Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Kitchen Tip & Cookies!

I was making chocolate chip cookie dough on saturday and the leavening agent of choice in cookies is baking soda.  Of course, those stupid baking soda boxes don't lend well to measuring.  I use my baking soda as a cleaning product more often than a cooking product, so I keep the giant box of baking soda under the sink with the rest of my cleaning products.  I had the foresight several years ago to go ahead and put some of the baking soda in one of these tiny round containers for baking purposes before I put the box away.  This is one of the things I take for granted now.  I ran out of baking soda in my container and I was not pleased! (This isn't the first time I've run out, just the most recent.  Old baking soda would be not good.)

So, if you want to save yourself some hassle in the kitchen trying to get your one tablespoon measuring spoon down into the box and coming up with the perfect scoop, just dump your baking soda into a resealable container.  Bonus points:  next time you buy baking soda for your fridge, just dump some into a container and leave it in the cabinet for baking.  You don't need two boxes anymore.  You're welcome.

Let's go back to the chocolate chip cookies:  I love, love fresh chocolate chip cookies.  With a billionty hearts.  I'm just one person though and break and bake cookies are expensive.  Enter the flash freeze. Here's what you need:
  • A double batch of cookie dough (don't question me, just do it!),
  • A baking sheet,
  • Some wax paper, and
  • A baller gadget
Take your baller gadget as shown in the above picture and scoop out some dough.  I normally pack the dough down against the edge of my bowl to try to get uniform cookies.

Place the dough balls down on a baking sheet lined with wax paper.  Fill that paper up!
When your sheet gets full, put another sheet of wax paper on top.  Keep scooping and dropping those cookies!
It's a cookie-paper sandwich!  Once you are out of dough, you lick the bowl place the sheet of dough balls in the freezer for a few hours.  This is called flash freezing.  Once the balls are nice and stiff (hehe), pull them off the wax paper and drop them into freezer bags.  A double batch of dough yields me about 120 cookies for about $6.  This saves a bunch of money and you know exactly what you are getting.

"But what about the cook time, Elle?"  Typically you would bake these cookies not from frozen for about 10 minutes at 350F.  I bake my cookies fresh from the freezer for about 12 minutes at 375F.

Do any of you have some great kitchen tips you would like to share or favorite blogs for that kind of stuff?  Leave me a comment and let me know.  Happy hump day!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Keeping busy

Last week was crazy for me!  Obviously it was Thanksgiving here in the US, but there was so much more than just that going on.  First, I had to take a continuing professional education course about 70 miles away.  Second, I started doing the online course as the first step towards the PADI scuba diver certification.  I finished that on sunday after several late nights of reading and studying.  I've been emailing with a dive instructor in Cozumel.  It looks like I'll be getting certified there!  My travel companion and I also picked up a third to go with us.  The other guy lives in Texas and he is a big scuba diver (hence the push for me getting certified).  This guy is a big planner like I am, so he and I are constantly emailing and talking on the phone about our plans.  Communication is good!

And third, I worked the overnight shift at the Gap on Black Friday.  It was madness and so much fun.  It's my one day of retail work every year.  I always meet some great people.  I managed to snag some pretty great deals myself.  I got two half-sleeve shirts, a red long-sleeve shirt, two shelf bra tank tops, and a black boatneck tee, all for under $30!  Woot!  I took advantage of my employee discount. :)  (Looking at the exposure on some of these pictures, I really have to work on that.  I think my white balance is off or something.  I know my camera doesn't like artificial light. It's a work in progress!)

