Saturday, September 29, 2012

Cinnamon Swirl Sugar Cookies

Kids are weird. I know this isn't news to most parents but every now and again, something happens that will remind me how strange kids can be.

I recently decided to make some cinnamon swirl sugar cookies after seeing a picture of some in my Pinterest feed. L loves to help when I do any sort of baking, but cookies are his ABSOLUTE FAVOURITE since he has discovered the joys of unbaked cookie dough. (M is a pretty big fan too!)

I decided to use one of the recipes I already had for sugar cookies which have been a huge hit every time I've made them, instead of using a packet mix as specified in the original recipe. I rolled out the dough, added the cinnamon sugar, rolled it back up and stuck it in the fridge to firm up. L enjoyed licking the beaters and bowl. After the allocated firming time, I took the rolled dough logs out of the fridge and sliced them into 1.5cm slices. I decided I didn't want weird looking cookies so I sliced the ends off first to make the roll neater and L obligingly ate them.

Once the cookies were baked, I removed them and let them cool overnight then, the next morning, I made up the icing/glaze and drizzled it over the top of the cookies. Then the weird thing happened. L decided he didn't want any of the cookies. He kept this stance up for three days. THREE DAYS. NO COOKIES.

On the fourth day, I was sharing a cookie with M for afternoon tea and I asked L why he was so against these cookies. After all, they had all his favourite things. Sugar cookie. Cinnamon sugar. Icing sugar. (Notice the trend?) He said that he didn't think they looked very nice once I had glazed them. If I had left them unglazed, then he would've tried them. I pointed out the glaze was icing sugar and milk. So he relented and had a bite of the cookie that I was sharing with M. He then declared that he loved them. And proceeded to eat the rest of my cookie.

Perhaps I should have left him thinking they weren't very nice so I didn't have to share them.

Anyway, here is the recipe!

Cinnamon Swirl Sugar Cookies (Adapted from this recipe and this recipe)

cookie dough -
2 1/2 cups self raising flour
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 (slightly rounded – not quite ¾) teaspoon salt
250 gm unsalted butter (if you use salted butter, use only ¼ tsp. salt), softened
2 cups castor sugar
3/4 teaspoon good vanilla extract
3 egg yolks
extra flour for dusting workbench
cinnamon swirl -
1 tbsp. butter, melted
¼ cup castor sugar
1 tbsp. ground cinnamon
glaze -
¾ cup icing sugar
1 tbsp. milk


In a mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar. Beat in the vanilla then, one by one, beat in the egg yolks.

Slowly stir in the flour. Mix well.

(If not using for cinnamon swirl cookies, form into 2.5cm balls and place balls about 5cm apart on a non-stick or baking paper lined cookie sheet. Bake for 10-12 minutes at 180C degrees or until the cookies start to brown around the edges. Let cool on cookie sheet for 2 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack.)

On a floured surface, knead dough lightly, then divide dough into quarters. Roll each quarter out onto some baking paper to about 1/2 cm thickness.

Brush dough with melted butter. In a small bowl, mix together sugar and cinnamon. Sprinkle this mixture evenly over dough.

Using the baking paper, roll dough into a log, starting at the long side. (If the dough tears at all, do not worry. Just pinch it back together, it will still bake up nicely.)

Wrap log in plastic wrap and pop dough in the freezer for about 20-30 minutes (until firm – not hard)

Heat oven to 180C degrees. Cover your baking sheet with baking paper.
Take dough out of freezer and cut into 1.5cm slices. (If dough tears a little as you cut it just pinch it together with your fingers.)
Place slices about 5cm apart on cookie sheet.

Bake 10-12 minutes or until edges are lightly golden brown.

Cool for about 2 minutes, remove from cookie sheet to cooling rack. Cool completely.

