Thursday, December 13, 2012

Saint Lucy's Day and Lucia Buns

So, after the whole Saint Nicholas visit, the next tradition we have is the visit of Saint Lucy. No, we're not Swedish, but it's still so much fun. The youngest girl in our house dresses in a white gown, and wears a wreath of greenery in her hair. Maggie is old enough to carry the tray now, so it's her turn^^

And I have my recipe for my special breakfast rolls. Don't they look tasty?

Christmas Lucia Buns Recipe

2/3 cup hot water
1/4 cup dry milk
1/2 stick butter, cubed for melting (little pieces)

1/4 cup sugar
2 1/2 tsp yeast

1 egg + egg yolk
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cardamom
3 cups all purpose flour

1 egg white

First combine water, butter and dry milk.
When the mixture has cooled to bathwater-warm, add the sugar and the yeast. Allow it to sit for 5 minutes (it's a good time to seperate that egg)

Add egg and egg yolk, cardamom, and a cup of flour.
Mix well, then add the salt and the rest of the flour a bit at a time. Knead (play-dough time^^) for about five minutes, then oil the surface and cover with a towel.

Wait 45 minutes, or until the dough has doubled.

Punch the dough down, then divide the dough into 20 equal parts. Form each part into ropes about 6 inches long.

Put two ropes in an x shape on a greased cookie or baking sheet, then curl/roll the ends up towards the middle. Repeat for all the remaining bits. Allow the buns to rise for about 30 minutes.

Remember the egg white? Mix that with a tablespoon or so of water. Put a raisin at the center of each arm/curl of the bun (4 for each bun), then brush the buns with the egg white mixture.

Bake at 350 F for 15 - 20 minutes. They are done when they are golden brown. The picture has a couple that are a bit too brown, but that's what I get for spending too much time gathering greens. Best eaten warm; and they keep well in the fridge.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Saint Nicholas and the Land of Sweets

Happy Saint Nicholas Day! In several cultures, this is the day Saint Nick (or Santa) comes to visit. He sure left a lot of stuff in  my stocking^^
Saint Nicholas was actually the bishop of Myra (modern Turkey) in the early 300's. He was known for his defense of children; in particular young girls being forced into marriage. In fact, he is the patron saint of children. Almost a thousand years latter he became a favorite among Scandinavian children due to the nuns that taught them; the nuns used his feast day as an excuse to collect food, clothing, and toys in time give them to the poor among their students for Christmas. 
Maggie's class also conveniently went to see The Nutcracker ballet at the University of Northern Alabama. Most of the ballet was put on by local kids, like these sweet little gingerbread men.  

What special things do you do befor Christmas?

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Spiced Tea and Shawls

It's that time of year when hot drinks and warm clothes aren't just luxuries; they're necessities. So I have this nice recipe for my spiced tea and added this new shawl made by a technique that I invented/taught myself. After all, there's nothing new under the sun, so maybe I just re-invented it.^^ It's kind of a cross between crochet and weaving, so I have no idea what to call it. Suggestions?

Makes about a pint of spiced tea mix

18 oz Tang (or other sweetened orange drink mix)
1 dry unsweetened lemonade packet
1 tsp cloves
2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup sugar (or to taste)
3/4 cup instant tea

Mix. That's it; just put it in a bowl and  mix. To brew you just add a heaping spoonful to a coffee cup with some hot water.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving! I hope you are having as much fun as I am up at my grandmother's, that you are eating lots of good food, and that you have lots of things to be thankful for^^

Train tracks and fall leaves. I'm thankful for the great weather!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Rose and Mistletoe Kanzashi

One of the reasons I love making kanzashi is there are so many flowers, plants, and other natural things you can create with the technique. I especially like coming up with new kanzashi designs based off of local plants and animals. Some purists would say some of my creations are not traditional, and therefore I have no business calling them kanzashi at all. I think it is the spirit more than the rules that define an art form, and by creating based off of my surroundings I am adding to the art rather than making something completely different. What do you think?
My version of a rose kanzashi.
My completely original kanzashi; mistletoe. 
I'm not sure the plant can even grow in Japan, but it makes a nice kanzashi^^ 

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Election Day

You know, we're pretty lucky in this country. Voting for who we want in charge, the ability to remove them if they turn out to be bad leaders, the right to complain. Of course some people take that right a little too far, but there you have it. Maggie thinks this whole business is getting out of hand. She's not sure who's running for what other than president, but she's pretty sure name calling isn't nice. I tend to agree. See you at the polls, and no, I don't want to know who you voted for^^

