Fleece Neck Warmer

DIY neck warmer

This was a quick and dirty project, made with a remnant of stretchy lightweight Malden Mills fleece. I’d gotten it years ago from their factory outlet in Massachusetts, used some of it for baby things, and then set it aside indefinitely.

I was about to pass the fleece on when I realized it was perfect for making a new neck warmer. I just used an existing neck warmer as a guide for sizing.

To make the double-layered tube (with 1-way stretch fabric), sew the first seam with the stretchy grain parallel to the seam. When you turn it to sew the second seam, the stretch will be going horizontally around the neck (which you need) instead of vertically. It’s counter-intuitive, but take it from me, since I had to redo it once. It took forevvvvver to pick out that seam. I used a small zigzag stitch and topstitched the edges.

I had hoped to make some leggings out of the fleece, too, but then, after some research, realized leggings would require a 2-way stretch. Bummer.

Anyway, I’ve been doing lots of gluten-free baking, so I’ll have to share some more of that soon. Gluten-free bread-making always seems to involve a little magic. I’m amazed at how well things have turned out.

Many thanks to my little model here. Obviously, the neck warmer is a bit big for her, but you get the idea. For more of my sewing projects, click here.

Almond Meal and Banana Muffins

Flourless Almond Banana Muffins

I was looking for a muffin recipe with a little more stick-to-your-ribsyness, a little less white flour and found this one on Pinterest, thanks to Amanda of Running with Spoons. The muffins are made with a little oatmeal (I used GF), almond meal, almond butter, and bananas.

One slight issue: the recipe is for 9 muffins, and I really wanted 12. So I added a little more this and that to extend the batter. An extra banana, an extra egg, a couple spoonfuls of plain yogurt, a little extra almond butter and almond meal. I also added 1/2 tsp baking powder in the hopes that I could get a little higher rise. Plus a little splash of water when my blender was having trouble mixing everything up. I didn’t have the ground flax seed on hand, but I’m sure that would be a nice addition.

3 out of 4 of us really liked these muffins. They are kind of a cross between banana bread and snicker doodles, with a very tender, moist texture. Taster number 4 found them a little too “banana-y” but then, they ARE banana muffins and I DID add an extra banana. I wonder about using applesauce instead for some of the banana. Hmmmm…

These were very easy, and I felt happy about getting some protein and fiber in while still serving something yummy.

The muffins did rise nicely when they were in the oven, but once they started to cool, the tops deflated. They’re not dense or heavy in any way, though, so in the end their relative flatness didn’t bother me.

These are a definite repeat, though I may continue tinkering with the ingredients. For more of my cooking and eating adventures (including lots of gluten free stuff), click here.

Dress Shirt Quilt in Progress

Dress Shirt quilt

Here’s just a little peek at the quilt I’ve been working on for lo these many months. The quilt top is basically finished now, so I’m working on the back and making plans for quilting it.

It’s made up of my husband’s dress shirts that were on their way to Goodwill. Hope I can show you more soon.

Here is an earlier post about it, and if you want to see more patchwork projects, click here. I just realized I haven’t even blogged about another quilt I’m making. I’ll have to remedy that.

Hope you’re having a good Monday. American friends in the Northeast: stay warm and safe!

Berry Muffins with Millet (Gluten-Free)

Cherry muffin

I’m dipping my toe a little more into gluten-free baking because my seven-year-old is really missing baked goods. I found this recipe in The How Can It Be Gluten-Free Cookbook from America’s Test Kitchen. Sorry, I haven’t found an online link to this recipe, so you’ll have to take a look at the book—-maybe try it from the library first.

We all enjoyed the muffins, gluties and nons, though I do have a few notes.

At the last minute, I ran out of my GF flour blend (thought I had plenty) and needed something to fill out the last 1/4 to 1/3 cup. I grabbed my Trader Joe’s gluten free oats, leveled off the last measuring cup with them, and forged ahead. I also substituted coconut oil for the butter (all three times I’ve made them) and that worked fine.

The amount of millet is not that much, but it gives a nice little crunch.