I also zipped over to the Columbia outlet store after my shift ended (at 7am) and scored a really amazing jacket (it's a great green color with blue and lime accents) for under $50 and two pairs of shorts for my trip for $10 each.  I had previously purchased a North Face rain jacket for my trip to Central America, but I wanted to check out Columbia to see if there were better deals to be had.  I dropped the $100 North Face jacket in the mail for returns yesterday, so net shopping expenses on Black Friday--$0.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

WIP: Parfait

I started sewing the Colette Parfait dress last Saturday.  It took me for-ev-er to assemble the pattern.  I have very little open floor space in my house and dogs (read: dog hair) everywhere.  Not good for taping stuff together.  With Colette patterns new download options, I love the instant gratification I get from buying the pattern and being able to start working on it right away.  I'm not sure about other sewists out there, but I can very rarely start sewing on the same day I cut the pattern out.  By the time I get all the pieces cut out and organized, I'm burnt out on sewing.  My typical sewing schedule is something like this:

Day 1:  Trace pattern pieces on freezer paper; cut out
Day 2:  Find big(ger) pieces of scrap fabric and cut out bodice piece muslin
Day 3:  Sew up the bodice muslin; pin out adjustments; make pattern adjustments
Day 4:  Cut out actual fabric (this sometimes happens immediately after making pattern adjustments)
Day 5:  Sew all the things! 
Day 6:  Do the finishing stuff--any hand sewing, hemming, buttons, etc

I don't do all these things in consecutive days because I have next-to-no free time at all ever, but I do sneak sewing time in a few times a week when I can.  I pinned some seams-to-be on my Souvenier Dress last night before bed, for example.  That totally counts!

I think my Parfait schedule went something like:
Sunday:  Download pattern
Tuesday:  Cut out the pieces, sew up the muslin bit, make the changes
Thursday:  Cut out actual fabric and interfacing parts
Saturday (November 10):  Sew all the things!

That's where I'm at now.  I switched my focus back to the Souvenier Dress.  I'm using the same thread for both, so I should be able to finish both dresses this weekend!  That is, provided I don't have ten different and more important things come up in the meantime.  I'm still thinking about the buttons.  I love theses vintage inspired ones I have, but they might be too heavy and too big.  I have to decide before I can make the button holes.
For you crafty people, how do you break down your crafting time?  I'm the least efficient sewer out there--my ironing board and iron are in one room, my sewing machine is in another, and I can never find the stupid scissors!  What tips do you have to make your crafting more efficient that you can share with me?  Let me know in the comments.

Hopefully I will have two new dresses to show off next week!  Have a great weekend!

Friday, November 16, 2012

New Look

As soon as I hit publish on my first blog post, I knew I wanted to customize my blog to fit my personality.  It's my blog after all.  I spent just short of an eternitiy yesterday messing around with blogger templates and different settings trying to get something to turn out right.  I thought finding a background would be the hard part.  This ain't no myspace sweetie.  Blogger is hardcore against personalization it seems.  At the end of the day:  Blogger: 1 : ellelittleblog: 1  FYI:  I'm considering this a win.  Suck it blogger!

Since I just personalized the blog, I thought it would be fun to tell you all a bit more about me in Q&A session (except I'm asking my own questions here):
  • How did you come up with your blog name?  I'm going to level with you:  I'm not that creative.  My name starts with an L.  I'm tiny/petite/little/short. And this is a blog.  The elle is two-fold in that I wanted to use part of my name--the L--and have a bit of a play on words--as in "a little blog."  My Pilates instructor starting calling me Little because she just can't get my name straight.  It's a tough one, I understand.  When I finally took the plunge to start the blog, it took me approximately 45 seconds to come up with ellelittleblog.  I like it.
  • What is your occupation?  I am an accountant.  It's a field I fell into, first in high school after I protested being put in an accounting class and later when the receptionist at my firm walked into my previous employer and told me her firm was looking for someone (an accountant, that is).
  • What is your favorite color?  All blue all the time!
  • What do you do for fun?  Pilates, Zumba, drink good beer (bud light, miller light, coors light, and PBR do not pass through these lips), go to the beach, poke around on the internet, do crafty things, bake, cook, play with my dogs, wash my car, go on road trips, walk around in the woods, hang out with friends, and try new local restaurants, among many other things.
  • May I use a picture from your blog?  Sure!  Just please link it back to me!
I'll end the Q&As there for now.  Is there anything you would like to know about me?  Leave me a comment below or email me at ellelittleblogATgmailDOTcom and ask me!

