Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Invasion of the Yip Yips

The Martians, aka the Yip Yips, have always been my favorite characters from Sesame Street. A few years ago I found a tutorial for making your own crocheted Yip Yips, and earlier this year I finally got around to making a few:
Since the original tutorial wasn't an actual pattern, after I had made a couple that turned out well I wrote down how I made them. Here is my version of the pattern (please refer back to the original tutorial for step-by-step pictures if you need to).

Crochet Sesame Street Martians
Materials and supplies:
·         Lightweight yarn (3) in black, white, and main color of your choice
·         Crochet hooks in size G and E
·         A plastic drinking straw
·         A chenille stem in a complementary or contrasting color to the main yarn color
·         Scissors, yarn needle, stitch marker

For the body:
Using G hook and main color yarn, chain (ch) 26.
Row/Round 1: Single crochet (sc) into first stitch of chain to form a loop (make sure loop is not twisted); 1 sc in each remaining stitch of foundation chain (26 stitches). Do not join at end of round.
Rows/Rounds 2-12: 1 sc in each stitch of previous round (26 stitches per round). Do not join at end of rounds – you will be crocheting in a continuous spiral.
Row 13: 1 sc in each of the first 12 stitches of previous round (12 stitches). Ch 1, turn.
Row 14: 1 sc in each stitch of previous row (12 stitches). Ch 1, turn.
Row 15: Decrease by sc2 together (dec), 1 sc in next 8 stitches, dec (10 stitches). Chain 1, turn.
Row 16: 1 sc in each stitch (10 stitches). Ch 1, turn.
Row 17: Dec, 1 sc in next 6 stitches, dec (8 stitches). Ch 1, turn.
Row 18: Dec, 1 sc in next 4 stitches, dec (6 stitches). Ch 1, turn.
Row 19: Dec, 1 sc in next 2 stitches, dec (4 stitches). Ch 1, turn.
Row 20: 2 dec (2 stitches), fasten off. Leave longish tail for sewing.

Make eyes according to this tutorial, using the drinking straw and the black and white yarn.

Securely attach eyes to body, a couple rows down from the top and slightly in from the edge on either side. Trim yarn ends close so they won’t show. Using a yarn needle, thread the tail that was left after fastening off and sew the two sides of the face shut: start at the very top and whipstitch the edges down to about row 15 (you want the mouth to have a small peak rather than being completely round). Bury the yarn end.

For the tentacles:
Cut 26 two-foot (24 inch) lengths of yarn from the main color. Fold each length in half and attach one length to each stitch in the foundation chain, using the E hook and a lark’s head knot; this forms a fringe of yarn all around the bottom of the body. For each tentacle, insert the E hook into the foundation chain stitch, yarn over with one of the fringes, pull up a loop, and chain 18-20 stitches (make them as tight as you can). Fasten off, tie a knot at the end, and clip the excess yarn close to the knot. Repeat for the other fringe in the same chain stitch, and then repeat with the remaining fringes. You will have 2 tentacles per chain stitch in the foundation chain.

For the antenna:
Take a standard-size chenille stem and cut it in half – it should be about 6 inches long. From the side above one eye, insert the stem into the peak of the head and pull halfway through (you may need to loosen a stitch with your crochet hook to help it go through). Bend the two sides of the stem upwards and give them a little twist – this will keep the antenna in place. Roll each end of the stem inward for a couple turns, and then bend the stem until you are happy with the shape of your antenna.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Indian-Style Lentil Soup with Spinach

This is a soup that I created a couple years ago, basically by combining a couple recipes from an Indian cookbook (Madhur Jaffrey's World-of-the-East Vegetarian Cooking) and using a recipe for a Greek chickpea soup called Revithia as inspiration. I've made it several times, but I never actually wrote down what I did -- UNTIL TODAY!!! I'm honestly surprised that I managed to make it so many times from memory with it coming out relatively the same each time. So here it is!

Indian-Style Lentil Soup with Spinach

1 medium onion, chopped
2 to 3 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp coconut oil or olive oil
1 tsp garam masala
1 Tbsp curry powder
1 cup dry lentils, rinsed and drained
1 can (14 oz) diced tomatoes (do not drain); I recommend low-sodium
4-6 cups chicken or vegetable broth; again, I recommend low-sodium
1 can (14 oz) coconut milk
2 cups chopped fresh spinach
1 bunch scallions/green onions, sliced

  1.  Heat oil in a heavy stockpot over medium-high heat. Add onions and garlic and saute for a few minutes. Add garam masala and curry powder and continue to saute for a few more minutes -- do not let the spices or the garlic burn.
  2. Add lentils, undrained tomatoes, and 4 cups of broth. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for about 40 minutes or until lentils are fully cooked and tender. As the lentils cook they will absorb liquid, so you may need to add another cup or two of broth (or water) if the soup starts to get really thick.
  3. Once the lentils are fully cooked, stir in the coconut milk and then puree the soup using a hand blender. Alternatively, you can puree the soup in two or three batches using a traditional blender or a food processor.
  4. Add the spinach and scallions to the pureed soup and cook on medium heat for about 5 minutes, just long enough to allow the spinach to cook.
  5. Serve and enjoy!

