Our contribution to a New Year's Eve potluck: gingerbread house poppers. Mark thought it would be funny to make gingerbread houses you could eat whole. Like you were a monster or something. We used the gingerbread cake recipe from December 2004 Martha Stewart, plus bought cream cheese frosting. Make the gingerbread, let it cool, and chill it in the fridge. Chilling it makes it easer to cut up. The cake should be about an inch thick. Use a bread knife to cut the cake into 1 inch cubes. Cut some cubes on a diagonal for the roofs. Use a generous dallop of icing to glue the roof to a cube. Pipe on the doors and windows with a tiny tip. Once you have a little village, sift powdered sugar over the roofs. Devour accompanied by monster growls and screaming noises.
We experimented with candy doors and windows, but they either didn't taste good with gingerbread (sour gummy ribbons) or they were the wrong scale (Necco wafers). Sidenote: if you want to use Necco wafers for anything like this, they're really easy to cut to size. Just use a serrated knife to score, and snap right along the score.
Good haul of craft books for Christmas. One sister got me a pile of thrifted craft books. There are some really good ones (in a good way), my favorite being Storybook Favorites in Cross Stitch by Gillian Souter, and some more good ones (in a bad way) like The Great Pantyhose Crafts Book by Ed and Stevie Baldwin. There are a few vintage sewing books, too. If I'm quick, I might try to cross stitch something from the Storybook Favorites one for my neice's birthday. My other sister got me Altered Art, a neat sort of collage-y book. Then, my sister in law sent me Knit One, Felt Too by Kathleen Taylor. It's really really good. I like a bunch of the projects: some felted Christmas tree ornaments that are just in a picture at the front, a cloche, earmuffs, mittens, slipper socks, a trivet, all sorts of stuff. It's a really good reference, too. I've seen a few felted items on the web that I might try to recreate, and there's also a section on needle felting.
The kitten got ahold of Mark's USB drive and chewed up the casing. What could we do with a mangled USB drive? Then we remembered that my sister collects Pez dispensers, and that we needed a present for her, and the Pez dispenser USB drive idea was planted. Googled it later and found out that, of course, someone else had already thought of it. But his Pez dispenser no longer dispenses Pez, which I believe to be the essential function of such a device. But, the compromise is that our design doesn't stand up any more.
Open dispenser as if to load it, overextending it so it will stay open.
Cut through both sides of the plastic Pez-holder, right near the very bottom. The whole thing will pop apart.
Study how it's assembled. There's a little plastic thing on the top of a spring. That pushes the Pez up. It travels in two grooves in the front and back of the body. It only fits in one way. The bottom part of the Pez holder also fits in the groove so that, when connected with the top part, it won't pull completely out of the body.
See if the USB key will fit into the body. If it does, your life is much easier. If it doesn't fit, disassemble it. The mini Cruzer that we used has a screw hidden under the label that holds the whole thing together. Once the case was off, it fit fine inside the body.
The drive will sit in the bottom part of the body. The plastic holder will fill up the rest of the body. Cut down the plastic holder part so it'll be the right length. Ours holds 4 Pez. Cut the spring, too.
Reassemble the dispenser. It's a little tricky because of the spring and getting the little plastic cap in right. We used packing tape to connect the top and the bottom back together. Taping on the inside seems to work better than taping the outside. There's actually very little clearance where the parts slide past one another.
Test it out with some Pez to make sure it still works.
Put the USB drive in and make sure it still fits.
Make any adjustments.
We used hot glue to secure the USB drive. Squirt a bit in the body and quickly squish the drive in place. Let it solidify and fill around the drive with more hot glue. Just be careful none drips down and interferes with the holder.
