Cookie Mix In A Jar, Disaster In My Kitchen

In the last year since I’ve updated this blog (whoops), I got a new amazing job for an amazing company in an amazing department with amazing people. (Did I mention my work life is great?) I only started in January 2014, so this is my first Christmas season with everyone, and I didn’t even think about gifts for everyone in my department…of 9 other people. That’s a lot of thinking, and I can barely buy gifts for my husband who I’ve known for 10 years. So, I started looking for ideas online, and realized I could finally try something I’ve been wanting to try for a while but never had the occassion – the (in)famous cookie mix in a jar.

Image from The Creative Junkie

I’m sure you’ve seen these all over the internet, especially if you’re on Pinterest (I’m a recovering Pinterest addict myself). They look super cute and are great and inexpensive gift ideas, perfect if you work in a department with 9 other people. Plus, it’s literally dumping ingredients in a jar. How hard could it possibly be? (hahahahahahaha.)

I looked around and decided on following these instructions from AllRecipes. I got 9 1-qt mason jars from Michael’s for $2.49 each, and decided I would use a few sheets of Christmas craft paper I already had to cut into tags, and print out the instructions on pieces of paper and just glue them to the festive paper. (On an unrelated note, I also decided I would crochet small ornaments to go with these, which I will discuss further in another post.)

Since I purchased the jars on a Friday night, and wanted these prepared to bring to work the following Tuesday, Saturday morning seemed like a good time to have a test run, since I had absolutely no plans on Sunday. I knew we didn’t have enough of everything for 9 batches, so I went to the supermarket before 9am to grab extra of everything. (Did I mention this was all happening the weekend before Christmas? I have been a master procrastinator since I was 7 years old.) I got home and reviewed the instructions; in hindsight, I should have seen a red flag at “1 1/2 c of flour,” but whatever it’d be fine.

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Not so much.

This would be perfect if I didn’t still have to add a cup of chocolate chips! Guess who started baking cookies at 9:30 in the morning, with the organic butter I’d just paid a ridiculous amount for, since we had no regular sticks of butter.

I read through some of the comments on AllRecipes and was stunned that there was only one negative comment about actually fitting the ingredients. Everyone else claimed they packed and packed and packed with an ice cream scoop until it all fit nicely, but I didn’t have the time or patience for that. (Well, I had the time, but didn’t want to have an issue AGAIN, because now I definitely didn’t have enough butter for another batch.) So I figured I could just halve the recipe, and add 2 each of the cookies I’d just surprise-baked, since now I’d have room at the top of each jar. Except…

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Nice try.

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These things spread to be HUGE. I will take some of the blame for this, because the recipe called for softened butter, and I stopped paying attention and half of my butter was melted. But really? There is no way I’m fitting these things in the mason jars.

Now, it’s not even 11am and I’m drinking white wine because this whole experience has me strung out. Plus now I have to wash all the dishes from my surprise baking session. At this point, I’ve already rinsed out the Fail Jar, so I refilled it but with half of all the ingredients.

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A definite improvement, since now everything actually fits, but there is so much OBVIOUS empty space at the top, now I have to think of something else to fill it with. (Oh, and of course, this new job is for one of the biggest candy companies in the world, so putting some candy in a plastic bag and placing it on top would be pointless.) I toyed with the idea of literally dumping packets of hot chocolate into plastic bags, but then decided I would just cut the cookies up until they fit. (Cookie bites are a thing, right?)

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The cookies were a huge hit, and everyone was appreciative. And maybe if I hadn’t done this less than a week before Christmas, it wouldn’t have seemed quite as tragic. But I’ve learned my lesson – if I ever want to attempt the cookie mix in a jar gift again, I’ll just make the cookies.

Santa Hat Pattern

My sister-in-law asked me if I could create a Santa inspired hat (initially for New York SantaCon). She texted me a photo for inspiration, and I came up with this:

Sorry everyone, I’m not single.

I even remembered to write down the pattern!