In a small bowl, mix icing sugar and milk until smooth (adding a tad more milk if necessary).
Drizzle icing over cooled cookies (making sure you have aluminium foil or waxed paper underneath cooling racks to catch excess icing). Alternately, you can place the icing into a bag, snip the corner off and "pipe" the icing onto the cookies.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Wine or Wool?

Being pregnant and then breast feeding has meant that I haven't had any wine for the last two years. How depressing. While I was looking at the wine collection this morning (which incidentally has still dwindled due to J's lack of abstinence in that department) I noticed that we had some cardboard 6 bottle carriers. Which gave me an idea. So 60 seconds later, with the help of a large knitting needle, I had this!

It holds six 100gm balls of yarn, is completely portable and best of all, was free with the purchase of 6 bottles of wine. You could add grommets or eyelets to make the holes snag free, or put the yarn in plastic bags if you're worried about the yarn snagging on the cardboard but for cheap acrylic, it works a treat just the way it is. And once I stop breast feeding, I can do 5 ball projects and have room for a roadie!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Not Quite a Granny Sunhat pattern

I was asked by some of the lovely ladies from the Krista group if I could give them the pattern for the sunhats that I made recently. I've never written a pattern before so I'm expecting lots of mistakes. Feel free to let me know if something doesn't make sense, that way I can edit the pattern to make it clearer.

Those of you who have read my earlier posts will know that the sunhat came about quite by accident. I made a beanie for the daughter of a friend, but when I gave it to her and tried it on her daughter, I decided that it was a tad too short. Being the perfectionist that I am (or can be), I decided to take it home and add a couple of extra rows to it. Once I got home though, it occured to me that the weather was already starting to warm up, and it wouldn't be beanie weather for much longer, so rather than making the beanie longer, I decided to add a brim to it and make it into a sunhat. A bit of Googling and Pinteresting and I discovered that if you increase the number of stitches by 12 each round, you end up with a sunhat brim.

That being the case, you could adapt any beanie pattern you have to turn it into a sunhat. Just skip the last round or two of the beanie pattern so the hat section finishes at the top of the ears, then start your increases to make the brim. I chose to do one with a fairly open pattern to let lots of air through to keep the wearer cool. I've done a few of these using different size hooks to vary the size of the hat, you'll find the details of the approximate sizes in the pattern.

Some things you'll need to know for this pattern:
Magic circle aka adjustable ring. There are heaps of youtube movies about this, as well as tutorials with lots of pictures. You can try this tutorial from Crochet Spot but if it doesn't work for you, do a search on google or youtube if you're a visual learner.
Initial Treble without Starting Chain. Again, lots of youtube movies and tutorials around for these. I much prefer the look of these to doing chains at the beginning of a row/round - they get rid of that weird skinny stitch and hole you see in your work when you do a chain 3 at the beginning in place of a treble. Try this one from Crochet Spot but keep in mind they are AMERICAN so they refer to the stitch as a DOUBLE CROCHET, not a TREBLE.
Initial Half Treble Without Starting Chain. You guessed it! Where would we be without the internet? Try this one from Crochet Spot but keep in mind they are AMERICAN so they refer to the stitch as a HALF DOUBLE CROCHET, not a HALF TREBLE.

You'll notice that I turn my work after each round for the main part of the hat for this pattern. I mainly do this because I'm lazy and this way the next chain space after joining each round is right there next to the join (all the stitches are done in chain spaces for the hat body). No slip stitching to the next chain space for this girl!

Anyway, without any further ado, here is my "not quite a granny sunhat" pattern. Enjoy!

