Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera

endless experiments with small things that bring joy to life


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New Year and goals

Happy belated New Year, everyone!  It has been awhile since I post. Perhaps it is insolence, imaginary busyness, or a combination of everything, but stay assured that I am still baking, knitting, and doing other crafts. Though I do enjoy writing, it is a laborious process as I am an overwriter. I need to let the posts sit then going through different stages of rewriting. Because of that, I truly admire those prolific bloggers who publish regularly.

Despite my never-ending quest for planners, I do not establish new year resolutions habitually, for the reason of I might forget about them.  Instead, I usually make small changes (or, finding excuses to experiment) in life that could improve the overall quality.  So here they come, some changes I would like to further in 2017:

  • Find natural alternatives to items I am currently using: in 2016, I have made conscious attempts in using more natural commodities.  One of the first items I have replaced is body moisturizer by mixing my own, with ingredients that are commonly found in the pantry, such as coconut and grapeseed oil.  I have been satisfied with the result and I would like to apply that more broadly to other household items.
  • Reduce the number of work-in-progress: as a knitter, any new patterns/yarn can be enticing.  The downside of it is that I have many work-in-progress, left-on-the-needle projects.  Toward the end of 2016, I have slowly wrapped up some of them.  In the new year, I would like to move toward the direction of having only 2 work-in-progress projects simultaneously by using up the yarn stash I have.
  • Try out more recipes: this item has become a perpetual item on my list and so far, I have been happy with different flavors I have discovered. In fact, this endeavor has turned my annual Christmas baking marathon into a series of exploration of traditions.

Aim small, miss small.  What are your aspirations in this new year?

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My Stollen Adventure: History

This post has been under preparation for a long time; in fact, I started this draft since December of last year but did not get to finished until now.  Originally, I wanted to combine both the background and the making of the Stollen in one post, but I decided that would be too long.  In this post, I will outline how I become acquainted with Stollen and its history.  It is important to know a bit of history and significance of a food item, in my opinion, so one can appreciate the evolution and experience that are embodied by the food.  I hope you will enjoy it and that it will not take me another year to write the subsequent post!

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Goals for 2014

I do realize that I have overlooked this blog for way too long and I am also a bit late to set goals for 2014.  To be honest, New Year Resolutions and I are never friends because I often experience the frustration of not being able to attain the lofty goals I set at the beginning of the year.  Instead of giving in to my forgetfulness and frustration, I often designate small projects as goals and cross them off as I attempt them.  In addition, this “resolution” can be renew every month as I find different challenges I would like to attempt.
Inspired by Timbuk2’s “Real Resolutions“, here is my humble list:

  • Learn how to make some of my commonly used items from scratch, if possible.  So far, I was able to make a hazelnut chocolate spread similar to Nutella and coconut shampoo.  
  • Finish some of the half-done knitting projects, no matter how repetitive the patterns are.
  • Start writing simple knitting patterns.  They do not need to look elaborated.
  • Try at least one new baking/cooking recipe per month.  Life is too short to taste bland food!
What are you goals in the new year?  Do not forget, every day is a new beginning, hence you can make daily goals as well!


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Turkish stitch cowl

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With the weather becoming colder, there is more motivation to knit; however, I personally do not wear scarves or cowls.  Often time my neck will become warm too quickly that I remove it immediately.  To my solace, not everyone is as finicky as me.  One of the janitors at work saw me knitting and asked whether I could teach her so she could knit a cowl for her daughter.  After several tries, she was having trouble working with two needles while handling yarn (she does crocheting).  At the end I offered to knit one for her.  Instead of following a pattern written by capable knitters out there, I went to stitch dictionary and found a simple yet delicate stitch seen here, Turkish stitch.  Essentially I only repeated one row from the beginning to the end, probably the most wondrous thing for any knitter.  By passing, the pattern looks like regular stockinette, but once the piece is extended, you can see the lace lattice.  Yarn used here is Peacock by Malabrigo.  Again, impressive dye job and great color combinations, a balance of gray, black, teal, and variations of blue.

Even better,  the janitor’s daughter really likes the cowl.  Mission accomplished!


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Cathartic Therapy

I have been going through couple rough patches in June, and these obstacles leave me a bit restless.  Instead of ranting to friends incessantly, it might be better to diffuse the sense of frustration through my so-called cathartic therapy.  Though I am less than an accomplished artist (my magnum opus has been stick figures), the brainstorming and creating processes help calm the nerve and refresh minds.

