Monday, June 2, 2014

LydMc Blog One Year Anniversary: Return of the Ewoks... Again!

The Sushiwoks are back and puffier than ever!

Today is a very special day for the LydMc blog: it is officially the One Year Anniversary of the first blog post! Huzzah!! One whole year of delightful, nerdy, and often delicious forays into creativity! In honor of this momentous occasion, I would like to celebrate with a craft inspired by the blog that started it all: The Sushiwoks!

Yub nub!

Not only were these Star Wars themed appetizers the first post on the LydMc blog, they were also the ones that put it on the map. Thanks to the awesome sharing of fellow nerds, cooks, and craftspeople (thanks, all!), the sushiwoks started making the internet rounds and page views climbed to the hundreds. 

And then, one fine day when I just so happened to get my wisdom teeth out, I sit down on the couch to recover and see the views have jumped to the thousands! As it turned out, ThinkGeek posted the sushiwoks (sushi ewoks) on Facebook making the blog go viral, and the day I got my wisdom teeth out one of my favorite memories. How many other people can say that? ;)

So without further ado, I bring you the less edible, albeit less perishable cousins of the Sushiwoks: the Puff Ewoks (a.k.a. Puffywoks)!

Puffywoks in their natural habitat.

Just as the sushiwoks are essentially rice balls (onigiri) formed into Star Wars' most adorable creation, puffywoks are basically tiny stuffed animal ewoks made out of yarn. My initial inspiration for such a craft was trying to find a way to use up scrap yarn left over from other projects. The results? Cute and huggable Puff Bunnies.

Puff Bunnies!

The puff bunnies seen above were made with extra yarn remnants that I had after arm knitting an infinity scarf and arm knitting a blanket (blog to come). It was just a matter of time before I discovered I could make ewoks this way, too.

Puffs are looming

If you've never seen these little looms before, you're missing out. The larger ones can be used to make hats (also a blog in the making), scarves, and all sorts of other delightful yarn creations. These tiny ones are intended for making flowers, and are also a great platform to make miniature stuffed bunnies, ewoks, and whatever else you have in mind.

Ewok in progress...

A few inches of looming later, and you already have the brunt of your ewok created. You can see the outside has the typical knit texture, but if you turn it inside out...

Deja Vu...!

...the purling nubs look just like sushi rice!

Puff Appendages... sort of

To make the ears and tails, simply crochet a few chain stitches leaving enough room on either end to tie onto the ewok. For ewok ears, I crocheted 3 stitches each, and for the tail, which I wanted to be more pronounced, I crocheted 5 stitches. 

For Puff Bunnies: Crochet 5-7 chain stitches, then double back with a single crochet for each ear, and make a pom pom for the puffy tail.

After the ears and tail are complete, tie them to the Puffywok body to attach. For the eyes, just weave a piece of colorful yarn in and out a few times in the appropriate location and tie it off on the inside, as well.

The Puffywok Wardrobe

As for that cape, if you're at all proficient with a crochet hook (or even if you're not!), you can just free form a leaf-like shape, leaving small holes for each ear and a big one for the ewok face. As you can see, I experimented with a different pattern for each one, so basically, have fun with it!

The Arctic Tribe (Rare Sightings on Hoth)

For the blue cape, I crocheted a chain for the bottom and swung back up for the rest.

The Moss Tribe (Common on Endor)

For the green cape (a.k.a. the babushka cape), I crocheted more linearly and tied the front ends together afterward.

The Ninja Tribe (or possibly Hipster)

And for this one.... I'm not really sure what I did there. Like I said, free form is fun - ewoks aren't picky!

Teenage Mutant Ninja Ewoks!

At the end of this project, I wound up with four Puffywoks complete with interchangeable capes and aptly themed crochet hook staffs. Although I made a few of the capes with a specific ewok in mind, it's fun to mix it up and see what different combinations you can get. 

Caped Crusaders!

Phew... 1 year, 30 blogs, and more than 20,000 views... It's truly been a wild and fantastic ride so far, and it's not over yet! Keep an eye out for a new and improved LydMc website, complete with more and different content (comics anyone?), and all sorts of delightful surprises. 