Let me know what you think of the new look!  Is it hard to read?  Too bright? Perfect?  Tell me about it.  Blogging is less fun for me if you can't read what I have to say. Happy Friday and have a fantastic weekend!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

I love silk! (Update on Souvenier Dress)

Picture this, but with silk (for those not in the know, the above picture is Goldmember from the third Austin Powers movie).  Making my souvenier dress is going better than I could have imagined.  I was so worried something would go horribly wrong, but (fingers crossed while knocking on wood) nothing has.  Believe me, I've had a couple hiccups along the way.  Bemberg rayon is my lining of choice.  It is also the biggest PITA to work with.  It wrinkles like nobody's business.  It spots if water gets too close.  Pins leave holes.  Stupid bemberg rayon.  Oh, hiccups, yes.  I might have cut one of the pattern pieces out wrong for the lining.  I'm not sure.  I sewed the dart on and went to pin the pieces together at the shoulder seams and that side was just all wrong.  I threw the piece in the scrap bag and went off to finish what I could before cutting out another lining piece.  Duh!  It's just a lining.  I picked the seams out of the dart, flipped it over, resewed the dart, and called myself a genius.  I rock! 

This should be finished this weekend.  My friend I was supposed to meet up with for Thanksgiving moved away this week and told me his family was going to the mountain house for Thanksgiving.  He & I aren't going to meet up now.  :(  Anyway, here are some progress pictures (I was a mess last night and I was trying not to get stabbed with the tiny silk pins):
It looks a little big right now because the lining isn't sewn in--that will take up a standard 5/8" seam allowance per side--and I only pinned the side seams about 1/4" in or so. 

See the waterspot on my lining?  Grrr.  Stupid iron.  I zig-zag my edges because I don't have a serger.  I want one so bad, but I have bigger financial priorities and life goals, you know?
I'm showing off the pleats here.  This color is so hard to photograph and I'm not the professional photoshop editor-type.  The actual color is somewhere between this color and the color in the pictures above.

I can't wait to show off the finished dress!  I just have to sew the side seams, hem the dresses, attach the lining to the zipper, and hand sew the bottom two inches of the zipper down.  Yay!

Monday, November 12, 2012

FO: Sassy Apron

I love to cook and I’m pretty good at it to boot.  :) I often have marathon freezer cooking sessions and I end up getting flour all over myself.  At least now I’ll look super-cute wearing flour all over myself!
I started by sketching a basic design concept.  I used fabrics I already had.
The most important detail was the sweetheart neckline that I wanted.  I had the formalwear pattern Simplicity 4070 in my stash and I did some figuring to get the pattern on the damask centered just right.  Susan Khalje's couture dress class on Craftsy was full of invaluable information that I pulled from for this pattern.  I also wanted a curved effect on the bodice, which involved even more measuring and figuring.  I'm happy with the end result, though I would prefer the bodice to be a bit more fitted than it is.

I don’t like to make more work for myself, so I cut my skirt fabric selvedge to selvedge and just hemmed the bottom edges of the skirts.  Admittedly, I feel pretty smart about this!  I neglected to get a picture, but I did also line the bodice in white batiste for stability.
Here’s out it turned out! (yes, I did put the apron straight to work and got flour on it.)  I decided just to do a straight hem on the skirts instead of using bias tape.  I also didn’t attach the pocket.  I made one, but I can’t figure out exactly how to attach it without being too bulky.

You will be seeing a lot more of this blue-green fabric.  I bought 4 yards of it and I’m just about finished with the Colette Parfait dress I’m making with it!  Bye readers!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

I have a tiny keyboard!

Wow!  I'm blogging from my tiny kindle keyboard and it's actually working.  It's a little weird because some of the punctuation keys are located in different places on the keyboard.  The A key is a bit sticky as well.  Overall, I'm pretty satisfied with it.  The case with the bluetooth keyboard was less than $35, while a leather easel case was about the same price.  Ironically, I think the case weighs more than the kindle itself.  D'oh!

