BitterSweet

An Obsession with All Things Handmade and Home-Cooked


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Herbivore Dinosaurs

For a blog that began life as a showcase for all things crafty, there sure has been a dearth of new handmade projects or ideas gracing these pages. Not for any lack of ideas or desire, time and patience are simply at a premium these days, leaving little room to squeeze in just one more extra endeavor. It takes a whole lot of effort to get yarn on my needles and hooks these days- Happily, my good friend Glauce provided all the inspiration necessary. Expecting her first child, her request for a mobile made with five soft, stuffed, amigurumi dinosaurs was impossible to turn down.

Mind you, this was way back in the late summer of 2011. It only took me a whole year to complete the whole thing, proving yet again that perhaps I’m not cut out to accept crochet commissions. Ever accommodating and understanding, Glauce still graciously accepted the finished piece to share with her now nearly one year old son.

All photos courtesy of Glauce.

Maybe I’m just over-analyzing this, but I think he likes it?

As luck would have it, Glauce is also hosting a big cookbook giveaway to celebrate the relaunch of her lovely website, and a copy of Vegan a la Mode is included! Be sure to enter and browse through this inspiring resource while you’re over there.


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A Milestone

Five years ago today, there was a painfully shy teenage girl who decided to start a blog. Cooking tofu pups over a bare gas burner and tossing grilled “cheese” sandwiches into a sandwich press were the extent of her culinary repertoire, and the oven remained a strange and incomprehensible tool of incineration. She had few friends, no direction in life, and little optimism for the future. Crafts- crochet, knitting, sewing, beading; anything to keep the hands and mind occupied- Were a comfort, if primarily a means of distraction. Somehow, with the gentle encouragement of a few kind readers, that tiny, forgettable craft blog began to evolve. Cooking suddenly became another art to be mastered. She became bolder in the kitchen, developing a sincere passion for experimenting with ingredients, creating different dishes.

She discovered a love for photography. She developed a voice. She gained genuine friends. She became a part of a compassionate community.

This wee little blog, an virtual journal filled with rambling thoughts and crazy ideas, was never destined for greatness, but it has irrevocably shaped and guided my life’s journey. Moreover, you, my friends, are responsible for giving me courage to continue along that path. And for that, I am deeply grateful. Five years later and somehow, I’m still here, still learning, along side all of you; a modern miracle if I ever saw one.

I wish I could truly give back to this community that has given me so much, but I have at least one small token to commemorate this fifth blog birthday…

What has become perhaps my favorite crochet pattern ever, the Skull Holders from Debbie Stoller’s The Happy Hooker, has made at least a half dozen appearances on my hook. Given as gifts to friends and family near and far, even I have my own beat up pair tucked in a drawer just beneath the stove. Now I want you to have a set, too.

All you have to do is leave me a comment including your name and a valid email address, and tell me what would be the first thing you’d pull from the oven with these pot holders. Or, if you don’t bake, what other dish they would aide you in cooking. Or, if you can’t think of anything, just let me know that you’re still out there. I’m just happy to have all of you around, following along, and that’s all I can really ask for. You have until Valentine’s Day, February 14th, to enter, and the winner will be selected by a random number generator shortly thereafter.

The journey isn’t over by a long shot though. I’d like to believe that the best is yet to come… Stay tuned!


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What’s Baking, Cupcake?

First things first, the winner of a copy of The Vegan Girl’s Guide to Life is…

Commenter #71, Heather! Congratulations, Heather; you’ll be hearing from me shortly so that you can collect your prize.

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Bakers can be the hardest people to find gifts for. Cookbooks may be taken as an insult, bake ware may end up as unnecessary clutter, and homemade edibles seem like they could never live up to their high standards. However, if you’re of a more crafty temperament, then it’s easy to sidestep this problem. Homemade gifts are easily the best sort, so instead of channeling that creativity into an over-sized, itchy sweater, try whipping up a set of potholders that are shaped like cupcakes!

Even if the recipient isn’t big on baking, perhaps these enticing kitchen accessories might inspire them to get in there and start making good use of their oven. It’s a win-win sort of gift; They get a lovely and useful tool, and you get the sweets that result from their use!

Recently published in Melisser Elliott’s The Vegan Girl’s Guide to Life, I’ve been waiting to share this pattern for over a year now, and am thrilled to finally post it here as well. Now get crafting- The holidays are almost upon us and everyone will want a pair of these cute potholders!

Cupcake Potholders

Cake (Make 4):

With an F hook and brown or tan worsted weight cotton yarn, ch 25
Row 1: (WS) dc in second ch from hook, dc in next 4 chs, sc in remaining chs. Ch1, turn (24sc)
Row 2: (RS) sc in each st across. Ch1, turn
Row 3: Working in back loops only, dc in next 5 sts, sc in remaining sts.  Ch1, turn
Rows 4-27: repeat rows 2 and 3.
Tie off.

