Déjà Vu

I know that some of you will recognize this hat!  I was lucky enough to be talking to a friend and when he saw my blog, he wanted to give a winking owl hat to his niece.  Up until now, I had only been making things for kids that I knew personally.  I still wanted to make something personal, so he showed me some pictures of his niece, who is absolutely adorable.  I immediately thought of this wonderful coral-colored yarn that I had yet to use and thought that it would be a perfect complement to this little girl’s deep blue eyes and fair complexion.

As I make more hats, I find that I’m learning little tricks to speed the process along, such as how to introduce new colors to a project more seamlessly.  There’s a great video tutorial here.  This was the first hat that I did this consistently and I found that it made finishing off the hat much easier.  While it pretty much looks the same, I feel that with each hat, I am more confident with my skills.

All in all, this hat went fairly quickly.  I decided to experiment with slightly different proportions from my first owl hat, so you may see some minor adjustments.  There are so many ways to make this hat, I can’t wait to try another one!

Berry Nice!

Before having my daughter, my husband and I were really good about preparing meals for the week. I would bake a nice breakfast bread for us and we would plan out what to take for lunch. It was a great money-saving tactic and it was also very healthy. Ever since going back to work full time, I have felt so inundated with things to do that we dropped off this track. However, we’ve decided to make a concerted effort to do this again.

Following this train of thought, I’ve been busy trying to think of what breads I can make with what we currently have in our kitchen. I take partial inspiration from a bakery that we live near, Blue Sky Bakery. There are many things I love about this place: neighborhood feel and warm muffins fresh out of the oven to start.

This place used to be a little bit of an enigma for my husband and me before we had our daughter. We would often walk by this place on week-ends and it would never be open!  We would wonder how a place that was never open would be able to stay in business for so long.  Well, once we had our daughter, we caught on quick!  They have very limited hours, opening at 8am and closing whenever they run out of muffins, which is generally around 11am-1pm on a week-end.  Crazy, right?  Not if you have tasted these muffins!

They have the most wonderful and sometimes odd combinations that you could think of!  Pumpkin Apple Walnut, Strawberry pineapple cream cheese, blueberry blackberry bran, combinations that I would just never have thought of.  Eating at this bakery every week for the past couple of months has definitely broadened my horizons on what can taste good when combined.  That inspired my next breakfast bread recipe, Cranberry Blackberry Pecan Bread!

I was skeptical about this recipe at first.  I thought there would be too many berries, or that the blackberries and cranberries would not work well together, or that there were too many berries (do you see a pattern?)  Not so!  Once I bit into this delicious bread, my fears were quelled.  I used re-constituted cranberries, and these had just the right amount of sweetness and tartness to complement the blackberries, which had a much more subdued and subtle flavor.  The pecans added a nice textural difference to the berries.  This recipe is really easy and fast if you’re in a rush!

Cranberry Blackberry Pecan Bread:

1 1/4 C All-purpose Flour
1/4 C sugar
1 T baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2/3 C orange juice
1/3 C unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 C blackberries (I used frozen only because that’s what I had, but I would recommend fresh)
1/2 dried cranberries soaked in 1/2 C warm water
1/2 pecans (you can chop these, but I left them whole)

1. Preheat oven to 350ºF.  Grease a 9x5x3 loaf pan and set aside.

2. In a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients and mix well.  Make a well in the center.

3. In a small, heat-proof bowl, melt the butter and set aside to cool.

4. Pour all the liquid ingredients into the well in the center of the dry ingredients and mix until just combined.

5. Discard the liquid from the cranberries and add these, along with the blackberries and pecans into the batter and fold in gently until just combined.

6. Pour batter into the loaf pan and bake for 50-60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

7. Remove from oven and cool in loaf pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes.  Remove from loaf pan and cool completely.

Monkey Business

 

Back when I was originally looking on Etsy for ideas for hats, I kept coming across designs for sock-monkey hats. I swear, there are tons and tons and TONS of different interpretations of the sock monkey hat on this site. I must admit, I didn’t get it. I didn’t really understand the fascination with this particular design, nor people’s obsession with it.  That being said, I thought that it looked like an interesting challenge.  I decided that I would try making one to see if I could understand what all the hype was about.

I made this a little while back, so I was still testing out different patterns and methods, but I was able to see lots of different ideas for proportions and placement of features just surfing the web.  I settled in my head how I wanted this guy to look and got to it!  As I made it, I started to see the appeal of these simple little guys.  Making this hat was a blast and I actually ended up making it for my daughter.  This was my very first animal hat!

