in extra bits and pieces of things, unset strawberry lavender jam, a bag of frozen mixed fruits. It's not great, but it's pretty looking.

Lovely, ain't they?

Monday, January 3, 2011

Hello there...step into my world for a moment

Stormy NorCal winter

Welcome! I am starting this blog to document all the work I do this year. I am a person that loves projects, I love building puppets, sewing all sorts of things, cooking, canning, creating art...I love it all. I love to create.

So, I thought it might be nice to record and talk about all the little busy things I do, just in case someone out there finds it interesting!

My happy kitchen

So this is my life, I live in a small modular home on a street where my aunt, uncle, and cousins live. I have painted and redone many things on my house, but more on that later. I work graveyard shifts that allow me time to work on projects, and I spend much of my free time creating. I have three cats and two scratched up couches, and a kitchen painted to match my pots and pans set.

So my goals for this blog correspond with my New Year's resolutions.
I hope to demonstrate hand sewing techniques, design patterns for sewing projects, post plenty of recipes of all sorts, and keep track of what I'm working on at the moment by documenting the steps taken.
This won't be easy, but I hope you enjoy my little experiment.