Friday, November 2, 2012

All Souls Day and Baked Pumpkin Doughnuts

My family celebrates? All Souls day. Not sure celebrate is the word I'm looking for, but it'll do. Much like Obon in Japan, All Souls day is a way to remember everyone who has died, and to pray for both their happiness in the after life and that we might see them again after our death. Most people don't believe that the dead come back on this day as ghosts to visit like Obon, but I'm sure there's some who do out there somewhere. It's a pretty quiet, but international, festival; unless you celebrate it in Mexico. There they call it 'the Day of the Dead' and it's like a funeral, Halloween, and Mardi Gras all rolled into one. I have never heard the more widespread All Souls day be brought up on the news, but I think the world has heard of Day of the Dead. Crazy, right?

Many cultures have a fondness for round themes when it comes to the departed. Both Buddhists and a variety of Celtic folk stories say ghosts like round foods like rice balls and cakes. What else would I make then, but my baked pumpkin doughnuts? Here's my recipe, which is oil and butter free and full of spiced pumpkin goodness^^

Pumpkin Doughnuts

1 small can pumpkin
1/2 cup honey (or 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed, and 2 TBSP extra milk)
1&1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon cloves
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon allspice
2&1/2 cups self rising four
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk

6 tablespoons or so cream cheese
1/2 cup powdered or confectioners sugar

Mix the pumpkin, spices, and honey together in a bowl. Add the flour, milk and eggs and mix some more. Dough should be thick, slightly thinner than peanut butter. Spoon into greased doughnut pans (I got mine from Wilson's Cake decorating supplies. The pan is like a muffin pan, but doughnut shaped!)You can also use muffin liners and make muffins instead.

Bake at 350 F until a toothpick comes out clean, about 8-10 minutes for the doughnuts. DON'T overcook them; if the bottoms get more than slightly brown you'll end up with dry doughnuts, and that's bad^^

Mix the sugar and cream cheese in a micro wave safe bowl. Then, nuke it for about 30 seconds. Drizzle over slightly cooled doughnuts. Best eaten warm of course, but you can microwav the about 30 seconds and they'll taste fresh baked. Keep them in the fridge for over a week; they freeze well too as long as you don't glaze them before you freeze them. Makes about 18

Wednesday, October 31, 2012


Trick or Treat

Happy Halloween!Hope you had lot's of fun, lot's of treats, and no bad candy!

Crochet Amigurumi Spider

Crochet spider pattern will be available at my shop again next year!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Shepherd's Pie, ala Monster

Here's a twist on a classic shepherd's pie. Normally one just spoons/smears mashed potatoes over the top. These spooky little monsters/ghosts are made with a mixture of mashed potatoes, eggs, cheese, and spices; then shaped and decorated. You could even tint the little guys colors to match your party!

Shepard's pie ala monster
Robert was my helper today. Aren't his ghosts spooky?

Pie mixture;
2 cups frozen mixed vegetables (carrots, peas, corn, etc)
1 pound ground beef
1&1/2 beef gravy
Whatever other veggies you want, like half an onion, a can of tomatoes, etc.

Potato mixture;
2 cups water
2&1/4 cups potato flakes
1/4 cup powdered milk
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 cup grated Parmesan/Romano cheese
2 eggs

First you want to cook the ground beef in a skillet until you can't see any pink. If you're going to add onions, which I do, cook them with the beef.

Drain it well, then dump it into your pan. I use a 9x13 inch Pyrex, but you can use any baking pan that holds about 2 quarts. Drain and add any canned veggies now.

About this point you need to put the two cups of water on to boil for the potatoes.

Put the frozen veggies (minus some peas or something for eyes) in the skillet with a dash of water, and heat until all visible ice is gone and they are warm to the touch. You could cook them all the way, but you'll cook them in the oven so why bother?

Dump the veggies in the pan and add the gravy. Mix it all up and smooth it down a bit so it's nice and flat for the monsters.

Now that your potato water is boiling, pull it off the stove and add all but the eggs. It should be rather stiff. Give it about five minutes (time to wash that skillet^^) and add the eggs. Once you've done mixing it should be cool enough to touch and work with.

