It's HOT!

We're in the middle of a freak heat wave here in the northwest. Generally I don't complain about the lack of air conditioning in these parts because for the most part the summer days are pretty mild. But the last few days have been in the upper 90s, and today was the hottest day EVER recorded in Seattle, a scorching 103°F. I know it gets much hotter in the southern states, but there's plenty of air conditioning to go around down there. Come to think of it, it gets this hot in parts of Australia, and most of the hostels I stayed in did not have air conditioning either. At least now I don't have to sleep on a plastic covered foam bunk mattress in a tiny room with 6 other backpackers. So glad for that! And visiting Shanghai in August was much worse heat-wise. So...I try not to complain too much, but this IS the hottest day here on record, ever. And it's probably 90°F inside the house. It's a strange sensation to find your toothpaste warm when you go to brush your teeth, or the dish soap, or the lotion.

What better time to enjoy some chilled drinks than on a hot summer day? I made some Strawberry-Basil Iced Tea. Yummy! Thank you Martha Stewart! I didn't follow the recipe exactly. I adjusted the ingredients based on what I had, which was 4 tea bags, half pound of frozen strawberries, and fresh basil from my garden. I put the tea bags in a glass jar and let it sit in the sun for a few hours. I also halved the sugar, as I do with most recipes. It was a good decision because the tea also took on the sweetness of the strawberries. It was good! I'm out of strawberries, so I'll have to find another drink to make tomorrow. Going to be another hot one!

New Tomato and Mushrooms!

I have a tomato and mushroom to add to the shop! Sorry for the lag in posts. I took some pictures today, but they didn't turn out that great. I was trying to avoid going up to the loft to take photos because it's just so hot! Tomorrow may very well reach 100°F, and most of us Seattle folk don't have air conditioning. I would love to take the pillows out to a big green lawn and get some pics (perhaps inspired by the shrooms in this post), but I don't believe we have any green grass around here these days, only yellow. Oh well, maybe some day.

I made a smaller version of the tomato. This one is the same size as my Angry Blueberry. I didn't have enough red to make a large one, so I shrunk the pattern. Heehee! I quite like the size of it. I did a test wash of the blueberry to make sure I can label it machine washable. It was a tight squeeze to get it through the door of our front-loading washer, but it washed up perfectly. Yay!

I made the button mushroom first. What do you think? I think it turned out well for my first try. Generally first tries turn out rubbish, but I don't think I'll be altering this pattern much at all! This is actually made of pants material. The body is twill and the gills are corduroy. So if I ever find myself with a load of khaki and corduroy pants, you know what I'll be making...

Guess I didn't get a good picture of the red mushroom. Here's a shot of the underside. I shortened and widened the stem to make it more super mario-ish. Hopefully I can get some better pics tomorrow and add them to the shop. Only two items left in the shop as of today. Yikes! Time to bust a move!

Cat on a Tomato

Over the weekend, I was sitting on the couch having my morning coffee and toast. I had my plate sitting on top of the tomato next to me when Ava came hunting for crumbs. She loves bread. If you leave a loaf of bread or package of cookies out on the counter, be assured that pretty soon there will be a hole in the package and chunks of your food missing. There were a few instances when I came home from the store with groceries, dropped them inside the front hall while I ran to fetch the mail, and in that minute while I was at the mailbox Ava had already burgled my grocery sack and found the bread or seafood. Thanks to plastic, she doesn't get very far, but I do like to watch her try! She's also bitten into bags of tortillas and dried soba noodles. Maybe she loves carbs just like the rest of us.

So back to the tomato...Ava stepped onto the tomato looking for my toast. In the many months since I created the big tomato, neither of the cats has ever ventured on top of it. I was thrilled to pieces when Ave discovered how comfy the tomato was! She stopped looking for my toast and curled up and went to sleep. Awww...

Captain Phil!

I met Captain Phil over the weekend! He was doing some promo for Deadliest Catch and Alaskan Brewing Company, so I hopped a bus and went to meet him at a local supermarket. heehee! It's silly how excited I was to meet a crab fisherman. I'm usually completely starstruck around famous people (not that I meet tons of famous people, but I've met a few)...but he was super cool and very nice. I totally would have bought some brew, but money's tight these days ya know.

I've made another giant food pillow! It turned out well, but it still needs some tweaking. I'll try to get some pics and post it soon!

Hello, Boxy!

First one's in the shop finally! The rest should come quicker. I'm starting on some more tonight! Whee!!

Chinese Pumpkin Cake

Chinese Pumpkin Cake
If this picture looks familiar to you, it's because it's from my one of my trips to China. During a trip to Xiamen, we stopped in a teahouse for tea and some pumpkin cakes or 南瓜饼 (nangua bing). Just a few days ago, I had tried my first fried pumpkin cake at the hotel breakfast buffet. It had been sitting on the hotplate for a bit and was no longer crispy, but since I'd never had them before, I didn't complain. It tasted like a fried mochi, orange in color, slightly sticky, chewy and filled with red bean paste in the middle. mmmm.....

Well, that plate of cakes in Xiamen a year and a half ago was the last time I had Chinese pumpkin cakes. I've been craving them enough lately to attempt to make them myself. It took me a while to find a good simple recipe. Most recipes use wheat starch, which can be found at many asian grocery shops, but apparently not the local Chinese supermarket I patronize. Not to fear, I used regular wheat flour in place of wheat starch, and the little cakes still turned out pretty awesome to me.

150g  pumpkin, steamed until soft (I used Japanese kobacha squash)
150g  glutinous rice flour
50g   wheat flour or wheat starch
30-60g   sugar  (I used less sugar because the bean paste is already very sweet)
1 can of sweetened red bean paste

Easy. Mix the pumpkin, flours, and sugar to make a dough. The texture should be like play-dough. Add a little water if it's too dry. Roll the dough into little balls. Mine were maybe about 3cm, definitely smaller than a ping pong ball. Flatten them, spoon a small amount of bean paste into the center. Then pull the edges of the dough together to wrap the bean paste in the center. Now they are ready for cooking! Some recipes say to steam the cakes, but I prefer them fried, so I tossed them straight into the frying pan with a good layer of oil. No steaming required. Fry a few minutes on each side until they are crispy and browned. Done!
Easy peasy. They're delicious, much better than the ice cream mochis I tried to make the other day. I didn't bother photographing those because it was such a sticky mess of rice flour dough, corn starch and melting ice cream.

Before and after frying. Oh yummy! I fried a few to eat immediately, and I stored the rest in the fridge to be fried when I want some more later. Love the colour of the dough. I used half of a japanese kabocha pumpkin, steamed, mashed and mixed into the dough.

I think it's worth the time savings to use bean paste from a can, though I do find it much too sweet. To compensate, I halved the sugar in the pumpkin dough. perfect!

Three Little Cubes

I wanted to wait until I had some of these in the shop before I blogged them. But I finally determined last night that the dimensions are not quite right. I love the cube size, but the opening needs to be bigger and the zipper a little longer. So, this cube project is on hold until I order my next batch of zippers. On the other hand, I do have the supplies to make some longer boxy bags. They'll be just like these little cubes, but longer.

The pink elephant cube was the first one I made. Turned out well for a first try, eh? The interfacing wasn't heavy enough, so I made another one interfaced with fleece (the polka dot one). Hmmm...the fleece gives it a nice quilty feel, but it doesn't give the cube much shape. I do however love how the polka dots look with the red. I'll have to make some more with this fabric combo. Lucky I have a whole duvet of this stuff! I think I finally got the interfacing right with the blue cube. YAY! On to the next step!