Saturday, November 30, 2013

How to Knit a Scarf (for a toddler!)

I'm back from my Thanksgiving coma and I hope you had a wonderful holiday! In honor of Small Business Saturday, I ventured out into West Hollywood to a local yarn store -- Zoe Zeynep -- and picked up a skein of purple yarn for my niece. Today's post is going to be a very simple one - how to knit a scarf. I found this pattern on Detailed Party Mom and thought it was ideal for a 2 year old. While it's 75 and sunny here in SoCal, it's 35 degrees in New York so scarves can be ideal holiday gifts when the weather gets chilly!

Step 1: Pick your yarn

Think of who is going to be wearing it, where they'll be wearing it, and how often. Is this something they're going to have to hand wash or can they put it in the washer/dryer? Is it itchy? How thick is it? These are just some questions to ask yourself before buying anything. Note that you can use either straight needles or round, it doesn't matter. I went with a yarn that was multi-colored so I wouldn't have to worry about swapping one color for another!

Step 2: Cast on 18 stitches

Watch the video below I made for my headband/cowl post - only note that you'll be making 18 stitches, not 20.

By the time you cast on 18 stitches, it should look something like this:

Step 3: Knit 2, Purl 1 for 19"

This is going to take the longest but it's the easiest! You're going to take the knitting in your left hand and move it to the right hand needle. To do so:
 1.) Put the right needle through the first stitch to the back, making a cross.

2.) Wrap the yarn around the back needle

3.) Pull the back (right hand) needle under the left needle

4.) And push off so the stitch goes onto the right needle.

Do the same thing again so you have two knit stitches on the right needle.

Then you purl 1 stitch. To do so:

1.) Bring the yarn in your right hand to the front

2.) Put the right needle under the stitch

3.) Wrap the warn around

4.) Push the front (right hand) needle under the left needle

5.) And push off so the stitch goes onto the right needle.

Now bring the yarn to the back and knit two, bring the yarn to the front, purl one, bring the yarn to the back, knit two, bring the yarn to the front, purl one, etc. This is what the instructions mean when they say, "K2, P1 every row"

Still not sure how to knit and purl? This video is the best explaining how to knit and purl a stitch (I would make a video myself but it wouldn't be nearly as clear as this one!).

When you purl the very last stitch on the left needle, switch the needles around so the stitches are on the left side so you're always knitting onto the right side.

Ok, so you've done this for about 19" inches and it should look something like this:

Now it's time to make the hole - to do so, the instructions call for casting off. Essentially all you're doing is knitting 2 stitches:

Then taking that first stitch, the one all the way to the right, picking it up with your left needle

 and dragging it over the other stitch.

Again, knit one stitch, grab the first stitch, drag it over the other stitch, knit one, grab and drag it over, etc. for 10 stitches. If this still doesn't make sense, this video shows you what I mean. When you're done, it should look something like this:

For the next set of instructions, it says you need to cast on 10 stitches in the middle of a row. To do that, completely flip over your knitting needles so what was in your left hand is now in your right hand, and cast on the stitches just like you did in the beginning. When you're done, you'll have created a little hole:

Finishing knitting 2, purling 1 until the scarf has reached 25", then cast off the stitches, just like you did when you created your hole.

Now you can either sew on a button like the original post did or you can do what I did and put one section through the hole and hopefully this way the scarf won't become undone when your little toddler wears it under their jacket!

TOTAL COSTS: $8.50 for 1 skein of yarn
Note that prices will vary depending on how much yarn you buy, what it's made of, etc.

3 1/2 hours to knit 19"
20 minutes to make the hole
45 minutes to knit final inches
5 minutes to cast off

EASY-PEASY SCALE (1 super easy - 5 very difficult): 3 out of 5 if you've never knit before
You're learning a lot of new things with this pattern - how to cast on, how to knit, how to cast off and on in the middle of a row... but with the videos and photos provided, hopefully this will ease any sort of hesitation you might have and you'll give it a shot!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Thanksgiving Snacks (nope, not the healthy kind!)

When I saw these two posts on acorns and turkeys, I knew I had to give them a try! 1) They're just adorable and 2) they'll be yummy to snack on while the turkey's in the oven. They're so easy to do and the kids could even help if you're busy with the cranberry sauce, the rolls, the mashed potatoes......

