DIY Cheese

In one of my random Etsy browsing sessions, I came across a miniature Do it Yourself Cheese Kit.  The cuteness of the package had me especially intrigued.  So I snatched it up and decided to try making cheese for myself.  I have been pretty unsuccessful with making my own (good tasting) yogurt.  I have a yogurt maker and I still cannot seem to perfect it.  I expected my first cheese-making experience to be similar.  But I followed the directions and made a masterpiece!  It ended up tasting like a hard mozzarella cheese, if I had to describe it.  I cannot wait to experiment more with cheese making.  There is something very magical about adding the citric acid to the milk.  And so very easy.  If you have tried it yourself, I would love to hear your advice for future attempts!

 

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Homemade Hot Chocolate Mixes

Last year for small Christmas gifts I made vanilla extract and sugar.  I had to create them well in advance of the holidays and it ended up working out really well.  This year I decided to make hot chocolate mix in a jar.  It seemed even easier than the vanilla extract, but I underestimated how busy I would get during the holidays and how messy loose powder can get.  I bought 16 ounce jars from Specialty Bottle.  If I did it again, I would definitely go with the 8 ounce size, mainly due to the amount I gave out – it was a lot of ingredients.  I used the recipe from this website, with the cayenne pepper and cinnamon.  I loved the taste of it!  I should have made a jar for myself!

 

 

I created the tags using my Quickutz dies and printer.  A little Stickles made them glittery.  And you cannot see it in this photo, but I packed each jar with marshmallows for the top.  It helped keep the powder down in the jar and made it cuter.  I saved some (empty) jars for next year so I can do this again.  I do recommend it if you are looking for a nice gift, just keep your quantities low and do it well in advance of the holiday madness!

Christmas Cookies and Christmas Tags

Last night was the third annual Christmas party with my local scrapbooking group.   It is a great way for us to see each other during the month of December when we know we do not have extra time to crop for an entire day.  For the past two years I have made a pumpkin chocolate chip cookie, but this year I decided to mix it up.  I made Soft Nutella Chocolate Cookies, a fudgy decadent cookie.  It was like a brownie batter, but just dense enough to form into cookies.  Next time I will make the cookies a little bit smaller and actually save some for myself to try!

 

We also added a Christmas tag exchange this year.  First, we swapped materials well in advance.  Then we made 12 tags and swapped at the party, receiving a new set of 12.  Here are my before and after photos.

I used my Cuttlebug and Quickutz dies to create the scalloped circle.  Everything else came together so quickly with the paper and stickers provided.  I added a few Stickles to give it some bling.  Overall, the party was a great success!  Looking forward to eating my cookies and using the new tags this season.

Peach Muffins

Well I didn’t want to go all week without a blog post.  I have been doing plenty of crafting, just no finished products to show you lately.  I am in the middle of knitting a sweater.  Spinning my way through my fiber sampler, 1 ounce at a time.  Making cards at card club.  And finally getting around to trying out these pins from Pinterest about the wonders of “Blue Dawn,” baking soda, and vinegar.  They really do work, you just have to find the motivation to clean!

 

But anyways, today I wanted to share some baking I have been doing.  Lots of fresh peaches this week in the CSA fruit basket.  I have plans to make a peach cobbler and I always include some of the fruit in my morning smoothies.  Tonight, fresh out of the oven are peach muffins!  I added cinnamon as recommended by one of the reviewers.  And where have I been – these muffin pan-free liners are amazing!  Fourteen muffins instead of twelve.

 

 

Hope you are enjoying your in season fruit this summer!

Crafting Goals for 2012

A week into 2012, I think I am ready to commit to my crafting goals for 2012.  I always enjoy hearing other people’s goals before I make my own, so these are very inspired.  And it is time to pick a new word of the year!  Last year the word was “relax.”  That worked well until December when I had a lot of gift knitting to do.  This year the word is going to be “mindful.”  I really want to be mindful during my crafting and enjoy the process.  Besides gift knitting, what is the rush, really?  And yet I always seem to get too deadline oriented with things that are supposed to be fun.  So I will be “mindful” when I am crafting in 2012.

