Saturday, August 31, 2013

Inspiration Saturday: Fantasy Registration 2013

Where's the line between nostalgia and masochism?  Because I just can't help but look at the course catalogue for Sarah Lawrence College around this time each year, even though I know very well that I have used up my punch card for the number of times I can take the list of every interesting class and cross-reference it with the schedule and come up with a shortlist for interviews.  And yet I still make the list.

Here's my list this year.  It isn't complete, because I knew I was creating it for this blog rather than for an upcoming academic year (hey, it's shorter than last year!), but it's sprinkled with all of the fascinating subjects that make me long for independent wealth and limitless time:

I think the class which is torturing my particularly is Writing, Radio, and Aurality.  I've become quite the NPR nerd over the past few years, and I would love to do some writing specifically with spoken performance in mind.  I did a reading or two of my fiction while in college, but I suspect like most writers I've tended to think of my words as being read far more than being heard.  Also, the instructor is Sally Herships, and I've heard her reporting on NPR numerous times.  Including Marketplace, which means she could know Kai Ryssdal.  I want to know Kai Ryssdal.  I would squee like a giddy schoolgirl if I met Kai Ryssdal.

But I'm not a schoolgirl anymore.  That doesn't mean I can't be giddy, though.  So rather than let this list make me sad for all of the round table discussions that I won't be having, I'm going to take it as a guideline for a little self-study.  Because there are no rules against teaching yourself.  I'll just channel all of this energy into the 400+ pages I have left of Jonathan Franzen's 'Freedom', and planning my writing for this year's NaNoWriMo efforts.

See, I managed to pull the inspiration out of that in the end, right?  For more inspiration, go to Alicia's new and improved Woolen Diversions.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

WIP Wednesday: Game, set, ply

There are two themes to this week for me.  First, it's back to school, as I noted in my movie review on Monday.  But perhaps more excitingly, it's time for the final grand slam of the tennis season.  A stone's throw from my alma mater in Flushing Meadows, the US Open is two weeks of day and night tennis that you want to enjoy as much of as possible, because it's got to last you until the Australian Open next year.  So instead of the usual mix of HGTV, Food Network and Bravo, it's a steady stream of tennis that's been playing in the background of my crafting for the past few days.  And soon I'll add some college football to that as well.  Ah, fall, how I missed you.

The foreground of my crafting hasn't really changed much since last week.  I'm still plying the fourth of five cops, using my frozen yogurt bowl trick.  I'd still like to properly document this, but here's a very fuzzy picture of what it looks like.

It takes a lot of skill to ply and snap an iPhone photo, let me tell you.  You'll have to excuse the cute skull pajamas and fuzzy slippers, I like to craft in comfort.

I've also added a few more inches to the second sleeve of my cardigan.  Once that's done, it will be time to block and sew.  And then comes the beaded ruffle.  Hopefully this will get done before they install that roof on Arthur Ashe stadium...

For more WIP Wednesday posts, visit Tami's Amis.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Cubicle kitchen: Strawberry Oatmeal Cookies

I didn't grow up eating oatmeal.  There was a German porridge-type dish that I loved which is apparently basically baby food, as well as Weetabix drenched with warm milk sprinkled with sugar, but I didn't really get into true oatmeal until a few years ago.  It started with those instant packets that come in various flavors, and then I ventured out into the canisters of plain oatmeal that I could add my own flavors to.  

When I was buying those boxes of instant packets, I don't think I ever guessed that one day I would be making my own savory oatmeal for dinner on a regular basis (as I am tonight).  And while I eat oatmeal regularly, I almost never use those instant packets anymore.  So what to do with them?

The answer is what it usually is: bake with them.  There are plenty of oatmeal cookies out there, and it only took a quick Google to find out that no, using flavored instant varieties would not so heinously throw off the delicate chemistry within my oven that the cookies would burst into flames.  Even so, I chose to use a recipe specifically written using it as the ingredient, just so I wouldn't have to consider/worry about the added sugars or powdered dairy product or anything else.