Pattern uses international terminology.

approx 50gm 8 ply yarn of choice

yarn needle
* sizing will depend on tension - as a guide:
4.5mm hook for newborn size - 9 mths
5mm hook for 9mths - 2 years
5.5mm hook for 2-5 years
6mm hook for 5-10 years

Stitches and abbreviations used:
ch (chain)
htr (half treble)
ss (slip stitch)
tr (treble)

Start with a magic circle/adjustable ring or ch 4, join with ss in first stitch to form a ring.
Hat top -
Rnd 1: *tr into magic circle, ch1* 6 times. join with ss in to top of first tr. turn work.
Rnd 2: *3 tr in next ch 1 space, ch 1* 6 times. join with ss in to top of first tr. turn work.
Rnd 3: *(2 tr, ch 1, 2 tr, ch 1) into same ch 1 space* 6 times. join with ss in to top of first tr. turn work.
Rnd 4: *3 tr in next ch 1 space, ch 1* 12 times.  join with ss in to top of first tr. turn work.
Rnd 5: *(2 tr, ch 1, 2 tr, ch 1) into same ch 1 space* 12 times.  join with ss in to top of first tr. turn work.
Hat side -
Rnds 6 - 13: *2 tr into next ch 1 space, ch 1* 24 times.  join with ss in to top of first tr. turn work.
Hat brim -
Rnd 14: *2 htr in ch 1 space, htr in next two stitches, htr in next ch 1 space, htr in next two stitches* 12 times. join with ss to first htr. DO NOT TURN FOR REMAINDER OF HAT.
Rnd 15: *2 htr in same stitch, htr in next 6 stitches* 12 times. join with ss to first htr.
Rnd 16: *2 htr in same stitch, htr in next 7 stitches* 12 times. join with ss to first htr.
Rnd 17: *2 htr in same stitch, htr in next 8 stitches* 12 times. join with ss to first htr.
Rnd 18: *2 htr in same stitch, htr in next 9 stitches* 12 times. join with ss to first htr.
Rnd 19: *2 htr in same stitch, htr in next 10 stitches* 12 times. join with ss to first htr.
Rnd 20: *2 htr in same stitch, htr in next 11 stitches* 12 times. join with ss to first htr.
Rnd 21: *2 htr in same stitch, htr in next 12 stitches* 12 times. join with ss to first htr. 
Rnd 22: ss round. fasten off, weave in ends.

If you are a little on the lazy side like me and don't particularly like counting,  you could use 12 stitch markers when you are doing the brim. Place a marker in the first of each of the "2 htr in ch 1 space" stitches in round 14, and then increase when you get to the marker on each subsequent round. No more counting backwards when you've had to put your project down to tend to little people!

After round 6.
Starting round 15.
See all the stitch markers placed in round 14?
No need to count stitches from now on.

Friday, September 14, 2012

The Krista Ladies

About six months ago, Spotlight started a "block a week" crochet project on their Facebook page. There were 25 blocks in all and once you finished all the blocks, you joined them together to make your "Krista" throw rug. Shortly after this started, the Krista Crochet Group was created on Facebook by a lovely lady called Eva, for people to chat about the project and give each other help and support.

I have to say that these ladies are awesome, and one of the nicest groups of ladies I've never actually met. They are incredibly supportive and a wealth of information and ideas when it comes to crochet. I suspect that I wouldn't have gotten as adventurous with my crochet as I have without the unwavering support of these ladies. I definitely wouldn't have spent as much money on yarn, hooks and books!

Even though the Krista project has finished, the group seems to still be going strong, although the main topic of discussion has moved from the block of the week to more general chit chat and discussions about other works in progress. The ladies have also been busy making blocks to be donated and joined together to create love and support blankets for cancer sufferers and stroke victims, to support an arts project (a giant QR code made of black and white crochet squares), to show support for one of the members in her efforts to give up smoking and are even crocheting pink bits to raise money and awareness for breast cancer.

I love the idea of making a square and donating it to be part of something bigger - it gives me the chance to try out a new pattern without being tied down to committing ridiculous amounts of time to make the completed throw rug myself. In the last month of so, I've been buying balls of yarn in lots of different colours so that when projects like this come along, I've already got something in my stash that I can use for it.

