Friday, July 3, 2015

4th of July Pie: Happy Birthday, America!

The 4th of July is a great time to celebrate freedom, independence and our nation's birthday. It's also a great time to bust out the fireworks (where legal), barbecues and patriotic baked goods!

As it turns out, I actually started out just planning a baked good to celebrate the July birthdays of two of my coworkers. When one requested cherry pie, I could not help adding one more birthday to the mix.

My, my, this American pie

Instead of the typical lattice top, I simply added three full dough stripes across the bottom of the pie and three half stripes across the top. I added white sugar to the stripes to make them extra white and tossed it in the oven for about 20 minutes.

(If you're looking for a good crust recipe, by the way, check out Pie Crust V on It's my go-to crust recipe for most of the pies I make.)

The stars were baked separately on a cookie sheet (also topped with white sugar) for about six minutes. Once both the pie and stars were done, I placed the stars in the stripeless corner of the pie and surrounded them with fresh blueberries for the final patriotic touch. 

Happy birthday, America!

For more exciting pie ideas, tips and recipes, check out the LydMc blog post Pi r delicious!

Saturday, February 14, 2015

I Heart Muffins: Happy Valentine's Day!

I <3 Valentine's Day!

Valentine's Day is the perfect time to celebrate with sweet, pink treats full of love and deliciousness. As it turns out, you can make just about anything heart-shaped, and muffins are no exception. 

Instant yum

While I originally just intended to make some of my favorite go to muffins as part of a low-key brunch, inspiration and timing got the better of me and made for a fun, new creation.

Think outside the box...

By following the "What if" recipe option listed on the back of the box, you can transform these already tasty muffins into allegedly "guilt free baked donuts." The only main difference in the process involved putting the batter into a plastic bag and piping it out onto a pan.

The shape of my heart

Since it was <3 day anyway, I decided to take it one step further and make Valentine's Day themed, heart-shaped donut muffins. 

Circles, hearts and triforces, oh my!

Along with the fun heart muffins, I made a few traditional round and bar donuts, as well. I even went so far as to make a triforce because that's just who I am.

Think pink!

The icing for these special Valentine's Day donuts was as simple as it was tasty, made from just powdered sugar and the remaining juice saved from the boxed mix's enclosed cranberry tin.

Love at first taste

The naturally pink hue of the resulting icing was perfect for the Valentine's Day theme of the heart-shaped donut muffins and made for a wonderfully sweet addition to our special brunch. 

Cranberry orange donut muffins - yum!

While this neat muffin transforming technique is perfect for hearts on Valentine's Day, you can just as easily make traditional donuts or other shapes for any time of the year. Muffins will never be the same again!

For other Valentine's Day fun, check out the series of nerdy valentines in all your favorite fandoms: Love is in the Cards.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Novel Baking: The Book Cake!

Edible fiction

One of the few things I enjoy more than baking is reading - especially a good, old-fashioned book. Fiction, nonfiction, tomes, novellas... stories of all kinds are welcome on my bookcases. So, when I found a baking pan in the shape of an open book, I simply could not resist. 

Book armor (+42)

My test run with the new pan began with an already hungry audience, so I decided to go the quick route of boxed cake mix. I also decided to sweeten the deal by making a few modifications. 

Going bananas!

Taking a simple yellow cake box mix, I followed all the directions as listed, but added to the concoction two ripe bananas and...

Chocolate makes everything better.

...Chocolate chips! This way, instead of having a run of the mill boxed cake, you have a delicious semi-homemade banana chocolate chip cake. Yum! 

This story isn't even half baked.

After mixing everything thoroughly, I poured the batter into the book pan and set it to bake, again following the box directions for time but checking intermittently to test for doneness.

A cooked book!

You can't tell it's a chocolate chip cake from this angle, but flip the cake out of the pan and voila!

Chips ahoy!

Leaving this cake unfrosted would undoubtedly taste delicious given the extra moisture and density from the banana. But, since this was my first go using the elusive book pan, I wanted to make it look the part.

Tabula rasa

Vanilla frosting is not always my top choice, but I had to admit it was ideal for the bookish look I was aiming for. For extra effect, I used a specialized frosting tube tip to give the illusion of pages on the edges.

