Friday, September 28, 2012

grain free peanut butter chocolate chip cookies

"These are like real cookies!"  He had to stop himself to backtrack.  "But I mean all the cookies you make are good.  Mmhm.  It's just that these are like real cookies."

So, they have the Benjamin Seal of Approval.

In my experience, most people are (naturally) a little skeptical of grain free baked goods.  For good reason, really, since a lot of them are weird to those of us who don't eat this way full-time.  So, I have to admit that there are very few recipes I'd make and share with an audience of normal people (that is, people who don't eat things like almond flour, coconut flour and arrowroot starch), but THIS recipe -- THIS RECIPE -- is one I would share.

I should preface that by saying that these cookies may not be as sweet as your normal, run-of-the-mill cookies, however they still have a good texture (in my opinion -- and apparently, in the opinion of Ben), they are DELICIOUS, and they could pass for real cookies.

Anyway, anyway.. the recipe.

Grain Free Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

2 large eggs
1 cup creamy peanut butter*
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoon almond flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup chocolate chips**
1/2 cup chopped nuts***

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In large bowl, lightly beat eggs.  Add peanut butter, sugar, almond flour, baking soda, and salt. Mix until well combined.  Stir in chocolate chips and chopped nuts.

With moistened hands (or a trusty cookie scoop, like I used), roll dough 1 heaping tablespoon at a time, into balls.  Place 2 inches apart on a parchment-lined baking sheet.

Bake until cookies are puffed and golden, 12-14 minutes (almost exactly 12 minutes at our house).  Cool for 5 minutes on cookie sheet before transferring to a rack to cool completely.

*We use Smart Balance, because we just love creeeamy, sticky-delicious peanut butter like we had when we were kids, but it uses palm and flaxseed oil instead of hydrogenated soybean oil, and it uses molasses instead of high fructose corn syrup AND it tastes pretty durn close to Jif.

**I used the Guittard (sp?) brand 63% cacoa chocolate chips.  They're dark-but-not-too-dark and they taste yumm.  I think it's the red package.

***This time, I put in pecans (because they're my favorite for baking with), but the original recipe that I altered -- pretty dramatically -- to get this one, called for peanuts, which I'm sure more normal people would consider to be a lot more predictable since this is a peanut butter recipe.  Still, I love pecans and I make no apologies!

For me (with trusty cookie scoop in hand), this recipe makes 1 1/2 dozen cookies.  If you made smaller cookies, though, I imagine it wouldn't be difficult to get 2 dozen out of a batch.  Alternatively, just double the batch and get about 3 dozen.  I certainly would if I weren't afraid I'd eat them all.

What's your favorite cookie recipe (grain free or not)?

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

a day with the parents

We spent the day at Ben's parents house.  It's so perfect, especially on a cloudy (read: smoky), wet and rainy day.

About got stung for that one.

Heirloom tomatoes.  Almost the end of tomato season, isn't it?

Kit, getting her ears scratched.  So excited and eager to be touched, love her.  She couldn't stand still long enough for me to get any good pictures, all my photos ended up like fuzzy balls of whirring energy captured on film.

This one's blurry, but it's the best I've got.  I love her sweet, furry face.

Yesterday was the first rain we've gotten in... I don't even know how long.  It feels like all summer long and that's probably a pretty fair guess.  I loved it, even though it wasn't much.  It cooled things off, washed a little (a little) of the smoke out of the air, and made things smell like fall.  Leaves fell, even.  The courtyard outside Ben's office window is strewn with a speckling of Japanese maple leaves, all red and yellow.

I miss Korea in the fall.  The hillsides turned bright red when it got colder and the snow.  If only they'd had snow plows and shovels...  As it was, the snow turned to ice in a matter of hours and everyone spent the next weeks slipping along the sidewalks, often falling flat on our backs.  Once -- only once -- our building manager got out a big pick axe thing and chipped away at most of the ice outside our little building.  Laborious task, though, and not particularly worth it in the end.  Ours was the only ice-picked patch of street in the whole neighborhood, I imagine.

Looking forward to more fall days and wooly sweaters and socks.  Right now, it's cool enough inside that I get to huddle under a wool blanket my Mom made for us last Christmas.  Now, all I need is some tea.

This will be posted after the fact, but today (the day I'm writing this is Monday), my sister and nephew fly in from Australia.  And with the way the seasons work, they will get two fall/winters right in a row.  I don't know if I could take that, but she says she's excited for snow since no matter how cold Australia gets, I don't think they're prone to many snow days.  Plus, it means I get to knit little baby things.

Hoping to get lots of pictures of the sweet nephew, my sister and (soon!) the new baby!

