Monday, February 28, 2011

Homemade O'Neil Ice Cream

This past weekend we had a combined family birthday celebration, so I pulled out the ice cream maker attachment for my KitchenAid stand mixer and got whisking.

Don't get me wrong, there are a few local ice cream shops around here that I absolutely love.  But there's really nothing like good homemade ice cream.  It's so light and refreshing.  Last year, I made a vanilla fudge swirl with chocolate covered pretzel bits, and it has since become family legend.  We call this flavor O'Neil after my great grandmother who taught my grandmother and, in turn, a whole host of us, that you should always eat ice cream with pretzels.  The salty and sweet together is delicious!

I decided to make that again, but this time I hit a few snags and it didn't quite live up to the last batch.

Despite my snags, making ice cream is actually pretty easy.  I have a Ben and Jerry's ice cream cookbook and they have a few base recipes that you add ingredients to to make different flavors.  The base is eggs, sugar, milk, and heavy cream (check out the book for the exact measurements).  If you're making chocolate ice cream, you add in the chocolate before you put the mixture into the ice cream maker.  Most other ingredients get added halfway through the process or not until you take the ice cream out of the maker. 

Here is my beautifully whisked base.

My other grandmother gave me her set of Pyrex mixing bowls when she and my grandfather downsized into a smaller place.  Isn't the design on the bowls so comforting?

Here's a smaller bowl with the reverse colors.  They're so festive!

Since I was just adding fudge and pretzels, I put the base right into the ice cream maker.  All I have to do is click the attachment onto my standmixer and put the mixer on the lowest setting.  It takes anywhere from 30-45 minutes for the base to set into a soft serve consistency.

Once the ice cream looks like soft serve, you scoop it all out and put it in a freezer-safe container.  Doesn't it look yummy?

I keep the plastic ice cream containers from our local shop, so they're the perfect size!

Now we come to my first snag.  I forgot that when you are making a fudge swirl, you have to heat up the fudge slightly before swirling it into the ice cream.  Whoops!  My unheated fudge just mixed with the base, making a slightly fudgey base.  It's a good thing my family loves chocolate!  To make a fudge swirl, you scoop up some of the heated fudge on a spool and then simply swirl the spoon through the ice cream.  The fudge will come off of the spoon slowly and leave a trail in the ice cream.  It's that easy! 

My second snag was that I forgot that you should do the swirl last, after you have added in the other ingredients.  When I added the pretzels and mixed them into the ice cream, I messed up my swirls.  My only defense for this carelessness is that it was late on Friday night and I was exhausted from the day and week.  I ended up having to repeat the swirl step, so the ice cream was a lot more chocolatey than I had wanted.  It still tasted yummy though!

My third snag, which we didn't realize until we ate the ice cream the next day, was that the pretzels got soggy after being added to the ice cream.  The original batch that I made had chocolate covered pretzels and the chocolate acts as a barrier to keep the pretzel crunchy.  Next time I'll use the chocolate covered pretzels again.  And make sure to add the ingredients in the correct order!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

2011 Inaugural Sunday Night Bikeride

During the Spring, Summer, and Fall, Nick and I try to go on a bikeride on Sunday nights.  It's a nice way to clear our minds before the start of the work week.  Most often, we go across the street to Tyler State Park, which is where we went tonight.  Today we got out a little later than we wanted, so we had to cut the bikeride short a bit because we were losing sunlight.  I can't wait until Daylight Savings Starts in a few weeks!

At some point during the ride, we usually sit by one of the dams for a couple of minutes.  It's pretty much the main gathering place in the park.  You can rent canoes here in the summer.  There are grills and picnic tables, a giant open fireplace where you can roast marshmallows, and rocks for kids and dogs to climb on and splash in the water.

Right by the bridge that crosses over the creek, we saw a sign that told us that Pennsylvania won Best State Parks in the Nation for 2011!  How exciting!

We definitely want to check out some other PA State Parks this year.  During our ride, we saw some nice end-of-winter views.  I am a sucker for a tree silhouette.

I couldn't resist climbing down a few hills to take some shots and saw this awesome rock formation.