I did learn a lot about hats from this guy and from having my daughter wear it for numerous occasions.  Living inNYC, there is a HUGE stroller culture.  Babies in strollers are everywhere.  If you don’t have a baby, a stroller, or a dog, then you’re missing something (I jest, but only partially).  Anyways, I found out a couple things about hats:

1. Ears and other features on hats, while cute, sometimes impeded the baby’s ability to move their head around.  The hat tended to stay still due to the ears, and my daughter’s head would slide around easily and then her eye would get covered by an earflap.  This was partially remedied by adding the under-chin ties, and now it stays better.  Also, note that this hat stretched tremendously after 2 wearings.  I made it for a 9-12 month old, and it still fits her fine (and remains loose) at almost 13 months.

2. Pom poms, while an adorable addition and detail to hats, sometimes also impede babies in strollers.  If your baby is wearing something like a hoodie sweater, and the hoodie is behind her back, her head will have farther to lean to rest on the back of the stroller.  Since the pom pom is usually located on the top center of the hat, it will only allow the hat to go back so far before the pom pom stops it.  That being said, baby’s eyes may get covered by the front edge of the hat, so try and avoid bulky clothing and pom-pom hats when in a stroller, or put the hooded part of the clothing under the head to adjust for this unevenness.  For a tutorial on making pom pom’s, go here.

3. Under-chin ties are wonderful.  At first I thought these were a cute decoration, but later, I found that these were essential in keeping the hat in place on my daughter’s head.

I will definitely be revisiting this design in the future!

Yes, We Have Some Bananas….

People who know me also know that I love to bake.  I used to bake just for fun and bring all the goodies into the office for all of my co-workers to be my “taste testers” but really, I found that baking was such a fun way to express my creativity.  I love trying new recipes, and although I wouldn’t say that I’m a “daring” baker, I do like to think that I’m creative and experimental.  Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t, but with each try, I learn something.

Being a new parent, I find myself with an excess of fresh fruit in my house.  More importantly, I’ve discovered that bananas are a baby’s best friend.  My daughter LOVES her bananas.  When she was first starting on solid foods, bananas were a GREAT thing to feed her.  Just get really ripe bananas and mash them up.  No teeth needed to eat this sweet goodness!  Better yet, mash it up and mix it with oatmeal as a natural sweetner!  Yum!!!

Since we had more bananas than we could eat and they start to ripen so quickly, I started to look for other ways to use them.  I naturally turned to baking!  I love making breakfast breads, so I thought a banana bread would be great!  I also had some bran hanging out in my pantry that I wanted to use up, so I decided to try making a banana bran pecan bread.  I love mixing the things in my pantry together to see what I get.  I have to say, the finished result was AMAZING!!!!  The bread rose the perfect amount and the bran gave the bread a moistness and heartiness that really worked to enhance the banana flavor.  The nuts, well, I love breakfast breads with nuts because it adds a nice texture to the overall bite.  I would highly recommend making this bread!

Banana Bran Pecan Bread

2 C all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

2 medium bananas (about 10″ long)
3/4 C All Bran Cereal soaked in 3/4 C warm water (so the bran softens)
2 eggs, beaten
1 C sugar
1/2 C cooking oil
1/2 C Pecans, halved

1. Preheat oven to 350°.  Grease a 9x5x3 loaf pan and set aside.  Soak the bran in the warm water.

2. Combine all of the dry ingredients together in a mixing bowl and form a well in the center.

3. Combine the wet ingredients.  Pour them into the center of the well in the dry ingredients and mix until just moistened.  Fold in the nuts.

4. Pour the batter into the loaf pan and bake for 55-65 minutes or when a wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Remove from oven and place on a wire rack for 10 minutes.  Remove from the pan and cool completely on the wire rack.

Fuzzy Wuzzy Was a Bear

I’m in hardcore hat mode! I’ve been churning out hats so quickly that we’re starting to get over-run!   We have so many friends with babies that are turning one and I’ve been doing my best to keep up with all my daughter’s little friends and make them each a thoughtful and personalized little gift!

I made this next hat for one of our friends who had their baby boy two days before my daughter.  Just some background, this baby came 2 weeks early!  I guess he just wanted out.  And he was a big boy too!  I remember meeting him for the first time!  He was so chubby and cuddly and cute with all his little baby-fat rolls!  You just wanted to squeeze him!  And he had the greatest temperament.  He was so chill and easygoing.  When faced with what to make for him, I thought a cuddly bear would be so perfect!

Since I have been making quite a number of hats at this point, I felt fairly comfortable making up a design.  I was inspired by these pants that my daughter has, which has a bear face on the butt.  These are SO cute, especially when the babies start crawling around and they leave you in the dust!  All you see is a little bear face zipping down the hall!

One thing I noted in making this is that with more attachments added onto the hat, there is probably less likelihood that the hat will stretch as much as say a monochromatic hat.  We’ll see what happens.  I think I’m going to have to loosen up my stitches or edit the pattern again to accommodate large heads!

Anyways, I love the way this little guy turned out and will definitely have to try this design again.  I can’t wait to see a picture of the new owner in his cuddly new hat!  Happy hatting!