Hat

Create a magic ring.
Round 1: Chain 3 (counts as first dc here and throughout; the first dc in each round should be a ch3!), 9 dc (10 dc)
Round 2: 2 dc in each dc (20 dc)
Round 3: *2dc in first dc, 1 dc in next dc* repeat from * to * until end (30 dc)
Round 4: *2 dc in first dc, 1 dc each in next 2 dc* repeat from * to * until end (40 dc)
Round 5: *2 dc in first dc, 1 dc each in next 3 dc* repeat from * to * until end (50 dc)
Rounds 6-12: 1 dc in each dc (50 dc)

Do not bind off after round 12!

Earflaps

Row 1: Turn, ch3 (does not count as first dc, here and throughout earflap), dc 7, turn
Row 2: ch3, dc 7, turn
Row 3: ch3, dc2tog, dc3, dc2tog, turn
Row 4: ch3, dc2tog, dc1, dc2tog, turn
Row 5: 
ch3, dc3, bind off

Count 20. join at 21st and repeat earflap pattern. (I would do row 1 of the second earflap, and then make sure it lines up to your own ears. This is what worked for me!)

Belt

**For this, I just worked the first row of sc in the 10th row of the hat. Since you’re working sc over dc (worked in the round, no less, so I had to mess around with stitch placement to get them to line up), I wouldn’t suggest this method. I mean, it looks fine, but it’ll be much easier to sc a black strip, and just whipstitch or sew it to attach. So, I will give the instructions for a black band.

Chain 51, turn
Row 1: sc in 2nd ch from hook, sc to end, ch1, turn (50sc)
Row 2: sc in each sc, ch1, turn (50sc)
Repeat row 2 three more times. Attach around hat (mine wound up spanning rows 8-10 of the hat)

Buckle

All you have to do here is surface slip stitch in a vaguely squareish/rectangular shape. Just make sure the top and bottom parts of the buckle are on the red part of the hat, and that the buckle is centered in the front of your head. My buckle was 5 stitches on the top and bottom, and 6 stitches on each side.

Here is a video on how to surface slip stitch: slip stitch surface: http://youtu.be/EJ8FI5PJfvk

Edging

With a fur yarn (I don’t know of any other than Lion Brand Fun Fur), sc all round the hat.

Pom Pom

I used the wrap method, and used width of DVD case and wrapped ~60-70 times. This turned out WAY TOO BIG and lead to 45 minutes of trimming and 15 minutes of vacuuming all the bits. I attached it  just by tying a knot on inside of hat.

This project on Ravelry

National Craft Month Intro & Set-Up

As some crafters may know, March is National Craft Month. I’ve been thinking about it for a few weeks, how I wanted to do something to “celebrate,” but was drawing a blank. Then it hit me – maybe I should unbox the sewing machine I purchased last summer for the first time, and actually use it!

Every week this month, I’m going to write a post about the projects I’m doing with my sewing machine. I am an absolute beginner – that is to say, I haven’t used a sewing machine regularly since home economics class in middle school. I’m very excited to start sewing, and hopefully get to the point I am at with crochet where I can pick up almost anything in the store and say, “I can do that!”

My sister sews on a fairly regular basis (she is basically an apron extraordinaire), so I invited her over one night and we went to the local fabric store for supplies. I got 3 yards of a plain forest green cotton, 1 yard of a decorative blue cotton, matching thread for each, extra needles (for when I surely break mine), and Velcro.

Then it was back to my house to eat dinner and set up the machine. (I felt more comfortable having someone there who was familiar with the hardware – sewing machines have more parts than I am used to with crafting and I was afraid I might break it, regardless of having the instructions.) There’s no point in photographing and explaining how to wind the bobbin, load it, and load the thread and thread the needle, etc. If you are here and having a sewing machine, you likely know how to do it; also sewing machines are slightly different. While setting mine up was MOSTLY the same, my sister came across one or two things that were different from her own machine.

