Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Christmas goodness

I ended up giving soft tree gifts in trios: One large felt white tree, one red felt tree with a single vintage black silk and wire leaf, and one Tiffany dumpster felt tree with embroidered white stars. I like the way the look as a grove.

Next I got to work making us stockings (better late than never). I cut them out with pinking shears from some lovely wool felt.

I sewed a vintage red velvet flower and black silk leaves on to mine. Joe liked the idea of holly leaves and berries so his have some made from felt and vintage buttons. I made Harlan's with a festive tree and star, complete with an antique gold leather covered button that my grandmother gave me a pack of years ago.

Next, I got super busy in the kitchen. All of Saturday was spent baking and making nougat.

Homemade candy and cookies are always appreciated as gifts, aren't they? Joe had to run off to Target to buy me a candy thermometer, and even then the nougat required two tries. I followed the recipe from Martha's holiday magazine issue, and as I have found in the past, her recipes are not always properly edited. What would you think if you read the following?
"Cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, about 5 minutes. Wash down sides of pan with a wet pastry brush to prevent crystals from forming. Reduce heat to medium-high; cook, stirring occasionally, until mixture reaches 242 degrees on a candy thermometer, 3 to 5 minutes."
I took this to mean that after stirring and cooking for five minutes I should reduce the heat and cook another 3 to five minutes until 242 degrees was reached. Well, it turns out that the only thing necessary to remember is the 242 degrees as an end point. My candy thermometer reached 242 after the candy boiled for only about five minutes, and so after cooking another three minutes I had to dump the whole first batch and redo it. Oh well, live and learn. It came out so soft and marshmellowy, I had to keep it in the fridge once I cut and wrapped up the pieces. Perfection.
Next I baked four kinds of cookies from the holiday issue of Everyday Food. It was all cookies. I had seen the little magazine on the check out line at Pathmark a few weeks back and saw that a great looking recipe for giant ginger cookies was inside. I have been searching for the perfect ginger cookie recipe for a while, and for some reason I did not buy the magazine. Lo and behold, the entire issue was published online so I was able to download a bunch of recipes for free. Perhaps Martha did this for me to make up for the vague nougat direction. Thanks Martha!

After the ginger cookies were complete, I moved on to the black bottom coconut squares. When I finished baking them and allowing them to cook I had to perform the requisite poison test and discovered that they were a bit dry. To jazz it up I melted some Ghiradelli bittersweet chocolate and smeared it across the top. I think it may have been overkill, but the end result was like a fabulous, high quality Mounds bar.

The pumpkin chocolate chip squares followed (sorry, no photo, I packed them all up before I took out the camera), but I can assure you that they are divine. Soft and pumkinish and very, very, chocolatey indeed. Last I made a batch of chocolate espresso snowcaps and I ended up using ground coffee from Tillie's instead of the instant espresso called for. The cookies tasted extremely coffeeish but combined with the intense chocolate flavor this worked out O.K.

I thought that since we were on the topic of chocolate that I'd show you the great Japanese chocolate candy I got for Joe's stocking at the Sunrise Mart. I went there in search of the elusive green tea Kit Kat. No luck. Instead I found these lovelies which don't taste half bad considering their origin.

A merry Christmas was had by all, and everyone loved all the goodies I made. Harley J. even got to have a ginger cookie and some pumpkin square. He thinks he's hot stuff now that he can pull himself up and do a victory dance. It amazes me how much that kid smiles. I hope it lasts forever.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Just in the nick of time

I might be a little late to the soft trees party, but at least I made it. I showed you the red one earlier and told you about my Tiffany felt dumpster trees, but here they are in the flesh, along with a sweet black button tree. The Tiffany trees are gifts (all but one) and I may add a couple of large red sweater trees (sans green ribbon) to go with them. Don't you just love pale blue and deep red together? I know I recently posted that I was done making gifts for people, but apparently I had forgotten that it was Christmas.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Mama went to Coney Island and all I got was...

We had a good time this evening making t-shirts for our parents for Christmas gifts. A brief visit to Photoshop and some iron-on transfer paper and voila! An arduous trip out to Coney Island was saved. After we made the designs for our parents' shirts we could not resist making some for ourselves too. I just need to buy the t-shirts now and then we'll iron on the designs. I must admit that the real inspiration for these pictures comes from the coal mining couple from this season's Amazing Race. If you noticed, the t-shirts they wore (not the ones that brilliantly said "Friends in Low Places") had pics of their kids and said, "Daddy's Lil Devils" and, "Mama's Lil Devils". I'm a total copycat.

Friday, December 15, 2006

How do you like that apple?

I have finally put up some decorations, not a moment too soon. Because Harlan is still going to work every day by opening and closing all the cabinets and pulling down everything in his reach, we did not get a real tree. I put up my old standby- the tinsel tabletop tree, and pulled out all the tiny colored glass ornaments that I've collected over the years. Aside from this I indulged a bit and purchased a bunch of new decorations from here which I found while reading angry chicken. I covet her snowmen, but the one I purchased instead was a beautiful silvery mercury glass snowman, holding a tiny brush tree. Unfortunately they were out of him forever. Instead I got a slew of goodies that are basically remakes of 40's and 50's designs, including this cute 'lil reindeer. I put him up next to the brush trees and the one soft tree I have completed that is not intended as a gift. I sent one to my mother-in-law and am making some more for my aunt and uncle out of some Tiffany felts that I dug out of the dumpster when I worked there eons ago (it sounds gross, but the dumpsters I'm talking about where only ever filled with felts, bubble wrap, and other similar supplies that were not able to be used with new items for whatever reason. I originally had a dream of making a giant duvet cover with them, but never quite collected that many).
I hate to say it because I bring it on myself, but I'm starting to feel resentful that everything I seem to make lately is a gift. I have a long list of items I want to make for myself and Harlan and Joe, but there seems to always be a birthday or new baby or Christmas, and due to the severe free time shortage in my life these days, there is not ample opportunity to create for myself. My new year's resolution is to have every other craft project be for myself. That's right, I am pledging to become more selfish, how do you like that apple?
Luckily the global warming let up for a couple of chilly days last week, and Harlan got to finally wear the sweater I made for him while I was pregnant. I got the pattern from a 1940's knitting magazine, and while I followed the directions perfectly, the sleeves came out pretty baggy.

