creation nation new year’s resolutions

i’ve done pretty well on the list of works in progress that i posted last march:

  • pastel green baby afghan (crochet) – still working on it (i started this over 5 years ago and pick it up every once in awhile…it’s getting there!)
  • blue king size afghan (crochet) – frogged and gave the yarn to my mom
  • red, green, and black granny square afghan (crochet) – finished (and love it!)
  • grey cardigan (crochet) – finished, but dissatisfied with the final product
  • burgundy cowl scarf (knit) – finished, and made a matching earwarmer
  • blue and grey (will be) felted bag (knit) – still working on it

i’ve also put a major dent in my box of yarn – i’ve been pretty good about not buying any new yarn and using up what i already have. since it’s a new year, i thought i should set some goals to give my creations direction in 2013!

  • finish the two wip’s above
  • crochet a sweater that i actually like and wear!
  • begin work on t-shirt quilt
  • refinish the sewing table i bought at the thrift shop last summer
  • knit something more complicated than a scarf or hat
  • add some healthy, easy dishes to the recipe repertoire
  • improve my cookie, cupcake, and cake decorating skills

that will probably keep me pretty busy, eh?

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just call me martha

i decided on some fairly labor-intensive treats for christmas this year. first, i made pfeffernusse in early december – they take a few weeks to soften. buckeyes have become a tradition every year – i started making them when we lived in ohio and at this point, they’re basically a condition of my participation in the fella’s family’s christmas celebrations. the first question his sister asked when we walked in the door was whether i brought them again!

i decided to round things out with sugar cookies decorated with royal icing. i’ve made sugar cookies before but never with royal icing – and things went surprisingly well for my first attempt! i used martha stewart’s recipes for both the cookies and the icing. i did my homework and read a lot of advice and tips on working with royal icing, and am very satisfied with the results. i had to make do without any cookie decorating tips or icing color, so the decorations are pretty simple and colors are a little washed out, but still – not too shabby for my first attempt!

this is an excellent sugar cookie recipe. however, i needed to bake mine a couple minutes longer than the recipe. i have an oven thermometer and it was 350 on the dot, but these took 13-14 minutes for me. as you can see in the photos, they didn’t brown at all.

here are some tips i’d offer on working with sugar cookie dough and royal icing:

  • the special food coloring for icing really is necessary. it just wasn’t possible to get the colors right with food coloring, and that little bit of liquid really does affect the consistency. i planned for it by starting it out a little thick.
  • at least two batches of icing are necessary – one a little thicker for making the outline, and thinner stuff for filling in.
  • chilled dough, a well-floured surface and well-floured rolling pin are the secret to clean edges and easy-to-transfer sugar cookies.
  • use cool pans – even a little bit of heat will affect how the cookies bake.
  • let the cookies cool for a couple minutes on the baking sheet before transferring to a wire rack – i did a few too soon and they bent and cracked.
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it’s beginning to smell a lot like christmas

man, did the smell of these cookies take me back to grandma’s kitchen! she always made pfeffernusse for christmas and i got to help roll the cookies into balls. i made some of these last year but using a more modern version of the recipe where they’re ready to eat right away. traditional pfeffernusse are made around thanksgiving and then stored in a pillowcase until christmas. the cookies are soft right when they come out of the oven, but then harden – and over time, become soft again. time also allows the flavors to develop.

this is definitely a cookie that i appreciate more with age; while i loved helping my grandma make them, i didn’t actually like them as a kid. they are a spice cookie with fairly complex flavors, and my palate was more appreciative of grandma’s homemade peanut butter cups!

my mom wasn’t sure if she had grandma’s recipe, so i found a traditional german pfeffernusse recipe online that is basically the same. the black pepper and anise extract are what really makes these smell and taste like the legit pfeffernusse grandma used to make. i couldn’t find cardamom at the store, but otherwise followed the recipe exactly. my process is slightly different than grandma’s, as i’m storing them in ziploc bags to age rather than a pillowcase. 🙂 as i was making these, i wished i would have cooked and baked more with my grandma when i was younger. but, it’s nice to know that i’m keeping her spirit alive when i make her recipes.

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a sad thanksgiving

my family had a sad thanksgiving this year, as my grandma passed away on saturday. it was fairly unexpected, but we are taking comfort in the fact that she was sick for only a brief time and passed away at home, having seen many of her family and loved ones in her last few days. i’m so grateful that i made it home in time to see her on saturday afternoon, just a few hours before she was gone. she was adamantly opposed to going into a nursing home, so i am sure it all went as she would have wanted – had she made it through the weekend, she would have been going to the nursing home on monday.

for her memorial service, i made a collage of photos using a tri-fold foam board and some mod-podge. i used about half the photos i picked out, and the other half will be put on a bulletin board with a note that people may take a photo if they would like. after the service, i am giving the collage to my mom.

a sad project, but i’m happy with the way it turned out. lots of tears mixed in with the mod-podge.

grandma’s collage

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just eat it, eat it

that’s what i want to do with this cake! but alas, i can’t dive in just yet. the fella and i are headed to his folks’ for thanksgiving, and then mine, and i wanted to bring a treat for the festivities. since i’ve been trying to lose weight (and have lost 10 pounds so far!), i was on the hunt for a recipe that wouldn’t break the calorie bank. pumpkin cake to the rescue! this recipe uses greek yogurt instead of butter or oil, egg whites, and fat free cream cheese for the frosting. with 9 slices (the recipe says 16 but i think 9 is more realistic), they are only 285 calories per piece! the fella got a little confused at the grocery store and didn’t know that there is a plainer greek yogurt than vanilla, so i skipped adding vanilla to the batter. i hope it tastes ok! the fat free cream cheese doesn’t blend as nicely as the real thing, so next time i would probably compromise with a low-fat, rather than fat free, version.

update: this cake was gross. 😦 sad!

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low cal snack ftw

we bought a bunch of apples that it was clear we weren’t going to get through before they started to go bad, so i went in search of some low-fat apple snacks to make with them. enter cinnamon and sugar apple chips! slice up some apples, sprinkle cinnamon sugar on them, and bake. how easy is that?

they do take awhile and unfortunately, my bedtime arrived before they were *quite* finished. so, some of them were still a little soft and not the intended crunchy texture – but still delicious!

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baby, it’s cold outside

so obviously, i needed to crochet yet another hat, right? i’ve been wanting to make a newsboy hat for quite awhile. despite looking at seemingly hundreds of patterns, i never found one that i liked – or if i did, the projects on ravelry discouraged me because they either didn’t look that great or people said they needed to heavily modify the pattern. then i found this pattern, complete with tons of successful project photos and comments, so i decided to give it a try. i love it! it took about 3 hours and the instructions were very easy to understand. the only modification i made was leaving out one row at the end of the main cap because i didn’t want it quite as slouchy. it’s perfect! haven’t added buttons yet because i didn’t have any laying around. maybe i will add some eventually, but this is wear-in-public-worthy as is. the brim was pretty floppy originally, so i shaped it and sprayed on some starch and that seemed to do the trick. the fella isn’t always a huge fan of my crochet creations, but he even thought this was a pretty stylish hat!

fer cute!

 

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