1.) Peanut Butter Chocolate Acorns

Nutter Butter Bites
Hershey's Kisses
Chocolate chips

Take a small plate and put it in the microwave for 30 seconds. See how many Hershey's Kisses you can unwrap in those 30 seconds (I got up to four). After the 30 seconds, take the plate out and place the Hershey's Kisses bottom down on the plate. Give them a few seconds to warm up and once the bottom is slightly melted, put it on a Nutter Butter Bite and on a different plate to cool. Do this for as many acorns as you'd like to make.

Once the Hershey's Kisses are securely "glued" to the Nutter Butter Bites, do the same things with the chocolate chips, only keep in mind they only need to be on the plate for a couple seconds. Trust me, they melt fast! Stick them on the other side of the Nutter Butter and voila! Peanut butter chocolate acorns!

2.) Rice Krispies Turkeys

Rice Krispies
Marshmallows (1 bag of big or 1 bag of mini-marshmallows)
Reese's Miniature Cups
Fruity Roll-ups
Googly eyes

First, make a batch of Rice Krispies treats. If you don't know how to do that, neither did I, I just followed the recipe on the box. It's quite simple: melt butter, pour in marshmallows, then pour in Rice Krispies. I poured the mix into a pan covered with aluminum foil, cut it into pieces, and once it was completely cooled, I flipped the batch over so the flat side was facing up.

 Now it's time to make the turkeys! Use the Reese's miniature cups as the body, googly eyes, and fruit roll-ups for the feathers! The original post called for using Starburts, melting and rolling them out but that just seemed like WAY too much trouble!


TOTAL COSTS: About $25 (prices from Vons)
$3.50 for Hershey's Kisses
$3.50 for Reese's Miniature Cups
$2.49 for Nutter Butter Bites
$3.99 for Fruity Roll-Ups
$2.99 for Rice Krispies (I used the generic brand)
$2.49 for marshmallows
$2.99 for chocolate chips
$3.99 for googly eyes

TOTAL AMOUNT OF TIME: 2 hours to complete both
1.5 hours for the Rice Krispies turkeys
30 minutes to make 30 acorns

EASY-PEASY SCALE (1 super easy - 5 very difficult): 1 out of 5 for the acorns, 2 out of 5 for the Rice Krispies turkeys
The turkeys aren't difficult to make, they just take a little more time! Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

How to Tie a Tie (3 Different Versions)

So we're coming up on the holidays, a time where you have to dress up in front of your family, friends, coworkers... and you need to wear a tie. So for men and women alike, here are three how-to videos for how to tie a Four in Hand, a Half Windsor, and a Windsor (also known as a Full Windsor or a Double Windsor).

Here's how to tie a Four in Hand (the most basic tie). If you can do this, you can definitely do the others!

Ohhh so you want a challenge, huh? That one's too easy for you? Alright, here's how to tie a Half Windsor.

Sorry about the awkward ending there! Ok, so you think you got it down? Alright then, here's the ultimate challenge: the Windsor. Invented by royalty, worn by many presidents, and the only knot used by the Royal Air Force, you'll be in good company if you can get this one down!

So there you have it kids! No more excuses - stop buying those clip-ons or wearing the tie that never was untied (you know who you are), get out there and challenge yourself!

Assuming you own a tie. Which you should.

Of course, this all depends on how long it takes for you to understand the process. The Windsor took me a good 15 minutes to figure out so hopefully the video will shorten that time for you!

EASY-PEASY SCALE (1 super easy - 5 very difficult): 1 out of 5 for the Four in Hand, 2 out of 5 for the Half Windsor, and 4 out of 5 for the Windsor
With enough practice, you should have them all down in no time!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Slow Cooker Pumpkin Pie Cinnamon Rolls...ish...

So you have your Thanksgiving dinner planned out... but what about breakfast? You gotta eat before you eat some more, right? Well I saw this post on Get Crocked and thought it would be an appropriate breakfast for Turkey Day. Unfortunately, this turned out to be a disaster but with a twist ending:

I knew something was wrong from the very beginning. Not a good sign. See, the directions say to mix the dry ingredients and slowly add in the wet ingredients. However, listen to all these wet ingredients: 1/2 C milk, 1/4 C water, 3/4 C pumpkin, and 1/4 C canola oil. This wasn't dough, this was what Wednesday Addams played with when eating her dinner...only it was orange.

While I was disappointed by how wet it was (I don't recommend the water or the canola oil!), I gave it an hour to sit instead of the 30 minutes recommended, hoping that would help solidify the dough.

It didn't.