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The first thing I made was a heating pack. You know, the kind you just throw in the microwave for a few minutes and put on your neck if you have a headache or neck-ache. Or are just cold.

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I used the tutorial found here. I didn’t pin anything, because I didn’t really care and couldn’t find my pins at that exact moment. Also I’m pretty lazy, but it was just a heating pad for myself, so I wasn’t particularly concerned. As stuffing, I used some white rice we had in the kitchen. The only thing I wish I’d done differently concerns the stuffing – it is SLIGHTLY overstuffed. I used one of the smaller boxes of Minute Rice and part of a bigger box we had leftover, which was a bit too much. You could probably get away with just one regular box of rice. Remember, you still have to be able to drape it around your neck!

Kids’ Winter Hats

Over the summer, my cousin asked if I could make winter hats for her two children. She gave me colors, I sent her a few photos, and we came up with a game plan. Four months was plenty of time to make hats for an almost-4-year-old boy and a one-year-old girl.

Shamefully, I handed them off to the recipients on January 19. I’ll justify by saying that we had a warmer-than-usual winter. (Which, for the record, is true in New Jersey. It was 60 degrees only a two weeks ago.)

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I made these patterns up; I didn’t write them down but they are basic crocheted hats. The girl’s hat was done in a shell stitch, mostly because the yarn I was using was fine and I would have been doing it forever if I did it in single crochet. However, it turns out it added great character to it! Ironically, that is not the first earflap hat I made for that boy, but he was three days old the last time he wore the first one. The spike pattern came from here.

Tip: I didn’t have head sizes, so I used average head sizes from a few places online: here is one of them, here is another. I came to the conclusion that 7 inches in diameter was a good size for a four year old. This is not the diameter of the crown, it is the diameter of the actual hat! The crown should be slightly smaller than the diameter of the hat you are aiming for.

Girl’s Winter Snowflake Hat Ravelry Page
Boy’s Winter Dinosaur Hat Ravelry Page

Decorating for Valentine’s Day

I’m not a huge fan of Valentine’s Day; I’m one of those people who just never really saw the point. As it turns out, my dating anniversary with my husband was a few days after Valentine’s Day, so we never bothered celebrating; now that we’re married we’re probably going to ignore it almost completely. (Winter anniversaries ARE THE WORST, so glad our wedding anniversary is in the spring.)

Anyway, I was surprised when I found myself wanting to decorate the house, even if it was only slightly, for Valentine’s Day. I couldn’t figure out where the urge was coming from. I think it’s the color schemes I’m attracted too – coming off the sparkly-brightness(TM) of Christmas into dreary grey January is welcome at first, but it gets dull rather quickly and the bright reds/pinks/purples/whites offset the seasonal depression that starts to set in.

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This door decoration is a combination of a few door decorations I’ve seen around the internet. The base letters are made with 12″ silver cake platters that I had lying around from a wreath I had never gotten to make. I’m lucky that X and O are pretty basic letters, but if you want to do something like this with anything other than these letters (or even if you are doing an X and O) I highly suggest getting some ready-made letters. These were EXTREMELY annoying to cut, they shed cardboard dust everywhere, and more than once my crafting knife blade almost came out of the holder.

I used felt to make these petal looking things:

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First, I cut the felt sheet into quartered strips.

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Then, I cut each of the strips into squares (or something vaguely square-ish). The shape doesn’t have to be perfect because you won’t notice later.

Then I folded each square in half to make a triangle…
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And then in half again…
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And then I snipped off the bottom.
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Then I just covered the bottom with hot glue and pressed it on my base!
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In addition to the door, I made a last-minute-I-don’t-feel-like-buying-anything centerpiece with some items I already had.

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With my immaculately set table.

With my immaculately set table.

The white branches and crystal…things were part of a centerpiece I took from someone’s wedding reception in the beginning of January. The glass beads I had lying around, and this is the replacement vase for the one I broke in the process of putting this simple centerpiece together…

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Apparently mixing glass beads in a glass vase is a terrible idea that results in tragedy. WHO KNEW.