Is it looking like fall where you are?

Monday, September 24, 2012

knitting for baby: a little layette

My sister, her son and the little one on the way (that's baby Owie), are arriving home today!

And so, in honor of the occasion....

I made this little set for baby Owie.

Since they're moving home from Australia now, he might actually be able wear them.  If they'd stayed in Australia, he would have been born during summertime.  Not so conducive to sweaters, hats and socks.

yarn: sugar and cream (off-white), vintage dishcloth cotton (red)
needles: size 7, 16" circular, size 7 dpns
pattern: Quynn, by Wooly Wormhead

I love this little hat pattern.  It was simple to knit up and it covers the ears but doesn't require earflaps to be knit separately.  I made the 16" size.

yarn: same as above
needles: size 7, circular
pattern: Ribbed Baby Jacket, by Debbie Bliss

I've been eyeing this pattern for a while now.  It just looks so cozy.  I want one of my own.  Simple to knit as well, like all of the other Debbie Bliss patterns I've knit up.  She makes the cutest, sweetest baby clothes, doesn't she?

yarn: same as above
needles: size 7 dpns
pattern: my own

And, of course, tiny socks.  I can't resist tiny socks.  They knit up super fast and I happen to think they're quite useful (as long as they aren't kicked off).

Well, there's some more of what I've been knitting recently.  Have you been up to any making or crafting?  I'd love to hear about it!

Friday, September 21, 2012

friday finds: handmade dolls

I know, I know. Practically everybody and their dog has a Friday Finds feature, but maybe you don't know how fancy it makes me feel to have one!

I am super obsessed with handmade dolls.  I like to make them and give them, I like to look at patterns (especially vintage ones)... it's probably unhealthy. I mean, I'm supposed to be too old for dolls.  But it's just so fun.

Just a couple of weeks ago, I whipped up two Binky Baby Bunnies from Larissa at mmmcrafts.  She has some seriously cute patterns.  The bunny pattern was really simple, I felt, and easy to follow.  The most difficult part was sewing the whole thing together at the end, but that was mostly simple logistics.  Cramming two legs, two arms and two ears between two body pieces is just a tight squeeze!

Anyway, I guess they're not technically dolls so much as stuffed animals, but if you haven't heard of her (and, in which case, you must live under a rock), you should check her out because she's very talented!

For now, let's look at some treasures I dug up.

1. Tutorial for a Mimi Kirchner doll at The Purl Bee.  2. DIY Doll Suitcase.  3. This is an old doll from Nooshka, whose etsy shop seems to be on hold.   4.  Phoebe's new doll from Wee Wonderfuls.  5. Sparrow's Birthday Doll.  6. Dolls from Le Train Fantome (I looked for a link to them, specifically, but couldn't find one).  7. Free Black Apple Doll Pattern.  8. Doll for Estrela from elbooga's Flickr.  9. Doll for Boum from elbooga's Flickr.

I've always loved dolls.  When my younger sister and I were little, we both got dolls at every single Christmas that I can remember.  It was the present I was most excited to open.  Baby dolls were my favorite then, but handmade dolls of any sort are my favorite now and all of these are so cute!!

I've used the Black Apple pattern (#7 above) several times in making dolls for nieces (and nephews).  It's a great pattern that can easily be altered because it's so simplistic, so I've made both girl and boy dolls from it (cut the body portion in half widthwise to make pants and a shirt, then move the legs to the outside of the body portion instead of in the center, if that makes sense).

I've also used the Archie doll pattern from Wee Wonderfuls (#4 is a doll from Wee Wonderful) which turned out SO cute.  I love Wee Wonderfuls' patterns because Hilary Lang has such a great variety and everything she makes is stinking adorable.

Anyway, some of the dolls I listed are linked to tutorials and patterns, but some are just for inspiration because I really like to just pore over pictures of handmade dolls.  That's what kind of nerd I am (I tease Ben for his obsession with computer programming, but perhaps my obsession is a little more odd...).  I especially love the dolls from Le Train Fantome and think they provide the most inspiration to me, where I'm at right now.  They're so colorful and it just makes me happy!

Which ones are your favorite?  Do you have a favorite doll or pattern?

Thursday, September 20, 2012

mrs. meyer's knock-off countertop spray!


The smell, I mean!  Don't drink it.  While making your own homemade cleaners definitely renders them less toxic, it certainly can't make lemon juice and vinegar a delectable combination.  Still, it smells wonderful!

Do you use Mrs. Meyer's??

I never have, but I've heard they make nice products that smell great.  Maybe somewhere on down the road, when we're fancier than we are now, maybe then I'll get around to finding and buying them.

