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Fabric and cookie mold fun December 17, 2008

Posted by jeninmaine in Crafty, food, sewing.
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Oh, fabric. How I lurve thee. I’m going to start sewing some skirts for myself as the ones I own are quite tattered and I haven’t seen anything I like in the stores. I’ve become a big fan of Amy Butler fabric, it’s just all so damned happy. I’ve also got a couple of vintage repros in there too for good measure.

In other exciting crafty news!

Cookie mold project

This is a cookie mold. Traditionally used to make Springerle cookies, but can also be used with clay to make other fun things, in this case xmas ornaments I plan to paint and give as gifts. I can’t take credit for this one, it’s all Martha.

(Excuse my bad photos – I just slapped everything out on the dining room table which is why I’m using one of kidlet’s placemats as a backdrop.)

I decided to start simple and just got the one mold, though it has three motifs which appeals to the thrifty part of me. I got the mold from House on the Hill and it’s very nice. My only gripe with it is that it’s cast resin and has a brown finish applied to it, presumably to make it look like wood. Frankly it smells weird and I would have been just as happy if they hadn’t added the finish at all. I’d like to make actual cookies with it (they included a recipe booklet, yay!) but think I’ll have to wash it a number of times first.

The clay I used is called Paperclay and isn’t actually clay at all – it’s non-toxic and smells like Elmer’s white glue so I’m guessing it’s just glue and paper. You can find a number of recipes online to make your own. I bought a package at the craft store and then found the Creative Paperclay website where I got a variety of their products to try out for a lot cheaper. For my inaugural endeavor I used the Creative Paperclay.

I just grabbed a ball of it, mashed it a bit with my hands, then smooshed it into the mold. I covered the whole thing and made it a somewhat even thickness on the back. To flatten the back I turned the mold over and pressed the back into the placemat, though if I wanted to be even more of a perfectionist I could have used a rolling pin.

Then, I turned it over and carefully pried the clay off. You can use a mold release spray to make this process easier but I’d like to use the mold to make cookies so opted not to get it as it would render the mold unsuitable for food use. The paperclay itself is non-toxic.

Cookie mold project

I cut out my designs using a round fluted cookie cutter. The paperclay did a nice job picking up the small details in the mold.

Cookie mold project

If I had some eyelet screws on hand I could have screwed them into the shapes before setting them out to dry, but alas I didn’t have anything handy this time around. Maybe next time. I lay them out on a piece of parchment paper to dry overnight.

Cookie mold project

Once they’re dry I’ll sand down the crumblies at the edges and then paint them with acrylic paint. The molding portion of this project was so quick and easy – ten minutes, tops. I did notice that the second time the clay stuck a teensy little bit in the mold so I cleaned it with warm water and a toothbrush, then set it out to dry. Since I’m not using mold release I think two castings is the maximum between cleanings.

I was thinking of making the ornaments and also making cookies and packaging them both together as a gift. What do you think?

This would really be a fantastic project to do with kids – the clay is light, easy to use, and not at all messy (though I personally had a squicky moment when it dried on my hands, I have tactile issues with things like that), making the molds is fun, and painting them is something a kid would love to do. I looked on the Creative Paperclay website and found more project ideas – they even describe how to make your own simple molds using rubber stamps and foam sheets. Too cool!

Now I want to go around my house finding things to mold the paperclay onto! I also want to try out the other two varieties I got to see how they come out, and I picked up some good old Das (remember that from middle school art class?) at the craft store which is a lot heavier but would make a more substantial piece. I also saw 25# boxes of clay for fifteen bucks…tempting! I need to find some rubber gloves if I’m going to continue messing with clay, however. Eugh.


O Tree December 15, 2008

Posted by jeninmaine in kidlet.
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O tree

Test baking? For real? December 10, 2008

Posted by jeninmaine in food.
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This xmas we plan to make things to send to people – in years past it’s mostly been my duty (which I assign to myself, mind you) to organize and perform any baking and/or crafting for gifts, though last year Michael did help in the packaging which was a huge relief. This year he brought it up which surprised me a little but if it means he’ll head up some of it then yay!