I am excited to begin teaching my knitting class this January over at Brooklyn Play Spot. It may be a bit challenging to try and teach knitting while simultaneously entertaining the wee rascal, but I think I can do it. After all, once you have taught a bunch of rowdy teenagers in a self-contained classroom all day, you can basically multi-task with the best of them.
Now for a business update: My "mother" tattoo baby t-shirt is on the front page of Etsy, as a hand-picked item! I'm so excited, but also a bit perplexed as to why so few of my pieces sell there for the sale price, when they fly off the shelves at boutiques for twice the amount. I wonder if it's because mostly craftsters are on Etsy. Hmmmm.... I am also still awaiting the launch of irepresentfashion the site that is going to launch on amazon and sell my goods. I've been looking forward to this for a while now, but it seems to be taking them a bit longer than expected to launch. I suppose that probably happens with most web businesses. Meanwhile I have an exciting new computer and so I am going to have to quickly teach myself the latest version of Dreamweaver so that I can update my site and make it more professional. This should really be my #1 priority these days.

Sunday, December 3, 2006

When Park Avenue moves to the hood.

Oooooh baby! Vicky's moves in up the street at the Atlantic Center. Now I can buy my diamond push up bras without having to go into town. I remember when the Atlantic Center was a full square block of dirt and parked cars owned by LIRR employees. The rumors flew around Fort Greene about what would be built when the mall finally opened. A movie theater would be great! How about a bookstore? Yeah, I heard Barnes and Nobel's was going to be there for sure. Well, with the exception of Target (whose entrance is not on the Fort Greene neighborhood side, ensuring that it is not in fact a real neighborhood store) everything else in this new mall is a real bomb. Chuck-e-Cheese (or "Chunky Cheese's" as I've had strangers on the street ask me for directions to), Mandee's and the Men's Warehouse were not exactly what anyone I know here was hoping for. I admit I was excited for the Stone Cold Creamery to open, and even a bit giddy to discover that the forty three teenagers behind the counter periodically break into song when the mood strikes them. But then after about the third time I purchased my small I like it sized cup of oatmeal cookie and found myself visiting the bathroom several times too many the following day, I realized that the love affair had come to an end.
Now there is another rumor flying around the hood. Word on the street is that a 7-11 is planned on opening in place of the dry cleaners on Lafayette and S. Cumberland, directly across the street from the beloved Lafayette Grocery & Dairy. When I heard the news I thought it must be a joke. A 7-11 in our neighborhood? On this beautiful street filled with historic brownstones and smoke filled chimneys? Isn't there some kind of law against such blasphemy?

I can't say I don't entirely believe that it's possible. Recently a restaurant who shall remain nameless so that I don't face any type of libel suit has moved in right next to our beloved Academy diner. All this new place sells is burgers and fries, except that if you want to buy a burger and fries at this new place, it will cost you almost $10 instead of half that amount if you just walked into Academy instead. The staff at Academy are friendly as can be and the food is as tasty as any good old Greek diner fare. All I have to say about this new $10 place is THE NERVE of some people. Actually, the other thing I have to say about all of these new developments is contained in the title of this entry. A while back on a local message board a new neighborhood tenant asked for advice about a neighbor who played loud music on the street. Another poster replied, "That's what you get when Park Avenue moves to the hood". It was by far the best post I had read on this message board where people are friendly and generally non-confrontational. It's always good when someone is not afraid to shake things up and tell it like it is. I met the poster of this great line a couple of weeks ago and ran into her again today. I fessed up to remembering her post and then realized that perhaps it was another case of Violette-Crumle-foot-in-mouthitis as she simply stared ahead and said that may have been her. Oh well, I never claimed to be entirely diplomatic.

Hello, it is you I'm looking for!

This is an image of where my recent activity has come from. Not bad considering I have only told one friend about this blog. I am obsessed with how the Internet has created so many new communities throughout the world and I love that I can partake. At my last full time job I worked in advertising production in a photo studio and there was a good amount of downtime. I spent countless hours on Craigslist, doling out advice to strangers on romance and talking about food and politics instead of watching the clock on the black walls. It turns out that many other people were stuck in offices with plenty of time to waste online, and within a couple of months my social life included all of these new friends whom I would not have met without this newfangled magical Internet invention. I am so happy to still have them in my "real" life. Blogging opens doors to communities as well, which I suppose is what I'm doing with this one. I know I ought to take the plunge soon and try spreading the word but for now I'm just waiting to see who stumbles upon it. Cuba? Africa? The Ukraine? Whom in these places has read about the stupid chicken pillow I picked up at Do Reams? I hope that you will say hello, either by posting a quick comment or by sending an e-mail to let me know you are out there.