Fort Bragg glass beach

At long last Mike and I got away for a toddler-free trip. We decided sort of last-minute to book a place in the Mendocino area. Since it was Valentine’s Day weekend, a lot of things were booked. But he had President’s Day off, so we went for a Sunday/Monday trip and a motel in Fort Bragg rather than pricier Mendocino.

My favorite part of the trip (other than the couples massage we splurged on), was this glass beach.

It basically runs along the coastline cliffs, where trash used to be dumped into the water. Now these beautiful pieces of colorful glass wash ashore in the little inlets.

We climbed down a sort of ridiculously unsafe hill to get to the beach (note to self: do not wear a dress and Toms for this activity!). But once there it was totally worth it.

The ground is just covered with glass pieces shimmering in the sunlight. And the view is spectacular. It’s one of those places you can’t believe is real.

Though the drive there along the PCH made me carsick, I am so glad we took this trip. It was instantly restorative to drive through some redwoods. We bought too many souvenirs at the Anderson Valley Brewing Company along the way and we shopped and lingered and did all the things we don’t normally do. We really want to take a similar trip to New Orleans, so after this I’m super motivated to make it happen.

Homemade pastry pups

We made these for New Years and the Superbowl and they were SO GOOD. They’re basically just a homemade version of Trader Joe’s Pastry Pups. Which are like a fancied up version of a pig in a blanket.

I always liked the way they used puff pastry instead of plain bread. So I thought, why not just roll up some ‘lil smokies in a puff pastry sheet and call it good?

So basically all you do is thaw 2 sheets of frozen puff pastry dough and then unfold them (one at a time) on a cookie sheet. At this point you have the dough kind of naturally divided into thirds. So just cut along those folds so you have 3 pieces. then cut those in half to get six. Then cut diagonally across each piece to get 12 triangles.

No need to spring for any kind of fancy dog. These store-brand ones were great.

Then roll up a dog in each piece of dough and place them a couple inches apart on the cookie sheet. (You could sprinkle them with a little parmesan cheese here, although I didn’t and I don’t think they need it.)

I think I baked them at 400 degrees for about 10-12 minutes. But just check on them periodically and take them out when the dough is puffed up and starting to brown. 

They are so yummy dipped in a little mustard.

Make both sheets because 12 will not last very long at all. Trust me.

What’s new for 2015

I’ve changed so many things in my shop lately that I can’t even remember what it used to look like! But really I have the same items I’ve always carried, just with some improvements.

For starters, all of my yarn poufs and stuff-it-yourself kits now come with a sewn bag rather than a drawstring bag. The bag makes a pouf with a perfectly rounded shape, and it has a Velcro closure that makes it easy to add more stuffing.

These poufs also have a drawstring closure on the knit cover so that the cover can be easily removed for washing and put back on. I’m still mulling over adding a similar closure to the wool cord poufs, but they are much easier to open/close to begin with that I’m not sure they need anything different.

Speaking of wool cord, I finally settled on a yarn that I really love for these poufs, and it comes in 22 gorgeous colors.

It’s been really fun making these poufs in a variety of colors for customers.


This is the burnt orange.

I also added some new colors to my regular yarn offerings, so there are 20 to choose from instead of 16.

What kept me crazy busy in December was having items in 3 local stores (see links on the sidebar). I’m almost to the point of having to reduce my online offerings so that I have time to make hats and cowls. So, to save that precious, toddler-free work time, I’ve been working on making bigger knits that work up really quickly.

These hats are made from super thick Peruvian wool. I love working with this yarn. I came up with a beanie, a slouch hat and a roll brim hat that are really cute and flattering.

And I’ve also been selling a lot of arm knit cowls at Studio 333 Downtown. They come in two sizes, small (single loop) and large (double loop).

Still on my to-do list this year: add a medium-size pouf to my Etsy shop, add more patterns to my pattern shop, and list baskets and rugs made of wool cord. They are pricier than the cotton rope, but I found after so much frustration trying to dye the rope and work with its inconsistency, that wool cord was the way to go.

Harper at 2

Sometimes Harper wakes up from a nap and my mom and I will go, “Does she look different?” She literally seems to change hour to hour.

She still has a tangle of strawberry blond hair (fine and mostly straight like daddy’s), but it’s a lot longer now. Sometimes I give it a trim, but she’s yet to have a real haircut. I’m a little afraid of that process…

The biggest change, of course, is language. She seemed kind of stuck on a few words for a long time. We were kind of surprised, given our communications backgrounds, that she wasn’t more verbal compared to her peers. But this week has been like an explosion of words and words turning into phrases.

Her favorites are “No, no, Sadie,” “Mommy, (where) are you?”, “Uh, oh, what happened?” and things like “Ready, set, go!”

I recently heard the phrase “three-nager” to describe the personalities of three-year-olds. But I have to say that Harper seems like a two-nager at times. She can change her attitude on a dime and you can see her not knowing what to do with her frustration.

Thankfully, she is spunky, giggly, and curious most of the time. Her energy is just astounding! Sometimes she will take off down our long hallway or the driveway outside and just do laps yelling “run, run!”

She got her first real shoes this month. She was tripping and falling a lot in her soft shoes and seemed to need more support. She’s a pretty fearless climber and I think she is about ready for a tricycle or a balance bike.

She’s less inclined to put a strange thing in her mouth now, but you never know when she is going to go digging through the trash, or stepping in dog poop or any number of destructive things.

Sleep has been a mixed bag. She had been sleeping pretty well at night and taking her usual scattered naps and then we hit a patch a few weeks ago that was far worse than the 18-month regression. I thought maybe she was getting a big molar because she was just so out of sorts and only pain reliever seemed to calm her down.