And, of course, the advantage of oatmeal cookies is that they are so obviously a health food.  So you can have two.

Strawberry Oatmeal Cookies
Recipe from Modern Day Mom: Instant Oatmeal Packet Cookies

My notes:
  • I used strawberry-flavored packets of instant oatmeal and added about 3/4 cup additional freeze-dried strawberries.
  • Of the many textures of oatmeal cookie you can have, these are chewy.
  • The flavor from the instant oatmeal is noticeable but not strong, making it prime for flavor pairings, like substituting some of the butter for peanut butter and extra jelly for PB&J, or amping up an Apples & Cinnamon packet with extra spice and applesauce as a butter substitute.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Movie Madness Monday: All I Wanna Do

Today is the first day of school for a lot of the kids here.  For them it means the end of waking up at noon and the start of the dreaded homework and pop quizzes.  For me it means that morning traffic is about to get heinous.  So we're both not thrilled about their return to academia.

Putting that aside, though, it reminded me of a movie I can share with all of you.  It's not available on Netflix Instant, sorry, but it is on DVD.  It's a 90s movie with a lot of faces you might recognize, and a couple of titles.  I know it as 'All I Wanna Do', but it's also been billed as 'Strike!' and 'The Hairy Bird'.

I discovered this movie while it was rotating around basic cable, one of those random finds that becomes a favorite.  The girl power-fueled hijinks remind me of another troublesome boarding school, St. Trinian's, which was an old British series first of children's books, then 1950s comedy films, and recent reboot movie a few years ago.  The older movies are part of the influence spending half of my summers in the UK had on me.

Though this is another all-girls boarding school at risk of closing if not for the scheming of the students, Miss Godard's girls operate less on a system of chaos and anarchy, though.  Instead, this is a movie about a group of best friends who use their wiles to help each other survive their personal and academic battles in the 60s.

Kirsten Dunst leads the gang of girls, pretty much all of whom I've ended up seeing in other movies or TV shows.  Gaby Hoffman is the new kid whose been sent there in a parental attempt to keep her from sleeping with her boyfriend.  The other girls each have their own lofty life goals, from founding a fashion magazine to becoming world-renowned psychologists or biologists.  That doesn't make them above a few pranks, though.  While it's a fun movie, it's also very sweet, with and a good mix of silly with a side of serious to give the characters depth.  It also has a dash of feminism that I love to see.

And in solidarity with the unfortunate youths that are having to set their alarm clocks now, I even wrote an Examiner article for them about what not to use as a shortcut in writing book reports.  Do yourself a favor, kids, just read the darned book.

You know the drill, make this blog post a double feature by reading Amaryllis Musings' review for this week.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Inspiration Saturday: Patterns for my fabric stash

Since last week, I haven't actually sewn a stitch of my new fabric stash, but I have made some progress towards being someone who sews.  Mostly by collecting patterns and looking at the pictures.

I picked up two basic-looking patterns from Half Price Books last Sunday, but didn't find any pattern books worth investing in.  I did find Jonathan Franzen's Freedom on clearance for $1 so I grabbed that and have started reading it.  As a person, I'm not sure I like him, but so far as I writer I do, so I'm trying to focus on that.  'Don Quixote' is in reading hibernation for the moment.

I've found many more patterns online.  First I found a group of fellow sewing enthusiasts on Ravelry, and from them I found some great links to skirt patterns.  I've also done random searches of Google and stumbled upon highly educational Pinterest pages.  I'm so close to taking the leap with Pinterest, but so far I'm just bookmarking things and avoiding the craft enabling that that site is.