Shape those monsters with your hands (and your little kitchen helpers, as long as they don't try and eat it. Raw eggs, yuck). Decorate with reserved veggies. (I just used peas for the picture. Lima bean eyes, carrot spikes, or corn bumps would be fun.) Any leftover veggies from decorating can just be dumped into the baking pan. Put your monstrous potatoes on top and bake until potatoes are slightly brown (about 20 minutes)

Monday, October 22, 2012

Halloween Costumes

On the one hand, yukata make great Halloween costumes. On the other, I hope nobody freezes. There was frost on the ground this morning! Here are two new yukata; a lovely purple and green combination with one of my pre-tied obi, and a sakura (cherry blossom) one for a Madame Butterfly costume. Both future owners are apparently very sophisticated young ladies; I know I wouldn't have gone as an opera character at eight years old!

Sakura/Cherry blossom Yukata

Purple and Green Yukata

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Honeycombs and Busy Bees

Today I finally finished my 'MCAT' afghan. It looks like a golden honeycomb, or maybe a benzene ring complex. My geek is showing^^ I started the thing over a month ago while I was studying for the MCAT, but I ran out of the brown yarn and had to track down some more. Nothing goes together as well as books and crochet, except for maybe music and dancing. I think I'll add this as a made to order item in my shop. It's super warm, and just the right size to double as a giant shawl!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Fair Day

Who doesn't a ride on a ferris wheel? Now, the rides that turn you upside down and wiggle you around are not my cup of tea, but that's just because I get motion sick.

Fair Day

Fair Night

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Of Boys and Fish

So, yukata are pretty fun to make, with all those nice straight lines. Hemming them is a breeze^^
I always like tuck a little extra something in with my yukata. Usually it's a hair accessory or a small pouch. But what to give a little boy? A fish^^. I hope he likes it!

Fishy Plush Toy

Boy's Blue Yukata

Monday, October 1, 2012

October Birds

Most Americans think of crows and ravens this time of year, but in my neck of the woods it's cowbirds. I might see two crows all year, and I don't think I've seen a raven since the last time I went to the bird exhibit at the zoo. Cow bids are easily spotted, because they have greenish black heads and brownish black bodies. They lay their eggs in other birds nests, and when the hatch-lings are fledged they make their way to the closest flock. Parasitic birds are creepy, right?

Cowbird Invasion

Saturday, September 22, 2012

The Last Rose of Summer

Summer is officially over, and yet my rose bush has decided to re-bloom. It usually blooms in the spring, so maybe the cool weather we're getting has something to do with it.

Last Rose of Summer

Pink and Black Yukata and Obi

Plus this pink yukata and black obi set are finished and in the mail. I hope it gets to her before the 27th^^

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Maggie's Birthday

Maggie's now nine years old. One sleepover and a birthday cake later and shes good to go

Flower Cake

Just in case you are curious, the cake is made of a pink lemonade round cut into sixths. Five for the petals, and the last cut into leave shapes^^

Saturday, September 8, 2012

MCAT, I dislike you somewhat.....

Yesterday I took the MCAT test. For those that aren't familiar with USA testing acronyms, it's the medical college entrance exam. I had to drive all the way to Memphis ( a 3 1/2 hour drive) take the test (5 1/2 hours) and drive home. Scary. But it's one more step to my medical degree. I only hope I did well^^

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Shibori Tie- dye.

So, my latest children's yukata order is made of this lovely faux-shibori.

Rainbow Shibori Yukata

What is shibori? Shibori is a Japanese tie-dying technique, typically done in blues on white, but other colors are also used on occasion. This is not your 'I made a rainbow t-shirt at camp' kind of tie dye though. The fabric I used doesn't look like tie dye at all, does it? Well, it's not, because it's fake shibori made through fabric printing. However, it could be made through shibori methods. Each dot would be tied off to prevent the fabric from absorbing dye. Really good shibori can have thousands of tiny little dots, each tied off separately to produce patterns and motifs. Varying the sizes and shapes of the tied off areas make different designs, square and round shapes being the most common in shibori. At one point kimono made with certain patterns of shibori dying were considered as formal as a tuxedo in western Europe, because it could take weeks of work making all of those tiny dots!

If you would like to see pictures of someone's modern shibori work, or you live in California and are interested in learning how to make your own, visit Susan O'Fennell at Oriba Shibori She also has some cool links on her blog as well^^

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Mini Kanzashi

So, I finished this batch a while back, but with the MCAT coming up I have been seriously lax in posting what I'm up to. Not that many people would notice if I skipped posting for a couple months, but there you have it. Maybe I'll show you how I make them if there's enough interest ^^

Mini Kanzashi Barrettes

Which one do you like best?