In the meantime, we make our own cleaners around here.  From laundry soap to window cleaner, to that stuff you use to scrub your bathtub.  It's easy, but more importantly, it's practically free!

And I feel good about things that are free, or even practically free!

The bulk of this recipe is made up of things you probably already have around your house, except maybe the essential oils, which I picked up off Amazon, but I've been meaning to get some of these for a while and I know I'll use them elsewhere, too.  If you don't have essential oils, however, you can still make this recipe, it just won't have the same scent without the essential oils.  They really aren't vital to the recipe, however, and not having them on hand shouldn't keep you from enjoying clean counters!

Mrs. Meyer's Knock-Off Lemon Verbena Countertop Spray

2 1/2 cups water
1/4 cup distilled white vinegar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
4-5 drops lemongrass essential oil
4-5 drops lemon essential oil

Using a funnel (or, being careful not to spill), pour all ingredients into a spray bottle.  Screw the lid on and shake well.

Shake well before subsequent use as well.

This is technically a knock-off countertop spray, but it really works well almost anywhere in the kitchen.  The counters, the floor, the windows.  I like to use baking soda as a scouring powder on my stovetop to get off grease an stuck-on food.  It seems to work better for that, but you might try this on your stovetop as well.  Just don't mix it with the baking soda.  Baking soda and vinegar neutralize one another, so they'll both lose their really good cleaning power if you mix them.

Hope you enjoy this inexpensive household cleaner as much as I do!

If only it could do my dishes...

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

knitting for baby: a hat and socks for baby owie.

My sister is pregnant!

With baby number 2.  Isn't that a cute picture?  I stole it from her Facebook.


Hopefully, she doesn't mind.

Since I love any opportunity to make baby things, especially tiny little knitted things (they're so fast)...

I've been knitting up a storm.  Part of it is because when she had her first, Ben and I were living in Korea and crafting supplies were short at hand, but this time around I have the time and the resources to actually make things.  So, I'm going kind of crazy.

I finished the little ankle socks yesterday in my History class.  I try to sit in the back when I knit in order to draw less attention to myself, but the professor was a little weird about it this time.  Hopefully he didn't mind too much.  I just couldn't put them down!

Sweet, bitsy-weensy socks:

yarn: cotton-ease
needles: size 7 dpns
pattern: my own

I had originally wanted to make them longer, but I ran out of yarn.

And the little bear hat:

yarn: cotton-ease
needles: size 7, 16" (body), size 7 dpns (top)
pattern: berry baby hat, by Michele Sabatier 

I just love little ear hats.  I'm not sure they're "in" right now, but I happen to think they're precious.

Oh, and back to the baby... they're going to name him Howie!  So cute, huh?  The only problem is that Rocco, their oldest, can't say, "Howie," so his name has temporarily been shortened to, "Owie."  Which, in some ways, is even cuter.

And, because I'm a sucker for a good kid-picture, here's Rocco, almost three.

One of my favorite kids in the whole world.  I mean, that smile just never gets old.

Another reason I'm so excited and knitting furiously:  They're finally coming home next Monday!  My sister's husband has been working and going to school in Australia since December 2011 (it feels like so much longer than that), so they've all been gone for-EVER and we can hardly waaait to see them!

So,that's a little of our week.  Hope yours is going well!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

why I craft - the bullet point list

I don't know about you, but I like bullet point lists.

There's just something so... organizational, about putting your thoughts neatly into a list, and the bullet points are a nice finishing touch, don't you think?  They're like top stitching around a finished edge!  They just tie the whole thing together.

Okay, I'm done waxing poetic, I promise.

There are really so many reasons that I craft (make, create, sew, glue stuff, etc...) that it would be difficult to make a truly accurate list.  I love spending my free time immersed in a project.  It speaks to something inside me that goes CRAZY without a hot glue gun.  But... although bullet point lists are fun and everything, even I know that nobody wants to read the exhaustive version of Why I Craft, so I have distilled it for you (so neatly, so concisely!) into...


The Top Five Reasons I Craft (in descending order -- for fanciness):

5. Frugality 

If you are anything like me (closeted spend thrift, anyone?  FYI: frequenting frugal mom/couponing blogs does not change how much you actually spend on fabric  in a month -- trust me, I know aaaall about it!), your hobbies probably aren't intrinsically cheap.

Around here, we do our best to stick to a zero budget (that just means every penny of our money is allocated to a specific place each month, so that there is zero leftover at the end), which means I have 50.00 a month to spend on fabric, thread, yarn, patterns -- you get the idea -- everything I might want to craft.  And that means that I currently strive to use up my scraps (of fabric, specifically, but in other areas of crafting as well).