Here are a few of the projects I've found myself drawn to:

  • Proof that a simple quilt can be sewn from a fellow blogger at the fickle pickle.  This also has a great link to another tutorial about quilting, which I'll probably use as a resource for when I make my own.  Except I'm using a variation inspired by Polkadot Chair's brick quilt.
  • I really like the idea of this kimono top, but I wonder if it could possibly look as nice in reality, or if it would just turn out like a huge sack.
  • This party skirt from Creative Spaces is just too, too cute.  I have to make it.
  • A cute little mini book tote, probably too mini for 'Freedom', seeing as it's a 562-page hardcover.

So now I have the stash, and I have some patterns, all I need are the actual skills!

For more inspiration, check out the new home of Woolen Diversions.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

WIP Wednesday: If MacGyver spun yarn...

One of the joys of crafting can be the beauty of the tools.  Beautifully turned knitting needles, resin drop spindles full of glitter, and polymer stitch markers cute enough to make even the more torturous lace pattern bring a smile to your face.  There are some very high highs when it comes to the aesthetic as well as practical value of the things we craft with.

Flying a little closer to the ground, you have the kinds of tools that we put together ourselves out of necessity.  After all, when you are making your own sweater, and then making your own yarn for making your own sweater, the idea that you would make your own tools doesn't seem all that strange.  Unlike that handknit sweater, though, the tools we make don't always look worthy of bringing into work and showing off to a group.

I've already shown you my plying machine made from paper towel and toilet paper rolls and a trouser hanger.  And while that seemed to work fine, I think I came up with something even better in the second half of last week.  Unfortunately, I don't have a photo of it for today, but I'm very tempted to write up a tutorial for Examiner, so maybe you'll see it soon.  Until then, I'll try to describe it.

First of all, it involves frozen yogurt.  Well, not the actual yogurt.  The paper cups it comes in, and the domed plastic lids you can put on those cups if you are taking your yogurt to go.  You just cut two notches across from each other in the cup, place your center-pull ball in it, pull each end through a notch, and snap the lid into place.  Ta-dah!  You have a mechanism that allows for both ends to unravel from the ball without getting tangled up in each other, while at the same time allowing you to remove the top and extract the yarn when you reach the end/middle.

Keeping this ingenious device in place with my feet, I was able to ply up another cop in just a few days, bringing my grand total to three of five.

Right after plying, the DIY toolset continues with my PVC noddy-noddy:

It's not pretty, but it does the job.  And let's face it, the yarn is all the pretty I need.

What are your favorite tricks for homemade tools?  Where do you get your ideas?

For more WIP Wednesday posts, go to Tami's Amis.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Cubicle kitchen: Cornmeal Cookies

Wednesday is a day of contradiction, because in the same afternoon I bring in a tasty baked good I also go visit the gym.  I make these worlds not collide because I also give the trainer at the gym one of the leftover treats.  There has to be a reward for all that working out, right?

Along with the fact that my cakes and cookies are generally only good for your soul and not so much for your body, she's always chiding me for not making something gluten-free.  She's recently discovered that she's sensitive to gluten, so I'm not only tempting her with fat and sugar, but also gluten.  Obviously she's not completely intolerant, I'm not actually trying to do her harm.

Anyway, I was sorry to report to her that yet again my treat was not gluten free.  It does, however, essentially swap half of a cup of all-purpose flour with corn meal, so it's...gluten-lesser?  That's not the reason these cookies are made with corn meal, however.  The courser meal gives the cookies a sandy texture, and they are almost shortbread-like.  It may well be the simplest treat I've made in a while, but it was no less tasty.

Cornmeal Cookies
Recipe from Bake or Break: Cornmeal Cookies

My notes:
  • I ended up with 27 cookies rather than the full 30, just because I guess I'm a generous tablespoon-er.
  • Otherwise, that's it!  I just followed Heather's great directions, plus an extra sprinkling of cornmeal on top.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Monday Movie Madness: Freakonomics

I thought this week I would go with something educational.  A little entertainment fiber to help you digest any recent reality show binging you might be doing.  But hopefully the kind you still enjoy watching.  Like the way I love Brussels sprouts, and they just happen to be really good for you.

