Saturday, November 9, 2013

Odds and Ends - Baking, Crafting, and Assorted Fall-ish Things!

Hello! I thought it would be kind of nice to take a break from posting beauty things and to take some time to talk about my other interests and the things I have been doing with (because of?) them! You can only talk about makeup/skin care/hair care for only so long before it all starts to run together.

As you may, or may not, depending on how far back you go in my blog, know, I'm big into crafting and baking; specifically crochet and cookies, respectively. I find crocheting to be very relaxing, and it's a great way to sit and watch Youtube videos while still feeling productive! Baking, too, is oddly soothing for me. Something about it being like edible chemistry really appeals to me, and having cookies to eat at the end doesn't hurt, either!

I also wanted to show you guys a few purchases I've made throughout the fall that don't really fit with anything else, but that don't warrant their own posts. So, without further ado, let's see what I've been busy making/baking/buying!
I wasn't sure what would be best to start with, so I'm just going to jump in and talk about some of the different things I've baked over these last few months! Some of these I've only made once, others I've made multiple times (especially the chocolate chip cookies, my husband requests them a lot). Cookies don't last too long in our apartment on their own, but I also like to bring some to share with my co-workers. I've started taking requests, which is kind of fun since then I get to bake things I might not have normally baked!

The most often requested cookie in our apartment is Grandma F's (last name withheld because I am paranoid) Chocolate Chip Cookies.
After getting married and becoming a fully-fledged part of my husband's family, I was finally able to learn the secret behind Grandma F's Chocolate Chip Cookies. My husband's family adores these cookies and they are quite good! Unfortunately, there is one aspect of Grandma F's Chocolate Chip Cookies that I will never be able to replicate and that is the type of baking sheet she uses. She has these weird metal trays that aren't technically baking sheets; they're very heavy and almost industrial feeling, if that makes sense. There's something about them, perhaps a different rate of heat distribution, that makes her cookies so perfect. I can't share the recipe with you guys because it is a special family secret, but I can say that there is one extra ingredient that isn't in regular chocolate chip cookies. This is just one random batch, but I make these quite a bit (my and my husband's co-workers like them a lot, too!).

These next cookies are white chocolate cherry shortbread.
I love cherries and cherry flavored things as well as almonds and almond flavored things, so when I saw this recipe in the BakeBakeBake Livejournal community, I knew I had to make them (recipe can be found here: ). These were a lot of fun to make, and very different from the type of cookies I normally bake (which are mostly the chocolate chip ones featured above). I really liked these, but my husband isn't a big fan of cherries or white chocolate so he didn't find them that interesting. I ended up giving a baggie of them to my parents when they came to visit; my dad liked them so much he polished off the whole bag. My mom only got to try one.

Another recipe I found on the BakeBakeBake LJ community that sounded tasty was for these "Funky Monkey" cupcakes with cinnamon frosting (recipe here: ).
 Without the frosting...
 and with! Please excuse my...unique piping job. I don't own any tips or anything so I just used a ziplock bag with the corner snipped off. We had a bunch of bananas sitting around that were getting a little too ripe so I wanted to use them up, but I also wanted to try something a little more interesting than banana bread. These are very simple to make and were delicious, even without the frosting (though I love frosting and won't eat cupcakes without it).

I also had some blueberries to use up (they were on sale and I bought a whole bunch because blueberries are awesome), so I made some blueberry bread!
This is just your typical "not-actually-a-bread-but-more-like-a-loaf-cake" fruit bread. The recipe said to sprinkle sugar on top to help form a crust, but as you can see, it didn't exactly work. Not sure if I used too much (which is possible) or what, but it didn't really affect the flavor or anything. I love fruit/veggie breads since they tend to be more moist than regular cake and there are few things more comforting than a warm slice with butter.