After an hour, I put down as much flour on the table as I could and I tried to knead and spread the dough. Well, the puffs of flour landed everywhere, which made my cat curious, which resulted in me trying to fend him off while simultaneously pouring hot butter on my pants. Finally, after Mother Chaos decided to give me a break, I was able to put the filling on the dough.

Now rolling it up was not an easy task, as the dough was still quite wet and was sticking to the table, flour be damned. I eventually made it work, not caring if it looked pretty or not.

Now I'm supposed to take this and cut it up into pieces? Are you kidding me? At this point I'm laughing like a hyena because goodness knows my kitchen, my clothes, my poor cat, EVERYTHING is covered in flour and now I have to transfer 10-12 pieces to my slow cooker! I cut up 8 "pieces" and put them in the slow cooker, praying for a miracle.

The instructions said 60-90 minutes. Yeah, not helpful. I put them in for an hour and they were still quite doughy in the middle so I kept them in for another 30. I turned it off after that and it's a good thing I did because the edges were very hard but unfortunately the insides were still doughy.

And then there's the frosting... I hoped this might cover up the mistakes. Thankfully my husband doesn't care how his food looks, as long as it tastes good, and he said they taste good! I couldn't get over the doughy middle and rock hard sides but at least the frosting's good!

TOTAL COSTS: Depends on what you have at home - see below
Assuming you have flour, sugar, milk, water, canola oil, butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, butter, and vanilla
You probably don't have:
Yeast - $2.49
Canned pumpkin - $2.39
Pumpkin Pie spice - $6.49
Cream cheese - $2.19

20 minutes to make dough
1 hour to sit
30 minutes to make filling, spread onto dough, roll and cut into pieces
90 minutes in the slow cooker
10 minutes to make frosting

EASY-PEASY SCALE (1 super easy - 5 very difficult): 3 out of 5
As long as your dough has the right consistency and isn't a wet glob, you'll be fine. Leave the canola oil and water for the very end. If it's wet enough, don't worry about those other two ingredients. Your kitchen floors, your clothes, and your pets will be grateful.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

How to Make Toothpaste Cookies (no... it's not really toothpaste...)

Every time I head to a holiday party, I bring a batch of Forbes' Family Toothpaste Cookies and every time, I come back from the party with an empty plate. Why? Because they're ridiculously good. Imagine a Peppermint Patty on top of a thin brownie. Really. Freaking. Good. However, it does take a bit of time to make so roll up your sleeves, make sure you have a few hours free, and get ready to gain 10 pounds because you might just eat the entire batch by yourself. Ok, maybe that's just me...

There are three layers to these cookies:

Layer 1 Ingredients:
2 squares of Baker's Unsweetened Baking Chocolate Squares
1/2 C butter (8 T)
2 eggs
1/2 t peppermint extract
1 C sugar
Dash of salt
1/2 C flour

Layer 2 Ingredients:
1/2 C butter (8 T)
4 C confectioner's sugar (powdered sugar)
4 T heavy whipping cream
3 t peppermint extract

Layer 3 Ingredients:
4 squares of Baker's Unsweetened Baking Chocolate Squares 
1/4 C butter (4 T)

Layer 1 Instructions:
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees and grease a cookie sheet (including the sides). Melt the chocolate and butter together - I did this in a microwave in a glass Pyrex measuring cup in 30 second intervals and found the chocolate completely melted after 1 1/2 minutes. I recommend using a knife to stir the chocolate and butter. You'll want the mixture to cool down so I put mine in the fridge for 10 minutes while I worked on the other ingredients.

In a mixer, beat together the eggs until frothy.

Add in the sugar, chocolate mixture (once it has cooled down), and peppermint extract.

Finally, add in the flour and salt.

Once it's all mixed together, pour it into the cookie sheet and put in the oven for 10-15 minutes (or until it's slightly pulling away from the edges of the pan.

After baking, put the cookie sheet on a rack in your fridge and let it cool completely (about 30 minutes).

Layer 2 Instructions:
While the first layer is cooling, cream together the butter and confectioner's sugar with the heavy whipping cream and peppermint extract. It's going to be pretty thick by the time it's all mixed together.

Once mixed, use a spatula to frost the first layer. Here's a trick my aunt taught me: once all the icing is down, get a glass of really hot water, dip a knife in the glass, wipe it off, and smooth out the layer as much as you can. I'm not very skilled at this, but it beats using a spatula to try and spread it out evenly! Put this tray back in the fridge until it has completely hardened (45 minutes to an hour should do you).

