Wednesday, October 08, 2008

mama don't live here no more

I'VE MOVED! If you are interested in reading new blog posts, go here: PenguinBot Blog.

I figured I should make a more prominent post stating that. =)

P.S. I've even been updating the blog fairly regularly! How exciting.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

It's here!

Hey. You there. CLICK HERE.

Lorne and I first started talking about a website where I made and sold things awhile back. The day after our wedding, to be exact. We were sitting in a bar in Victoria, drinking fancy drinks, and Lorne brought it up. Then I started making things, playing with designs, giving them to friends for birthdays and Christmases and such. Then I got some positive feedback, then more, and then I sold some to friends who wanted to give gifts to friends, then to their friends, to my internet friends. (Yes, I have internet friends. They're pretty awesome.) (I AM A NERD.)

Now there's a shop. My fabric stash and sewing table have taken over the dining room, I have a dresser full of yarn and knit bags, and a coat rack covered in totes. I'm so very excited about the shop. Lorne did an amazing job with it. Aside from being an awesome web designer, he is the best person ever.

We also want to thank Kyle and Grant for their input on the website design and name, and Colin for suggesting how Lorne build it, and Mike for all his hosting help, and everyone who has ever bought something from me and told me they liked it and encouraged me to do more. You guys rule.

Enough out of me. Go poke around the website.

Oh, one more thing - I'll be blogging there from now on, so update your bookmarks and RSS feeds to At some point we might migrate this blog over there, but not yet.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Small Tote Preview!

There will be a bunch of small totes available in the PenguinBot shop. Before our little monster was born, I went on a bit of a fabric buying binge and got excited about all the color combinations and just started cutting away.

The Pink Lady

Cherry Blossoms & Birdies

Black Damask

Geometric Goodness

Dotty in Blue

Dotty in Brown

Speaking of the monster, some of these were finished the night before I was induced. Isn't it fun to imagine me making these, my 9+ months pregnant belly making it hard to reach my sewing machine from the chair? I can't believe he's over 3 months old. Here he is on his 3 month birthday. Where does the time go? Soon he's going to be off to preschool, then kindergarten, and before you know it I'll be sobbing at his high school graduation. STOP GROWING UP SO FAST WILL.

Will, with his ugly doll beard.

Anyway, back to the bags. Do you want to see the innards? Do you!? DO YOU!!?! Well too bad. You're going to have to go to PenguinBot on October 1st to see them. There will also be more small tote bags for you to check out!

October 1st is only a week and a half away. HOLY CRAP.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

it's coming, it's coming, it's coming

Warning: Excessive Capitalization and Overuse of Punctuation Ahead. Use Extreme Caution.

The planned opening of the PenguinBot shop is October 1st. October! Holy crap, that's soon. I'm finishing up some more lovely bags, Lorney is finishing the website, we're taking pictures, we're talking to the government. Holy crap! October 1st is soon.

Would you like to see a few things that are going to be in the shop? Would you? WOULD YOU?!!?! While these are not pictures that will go on the website, these are pictures of REAL items that will be in the NON-IMAGINARY PenguinBot shop of October 1st! Over the next few weeks I'll put up a few other items for you to preview, if you are so inclined.

Anyway, here are a few things that will be for sale in the new shop. October 1st. Mark your calendars people.

Here is a large tote bag that will be for sale. It has pretty red roses and black vinyl. The innards are red dots of various sizes with black dots of one size on a lovely white background.

I'm sure for the past 11,000 years you've been saying, "Alright Laurel, ENOUGH with Washington. Give us something else, some other state." Here you go! That's Oregon. NOT Washington. SO SHUT YOUR PIE HOLE. The innards of this lovely little coin purse are white dots on a black background.

This is one of my favorite bags ever. I kind of want to keep it for myself, but that sort of defeats the purpose of building a shop, doesn't it?

ALSO! Be on the watch for a new contest! A contest in which you can win fabulous, lovely handmade items (handmade by me! I MAKE ALL THIS STUFF!)! A contest to celebrate the opening of PenguinBot! WOOOOO!!!!!