The keyboard is nice enough and will serve it's purpose for blogging while I'm out of the country!  See how tiny it is?  Bless it's heart! (I took the photo at my desk at work, hence the ginormous keyboard behind the baby one.  Totally unplanned, but good for scale, no?)

If you *need* a kindle keyboard to stroke and love and call Julio, I purchased mine from Amazon. I received the keyboard a few days ago and I am actually getting used to the 5/8" key size.  It probably doesn't hurt that I have some pretty small digits myself.  This is a kindle accessory win for sure!

Tomorrow is f-f-f-f-friday!  I have four more weeks until I leave for Central America! I need an advent calendar, but for different things.  I wonder if Hell-Mart has those daily chocolate calendars yet?

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The one in which I review things

I bought a Kindle Fire HD last week.  I'm not 100% sure I love it yet.

Pros:  It's pretty lightweight.  It has 16GB of memory (half as much as my iPhone ::coughcough::).   It fits in my hands fairly well, though I notice the edges are pretty sharp when I hold the Kindle certain ways.  The screen is very vibrant.  I love that the samples of the books are several chapters!  LOVE!♥  I ordered a bluetooth keyboard/case combo for blogging purposes while I'm away.  I'm hopeful some of you readers will follow along.  The pictures I post during the trip will have to be crappy iPhone pictures because I will end up having to go through so many channels to load the picture to the image host, grab the link, make a blog post, add the image. . . Well, I just went off on a tangent. 

Cons:  The edges are pretty sharp.  I haven't figured out a way to download pdfs directly to the Kindle from the internet.  From google searching, it seems the only way to do this is by transferring the file from a computer to the kindle via USB.  The Prime subscription starts as soon as you register your kindle.  I don't have a reliable wifi connection and I purposely didn't register for Prime because I wasn't going to be able to take advantage of the trial.  I wanted to wait until next year (possibly late spring) to activate the Prime free trial before dropping $79 a year on it.  That's a big con in my book.  The Amazon person I chatted with was nice enough about it and she said she passed my comments on to the marketing team to see if there was a way to delay the Prime subscription for people in the future.  I can get a new free trial of Prime after 12 months.  Lame, right?

Going right along with the Kindle review, I purchased and started reading through the Lonely Planet guide for Central America.  There are references all throughout the book about things and then it says "click here" (to go to that page describing the thing in more detail) and doesn't take you to the right page!  What gives Kindle book?  I don't know if this is a Kindle issue or a lonely planet issue, but it makes me want to Hulk smash things.  Here's an example:
"On the Pacific coast, there is good snorkeling in the Golfo de Chiriqui 'click here' (takes you to the page before Golfo de Chiriqui is mentioned) and in the Archipielago de las Perlas 'click here.'"(takes you to two pages before the Archipielago de las Perlas is mentioned)
How annoying is that?  There are times it's been off as many as five pages.  (Rich country problem, I know.  "Aaahhh!  My brand new Kindle Fire doesn't take me to the right page electronically!")  I will update more about the Lonely Planet book after my trip when I can see how accurate the information really is.

My last review of the day is of the new Vibram FiveFingers KSO Trek shoes I bought.  They are pretty goofy looking considering my footwear of choice is flip flops.  The shoes were really comfortable the first time I put them on.  I walked the perimeter of the yard--don't judge, it's a half mile!--and walked down to the mailbox and back.  The next time I wore them, my pinky toes were not having it at all.  I persevered and wore them for six hours.  At no point was I in pain, it was just uncomfortable.  I'm really glad I wore these shoes to the gym last night.  I guess I have to change the way I step off in Zumba, because I ended up with some sore spots under my big toes--almost like I'm going to get a blister.  I'm not noticing the typical problems with sore calves and arches just yet, but I plan to wear these shoes every day to get used to them and break them in before the trip.  I don't want to have to pack giant sneakers in my backpack, but if the Vibrams just aren't going to work, I'm not going to sacrifice my foot comfort to save weight and space.