In any case we made a decision to find some silicone bakeware to use in this endeavor. We searched far and wide for cute shaped pans to no avail. Finally we chanced upon one snowflake cupcake pan at A.C. Moore and a large bundt at Target but that was all we could find. I went online and found a large flower cupcake pan and some mini bundt cups on Target.com. But then a week later when I was in Marden’s they had a HUGE display of Wilton silicon bakeware, the exact same stuff we had seen at Bed, Bath & Beyond (in fact they still had the BBB price tags on them, blacked out with permanent marker) so I picked up some bread pans, cake pans, muffin pans, mini muffin pans and madeleines as I’ve always wanted to make those, all for around 70% off. It so figures that the one place I wasn’t looking specifically would have what I wanted. Needless to say we now have a HUGE amount of silicon bakeware where before we had none at all. I also scored a really nice Nordicware small rose muffin pan – even though it was non-stick aluminum I had seen the same rose-shaped cakes at Kate’s wedding and really liked them, so finding it at Marden’s for $15 instead of the retail price of $38 was very exciting to me :D

I was a little leery of silicon so I did some Googling and found that it’s considered to be very safe – silicon is inert so it won’t combine with food when heated (as long as you don’t heat it above 500 degrees) and even if it were ingested it would pass through the body without being absorbed. That’s why it’s used inside the body for medical purposes due to its safety. I felt better about using the pans after reading up on them.

In a sudden fit of preparedness I decided to do some test baking tonight. Ready for the pictoral?

Okay, first up: Banana Muffins. I used a new, really horrible recipe that I am not at all pleased with. I won’t use it again. In any case I tested out the Wilton brand muffin and mini muffin pans on a double batch of that crap recipe, here’s how it went.

Mini muffins:

Baking Experiments

They browned very nicely on top though they sort of resemble little popovers. Oh man, I could use these to make popovers! I love popovers. I poked a couple to see if they were stuck.

Baking Experiments

No sticking at all! The only thing I noticed is that since I had them on a steel cookie sheet the bottoms browned more than I was expecting. In the future I’ll either put a Silpat on top of the cookie sheet and under the muffin pan, or bake for a little longer at a lower temperature.

Next were the standard size muffins.

Baking Experiments

Again, pretty perfect! They were on a small cookie sheet (the only thing that would fit in the oven beside the large cookie sheet) and you can see how the tilted pans made the batter rise sideways. Kind of neat.

Baking Experiments

And again, slightly over-browned but no sticking at all. I waited until the pan was cool (about 1-2 minutes), then was able to easily grab the muffins with my fingers and put them on cooling racks. The muffins were still too hot to handle, however, so I will know to wait longer next time.

But as I said, they tasted kind of weird.

Baking Experiments

Wilton Easy Flex Mini Muffin Pan: A
Wilton Easy Flex Muffin Pan: A

Let’s check on Brigid.

Baking Experiments

Brigid: A+

Next up: Spice Cake (a recipe I have used with much success). I mixed up a double batch of batter, which was very nearly too much for my mixer.

Baking Experiments

For this round I was using a generic brand flower muffin pan, a Wilton snowflake muffin pan, the Nordicware rose muffin pan, and with the extra batter I decided to try out a few of the KitchenAid mini bundt muffin cups.

Baking Experiments

Baking Experiments

Baking Experiments

Baking Experiments

I was able to cram the two silicone muffin pans in the oven along with a couple of the mini bundt cups, but the rose muffin pan was too wide so it had to sit out and wait. I hoped the batter wouldn’t flatten while it sat. I put the remainder of the batter into a few more mini bundt cups and on a lark popped them in the toaster oven at 325.

Toaster oven mini bundts:

Baking Experiments

These very surprisingly came out just fine. I was concerned about the heat sources being so close to the cups but they didn’t have any trouble. The cakes were slightly browner than their conventional oven counterparts but weren’t overcooked. This is a good thing to know should I ever need to whip up something last minute while the oven is already being used.