This is another instantly Netflix-able film, Freakonomics.

I haven't read the book that made this economist-journalist duo famous, and it isn't really necessary in order to enjoy the movie.  It's composed of several mini-movies each made by a different documentarian taking on a topic from the freakonomics perspective, which generally means taking conventional wisdom and pummeling it with statistics until a hidden answer emerges.  Undoubtedly the most controversial segment involves analyzing dropping crime rates in conjunction with the legalization of abortion, but I found the segments on the importance of names and whether students could be bribed into good grades to be really intriguing.

With this movie, you're getting bite-sized chunks of interesting information that invite you to take a second look at things you think you know.  And it shouldn't leave you feeling utterly depressed about the state of the world.  Which, trust me, can be a downside to many documentary viewings.

And if you like the movie or the book, I also recommend tuning into Marketplace on NPR when they have their their Freakonomics segments, usually with journalist Stephen Dubner schooling Kai Ryssdal.  It's a regular Wednesday segment, and it's one of the perhaps unlikely reasons that I look forward to working out on Wednesdays, because it puts me in the car driving home at just the right time to listen to the show at 6:30 on KUT.

And hey, if you're 'being good' and watching a documentary, that means you can indulge on the concession stand candy or popcorn, right?

Thanks again to our lovely host, Heather, and you can read her review this week at Amaryllis Mussings.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Inspiration Saturday: A pre-emptive stash for sewing

I feel like I've been keeping something from all of you for the past week, living a kind of lie by omission because I didn't tell you.  It's hard to find that balance in blogging between preparing posts ahead of time and feeling like they are updates from a few days ago to everything on the fly and barely haven't time to type something up.  So despite the fact that this happened last weekend, you're only reading about it now.  Sorry.

Anywho, so last week I was randomly browsing some Ravelry forums and came upon a post informing the 'multicraftual' that some Austin fabric stores were having a Shop Hop over the weekend.  Intrigued, I clicked on the provided link, and that was the beginning of the end.  It was similar to the yarn crawl, but with six fabric stores in the Austin area over the course of the weekend, with discounts to be taken advantage of and prizes to be won.  I immediately pointed my mom to the same site, and our plans for the weekend were set.

Here's where I should admit that before the hop I didn't consider myself to be a sewer.  I did a little hand-sewing as part of a math class in middle school (ah, the joys of finding ways to teach math with a substitute teacher), but otherwise I've relied on my mother to help me make simple drawstring project bags for knitting and the like.  It was one of those 'I'd like to do that sometime' crafts.

After last weekend, the time is now.  Because I have gone from having practically no fabric to having a full-on stash.  The tote bag that came with the 'passport' for the hop is full and heavy with the cutest prints that are destined for various projects.  I've already shown them off to some coworkers in this week's klatch, so now I'll do a little of that here, though I haven't taken pictures of everything.  I know I need to do that, but right now planning projects, knitting my cardigan and spinning yarn are winning over getting the camera out.

So for now, just a few teasers from those fabrics that you can find online.  Bunny's Designs was the store I was most excited about, because of this description:
Austin's largest selection of Japanese imported fabrics, notions, and toys! We have kawaii, traditional, modern and vintage prints from Cosmo Textiles, Kokka, Lecien, Echino, Yuwa and many more. Normally, we're online sales only, but during the Shop Hop you can visit our Japanese Wonderland in person! 
How could I resist?  Short answer: I couldn't.  Longer answer: we stopped in twice on Saturday because I couldn't resist so much.  If you don't want to resist either, some of the fabrics I bought are still available in her Etsy store.  Like this print, which I bought in four different colorways:

Is colorways the correct term?  I'm new here, I only know that it's adorable and reminds me of Tokyo.  I am still very much missing that awesome city, so any reminders make me happy.