Being part of a group like this has been fantastic for me... none of my friends crochet so I don't get the opportunity to swap ideas and patterns and things with any of them (although I'm sure they are all incredibly pleased that I hook and can create lovely little things for them and their little girls :D). Being an online thing means that I can usually just pop on whenever I have some time to myself (not as often as I would like, but that's what you get when you have a 14 month old), and there is usually someone around that I can bounce ideas off or a new picture to inspire me to want to try something out.

I have to give a special mention to the other Kim in the group. Not only does she constantly inspire the group with her creations, but she seems to always be there to answer questions on how to do things and actually found the time to rewrite all the patterns for the Krista blocks into simple step by step instructions complete with pictures. I've told her that she should write a blog, her stuff is THAT good, but failing that, I'll see if I can get her permission to link to some of her files or show you some of the stuff she's made.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Happy Hooking

So, about 4 or so years ago, after watching my MIL doing some crochet, I decided that I could learn to do it too. After investing in a couple of books, some yarn and hooks, and spending lots of time on the internet, I've gotten to the point where I would consider myself comfortable with doing most "beginner" patterns and even some "easy" ones.

There were two things I found confusing about crochet to start off with. The first was the physical aspects of where to actually insert the hook and how to wrap the yarn around it (over the top and around or from the bottom?). The second was the fact that there are two versions of crochet terminology (US and International/UK) which share some of the same names but refer to different stitches. Once I got my head around that, it was much easier to work out what I was doing. There are so many blogs and YouTube channels dedicated to all things crochet out there, with so many people offering patterns (for free and for a fee) and tutorials that honestly, if you really want to learn, all you have to do is find the time to watch, read and practice.

I started with making baby blankets to give as presents and scarves for myself as well as for gifts, mainly because they are nice and easy. No increases or decreases to worry about, just stitching round and round or back and forth. I've started a few larger blankets but haven't finished them. The excitement that I feel when I start a project and pick the yarn and start hooking just doesn't seem to last when it is something large that takes hours and hours to finish. I thought about doing projects that involve doing lots of smaller motifs or squares but then I would have to join them all together and that part of it doesn't really appeal to me.

After I had M, I started making beanies (he was a winter baby), and recently have branched out a little more and done a few other things like headbands, a couple of bags, booties and a small toy. I get a lot of inspiration from Pinterest and have found lots of things to pin and like from there.

Before I left my job, I would take my crochet to work with me and work on it during meetings (I was quite pregnant and had already handed in my resignation so was pretty much just killing time) and people would have a giggle and make comments about me practising my "granny" skills. It seemed that very few people I know around my age know how to crochet - not sure if it's because they don't think it's cool or it's just the sort of world we live in now that you don't sit down with your mum or grandma/nana and get taught things like crochet or knitting any more - so crochet was something they associated with old ladies.

The funny thing is though, since I've made a few things and given them as gifts, people have told me that they have tried to learn but just couldn't get the hang of it, so maybe it IS cool, just too hard and people don't NEED to know any more so they don't really persist with it.

Anyway, I thought I would share some pictures I've taken of some of the projects I've done. Some of these are from patterns I've found on the internet, others are based on something that I've seen on the internet and tried to make something similar without actually having a pattern to follow.

This was a blanket I made for M. Really simple pattern - a row of trebles followed by a row of double crochets, with the same around as the border, followed by some shells. I wanted something simple and not too girly, but still nice. The main section is cream - the lighting isn't that great. Maybe one day I'll take another photo during the day .

This was a handbag that I found on Pinterest. The one in this picture was actually one that another blogger had seen on some online store and decided that she didn't want to pay their exorbitant price for, so she made her own version.

I figured I could whip up something similar too, so I made one for L's teacher as a birthday gift. I wasn't entirely happy with the end result, but ran out of time to frog it and start again. If I make another one, I wouldn't bother doing any decreases in the body of the bag and just let the change in hook size for the top section gather the bag around the top. That would make it much easier to line too. Still, I think it was a pretty good effort considering I had no pattern to copy and it's the first time I had ever attempted to make a handbag.

