Studio Musings

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Thanksgiving Baking Experiments - GlutenFree & EggFree

Thanksgiving = Food + Family & Friends

I don't know about you, but there are a number of recipes that I only eat around the holidays.  Foods I look forward to year-round.  One of my personal favorites is Old Colony Gingerbread.  The recipe comes from the 1965 Woman's Day Encyclopedia of Cookery, Volume 5.

1965 Woman's Day Encyclopedia of Cookery & Old Colony Gingerbread

Last weekend, I decided to try remake it to fit with my current dietary restrictions.  Old Colony Gingerbread 2.0 used gluten-free oat flour, coconut oil in place of the shortening, and substituted allspice for the nutmeg.  I also increased the baking powder by 1 tsp. to offset the lack of gluten for rising.

The results tasted great.  Good texture, too.  But either the egg or the coconut oil were too much for my system and it was an epic fail from a health perspective. The fun of food sensitivities!

So yesterday, I decided to try again.  This time, my goal was a gluten-free, egg-free, and coconut-free version.  Since eggs are typically used as a binder to keep the finished baked item from falling apart, I decided to try a trick that I learned from a Depression-era Spice Cake recipe.  That recipe is completely vegan - no eggs or butter.  I kept the butter for my gingerbread.  The secret ingredient?  Raisin water!  I think that the pectin from the raisins substitutes for both the gluten, and for the binder that the egg usually provides. 

Gingerbread Version 3.0


The result was a little heavier than the original recipe, but not by much.  The cut gingerbread held together well on the plate, and the flavor was spot on.  Served some to visiting friends without telling them it was an altered recipe and they both went back for seconds.

My Gluten-Free, Egg-Free Gingerbread Recipe (Version 3.0)

1 c. Distilled water 
3/4 c. Raisins 

1 c plus 2 tablespoons gluten-free oat flour 
2 1/4 tsp. Baking powder 
1 tsp. Ground Ginger 
1 tsp. Ground Cinnamon 
1/4 tsp. Allspice 
1/4 tsp salt 

1/3 c. Butter 
1/4 tsp. Baking soda 
1/3 c. Firmly packed dark brown sugar 
1/3 c. Dark molasses (mix of Grandma’s original & Brer Rabbit) 

Put raisins and the water into a small saucepan.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, allowing the water to boil gently or simmer, and continue to cook, partly covered for 15 to 20 minutes.

After 15-20 minutes, the raisins should start looking kind of pale, and the water will have a dark, tea-color.  Pour the raisins and their water through a strainer set over a measuring cup.  Keep 1/2 cup water.  (The raisins and any extra water can be discarded.)  If using, add the instant coffee to the raisin water.  Add butter and baking soda and stir until dissolved.  Then add sugar and molasses to the raisin water/coffee/butter mixture.

Pour batter into lightly buttered and floured 9” square pan.  It will be quite runny - that's expected.  Bake in preheated moderate oven (350F) for 25-30 minutes.  You can use a toothpick to check if it's done.  Serve warm or cool.

Fresh out of the oven, and already half-gone!

Notes

There are no actual raisins in the gingerbread, just the water they were boiled in.  The gingerbread has no discernible raisin flavor, and there are no raisin 'lumps' to bother the raisin-haters in your family.

I did not grease the pan before pouring in the gingerbread batter.  It was easy to serve, even piping hot, with very little sticking.

While oats are naturally gluten free, oat flour may be contaminated with gluten if it's milled in a factory that also processes wheat and other grains.  If gluten is an issue, make sure that you use oat flour that specifically states Gluten Free.  I couldn't find any locally (visited 3 grocery stores) and ended up ordering from Amazon.  I think it's really cool that Gluten Free Prairie is basically a family visit, created because one of their family members is Celiac.  And that the packaging states that the flour is also glyphosate free.  

The Gingerbread 3.0 has a shorter bake time than the original recipe.  I would definitely recommend the toothpick test at 25 minutes baking time. 


Happy Thanksgiving! 

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Holiday Ornament Exchange List

Last week I sent out emails with all of the pairings for this year's Holiday Ornament Exchange.  Hopefully everyone has already heard from their trading partners.  If not, please let me know asap so I can see what I can do to help. 

