January 17, 2014

Crocheted Ripple Baby Blanket

I love making things for other people, so I'll pretty much jump on any excuse to whip up a gift. A woman my husband works with recently had a baby, and I've been dying to crochet a baby blanket so I decided to make her one.

I spent some time looking at free crocheted baby blanket patterns on Ravelry, and I eventually settled this one, Neat Ripple Pattern. I had always wanted to make a ripple blanket, so it seemed perfect. I tried making one once but I was crocheting so tightly, it didn't have a nice drape, so I frogged it. I decided to try a ripple blanket again with the Neat Ripple pattern and a larger hook to help out with loosing up my stitches.

While looking through the projects shared for the pattern on Ravelry, I was inspired by one that had a neat color change pattern. I had my husband help me choose four yarn colors to use, and I got to work. It took me a lot longer to finish the blanket that I thought it would, about three weeks. To be fair, I didn't work on it many of the days I counted, but it still felt like it took forever. Once you've crocheted up a few rows, you can work without looking back at the pattern easily. Weaving in the ends took forever, but I think I finally did that part right this time!

There are more babies expected in the near future (including one of my own), so I'll probably make a few more of these this year.

January 12, 2014

Basic Popovers

I shared my basic popover recipe on my old, defunct blog about trying to become a good cook. Since I count cooking and baking as creating and "food crafting," I like to share my favorite recipes here too. I love making popovers on the weekend, and I don't do it as much as I should. A month or two will go by, and I'll think, "Hey. I haven't made popovers in a while!"

Popovers are easy to make, are impressive to those who don't make them, and they taste good! As an added plus, you can get really creative with what you put on them. Since they aren't a sweet bread, you can go sweet or savory with them. While I've had some delicious dinner popovers, flavored with herbs like rosemary, I prefer to use the basic recipe and make compound butters to go with them.

When I first wanted to try out making popovers at home, I was under the impression that I needed a popover pan or they wouldn't get that wonderful, tall, puffiness that is indicative of a popover. I'm glad to report that you can use a regular muffin pan to make them! They won't get as tall as they would in a popover pan, but they do have that telltale popover look to them, and they cook perfectly.

I've been making these for a little over six years now, and I've figured out a few things that make them even easier to whip up. Want to make your own? Here's how I like to do it:

The blender gives you bubbles!

Basic Popovers

4 eggs (should equal 1 cup)
2 cups milk
2 cups flour (not sifted)
1 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. The rack should be in the middle position. Spray a 12-cup muffin pan with Pam or other nonstick cooking spray. Make sure you get all the way up the sides and on the top edge of each cup. If you don't get everything lubricated, your popovers might stick to the pan and they won't rise properly.

Once your oven is to temperature, put all ingredients in a blender. I like to layer everything so it blends more easily - wet on the bottom, dry in the middle, and wet on top. Make sure you scrape down the sides of the blender partway through blending; the flour tends to stick to the sides.

Fill the cups almost to the top.
When the batter is fully mixed, pour it evenly into the greased muffin cups, almost to the top. Do not let the batter sit around while you prep your muffin pan; you want to pour it out as soon as it's mixed and get it in the oven so you can take advantage of all those lovely bubbles you've made in the blender.

Bake at 450 degrees for exactly 30 minutes. If you peek while they are baking, they will fall.

When 30 minutes have passed, remove the pan to a cold burner or wire rack and pierce the top of each popover with a sharp knife to release the steam.

Let the popovers stand in the pan for a minute or two before serving.

Makes 12 popovers


Crusty outside with a soft inside
* When I first started making this recipe, we were renting an apartment. I found that the oven ran hot, so I had a hard time getting the popovers to cook all the way through and not get too dark. I lowered my oven temperature to 325 degrees and cooked my popovers for 30 minutes, and they were perfect. If your popovers don't cook all the way through and/or aren't the right color, you may need to adjust your cooking temperature. 

 Here are recipes for my two favorite things to slather all over my popovers. 

Cashew Butter

1/2 cup softened butter (1 stick, 1/4 pound)
2 Tbsp finely chopped salted or unsalted cashews (measure AFTER chopping)

Soften the butter and place it in a small mixing bowl.

Chop the cashews in a food processor or with a knife until they are as close to paste as you can get them. Measure 2 tablespoons of the chopped cashews and add them to the softened butter. Mix until well blended. Cover and refrigerate until you plan to use it. Keep refrigerated after use. When you remove this butter from the refrigerator, let it soften for a few minutes before using it so it will be able to spread.

Honey Butter

1/2 cup softened butter (1 stick, 1/4 pound)
1 Tbsp honey

Soften the butter and place it in a small mixing bowl.

Add the honey and mix it with the butter until well blended. Cover and refrigerate until you plan to use it. Keep refrigerated after use. When you remove this butter from the refrigerator, let it soften for a few minutes before using it so it will be able to spread.

If you try out any of these recipes, I'd love to hear about it!

January 7, 2014

2013 Woodland Sampler - Completed!

I stayed up late Sunday night to try to finish up the last few stitches on my 2013 Woodland Sampler. I didn't start my sampler until June, but then I went crazy stitching and got caught up with everyone else in time for the August pattern.

I've shared my progress along the way, and now, here it is - finally completed!

I didn't really have a plan for what I would do with the completed sampler once it was done, but now I do! I'm going to frame it (or have it framed), and I'm going to hang it up in my son's room. He has been excited about this project since I started it, asking what all the animals are and celebrating with me when each month's frame was completed. I feel like this is a project that would fit in a child's room perfectly. If you want to stitch up your own Woodland Sampler, it's not too late! They even included an alternative 2014 block design at the end for you. You can get the pattern here, and since all the pattern emails have gone out already, you get the whole thing all at once!

The 2014 sampler, Once Upon a Time, is fairy tale themed. The first pattern email will be sent out this Friday, and I can't wait to start stitching! When the year is over, I plan to hang it in my soon-to-be-daughter's room. Keep an eye out for updates on my Once Upon a Time sampler, and if you like to stitch, join me in making it! I'd love to see yours.
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