With Fall in full swing, I started making more Autumn-y flavored cookies, like these Pumpkin Bites.
I made some glazed and some unglazed, though the glazed ones were much better. These turned out less cookie like and more like bite-sized pieces of pumpkin bread like. They were very dense and chewy and had a definite "pumpkin bread" texture. They also ended up a little dry (when I was making them, the dough seemed way too wet so I added some extra flour which might be why) and they're not very sweet, though that was counteracted by the glaze (which is why they were better, at least to me). Not sure if I'd use this specific recipe again, but they were still pretty tasty.

I also made a more traditionally Christmasy cookie, but I think it works for Fall as well.
Peanut Blossoms! I used the recipe on the Land O' Lakes website and thought it was funny that I actually had Lo'L brand butter and eggs on hand so I could follow their recipe exactly. My husband loves these, though he didn't really care for the ones I used the limited edition Pumpkin Spice kisses on. The regular chocolate kisses held up nicely, but since the Pumpkin Spice ones are made of white chocolate, they got very soft and runny. It was weird.

Last, but not least, I also tried my hand at some sugar cookies.
I don't like sugar cookies, but these were requested by a co-worker and I wanted to do something different (well, different for me. Sugar cookies are about as basic as you can get). These are another special Grandma F recipe and I really liked it since I didn't have to roll the dough or anything; it's a sugar cookie you can drop! As you can see in the picture, some ended up a little underdone. Our oven is older so it doesn't heat evenly; it usually takes me a batch of cookies to "sight it in" since it's hot and cold spots seem to change every time. As far as sugar cookies go, these were quite tasty (I even ate one and enjoyed it!).

So those are just some examples (and by that I mean "the ones I remembered to take pictures of before they were all eaten") of some of the things I've been baking this Fall! I love, love, love baking and would do it all the time if I could (the only bad part is when you have to wash things afterward...).

How about some crafts? And by crafts, I mean things I've crocheted. I've been crocheting for...2-3 years now and I love it! It's incredibly relaxing and I love the fact that I can make useful things like hats, scarves, and sweaters. I used to be big into cross-stitching and embroidery, but it felt kind of shallow since there weren't many uses for my finished products besides decorations (though I still love to make Christmas ornaments every year). I have since rekindled my love of cross stitch since I found a way I could make accessories like necklaces and earrings with it, which is awesome. Again, this isn't everything I've crocheted over the last few months, just the things I got pictures of.

I love making amigurumi (little cute plushies) and thought I'd challenge myself one day and make plush of a videogame character. As you can see, I went with Felicia from Darkstalkers since my husband really likes her (also she's a cat and cats are sweet). She's not 100% accurate, but as close as I could get with yarn. Her hair took me forever since I wanted it to be super thick and full like it's supposed to be; I think I used one third to a half a skein of yarn. I made up the pattern as I went but didn't write it down, so not I'm not sure I could make a 100% perfect copy of this (I could make something close, though). My husband thinks I should try and sell these, but I don't think it'd be worth it, considering the amount of time I put into them. I'll have to see if I can streamline things ( would probably help if I wrote my patterns down so I wouldn't have to make them up as I went each time).

I also made some cute Halloween-themed things!
And candy corn! In traditional and Indian Corn colors (I don't like the Indian Corn ones since they're chocolate and they only good chocolate mellowcreams are Tootsie Rolls)! This was in early October and I was really feeling the Autumn/Halloween vibe. These guys lived on my desk at work (the candy corn's been replaced by a turkey, but the pumpkin is still there) and got a lot of positive comments, which was nice.

I had a lot of green yarn left over from my Isabelle Vest (which is almost done...) so I made a baby Cthulhu.
And side. These little guys are super cute with their big heads and stumpy appendages. I used this pattern and then added little legs to it. I've been feeling a little iffy about all the Cthulhu-love ever since I actually sat down and read some of H.P. Lovecraft's works (not, unfortunately, the story that actually has Cthulhu in is) since I feel like a lot of people miss the point of Lovecraft's Horrors; they're not really meant to be worshiped and they don't really care about humanity at all. The Elder Gods are malicious only in the way that we are compared to ants. We don't really notice, or care, if we step on them and destroy their homes (I mean, we do, because ants are awful when they get into your house, but you get the metaphor). Regardless of my feelings, I still think this little guy is adorable! And the pattern is really and fun so if you crochet, I highly suggest checking it out.