Here's the full list of participants:

Carrie Johnson and Therese Frank
Jasvanti Patel and Becky Clay
Jane Knaub and Mandi Bugatti
Sherry Eagle and Amy Severino
Judy J Jacobs and Judy Deshaies
Adrienne Hendricks and Francie Broadie
Cyndi Nason and Karen Williams

On other fronts, I had a busy, crazy, wonderful, chaotic, extended weekend with the visit of my brother and his family.  Only managed to snap one picture of his whole crew. 

settling in to watch Miyazaki's Spirited Away
They've all headed home, and the house is way too quiet now - so it's time for me to put on some fun music and start working on ornaments. 

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Last Day to Sign up for the Holiday Ornament Exchange

Today's the last day to sign up for this year's Holiday Ornament Exchange and Swap Hop.  Tomorrow I'll be pairing everyone up and the real fun - getting to know our swap partners and creating ornaments will get under way.

Want to sign up?  Here's the link. Signups now closed for 2018. 

You can find more information about the Ornament Exchange in my earlier post, here.


Want to see what people have made previous years?  Check out these posts:

2015 Ornament Exchange 

2014 Ornament Exchange organized by Sally Russick.  I'm afraid Sally's links no longer work, but almost all of the others lead directly to posts about the Ornament Exchange so you can see what was made.

2013 Ornament Exchange - also organized by Sally Russick.  Her blog is still there, but I couldn't find the ornament post.  Again, most of the rest of the links lead directly to the participant's 2013 ornaments. 


Friday, October 26, 2018

Cricut Crafting - Spiderweb Window Cling


Earlier this week, I decided I wanted to add a little friend to the windows of my front door to celebrate one of my favorite holidays.

Both the spider and the web were stock images from Cricut, but I thought I'd share how I put it all together in Design Space, and how I made sure it would fit the window.  I'm using Design Space on my iPad, so it may look a little different for those who primarily use the program on their laptops.


1.  Measure your window!  My diagram ended up on a tiny scrap of paper (see the paper clip for reference).  It's not super-detailed, but has enough information to work from.
Measurements don't need to be complex

 2. Build your window in Design Space.  To get my half circle, I started with a 4" circle (it's an easy size for positioning purposes) and a square, then used the Slice tool.

Slice your circle in half. My circle is 4" wide to make it easier to position.
Cutting out the bottom center edge
For the next step, I enlarged by half circle to full size, then added another circle with a 4.5" diameter to cut out that little half circle at the center bottom.  While I was able to use the "Align Center Vertical" tool, I used the gridlines to make sure that I lined up the horizontal center of my bottom circle with the bottom edge of my half circle.  Then used the Slice Tool again. 

Slicing the individual panes
I used three 1" wide rectangles to slice the individual window panes.  I rotated the side spokes 45 degrees.  And I had my window! 

One note about Design Space - all four shapes are considered a single shape in the program.  This is great when you're designing, but can be a pain if you're like me and like to reposition for printing to conserve materials.  It's also a little bit of problem in this case because it's too wide for a 24" mat.  To get around this, I made three additional copies of my window, then used the Hide Contour Tool, keeping only one pane in each copy. 

Both panels were a little large - folds give me the exact size
3.  Test your window design.  At this point, I tested my window shape, cutting the two leftmost panels out of regular typing paper.  (Since the design is a mirror image, I only needed to test two panels.  it turned out both panels were a little too 'fat'.  With the cutouts placed in the window, I folded them along the window panes to give me the exact size I needed.  Then it was simple enough to measure my fold and shave a little off each pane using rectangles of the exact width I needed, and the Slice tool.

Once I had my window, I saved the file as "Front Window Blank".  This way I won't have to recreate these steps when I want to create a new design.  Now it's time to make the Spiderweb window cling! 

4. First thing - Use Save As to change the name of your working file.  I named mine "Front Door Spiderweb Window Cling" - boring, but descriptive. 

Spiderweb Testing
Searching for 'spider' and 'web', I pulled down several images from Cricut Access, then enlarged them and tried them out on my window shapes, using the Slice tool again.  Turns out, not all spider webs translate well when cut into four separate panes.  And not all spiders look good on all webs. 

Final design images selected.
I ended up pulling the spider and web from two separate designs, as shown above.  The web is #M3F76E, Web Banner and the spider was from Spider Web Rosette, #M74C7E2B.


Before I moved on to window cling, I cut the full design out of copy paper, just to make sure it looked the way I thought it would.  Sometimes the translation from screen to paper doesn't work as well as I expect.  This time, it worked great, to it was time to cut the design out of window cling.

Here's where I do something maybe a little weird.  I have wasting material, especially plastics where both cost and environmental concerns come into play.  So I try to make as much use of the material as I can. 

