Saturday, December 20, 2014

Christmas Cocoa (gluten free, refined sugar free, peanut free, dairy free option)

During the colder months of the year a lot of people gravitate toward hot chocolate to warm them up.  Me?  I'm more of a coffee and tea drinker than a hot chocolate type of person.  But, the wind has been blowing, and for some odd reason I've just had this hankering for hot chocolate.

But, I wanted to make my hot chocolate taste...I don't know...Christmasy.  So, I came up with this recipe.  The ingredients may seem a bit odd, but trust me on this.  It tastes great!

I tried this recipe with regular sugar, palm sugar and honey.  Honey as a sweetener in this can not be beat.  I'm not sure exactly why, but it really augments the cocoa instead of making it just taste sweet.  So, do try to use honey in this if you can!

As dairy alternatives go for this, I liked this with full fat coconut milk (from the can), but that gets kinda spendy as this serves four people.  I tried almond milk and it comes out really runny that way, so if using rice or almond milk for this, I'd whisk in about 1 TBS of tapioca or arrowroot starch into the cold milk before you heat everything...that'll help to thicken the mixture up a bit.  If going with regular cow dairy for this, 2 cups of whole milk and 2 cups of half and half make a really nice combo for the hot chocolate.

So, anyway, enjoy some hot cocoa with some somewhat unusual holiday flavors to it (trust me, it is AWESOME!).

Christmas Cocoa (Gluten free, Refined sugar free, peanut free, dairy free option)
  • 4 Cups Whole milk or milk alternative or 4 cups full fat coconut milk (from the can).  A couple of other options above!
  • 1/3 Cup Unsweetened cocoa (be sure it's peanut free)
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup strong leftover coffee
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cloves
  • Pinch of salt
Place milk in a medium saucepan and heat over medium low heat until nice and hot (make sure not to let it boil!).  Whisk in the remaining ingredients and continue to whisk until everything is well incorporated and smooth.
Serves four.  If you don't mind adding some sugar to the recipe, feel free to add some Enjoy Life Chocolate Chips to your mug and top with a few marshmallows (be sure those are peanut free too).  This stuff is great if you also use a cinnamon stick to stir it.  Yum!!!


Friday, December 19, 2014

A Gift A Day Gift Sixteen: Ballet Slippers

For my last day of gifts (thank goodness *laugh*), I made ballet slippers for my daughter to go with a video I'd gotten for her on beginning ballet (it comes highly recommended by Amazon reviews and by some bloggers I know, so I figured I'd give it a shot).  Armina is in this stage where she THINKS she wants to take dance lessons, but I figure this will be a good way to show her the basics before I spend money on a class only to find out she might or might not like it.

The tutorial that I found the most helpful, even though it was in the wrong size for my daughter, was Shabby Raggy Roses tutorial.  She really breaks the slippers down well so you can get an idea of what the pieces you need to cut out will look like, how much bigger the upper part of the slipper needs to be from the sole, etc.  I highly recommend checking it out!

Total Time to Make Gift:  Four hours.  I, once again, sewed these by hand, just to make sure that everything came together alright.  I was working with a satiny material that really was going to be a pain to work with my sewing machine, so I figured doing it by hand was going to be easier.  It was by the way *laugh*.  I'd LOVE to have put some pretty ribbon on the back of these to wrap around the ankle, as when I held some up and did a cursory run with some it was so STINKING cute, but my daughter is still learning to tie her shoes, so I figure that's going to have to be an after market improvement later on with these.

The slippers aren't as nice looking as I would have liked, but the satiny material kind of made the slippers a bit miserable to sew with the felt and such I was working with.  But, Armina loves them (she had to try them on to make sure her feet fit in them) and I figure really these are just dress up shoes, so they don't have to be perfect.

Total Cost of Project:  Nothing.  I had all the materials.  I used a  pink flowery material for the inside lining, felt for the sole and cotton batting left over from Armina's quilt for the batting.  I used a tan quilting thread I had to sew the slippers together.