In addition, crafting by it's very nature is somewhat frugal, isn't it?  If I make myself a potholder instead of heading down to Target to buy one, then I am not only satisfying my love of sewing, but I'm also creating a useful and important every day item that, now, I don't have to buy.  AND if I can make that potholder primarily from scraps (i.e. if I don't have to buy anything in order to make it), then it's practically FREE!  Do you see what I mean?

4. Uniqueness

This one is definitely a big reason.

Is it selfish to admit I love having things that other people don't?

I don't mean that like it sounds!  I just really like knowing that when I create something for myself (or when I create and gift something to a person I love or care about), it is the *only* one like it.  I mean, technically, I could recreate it as precisely as possible, but that's just boring for me, so I don't generally see the point.  That's one reason that handmade gifts are special, isn't it?  Because the person receiving the gift knows that it's one-of-a-kind.

It also fosters a sense of personal style in the maker (me!), when I clothe myself in handmade things, or accessorize (not that I get around to doing that very often...) with things I've made.

3. Beauty

Simple.  When I can make things myself, I can make them the way I want them.

Things from the store don't always fit my personal "aesthetic", do you know what I mean?

I love stuff from Target as much as the next person restricted to 50.00/month, but I love providing my own beautiful surroundings even more. If I've worked on a quilt, sewing so many straight lines that I'm half cross-eyed by the end, I cherish that quilt so much more than I do the one I picked up at Target (although, I really like that one, too).  So, I guess it's a sense of beauty as well as a sense of accomplishment.  Sort of.

2. Sanity

If I'm not able to make stuff -- ask Ben -- I go a little crazy.  Life's just easier when I can routinely get my hands on raw materials.  It's pretty important to both of us that things stay as sane as possible around here.

1. Fulfillment

This ties into the sense of accomplishment I mentioned along with beauty above.

I'm going to get controversial, and maybe a little too philosophical or something here, and say that I believe very strongly in a creation story (we won't go so far as to say "The Creation Story," but I do believe in a world that was created).  The idea that the world was carefully, intricately designed by intelligent hands (although, I guess it could have been like the doll quilts I smacked together the other day -- but it generally seems to function more smoothly than those doll quilts do...) is beautiful to me and the idea of humans then using their hands to create things in.. response? reaction? or, sort of in reverberation of that first creation, is really profound.

It's difficult to explain, so I will just say that I feel a sense of small-ness, as though my place in the world is affirmed, whenever I create something.  It's like I'm just repeating history, just making a quilt as thousands of women (and men) have done before me, just knitting socks like fisherman first knit their nets, and there's an order to that and a sense of peace in the tradition of it all.  

I'm not sure I have any hope of that making sense, but I'm throwing it out there anyhow.


Those are my Top Five Reasons.

I just realized I numbered them instead of using bullet points, but now I am loving that they're in descending order, so I guess I'm at an impasse!

Do you have any Top Reasons for crafting, sewing, quilting, hot gluing stuff all over the place?  

I'd love to hear about it in the comments!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

could it be the first day of fall?


So sleepy.

Ben washes his hands downstairs in the sink and my eyes fall shut.  I'm not sure I have anything to say just now, but I will find something, won't I?

Life is a little overwhelming for the time being.  Yarn, tangled in balls (puddles and hoards) on the floor and two doll quilts need retying if only I had the time.  No, the energy.  I do have the time!  I'm just sleepy. :)  So, too, is my dump of patterns on the living room carpet.  Sprawling bits of vintage pretty, waiting to be categorized, lumped into "baby" and "women" and "men".  Sweet Home Sweet is a mess!  But at least we got rid of the ants.

We had T-bone steak for dinner, oven baked fries with cheese.  It could have been more in sticking with my proper diet (no potatoes?), but I wanted those hot, crunchy-soft, cheese smothered... yum.  Would you believe I put sour cream and bacon on top?

We eat low carb here.  It's true.

When we're being good.

When we're not, it's tonight.  Peppermint tea + peanut butter chocolate chip cookies.  An odd combination?  But perfectly, crumbly-sweet and delicious!  I made them last night (the cookies) -- Ben helped -- sugar, peanut butter, almond flour, eggs and baking soda.  Simple, grain free, if not low carb.

Today was cool enough for a jacket, although all I had brought to campus was one of Ben's flannel shirts.  Over my white tank top, and coupled with hot fall coffee, it sufficed.  I'm not ready for fall, but I am ready for a break in the heatwave.  It was really quite a perfect day, weather-wise.

And even though I'm not ready for fall, I am ready for sweaters.  Those, I've missed.

Maybe more tomorrow.