Weeded Cutting mat
After rotating and fitting the webs onto my mat, I did a quick search to find some additional Halloween images that I thought would work well as window clings, and used them to fill in the extra space.  Even still, there was a fair bit of waste material after weeding.  But I love having the little 'bonus' clings. 

I shared the final cutting file on my Cricut Profile, but the software no longer has an easy way to share a direct URL.  If I can figure out how to do it, I'll add the URL in later. 

Happy Halloween!





Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Join me for a Handmade Ornament Exchange and 'Swap Hop'

This week's cold, foggy mornings have me in the mood for holiday crafting.  Too many ideas running through my head, but this morning, I'm focusing on Ornaments.  More specifically - a Holiday Ornament Exchange where participants create a handmade ornament, and then exchange them with a trading partner.  One of my favorite holiday activities, it's been several years since I felt capable of participating.  This year; this year I'm totally up for the fun!  Want to join in?

Since seeing what everyone made is half the fun, we're going to celebrate with a Swap Hop Reveal Party - a blog hop - at the end.  You don't even have to have a blog.  As long as you can email me photos and text, I'll make sure you're included in the hop.  And if you do have a blog - make sure to include its address, so we can all visit!



How to Join
Sign ups are open through Halloween, October 31st.  Once I know who's participating, I'll send out emails on Friday, November 2nd letting you know who your trading partner is.  You'll then be responsible for trading emails and exchanging postal addresses.  Then it's time to make your ornament!

I've created a nifty form to use for signups (Signups now closed for 2018). If that doesn't work for some reason, email me, including your name, email address and blog URL, if you have one.  Also let me know if you're from outside the US, and if you're inside the US, if you'd be willing to ship internationally.

The Ornaments
The ornaments must be handmade by you.  That's the only requirement.  They could be beaded, stitched, painted, made of glass, cloth, wood, paper - whatever medium you love.  They don't need to include seed beads, though they certainly could.   Most simply, they should be something you'd love to receive.

Blog Hop and Reveal, Sunday, December 16th
On the reveal day, post a photo (or photos) of what you made and the ornament you received.  Include a paragraph or two about both pieces. 

Associated Dates:
Signups through Halloween, October 31st
     Swap Partners assigned Friday, November 2nd
Mailing Deadline:  All packages must be mailed by Friday, November 30th
Swap Hop Reveal Party, Sunday, December 16th

If you're a guest blogger - to be featured on my blog - I will need your photos by Thursday, December 13th so that I'll have time to put together your post.  Make sure to take pictures of what you make and what you receive, and include a paragraph or two (or more).  It's fun the learn about why you chose to make that particular ornament, your process, the swap, your swap partner - whatever you'd like to share.  Don't worry, I'll remind you as the time grows nearer.

Hope to hear from you!




Sunday, October 21, 2018

Zeno’s Dichotomy Paradox and the Never-Ending Studio Re-Org

bye bye studio - thanks for the memories!
2018 has been a year of huge changes for me.  The most recent - I’ve moved my studio back home.  For the past ten years I’ve rented an amazing space in an old warehouse building.  With 15’ ceilings, and 10’ tall windows along the east wall, it was a fantastic place to work.  Unfortunately, with changes to the various bus routes, it kept effectively getting further and further away from home, to the point that getting there involved walking a little over a mile, and two bus rides.  The entire commute could take well over an hour, each way, depending upon time of day.  And anything I wanted to bring to or from the studio had to be schlepped in my backpack.

I refused to give up the studio last year.  Packing while I was dealing with my health issues would have been awful, and giving the studio up would have felt like a sign of defeat.  This year, I’m doing a lot better physically (so long as I stick with my strict diet).  But I still wasn’t going to the studio, except for ‘foraging trips’ to collect supplies to bring home for my next project. 

This summer, I decided it was time to simply move the studio home.

Guest bedroom closet, freshly painted & ready to load
Which was easier said than done.  I’d had the studio space for ten years.  It was almost half the size of our two-bedroom house.   My plan was to spend the last two weeks in August reworking our guest bedroom so that it could do double duty as a studio as well, earmarking the guest bedroom closet as my craft storage space. In preparation, I emptied the closet, repainted and splurged on new craft-supply organization system through BestCraftsOrganizer.com.

Unfortunately, shipping took a lot longer than expected due to storms and power outages and who knows what craziness, so the system wasn’t here yet before moving day, let alone installed and ready to use.  



waiting for storage furniture to arrive
Moving day, everything that came home got piled into my living room and dining room.  The next day our two young nieces came for a very welcome, but unplanned visit.  So everything got stuffed into the closet willy-nilly using the storage that was already there.   Our nieces headed home just in time for us to head out for our 25th anniversary trip.  And I willfully ignored the hoarders disaster that was my home. 