Since I'm not going to be able to take advantage of my Prime free trial, comment or email me at ellelittleblogATgmailDOTcom letting me know if you have Prime and why you love it (or hate it).  Are there any Vibram wearers out there?  Is my big toe and pinky toe weirdness normal?  Will it go away?  Ebooks.  Tell me all about your favorite books.  I'll try to download a few before I head out.  I'm going to be spending a lot of time on chicken buses in December.  Speaking of ebooks, pretty much all the classics are free on Amazon.  Grimm's Fairy Tales, Jane Eyre, and Alice's Adventures in Wonderland to name just a few.  Go.  Download.  Profit.

Have an amazing day!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Going to Central America

One of my friends is a world traveler.  He goes where the wind takes him.  He & I were talking one day about his next adventure and I told him I was due for a vacation and I would like to go with him.  A week later, I sent him a text telling him I was serious about meeting up with him on his adventure.  Here I sit a month later writing and revising my packing list, buying supplies, and planning our adventures.  And dreaming.  I am dreaming so big.

Imma be in you!
So, what does one pack in a 38L backpack to go out of the country for 30 days?  I literally think about my daily routine every day and make sure if I will need something I use during the day, it's on my list.  It's the basic things that I forget I need to pack:  my antihistamine eyedrops, toilet paper, batteries, etc.  And then there is the issue of the TSA.  I can only take so much liquid.  I can't take a multi-tool/knife combo unless I can stash it in my friend's checked bag.  I wear contacts.  Are my eyes going to bug out of my skull if I wash my hands in gross water and touch my eyeball?  I try not to think about those things and get paranoid.  Instead, I think about all this:
ATM Cave entrance in Belize

Monteverde Cloud Forest Costa Rica

Cenotes in Mexico

Playa del Carmen

Copan Ruinas in Honduras


Semuc Champey in Guatemala
That's enough dreaming for one day!  I have to get back to work so I can pay for this trip!  Leave me a comment or message me at ellelittleblogATgmailDOTcom telling me all your packing secrets.  I'm leaving in just over a month.  Eep!

Happy monday everyone!

(had to edit because my image formatting got wonky after I hit post)

Friday, November 2, 2012

Souvenier Dress!

I am going to spend the Thanksgiving holiday with my friend and his family this year.  This is the perfect opportunity and reason to kick my butt in gear and start sewing up a new dress.  I bought the most gorgeous turquoise dupioni silk while I was on vacation in Savannah, GA in June.  I got it from a little shop called Measure.  I had so much fun browsing in that store.  She carries a wide variety of fabric including leather hydes, silk, linen, and rayon, and she even has Liberty of London prints.
Isn't it beautiful?  I'm in love with it.
I stumbled upon this Vogue pattern number 1192 and instantly decided it was absolutely perfect for this fabric and for me.  Vogue makes the worst fabric choices.  This dress has amazing detailing and it is lost in the cover photo.  You really have to look beyond the sample when you are selecting patterns to get a better idea of the pattern's potential. 

For only five pattern pieces, it sure is work.  I trace all my patterns out onto freezer paper to preserve the pattern's integrity and to allow myself more room for making the modifications I need to.  Since I will likely have to make several adjustments to get this pattern to fit my 4'11" body, I started a muslin in some cheap polyester dupioni I picked up at JoAnn's for about $5.  I'm not exactly sure how to make the mods I'll need with this pattern, but I will figure it out.  I think the waistline is going to have to come up an inch.  Well, wish me luck!  I have about 18 days to finish this up.  I can't wait to wear my souvenier. :) 

Do you sew?  What do you like to sew? I mostly just sew dresses because I live in Florida and I know the basic mods I need to do to get the right fit.  Pants are a little out of my comfort zone for the moment.  Leave me a comment or email me at

(If you need a little enabling to blow the dust off your sewing machine, JoAnn's has McCall's patterns on sale for $1.29 through tomorrow and Simplicity patterns at 5 for $5 November 8-12.)