I also made some useful things! One of my most favorite things to crochet (at least when I'm not feeling ADD) are sweaters. I love sweaters; after t-shirts they make up the majority of my wardrobe.
This sweater was in the...Jan/Feb (?) 2013 issue of Crochet Today!, a crochet pattern magazine put out by Red Heart yarn (which is awful; don't ever buy it. It's not worth it. The only good yarn I've used from them has been the "With Love" series, but it's so expensive you're better off just getting Lion's Brand or something). There's usually at least one or two patterns that I like enough to help me justify buying it, but the most recent issue for Nov/Dec 2013 was really weak. I ended up not buying it, which is saying a lot since I've bought every issue since the March/April 2012 one. Anyways! I thought the heart detail was super cute so, after a color change (the one in the magazine is in different shades of purple), I went for it. My biggest challenge with crocheting garments is getting the gauge right (or, how many stitches per inch you need to make the measurements in the pattern. If you have the wrong gauge, even if you follow the patter exactly, you will end up with an incorrectly sized garment). I hate making gauge swatches so I generally avoid it, making a lot of sizing issues my own fault. I used Caron Simply Soft yarn for this sweater (in the colors Sage, White, and Strawberry), which I find to be a little thinner than regular size 4 yarn, so I used hooks that were one size bigger than what was called for in the pattern and I followed the instructions for a slightly larger than my size sweater (they usually provide stitch and row counts for sizes S-XL). Unfortunately, it still ended up a little too snug; I can wear it, but it starts to get uncomfortable after a bit. One positive thing, though, is that it seems to be stretching out each time I try it out, getting slightly easy to wear each time, so I could probably get away with wearing it.

And here are some infinity cowls!
 In a mix of greens...
 and pink and green! These are both made of out Caron Simply Soft since I had a bunch to use up from the sweater (and this totally random, untouched skein of a color called "soft green" I had that looks like a pale blueish-green). I like the chunkiness of these cowls; if they were full scarves it'd be too much, but they're small enough that it's just the right amount of thickness. I want to make a bunch in Sailor Scout colors (so the color of their skirts mixed with the color of their bows) and it works fine for everyone except Sailor Venus; I just don't think the orange/navy combo really comes across as her; I feel like an orange/gold combo would work so much better, but then it doesn't make sense if every other cowl is skirt/bow colors. I'm also not sure what colors to do for Sailor Moon, but I might stick with a traditional blue/red. Not sure.