On the plus side, Best Craft Organizers was willing to work with me, and they held my order at their warehouse until we got home from our trip, so I didn't have to worry about the boxes arriving while we were gone.




my new storage system




Fast forward to the end of September, I’m back from my trip and the craft organizers arrived - 12 big boxes that once again filled my living room.  To get them set up, I had to empty the front bedroom closet, and find room to store everything inside.  Yikes!

Then it was build the new furniture, and modify the old closet storage system.  That only took a day.  But I’m still working on sorting and organizing the supplies back into the closet.  Which is where I got stuck in Zeno’s Dichotomy Paradox.  Every day I sort through several more boxes.  And the number of boxes waiting to be sorted doesn’t seem to diminish.  As I go through each box, most things get sorted into the new drawers and storage systems.  Some of it is earmarked for giveaway.  But far too many things get set aside on the guest bed for further sorting, or because I simply wasn’t sure what to do with it.  At the end of each day, the guest bedroom looks like the aftermath of an explosion, although the closet remains neatly organized.


See?  The closet is looking fine, but the bedroom was a disaster!
We’re now speeding through October, and if I can stay focused this weekend, I think I can make it through the last big hurdle to the studio change over - sorting through four (plus) tubs of fabric.  At the most, I have room for three of the tubs - two large and the smaller square.  They will live under the guest bed.  The extra fabric will either need to be given away, turned into something immediately, or moved to my storage unit.

the closet is almost together
It’s time to get this done so I can get back to actually crafting!  Oh, and did I mention that my nieces may be back next weekend?  And my brother and his whole family will definitely be coming to visit the first week of November?  Yeah, it’s definitely time to finish this. 

Wish me luck!


Thursday, August 23, 2018

Happy Birthday Pop Up Card

my work surface during the 'play' stage

Last week, I decided to make a birthday card for a friend who shares the same birthday as mine.   I knew I had to use the pop-up mechanism I learned at Cricut Mountain Make-a-thon for the interior.

pop-up mechanism installed - ready for the pop-out card
When I got to this stage, I realized I wasn't quite sure how to measure where to attach the pop-out accordion at left to the mechanism at right to make it all work.  I knew I had to glue top-right and bottom-left, but how far out from the center did I need to go?  Since we didn't receive written instructions from the class, I popped over to search Youtube, where I found a great, 7-minute video of the whole process (placing the pop-out accordion shows up at 5:40).  Thank you Srushti Patil!

I embossed the background squares before adding the lettering
I kept "Enjoy the Little Things", because it makes me smile.  And I liked how the embossed backgrounds echoed that theme.

But what to do with the front?  I decided to recreate one of Cricut Design Space's projects, Tiny Birthday Banners, with a couple of modifications.  I used a different font for the letterin, and changed the pennants a little.  Hot glue guns and I don't generally get along, so I added a little fold-over flap to the top of each banner, which made it super easy to attach them to the banner string. 

Ready to attach the banners to the card, I discovered I didn't plan the stages of work well at all.  I had to carefully unstick the edges of the inner liner paper (the sky blue) so that I could tape and glue down the ends of the two strings underneath.  Oops!

Despite that, I was pretty pleased with how it turned out.  Too bad I forgot to take a 'clean' picture of it!  Instead, you get this close-up with the scissors.  That's definitely the way things seem to roll for me these days.

Finished card, ready to mail. 

Want the links to these projects?  I've shared the links on my Cricut Profile page.  You'll find this card, and a full Happy Birthday banner I had to make afterwards.   Cricut's new interface doesn't currently allow me to link the projects directly from my blog - my only options for sharing are Pinterest and Facebook - they don't give me a link option.  If I have time, I may give them a call later today and ask for help.  In the meantime, my profile is a work around. 

I also plan to post a project that's simply as many miniature pennants as can fit arranged on an 8.5 x 11" page.   This one's for people like me who a) Hate to waste paper and b) May like having extra pennants hanging around, ready for that unexpected party.  Unfortunately, Cricut requires me to add a photo of my own of the project before I can post that to my profile.  Right now all of the pennants are tucked away in the closet of the guest bedroom where my niece is fast asleep, so any new photos will have to wait.  :) 

But hey, two blog posts in a single month!  I may be on a roll. 

Cheers!