Now she seems back to normal and no new teeth. So who knows. I am pretty desperate for a break or a vacation and really wanting to travel more this year. I know now that breaks are key to mama happiness and that’s one of the things I really need to work on in the future.

The selfie photo reminds me that we actually had to take the iPad away completely because she became so obsessed with “Pen.” Now she is obsessed with Daniel Tiger on PBS, but that one doesn’t bother me as much. Hopefully we can bring it back in the future because I really liked some of the learning apps. But man was she attached to that thing!

Lately she LOVES baths. She practices counting with her toys and it’s so cute. She likes being in the car and it is about the only way she’ll fall asleep for naps. She loves to run wild in the aisles of a store. We’re working on finding more activities to do with her. I think the aquarium and zoo would be fun.

I do have the tiniest bit of sentimentality for her teeny baby days, but really each stage has been so much more fun and interesting than the last. And this one in particular with breakthroughs in communication is so big, I’m really enjoying it. And you better believe I indulge in sleepy cuddles as much as possible lately. Those are the best.

I’m teaching a class!

I’ve always thought it would be fun to teach a knitting class. So when the opportunity to teach one at Gather came up, I jumped. Gather is the awesome boutique in San Francisco that sells my rope baskets and some of my other knit accessories. They also have a big space that’s perfect for craft workshops. I’m going to be showing people how to arm knit a cowl, which could not be a quicker or easier craft. We’ll make a cowl that looks like this.

All the details are here. Gather provides wine and snacks, which is a sweet bonus!

DIY Brobee cake

I’m excited to share the cake I made for Harper’s 2nd birthday because it was one of those rare DIY projects that turned out exactly like I hoped it would. But it also took a last-minute change of plans to get there, and that’s worth sharing, too.

If you haven’t yet discovered the awesomeness that is Yo Gabba Gabba, I highly recommend it! It’s one of those kids shows that is very much for parents, too. Lots of quirky actors guest star with their “dancey dances” and indie bands play songs. (We record old episodes on Nick Jr. so we always have some to watch.) It’s kind of like if Barney was on an acid trip or something. Strange, but lots of fun. And Harper’s favorite character is Brobee, the little green guy.

I figured I could fashion a Brobee cake by making one rectangular cake the body and another cake the arms, which did work. I decided to make one 9×13-inch chocolate cake and one 9×13-inch vanilla cake so people would have more than one flavor option. I used boxed mixes to save time, but I can also recommend the recipes we used for our wedding cakes, which I blogged about on Goodsmiths (RIP…).

The body and legs were easy. I just removed a long skinny triangle to create legs. For the arms, I cut the chocolate cake into thirds lengthwise, and used two of them for arms. I rounded the corners where the hands would be and cut the bottom of the arms at an angle so they would fit next to the body. The other third I cut in half and made one part the head and used the rest to cut triangles to go on top of the head.

That left a lot of delicious cake to snack on.

I had to add a little piece of vanilla cake right next to where the head attached because there was a height difference. Then I smoothed it all over with one layer of buttercream frosting. It took every last bit of a half batch of buttercream to cover the cake.

I did this part the night before so that I wouldn’t be overwhelmed with cake decorating right before the party and I’m so glad I did. Here’s what he looked like before the final decorating.

By the way, I used a piece of foam core board covered with parchment paper to hold the cake. It worked really well. I certainly didn’t have a plate big enough to hold a cake like that.

This is where I had to stray from my original plan. Inspired by this Pinterest post, I had gone out and bought some piping bags and a grass tip at JoAnn (who has an amazing selection of cake decorating tools, if you need any). But when I started piping on the buttercream it very quickly started going wrong. The “fur” was coming out all squiggly and then eventually the tip kept getting clogged and it would squirt out way too much. So I kind of stopped for a minute and decided it was not worth the effort it was going to take to keep using that tip. So I abandoned it and just spread on the frosting with my favorite little offset spatula. And though it took some precision, it was much faster and it looked great.

I’ve had mixed results with gel paste food coloring so I ended up buying a bottle of liquid green food coloring to dye the frosting. Basically I added enough food coloring (combined with a little bit of yellow I already had) to get a light green color. I frosted on all the light green stripes. Then I mixed in more green to make the remaining frosting darker and used that to fill in the dark green stripes. This is where it really helped to have a Pinterest photo and a stuffed doll to look at for inspiration.

For the details on the face, I used these Wilton decorating icing bags that come with tips on them. I bought one white, one black and one red (about $3 each). I just freehanded the eyes, mouth and unibrow and then iced over the triangles on the head.

I feel like it was just luck that the icing came out the perfect thickness for the details I needed. The mouth was especially easy.

It’s one of those things where you have to take a deep breath and accept that you have one shot at getting it right. I suppose you could scrape off the frosting if you messed it up and try again, but I was really hoping not to have to do that.

In the end, Brobee looked like this. (I wiped off the excess crumbs with a wet cloth before serving the cake.)

The cake was a huge hit, and I think people really appreciated the two-flavor option. I also made some gluten-free cupcakes with green frosting. I’m finding that option to be more important now (plus some people just like cupcakes!).

The most important part, though, was that Harper liked the cake. She was so excited when everyone sang to her, and she definitely ate a piece of cake.

It was even better with the homemade coconut ice cream our friend Joanna brought. You know you have good friends when they bring you something like that!

I don’t know how much it would have cost to buy a cake like this from a bakery, but I’m guessing several hundred dollars. I think with everything, including the frosting supplies, I spent about $30 to make this cake. Plus, I love being able to do something like this for her. Sometimes — often — I feel like I don’t know what the heck I’m doing as a mom. But damn it, I can make a cake. 

The next day, this was all that was left of Brobee, so I think it was a success.

Next year, Daniel Tiger?