Friday, December 30, 2011

Happy Birthday {G}!

My firstborn is getting all grown up on me. *Sigh* How do I slow down time? Happy Birthday {G}!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

alipyper likes to write

I've forgotten so many funny, sad and wonderful things that have happened over the years because I haven't written them down. 2012 is the year that I will write down something EVERY DAY. No matter how trivial or mundane. Maybe I'll change my brain sieve into a brain trap. Or maybe I'll laugh in five years at the silly things I wrote down. One line a day is do-able. Right?

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas!

I've been listening to this and this all day long. Mellow and beautiful.

Wishing you and your family the very Merriest Christmas filled with love, laughter, and a thankful heart!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Sarah Jane Paper Nativity Activity - Toy Tuesday

Sarah Jane Nativity Activity
Available for download from her blog, this really sweet Nativity Activity is a wonderful way to let your children explore the true meaning of Christmas. Coloring, cutting out, gluing and playacting, I imagine hours of lovely fun.

Merry Christmas!

Image credit: Sarah Jane Studios

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Picot Edge Fingerless Gloves

These are headed to the UK for a dear friend. A thoroughly satisfying quick knit! Check out my Ravelry project page for how I adjusted the free pattern.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Soft Cloth Dolls - Toy Tuesday

There are some really lovely dolls patterns floating around the web. {I like these here or here}

Emily Winfield Martin of (Inside a Black Apple) shared her sweet little doll pattern when she appeared on the Martha Stewart show a little while back. I was also totally inspired by the super cute dolls I found while browsing Pinterest.

I constructed this little thing using the free Black Apple Doll pattern out of cotton interlock knit because I wanted to make a few sets of changeable clothes for her to wear, but the pattern is also super darling when the body and legs are made from fabric. That way your sweet doll comes ready dressed!

 There is still time before Christmas to whip up a little doll for a loved one! Or, check out these lovely things by threaded basil.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Hot Chocolate and Cookies

Invite your friends over for a hot drink and a treat and spend some lovely time together!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Hand Knit Christmas Stockings

Garnet Hill
 I must confess that I am partial to homemade Christmas stockings. My mother made all eight of our Christmas stockings growing up. I love my elves with the pipe cleaner limbs!

Sugar Plum Stocking Pattern from Knitting Today Magazine

One year after {K} was born, I was desperate to have a matching set of stockings for all of us, so I took what I had in my stash, made some simple stockings and embroidered our names on them. They are great, but I've been longing to make a set of stockings that I really love!

Sundance Catalog

Several years ago I saw some colorful striped knit Christmas stockings at JCrew and I've wanted to knit a set of my own Christmas stockings ever since. Of course, I remember I want to do this when the Christmas decorations come out after Thanksgiving and there is never enough time to knit by then!

Land of Nod

Hopefully by next year I'll have a set of hand knit stockings to pass to my children!

Vintage and Stash Stockings

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Coco Rose Pip Studios China Crush

Ever since Vanessa from Coco Rose Diaries shared her Pip Studio china collection on her blog, I've been obsessively crushing on it!

It's kind of girly, but the red and white checkered border is sending me over the moon!

I know I don't get out much, but I've never seen this china in the States! I'm going to have to do some research on where to find it. So cute!

all images Coco Rose Diaries

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Gingerbread Houses

Making gingerbread houses at Christmas time has been a family tradition since I was very small.

Most were given away to friends and neighbors, but we always kept at least one. Mom made us wait until after Christmas to eat it, although there were always candy pieces that mysteriously disappeared from seemingly discreet places.

The recipe below is my mother's recipe and it is AMAZING. I use this same recipe for cut-out gingerbread cookies. If you know the gingerbread houses won't get eaten, you can substitute vegetable shortening for the butter to cut costs.

One recipe will fill a 18" x 13" x 1" cookie sheet and is enough to make 1 large gingerbread house. Double the recipe and you can make 5 mini houses in two cookie sheets. Score the cookie dough with the pattern pieces before you bake the cookie sheet and then score the pattern again IMMEDIATELY after you take them out of the oven.

Gingerbread House Recipe
Makes one large gingerbread house
Preheat oven to 350ยบ F

3/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 egg, slightly beaten
1/4 cup dark molasses
2 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 Tbsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon

Cream butter and sugar. Add slightly beaten egg and dark molasses. Mix well. Add dry ingredients and mix well. Cookie dough should pull away from the edges of the bowl, but should not be too dry (If you are rolling out the dough for cut out gingerbread cookies, add a bit more flour so that the dough is stiffer). Turn out dough onto an ungreased 18" x 13" x 1" cookie sheet and flatten dough, completely covering the bottom of the pan. Smooth, lay out gingerbread house pieces and score the pattern with a sharp paring knife.

Bake for 12 - 14 minutes, rotating pan halfway through baking. Gingerbread is done when the top is golden brown. As soon as you remove the cookie sheet from the oven score the pattern pieces again. Allow cookie sheet to cool 15 minutes. Carefully remove the excess gingerbread pieces, then using a metal spatula carefully remove the gingerbread house pieces to a cooling rack and cool completely.