Also cute, this time from Form & Fabric, another store that is usually online-only, was this pillow panel from Laurie Wisbrun:

You can also get this from the designer on Etsy as a kit.  How could I not get fabric that called back to knitting?  Love that llama!

And finally (for now), I have grand plans for 16 fat quarters I bought from Remnants Fiber Culture.  They are all from Jay McCarroll's Center City line.  Jay will always have a place in my heart as the winner of the first season of 'Project Runway', but I really do love this fabric in its own right, and it's going to make the most awesome quilt.  The line is divided into three themes: Uptown, Midtown, and Downtown, which are basically different colorways of eight patterns.  I have 16 of them, with at least one from each.  A few beauty shots from Jay's site:

I'm so excited to start this quilt, I've done a lot of calculations and doodles on graph paper to start the planning.  The next step is going to be cutting out the squares.  Well, actually, rectangles, I'm going to lay them out like subway tiles to continue on the urban theme of the fabrics themselves.  Did I mention I was excited?

Okay, so I think I've already more than made up for the delay in this groundbreaking news with this essay of a post.  I promise to let you know when I make progress in this new-to-me craft beyond just stashing the pretties.

For more inspiration, go to Woolen Diversions.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

WIP Wednesday: One cop, two cop, good cop, bad cop

Ah, the innocence of last week!  What was that I said?  Oh, right:
I'm hoping I can get this plied and finished over the weekend.
I was just a child then.  Bygone, carefree days of optimism.

Now apparently I'm a melodramatic teenager complaining about how hard life is.  Because I'm remembering the fun that ensues when you start unwinding your cop and ply it.  It's not as simple as it sounds, mostly because the singles really, really want to twist up onto each other before I'm ready for them.

To avoid tangles and tears, there are a number of strategies I've read about on various Ravelry threads.  I'm thinking that I'll be trying a different one on each of the five cops I have, but all two-plies.  So far, I have one finished hank of yarn by taking the center and outer end of the cop and wrapping that around a toilet paper roll.  Unfortunately, that made for a labor-intensive plying process that involved my mother helping with her own present by untwisting it as it came off of the roll.  I think I needed more tension as I was wrapping.  But even though it took longer than expected, it still looks lovely:

I haven't done all of the measurements, just washed, dried, and twisted into a little baby skein.  It's still amazing to me when I'm holding a finished hank like this.  I made that!

I've started on the second cop with a new strategy, this time using a paper towel roll.  I wrapped the center and outer end of the cop around the roll, keeping them on opposite ends.  The roll is now on one of those trouser hangers, so it can rotate relatively easily as I need it.  Here's a really bad photo of the set-up:

When you're a crafter, you have to be a bit of a MacGyver.  So far, this solution is working better for me.  I also have another cop that I have rewound into a center-pull ball on my ball winder to then be wound onto a two-ply tennis ball.

Wish me luck as I just keep spinning, and for more WIP Wednesday posts, visit Tami's Amis.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Cubicle kitchen: Cinna-mini Rolls

One of these days, I'll be brave and bake something that involves yeast.  But today is not that day.  Today is the day that I share a recipe for cinnamon rolls for those of you who, like me, still life in fear of the fermenting and the gases and the rising and the proofing.

What I love about these kinds of semi-homemade recipes is that having eliminated the fear that the finer points of the science will work, you are left with the art of experimentation by using the ingredients you have on hand.  I made a few substitutions to these minis, even though I maintained the original flavor.  After making these once, I can't help but imagine all of the possible flavor variations.  Like dried cranberries and orange zest instead of raisins and cinnamon, or dried cherries and cocoa.  I don't suppose they make chocolate crescent dough?  I'm disappointed in you, Doughboy. 

I may not be a fearless yeast master, but I can still make some tasty treats.  And in the meantime, I have other things to be proud of: I ran two miles in the afternoon heat today after getting home, and last week while I was running on the treadmill at the gym I answered a Final Jeopardy question correctly!