One of the girls that I used to work with asked me if I could make her some headbands when she found out that I could crochet. She had attempted to learn but hadn't gotten very far and her mother (who can crochet) thought it was better to try to teach her to do it herself than to make them for her. Me on the other hand, thought it would be a fun experiment. These were what I came up with.

We live fairly close to L's school so we usually walk to and from school each day. To keep L's hands warm during the walk, I made him these glittens. You can buy the pattern for them here.

This was the first beanie I made for L. It was a free pattern. I also made a matching star stitch beanie for M, which he wore twice. He's not such a big fan of headwear. As a general rule, he will only keep hats on if he is otherwise distracted. By the end of winter, L told me that it was getting too small because it wasn't covering his ears anymore and they were getting cold, so I made him another plain beanie using the same yarn as his glittens, along with a scarf. I should take a picture of them one day.

After I got comfortable with simple increases, making up beanies using various stitch patterns was the next thing I tried. The white beanie on the left is a simple one, made up of rounds of treble stitches, following this pattern. The middle pink one is sort of based on a granny square for the top and was similar to this pattern, and the white one on the right is actually using a stitch that was designed for a blanket, but I liked the texture of it, so used it to make a beanie instead. It took me a couple of goes to work out the maths to get the increases right but I think it turned out pretty good.

The white booties were made following this pattern. The pink booties were made up using a combination of the soles and ankle section from the pattern for the white booties (plus an extra round to make them a bit bigger), with a flower motif creating the front section. I got the idea from here.

The sunhats were a bit of an after thought. I had actually made the larger one as a beanie, but when I gave it to my friend for her baby, I decided that it was a little too short. I figured that seeing I had to adjust it, and winter was almost over, that I should turn it into a sunhat instead. So I googled and Pinterest'd various crochet sunhat patterns to try to work out how many increases I need to make the brim section and the sunhats you see below were the result.

The last picture is a sunhat and bag set I made for a friend's older daughter (the new baby daughter got some of the stuff from the picture above). I know when M came along, L had some problems adjusting to not being the centre of attention any more and feeling a tad jealous at times, so I thought that if she got her own little present which matched her little sister's, then maybe she wouldn't feel so bad.

...And then she was home...

My kids have a lovely tactile book called "Ten Little Ladybugs" by Melanie Gerth. One by one, the ladybugs come across various animals and then disappear. The line for the last one goes "One little lady bug sitting all alone - along came a breeze, and then she was home." It's always been one of my favourite lines, so I thought I would name my blog after it.

So, why a blog? Good question. Now that I'm a full time mum, I've been delving more into my domestic goddess side and thought this would be a good way to share some recipes, patterns, ideas and general ramblings with the people, as well as a way I can keep track of things for myself. Hopefully I will be able to post something up each week, but realistically I suspect that it will be closer to once a month. It's hard work finding time to blog when you have an almost 7 year old (who I will refer to as L) and an almost 14 month old (M) to wrangle. Hubby (J) tries, but sometimes the boys just want Mumma time.

I'm not expecting too many followers, apparently I'm an "acquired" taste, but I figure that while I'm living in Blogsville, I AM QUEEN OF MY DOMAIN and therefore get to say pretty much whatever I like. If you don't agree, that's nice, you're entitled to your opinion too, but rather than flame me for mine, maybe you should find another blog to read.

If you like what you read, feel free to share it around. I don't claim to have invented the recipes or patterns or ideas that I present for you here, and will endeavour to link you to my sources or inspiration as often as I can. If I don't give you credit for something that you feel is your idea, feel free to say so, but keep in mind that it is entirely possible that I got the idea from someone else or made it up myself. (Yes, I am capable of free thought!) If you like something that you see here, I don't mind if you link to me or to the original source if I'm showing someone else's idea. I'm not doing this for kudos, and in this world of social media I'm apparently one of those rare people that doesn't care too much if people "like" or "follow" me or not.

So now that we've got all that sorted out, I hope you enjoy my ramblings.