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Fences and Cakes

So, me and William (who keeps sneaking in and out of the house with out me reporting it; he got here right before my birthday, and will be leaving the 21st)finally got around to taking down the fence. You know, the one that got completely smashed by the tree branches during that mongo storm May 29th. So, we unscrewed, clipped, and chainsawed our way to victory. And firewood for the winter^^

I also was commissioned to bake this cake for one of Rosie's friends. Three boxes of cake mix, three frosting tubs, two things of fondant, and three hours of decorating...
Browning Deer Logo Cake

Monday, August 13, 2012

Cosplay Costumes

I just finished this Rurouni Kenshin Cosplay kimono. I can't wait to see my customer in full gear^^

Rurouni Kenshin Cosplay Costume

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Granny Square Queen (AKA the Calculus Blanket)

I realized I hadn't posted my finished Granny Square blanket. It ended up being 47 + edging rows around. I call it my calculus blanket, because I started it right before that summer class from (insert name for unpleasant afterlife area here) and finished the day I took my final exam. It's probably the reason I still have fingernails left^^

Crochet Granny Square Blanket 2

Crochet Granny Square Blanket 1

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Pumpkin Patch Amigurumi and Dragonfly Yukata

These are my latest goodies. The first is a pumpkin patch set. I made some of these last year, and they were really popular (even my grandmother wanted some^^)You can find them at my Etsy store!

Amigurumi/ Crochet Pumpkin Patch

And this is my latest men's yukata order. The buyer sent me the fabric from, which was a lovely grey-blue with a slight gold under tone. The pattern had dragonflies and water patterns all over it. The only problem was the person who cut it was sloppy and cut it crooked. I hate when they do that; it ends up wasting fabric.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Happy Birthday to Me....

Today was my birthday. Odd things happen on my birthday; odd smells from the kitchen, getting trapped in my room for a couple hours so the littles can 'decorate', bizarrely creative presents such as tissue paper dolls. I got a lemon layer/caramel frosting/fudge layer cake. Kind of an odd combo, but it's I ate it!

Maggie and I also made pie. A tiny, one person pie, out of a single apple.
1) cut off top of apple, then hollow it out. I used a grapefruit spoon^^
2, cut up apple bits, leaving shell and top intact.Put apple shell in muffin liner.
3, mix bits in a cereal bowl with a teaspoon of honey and some apple pie spice
4, stuff the hollowed apple shell with the bits, put top back on, and rinse the bowl
5, add a quarter cup of flour and about a tablespoon of butter to the bowl, mixing until crumbly. Add a bit of water, until it becomes a ball. Flatten it out and plop it on top. Put the whole thing on a pan. bake at 350 F until brown. Cool and eat warm^^

The apple pie shell.feel free to trash any seeds and stems. Yuck!

The finished mini pie. Not the prettiest, but hey, it's just going to get eaten. And how did it taste, you ask? I have no idea; Maggie ate it all before I could get any. She claims it tasted like pie, so I'm going to go with that.

Friday, August 3, 2012


Today was the last day of class. Whooohooo! In celibration, I have been cleaning my workroom/bedroom, doing my laundry, and eating lunch. You might not think those things are celebratory actions, but seeing how my laundry basket has been full for two weeks, and I have neither cleaned nor eaten lunch in even longer, they are. Summer classes really put you through the wringer.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Fourth of July

Two days in and I'm already praying for it to stop. What genius came up with mini-summer semesters? I'm doing a weeks worth of work every day.
In other news, happy Fourth of July to all my American friends!

Projects I have done for said holiday;

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Summer class

I'm about to be tortured through a month of calculus. I probably won't post much (or any) until I'm done with it. I get the feeling I'm going to die!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Summer Vacation 8

And here we are, in New Orleans. Home of Mardi Gras, Cafe Du Monde's Beignets (epic), and apparently a lot of rain. This leads me to use the phrase "I got sloshed in New Orleans." Literally^^
We made it home, and I'm ready for a vacation!

I got Sloshed in New Orleans^^

Sloshed is the term I would use. It took two days for my shoes to dry!

