Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Daily Craft - Starting to take shape

One of my favorite things about cross-stitch is that even though you know what it's supposed to look like, each stitch is another step toward the transformation. I still have thousands of stitches to go, but this is starting to resemble something so pretty!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Daily Dish - Some ethnic tasties!

A random Saturday night with no plans for dinner, husband suggested we make something a little more complex than we might do normally.  We settled on Indian food which, as I have probably mentioned before, is one of my favorite cuisines.  I blame it on the fact that eating Indian is one of those inherently British things that I do.  Years ago, my mom gave me a couple of Indian cookbooks and I had always had some trouble making dishes because I didn't have all of the required spices.  Since I've now found an Indian grocery store close by, I took the opportunity a while back to stock up on some of those harder to find spices and last night figured it was as good a time as any to give a couple of new recipes a try.

I made a chicken curry, using Patak's Vindaloo Paste, which is ridiculously simple and has easy to follow directions on the jar.  I also made some curried cauliflower and a fragrant rice using recipes from the (seriously underused) cookbooks.  To make the rice, I fried a cinnamon stick, 4 cardamom seeds, cloves, cumin seeds and tumeric in oil for about a minute.  I added this with the rice into the rice cooker, along with a crumbled beef stock cube and some frozen peas, stirring once about half way through the cooking process.  The cauliflower involved making a paste from flour, chili powder, coriander powder, cumin powder, mustard powder and tumeric.  This paste was added to some curry powder (although the recipe asks for leaves) and cumin seeds being fried in oil.  Then, I added the cauliflower and about 3/4 can of coconut milk.  I bought this to the boil, reduced heat and covered until the cauliflower was cooked.

One very important thing that I've found with Indian spices is that they often have to be briefly fried first to release the flavor.  The recipes call for ghee (a clarified butter that's really not healthy at all) but I substituted for vegetable oil in this case.

I've been working on my food presentation for photographs, and husband was pleasantly surprised by how nice the plate looked when I delivered it to him!  Definitely made for a tasty and satisfying dinner.  :)

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Daily Chuckles - ...and I thought I was ticklish

I have to thank my friend Charlie for introducing me to this video of Cookie the penguin, who now seems to be a viral video sensation!  I love a good penguin video and this one gives me the giggles every time. 

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Daily Review - Plymouth Baby Alpaca Ampato yarn

One serious advantage of sample knitting for Plymouth Yarns is getting to sample a variety of the yarns that they have on offer.  I'm working with a yarn right now that I have used before and enjoyed every second of working with it!  So, if you're looking for something new to try, I'm suggesting Plymouth Yarn's Baby Alpaca Ampato.

Weight: Aran
Yardage: 128 yards (117 meters)
Weight: 100 grams (3.53 ounces)
Gauge: 16 stitches = 4 inches
Fiber: 100% Alpaca

Alpaca yarn in general is considered to be stronger, softer and warmer than wool.  It's also hypo-allergenic for those that have wool allergies but want a more luxurious fiber to work with.  The structure of alpaca fiber also means that it's not prone to pilling, staining, or tearing - which is important if you just spent hours upon hours knitting up a garment but don't want to worry about whether it will hold up with wear.  

What I loved about this yarn is...well pretty much everything.  If I could only use one word to describe it, it would be buttery.  In fact, I kind of want to curl up with it.  Some yarns can be a little tough on the hands after a while, but this just keeps sliding through the fingers making it an effortless knit.  It is a plied yarn but I didn't find it to be splitty or difficult to work with because it maintains a nice smooth feel as you are using it.  I also found that it has terrific stitch definition so is perfect for cables, and also maintains a wonderful drape.  All in all, a wonderful yarn to have up against the skin.  The only downside to this particular yarn is that it's not cheap - approximately $14 for the 128 yard hank, which I think places it firmly in the "luxury" yarn category - but well worth it even if it's just a small project.  Highly recommended!

FYI - The tunic pictured here is one that I knit up used this yarn so you can get an idea of how it looks as a garment, and it looked even better in person.  You can buy the pattern for this tunic at Webs for $4.00.  I like it as is, although it could be easily converted into a shorter sweater if that's more your thing.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Daily Ramblings - Crafts & non-crafters

The other night, husband and I were taking a mental time out (i.e. watching Hot Tub Time Machine), and I was absentmindedly crocheting some cotton coasters.  Husband asked me what I was making and, after telling him, he couldn't understand why people would use absorbent cotton coasters.  I asked him if this included the quilted coasters that I've been making, and he said he just couldn't understand the point of a coaster that couldn't be wiped off and would need to be thrown in the washing machine.  Now, as somebody who crafts, and actively talks to others that craft, there is nothing weird about the concept of a cotton coaster - quilted or crocheted.  However, this did make me start wondering if he was being his inherently practical self, or if there really is a world of items that crafty folk make that others just don't "get".

I figured I'd check with Amazon and Google (seeing as you can buy pretty much anything via those two channels).  A search for "cotton coasters" in the shopping section of Google brought up a ton of items, although primarily on Etsy or Artfire.  Searches for "crochet coasters" and "quilted coasters" on Amazon brought up a variety of books with patterns for how to make them, but not ready to sell items.

Before I learned to crochet, I had never thought of making dishcloths to use instead of store bought sponges.  We're now completely converted in our house and I don't see myself going back.  I'd also never thought handmade facial scrubbies might exist, like these that I made for this spa set.

This just leads me to so many questions.
- Do these more unique items appeal only to those that already craft, or have a desire to do so?
- Are the concepts completely lost on the general public?
- Seeing as you can buy pretty much anything you can think of on Amazon (I mean, Tuscan milk - fantastic), is it weird that crochet cotton coasters aren't being mass-produced and sold there?
- Do gifts of certain handmade goods need to come with a description as to what they're used for?

I would love to know your thoughts.  Are there other things that are inherently based toward the "crafty" members of the population, or am I just imagining things?

Monday, April 4, 2011

Daily Craft - Fleur De Lis & a shop preview

I'm not usually drawn to necklaces seeing as I seem to have a habit of getting them either tangled in my hair, or wrapped around my neck in choke collar fashion, at some point during the day.  It's probably why I'm so drawn to making earrings, which I've never managed to strangle myself date anyway.

That being said, I found some super cute Fleur De Lis pendants at Michael's yesterday and set about making necklaces for my new shop.  The second I made this necklace, I knew I wanted to keep it - which leaves me glad that the pendants came in a pack of two, one for me and one for somebody else out there.  I used simple black acrylic beads and used a chain to join the sections.  I'm thrilled with how it turned out.

Speaking of shops though, you may notice that I have a widget on my sidebar now.  This is not the type of widget that comes in a Guinness can and keeps your beer tasting delicious.  It will however take you to my shop, which is in beta right now.  I'm still working on logos, pointing the domain to the right place, and all that back-end fun, but feel free to browse.  I'm hoping to make a proper grand-opening announcement soon!