::Warning: You are about to see pictures of a deer carcass.  They're pretty much fur and bone, but if you don't want to see it, I suggest you stop reading!::

On the ride over to the park, we cut through a middle school parking lot to pick up with the trail that leads into the park.  Nick spotted a complete deer carcass on the side of the road and we went to investigate.

This is exactly how we found the scene.  At least the deer died doing what he loved!  HA!  I'm assuming that some kids were playing with the football and once they realized where it landed, they decided to cut their loses.  It's so perfectly placed! 

Anyway, this deer fascinated me.  It appeared to have been moved about 10 feet from the original spot where it decayed.  I'm really hoping that an animal and not a human moved it.  Aside from a few ribs that we found away from the body, the deer appears to be intact.

Check out the head.  Is it creepy that I think it looks awesome with the eyes gone and the face is still in one piece?  He also has very few teeth.  Do deer not have teeth?  I'm assuming that some of his top front teeth are missing because he has bottom front teeth.  Otherwise, he only has back molars.

Inexplicably, one leg and hoof appeared to be untouched.  How did this happen?

We stood around this guy for a good ten minutes investigating everything.  Don't worry, we didn't touch anything and we kept our distance! 

Between the deer and the neato rock formations, we had quite an exciting bikeride!  And I got to ring my awesome bell that Nick got me for my birthday last year!  You twist the side and the gears move the ringer inside.  It's so fun!

I finished knitting another piece for my blanket, so check back for some pictures this week.  For now, I'm going to get set up on the couch with a fresh skein and watch the Oscars.  Will you be watching too?

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Pretty Things Thursday: Book Covers

I am a huge book nerd and could probably write a million posts like the one I am about to write.  I will try and keep book cover PTT posts to a minimum, because it's just so easy!

We have thousands of books, some of which have pretty awesome covers.

First up, Maps & Legends by Michael Chabon.  Nick and I are suckers for anything map related, which you'll see again later on.  So when I saw this cover I was initially disappointed that it wasn't an awesome map line drawing or illustration.  But I think this illustration is just as good.  The brown, green, and blue sections are different sized pieces of paper that form a tri-level cover of sorts.

I picked up this gem of a copy of Brideshead Revisited for a Brit Lit class in my college bookstore.  I didn't so much enjoy the discussion of the book in class, but I did enjoy the time I spent admiring the cover's insane details. 

Check out the wallpapery background behind the guys' legs.  Did you notice the green flowers on the brown suit?  Slouching in the desk in my jeans and hoodie, these dapper guys made me want to live in fancier times when everyone wore suits and dresses all of the time.

We picked up this set of Sherlock Holmes books at a book sale last year.  They look so pretty sitting on the shelf next to each other!

Each book has its own design.  Don't they look like bolts of fabric?

The cover for Migraine is not only pretty, it fascinates me.  As a migraine sufferer, it's hard to describe what happens to my vision during a migraine.  This cover explains a little bit of what happens and makes it easier for others to understand.

This is going a bit off topic, but here is an absolutely perfect example of what I see when I'm about to get a migraine.  The best way that I have been able to describe this is a blind spot that is bordered with the marching ants that display when you copy a cell in Excel.  Other than not capturing that those jags of light move around the border of the blind spot, this illustration is spot on.

Illustration in Migraine by Oliver Sacks

I discovered the line of Best American Non-Required Reading in 2004.  I love the small collection of drawings on this cover.

Each year's cover showcases a different artist.  I love the small objects in this cover, and not just because it reminds me on the Wizard of Oz.

Finally, I bring you one of the most interesting nonfiction books that I've read in a while.  Rats.  It is about just that—rats.  A guy observes how rats behave in NYC.  It's actually quite fascinating.   Here is where my love of maps comes in.  See what they did there?

I refrained from showing all seven of my special edition Harry Potters that came in a trunk that was labeled to be delivered to Hogwarts.  Perhaps I'll show them off another time.

What about you guys?  What are your favorite book covers?

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

My First Quilt!!