To help make the LydMc blog the best it can be, please take a moment to comment below, message me, or take the poll on the right to share what your favorite parts of the blog are and what you would like to see more of in the future.

Coatee-cha puff puff!

Thank you all so much for visiting, sharing, and commenting on the LydMc Blog! This first year has been a great and wonderful time and I look forward to sharing many more to come. 
In the wise words of Wicket... Allayloo!

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Celebration Shout Out: Zoom!

Celebrate Good News!

If you're wondering why the LydMc blog updates have been a bit on the slow side recently, the causes are many-fold. Some are good, some are bad, and some are awesome. One of the awesome reasons is my latest job (nearly 8 months in now!) at Zoom. 

Zoom, a newspaper/magazine hybrid with all sorts of great things going for it, is a community publication that showcases and celebrates the good that goes on in our local areas. Fundraisers, marathons, scout projects, you name it. If it's positive, Zoom is likely to cover it.

As Associate Editor at Zoom, I get to process a lot of these events and even write a few of the articles. It's always exciting to hear why people are so passionate about the various causes they support, and it makes me grateful to have a job where I can help share their stories and spread their positive inspiration with others.

So instead of a typical blog this week, here are links to a few of the features I've written for both of Zoom's monthly editions:

And just for the record, Zoom has a fantastic team of other writers worth checking out, as well. Thanks to them, the photographers, and the rest of our wonderful staff, working at Zoom is something to celebrate in and of itself. My other workplace, Folsom Auto Center, is also full of capable and trustworthy people, so if you need someone to work on your car in the Folsom area, go visit them!

As for the LydMc Blog, keep your eyes open for an extra special update in the next few days... Until then, pull up a comfy chair, enjoy some positive journalism, and, of course, Celebrate Good News!

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Spice Up Your Life with Jalapeño Poppers!

Cheese + Bacon + Jalapeño = The Perfect Appetizer

Let's face it, while things that are cheese-filled and bacon-wrapped may not always be good for us, they are almost always amazing. So imagine if you will an appetizer that is both cheese-filled AND bacon-wrapped. Yes, my friends, that is what you have in the delightfully delicious Jalapeño Poppers.

Jalapeño poppers, pre-pop

I admit, I was a bit dubious about trying jalapeño poppers at first, but mostly because spicy food is one of the few things I can't handle. However, one of my coworkers brought these in to a going away party and they were both mild and delicious! Needless to say, I got the recipe and these have been a favorite of my family, friends and neighbors ever since. 

Jalapeño Poppers
~15 Jalapeños
 1 lb. Bacon
1 box (8 oz.) Cream Cheese

As you can see, a main draw for these poppers besides their epic tastiness is their incredible simplicity. With only three ingredients and very basic prep, there's hardly anything standing between you and some mouthwatering appetizers of your own. 

Dangerous & Delicious!

If you're like me and many peppers are just too hot to handle, it is vital to clean your jalapeños well. Surprisingly, this is a fairly easy task with just a knife and a spoon. Simply cut the jalapeño in half lengthwise, and then use the spoon to scoop and scrape out the remaining seeds and white membrane - the primary contributors of spice. I like to clean them completely, but you can adjust to taste. The more white you leave, the spicier they will be. 

Brother Aaron demonstrates another definition for spooning

Chef General's Warning: Be careful cleaning jalapeños - skin is not immune to the spiciness! Overexposure to the jalapeños' acrid juices can cause irritation for hours, and definitely don't touch your face without first getting a proper scrubbing

How cheesy!

After the jalapeños are cleaned, it is time to fill them with the cheese. In the name of science and lower calories, we experimented with using Neufchatel, the lower fat version of cream cheese, and found they tasted identical in this recipe. Depending on the size of your jalapeños, you can just cut off a slice of your chosen cheese and smooth it into the pepper boat - perfect fit! 