Crafty Book review rundown, starting with two raves:
Cozy Crochet by Melissa Leapman: One of the few crochet books I've liked recently. Really cute book design, really cute pattern design, and a kit coming out in April. Any of my friends and family out there who haven't gotten me a present yet? You could get me this. Or you could get me
Simply Felt by Margaret Docherty and Jayne Emerson: I love felt even though I have not been all that successful in making any. I blame this one two circumstances 1. the felt book I own is in Japanese and 2. the wool I have is dyed with some not colorfast plant dye. This book has some really pretty patterns that are almost exactly what I would aim to make, like a Supermaggie-esque scarf. I want this book.
Now for the less exciting (to me, anyway) books. I feel so bad dissing these books because I really wanted to like all of them. They are very certainly library-worthy:
Get Crafty by Jean Railla: Too much expounding, not enough projects. (Sorry Jean! Please don't throw me off the site!)
The Starving Artist's Way: Easy Projects for Low-Budget Living by Nava Lubelski: I came close to getting this one for one of my sisters, but ultimately I didn't. It's got a nice blend of recipes, sewing, housekeeping, and random other stuff, and lots of them. But it doesn't have any pictures. There are a few drawings, but I thnk most crafts are really hard if there's not a picture.
Knit Wit by Amy Singer: The craftster reviews were right, most of the projects are from the web site. Now that I know my LYS has never even heard of Knitty, I understand the rationale for such a strategy, but I also realize that I am not the target audience.
Origami star ornament from the December 2004 Martha. Finally got it to hold together after realizing that it's not supposed to puff out like a balloon, but is just flat and folded. I'm still not 100% sure it's right, but I'm tired of fooling with it.
These are fun to make. Quick, easy or tricky as you want, and more useful than a doily. Most are from a 99 Snowflakes Liesure Arts booklet I found at a craft store a few years back. One of them is from the December 2002 Martha Stewart.
Our last shower curtain bit the dust after only a couple of months. It was a fairly cheap vinyl one, and one of the holes pulled through. The kitten's valient efforts to climb it and/or pull it down may have had something to do with it's short life, but it was still annoying. Meet v2. One of the nice things about my ever-growing crafting empire is that I often have tools and supplies on hand to just do things when I think of them. Like add grommets to reinforce the holes this time. These are just 99 cent Dritz grommets, set with the Dritz plastic setter thing that may even have come in the package with the grommets. We'll see how long it holds out.
In other crafting news, I'm on the lookout for ideas for the old shower curtain. It looks like rice paper, but plasticized.
Inspired by the Lauren Dyer stuff I posted the other day, I've been playing with wax. These are made of shrinky-dink, hemp, and tea-light wax. I learned that wax doesn't adhere to smooth shrinky-dink all that well, among other lessons on wax behavior. I think they're definitely a good start, though. I might play around with it some more later.
Lauren Dyer is one of my new favorite artists. She recently put a few things up at Blissen and I've been going to gaze at them at least once a day. She uses wax and beads and wood and paper. I love the way the wax mutes the colors.
The only place I could find more works was at Fiber Arts Magazine (which is a really neat magazine, by the way. Check out the contemporary rug-hooking article in the same issue.)
Another December 2000 Martha Stewart Living project I made a few years ago: the pipecleaner tree. December 2000, now that was an issue. It's like three times thicker than this year's. Anyway, here's the picture from the magazine for comparison's sake.
and here's mine
Yeah. I made this whole advent calendar to go with it, where every day you got a new tiny ornament out of a numbered matchbox drawer. I made these little tiny beaded garlands, little wrapped presents, etc. The idea was so good, but the execution was just not there. It does not seem to have survived the junk seive of the 3 moves we've made in the last 15 months. I did keep the tree, though.
Here's the paper village I made a few years back from the Martha Stewart Living December 2000 patterns. They're made of watercolor paper. The little house in the middle has beaded "lights," and the church has colored acetate windows. The other windows are glassine, and they all look really pretty when you put little lights under them.
closeup of the center one
And last but not least the hospital my husband built for the victims of the cholera epidemic. The next year, Christmas Village had a horrific train derailment. Luckily my new Halloween village kit comes with a graveyard.