Frosting:

Row 1: With frosting color and RS facing, attach yarn with a sc to the widest edge – right corner. Evenly space 34 sc total along the top edge. Ch1, turn. (34)
Row 2: Sc twice into one st, sc until the last st, sc twice into one.  Ch1, turn. (36)
Row 3: Sc twice into one st, sc until the last st, sc twice into one.  Ch1, turn. (38)
Row 4: Sc twice into one st, sc until the last st, sc twice into one.  Ch1, turn. (40)
Rows 5 – 8: Sc across. Ch1, turn
Row 9: Sc2tog twice, sc until the last 4 sts, sc2tog twice. Ch1, turn. (36)
Row 10: Sc2tog, sc until last 2 sts, sc2tog. Ch1, turn. (34)
Rows 11 and 12: Sc2tog twice, sc until the last 4 sts, sc2tog twice. Ch1, turn. (26)
Rows 13 – 16: Sc2tog, sc until last 2 sts, sc2tog. Ch1, turn. (18)
Row 17 and 18: Sc2tog twice, sc until the last 4 sts, sc2tog twice. Ch1, turn. (10)
Row 19: Sl st 4 times, switch to red yarn, and begin the cherry

Row 20: Ch 12, sl st into the next open st in the frosting. Ch1, turn. (12)
Row 21: Hdc into each st. Sl st back into the frosting. Tie off, and bury the ends of the yarn.

Repeat with all four cake pieces.

To assemble, sew two sides together using a whip stitch around.  Repeat with the other two sides.

Printable Pattern


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Every Bird Gets Their Day…

My little birdies are lucky enough to get two!

As much as I’ve already been enjoying the 2010 Crochet a Day Calendar, I’ve got to say, it gained about a hundred extra awesome points this morning when I revealed the latest page, and remembered that my work has been included this year. Though it’s one of my oldest patterns, those simple feathered friends of mine continue to be one of the most popular patterns on the blog, and I’m so happy that they could get another moment in the spotlight. An extra little bonus of this whole deal is that now everyone gets a lovely little printable pattern card, to print and cherish, to have and to hold… Er, well, at least to enjoy and share around, at least! Just click the pictures above for a full view.


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Fawning Over Earth Day

Although I personally believe that every day should be Earth Day, marking it on the calendar does give us a particularly good excuse to duck out of work early and enjoy the outdoors. Especially on this beautiful sunny day today, it would be downright foolish to hunker down inside.

Spring is out in full force at last, showing off a rainbow of colors with its fresh blooms and sprouts. The tiny young fawns with white-speckled coats have emerged as well, one of my favorite sights to behold; a bit awkward and shaky on their legs still, but somehow incredibly elegant all the same. They may grow up to threaten the existence of my vegetable garden, but for now, I don’t mind sharing some of the little purple flowers sprinkled across the lawn. Munching away without a care in the world, this little one is clearly enjoying the nice weather and springtime bounty of greenery, too.

Happy Earth Day!


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Eat Your Veggies!

Like mom always said, you’ve got to eat your veggies if you want to grow up big and strong.  There’s plenty of scientific evidence to back that claim up now, but even before the medical experts decided to weigh in and add legitimacy to that classic parental insistence, it was an unarguable fact that those leafy greens were the key to a healthy adulthood. Instead of reaching for the spinach like so many trendy mothers, however, mine would bust out the most unsuspecting subjects… Like mushrooms.

Balking at the power of a simple button mushroom, I resisted just like any average child, squirming in my seat until dinner time was over and I could toss out the offending fungus on my plate. Clearly, my mom had a few tricks up her sleeve, and over time I caught wind that these were no average mushrooms at all.

Sure, they looked different than their brown brethren, but when I would finally oblige with a few tentative bites, it felt as though my energy levels suddenly went through the roof, like a new set of batteries had been installed inside me. It’s a crazy concept to be sure, but I’m convinced to this day that those mushrooms and veggies were what always charged me back up, almost like magic!

Of course, I still could never bring myself to eat those suspicious red-capped ‘shrooms… Perhaps that’s why I never grew so tall!


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Save the Date

Come 2010, there will be a whole new reason to look forward to each new day… With the Crochet-a-Day calendar!  Yes, this fun page-per-day timetable has been around for a few years already, in addition to its sister Knit-a-Day calendar, but this next year’s edition is especially worth checking out.  Packed with a couple hundred creative new designs that are sure to get you inspired every morning when you flip the page, this one will also include a certain pattern that has some additional significance to me…

On May 19, 2010, my Basic Birds, the very first crochet pattern I ever wrote, will be featured!