I can finally talk about the baby quilt that I finished almost 3 months ago!  As soon as my pal told me that she was pregnant I knew I wanted to make something handmade for the baby.  Then, as if the universe heard my request, I got an email from Spool advertising their classes.  Included in the list of classes was a beginner quilting class that takes you step-by-step through a baby or lap quilt.  Jackpot!  My class, taught by the wonderful Ashley, started at the end of October and ran into the beginning of December.  It was awesome and I had so much fun.  Having never quilted anything before, and really having no idea how to go about making a quilt, I was completely relying on the lovely ladies at Spool to guide me in the right direction.  And they were great every step of the way, from helping me pick out fabrics, to helping me figure things out when I made a mistake.  I highly recommend taking a class with them!
We FINALLY had a shower for my pal, who is going to have her baby any week now.  Not telling her about the quilting class or the quilt could possibly be my biggest accomplishment in recent years, since we sit about 4 feet away from each other at work every day.  I don’t know what I’m going to do when she leaves me for 3 months!
I had so much fun making this quilt and am so excited that I discovered what appears to be a love for quilting.  I am obsessed with this quilt, so I apologize in advance for the many photos.
No dark pictures here!  I had the foresight to bring this bad boy over to my parents' house over the weekend and take pictures that aren't in our very dark living room.

I had to pick out most of the fabric before we knew whether the baby would be a boy or girl.  For the front, I stuck to gender-neutral colors.  I love how bright and cheerful it is!

I took a chance and picked out the whales as the backing the day before we found out the gender of the baby.  I was relieved when I got the text that the baby was a boy, but I think it would have worked if the baby had been a girl (I would have chosen a more girly border and binding to offset the boyish whales). 

During class, Ashley told us that she loves handsewing the binding because it takes her back to the roots of quilting.  At the time I thought she was nuts.  I couldn't think of anything worse than sitting and hand sewing for hours.  Boy was I wrong.  I really enjoyed handsewing the binding on.  Who knew?  Plus it was fun to put the quilt through a test drive of sorts and drape it over me while I sewed.

I think the yellow and green stripey binding really ties the whole thing together.

Now for some detail shots.  Here is an apple and pear block.

And here is an owl and stripe block.

Here is the rundown of what fabric I used, all of which was bought at Spool.  I couldn’t find the name of the green with yellow flowers fabric and the yellow pattern fabric that I used for the borders.  Sorry!
Pears: Anne Kelle Metro Market
Apples: Sandi Henderson for Michael Miller, Farmers Market, Apple Delight
Lines: Anne Kelle Remix
Whales: Anne Kelle for Robert Kaufman, Urban Zoologie
Owls: Anne Kelle for Robert Kaufman, Urban Zoologie
Blue: Robert Kaufman’s Quilter’s Linen
Yellow binding: Heather Bailey Nicey Jane, Welcome Road

Up until last night when I packaged it up, I would catch myself sitting and staring at this thing, even though it’s been sitting on my sewing table or desk for a long time.  I can’t believe that I made it! 

I had a bunch of leftover fabric, including some already made patchwork blocks, so I made a small tag blanket with the scraps.  I used the pattern from Lotta Jansdotter’s Simple Sewing for Baby and then figured out the patchworking on my own.  I think I did pretty good!  Apparently babies love sucking on ribbons.  Who knew?  I can say that I have learned a whole lot about pregnancies and babies during the last 9 months!  What an educational experience.

The pattern called for different sizes of ribbon from 4-8 inches, but when I finished the blanket, the longer ribbon pieces were way too long.  I was worried that baby was going to choke on them, so I folded them over and stitched a seam in the middle so they were half as long.  It doesn’t look ideal, but I feel a lot better about the length of the ribbons.

I still had some leftover fabric and since the giraffes that I made for the Konbit Sante kits were so easy, I decided to whip up one for baby.  How adorable is this little guy?  Even though I still managed to attach the ears wrong.  I'm convinced that the pattern is marked incorrectly.  Next time I will live on the edge and ignore the pattern markings and place them as I see fit! 

Here's the whole package together.  I'm in love!

I’m not sure what my next quilt will be, but I’m super excited to have joined the quilting world and to get working on one again.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Konbit Sante Delivery Kits

The current Craft Hope project is to make delivery kits for Konbit Sante, an organization that is assisting to create a sustainable health care system in Haiti. Along with some supplies to ensure a sanitary delivery, Craft Hope asked us to include a receiving blanket and, optionally, a stuffed animal of sorts.  Here are mine (almost) all ready to go!