Use a meringue powder royal icing as "glue" to construct the house and attach the candies. If you aren't able to find meringue powder at your local grocery, craft, or baking store, use an egg white royal icing recipe. Please note that your eggs must be very fresh if the icing will be eaten by young children or anyone whose health could be compromised. You can be as simple or fancy as you want. When the kids are decorating, I just fill disposable plastic pastry bags with meringue powder royal icing and cut the tip of the bag off so that they can pipe the icing themselves. Use plastic bread bag closures or twist ties to secure the top of the pastry bag. Don't overfill bags! Little hands forget to squeeze from the top down.

Gingerbread houses don't last long at our house any more!

Gingerbread House Recipe
Gingerbread House Template

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Chevron Stripe Crocheted Pillowcase Tutorial

My super cute and thoroughly modern niece recently got married (Yes. Yes, I did make the cake). Before the wedding we had a bridal shower for her and my gift to her was a set of chevron stripe crocheted pillowcases.

I LOVE pillowcases with a hand crocheted edge. The pair of simple crocheted and embroidered pillowcases I inherited from my Grandmother Mangum are on my bed and they are a treasure I get to enjoy every day.

My grandmothers pillowcases are crocheted on a hemstitched edge.
There are basically five ways to attach a crocheted edge to a pillowcase: 

(1) Crochet your lace and sew it on afterwards. (not recommended)
Crocheting your lace independently of your pillowcase works for lace patterns only if you know the exact gauge length of your lace pattern. You'll have to completely start over if you didn't plan enough beginning chain stitches. Not fun.

Hemstitch edge on hemstitch pillowcases
(2) Have a hemstitch edge sewn on your pillowcase.
This produces a lovely finished edge of holes to your pillowcase and makes it very easy to crochet your lace directly on the pillowcase, but you'll need to find someone who has a hemstitching machine and send it out to them.
(Or, find out if your sewing machine is compatible, buy a hemstitch needle and try to hemstitch it yourself. Score!)

(3) Sew a blanket stitch edge onto your pillowcase and then crochet your lace onto this foundation.
This is an very quick and easy option. Go see these cute pillowcases inspired by this link. You can use matching embroidery thread or your crochet thread for the blanket stitch.

This rotary blade attaches to a standard 45mm rotary cutter and makes small perforated holes evenly spaced across your fabric. This quickly takes the place of poking your fabric with a needle or awl, but the blade will cut the material of your pillowcase. I have personally never used this rotary blade for high quality cotton pillowcases. I know that it works great on fleece or flannel blankets.

I used a sharp needle to make a hole in the edge of the pillowcase and then did 3 chain stitches between each single crochet into the holes.

(5) Use a sharp, fat needle or awl to poke measured holes across the edge of your pillowcase. Single crochet into the hole and use chain stitches to connect to the next hole for a foundation edge.
This is the way I've always done it, but this method is time consuming and is kind of awkward and I often pull the fibers of the pillowcase fabric as I'm poking the crochet needle into the hole. This is the way women have been crocheting edge lace for centuries

Recently, I was fortunate enough to find a woman who has a hemstitching machine and she charged me a very reasonable price to hemstitch the edge of my pillowcases. Yay! If you'd like her contact information, please email me at alipyper(at)gmail(dot)com and I will tell you how to get in contact with her.

Okay. So once you have a foundation row embroidered or single crocheted onto your pillowcase edge, you can start crocheting the chevron stripe. I've used #10 bedspread weight crochet thread and a US 7 (1.65 mm) crochet hook. Adjust hook size to obtain gauge.

Gauge: This chevron pattern has a 1-5/8" (43 mm) repeat. Most standard pillowcases are 21" x 32" (53 x 81 cm). You might need to make one or two pattern repeats slightly longer or shorter depending on the size of your pillowcase. This is super easy to do!

USA Crochet Terms:
MC: main color (I suggest using the same color as your pillowcase)
CC: contrasting color
st(s): stitch(es)
ch: chain stitch
sc: single crochet
hdc: half double crochet
dc: double crochet
htr: half treble crochet (yarn over twice. insert hook into desired stitch. draw yarn through stitch. yarn over and draw through two loops. yarn over and draw through last three loops)
tr: treble crochet
hdtr: half double treble crochet (yarn over three times. insert hook into desired stitch. draw yarn through stitch. yarn over and draw through two loops. yarn over and draw through two loops. yarn over and draw through last three loops)
dtr: double treble crochet
triple dc dec: triple dc decrease. [yarn over. insert hook in next st. draw yarn through st. yarn over and pull through two loops (leaving two loops on hook). yarn over and insert hook in next st. draw yarn through st. yarn over and pull through two loops (leaving three loops on hook). yarn over and insert hook in next st. draw yarn through st. yarn over and draw through two loops (leaving four loops on hook). yarn over and draw through last four loops on hook]