Soon after, the silicon pans came out of the oven.

Baking Experiments

Everything looked pretty good. The conventional oven cakes were more even on top (bottom), but otherwise nothing too earth-shattering. I shook out the mini bundts from the toaster oven and from the conventional oven.

Baking Experiments

The toaster oven bundts were slightly browner, due no doubt to being so close to the heating elements. Still, they baked all the way through and didn’t suffer any ill effects.

Baking Experiments

The conventional oven bundts also came out of the molds with very little problem (there were a few crumbs stuck to the center piece but nothing drastic) even though I had forgotten to spray oil into them before filling. Very cute!

KitchenAid Mini Bundt Muffin Cups: A-

Then it came time for the snowflakes and flowers. I was so excited as my experiences thus far had been positive…

Baking Experiments

Baking Experiments

Oh – oh my. EPIC FAIL.

Baking Experiments

I tried to pry one out while it was still hot and saw it would be a disaster, so I waited until it cooled but the cakes were still so firmly attached to these things I had to turn them inside out. I had followed the directions and used spray oil on the pans just as I did with the muffin and mini muffin pans, yet the batter stuck horribly. The details on the snowflakes didn’t show up at all on the few pieces that managed to come out intact, and the flowers had some detail but not very much. It looks like I had some lumps of brown sugar that didn’t get dissolved and that wreaked havoc, nonstick spray or no. The cake was very light and fluffy and delicious, just fugly and non-giftable. I did, however, detect a slight “plasticky” taste in the flower cakes. Blech.

Wilton Mini Snowflake Silicone Mold: F
Silicone Zone Flower Muffin Pan: D-

Last but not least, the timer beeped and I took the Nordicware pan out of the oven. It looked innocent enough:

Baking Experiments

But I was convinced that I would end up with another pile of crumbs and chunks of half-demolished spice cake. I let it sit for a bit to cool and then prepared to turn it over on the cookie sheet and shake it to loosen its load, employing a plastic spoon to pry out what I could.

Baking Experiments

Much to my surprise the moment I tipped it, all these perfect little rosebuds just tumbled out with a sound like tinkling fairy laughter. I think I even saw glitter. Could it be? Could conventional aluminum (albeit with the cheat of non-stick coating) be the way to go? Let’s get a closer look.

Baking Experiments

They really did look very good. With the exception of a few air bubbles I neglected to knock out they were perfect. Firm and nicely shaped and with lovely detail.

Nordicware Sweetheart Rose Muffin Pan: A+

Mmm, spice cake.

Baking Experiments

Baking Experiments

So there you have it. I’m going to do some more sleuthing to try and figure out what would work best with those shaped silicon pans – it’s nice to know I can at least use the muffin pans without fear, I hate paper muffin cups so it’ll be nice not to have to deal with them any more. I can make all sorts of breakfast muffins and treats to stash in kidlet’s lunch box.

Now I kind of want to get the Nordicware pan I saw at BBB that makes cakes shaped like a train, or maybe the big castle! I’m so easily amused.

Addendum: I was cheesed off that I spent $24.99 (gasp!) on that Silicon Zone flower pan, so I wrote to Target at like 1:30am telling them how awful it was and that I didn’t think it was worth the money. This morning I found a very nice email from Target apologizing for my bad experience and issuing a refund for the pan plus tax. Wow!

Target.com Customer Service: A++!

Crafty talk and yarn pr0n January 22, 2008

Posted by jeninmaine in bebeh-to-be, kidlet, knitting.
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I have been slowly picking away at the Hobbit hole that is my craft room the past couple of days – I see this as nesting, essentially. It also means I’ve been slowly unearthing all sorts of things I forgot I owned, which is great as I was so sure I would need to go out and buy them.