Several media are used to create the following cards:  metallic ink, watercolor, fountain pen ink, and pencil.  Stickers and washi tapes help remedy my less than perfect drawing abilities.

What do you think about them?

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I must be in a dire need of Dexter, a TV show.  “A Slice of Life” is the slogan of it.
The inside of the card says “Savor it to the fullest.  Happy Birthday!”  Watermelon can be an apt theme for a summer birthday, right?
The watercolor I used here is a Pelikan palette, pretty basic, but good for my purpose.

I must be in a dire need of Dexter, a TV show, since “A Slice of Life” is one of the slogans for the show.  The inside of the card says “Savor it to the fullest.  Happy Birthday!”  I guess that redeems me from being a serial killer 😉  I figure watermelon can be an apt theme for a summer birthday, since it has cooling and refresh effects in those hot summer days.
The watercolor I used here is by Pelikan.  It is very basic, but great for my purpose.  For the rind, I blend a bit of Caran d’Ache’s Amazon with the emerald green.

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Close up of the text.  Written with a Brause rose nib, which has become my favorite now.

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My little one’s birthday is coming up, and I have been pretty good about making her a card every year so far.  Let’s hope I can keep up!  The bear is done with pencil and watercolor.  Took me awhile to mix the right color, but the process was quite fun.

Inside of the card, I made a small garland with washi tape and collaged an animal march out of stickers.

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Last is an overdue thank you card for a dear friend.  The image is done by watercolor pencils by Derwent.  The outline is done by Sailor HighAce Neo with Platinum Carbon ink, a waterproof fountain pen ink.  I like how dark and shiny the black is.  The fine point of HighAce Neo is fine enough, which I find as a good substitue to Micron pens.

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Coconut Macaroons

One of the predicament often faced by baking fanatics is when a recipe only asks for egg yolks.  What can you do with the egg whites, besides having scrambled eggs sans yolk?  Here is a remedy to the baking dilemma:  coconut macaroons.  They are packed with aroma, yet light and airy.  The coconut provides texture, shape, and a bit of tropical flare to these delectable treat.  This recipe adopted from Bon Appetit.

One of the ingredients that the recipe asks is lime zest, which is easily substituted by lemon zest.  The taste of the zest will not be overpowering; it stays as a subtle undertone.  After shredded coconut is added, the meringue will deflate because it serves as the “glue” that holds the coconut together.  The macaroons will slightly rise during the process of baking because of the meringue as well.  The baking time according to the recipe is 18-22 minutes, but so far, the average time I take is 10 minutes.  Given the power of oven varies, the rule of thumb is once the top and bottom layers of coconut turns brown, it is done.

Enjoy the macaroons!

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Adding coconut flakes to meringue

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Macaroons ready for baking

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Macaroons done.  My favorite part is the browned coconut


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Hedgehog Chronicle

When I first learned how to knit, my assumption was that most toys were crocheted and not knitted, given that crocheting had an upper-hand in shape creating.  I was proven wrong when Purl Bee released a free pattern for a knitted hedgehog.  These little guys are so adorable that I am itching to make one.

By reading the pattern alone, I thought I was going to tackle Mount Everest, but once I started knitting, it was not as bad as I envisioned.  The most difficulty I had was to start the hedgehog nose, since it only had 6 cast-on and needed to join into a circle.  The double-pointed needles (DPNs) I have are quite long, so I have to watch my stitches from twisting, and preventing the needles from gouging my eyes out.  What I did was to use magic loop method to start, then transfer all stitched to DPNs.

The result?  Not too bad for first attempt, though many have pointed out that the hedgehog was “way too chubby” to say it nicely.  But who can really object a round and cuddly stuffed animal?  I know I cannot.

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Humble beginning.. you can see the itty-bitty nose.

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Once and future hedgehog.  Looks a bit like a bunny

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Adding the spiny part!  It looks like a lion.. sort of.

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Plump it up!

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Here is my squishy and round hedgehog

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Second attempt:  making one for Jon with his favorite color yarn.
His hedgehog looks smaller because instead of using Size 10 needles for the spine, I use size 8 instead.

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His looks like a rat… 

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Hedgehog totem!