Having been translated into over a dozen different languages and used to create a couple hundred little birds, I could have never imagined that this simple project would have become such a sensation.  An easy first amigurumi for newbies, or quick diversion for the more advanced, the fun part is how easy it is to make your own.  Each little face is slightly different, the shape of the body unique to the hands that made it.  So, how will yours be different, intentionally adapted or not?  If you don’t want to wait for the calender, and all of the other fun patterns that come with it, the free pattern is right where it’s always been.


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Endless Summer

August. If there ever were a more uninspiring, monotonous month, I have yet to meet it. Vacations are winding down, and yet the heat and humidity are only gaining in intensity, condemning restless kids to the air-conditioned environment indoors. Mornings, afternoons, and evenings crawl by at a snail’s pace, each one undistinguished from the last, bringing only the same old routine, hardly even worth counting as an actual day. By the time September finally rolls around, it’s almost a welcome splash of cold water on the face, even if that does mean back to school and work for so many.

Of course, not everyone shares my sentiments about this drawn-out month, and there are still plenty of people and creatures alike taking full advantage of the tail end of summer.

Perfectly happy to traverse a barren desert and the rainforest belt alike, this particular ostrich got lucky enough to discover another enjoyable climate: New England in the dog days of summer!

This flightless bird sure doesn’t bury his head in the sand, oh no. He seeks out the new, fun, and otherwise overlooked delights that this unsung month holds. When else would the east coast be the least bit hospitable such an exotic, warm-weather bird?

Flightless as he may be, he still managed to hop a ride into the states just in time to enjoy this final heat wave, squeezing every last usable minute out of the season. Just in case it seemed too late to fit in that last picnic, or day at the beach, this guy ought to stand as a positive reminder- Go for it, today, because there’s still so much of summer left to enjoy!


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Do the Jellyfish Jam

Every year, it’s the same thing; The summer months fly by, slipping through my fingers before I even realize they’re at hand. Only when the season starts to wind down, and cold breezes begin threatening to blow the warm climate back down south, do I even remember about the beach. Oh, right, we live about a five-minute drive away from sandy shores and the gentle salt water waves of the ocean! It’s a luxury that I take for granted, giving what might seem to be paradise to some the cold shoulder, huddling inside instead with the AC at full blast. It’s no secret that I’m not a real outdoors-y type, but even I can appreciate the beauty of our local beaches. Some of my best childhood memories involve collecting sea glass and tiny little shells at low tide, planning elaborate necklaces and mosaics with them, and staying out late enough to see the boats and barges glow atop the rippling water. Mental images like that drive me back to the shoreline, no matter how late into the season- It’s better than forsaking the place entirely, right?

Alas, it was just too late for this summer, and by the time I set sandal-clad feet on the rough pink sand, the waters had been over taken by a more territorial visitor. There would be absolutely no swimming today, because the jellyfish had returned in force.

Don’t let that innocent little grin fool you- These spineless sea jellies will give you one nasty sting if you don’t watch your step. Cute but dangerous, I can’t say they would make for very good pets or companions… But if you ever need a watch guard for your private beach, don’t bother with a dog; A jellyfish will surely keep those nasty intruders out! Although I don’t really appreciate this possessive approach to the public beach down the road, perhaps you’d like a jellyfish to call you own?

Body:

With an F hook and variegated worsted weight yarn, sc6 in a circle
Sc twice into each st (12 sts)
Sc1, sc twice into next st* around (18 sts)
Sc2, sc twice into next st* around (24 sts)
Sc around
Sc3, sc twice into next st* around (30 sts)
Sc4, sc twice into next st* around (36 sts)
Sc around for 5 rounds
Skip one st, 5 dc into next st, skip one st, sl st* around
Break yarn and tie off.

Bottom:

With solid colored yarn, sc6 in a circle
Sc twice into each st (12 sts)
Sc1, sc twice into next st* around (18 sts)
Sc2, sc twice into next st* around (24 sts)
Sc3, sc twice into next st* around (30 sts)
Sc4, sc twice into next st* around (36 sts)
Break yarn, leaving a long tail.

Tentacles (Make 3):

With the same yarn as used for the body, ch16,
Starting in second loop from hook, dc3 into each st
The going will get tough and the stitches might become very tight, but don’t give up- Pull, dig, coerce those stitches into place! Show that yarn who’s boss!
Tie off at the end of the row, and weave in the ends.

To Assemble:

Insert safety eyes into the body and embroider a smile with black worsted weight yarn if desired. Use the long length of yarn from the bottom piece to sew it to the body, stitching it to the row just above the dc’s. Once you get most of the way around, stuff the piece firmly. Sew closed, tie tightly, and bury the knot. Sew the tentacles to the bottom, attaching the short edge of each piece in the very center, and arranging the top edges of each piece to point outwards at equal intervals. Weave in any loose ends.

Use invisible thread to hang them from the wall or ceiling, allowing your jellyfish to swim through the air, if desired!

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