Like small dpns, for instance. I mean, I’d still love two sets of every 5″ Brittany dpn sizes 1-6, but I was able to find alternatives that will tide me over until such a happy day will come to pass. A few years back I bought a bunch of lots of knitting needles from eBay and had them all squirreled away upstairs so I was pleasantly surprised to find 7″ dpns in 0, 1, and 4 that I didn’t know I had. I also discovered two different packages for 5″ size 3 Brittanys with just one needle in them. I don’t know what happened to the other eight. Oh well, I’ll just tuck them away in case I break one.

I also found a full set of Brittany cable needles! I keep losing the darned things so being able to compile the stragglers into a full set was very satisfying.

I did a swap on Ravelry recently and my swapee DalaiMama sent me the most coolest package, she is made of awesome:

Secret Santa Swag! (by jeninmaine)

– Cheeky Monkey card
– big pink lips bath gel
– Hello Kitty “biscuits with chocolate creme” (already consumed)
– funny pin reading “I childproofed my house but they still get in”
– Orange gummy candy (she hit that one on the head, I LOVE THESE THINGS)
– cake tissues
– crazy cymbal-crashing chicken candy tube (my son has already laid claim to the toy once I eat the candy)
– Socks That Rock! I’ve never had a skein of Socks That Rock! It just so happens that DalaiMama hates earthy colors and I love them so this worked out quite, quite well.
Yarn: Socks That Rock by Blue Moon Fiber Arts
Color: Petroglyphs
– at the bottom edge you can see where my baby belly wanted to get in the picture too.

I haven’t sent my package out to her yet (hangs head) but I am nearly ready to do it! For some perspective on just how absent-minded I am, here’s a photo from Monday 1/21 of kidlet helping me send out xmas cards.

Putting kidlet to work! (by jeninmaine)

Um, yeah. Better late than never?

Tonight I went to the craft store to get some boring stuff like buttons and rattail cord. Yawn. I was using a gift certificate I got from xmas, however, so I decided to actually buy a skein of yarn at full price just because I liked it. I know! I literally almost NEVER buy anything full price, I always wait for sales or only delve into clearance/oddball yarn.

But this was just really pretty:

Araucania Ranco Multy (by jeninmaine)

Araucania Ranco Multy (by jeninmaine)

Yarn: Araucania Ranco Multy, Color 310, (sock weight, 376 yards, 75% wool, 25% polyamide)

I am not at all sure what to do with it, but then again I have a huge yarn stash that can attest to my tendency to get glassy-eyed when I see bright colors.

Oh yeah, and I finished a hat using two strands and size 8 needles to go with those booties but I’m not sure I like it so I’m going to knit another one using one strand and smaller needles, but a larger size in the hopes it’ll fit better. One hat will end up going to my coworker, the other I’ll keep for the bebeh-to-be. Photos soon.

A few little thingamabobs. December 29, 2007

Posted by jeninmaine in beading, food, sewing.
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Things that make me happy:

I am still quite in love with my Senseo coffee maker. Not that I drink all that much coffee these days, but it is a wonderful little machine and you can’t beat getting it for free.

Things that make me happy (by jeninmaine)

What I like to add to my coffee, and the silly little chipped cup I found at Goodwill for fifty cents. I love this cup, and I love the retro sugar bowl that belonged to one of our grandparents, I don’t remember which any more.

No, I don’t add butter to my coffee…that just happened to be there.

Things that make me happy (by jeninmaine)

Today I had a slight blockage.

A slight blockage (by jeninmaine)

Tell me just how I’m supposed to work?

Tashi really likes my halogen desk lamp. Combat Seasonal Affective Disorder in kittehs!

A slightly different perspective to illustrate just how soft and round the blockage is.

A slight blockage (by jeninmaine)

Last but not least, here’s one of the ornaments I was working on that never got given out at xmas. Oh well, maybe next year, I was too busy baking.

Star ornament (by jeninmaine)

I made this from recycled corduroy from a pair of pants I found at the thrift store.

I used a star cookie cutter as the pattern, did a quick blanket stitch around the outsides, stuffed with recycled wool (actually the wool fuzz I collected from the lint trap after felting a bunch of wool sweaters), then embellished with some beads.