Category Archives: Stuff I Use

Friday Edition: Bags

Bag, bags, bags. I can’t seem to get enough of them lately. Small, medium, large, I love them all. These I made using this tutorial. I love them because they open wide. They are perfect for knitting. I am getting ready to make up a whole bunch of them, but need to get some more free time first.

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Boxy or slim, they are just so handy to have around. This one is based on another bag tutorial I found, but mine is much bigger. I like it, but it’s not as stiff as I would like, so I’ll likely be playing with it a bit, which means I might make one or two or ten more.

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My sewing skills are still lagging, so occasionally, I just have to buy one, and if some yarn gets bought with it, then all the better. I love these bags by Three Bags Full. They are really well made and come in all kinds of fun prints and sizes.

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Oh, here’s another one that I recently received in a bag swap. Isn’t it cute? The yarn that came with it is beautiful as well.

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I just love little bags. You really can’t have too many of them.

Monday Dos and Don’ts

Happy Tax Day! Well, more accurately in my house today, Happy Baking Day. It’s the middle of the afternoon, and I have pretty much been baking since I got up this morning. This is a result of a crazy confluence of scheduling. Here’s a brief summary of what I have committed to bakingwise, beginning with yesterday and ending with tomorrow.

Yesterday, I had to take 6 dozen pieces of baked goodies to church for coffee time.
Today, there are treats to bake for my bimonthly ladies craft night meeting.
Also today, I committed to baking some 6-8 dozen cookies to be packed and shipped off to various college students.
Tomorrow, I have committed to baking 5 dozen treats for another function.

If you were counting, that’s more than 18 dozen baked goodies in three days! Yes, I must have a little chat with the person who schedules these things(me) so that this doesn’t happen again.

But, thankfully, I have some dos and don’ts that will help anyone (me) get through a baking scheduling crisis such as this one.

1. DO have lots of cookie dough balls waiting to be baked in the freezer for such a time as this. This of course, takes some advance planning, but if you make it a habit to just bake one pan of cookies and freeze the rest of the dough for later, your waistline will thank you, and you’ll be glad for it when you need to bake something last minute.

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2. DO make everything in miniature. 12 full sized cupcakes turns into 48 if you make them mini and no one will really complain that they need more dessert, will they?

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3. DO get the kiddies involved. Cool cookie cutter shapes help tremendously. In this case, it’s Star Wars spaceships. As a side note, those cookie cutters with stamps that create designs are cool, but sorta spotty in actual function. The dough has to be at a magic temperature to both imprint a design and release from the stamp. We have not quite found that magic temperature, yet.

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4. DO use the convection oven for cookies, if you have one. This allows you to bake 3 pans of cookies simultaneously without having the to the cookie pan shuffle dance every two minutes.

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5. DO make use of all those baking mixes that people give you or you buy because they are on sale. Now is not the time to be snobby and insist that everything be from scratch.

6. DON’T let the sink get full of dishes. Wash the mixing bowls and spatulas as you go will make you a happier camper when you do your next batch or when you call it quits for the day. A disaster of a kitchen will just make you weep at the end of it all.

7. DO taste stuff. After all, you’re going to all this work, you should get to enjoy some, too. Have some tea or coffee while you’re at it.

8. DO make sure that there are a lot of leftovers in the fridge so that you don’t have to cook a meal on top of it all.

8. And lastly, but not leastly, make sure you DON’T make this scheduling mistake again.

On the positive side, I have cleared out a bit of space in the freezer and am feeling super productive today. Happy Monday!

The One Kitchen Gadget I Would Not Like to Live Without

For a person with a small kitchen, I have a lot of kitchen gadgets.  Some are more useful than others.  The ones that are more or less useless sit around for a little while, but eventually get given away.  I don’t have space to harbor a lot of useless items.

But there is one item I would not like to live without.  This one gadget gets used almost daily, lives on my counter, and, if it ever broke, I would go out immediately and buy another one without even blinking at the cost.  Now, I am not talking appliances here.  Mixers and toasters do not fall into the category of gadget.  I am also not referring to anything that is absolutely necessary, such as knives.  Last time I checked, it was pretty impossible to cook a meal from scratch without a knife.  No, I am talking about little tools that are meant to make a cook’s life easier.  But, the one I am speaking of today is has moved from helpful tool to absolute necessity in my book.