Recipe Notes:
  • This is a mildly-spiced soup (because my family are wimps). If you want to make a hotter version, try adding some Indian chili powder or cayenne pepper with the other spices.
  • If made with vegetable broth, this recipe is fully vegan.
  • If you want, you could reserve half the sliced scallions to use for garnish.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

What's Next for the SockieLady?

As odd as it is, I seem to have finally discovered my purpose in life: to make sockies and other strange creatures. I certainly never expected that my destiny would revolve around sewing -- after all, I was the girl who absolutely refused to take Home Ec in junior high! No, I was the lone female in shop class, putting all the boys to shame with my mad drilling skillz. In fact, the first thing I ever wanted to be when I was a kid was a long-haul trucker. So, not being a very "girly" female, my natural affinity for creating things out of fabric, thread, and buttons kinda took me by surprise. But now that I've discovered my calling, I keep thinking of new things to create, new ways to expand my repertoire.

Last year, I started making monsters in addition to sockies. I had already made two sockie aliens, but for some reason, socks (IMO) lend themselves more to realistic creatures than to fantasy creatures and monsters. However, I had some leftover T-shirt fabric after making a couple T-shirt bags, so I started playing around and I created... this:

This is Iggy. I'm not quite sure what Iggy is -- a gremlin? a goblin? a baby gargoyle? Whatever he is, he is very special to me: Iggy sits on my pillow and protects me from nightmares (and he falls on my head whenever I roll over, but it's ok, I still love him.) Since creating Iggy, I've gone on to create a number of monsters, mostly working in fleece (you can see and purchase them at my shop, SockiesPaperScissors), as well as a dragon for my 5-year-old friend Joe. So now I'm considering where I want to go next, what I want to make. Here are some ideas so far:
  1. Make some smaller monsters more like Iggy. Most of the monsters I made after Iggy were larger and more intricate, but there's something about Iggy that I really love. I think he needs some brothers and sisters to go out into the world and be monster mascots.
  2. Make more dragons! I posted pictures of the dragon that I made for Joe on Facebook, and the response I got was overwhelming. Yes, the dragons are larger, more detailed, and will take longer to make, but I've already got a basic pattern designed. And think of all the colors -- I could create a whole rainbow of dragons!
  3. Miniaturize the sockies and monsters and make them into holiday ornaments.
  4. Play around more with drawing/painting sockies and monsters.
  5. Maybe add some flower girls to the shop:

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

A Couple Easy Appetizers

I've never been a big fan of New Year's Eve as a holiday, it just feels too arbitrary to me. Yes, I know, it's a fresh start and all that, but I've always felt that one's birthday is a more meaningful date for fresh starts and new beginnings. Anyway, this year, like most years, we just stayed home, but instead of having a regular dinner, we had appetizers for dinner. Here are two of the things I made. (I know, the holiday party season is almost over, but you can hold on to these recipes for the "Big Game" parties that will be coming up soon!)

Sue D’s Mediterranean Layered Dip

1 8-oz package prepared hummus
1 8-oz package prepared tabbouleh salad
1 cup English cucumber, peeled and diced (see note)
4 oz crumbled feta cheese
Greek salad dressing
Oregano for garnish
Pita chips

1. Spread hummus in bottom of 8-inch pie plate.
2. Spoon tabbouleh salad evenly on top of hummus.
3. Spread diced cucumber evenly on top of tabbouleh.
4. Sprinkle crumbled feta over cucumber, then drizzle with Greek dressing.
5. Garnish with oregano and serve with pita chips.

Note: If you can't find English cucumber, just use a regular cucumber, but be sure to seed it first. To seed it, cut it in half lengthwise and use a spoon to scrape out the seeds.

Customizable Baked Brie

1 small brie round (6-8 oz)
1/4 cup jam, preserves, or honey (seedless jams or preserves work best)
1/3 cup chopped or sliced nuts (could also use hulled sunflower or pumpkin seeds)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Line a small oven-proof dish with parchment; place brie round on parchment.
3. With a small sharp knife, cut three or four slashes lengthwise and then crosswise across the top of the brie (only cut in about 1/4-1/2 inch). 
4. Spoon jam, preserves, or honey over top of brie, then sprinkle nuts over top.
5. Bake for 7-8 minutes -- just long enough to warm and soften the brie, but not long enough to melt it completely. Serve with crackers.