The first batch was too sweet by more than half for me. I don’t like sweets all that much, so this is a personal taste thing, but I will tell you that when I cut the sugar from 3/4 cup to a scant 1/3 cup, my children didn’t even notice. I was much happier with that level of sweetness.

The first batch was with cherries and almond extract, following the recipe, but the kids didn’t care for the almond flavor. If I was just making them for myself, I’d probably cut the almond extract a teensy bit since even I have to admit it was a little strong. In the 2nd and 3rd batches, I used blueberries and a little vanilla instead.

I kept making the second and third batches with the little bit of oatmeal and continued to get good results. These are great first thing out of the oven. They’re also good the next day though will be a little drier. I wouldn’t let them stick around longer than that (not that you’ll be able to) as I think they will just continue to get pretty stale.

One thing I did to make the later batches easier was to pre-assemble the dry ingredients. Since GF recipes often have a lot of ingredients, I think I’ll start doing this on a regular basis to make the whole baking thing a little less daunting.

There have been some criticisms about this book being too “white bread” and dairy heavy. It’s true, and I do wish there was more of an emphasis on whole grains. However, sometimes we DO want some white-bread-type recipes, and I totally appreciate the extensive research ATK has done. The texture we’ve gotten with their recipes is really impressive.

I heard that the authors of Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day have recently come out with a gluten-free book, and I can’t wait to try it. Back before we had figured out our gluten problems, I’d made the “five minutes a day” bread several times with fantastic results. It’s crusty like a good German bread. Anyway, I’m betting their new book has some yummy recipes, hopefully some with whole grains.

Click here for more cooking and food posts. Happy weekend, everyone!

Happy 2015/ Favorites from 2014

Paper Stars

Hi everyone! How were your holidays? We had some sickness, which was no fun, but all in all, it was great to spend time with family and to slow down for a bit.

I’m enjoying getting back into the swing of things, though. What about you? I thought I’d start off the year by cataloging some of my favorite things from last year. A few of them are things that were new in 2014, but most of them were just new to me. Maybe you’ll enjoy some of them.

Songs

“At the Beach” by the Avett Brothers

“Just You and Me” by Zee Avi

“The Water Fountain” by tUnE-yArDs

Podcast

Pop Culture Happy Hour

I think I’ve already talked about this to death—it’s an NPR podcast with pop culture critics sitting around and talking about new and old music, movies, TV and the like. It’s smart but not highfaluting, and it’s very, very funny. I listen to it every week.

(You can find this podcast and the songs on iTunes).

Television

Sure, we watch some network shows, but I figure you know about those already. Here are some you may not have tried:

Call the Midwife, on PBS or Netflix: based on the memoir of a 1950s midwife in London’s East End. She lives with Anglican nuns who are also midwives. The characters are just incredible.

Borgen As far as I know, this one’s only available via DVD. In a nutshell, it’s a Danish West Wing. The acting and writing are terrific, and again, fantastic characters. It’s in Danish with subtitles, so you definitely have to pay attention.

A Chef’s Life (currently airing on PBS)—I just found this one recently thanks to my mom (who also turned me on to Call the Midwife). I can’t tell you how excellent it is. It’s part documentary, part cooking show, part food history program. It follows Vivian Howard, a chef hailing from tiny Kinston, NC, as she and her husband run their high-end restaurant. But it’s more than that. Vivian visits all kinds of local folks who teach her about various aspects of southern cooking and farming. It is totally charming, never saccharine, often funny, and it even won a Peabody. And btw Vivan Howard and the producer, documentary filmmaker Cynthia Hill, are both UNC grads! (that’s where I went for undergrad in case you didn’t know)

Broadchurch via Netflix, a British seaside murder mystery. Beautiful, gut-wrenching, dark, and addictive. Great characters (hmmm…sense a theme?).

Bletchley Circle, again from Netflix, follows a group of British women who were code breakers in WWII. Now they’re reuniting to solve mysteries.

Also enjoyed the BBC miniseries version (with Gillian Anderson) of Bleak House, available via Netflix.

Books

These are all nonfiction, which seems to have been my theme for last year. I read a ton of memoirs and several history books.