Short and sweet, literally!

Unfortunately, I was not able to give much time or thought to the icing job (or the story line) as I had an eager audience chomping at the bit. So while this literary baked good was admittedly one of my less polished creations, let's just call it a first draft. 

Taking a page from this book.

As expected, the banana chocolate chip book cake was a hit, and will definitely be added to my library.  

To be continued!

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Personalized PJ Pants: Mix & Match Pockets!

Handmade pajama pants are the coziest

There's nothing quite like cozying up on the couch in a warm, comfy pair of pajama pants, and it's even more special when the pjs in question are personalized just for you! That's what I thought when I decided to make about a dozen pairs for my friends and family for Christmas. Making so many pants from scratch may sound crazy, but pajama pants are actually a fun, simple sewing project that makes wonderful gifts, especially in the cold, winter season.

To make the pants extra awesome, I made several sets with mix and match pockets representing special groups like my three college roomies. Each of the pairs of pants in the set wound up with one pocket of each of the other's fabrics. How cool is that?

And so it begins!

The first step in this project was finding a good pattern that included pockets and selecting fabric for each person. Since the roomies' favorite color is blue across the board, I decided to honor that with the fabric choices and pick patterns that further exemplified each person. As such, I found a Mickey Mouse pattern for the Disney lover, music notes for the musician and sharks for the marine biologist!

Pinning fleece is like sewing a marshmallow cloud.

While the majority of the fabrics I chose for these pants and others are flannels, I did end up opting for fleece for one of the roomies, partly because she lives in a colder climate, and partly because there were no good blue music-themed patterns available in flannel. 

The mix & match pockets come into play

Despite the difference in fabric, sewing the flannel and fleece together proved to be no problem at all. As a precaution for any sewing project, it's good to wash all the fabrics before measuring or cutting to make sure any shrinking and/or bleeding they plan to do gets done before the sewing.

da na... da na... da na da na da na da na!

Once sewn, I finished off the pants with matching ribbons and elastic. One of the reasons homemade pajama pants make such great for gifts is because you don't have to worry too much about sizing. Do make sure to measure though, as the "large" size on this pattern was definitely more of an XXL.

Musical Mouse Shark Pants!

With one trio of pants complete, and every other pocket a different matching fabric, I was excited to create my next set, this time for a group of sisters!

Pink pants in progress 

For these girls, I decided to make all the fabrics a shade of pink with different animals on each. The chosen fabrics ended up being polka dot and plaid Scottie dogs, green kittens and singing birds - perfect for each of the girls!

It's sewing cats and dogs!

Later in the game I realized I still had not made any pants for myself. Since that simply would not do, I set to making a matching set of two for myself and my best friend from second grade. 

Pattern Mash-up

When I asked what fabric she'd like and she said neon leopard print, I don't think she expected I'd actually find it! When all was said and done, both of these pants actually turned out to be some of my favorites.

Perfect for camping!

Along with the mix and match pockets pants, I also ended up making a few solo pants with normal pockets for other friends and family to keep everyone warm and cozy all the year long. They're so easy and fun to sew, I may even make some more for next year.

Even Batman likes pajama pants

For more crafty and cozy homemade gift ideas, learn how to arm knit the Literally Handmade Moebius Scarf or try your hand at the adorable Puff Ewoks!

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thanksgiving Thanks: Goodies for Do-Gooders

Happy Thanksgiving!

I've always had a soft spot in my heart (and stomach) for Thanksgiving. Stuck in between two majorly merchandised holidays, Thanksgiving is often overlooked and has become something of an underdog in the holiday season. Nonetheless, Thanksgiving is quite possibly my favorite holiday to celebrate. 

For me, it has always meant good times with family, sharing delicious homemade creations and catching up while hanging out in the aftermath of football and food comas. This year, my family had the opportunity to make our Thanksgiving something completely different, so we decided it was time to start some new traditions. 

'Tis the season for baking

What better way to celebrate Thanksgiving than by giving thanks? And what says gratitude better than home-baked goodies?