The beauty of this recipe is that you can customize it to your own personal tastes. The brie in the picture above has honey and hazelnuts. Some other possible combinations: apricot jam and sliced almonds; plum preserves and walnuts; seedless raspberry jam and pecans; sweet pepper jelly and pumpkin seeds. Use your imagination and have fun with it!  

Saturday, November 23, 2013

A New Idea for the Holidays

...because inclusiveness doesn't seem to be working. And yes, I said "Holidays." I said "Holidays" not because I am ignoring Christmas or "waging war" on Christmas, but because Christmas is not the only holiday that is celebrated around the time of the Winter Solstice.  Over the past several years I've gotten very used to saying "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas" for a number of reasons; I worked retail for many years, and retail establishments cringe at the thought of alienating customers, especially during the biggest shopping season of the year; as mentioned previously, Christmas is not the only holiday that is celebrated around the time of the Winter Solstice, and what's so wrong with being inclusive, anyway?; and, as a non-Christian, I don't actually celebrate Christmas myself. I am a Pagan, and I celebrate the Yuletide. However, it does seem that the more people like me try to embrace holiday inclusiveness, the angrier certain other people become because they feel we are trying to exclude Christmas. We're not, we're simply trying to acknowledge all the other holidays (including our own, in many cases) that tend to get pushed aside by the Christmas juggernaut every year. But obviously, we need to look at this differently.

So I had an idea today. Let's forget all about "Happy Holidays" and inclusiveness. Let's celebrate our spiritual and religious differences, but let's do so in a neighborly way by celebrating the one thing that all our different holidays have in common.


Think about it: Hanukkah is the Jewish Festival of Lights, which celebrates the miracle of the oil during the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem. The Pagan Yuletide is a celebration of light returning to the world in the form of the Sun after the autumnal months of darkness and the promise of the coming spring. On Christmas, Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, whom they call The Light of the World. Kwanzaa is celebrated by lighting candles that represent the Seven Principles of African Heritage.

But what does light represent? Well, think about this: slightly earlier in the autumn, the Hindu Festival of Lights, Diwali, uses lamps and lanterns to celebrate the inner light of spirituality and higher knowledge that all human beings possess. To quote Wikipedia: "Central to Hindu philosophy is the belief that there is something beyond the physical body and mind which is pure, infinite, and eternal, called the Atman. The celebration of Diwali refers to the light of higher knowledge dispelling all ignorance, the ignorance that masks one's true nature, not as the body, but as the unchanging, infinite, immanent and transcendent reality. With this awakening comes compassion and the awareness of the oneness of all things (higher knowledge). This brings ananda (joy or peace)."
Light, the element that is common to all these different religious and spiritual celebrations, is nothing more or less than the human soul. That's pretty deep. What's more, it is the human soul that is seeking connection: to other souls, to universal love, to the Divine Spirit. We may look different, and speak different languages, and worship different forms of the Divine Spirit, and eat different foods, but essentially we are all the same. You're a shining star, no matter who you are.

So this holiday season, go ahead and wish people whatever you want. My Christian friends can wish me a Merry Christmas, my Jewish friends can wish me a Happy Hanukkah, and I'll wish everyone a Blessed Yuletide. But whatever you choose to say, why not acknowledge everyone's humanity by following it up with "And may your days be merry and bright."

I think this could work.


Sunday, November 17, 2013

Howling at the Moon

I recently removed the curtains from the windows in my "yellow room" (so called because of the hideous yellow shag rug) so I could hang a plant in the window. (The yellow room is a combination of library and office: it's where I have my computer and my ever-growing collection of books.) I discovered, much to my delight, that by removing the curtains I can now see the moon rise:

The picture certainly doesn't do it justice (I really need to get a better camera). The moon was approaching full the night I took this. The week before, it was approaching first quarter, and it totally reminded me of this:

 Eventually, probably after the holidays, I'm going to have to make a Cheshire Cat fleecie.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Me and My Monkeys

Harold and Maude
I love monkeys. They're silly, they're funny, and they're one of my favorite animals. One year for Yule (a.k.a. "Christmas"), I bought monkeys with long arms and Velcro hands and wrapped one around each family member's stocking. A few years ago, when I learned to crochet, I found a freebie pattern for a crocheted monkey. I made him and named him Harold. The next year, my sister gave me The Sock Monkey and Friends Kit, from which I made Maude. And from there the floodgates opened. I had never been much of a sewer previously: I could just about sew straight lines on the sewing machine, I was really good at replacing buttons, and I could cross-stitch. But I certainly took to sewing sock monkeys like the proverbial duck to water; I even have an Etsy shop where you can buy them. And while monkeys are by no means the only sock creatures I have made, I've certainly made more monkeys than any other creature. Here's a few of them: