Saturday, December 3, 2011

Christmas 2011 Crafting

Hello all!
That does it. We are officially in December now, and that means Holiday Spirit is in the hizouse~!! ☆
And the thrifty way we like to bring that colorful, lively spirit into the home is through DIY projects!

The family table this morning.
First thing's first, our Christmas tree has been revived. This time, with boughs from three different kinds of trees -- douglas fir, blue spruce, and balsam fir!
We're still in the process of trimming it, but what's new this year is crafting actual individual ornaments:

This year's ornament theme: things we love! Hence Ariel...

Made out of a pizza box and old paints. Not too shabby~!

If you've been listening to Kool 99.1 and its 24/7 Christmas line-up, you've probably heard the song "Christmas in the Northwest" by Brenda Kutz White which sums up quite nicely how green it can be up here during the holiday season. Having grown up in upstate New York, I get to missing snow and the classic "White Christmas"...hence homemade paper snowflakes!!

Including the elusive rainbow snowflake!
I must recommend this link for the clearest and most effective paper snowflake instructions.
I hope they work just as well for you and you fill your windows with these pretty crystal homages~!!

Last but not least is a little DIY Christmas bunting~

Wow, those are some sad grape vines outside...
 Next on our list is:
- string popcorn garland while watching Miracle on 34th Street
- craft more and bigger snowflakes!!
- knit up all the gifts on my Christmas To Give list...oh, that reminds me!

So, this year we are officially subscribing to the "$100 Limit Christmas" idea that more and more people seem to be adopting. I think I first read about it on the "Center for a New American Dream" site and having rechecked it recently, they also have this great "Simplify the Holidays Challenge" that you can pledge to. They offer great ideas that curb consumerism and save you money too!

Aaaanyway, that being said, we are looking to accomplish this $100 limit through lots of homemade gifts ranging from baked goods to knit items, and the ever-important intangible things like offering our time and whatnot.

Care to join me?
Let me know what some of your money-saving/anti-consumerism plans are!
Until then, take care, stay warm, and Happy Holiday Spirit!!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Alexis' mits

Hi, all!
So I've been meaning to post about this for a while now, but I'd like to introduce you to one of my new favorite forms of mittens: the convertible mitten!
I made it for my good friend Alexis for his birthday back in September (oops, very late!) and I am happy with how they came out. As is he, phew!
The top flap folds up and over the back to provide more dexterity with the exposed fingers, and yes that is more duplicate stitching there -- Alexis is a loyal alumnus and fan of USC!
Happy Birthday once again Alexis and I hope these mits give you the warmth and nimbleness you need to maneuver your bike on your cold San Francisco morning bicycle commute!

More duplicate stitching coming up next too...
Until then, happy knitting!!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Duplicate Stitching

Hi, everyone!
I'd like to take this time to let you in on this new technique I've learned:
duplicate stitching!!
It has enabled me to now knit little images on any stockinette-knitted items I've created.
So far, I have made these little mittens for Ella's very good friend, Clara Fae:

For her 2nd birthday this past Monday :)

To learn how to do duplicate stitching, I highly recommend this particular video from You Tube.
I hope all you knitters out there give duplicate stitching a go, because it really gives satisfying results at very little effort.
You can bet you'll be seeing a lot of duplicate stitched goods for the upcoming holiday season! ;)

Until then, stay warm and happy duplicate stitching!!!

Saturday, October 1, 2011


Hello again, all!
It's been a great month of September, and now here we are in October!! :)
Tonight was the first real rainy day, with the first sounds of jazz wafting through the air (jazz and rain just go so well together, don't you think??), the clacking of knitting needles (already working on Christmas gifts!) and much chamomile tea.

But before the rain hit, Dash was a doll and helped me bake up a batch of anpan bread for my tutee who turned the big 1-0 in August. Double digits!! おたんじょうび おめでとう、ジョナさん!

If you are not familiar with anpan bread, it is pretty much a milk bread roll with sweet red bean paste (anko) inside. Mm-mm!
A staple Japanese snack. And the basis of the very popular and well-loved (at least in our household) Japanese cartoon super hero, Anpanman!

Please read below to learn how to make this tasty treat for yourself:

Anko Filling

    •    1 1/2 cups red beans (also known as azuki)
    •    1 1/2 cups sugar
    •    1/2 teaspoon salt

Rinse the beans in a colander. Place them in a large bowl with a plenty of water to cover the beans. Let them soak for 3 to 8 hours.

(1) Drain and place the beans in a deep pot with a plenty of water to cover the beans. Bring it to a boil. You will see a lot of foam forming on the surface. Pour out the beans into a colander and rinse them well with running water to remove foam. Clean the pot and refill with fresh water, place the beans back in a pot and bring it to a boil.
(2) Repeat step (1). This time after rinsing the beans, add 5 1/2 cups water and bring it to a boil again. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, covered for about 1 hour, stirring occasionally, or until the beans become so tender that you can mash one with your tongue. (Be careful not to burn your tongue.) Stir more frequently toward the end.
(3) When the beans are completely soft add 1 1/2 cups sugar and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Simmer at low without a lid, stirring very frequently until the mixture becomes somewhat thick.
(4) If you can see the bottom of the pot when you scrape with a wooden spatula, it is ready to remove from heat. Paste will become harder as it cools. Keep it in the refrigerator overnight.

Milk Bread (adapted from The Joy of Cooking)

Combine in a large mixing bowl or in the bowl of a heavy-duty mixer and let stand until the yeast is dissolved, about 5 minutes:

    •    1 package (2 1/4 tsp) active dry yeast
    •    3 tbsp warm water

    •    1 cup whole or low-fat milk, warmed to 105 - 115 F
    •    5 tbsp melted butter or margarine
    •    3 tbsp sugar
    •    1 large egg
    •    1 tsp salt

Mix by hand or on low speed for 1 minute. Gradually stir in:
    •    2 cups bread flour

Gradually add until the dough is moist but not sticky:
    •    1 1/2 to 2 cups all-purpose flour
Knead for about 10 minutes by hand or with the dough hook on low to medium speed until the dough is smooth and elastic. Transfer the dough to an oiled bowl and turn it over once to coat with oil. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

Punch the dough down, knead briefly, and refrigerate covered for 30 minutes. At this point, the dough may be shaped into rolls:
Divide the dough equally into 16 pieces. Grease a baking sheet. On a floured surface, roll the dough pieces flat, fill with 1.5 tbsp of anko, and then fold/roll into balls. Place them 2 inches apart on the baking sheet. Let rise in a warm place for 45 min - 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 425 F. Bake for 12-15 min.
Anpanman's beaming face before hitting the oven

Anpanman is totally baked! Ha!
They are so delightful with a cup of milk be it for breakfast or as a mid-day snack.

Well, I hope you try your hand at this recipe and do let me know the results!

Until then, Happy Anpan Baking, and I hope it makes you "げんき ひゃくばい!!"

Saturday, September 10, 2011

The First Egg!!

Another blog about new life! :)
I know, I know -- shouldn't I be starting with a post about introducing the chickens we have and have had since April??
Well, it's coming. Trust me. But I just didn't wanna let the chicken outta the bag until they had started laying.
Which just started today!! :)

Look for a new post about chickens in all their glory soon~!!

Until then, Happy Egg-Finding!!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Soakers Return

Hello again, everyone!
I've been absent for three weeks and this post may clue you in as to why ;)

Some of you may remember the wool soaker for Ella Rose back in this post.
It wasn't my proudest knitting moment, but it did inspire me to improve me skill and pursue more such homemade wool soakers for child number two.
And so I present to you:

0-8 month size
That's right!
This is the first what will hopefully be a collection prepared for the newest addition to our family, due April 2012. I know, another April baby!! ♡♡♡
A little later than Ella Rose (April 1st), and I'm hoping for either April 20th (4/20, heh) or April 22nd (Earth Day)!

I had originally acquired this wool yarn from my friend, Beth, with the intention of knitting wool soakers for my neighbor, who is pregnant -- what a surprise when I learned I was a mere 10 weeks behind her!! So instead of knitting them for her, I am knitting them with her! It'll be fun to go on this knitting-pregnancy journey together with her.

Well, I will be posting about progress of the pregnancy, the birth plan, and all that good stuff in due time ;)

Until then, Happy Knitting all!!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Fingerless Handwarmers

Hi, everybody!

As promised, I am finally posting the other knitting project I whipped up during my stay at Kathy-neechan's:

Fingerless Handwarmers
This is actually the second pair of these that I've made.
The first went to my dear sweet friend Shannon to keep her wrists cushioned and hands generally warm while she types at her keyboard. I have to remind her to send a photo to see them in action! ;)

I got the pattern from the lovely Lynn L. from the Corvallis Newcomers Handwork Lovers after I saw her make a pair in a beautiful wine color (same color that I used for Shannon's pair).
And I'd like to share the pattern I used with you too!
Please read below:

Sizes: Women's small, medium and large
Yarn: 2-ply acrylic yarn
Needles: Double-pointed #3 or #4

Cast on 36/40/44 stitches loosely.
Join and knit 6 rounds in rib pattern (k1, p1)
Knit 45 rounds or however many as will get you the desired length to beginning of thumb gusset.

Thumb Gusset:
Knit 1, place marker, increase 1 stitch (work increase as follows: with left-hand needle, pick up yarn between stitches, then knit through back of loop over needle), knit 1 stitch, increase 1 stitch, place second marker, knit to end of row.
Knit 2 rounds.
Repeat these 3 rounds (increasing in round 1 after first and before second marker, then knitting 2 rounds) until you have 13/15/15 stitches between markers.
Next round: knit 1 stitch, place the next 13/15/15 stitches on small stitch holder (paper clip works well), then knit to end of row (pull yarn tight after first stitch to avoid gap).
Next round: knit 1 stitch, increase 1 stitch by picking up yarn (with left-hand needle) between stitches and knitting through back of loop over needle.
Knit an additional 10 rounds and finish with 6 rounds in rib pattern (k1, p1).
Bind off loosely.

Put stitches from stitch holder on 3 needles and pick up 1 stitch between first and last stitch.
Knit 8 rounds and finish thumb with 6 rounds in rib pattern.
Bind off loosely.

Repeat for second handwarmer.

And there you have it!
You may have noticed that my two gloves have a variety of different colors in them, yes?
That is because I would run out of one yarn and just move onto the next.
Oh well! They are more for function than for fashion for me.
And I can't wait to give them a good work out come chilly Autumnal weather!!
I take that back. I can wait.
Please, Summer!! Don't gooooooo!

Bye-bye, everyone, and Happy Knitting!!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

DIY Fly Trap

Howdy-ho, everyone!

Boy, the days are sure getting hot here.
And you know what the heat brings? Flies.

Well, at least at our house. (Why is that...? ;_; )

At least we are dealing with those flies and in a way that I'd like to share below!
If you are having fly problems and would like to know how to make your own cheap but effective fly trap, please read on:

Step 1:
Gather your supplies

Empty jar with wide mouth, tape, scissors, wire mesh

Step 2:
Cut the wire mesh into a circle, and cut out a triangular piece of an appr. 45 degree angle

Looks like Pac Man!

Step 3:
Roll the circular wire mesh up, overlapping it so that it creates a nice tight cone

Make sure the tip of the cone is small but not so small that flies couldn't get through it

Step 4:
Put some kind of "fly bait" at the bottom of your pickle jar.
In this case, I had some old liver we weren't going to use.
I've also used pineapple chunks + juice in the past (makes for less smelly bait)

Step 5:
Prop the conical wire mesh in the jar, tip side down.
Viola! Done.

I added some leaves of nori as an afterthought...

Flies get in but they are so stupid, the cannot find the way out again.
Sure, some might prosper quite well in the meaty paradise you've created for then, but the larvae aren't about to get out either and if you wanna drown the whole kit 'n' caboodle, just fill it with water.

That wraps up this little tutorial.
Good luck to you all and Happy Fly Trapping!!

Monday, August 15, 2011

A Recent Development

That's right.

Though she needs a little push at the beginning, it seems Ella Rose at least has the concept down of pushing on the pedals of her little tricycle to move herself forward.

And for the record, we found this little tricycle abandoned on the curb, fixed it up and then rainbowified it this past spring. Lovin' it!!

Happy Pedaling, everyone!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Blackberry Picking

One of the first things that I loved very much about Corvallis was the bounty of wild blackberries you find everywhere.
Just around the corner from our house last year was a real jackpot of blackberry bushes running alongside Dixon Creek.
We discovered it very early on after moving in, and immediately set about picking, pie-ing, pancaking, and all other manner of enjoying blackberries. :)

The tradition continues on this summer too with the first family outing to pick blackberries just this morning!
We hope to bake them into pies, give away to friends, and freeze to enjoy over the winter.

Hopefully I will remember to take pictures of all the things that our blackberries turn into.
Until then, Happy Blackberry Picking!!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Knits for Sis

Hola, again!
So some of you may remember me mentioning (wow, that's a lotta m's!) some knits I made for my sis, Kathy-neechan.
The first was from way back in this past Xmas '10, made to match the scarf I made her from this post.

I know, I know.
I always do legwarmers...
But they're just so darn easy! And adorable. And fashionable. And functional!!
Usually, it's for the babies, but here we have one that fit her long, slender adult legs.
It gets chilly in that San Jose area, so they come in handy! Or should I say...leggy -- ;)

Okay, onto knit number 2:
A knit pot-scrubber/tawashi!

This little baby is nice 'n' knotty and a great way to use up old acrylic that is hardening sorta, 'cuz it's good for scratching clean plates!
The pattern I used for it can be found here.

In other knitting-related news, a good friend of mine is going to have a baby so she wanted to learn how to knit so she can knit some wool soakers!! I'm gonna help her best I can and hopefully they will come out better than the one I made for Ella Rose! XD

Well, that's all for now.
Have a great weekend and happy knitting!

Friday, August 12, 2011

A Day at the Beach~

In Dash's own words, on Wednesday we "hit the jackpot" when we decided to make an impromptu day trip to Newport for some Pacific Northwest beach fun.
The weather was superb, the kiddos were happy (we ended up taking sweet Douzen-kun along!) and none of us wanted to leave when 4 p.m. approached.

Bringing the very much underused beach umbrella was a really good move.
What is usually a chill and gray coastal beach, was sunny and hot!
Not to mention, it shielded us from some kicked up sand from the wind.

Even Tak'e Dog came along! He had a most excellent time~

Here's the whole gang enjoying the sand in their own way.

And Ella Rose discovering the joys of becoming a sand mermaid.
As you've probably guessed, she didn't want to have anything to do with the water itself, let alone the sculptable sand that comes with it...
Douzen-kun, on the other hand, had a blast running through the freezing water - brrr!! :D

So there you have it!
We all had a lovely time, then topped the trip off with a tasty treat at an ice cream parlor -- yum! ;)

Hopefully, that won't be the last trip to the beach.
And for those of you thinking of hitting up the coast too -- Happy Beaching!!

Monday, August 8, 2011

DIY Tutu!

Hi everyone!

Wow, I am on a roll with posting, aren't I?
Let's just see how long this keeps up for though, ne? ;)

Today, I'd like to share with you a tutu that I made with Ella Rose today.
It took maybe about 30 minutes, and is already a fast favorite.

The total cost was $10.47 and only required the following items:
(though the only thing I had to buy was the tulle -- scoooooore!)

- 3 rolls of 6" x 10-yard tulle (colors: white, pink, magenta -- all sparkly)
- 1 baby fabric headband
- 1 canister of Trader Joe's French Roast (or something equally cylindrical and large)
- scissors
- ruler

Now for the steps (sorry I didn't take photos!!):

1) Unroll tulle from the white roll, measure to 36" long, and cut

2) Repeat this step to all the rolls
(I didn't keep track of the number of strips this gave me, but I believe it was about 9 per roll even)

3) Stretch your baby headband around the coffee canister

4) Fold a strip of tulle in half, feed the head of it behind the headband, and loop the ends over and through it, tightening
(Your skirt will now be about 18" long -- half the length of the original 36", see? ;) )

5) Repeat all around the headband with the rest of the strips of tulle

6) Enjoy and spin around with all your heart!!

I really am happy with how easy, quick, and satisfying this project was for the both of us.
I alternated the colors as such: white --> light pink --> magenta
Going for a gradation effect ;)

And the sparkles really light up when the sun hits it.

Looking forward to many a puffy, shiny, sparkly day with my little Fairy Ella Rose. ♡

Well, that's all for now.
Happy Tutu-ing!!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Collapsable Solarpowered Clothing Dryer!

A.K.A. our clothesline ;)

With summer here, drying your clothes outside is the way to go in terms of energy saving, stain fighting, and adding lovely outdoor fragrance to your laundry.
But what do you do when your property is .12 acres total -- like ours? ;)

Well, when I realized that the backyard was far too tiny for one of those permanent hexagonal (?) clothesline fixtures I'd always dreamed of, I knew it was time for some creative problem-solving.
Hence the trip to the hardware store that racked up a total bill of $6 or so.

Below is a little run-down on how it came to be and what it looks like.

- 3 eye hooks
- 1 cleat hook
- 1 double-headed carabiner
- long rope
- two permanent poles/walls

Step 1:
Locate two sturdy poles/walls that you will give you adequate space to hang a load of laundry. And ideally in a location that gets lots of sunlight.

Step 2:
Screw an eye hook to one of the posts, high up but not so high that you can't reach a line hung from that height.

Step 3:
Attach one end of the carabiner to that same eye hook.
Tie rope to other end of the carabiner.

You'll have something like this so far (sans the bag of clothing pins)

Step 4:
Screw the second eye hook into the pole opposite the first, at the same height as the eye hook.

This is what it looks like with the rope fed through it

Step 5:
Screw the third and last eye hook into that same pole as above, approximately 3 feet below the first. Pretty much so that it is high enough off the ground to not let clothing hung from the line touch the ground, but low enough as to give the clothing hung from the line above adequate room. Like this:

Step 6:
Screw the cleat hook into the first pole (opposite it), at the same height off the ground as that last eye hook.
You get the picture? Pretty much, the three eye hooks and cleat hook, are creating a square shape, and the rope fed through them all create a sideways "U" (sorta).

Wrap that rope around tight!
 Step 7:
When the rope has been fed through the two eye hooks, and then wound tight around the cleat, you have your two-tier clothesline!

What's is nice, is that when you are not using that space for drying your laundry, simply feeding the rope back through the eye hooks, and hanging it around that first one with the carabiner frees it back up again with only some non-obtrusive hooks giving the whole thing away. ;)

So far it's been working very well, though we are considering utilizing another set of poles under our carport to double or drying load.
Well, we'll see~!

Until then, enjoy this lovely sunshine and Happy Laundering!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Ukelele Ladies and more~

Hi everybody!
I just got back from a week-long retreat to my sister's in San Jose and I am feeling refreshed and so happy to be back!
The point of my leaving was to snip the laaast lingering thread of breastfeeding Ella and I had going on. That one breastfeeding session first thing in the morning...
Don't get me wrong, it was a lovely and cozy time for us, but toward the end there it was getting a little brutal with long nails and pulling and general lack of "lovely and cozy" feelings.
So! I hopped a train to San Jose and enjoyed a week with my sis doing the following things:

- knitting!! (photos of projects done there coming soon!)

- baking, cooking, fixing up the house

- running a half marathon in the San Francisco Marathon in place of my sister! (2:20...not bad?)

- eating out at all sorts of great places! (In 'n' Out, Indian buffet, Buca di Beppo, sushiiiii~)

- listening to a lot of NPR... :)

And now I'm back to find my little girl's...really grown!!
Things she and Daddy have been up to while I'm away?

Building a kite from scratch for one!! :)
Hopefully I'll post a shot of this thing in action, because boy can it fly~!

It also turned out that there were doing a little guitar shopping, and Daddy was able to trade in one of his electrics, for two adorable Ukeleles from the Fingerboard Extension!

It's far easier for Ella Rose to handle than a regular-sized guitar, and we've had a couple fun sessions of singing to the finger-plucking goodness of the ukelele. ♡

Just wanted to pop in and give some updates.
Hope you all have a lovely weekend, and Happy Ukele-ing~!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Rainbow "Belly Dancing" Bra

Greetings, friends!
Pardon the long absence -- but life has been busy in the best kinds of ways, and I am happy to come back to my blog with a special little something to show off ;)

This little "beauty" took two (rainy) days to make and did not even require a pattern! It's just your ol' trusty dusty garter stitch (knitting every row in two straight needles) with decreasing where necessary, with my first ever i-cord to do the borders and straps!

The shells were picked up on the beach back in April when we visited Dash's father in Florida. He drilled a little hole at the top, painted the rainbow pattern on them, and then I affixed them to the bra with thread.

I suppose the rainy, dreary weather was really getting to us -- especially considering that it's mid-July for crying out loud -- hence this summery colorful piece.
But the root of its inspiration was at the Farmer's Market and Oregon Country Fair last weekend.

At the Farmer's Market, there was a demonstration put on by the Corvallis Belly Dancing Performance Guild that Ella (and Douzen!) were simply mesmerized by. That planted the seed...

And the abundance of belly dancing bras for sale at the fair only catapulted  Ella's interest to obsession. While we were drooling over some of the more creative bras, I could sense that Ella was thinking along the lines of "waaaaant", but just when I was about to say "Oh, Ella I don't think we need one of these..." Ella turned to me and proposed: "Maybe we can make one."


And so you have...well...the prototype for a belly dancing bra. At least it looks like a "bra", right?

Now to knit a pair of panties for it...if only would only agree to put something like that on! Let's just say she's taking after her Mama's nudist tendencies...

That's all for now, and happy knitting/belly dancing to you all!!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

The Mantel - Spring Ver.

My, this is a belated post indeed!
In keeping with our Mantel Tradition, we've been decking it out in springtime icons -- mainly in the form of birthday cards!

That's right, Daddy's Mama's and Ella's birthdays all fall within a month of each other.
Daddy - March 28
Ella Rose - April 1
Mama - April 25

Not to mention the Easter greeting cards, thank-you notes, and baby announcements :)

All in all, a very paper-filled mantel.
When I had been looking forward to the Spring Mantel, I was envisioning more flowers and whatnot, but they would wilt so quickly...and there was barely any room for them anyway~~ {: )

June 21st, the Summer Solstice, is coming right up, at which point we'll start to furnish the Mantel for summertime. I wonder what it will look like. Probably more flowers, kept in water-filled vases this time, and hopefully some good old-fashioned handcrafted works. Strings of knit yarn and such. ;)

Well! Until then, Happy (late) Spring~!!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Two new sewing projects!

That's right, you heard it here first.
I'm actually sewing now! @_@
Sure, I've mended things in the past, and there were those bread bags back in January. But those were sloppy hand-stitched items.
Say hello to my sewing machine aided creations!!

(1) Knitting Needle Case

Using fabrics and ribbon I had hanging around, I finally got around to organizing my knitting needle collection (recently augmented by the stash inherited from my abuela) in a somewhat pretty, but definitely functional, knitting needle case :)

Don't get me wrong. I didn't come up with this pretty little thing all by myself.
I used the most wonderful tutorial from Made By Loulabelle.
If you want to make one of these yourself, I highly recommend following her tutorial with clear instructions and pretty photos to boot ;)

And before we say good-bye, to the Knitting Needle Case, here's oooone more photo:

Okay! Onto project #2...

(2) Dog Bed

Okay, so it doesn't look like much, but let me show you what's going on here:

First, that is one happy Tak'e.
But I kid. Really, look close, you'll see that this bed is comprised of three simple things:

- 2 old towels
- batting (scored for free at a garage sale!)
- and yarn scraps

Again, not my own idea, but totally right up my alley in terms of (1) frugality (2) repurposing and (3) functionality. I have the amazing Martha Stewart to thank for this one. That's right.

To recreate this in your own home, simply sew two towels to each other along 3 of their 4 sides. Then fill the pocket you've created with batting, sew shut, and then thread yarn through random areas of the bed to keep the batting in place. DONE.

And, because you haven't seen her on the blog in a while, here's little miss Ella Rose attesting to the awesomeness that is that new dog bed:

Can you feel the enthusiasm?

Well, that about wraps up my latest endeavor so to bid you all a good night, is Tak'e on his dog bed. :)

Take care and happy sewing!!