Let Your Hair Down

Shortly after starting this blog, I became a member of Pinterest. For those of you who don’t know what this is, it’s an online pinboard where you can surf the internet and “pin” images, articles, whatever you want, onto your account’s “board” so that you can always find stuff again. It also allows you to see other people’s boards and follow them, if you like what they’re pinning. For me, this is amazing. I’m always surfing the internet and coming across stuff that I think is cool, but then I end up having to e-mail myself the link. This makes it very hard for me to organize and keep track of all my finds. Pinterest is a great solution for this.

I came across a bunch of great flower tutorials that I wanted to try out and I came across a tutorial for felt dahlias!  I LOVE dahlias!  When my parents moved back to the states from overseas, the house they bought had a beautiful backyard that was designed by a landscape architect, and the previous owner had planted dahlias in the back.  When we moved into the house in the summer, the dahlias bloomed and they were so large and beautiful.  Seeing this tutorial reminded me of our first beautiful summer spent in Seattle.

I thought it would be the perfect gift for the daughter of  our daycare provider.  When my daughter first started going to daycare, she had the pleasure of being one of the first babies to consistently be attending this new daycare.  The provider is so sweet and loving and at the beginning in the summer, her young daughter would be with her during the day.  My daughter got a lot of attention from this girl, who would always send her off with a hug and a kiss when I went to pick her up.  I noted that she loves “girly” things, so I thought that a flower headband would be such a great gift for her!

Materials:

1 sheet red felt

1 headband (I used the Goody headband from the drugstore)

fabric glue

Step 1: Follow the felt dahlia tutorial linked here.  You may want to re-size your dahlia smaller or large depending on what you plan on using it for.

Modifications: I ended up shrinking the overall flower size.  So, I used a series of (14) 1″ squares, (11) 3/4″ squares, and (8) 1/2″ squares.  For the back circle, I ended up cutting a 2″ circle and didn’t fold the felt over the stiffening center board.  Also, instead of using a thicker cardboard for the back, since I was making a headpiece, I just used a thin piece of cardstock and sandwiched that between two layers of felt circles and glued with fabric glue.  This way, it was stiff, but still flexible enough to mold to the roundness of the headband.  From past experience, DO NOT USE ELMER’S GLUE!!!!  IT WILL DISCOLOR THE FELT AFTER A WHILE!!!!

Step 2: Glue the flower to your headband using the fabric glue.  Cut a felt circle the size of the back circle and glue this inside the headband so that it sandwiches the headband between this back and the flower.  Enjoy!

Cheep Cheep! It sounds like Spring!

If you recall from my previous post I had talked about how my daughter had two friends who were born within five days from one another, whom I have termed the three Musketeers.  We’ve heard about the eldest, my daughter is the middle, and now it’s time for the youngest!  She was actually born one day after my daughter in the same hospital!  It’s so amazing how life works out to provide these little experiences that are so memorable.  I vividly remember visiting my friend, who was on the same floor of the hospital as me, only a couple doors away, to meet her new daughter!  No one knew if they were having a boy or girl since they wanted it to be a surprise.  I felt so honored to be one of the first people to meet their little girl!  I remember she had the bluest eyes I had ever seen.

Fast forward a year later (don’t we all wish that parenthood were that easy sometimes, HA!) and all the girls are turning one!  Now, I wanted to make a hat for the third musketeer that had something that characterized her for me.  She’s always been so happy and sunny and “polite”.  Haha, I don’t have a better way of explaining it!  Even when she cries, it’s not as raucous as some other children.  Anyways, as I was planning on what I would make for her, these personality traits definitely came into play and I finally settled on a bluebird.  I thought that this would be so cute on her and would go with her very blue eyes.

Again, I did a web search to see a lot of what other people had done.  Something that inspired me subconsciously was sitting right in front of me the whole time!   A couple of years back, my little brother did a study abroad in Taiwan, where he picked me up a stuffed penguin toy, á la Sanrio style.  It’s so cute and round (just like all these other Japanese stuffed animal characters).  I really liked the proportions of the eyes and beak and I actually used this as a model for this hat, even though it was a penguin and I was making a bluebird.  Here’s a photo of our penguin (and it’s blue!).  If anyone can tell me it’s name, that would be great!  I can’t read Japanese and thus do not know what to call it.  We have named him “Pingu”.

I did take some liberties and add a little tufted pompom to the top and ties to keep the hat in place.  I, again, used the Vanna’s Choice Baby yarn that I had talked about in my earlier post.  I’m going to have to try out some other yarns, but right now, I like the color options this yarn line has.

Since this hat was mainly one color, it didn’t take quite as much time as the others.  I think the thing to note in making a monochromatic hat is to really pay attention to the proportions and spacing of the various features since there is so much less distracting the eye.  I made this as a toddler size so that she can keep her head nice and toasty for the next winter season.  I’m very happy with how this came out and I hope that the new owner lovers her cheery new hat!  Congratulations on turning one!