Yeast should be shaking in its boots...

Cinna-mini Rolls
Recipe from Pillsbury: Mini Cinnamon Crescents

My notes:
  • Instead of spreading melted butter and then sprinkling sugar and cinnamon, I spread cinnamon honey butter onto the dough.  I warmed some of the butter a little first to make this easier.
  • I used golden raisins.
  • Instead of making icing using powdered sugar and apple juice or milk, I made a yogurt icing with plain yogurt, powdered sugar and cinnamon.  It's creamier than an icing, but doesn't set like a frosting.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Monday Movie Madness: McLintock!

I've never been a big watcher of Westerns.  I've seen 'The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly', but otherwise it's just not a genre I've spent a lot of time with, unless you count 'Blazing Saddles'.  Because of that, there's only one John Wayne movie I've ever seen, and it's my recommendation review for this week's post.

'McLintock!' isn't a drama with a lot of tense close-ups and high noon shoot-outs, it's a comedy Western that's on Netflix Instant now, available on DVD, and also appears occasionally on cable TV.

Whenever it is on, I'm bound to stop and watch for a while.  Wayne is the titular McLintock, G.W., a cattle rancher with an estranged 'city gal' wife, Kate, played by Maureen O'Hara.  They have a love/hate relationship that isn't really PC, but I just have to suspend my feminist response until the credits end.  Spousal spanking in real life is disturbing, in a 1960s Hollywood flick it's a comedy relic.  There's a plot about Indians and settlements, but that's all just a means of getting these two to spar.  And their daughter follows suit with her own romantic entanglements.

This movie is a family favorite, so much so that my mom has named a crocheted penguin after G.W.  Meet our version of McLintock:

She brings him along on various adventures and takes his picture.  Eventually, she wants to knit him a ginger companion to be his Kate.

With the crafting seal of approval, I think this movie is more than worth of a mention this Movie Madness Monday.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Inspiration Saturday: Strictly Ballroom knits

On Monday I wrote my first Monday Movie Madness post, extolling the virtues of Baz Luhrmann's first film, 'Strictly Ballroom'.  I toyed with the idea of adding, along with my review, a pattern to go with the movie.  In the end, I didn't just because I was eager to push 'Publish', so I'm returning to that idea now and looking at just a few patterns that have that little bit of flair for the dance floor.

Photo credit: Qiwen Heng
Why did collars never occur to me as a way to use novelty sequin yarn?  Now the next time I see some in a clearance bin, I'm going to snatch it up!  And the pattern is written in an interesting way as well.  I might try it out just on 'normal' yarn in a crazy variegated colorway, it seems like a great way to use up short yardage.  And I could always add my own bling since I'm now in love with beads as well.

Photo credit: Artwear Publications
Another stashbuster for leftover yarn that can accommodate my addiction to crazy colorways.  This comes from a back issue of Yarn Magazine, an Australian publication.

Photo credit: Yarns in the Farms (from their flickr)
A knitted skirt you can twirl in will always inspire love from me.  In fact, any skirt that twirls when you spin in it makes me happy.  Because in more ways than one I will always be a little girl playing dress up and make believe.

I think the lesson from Baz's movies that can we can apply to knitting are to embrace every over-the-top tendency you have.  Knit in as many wacky colors or sparkles as make you happy and smile with every stitch.  And don't be afraid to 'make up your own dance moves' and alter patterns.  A life knit in fear is a live half lived!

For more inspiration, go to Woolen Diversions.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

WIP Wednesday: It's time to ply

Yet again, I've made a random movie reference in my post title.  This one should be read like a lost boy about to try various ways to turn a grown-up Peter into a flying Pan again, a la 'Hook'.  Onto the post!  Last night, I finally spun the last bit of fiber fluff into a single ply.  And I continue to marvel at the art deco gorgeousness that is a neatly-wrapped cop:

I'm so close to finishing this yarn, I can taste it.  Except not really, because I don't think my mom wants me licking her handspun.  Blood, sweat, and tears go into handmade items, but not saliva.  I will reserve my licking for frozen yogurt.