Robo Man

The rain did not stop the street performers though^^

Plague Doctor Mask, New Orleans, LA

The original Plague Doctors were medical men who volunteered to treat poor plague victims during the black death. They wore waxed clothing, long cloaks, and beaked masks given to them for their service. The beaks were filled with herbs to prevent the doctor from catching the disease, and the clothes were also supposed to protect them. Simply by being there they may have saved many lives. Sadly, only one known doctor survived the outbreak; all others died of the disease. An ornate version of the mask became popular at the Venetian Carnival, and has been a popular mask design since.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Summer Vacation 7

And home we head. Back through Texas, to Louisiana today.

San Jacinto Monument, La Porte Texas

We visited the San Jacinto Monument in La Port, Texas; the tallest monument tower in the US. When Texas got permission to build it, the state was told not to have it any taller than the Washington monument in Washington DC. So they built it the exact same height, and then put a giant star on top. Sneaky, right?
The monument was built to commemorate the battle that lead to Texas becoming it's own country, and later a US state. The battle is also directly responsible for much of the southwestern states joining the USA.

Vintage Tatting, La Porte TX

This is an example of some beautiful tatting work. I hope my tatting will look this good some day. Done in thread weight floss.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Summer Vacation 6

Last day here at the beach; we head home tomorrow. Bummer.

Robert, in the Kitchen of the USS Cavalla

This is the kitchen of a WWII Submarine at Seawolf Park on Galveston Island. Can you imagine making meals for 80 men in this kitchen? BTW Robert is twelve, and less than 5 ft, just so you know how small it is. It was so cool to walk around inside the submarine. Unfortunately we couldn't go everywhere; people had been stealing parts of this national treasure for souvenirs.

Hermit Crabs.

Hermit crabs. The twins and Maggie caught over a hundred of them. Aren't they cool?

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Summer Vacation 5

Vacation is almost over, and I've seen all sorts of sea critters. I've seen dolphins, man o' wars, a school of sting rays, crabs (hermit, sand, and blue^^)and the noble sea creature; the plastic bag.
What, a plastic bag isn't a sea animal? But it lives in the water, and turtles and other animals eat them! Imagine thinking you have a nice tasty jellyfish, and eating a plastic bag instead. Yuck. I may have looked weird, but I picked them up and put them in the trash. Why they weren't there in the first place boggles my mind.


Sea birds. There was this one pelican who kept soaking himself, and then puffing out is chest and spreading his wings^^ Another was missing a wing, but that didn't keep it from catching the fish!

Our Lady, Star of the Sea Catholic Church, Galveston TX.

This is Our Lady, Star of the Sea Catholic Church. When the floods came through Texas the tall towers and sea facing statue of Mary on this church guided people to safety. You can see the statue from the beach, a mile away! Unfortunately the church itself took some water damage in the basement.



Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Summer Vacation 4

The ocean at night is beautiful. I enjoyed taking walks in the morning too. Less sunburn, and being a pasty white girl, that's important.

The Ocean at Night

A sand crab

I caught this little sand crab under a street light. It was munching away on a grass hopper, so it stayed still long enough to photograph. Then it just walked across the highway back to the beach!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Summer Vacation 3

The ocean in Galveston Texas is a green-ish brown, with seaweed up the coast line. And turtle watch signs everywhere. The endangered Kemp's Ridley turtle nests in the area, and the beach patrol takes their job very seriously. I didn't see any turtles, but these friendly seagulls were everywhere.

Seagull of the Ocean

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Summer Vacation 2

Yesterday we made it to Louisiana. We then visited a civil war monument, and went to bed. It's a long drive!

Today there were bayous. Lots of bayous. And Cajun music which, if you've never heard it, is a strange mix of southern accents and French.

Louisiana Bayou

A bayou. Swampy; with trees, crawdads (aka mud-bugs or crayfish) and alligators included.

Giant Tabasco Sauce Bottle

And you can't pass Avery Island without stopping at the Tabasco plant. It's near Baton Rouge, so we stopped for a break. And some jalapeno ice-cream. Weird, but tasty^^

Welcome to Texas

This sign is ironic. I mean REALLY ironic. Why? Because right after we got the key to the beach house, we were involved in a three car accident caused by a speeding pizza delivery guy. Left a giant dent in the back of the bus, and we can't open the back doors. Luckily no one was hurt, and the only one who ended up needing a tow was the pizza guy. Who also had to pay damages. And we got to meet some Texas police officers. Welcome to Texas, land of friendly drivers indeed.