It is the kitchen scale.  Here’s what mine looks like.

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I know a lot of people who do not own a scale and still cook great meals, but I will tell you this:  if you get a scale, you will never live without one again, especially if you like to bake.

Recipes can be difficult to follow.  There’s a list of ingredients and you have to assemble them and measure them all out and then you’ve got to prep them and add them in at the right time in the right way.  The scale expedites this process by letting you bypass that legion of measuring spoons and cups that you might use to measure out your ingredients.

Take granola, for instance.  The list of ingredients for granola can be really long and it includes dry stuff like nuts and wet, sticky stuff, like honey and oil.  If I were to measure them all out with cups and spoons, I’d have a lot of dirty stuff to wash at the end of the day and most likely a big mess on the counter.

With the scale, everything goes directly into the bowl.  See?

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Easy peasy.  An added benefit to using a scale is precision.  One person’s scooped cup of flour can be up to 20% different from another person’s cup of flour, but if you use a scale, five ounces is the same no matter who is measuring.  This is especially helpful in baking.  If you find that there is a lot of variation in your baking, you might want to try using a scale.

It’s also great to have a scale if you are on a diet.  I hear that you can weigh your portions so that you can keep an accurate account of how much you are eating.  Of course, this is not something I have direct experience with, but I have heard of and seen people using a scale for this purpose.

I love my scale.  It has come in handy in many ways that have nothing to do with cooking.  I can weigh my yarn with it to see if I have enough for a particular project.  I can weigh an envelope to see what the postage will need to be.  It is also handy for all manner of science experiments and random questions that come up during homeschooling.  It saves me oodles of time and energy.  Strictly speaking, I could live and cook well without a scale, but I wouldn’t like to.

Do you like my scale?  It’s this one made by Oxo.  It has some handy features, like the pull out display in case you’re using a humongous bowl and you can’t read the numbers.  Also, the top plate comes off for easy cleaning.  The zero button is essential and the kg/lb toggle button is handy when I’m using certain recipes with metric numbers.  I have yet to find a use for the lighted display since I do not make a habit of baking or cooking in the dark, but maybe if I took it camping? I get a little annoyed at the auto shut off feature, especially when it turns off right in the middle of weighing something.  That is my only complaint, though and if this one broke, I would go another one in an instant. If you don’t have one, you might want to consider getting one. It might change your life in the kitchen.

New Obsession

I have a little confession.  I have a thing for bags.  Not handbags, though I have several of those, but none very trendy.

No, I like other types of bags.  I like the re-usable shopping bags you can pick up from any grocery store nowadays.  They make great library book bags and farmer’s market bags and impromptu picnic bags.  I like to get “souvenir” bags from places we travel to, especially bakeries.  These don’t get as much use.  I just like to look at them.

I also like tote-type bags with lots of pockets and can stand up without falling over.  Those make really great knitting project bags.  I have four such bags next to the spot where I do most of my knitting.

But lately, I’ve been really smitten with these little bags.

Aren’t they adorable?  I used a tutorial from Sew, Mama, Sew!  It took me less than two hours to make these two bags.  Each is the perfect size for a ball of yarn and  little project.  I even added some little pockets on the inside for whatever little tools I might need for the project: stitch markers, measuring tape, emergency chocolate.  See?

I like that they are lined and that they stand up straight without flopping.  I can draw the top closed so nothing falls out and it is soft enough and small enough to be stuffed inside my purse.  Plus, unlike my usual plastic bags, they do not make any noise when you get your project in and out.  This is especially nice in places such as theaters and churches where you do not want to distract anyone around you.

As soon as I can get some more interfacing, I am going to make some bigger ones.  Not too big–I don’t want to lose the portability and packability of the bag, but I can see how a bag that would fit a sweater piece would be really handy for me.  And, there’s lots of other things the bags can be used for: toys, snacks, toiletries, etc.

You can never have too many bags, right?

Bobbin Around

I have a new little toy tool in the sewing room.

It’s a bobbin organizer.  It keeps all my bobbins organized and in one place without getting all tangled.

It’s easy to access any of the bobbins since it comes apart.  The best thing about this particular tool is that if you drop it, nothing will come out.  This was not true of my old system of throwing everything into an empty Godiva chocolate box.  Now, I just need to find some more bobbins so I can fill it up.

You can get your own here or here.