To celebrate Thanksgiving 2014, we decided to make plates of baked goods and deliver them to various servicemen and women who, by the nature of their job, have to work on the holiday. With gratitude for the firefighters, police officers, doctors and nurses of our area, we got to baking.

The best cranberry bread ever.

My all time favorite holiday recipe and the first thing we made for the plates of goodies is my mom's amazing cranberry bread. The original recipe was my grandpa's sister Jean's, and it's since been published in two family cookbooks and Typesetting Tables on the Unix System (co-written by my aunt Mary). Clearly, we're a talented family on both sides of the tree.

The book sells for $337-$555, but you can have this page for free.

Between my mom, my brother and myself, we created quite the mountain of treats including apple cinnamon muffins, almond crescents, pumpkin cupcakes, pumpkin scones, cranberry scones, pecan date bars and, of course, cranberry bread. 

All your leftovers are belong to us.

Once all the baking was complete, it was time to set up the plates and write some thank you notes. Call me old-fashioned, but I think hand-written thank you notes are a wonderful, tangible way to show appreciation for a kind deed, gift or thought. Since Thanksgiving is all about giving thanks, it seemed like the perfect addition to the plates.

En route to tour the local fire/police departments!

With our plates wrapped, stacked and ready to go, we were on our way. Equipped with a map and my phone, we made our way to seven fire departments, one police department and a hospital in four surrounding cities. 

Is it silly that I get starstruck around firefighters?

In the course of our adventure, we got to meet more than a dozen kind and awesome firefighters, a dispatcher and quite a few nurses. As a special treat, one fire department invited us to take pictures with the fire engine... 

Such hospitable heroes!

...and another department invited us in to meet the crew and their families! For the record, their Thanksgiving feast smelled delicious.

At one of the Fair Oaks fire stations, there were chickens on top of the sign. Chickens. If you're at all familiar with the area, you know that is so awesomely Fair Oaks.

Chickens on a marquis = Fair Oaks in a nutshell.

This Thanksgiving, I have a lot to be grateful for. Between memories of Thanksgivings past and excitement for continuing our new tradition, I'm filled with happiness, gratitude and a whole lot of leftovers. 

A big thank you to all the civil servants and caregivers who work all year long and on holidays like these to keep our communities going. And of course, Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving thanks!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Trick or Treat! Halloween Costume Art

Happy Halloween 2014!

One of my favorite October pastimes (besides busting out my coziest sweaters and fluffy socks) is drawing fun costumes from the annual Halloween catalogs. Each year, I have friends pick out their favorite costumes and then I assign them to my crew of fictional characters. The picture above is fresh off the sketchbook for Halloween 2014, and this year, the costumes were chosen by my brother, my mom, and my boyfriend (who was also kind enough to lend me some of his Prismacolor markers). Can you find the Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 cameo...?

Ghosts, pirates, and fairies of Halloweens past abound in my binders of old drawings, and I dug out some of the more entertaining pictures to share. While most aren't quite as polished in the quality department, they do a great job of showing the progression of my art skills, and of costume catalogs. 

Crazy as it may seem, this picture was from 10 YEARS AGO... Spooky!

I had so many costume requests, I had to enlist a staircase!

Chibi Costumes (The wet bale of hay was a special request)

All the pirate costumes in the catalog (>10 years ago!)

Pirate Redux (originally for Talk Like a Pirate Day)

The headless butler would be a trick to pull off!

The creepy used car salesman and loaf of bread were both actual costumes, I kid you not!

Special guest appearances from Kingdom Hearts: Roxas, Cloud, Squall & Axel!

If you're in the mood to join the tradition of costume catalog art, or are simply looking for a Halloween themed coloring page, feel free to use the following line art as inspiration. Please remember to comment below and link back to/credit LydMc if you post your masterpiece online - I'd love to see it!

The original line art for this year's Halloween selection.

For more festive autumnal time blogs, check out the Foxy Jack-o-Lantern & Sweet Roasted Pumpkin Seeds, the recipe for Pumpkindoodles, and the Peanuts themed Harvest Festival Cut-Out Board!

Thanks for visiting, and Happy Halloween!