Time to bake the bacon

Once the jalapeños are properly cheese-filled, it is time for the bacon-wrapped part of the recipe. While we were able to get away with a healthier version of the cheese, there is simply no substitution for bacon. In an effort to be health conscious, we did try substituting turkey bacon into the recipe, but the results were not nearly as good. As such, I firmly recommend you go with the real deal - bacon ftw!

Finally, pop the poppers into a 375 degree oven for about 45 minutes and await the succulence. While it may be tempting, don't take the jalapeños out prematurely. Make sure the bacon is fully cooked, top and bottom, as the undersides of the poppers cook more slowly than the tops. 

The popper thief caught red-handed

From personal experience, once the jalapeño poppers are done, they will not last long. We have only ever had to wrap up extras when forcing ourselves to save some for those not present. As evidenced from the picture, some will not even wait for an innocent blogger to take her photos before diving in!

Planking Poppers

So there you have it - cheese-filled, bacon-wrapped jalapeño poppers. There's no way to describe how perfectly these three ingredients compliment each other, but they are truly a trifecta of savory goodness. 

If you're looking for other cheese-filled appetizers, pop on over to the LydMc Olympic blog featuring Mouth Watering Stuffed Mushrooms (curling accouterments not required). Bon appetit! 

Monday, March 31, 2014

Magic: The Art Therapy

It's raining Beebles!

When times are tough, it's good to have an outlet. As it so happens, times have been pretty tough recently (hence the temporary blog hiatus) so I know this firsthand. Still, I didn't realize the truth of it until one of my relatives asked me what my outlet was. After a moment's thought, I realized I had indeed developed a renewed passion since the troubles began: arts and crafts. 

Along with teaching myself to crochet and dabbling in doilies (blogs to come!), my first defense was in the form of art. In the manner of true art therapy, I took to drawing, sketching and coloring like I hadn't done in weeks. 

Blub blub, blub blub.

One of my favorite pastimes has always been creating art from scratch, usually featuring fictional characters of my own design. However, sometimes even thinking of what to doodle can be taxing. Since this was the case for me, I used some of my brother's Magic the Gathering cards to, in essence, make my own coloring book.

Creepy, but cool!

Thanks to both of my nerdy brothers, I admit that I know how to play Magic The Gathering, and have even on occasion won. One of my favorite parts of the game though, is admiring the art on the cards. My favorites are usually colorful (Phantasmal Mount), adorable (Basking Rootwalla) or both (Segovian Leviathan), but I can also appreciate the alienesque, especially when comically named (ahem, Lhurgoyf).

Photosynthesis in lizard form!

While delving into drawing and coloring once again, I realized I had far more experience in the first and far less in the latter. I made my first few attempts with Prismacolor markers, and then decided to go even further out on a limb and break out the colored pencils, a medium I hadn't used in years.

A Smaugling?

Luckily, I have quite a stash of high quality colored pencils, and had just recently perused an art book at a book store that taught me a nifty new technique. As most artsy people probably know, one can use complimentary hues instead of simply black or gray to add depth as well as shadow to your subject. In the case of the Pygmy Pyrosaur seen above, that meant using purple to shade his yellow hide. For a first attempt, it didn't turn out half bad!

Beebly bobbly boo!

My next endeavor was an adorable card my brother picked out just for me - a beeble! The specific model of choice was the bouncing variety. As always, I penciled my initial sketch first.

Leave it to beebles!

Once I got his pose just right, I darkened my pencil outline to get that coloring book effect. While I didn't do that for the wee dragonling, I thought it would do this cartoony creature well.

Orange you glad I'm so cute?

Next up, let the coloring begin! Some of the beeble breeds, such as the Bouncing Beeble, were pinkish in hue, but my choice of orange pencil was really setting the stage for the slate blue Bubbling Beeble I had in mind.

Beebles bobble but they don't fall down!
In this mid-coloring shot, you can see what a difference that extra depth of color can make (though in this state, the beeble looks rather like a half shaven potato mouse...).

Hooray for beebles!

At this point, my beeble had a complete foundation of orange shadows and a slate blue topcoat. Believe it or not, the coloring above was done with entirely just these two pencils.

