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!

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Sushiwoks are Infotastic!

Yum Yes!

Fancy that, the Sushiwoks are on an infographic featuring Sushi Around the World!


Visit the CheapFlights link below for full resolution!

They thought I/the Sushiwoks were Canadian at first (perhaps I'm just that nice, eh?), but it all worked out in the end. 


...Eh?

Thanks to Cheapflights.com.au for including Sushiwoks in the tour of international delicacies!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Shark Week Feeding Frenzy: Shark Bark!

Shark Bark Attack!

It's that time again... Shark Week is upon us and that means feeding frenzies! If you need a clever, simple, delicious treat for your Shark Week viewing party (or if you've got as many sweet teeth as a shark), check out the latest in specialty themed party food: SHARK BARK! 

Just like the typical peppermint bark, each of the four flavors of Shark Bark seen here is super simple and delicious. Since they all have essentially the same foundation, let's start with the basics.

White Chocolate Chips, Ahoy!

First thing's first: melted chocolate. The traditional way (some might say "right" way) of melting chocolate is to use chopped up blocks of chocolate in a double boiler. If you don't have a double boiler or the patience to use one, there is another, simpler method that yields the same results.

We're going to need a bigger bowl...

Simply add one cup of chocolate chips (semisweet, white, etc.) to a microwave safe bowl, and nuke at half power for 60 seconds. Take the bowl out, stir what should be semi-melted chips and return to the microwave. After one or two more half power, 30-second increments of nuking, your chips should be a beautiful, silky smooth consistency. At this point, you would add any canola oil and/or flavoring called for in the recipe. 

Time to Pan Out

Once your melted mixture is homogeneous, spread it onto a cookie sheet covered in wax paper. Be careful not to spread the chocolate too thin, lest the hardened bark melt almost instantaneously to the touch. After the melted chocolate base is down, add your topping of choice, pat down if necessary, and chill for 30 minutes to an hour before breaking into (shark) bite-size chunks.

A Shiver of Shark Barks

























Ready to see some of the exciting ways to customize your very own Shark Bark? Check out the dangerously, delicious Shark Week themed varieties below!


Shark Bark #1: Great White Shark Bark

Shark Bark with Bite!

Great White Shark Bark
1 cup white chocolate chips
1/4 tsp canola oil
12 cinnamon imperials (red hots)
4 cinnamon hard candies

Great White Shark Bark has some major bite, especially if someone makes the mistake of thinking they're eating peppermint bark! The crushed cinnamon candy bits add just enough spice to be interesting, but the white chocolate evens out the heat to make it a pleasant treat for any palette.

Cinnamon Candy Crush

In the interest of science, we got several different kinds of cinnamon candy and crushed them individually to see which would look the best atop the Great White Shark Bark. Ultimately, we decided both kinds looked great and mixed them together for the topping.


Shark Bark #2: Mocha Mako Shark Bark

As if a shark needs caffeine!

Mocha Mako Shark Bark
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/4 tsp canola oil
1/4 tsp coffee liqueur (optional)
1 tbsp ground coffee

Mocha Mako Shark Bark recipe is perhaps the simplest rendition of the recipe, but also one of the most delicious. Once the semisweet chocolate is melted, add a bit of canola oil and, if desired, coffee liqueur. Even without the additional flavoring, this mocha bark tastes just like chocolate covered espresso beans, and at a fraction of the price - yum!
                                                     
Melted Chocolaty Goodness!

For both the semisweet and white variety, I am a big fan of the Guittard brand chocolate chips. I have sampled many different brands throughout all my forays into baking/candy creation, and Guittard is by far my favorite. They're even good for straight up munching!


Shark Bark #3: Blue Raspberry Shark Bark

Watch out, Titanic!

Blue Raspberry Shark Bark
1 cup white chocolate chips 
1 small box blue raspberry gelatin
5 blue raspberry hard candies, crushed

The Blue Raspberry Shark Bark recipe was by far the most novel variety I attempted, and it took a few tries to perfect. I first tried dissolving the blue raspberry gelatin in a small amount of boiling water and then combining that with the white chocolate, but it made for a playdough-esque consistency which none of the test kitchen (a.k.a. my brother and I) deemed appetizing. 

Instead, simply mix the gelatin powder straight into the melted white chocolate. Since the powder crystals don't dissolve, the structural integrity of the bark remains intact, and you get tiny bursts of blue raspberry flavor throughout! 

Hard Candy vs. Hammerhead

Once the blue raspberry white chocolate base is down, add some crushed blue hard candy to the top, and you are ready to go. One of the easiest ways to crush candy is to put the unwrapped candy inside a zipped plastic bag and use a rolling pin until the pieces are the size you want. Another valid method, as my brother pointed out, is to smash the candy directly with a hammer. To each their own!


Shark Bark #4: Marbled Tiger Shark Bark

Don't Lose your Marbles!

Marbled Tiger Shark Bark
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup cinnamon chips
1/4 tsp canola oil

For the Marbled Tiger Shark Bark, I used a marbled mix of both melted semisweet chocolate and cinnamon chips. 

Liquefied Cinnamon Rolls Incarnate

To get the fancy marbled look, all you have to do is pour several parallel lines of melted cinnamon chips onto a solid layer of melted chocolate. Then drag a butter knife through the lines perpendicularly. This will yield a neat, marbled pattern that in this case, also almost looks like an army of manta rays.

Defensive formation!

Shark Week Bonus: Gummy Feeding Frenzy!!

Fish are friends... or chum!

Since no gathering is complete without plenty of finger food, I could not resist getting a few gummy sharks and chopped up Swedish Fish to complete the Shark Week theme. The silver rocks are Jordan Almonds, and while pretty, they are nearly impossible to eat. The Swedish Fish should be so lucky...

Nom nom nom

Happy Shark Week, everybody!