Layer 3 Instructions:
Melt the baking chocolate and butter just like you did in the first step. Now of course I had to make a mistake somewhere and this is where it was. I put it in the microwave for too long (2 minutes) and it became really thick. Essentially, it should be melted enough that you can pour the chocolate over the white icing in an "S" pattern while the pan is on an angle. That way, you don't have to have a knife to spread the chocolate all over. However, because mine was too thick, I ended up using a spatula to cover the chocolate.

Once you've completely covered the tray in chocolate, cut the tray into long narrow strips (2"x1" or so) and stick it back in the fridge to harden. And voila! Your cookies and good to go!

TOTAL COSTS: About $22 (if you don't have any ingredients - all prices from Vons)
Baking chocolate - $2.99
Butter - $.79
Eggs - $2.99
Sugar - $2.49
Peppermint extract - $4.79
Flour - $2.49
Confectioner's sugar (powdered sugar) - $1.99
Heavy whipping cream - $3.49

TOTAL AMOUNT OF TIME: About 3 hours, 15 minutes
Layer 1 prepare: 45 minutes
Layer 1 bake: 15 minutes
Layer 1 cool in fridge: 30 minutes
Layer 2 prepare: 15 minutes
Layer 2 cool in fridge: 1 hour
Layer 3 prepare: 15 minutes
Layer 3 cool in fridge: 15 minutes

EASY-PEASY SCALE (1 super easy - 5 very difficult) - 2 out of 5
The only hard thing is getting layer 3 on right but as you can see, I didn't and it still turned out great! Enjoy!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Dry Erase Book - Perfect for Kids!

We're coming up on that time of year when long car or plane rides are inevitable for the holidays. We're also coming up on flu season. Need something to entertain the kids if they're sick and/or on a long trip? Make one of these dry erase books and guarantee yourself at least a few minutes of peace and quiet! I found this post by All For The Boys and thought I'd give it a shot!

Here's what you need:
1. A binder
2. Clear page protectors
3. Elastic
4. Dry erase markers
5. Pictures of family members
6. Microsoft Word or some other program to make cover and print out photos
7. Hot glue gun / hot glue
8. Scissors

Now I went with Word because I wanted to kill two birds with one stone - make a cover label and print out the photos.

I didn't like the original posts cover of the binder so I went with something different - if you want to do this, on the left hand side go to the icon below the square, choose "Callouts" and choose which bubble you prefer (I went with the second from the left and "Stencil" font)

Then print it out and stick it between the plastic cover and the binder! Voila, step one is done. But again, feel free to make the cover however you like!

Now to the inside. First, go back to your Word doc and either create a new document or erase what you just did. Then, change the document's margins (Format --> Document and change margins to .5"). Then insert a photo (Insert --> Picture --> From file) of your choosing. The bigger the photo of the person, the better, otherwise the kid will have to stick with drawing in the space around you.

I chose to grayscale my photo, like the original, because it makes the color of the markers pop. To do this, either double-click on your photo or go to Format --> Picture and then under Color, change it to Grayscale. Print out your photo and you're done with step two!... that is, unless you'd like to print out more photos, which I recommend.

Once you have your photos printed, put them in the plastic page protectors, and then put those in the binder. Next comes the final step: gluing the elastic to the binder.

The easiest way I found to do this was glue down a small section of elastic, then place the marker down with the elastic wrapped tight around it, then place a little hot glue right next to the marker and glue the elastic down. Do this for however many markers you have, just don't glue the marker. If you do, it'll be very hard to get it out.

And that's it! Best part? There's no mess - it wipes right off so they can make as many illustrations on you as they like!

TOTAL COSTS: About $13
$3 for 4-pack of dry erase markers from Staples
$3.49 for 1" binder from Staples
$3.99 for set of 10 page protectors from Staples
$2.49 1/4" for 8 yds. from Michael's
Hot glue and printer on hand

TOTAL AMOUNT OF TIME: About 15 minutes
But note that I only printed out 1 photo so if you have more photos, it will take more time to size them, grayscale, etc.

EASY-PEASY SCALE (1 super easy - 5 very difficult): 2 out of 5
The hardest thing is just making sure you don't get glue on the markers because then that glue sticks to the elastic and you can't pull it out. Other than that, piece o' cake! If you want to skip the elastic/hot glue part altogether, you can, but I wasn't able to fit the markers in the pocket very easily.