My goals for 2012 are relatively short because it will be a very busy year professionally.  I will be writing my dissertation and getting ready to go on the job market.  So I am going to relax on the goals for 2012.

List of 2012 Crafting Goals:

  • Knit a lace weight sweater for myself without being concerned about the deadline.
  • I have enough yarn for two lace weight sweaters and one fingering weight sweater.  It is about time I start one of these!  For you non-knitters, this is a big goal because I will be knitting something big on tiny needles with thin yarn.  But I am really excited about it and will enjoy the process as I go along.  Now we will have to see when I actually cast it on.

 

  • Become consistent with my spinning.
  • I learned how to spin on my spinning wheel in 2011, so now it is time to actually become good at it.  I want to be able to knit with the yarn I spin in 2012.  I already have lots of fiber to practice with, which relates to the next goal.

 

  • Keep track of my fabric and yarn this year with the obvious goal of using more than buying.
  • Last year I kept track of my fabric and that really worked out well.  This year I want to keep track of my yarn as well.  I will try to do weekly check ins with the yarn since I knit much more than I sew.  But I am already on a “yarn and fiber diet” until Camp KIP, so hopefully I will be able to stick to knitting more than I buy.

 

  • Enjoy my gift crafting!
  • This may seem like an obvious goal, but strangely I like to stress myself out about projects for other people.  Especially where a deadline is concerned.  So this year, with one upcoming wedding and one baby on the way among my friends, I am going to not get stressed out, but enjoy the crafting.  I am looking forward to knitting for a new baby and testing out some new techniques.  And I will not be crafting furiously the night before the wedding – I refuse!  Either it is getting done early or on time.

 

  • Grow something new (successfully) in the garden.
  • Last year was my first attempt at a vegetable garden and I really enjoyed the process.  There were some issues with slugs.  And starting things from seed is difficult.  But I am looking forward to a new year of gardening.  And I would like to try something new this year.  Not sure what yet!

I think that will be plenty for 2012!  Looking forward to another great year!

How to Make Vanilla Extract and Vanilla Sugar

This year for Christmas I wanted to make something special for my friends and family.  Something small to give as a fun gift.  I found the idea for making vanilla extract and vanilla sugar from several sources online.  I convinced a friend to go in on buying the beans and glassware with me to split.  I made fifteen of these gift sets.  I highly recommend that you make these next year!

 

Recipe for Vanilla Extract:

  • 1/2 vanilla bean (any flavor)
  • 1.7 oz of vodka (or the amount that will fit in your bottle)

Put the two ingredients together in your bottle.  Let it sit in a dark place for 8 weeks or longer.

 

 

Recipe for Vanilla Sugar:

  • 1/2 vanilla bean (any flavor)
  • 1 cup of pure granulated cane sugar

Put the two ingredients together in a jar.  Let it sit in a dark place for 8 weeks or longer.

So glad these gifts went over so well with my friends and family!

A Day in the Kitchen

I rarely spend time cooking or baking – clearly I am busy with other activities!  But I have a wonderful chef in my house who makes us dinner on a daily basis.  And I spent a lot of time cooking and baking as a child and teenager.  I was in a few bake-offs and contests for fun.  There really was not much else to do.  So once I got past all the basics, made homemade bread, pie crusts, meals, etc – I was pretty much done.  But once in awhile I get inspired.

First, the Yarn Harlot posted an emergency soup that sounded delicious.  So I made that for my lunch today.  And it is beyond delicious – I cannot even explain it.  Used a potato masher instead of an immersion blender and chicken broth instead of vegetable stock.  Thank you to her for introducing me to leeks – where have I been?  What a great substitute for onions.  And my photo looks just like hers:

Then later today I am attending a cookie exchange among my scrapbooking friends.  Of course I had to make my favorite pumpkin chocolate chip cookies.  Five dozen total!  Cannot wait to try everyone else’s cookies.

And since I had so many leftover potatoes from the soup, I decided to make these potato chips.  I used ground white pepper and onion powder for the seasoning.  I think it still counts for cooking even though it mainly involved the microwave.  Now you know my standards.

And after all of those delicious comfort foods, I should probably make a salad.  Nah.  I will have sorts of crafty things to post over the next few weeks with Christmas approaching!