And there you are folks.  The end of the gifts I made this year.  And now, onto some cool recipes starting tomorrow :).


A Gift a Day Gift Fifteen: Furry Slippers

So, last year, I made my daughter some pink furry slippers as one of her Christmas gifts.  She loves them.  Almost as much as her brother.  See, one of Alvah's newer stims is he likes to pluck things, like oh the cat or say furry slippers and watch the resulting bits of fluff he's managed to pluck float on a puff of his breath. 

After about the fifteenth time grabbing her slippers back from her brother a couple of weeks ago, my daughter looked at me and said exasperated, "Mom, could you PLEASE make Alvah some furry slippers for Christmas?  Then he can pluck his slippers."

I didn't want to tell her that even after giving in to her request...the son is probably still going to like plucking her slippers more because it annoys her so, but hey, it is worth a shot, right?

I'd love to point you to a tutorial on how to make slippers like these, but I can't find one online *scowl*.  I honestly eyeball these when I make them, but here's the gist of how I do it.

Step 1:  Get some felt, enough to fit four of each foot for the person you are making slippers for.  Or you could use two layers of felt and a layer of cotton batting instead.  This is going to be the sole of your slippers.  If you have the material you could also make the sole out of leather or some other tougher material, but considering how often my kids wear slippers?  Yeah, felt will work fine.

Step 2:  Grab the insoles out of your sneakers (I find this the easiest way to do this honestly) and use those as a template to cut out your soles.  Remember, it doesn't have to be perfect.  These are, after all, slippers we're making here.  Also, if you are me, be sure to mark "L" on your left soles and "R" on the right ones.  It will stop you from screwing that up me on this!

Step 3:  Once you have the soles of the slippers cut out (four of each foot remember, or two of each foot and one of each foot out of your batting), I used dark green felt for these with a layer of cotton batting in between.

Step 4:  Take your fake fur and cut a strip that's about, oh, three and a half inches wide or so.  You also want this strip to be long enough to wrap around the back of your foot templates.  Fold the fur in half lengthwise, so that you have a nice long strip of doubled over fur.  I go about 80% of the way around the foot with this fur strip to make the back of the slipper.  Take two layers of felt, or the layer of felt with the batting on the bottom of it.  With the felt facing up at you, sew the fur to the bottom of the foot (reserve two layers of felt or, if using batting one layer of felt, for the bottom of your slippers...this will cover up your seams and give you a nice finished look when done around the back edge of the slipper.

Step 5:  Once the back of your slipper is in place, take fur scraps big enough to fold over the top of the slipper.  You want it far enough up so that the slipper will fit the person you are trying to make the slipper for, but down far enough that the foot will fit in the opening left without incident.  Fold over the fur scrap like a dome, so that...well so that it looks like the right height for the top of a slipper.  You can be generous with how much fur you secure to the bottom of your slipper, so err on the side of the caution and don't cut the scrap down too far.  Then find a lining material for your slipper top (two layers of fur would just be too thick).  I used cuddle flannel for these.  Color doesn't really matter as it's on the inside of the upper part of the slipper. 

Step 6:  Pin the upper part of the slipper in place (with the exception of the curved toe part at the front) and sew the fur into place (I hand stitch all my slippers to make sure I can customize without issue as I go along).  When you get to the front of the slipper you're going to have like a fur tunnel staring up at you.  Cut the fur in notches where needed as you wrap the fur around the front of the slipper (I can usually get away with one seam slightly off to one side of the toes with slippers) and whip stitch the fur into place (no, trust me, you will not notice the stitches later). 

Step 7:  Turn the slipper inside out and secure the back and sides to the front of the slipper and secure anything else you need to (like I cleaned up the seams at the front of the slippers while I was there and made sure my seams to the bottom of the slippers were good and tight.