Let's move on to some random things I've bought. Sorry that this post is all over the place; there's not really a theme here, except maybe "Fall".
Speaking of Fall, here's my first, and very traditional, candy purchase. As soon as they become available, I have to buy a bag of candy corn and a bag of mellowcream pumpkins. And only Brach's. While Brach's doesn't make the best candy corn/mellowcreams I've ever tasted, it's tradition. And also the easiest to find. I also picked up some Fall colored Hersey kisses (to make the Peanut Blossoms above) and special Pumpkin Spice kisses because I was curious about how they tasted. They're pretty good, but only if you like white chocolate since they're a molded kiss (unlike the regular chocolate ones which are made by the "kissing" machines). They're not really pumpkin-y, but they do have a nice, spicey kick. I liked them, but my husband didn't so I feel like these might be a polorizing candy. These are by no means the only candies I bought this season (I always have to get the Peanut Butter Kisses from Necco and I got the two special M&M flavors; candy corn and pumpkin spice, both of which are interesting and quite tasty), but these were the first.
I also got a box of Frute Brute, which was one of the two new Monster cereals re-released this year (the other being Yummy Mummy which I eventually also bought). I was really excited to get this cereal since it's cherry flavored, and that's not a flavor you get often in breakfast cereals (Yummy Mummy is a rarity, too, being an orange cream flavor. I thought it was taste weird, but it's surprisingly good). I got mine at Target since the retro boxes are way cooler than the other ones (and Target is just closer to my apartment). Overall, I liked this much better than Boo Berry for Franken-Berry, but I'm not sure I actually like fruit-flavored cereals. I seem to be much more drawn to the spicey/"grainy" (if that makes Multi-Grain Cherrio tasting)/sugary types, especially if cinnamon, honey, or peanut butter is involved. I will say, however, that the best cereal out of the Monster line-up is Count Chocula, and I ashamed to say that I have never tried it before until this year. The day after Halloween, when everything was on sale, I saw a box of it and figured I'd give it a go finally and it's amazing. It's like crunchy hot chocolate. I went back to get more and they were completely sold out. Very soul crushing.

This isn't really Halloween related, but since it is a Monster High doll, I thought it would be a good transition to the other random crap I bought. This is the special Friday the 13th MH doll, Catty Noir. Every Friday the 13th, Mattel releases a special, "limited" edition doll to commemorate it. Last time, it was a black and white swimsuit Frankie Stein (it's actually pretty cool; the whole box is in black and white, too) and she unfortunately ended up shelf warming for a few months. I really wanted Catty (since she's a cat), so I was planning on going to Target before work on Friday the 13th, but someone had put them out a few days early so I was able to pick her up on a regular Target run! Like Frankie, Catty has ended up shelf warming so you can find her at most stores that carry MH, a lot of times even on sale. She's a pretty neat doll (also she's a black cat) so if you do like MH, I recommend picking her up.

 Going with the toy theme, I got some more MLP blindbags. These are from the neon series, which is the most recent and readily available (at least from what I've seen) series right now. I cheated this time and used the number system to pick which ones I wanted, so these technically weren't "blind", but at least this way I didn't end up with three Rainbow Dashes like normal. I picked these three since they were the most interesting (not just being repaints of the same basic pony figure); my favorite being Gilda the Griffon. Compared to the other series, I'm not sure I really like the neon figures; I much prefer the normal "crystal" ones. I'm interested to see what the next series will be!
Going with the pony theme, I also got some more comics! These are a few months old, so I think there's been a few more released since these that I need to go pick-up. I really like the art style of these and I feel like the stories are a little more tongue-in-cheek than the show (though the show does have it's moments, like Applejack saying "horse apples" as a gentle swear word).

Finally, some totally random makeup brushes my mom got on clearance at a craft store.
Craft stores aren't bad places to get brushes; in fact, you can find a lot of really cool brushes that you can use for specific tasks for a lot cheaper than if you bought a "brand" brush. You have to be a little careful, though, since sometimes they can be quite rough, making them uncomfortable to use on your skin. These two brushes are specifically marketed as beauty brushes and one is very good and I love it and I can't believe it was on clearance and the other was a complete let down. Can guess which was which? The purple tipped kabuki brush is the amazing one; it's super soft so it feels great on my skin, it's very dense, and it's huge. I use it to put on my setting powder in the morning and it works beautifully (it's even significantly soft than my Sephora powder brush. And it doesn't shed!). The pink handled brush, however, really disappointed me. It's way too rough to use on my face (it feels fine on my hand, but when I tried to use it to put on powder, it wasn't very comfortable). Which is sad because otherwise it seems like a fine brush, especially for the price I (technically my mom) paid for it. I do have pretty sensitive skin, though, so it might work better for someone with a little more fortitude.

And that wraps up my random post of odds and ends! I hope you found it interesting and a nice break from me talking just about beauty things all the time.

Thanks for reading! <3

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