The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson, about the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair and America’s first known serial killer

Little Failure by Gary Shteyngart, a memoir about moving from the Soviet Union to New York in the early ’80s. Dark, funny, poignant.

My Berlin Kitchen by Luisa Weiss, a cooking memoir, complete with recipes, of a half Italian, half American woman who grew up moving back and forth between Berlin and the US. I laughed, I cried, I got super hungry.

Cookbooks

Once I found the Budget Bytes blog, I had to have her cookbook of the same name. It’s a great place for weeknight meal inspiration, and I love her simple-yet-interesting, less-meatarian approach. Many recipes are easily adaptable to be gluten-free if they aren’t already.

I’ve just started cooking out of the How Can It Be Gluten Free? Cookbook by America’s Test Kitchen. So far, I’m really impressed, and I’ll share some of our favorites soon.

I’m sure there are other things I’ll remember as soon as I wrap up this post, but for now, that’s what I can think of.

In case you’re wondering what’s happening with my writing, I’m still at it! I’m in the process of revising both my YA novel and my middle grade nonfiction book (not simultaneously but back and forth). It’s slow-going, which is why I don’t talk about it much, but I seem to be inching forward.

Bath Fizzies

Homemade Bath Fizzies

Plop, plop! Fizz, fizz! This was a project I planned a really long time ago but never got around to doing until this month. I got the idea and directions from Martha Stewart.

It goes together fairly quickly, though the part where you have to spray the ingredients with a water sprayer is kind of tedious. I made some peppermint fizzies and some lavender ones. The directions call for food coloring, but I didn’t really like the thought of food coloring in my bath, so I skipped that.

I used a mini muffin tin and got the citric acid from AmeriHerb, a wholesale company. I’m sure there are several online sources. The rest is just corn starch, baking soda, and essential oils. I was afraid they would fall apart when I popped them out of the muffin tin, but they held together just fine. I did use a silicone mold, which probably made that part easier.

Be careful—-my hubs almost popped one of these in his mouth, thinking they were some funky-looking cookies. Heh heh.

They make fun little treats to give out as gifts.

For more crafting, click here. For more simple gift ideas, click here.

photo 2

Holiday Roundup: Gifts, Crafts, Recipes

 

Origami Stars

I thought I’d round up a bunch of recommendations and past favorites from this time of year.

Regarding the stars, a few weeks ago I got obsessed with making these. Directions here.

Let’s start out with a few gift recommendations.

Books for Kids:

Here’s my list from last year. Here’s a list of favorite craft books for kids.

This year I’m giving Into the Unknown to two of my nephews. It’s a beautifully illustrated nonfiction book about explorers. More about it here.

Another nephew and son book this year: Boycraft, a British craft book with plenty of blood and guts and monsters, beautifully photographed. It can certainly be given to girls as well. I find a lot of kid craft books are full of purses and headbands and jewelry, and this book fills a void. We checked it out from the library earlier this year, and my son loved it.

I’m a big fan of Ed Emberley’s drawing books and thumbprint art books. Another illustrator with great drawing books is Sachiko Umoto. We have Let’s Draw Cute Animals, and I love it. She has several others, though. Wishing I had all from both authors.

One more drawing book, for preschoolers especially: Hand Art from Klutz. And another recommendation: high quality colored pencils. A few good brands: Prismacolor, Lyra, Caran D’ache. There is a huge difference in these vs. the cheapie kinds.

For the little chef in your life, we’re loving Chop Chop magazine, which has a great balance between fun and nutrition and encouragement to try new things.

If you need more recommendations, try going to your local independent bookstore (and of course actually buying there). Speaking of which, my own books are stocked at Charlotte’s own Park Road books, an excellent bookstore!

Amy Karol at Angry Chicken also has some great recommendations over at her blog.

Crafts of Christmas Past:

Quick wreath from backyard greenery

Simple ribbon wreath

Gift wrapping cloths

Cardboard Christmas trees

Fabric mache ornament

Simple gifts to make (with or without kids)

Cookies:

German-Inspired Almond Meal Cut-Out Cookies

Gluten-Free Almond Meal Cut-Out Cookies

Hope you are keeping warm and cozy. Cheers!

Origami Star