Community Christmas Tree

Every December, a giant tree is placed on a little grassy area near my apartment building. An organization that was formed for the “beautification” of the street I live on used to host a tree-lighting ceremony, with music and free hot chocolate. They did it for two or three years, and then I guess they decided it wasn’t worth it because the next year, they placed a tree with gold lights and that was it. In 2011, and again this year, they didn’t even decorate the tree, they just plopped it down. It’s dumb.

I’ve decided that this year, the tree is going to be festive and beautiful, just as it should be. I bought some ornaments from a dollar store and made around 20 red bows to hang on the tree. Since the tree is so big, I’ve decided to ask the community for help. Today, I decorated the tree with the ornaments I had and hung a sign asking the people of the neighborhood to hang any sort of ornament on the tree. Right now, the ornaments are pretty sparse, but with any luck, my neighbors will think it’s a cool idea and add something of their own to the tree.

Picture time!

Here are a couple of the bows I made, because I'm super happy with how they turned out. Does hanging them on the tree count as a yarn bombing?

Here are a couple of the bows I made, because I’m super happy with how they turned out.

This is the sign I hung up in front of the tree.

This is the sign I hung up in front of the tree.

The tree! You can barely see the ornaments, but they're there!

The tree! You can barely see the ornaments, but they’re there!

I’m hoping to make a few more bows, but my car died so I can’t add any more store-bought ornaments. I’m really happy with the project and I hope my neighbors like it as much as I do!

UPDATE: Three days after I put the sign up, the city and/or the group that erected the tree took down my sign and decorated the tree themselves. They had a tree-lighting ceremony with free hot cocoa. Good for them. But my idea was better!

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Blog Merging

When I started this blog back in January, I planned to keep it completely separate from my personal life. I wanted it to be like one of those blogs that people looked to for ideas and advice about a specific thing. I figured I’d post a bit while I got better at crocheting and then really get down to it, adding tutorials and everything.

It very quickly morphed into just a place for me to dump stories pictures of all my crafty things, which I ended up liking better than my original idea. I realized I didn’t want anything super serious after all, and I was happy just to have a place to post about my creative side each week.

It’s changing again. Starting now, I’m not going to try to post on a schedule. I’m not going to strictly post about crafts. I’m going to post whenever I want and whatever I want, including some personal things. I don’t plan to get too heavy, but it won’t be all rainbows and unicorns.

I have a personal blog that I posted in a few times, and I’m going to move the posts to this one (keeping their original dates, so they’ll be backposted). I purchased a domain name based on the name of my craft blog, but when it’s time to renew, I’ll be changing it to something more neutral.

If this change loses me some followers, that’s okay, I totally understand. I know that the majority of you started following me based on my crochet or baking posts, and now that those posts may not be as frequent, there may no longer be a good reason for you to follow me. I’ve never been concerned with my number of followers or anything, so don’t feel bad if you have to go. And thanks for hangin’ with me while I crafted!

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My Favorite Summertime Craft

I have struggled through the past few summers here in Connecticut because I’m always too hot to do anything. The heat is so different here than in California. It’s so humid here, I feel like I’m swimming all the time. My hands get restless. I need something to work on, something to do. But I hate crocheting in the summer. All that warm yarn, ew. I suppose I could work with thinner yarn, but I prefer the thicker stuff. Baking is another summertime no-no. If I had central air, or even an air conditioner in the kitchen, things might be different, but as I learned while baking my birthday cake in late June: my kitchen is pretty much the worst place EVER during the summer. The heat from the oven is too intense when it’s 90 degrees in my apartment and the humidity is at 100%. With the exception of friendship bracelets (which can be annoying to make and usually don’t hold my interest for long), I never had a good summer craft.

This year, I’m happy to say that I have finally found a favorite summertime craft. Cross stitching! The fabric I use is light, the floss isn’t thick and warm, and it’s all very portable. I’ve always wanted to paint or draw, but I’m terrible at it. Cross stitch is a way for me to express myself, and I love it. I’ve been working on a lot of different stuff and I managed to finish my biggest project the other day. It’s a scene from Fez, a fantastic Xbox Live Arcade game. It’s 112×98 stitches (10976 total) on 14ct aida cloth.

The little guy is named Gomez, and I really love his happy face. It was made to be stitched! He’s jumping up to collect a cube, which is a main goal of the game, so as you can imagine, he’s pretty stoked about it. I took a picture every day that I worked on it, for a total of 19 pictures, and put them together in this gif:

I really like the idea of making gifs for all my big projects. I love being able to watch it all come together like that.

I’m also working on some smaller projects, including a few magnets, and even some pins. I’m happy to have something new (and not too warm) to do :]

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Spritz Cookies

I decided to try making spritz cookies, so I bought a cookie press on ebay. When it arrived, I didn’t have the ingredients necessary to make a batch of dough, but I was too excited to wait. The instructions that came with the press said I could use ready-made sugar cookie dough, and luckily, I had some! They did warn, however, that cookies made with sugar dough wouldn’t hold their shape as well as cookies made with spritz dough, and that turned out to be quite true. They looked fine at first, but the shapes were definitely not very defined after baking.

Sugar cookie dough:

See how you can’t really make out the shapes? They were tasty, but boring to look at. Decorating them was a lot of fun though!

Not long after that, I was able to make the trip to the grocery store. I got the ingredients necessary for Fresh Orange Spritz Cookies. The dough was nice and soft, not too sticky, and it made a ton of cookies that held their shapes very well. I added maraschino cherry halves to some of the flower-shaped cookies before baking. As for taste, there was a perfect hint of orange that I figured would be great with chocolate, so I drizzled melted Wilton Candy Melts over some of them them. They were delicious!  Unfortunately, I was unable to get a very good picture of them before they were eaten and given away :/

I found that both batches of cookies were pretty hard on the first day, and I liked them a lot better the next day, after they’d softened a bit. The cookies with maraschino cherries were the best, and I plan to make an entire batch of those sometime in the near future. I’m also interested in using flavor oils and food dyes to make one batch of plain spritz cookies and split it into several flavors and colors.

I really enjoyed making these cookies and using the press. My advice to anyone trying them out for the first time: give yourself plenty of time to bake and decorate them. While they only bake for 10 minutes or so, it takes a long time to make so many, and an even longer time to decorate. By the end of the night, I was soooo tired, I was just drizzling chocolate without paying attention to how it looked. I’d rather make designs with the chocolate, so I’ll be starting much earlier in the day next time!

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Cake Hump Trifles

When you bake a cake with plans to decorate or even just frost it evenly, you have to level the cake. Some people do that with a knife, others with a cake leveler. After the cake is leveled, you’re left with not only a nice even cake, but leftover scraps of cake. I call those scraps “cake humps,” and sadly they are usually thrown away because I’m too busy with the cake to eat the scraps!

I asked my Wilton instructor what she does with the cake humps and she told me about trifles, which are amazing layered desserts. She said she freezes her cake scraps, and when she has enough, she uses them in a giant trifle which she then takes to a family or work function. I don’t have much room in my freezer, so I decided to make mini trifles out of just the scraps from the tiered cake I made last week.

Using wine glasses, I cut circles in the cake scraps. I layered the circles with the leftover whipped cream frosting and strawberry filling, and this is the finished product (please excuse the crap on the table):

 

You can create all sorts of delicious desserts this way. I’m excited to make more trifles with all the different flavors of my leftover cake scraps, fillings, and frostings. If I come up with any good combinations, I’ll be sure to post about them!

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