Bouncing, bubbling beebles for all!
For a final touch of contrast, I bust out a darker blue pencil for the shadows, and would have brightened the highlights too had I not left my pencil sharpener at home. Needless to say, the success of these Magical trial runs will make sure this new technique is a consistent part of my coloring repertoire from now on. 

Trite though it may seem, I agree more than ever with the old adage that every cloud comes with a silver lining. I would amend it however, to say that some clouds are lined in gold. Thank you so much to all the wonderful family, friends and neighbors who have brought sunshine into our cloudy day, and let us bask like rootwallas through the storm! <3

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Winter Olympic Game Night - International Nerd Food!

Mmmmm... Olympic Rings

The Olympics aren't over yet, and that means there's still time to celebrate! What better way to ring in the closing ceremonies than with a Winter Olympic themed party? Perhaps an Olympic themed game night, complete with plenty of international, sporty and delicious snacks!


International sodas were an easy and fun way to get the party started, while incorporating the multicultural awesomeness of the Olympics. From left to right we have (in name if not in origin) German, Russian, Australian, Mexican, American and Japanese sodas! Behind the tasty beverages, you can also see our Olympic onion rings, chips, Bugles, salsa and homemade guacamole. 

Bonus themed snack: the Bugles filled with salsa look like mini Olympic torches!

Curling stones never tasted so good.

On the appetizer scene, I was able to honor one of my favorite sports from the Winter Olympics: curling! I'm not sure why it's one of my favorites, but it is. Perhaps it's because Kirby could turn into a curling stone back in his N64 days, or maybe because it's so easy to make delicious renditions of curling stones out of stuffed mushrooms.

It appears the curlers were hungry...

To make these little delicacies, I followed the recipe for Mouth Watering Stuffed Mushrooms recommended by 2200 positive ratings. Turns out they weren't wrong! Minor changes I made were including some sauteed scallions in the filling, nixing the cayenne pepper and adding parmesan and a red pepper curling handle on top. Yum!

Olympic Sharlotka - Russian Apple Cake (German Style!)

Next up, dessert! When thinking up options for a themed dessert, I opted for a Russian apple cake known as sharlotka. After perusing the internet for the best recipe to follow, I thought I'd give my own family cookbook a try. While that side of my family is German in heritage, my great grandparents lived in Russia before emigrating to the United States, and as luck would have it, I found exactly what I was looking for.

This one's for you, Great Grandpa Scholl!

While I never had the opportunity to meet my great grandfather, I felt honored to be able to make something I knew was his favorite, especially since my great grandmother and namesake Lydia was probably the one who made it for him. It was extra special because most of the recipes I had found online were passed down from grandparents to parents and so on, and here I had found one from my own family to share. 

Apple chunks in the snow (a.k.a. flour)

Olympic Yum!

Apart from cutting the apples in larger chunks and extending the baking time (as it was still quite gooey at the recommended time), I made the recipe exactly as written. For future reference or anyone else looking for a great apple cake recipe to try, it turned out great and I would make it the exact same way again. No wonder this was my great grandpa's favorite!

Sochi Mochi Gold Medal!

Last but not least, Sochi Mochi Medals! Even though we already had tons of food and a delicious dessert, I simply could not resist the wordplay. The medals were very simply made: mango flavored mochi for the gold medals (because we're all winners here) and strawberry sour rope for the ribbon. Like most of the other themed food, these were quite a hit.

Go Team USA!

I love the Olympics, and while I admit I kind of root for everyone, I am rooting for good old USA in the end. Way to go to all the amazing athletes competing, from America and across the globe! You guys rock!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Love is in the Cards - Happy Valentine's Day!

Valentine's Day is just around the corner, and if you haven't found a card for your loved one yet, never fear! While the greeting card aisle of your local shopping center may be stripped bare, you can still share the love in style.

Remember when you made your own valentine cards out of construction paper and glitter as a kid? Well here's a grown-up take on the handmade Valentine card, complete in the nerdy meme of your choice. 

But wait, there's more! Valentine Cards, phase 2:

If any of these cards strike your fancy, feel free to share with your special someone! Happy Valentine's Day, all! <3