Butterscotch Hot Toddy

It’s been freezing in New Jersey lately, and a coworker told me she made a butterscotch hot toddy to stay warm. I tried it today and loves it and need to spread the joy and warmth of this cocktail!

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You will not be disappointed!!

Homemade Peppermint Marshmallows

I like to live life frugally. So every Christmas I usually wind up making many of the gifts I give to people; either something entirely handmade or, more often, something handmade to go along with what I’ve already purchased. More than being frugal, however, I feel like handmade is far more heartfelt. A lot of people don’t realize the time and effort it takes to make gifts and think it’s merely a way to cop out of spending money, which makes me sad. When I crochet even just a hat, it takes hours of my time, and that ought to be worth more than any money I were to drop on something found in a store.

Now that I’ve had my rant, the point was that I got my cousin a mug for Christmas from Ghost Adventures on Travel Channel (which is one of the best reality shows next to Ancient Aliens) and found a neat post on Pinterest on a layered hot chocolate recipe – perfect! The recipe called for crushed peppermint starlights/candy canes, but thanks to another post from Pinterest, I decided to omit that part and replace it with homemade peppermint marshmallows from the Betty Crocker website.

Ingredients

  • Butter for greasing – I just sprayed my Pyrex with cooking spray
  • 1/3 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons unflavored gelatin
  • 1/2 cup cold water
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 cup corn syrup – MAKE SURE YOU HAVE THIS AND DON’T TRY TO SUBSTITUTE IT. More on that later.
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon pure peppermint extract – I used imitation peppermint extract because that’s what Shop Rite had, and it was fine
  • 8 to 10 drops red food color – I think I wound up using like, fifteen
  1. Generously grease bottom and sides of 11×7-inch (2-quart) glass baking dish with butter; dust with 1 tablespoon of the powdered sugar. In bowl of stand mixer, sprinkle gelatin over 1/2 cup cold water to soften; set aside.
  2. In 2-quart saucepan, heat granulated sugar, corn syrup, salt and 1/2 cup water over low heat, stirring constantly, until sugar is dissolved. Heat to boiling; cook without stirring about 30 minutes to 240°F on candy thermometer or until small amount of mixture dropped into cup of very cold water forms a ball that holds its shape but is pliable; remove from heat. I don’t have a candy thermometer, nor do I have the patience to check the temperature the way it is listed, so after bringing it to a boil I lowered the temperature and just let it do its thing for 30 minutes.
  3. Slowly pour syrup into softened gelatin while beating on low speed. Increase speed to high; beat 8 to 10 minutes or until mixture is white and has almost tripled in volume. Add peppermint extract; beat on high speed 1 minute. Pour into baking dish, patting lightly with wet hands. Drop food color randomly onto top of marshmallow mixture. Pull table knife through food color to create swirl pattern over top. Let stand uncovered at least 8 hours or overnight.
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  5. Dust cutting board with about 1 tablespoon powdered sugar. Place remaining powdered sugar in small bowl. To remove marshmallow mixture, loosen sides from dish and gently lift in one piece onto cutting board. Using sharp knife greased with butter, cut into 1-inch squares (11 rows by 7 rows). Dust bottom and sides of each marshmallow by dipping into bowl of powdered sugar. Store in airtight container at room temperature up to 3 weeks.

In regards to my note about the corn syrup, I didn’t realize until I had already put the gelatin and water in my mixer that I had none, so I looked up a substitute online because I actually do that quite a bit with ingredients I don’t normally keep in the house. Well, the substitute for corn syrup is water and sugar. When you try to mix that with MORE water and sugar, disaster strikes. And by disaster I mean after almost an hour your sugar will still have not dissolved. I had to admit defeat and put the gelatin & water mix in the refrigerator overnight; after coming back home with the corn syrup everything went fine.

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I’m still trying to get through all the marshmallows. I’m sure I won’t, but suddenly I have a strong desire for hot chocolate…

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