Step 8:  Turn the slipper right side out again and place your final layer of felt on the bottom where it should go (this is where the L and R thing comes in handy...I've flipped those darned things so many times.  It doesn't do anything bad to the slippers, but it looks weird when someone shows you the bottoms when wearing them *laugh*) and whip stitch the soles into place.
And voila!  You now have some custom made fur slippers for that special person in your life.

Total Time to Make Project:  Six hours.  I make sure that everything looks good before and a lot of it was making my daughter (same size shoe as my son) try on the slippers on over and over again to make sure they felt good on her feet.

Total Cost to Make Project:  Nothing.  I've had a HUGE fake fur piece in my fabric for YEARS.  I think it was given to me, but honestly I can't remember it has been around that long.  I have a huge store of felt that I got from a cousin of my husband's who was cleaning out her stores of fabric ages ago, so I had that and the thread I already had as well.  The batting I used was some scraps of batting were left over from making the daughter's quilt.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

A Gift a Day Gift Thirteen (and Fourteen): The Quilts

One of the big "special" gifts I wanted to make my kids this year was a quilt for each of them.  See, I made a quilt for my son last year, but it was the first really "big" quilt I'd ever made and it is kind of an odd size (cute though).  So, I wanted to do these quilts right.  I made both quilts twin sized, although I made my daughter a "tall" twin sized as I had the material, the batting and the quilt binding to pull it off, so why not?

For materials I used sheets.   Yes, sheets.  I buy three per quilt in whatever size I want to make the quilt in (and actually in the case of these quilts I'd end up with a full sized quilt in one pattern I liked and twin in another.  It worked out fine).  I just look for sheets that are in nice shape and in cool patterns and buy them for 1.00 to 2.00 a piece at the used stores. 

For Armina's quilt I used a really pretty butterfly sheet I found for 1.50 at one of the used stores that was queen sized and a pink sheet I found for free at C&D (the dump used to let you go through things people didn't want and pick up stuff) years ago.  For the backing I used a tan sheet I bought for 2.00 at the used store as well.

For Alvah's quilt I used a circular pattern sheet (full sized) I got at the used store for 1.50 and a dark blue top sheet I'd had for years that my husband and I never used on our bed (husband kicks off top sheets and they end up on the floor...gave up on top sheets a while ago because of that).  The backing I used was a twin sized super soft microfiber like sheet I got at the used store for 1.00.

The batting for both quilts I'd bought new.  Armina's quilt has all natural cotton batting that I bought on a super online sale at Jo-Ann fabric last year.  It cost 14.00 for a full sized batting, so I had that to use for hers.  Alvah's I used a medium loft hypo allergenic batting I got at JoAnn's  on some sale  (it was like 11.00 for a twin size).

So, all totaled, each quilt cost me about 20.00 for the materials I used, although a lot of it I got over time, so I didn't have to pay it all out of pocket at once.  For the out of pocket expense for the actual PROJECT I spent about 13.00 total for both quilts. 

I got thread for the actual quilting of the quilts so it'd at least somewhat match the fabric and the quilt binding...I got on sale on Joann's website on a super sale for like 1.00 and some change per package last year (same sale as the cotton batting), although I did get the last package of my son's quilt binding at the brick and mortar store for 50% off on their Black Friday sale (since it wasn't on sale I used a coupon on it) because they'd only had two available for purchase online during the sale I got all the other quilt binding on.

Total Time to Complete Project:  Boy, I'd say 14 to 18 hours per quilt.  Which, really, when you consider cutting and such, isn't that bad.  Quilt basting spray, by the way, was invented by a genius.  Just saying.

Total Cost Per Project:  About 20.00 per quilt, batting and thread the main purchases.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

A Gift a Day Gift Twelve: Pot Holders

When it comes to therapists and teachers (and aides) I make gifts to appreciate them all every year for all the work they do with my kids.  Fireweed jelly would handle some therapists and other canned goods would handle therapists, but I still had a heck of a gap when I started figuring out school personnel that I had to give gifts to (in some cases by request of my daughter).