The totes are made out of a cotton print that I had in my stashed.  I picked up this super cute and soft flannel from Joann for the receiving blankets. 

I am in love with the bees and I was disappointed that I couldn’t find something as equally adorable for the boy blanket.

I had intended to make mitered corner receiving blankets, but I somehow managed to cut the backing fabric wrong, so I went with a very simple blanket.  They came together really quickly and easily.  I placed the fabric right sides together and stitched around the edges with a ½ inch seam allowance.  Then I turned them right-side out and top stitched around the edges with a ¼ inch seam allowance.
I had a 50% off coupon for Joann that I couldn’t use on the flannel because they were already on sale, so I picked up Lotta Jansdotter’s Simple Sewing for Baby.  There are a bunch of super cute things that I hope to make for future baby gifts.  I decided to use the soft rattle pattern to include in the delivery kits, but to keep the rattle out of it.  I don’t want to drive the new mothers crazy!
These giraffe rattles came together super quickly as well.  The ribbons on top were supposed to look like ears, but I somehow positioned them so they look like bows.  I thought they were cute like that, so I kept them.  They are the perfect size for a new baby to snuggle with!  Actually, do new babies snuggle with stuffties?  I’m new to this baby stuff!  I made one side of the giraffe the front fabric of the receiving blanket and the other side the back fabric.

I just need to pick up some string and plastic sheeting tomorrow, and then these kits will be packaged up and on their way to Konbit Sante!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Spring, Glorious Spring, Sorta...

It was a glorious 65 degrees yesterday and today it might reach 70!  I know it’s just a warm spell and it’s not going to be Spring for real, but I’m getting excited for when we can spend more time hiking and kayaking and taking pictures outdoors.  Of course this will mean less time for sewing.  I love living in a place where we have all four seasons.  There's something good about each of them, but I'm always ready for the next season when it's time for a weather change.  Right now, I am really sick of wearing layers and having to wear actual shoes.  I'm ready for flip flops and painted toenails!  I guess I'll just have to bear with winter for a few more months.

I will be spending the weekend working on a few projects that have very definite and coming deadlines (after an inaugural bikeride of the year, of course).  I’ll share them once they’re finished!   Enjoy the warm-ish weekend (if you’re in the Northeast)! 

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Pretty Things Thursday: Guatemalan Masks

Last week I shared with you the awesome pottery that we got while honeymooning, or should I say luna de miel-ing, in Guatemala.  This week I bring you the masks that we got in Panajachel, the main town near where we were staying on Lake Atitlan.

The house that we were staying in had a few hand-carved painted wooden masks that we coveted.  For the entire week that we stayed at the lake, we searched all of vendors to find comparable masks, but found mostly crappy imitation ones.  On the last day that we were in town, we finally happened upon a vendor that had legit masks and spent a good half hour trying to decide which masks to get.  We snagged a hilarious donkey and a bird with a fish in its beak.  Here they are hanging in our kitchen.

I love the donkey for the hilarious look he has on his face and for the awesome detail on his snout.

How pretty is this (hence my inclusion of him in Pretty Things Thursday)?

Here is the side of his face.

His mouth is what makes his expression.  I can just hear him laughing a great donkey hee haw laugh.

The bird isn't as pretty as donkey, but the carving is pretty awesome.  Check out the bird in his beak!

Here's a side view so you can get a better idea of the intricate carving.

And the backside of the fish on the other side of the mask.

Coincidentally, we found the mask shop almost right across the street from our fav breakfast spot, Deli II (Deli I was further up the street).  They had THE BEST orange juice I have ever had in my life (pictured below in a huge goblet).  Terrible coffee though.

After we left the lake, we took a short flight to northern Guatemala to visit Tikal.  We splurged and stayed at Francis Ford Coppola's resort, La Lancha.  They had this awesome Swiss Family Robinson-esque outdoor dining room with a wall of masks. 

Aren't ours so much better?  Check out our honeymoon slideshow for more awesome pics of our adventures in Guatemala!