Row 1: With MC, ch 4. [1 dtr, 1 hdtr] in same st. 1 tr in next st. 1 htr in next st. 1 dc in next 2 sts. 1 hdc in next st, 1 sc in next st, *1 hdc in next st, 1 dc in next 2 sts, 1 htr in next st, 1 tr in next st, [ 1 hdtr, 1 dtr, 1 hdtr] in next stitch, 1 tr in next st. 1 htr in next st. 1 dc in next 2 sts. 1 hdc in next st, 1 sc in next st*, repeat pattern from * to * until last five sts. 1 hdc in next st. 1 dc in  next 2 sts. 1 htr in next st. 1 tr in next st. Change to cc and join with a sl st to beginning ch.

(Note: If you need to increase or decrease the length of the chevron repeat in order for it to fit nicely on your pillowcase, add or eliminate double crochets in the highlighted portion of the pattern. On the next contrasting color row, similarly add or eliminate double crochets to match the pattern.

triple dc decrease
Row 2: With CC, ch 3. *3 dc in next st. 1 dc in next 5 sts. 1 triple dc dec. 1 dc in next 5 sts.* Repeat from * to * until last four sts. 1 dc last four sts. Join to beginning ch, knot, cut thread and weave in ends.

(Note: Make sure that your are crocheting 3 dc in the dtr, and crocheting the triple dc dec across the hdc, sc, and hdc stitches.)

If you'd like to add additional colors onto the edge, just repeat row 2 (without knotting, cutting or weaving in ends) with a new color.

It's fun to have a simple, yet modern crochet pattern to add a little love to your pillowcases. If you have problems with the pattern or need help, let me know! alipyper(at)gmail(dot)com

Click here for an easy to print pattern


Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Itazura Coin Bank - Toy Tuesday

Itazura Kitty Cat Coin Bank

Have you seen these adorable banks? When you place a coin on the top of the box, a little animal peeps it's head out and it's little paw steals your coin! It's so cute!!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Pumpkin Pie Recipe

{G} and her first pie!

I learned the secret for this amazing pumpkin pie while I was working as a pastry chef during college at a local restaurant. Instead of using sweetened condensed or evaporated milk, this recipe calls for heavy whipping cream. It produces a light and creamy pie with a firm texture, without being cloyingly sweet. It is definitely a family favorite!

Happy Thanksgiving to you all!

Pumpkin Pie Recipe
Makes two pies.

First, make the pie crusts from the following recipe, making sure all your ingredients are very cold. I use a food processor, but you can use a pastry cutter or two knives to cut the butter into the dry ingredients. Cover the pie crusts with plastic wrap once they are rolled out and in the pie plates and store them in the refrigerator until you're ready to fill them with the pumpkin filling.

Pate Brisee Pie Crust Recipe
adapted from Martha Stewart
Makes two pie shells.

2 1/2 cups cold all purpose flour
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
4 to 6 Tbsp. ice cold water

Put flour, sugar and salt in a food processor fitted with a cutting blade. Pulse to mix. Add the cold butter to the dry ingredients and pulse a few times until the butter is cut into pea sized chunks. Slowly add the cold water through the feed tube one tablespoon at a time while the processor is running. Be careful not to add too much water, or process for more than about 30 seconds. When the dough starts to come together and isn't wet or sticky, stop and check the dough by squeezing the dough between your fingers.If the dough is still crumbly, add a bit more water.

Divide dough in half and turn out on to a large piece of plastic wrap. Grasping the ends of the plastic wrap with your hands, press the dough into a flat circle with your fists. Wrap completely in plastic and chill 30 minutes.

When you're ready to roll out the dough. unwrap the dough disk, but leave it on the plastic wrap. Place a second piece of plastic wrap on top, and slowly roll out the dough to the desired shape between the two pieces of plastic. Take the top piece of plastic off and carefully flip the crust over into the pie dish. Remove the second piece of plastic and trim and crimp the edges of the pie crust. Repeat for the second pie crust.

Pumpkin Pie Filling
Makes 2 pie fillings
Preheat oven to 425°F

1 1/2 cups sugar
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
4 large eggs
1 large can (29 oz.) 100% pure pumpkin puree
2 cups heavy whipping cream

Mix sugar, salt, cinnamon, ginger and cloves in a small bowl. Set aside.

In a large bowl, mix eggs until frothy. Stir in pumpkin puree and the sugar-spice mixture. Gradually stir in heavy whipping cream. You should have about 8 cups of filling for the two pies.

Divide filling in half and pour into two unbaked pie shells. Place pies in 425°F oven for 15 minutes. Reduce temperature to 350°F and bake pies for 40-50 minutes, or until knife inserted near center comes out clean. Cool on wire rack for 2 hours. Refrigerate overnight (very, very important!!).

Serve with sweetened whipped cream.

Pumpkin Pie Recipe

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