And I have a TON of cotton yarn I've accumulated over the years from past projects.  So, I decided to make people pot holders.

I used a double layer of cotton yarn in various colors for the pot holders (one shown here) and just eyeballed how big to make the "center" of the pot holder.  I used size seven needles by the way, in case you might want to try this yourself.  I then crocheted a frame around the center of the pot holder and crocheted a hanger into the frame at the end and voila!  Nice and thick pot holders that won't burn your hand, but are home made and special (and yes, I tried them out to make sure they weren't going to burn through easy).

Total Time to Complete Gift:  About two hours per pot holder.  I'm up to three made now.  I just do them while I'm hanging out waiting for my son at therapy.  Perfect small project to do during that time.

Total Cost for Gift:  Nothing so far.  These are kind of addictive to make, so I'm hoping I don't go too overboard in the long run making them *laugh*.

A Gift a Day Gift Eleven: Sleep Pants

One thing I wanted to make for my kids was sleep pants, but I didn't have really great material to make Alvah some pants to fit his tastes.

So, black Friday rolls around and Jo-Ann Fabrics has flannel 75% off.  So, I went and picked up a ton of flannel (I just bought what was on a bolt when I went) so I'd have materials to make pants for the kids as they grew.  I also picked up a super muslin bolt on Jo-Ann's website for 60% off a few days before (42.00 after shipping), so I was thrilled that I'd have all of the fabric I needed to get projects for a couple of years done for the kids.

So, Alvah's sleep pants were made with some of the flannel from that purchasing spree.  I also got the kids 3 t-shirts each as they were on sale for 2.00 a piece so they could wear those as bed shirts. Armina's were made with some flannel I had in storage for YEARS and had found out in my storage van. 

I can not ooze enough about the pattern I used either!  I had previously used a McCall pattern to make my kids sleep pants and such and the pattern was complicated, hard to line up and just a pain.  The pattern I bought at a used store for .10?  It is GOLD!  The pattern I used was this one.  I can not recommend it enough!

It is a one piece pattern that you make two of, the instructions are EASY and the seam allowances are generous.  And it comes with a 1 1/4 inch hem built into the pattern.  I made the kids both size eight pants and just made an extra generous hem on top of that so I can just let out the pants as I need to (and left some extra elastic in the waistband doubled over and sewed in so I can let out the waist as needed to.  For once, I thought ahead!).

Both pants came out great and other than sizing the pants being a pain on my son (he hates to stand still), they were so easy to make I'm glad I kept my cut pieces of pattern so I can tape the pattern up as the kid's size increases!

Total Time for Gift:
  About 1 hour per pair of pants (and no, I'm not kidding!)

Total Cost for gift:  Armina's pants cost nothing as I already had everything.  Alvah's cost about 2.00 for materials.  The pattern cost .10.  So, 2.10 for the entire project day!

Note:  Yes, I know that the above sleep pants do not meet any flammability requirements and so please don't worry about e-mailing me about it.  Thanks.

Monday, December 15, 2014

A Gift a Day Gift Ten: Texture Pillow

The result of my daughter asking me if I could make her a scarf was that now I had to think of something else to make for my son for Christmas to keep their gifts equal.  The result of my brain storming came up with a "texture pillow" for him.

I made a pillow form out of a yard of muslin I had bought from Jo-Ann a couple of months ago for .99.  I then stuffed it with some of my found batting.  The front of the pillow cover (it has an envelope closure in the back...I make sure I can wash everything I make for my son especially) is knitted with a combo of cotton yarn and acrylic yarns I had (to make it not too absorbent, which the cotton yarn would have done and to make it not too heavy either).  The back of the pillow cover I made with micro fleece that I had in my cloth stores.

Total time to make project:  About eight hours (I hand sewed the pillow cover together to make sure the knitted front fit correctly to the back of the cover).

Total Cost:
  About .25 to take into account the 1/4 yard of muslin I used for them pillow form.