Monday, October 26, 2015

Get Outta the Kitchen and Get Back to Stitchin'

  I mentioned in my last post that I'm working on promoting a product... And it has nothing to do with crochet. I promise, this post has something to do with crochet, but you're going to hear about my adventures in baking first. This side job has been a bit both a blessing and a curse for me. The good points: I've been in a bit of a funk lately, so it's nice to step away from my crochet work that has become stressful. I used to love to bake so this keeps me in my comfort zone. And I get to keep a product that, to be honest, I would probably never purchase.

Peanut butter cheesecake stuffed brownies recipe

  The bad points: My feet, and possibly my waistline. Baking was my domestic specialty before I learned to crochet, but it's been years since I've spent the whole day on my feet in the kitchen. Day? I've been tending the oven for a week! I'm tired of standing, stirring, straining and scrubbing. And if I eat one more cupcake, I'm gonna puke.

Angel food cake cups filled with strawberry preserves and vanilla custard

  So, I'll stop complaining because that's all I can complain about. I'm getting paid, the neighbors are enjoying my successes along with a few mistakes, and now I can sit down in a cool house for a while. I have a few (not so) funny stories about trying to make meringue in the hot and humid Florida weather, and why not to try using the electric mixer in that smaller bowl. I came out alive, a couple pounds heavier, the batter is cleaned up, and I'm ready to get some crocheting done!

An unsuccessful attempt at meringue, stuck and deflated in my new baking trays

recipes, fails,

  Now, about what I said about not buying the product... That's just me and my budget talking. I often have to make choices between paying bills or buying toys, and these baking trays fall under the 'toy' category. That doesn't mean I wouldn't want them. I rely on my out-of-the-box thinking to create my own versions of products I can't afford, like when I attached a small key chain light to one of my crochet hooks, instead of buying a set of the lighted ones. That - like many of my attempts - worked temporarily. The light only worked when the button was pushed, so I had to hold it together with the hook. And I ended up with blisters.

  Of course, even though I have this product in front of me, I had to see if I could recreate it without buying it. I think I might save that whole story for the article I'll be writing about the product, but let's just say for now: It turned out to be a great advertisement opportunity for Ivory dish soap and Arm & Hammer baking soda. I'll add that if we had a 'swear jar', it would be full. My recipes came out (mostly) successful in the product (except for that awful decision to attempt meringue... And the hamburger cups shown), and my knockoff idea was a complete disaster.

recipes, fails, hamburger cups

  It made me think about fiber arts - and not just crochet in general. How many products can we live without, and how many tools do we actually need? I know I get by with the bare minimum, but I would love to have all the gadgets and gizmos there are. In my past sewing adventures, I have tried to make curtains without an iron. I mean, who needs an iron to sew a straight line, right? Yeah... If your fabric isn't straight, then your seam isn't, either. Irons are needed for sewing. Somebody tried to sell me a set of fabric weights for $1. I don't exactly know what those are for, or if I really need them. I'll save my dollar for now.

  Stitch markers: A necessity for some projects, both knitting and crochet. But do you need to spend a ton of money on them? No! I usually use a scrap of yarn or a bent paperclip. Sometimes I use a clip-on earring with a missing mate. I recently used a few locking shower curtain hooks found in the junk drawer. And if you do want fancy ones, all you need is some simple jewelry-making skills to make your own. Don't let stitch markers break the bank.    

  Yarn ball winders, lighted crochet hooks, and fancy yarn totes are all great to have, but they are things that you can live without. It may take time, but you can wind that skein by hand. Lighted hooks are great for travel and bedtime, but a small flashlight or even your cell phone can provide light, and I bet you already have at least one of those. Maybe if you're on the go a lot, then a fancy yarn tote comes in handy. But I know that I have old backpacks and purses stuffed in closets that can serve the same purpose. Why not save more money to spend on nicer yarn?

  Then, there's that fiber art that I try my best to stay away from: Counted cross-stitch. My mom does that. She's great at it. I can't even get the fabric straight in the hoop. Which brings to mind all the things you really do need for that craft... The hoops, thingies to wind the thread on, fabric, special needles... It seems like even a pencil and paper are necessities to complete a project. And magic. Memories of trying to learn cross-stitching are filled with the phrase "No, not that way", no matter which way I went. And french knots are pure evil. Okay, so maybe I speak of the necessities for cross-stitching from inexperience. Maybe if you're good at it, all you need is a needle and thread. Disregard my advice about the craft.

  There are quite a few tools of the trade that we can live without, but it's nice to have that one special thing... A fancy hook, a book of awesome patterns, or just a novelty pincushion that brings a smile to your face. Do you have one? Besides my ancient Hero hook (and that's a hand-me-down), I don't really have anything. Besides yarn, there's not one single tool I bought just because. I've been dying to try out a Furls hook, but that falls under the 'toy' category again, since I already have hooks. *Jumping up and down* "But I want it!"

crochet, hook, steel, antique, Hero

  My kitchen was the same, until this baking deal added my new special tools. I don't have a different gadget to chop this, or a do-dad to cut that. Up until now the most special thing I had in the cabinets was my spring-form pans, but I scored them at an outlet store for ten bucks (for the set!). And of course those were a necessity, because how am I supposed to make homemade triple-layer pumpkin-peanut butter-chocolate cheesecake without them?

  Hey! All I've shared so far is my dessert creations... Not into sweets? I need a break from the kitchen, but I managed to squeeze in a savory dish for breakfast/brunch/lunch/dinner, too! (We had these for dinner, but I think this recipe would make a nice brunch.) My hamburger cups were a disaster, but check out these egg creations:

Southwestern egg and cheese cups recipe

  Clicking on the photos of my successful creations will take you to Guidecentral and the recipe. I'm not going to push the product here on a crochet blog, but in case you're interested: There's a coupon code at the end of each recipe for 10% off the product! If you didn't click through and you don't want to scroll back up, here's the direct links:

Peanut Butter Cheesecake stuffed Brownie Cups

Strawberry Custard filled Angel Food Cupcakes

Southwestern Egg and Cheese Cups

Happy Crocheting... And maybe baking, too!

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