I'm hoping I can get this plied and finished over the weekend.  I'm planning to do a simple two-ply technique, pulling from the outside and inside of the center-pull created by my spindle.  The main reason I like this is because you know that you're going to have two even ends to ply together, you aren't going to end up with one that's six inches longer than the other.

It would be really nice to get this done, not just to have the yarn to finally give to my mom, but to allow me extra time to hopefully finish my cardigan by the end of this month.  Because I'm finding myself really tempted to participate in the swap I'm moderating that will start spoiling in September.  It's called Alphabet Soup, and the idea is that everyone will get the name of someone to spoil, and a letter to theme their package around.  So they'll be making packages 'brought to you by the letter __'.  It's already inspiring lots of ideas, these swaps can be the most fun because they're a puzzle in and of themselves.

But first, I have to put the final pieces together of this yarn.

For more WIP Wednesday posts, visit Tami's Amis.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Cubicle kitchen: Frosted Gingerbread Cookies

There are many different kinds of cookies, not just in flavors, but in textures.  Soft, chewy, cakey, crispy, crunchy, full of chunks, rolled in sugar, frosted, or just a simple dough.  Some people have favorites, but I think that every cookie has a place on the plate.  Why limit yourself to one or the other when you can bake one and then the other?

Take for example, ginger cookies.  You have ginger snaps on one end of the spectrum, and from there you can go all the way into cake territory with gingerbread (like this).  Now might not be the traditional time of year to be playing around with gingerbread, but I love warm spices whether they're for Christmas, or Christmas in July.

I think these land closer to the cake side, being slightly chewy, but very soft.  And, of course, there's the frosting.  I like to think of these as a gingerbread version of those Lofthouse frosted sugar cookies that are always so tempting when I passed them in the bakery section.  Recipe-wise, this isn't too impressive a post, because it's just the combination of preparing a mix with a fat substitution, and using leftovers from a past recipe.  But taste-wise, these are delicious.

Frosted Gingerbread Cookies

For the cookies:
I used a Gingerbread Cookie Mix, substituting the butter for half the amount of plain yogurt.  Otherwise, prepared as directed to make drop cookies.  The dough was extremely sticky, so be prepared to take mess-mitigating action, like chilling the dough and keeping a bowl of water nearby to keep hands wet.

For the frosting:
What I used was actually leftover frosting from Gingerbread Cubed, made from Blue Bell's Gingerbread House ice cream.  After making those, I froze 2-3 cups of frosting in an airtight container.  After defrosting, I used about half of that on these cookies. That recipe came from Culinary Concoctions by Peabody: Ice Cream-Buttercream Frosting.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Movie Madness Monday: Strictly Ballroom

Heather at Amaryllis Musings has started up a new weekly blog series for movies on Mondays, and I figured I would jump in.  I love watching movies, even if sometimes I can go months between trips to the theater.  For me, it's more about the DVD collection than the ticket stub collection (though I have one of those, too).

When I went away to college, I brought a ridiculous share of my DVD collection up with me, because I couldn't imagine not being able to watch one of my favorites whenever the mood struck. And whenever anyone wanted to get together and watch a movie, I always had plenty of options for them to choose from.  It may not be the kind of college partying most people do, but I always loved the nights spent watching a movie in my dorm room with my friends, eating Chinese delivery food.

I hesitate to call anything I write about movies a 'review' because I feel like that puts the pressure on me to make an objective judgment about this movie, when all movies are so subjective.  So instead, I'm just going to share some of my favorites with you, in the hopes that maybe a few of them might become your favorites as well.

For my first post, I'm going to talk about a DVD that's had quite a few spins in my player.  It's also currently available on Netflix Instant.  It's 'Strictly Ballroom':

Before Baz Luhrmann was remixing pop songs into love ballads for 'Moulin Rouge' and reimagining 'The Great Gatsby' with a hip-hop beat, his first film was just as loud, brash, and colorful, but on a much smaller budget.  This film is actually an adaptation of a stage play developed by Baz, and apparently he's bringing it back to the stage next year in Sydney.

It plays with the same sweeping mythology that he always loves, this time coming from stories like David and Goliath, The Ugly Duckling, and Cinderella.  Set in an Australian ballroom competition.  Because the other thing Baz loves is sparkle and flair.  Unlike his other films, however, this one doesn't have as much self-consciousness about that flair, it feels like it's only ever-so-slightly heightened from the level of drama normally found on the competitive dance floor.

That may be a really nice way of saying it's not pretentious.  I love Baz and his over-the-top style, but I know it can be a bit dizzying for others.  So don't dismiss this film if you're one of those people.  For one thing, he didn't have the equipment for as many crazy camera moves and CGI.

There's a long tradition of the transformative power of dancing in film, from pulling Baby out of a corner in 'Dirty Dancing' to bringing Pat back to sanity in 'Silver Linings Playbook' more recently.  This sweet romantic comedy holds its own, and I would consider it one of the best of the genre.

So that's it!  Enjoy the movie, and remember: Vivir con miedo, es como vivir a medias!

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Inspiration Saturday: This is not what stash busting looks like

I may have conquered that inexplicable ability to control my calorie intake, but there's still a resolution I seem to have trouble with: stash busting.  Any time resolutions are being made, I seem to aim for reducing my collection of yarn and fiber.

There are, however, two forces at work against this endeavor.  First, I never seem to have enough time to make progress on my projects.  Not being a speedy knitter, I need more than the moments I can snatch after work to really turn around WIPs each week.  And then, there's my inability to resist the temptation of buying new yarn and fiber.  I can't help it, they are just too pretty to leave behind when I go to fiber festivals and yarn stores!  I think it's just time to accept that I'm not going to live up to any of those resolutions.

So this week's inspiration are two purchases I made that are not so much stash busting as stash building.

Having completed Tour de Fleece, I'm still spinning my yarn from that effort, but there were some fiber artists offering special discounts in their online shops, so I took advantage of one from BohoKnitterChic and added this lovely to my fiber stash:

A golden yellow, the touches of brown and blue along with the sparkle make me think of 'Beauty and the Beast':

With a reminder of one of my all-time favorite movies, how could I possibly be expected to resist the superfine merino, bamboo, and silk noil?

I ordered that a week or so ago and it arrived on Monday, after I made another non-busting purchase at Gauge Knits here in Austin:

The buttons were on sale, and then I found this skein of Bamboo Sheen Sport from Dizzy Lettuce that just went too perfectly to deny it.  I'm planning on making a cowl based on A Very Braidy Cowl, altered slightly to create three running cable braids, then using the gaps from the cables as buttonholes at the end.  I'm really tempted to just cast this on and knit something quick before completing my cardigan.  Maybe then I'll feel more like a stash buster.

But wait, there's more!  More Dizzy Lettuce, in fact:

I should mention that the reason we stopped into Gauge was a trunk show with Sea of Beads and Dizzy Lettuce.  She had a whole table of lovely things, plus a chair draped in still-drying hanks.  I love 'splotchy' colorways like this one, and I'm intrigued to work with linen for the first time.  It's mostly silk, so it's still very soft, and has a slight sheen in the sunlight.  I'm thinking a shawl with this, but not sure which one yet.

Just like a decadent dessert, adding yarn and fiber to my stash may not be in line with my resolutions, but sometimes, you just have to.  Cake can be run off, and cakes of yarn can be knit, eventually!

For more inspiration this Saturday, go to Woolen Diversions.