Thursday, July 31, 2008

he'll save children, but not the British children

I mentioned back in this post that I needed to make a diaper bag for ourselves. I finally got around to it over the last few days. The plan was to make something with the Dodgers flying baseball thingy on it, but I was out of dark blue vinyl and the place I usually buy it has it on backorder. Instead of being patient and waiting for more vinyl to come in, I came up with a different plan.

I had a big roll of green vinyl that I'd yet to do anything with. A roll of green vinyl that was roughly the color of Washington State highway signs. Hmm.

As you have seen in other posts (here and here and here), I have a faux-fondness for George Washington. Mainly I like this video. Seriously, have you watched it yet? You should. It's funny.

I had my Washington stencil file from the other projects I'd done with it. I'd just need to enlarge it and print it off. Less work than coming up with something new, and I'm quite interested in less work these days. Hmm.

Thus, the George Washington diaper bag was born. We can tell Will that we're all patriotic or something, not that his mom was inspired by a cartoon full of lies about our first president.

He made love like an eagle falling out of the sky.

The fabric I used on the lining was given to me by Nate and Miranda for my birthday a few years ago. I want to use it to make an apron and a few other things, but well...I just haven't gotten around to it yet. But I liked it for the diaper bag. I like George Washington and I also like birds.

Also, I like sleep. I'm going to go get some now.

He'll kick you apart.

Monday, July 28, 2008

NY Times Chocolate Chip Cookies

A few weeks ago Nate, my brother-in-law, shared an article from the New York Times about the quest for the perfect chocolate chip cookie on his Google Reader. A recipe adapted from one of the pastry chefs they interviewed is linked to the article. A few of the baking blogs I read discussed the recipe, and I was craving sweets (as usual), so I decided to try them out.

I only used all purpose flour, as I didn't own and was too lazy/cheap to go buy the two different types of flour listed. Lorne picked up 62% cacao chocolate chips for the recipe. We didn't feel like spending the time (or more money) searching out the fancy disk things used in the recipe either. The most interesting thing about the recipe (and the article) is that they recommend chilling your cookie dough for at least 24 hours, preferably 36. I'm impatient so I started baking as soon as the 24 hours was up. My intention was to bake them all at once, but Will interfered after 12 cookies were done. I didn't get around to baking the rest until it had been almost 72 hours.

I'm terrible at estimation, so when it said to make the cookies the size of "a generous golf ball" I had to get out a golf ball for comparison. The cookie dough tasted amazing. I've eaten a lot of cookie dough and I can honestly say is probably my favorite dough of the chocolate chip variety. I had high hopes when the first six went into the oven.

Unfortunately, I didn't love the first 12 I baked. I mean, they were good, but far from the best chocolate chip cookies I'd ever had. First, they were crispy. Crispy is a good attribute in fried chicken, but I prefer my cookies more on the chewy side. The article and recipe talk about how they'd have three rings - crispy with a chewy interior ring, leading to a soft center - but they were crispy all through. Boo. Second, they were, dare I say, too chocolaty. The dark chocolate is very good, yes, but that's all I could taste. It overpowered the cookie flavor completely.

The good news is that knowing that the first 12 were too crispy for my tastes, when I went to bake the last of the dough a few days later, I turned the oven down a tiny bit and took them out a minute and a half earlier than I had before. The texture on these (the ones I remembered to photograph) was much better. A little crispy on the outside, nice and chewy elsewhere. I also picked some of the excess chocolate chips out of the second 12 cookies as well so I'd be able to taste the cookie better. And the cookie itself was fantastic. So next time I make these I'll probably only use 2/3 the recommended chocolate chips and bake them less time. Also, the salt on the top was yummy.

The recipe: (original recipe is here)

3 2/3 cups minus 2 tablespoons all purpose flour

1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt

2 1/2 sticks (1 1/4 cups) unsalted butter

1 1/4 cups (10 ounces) light brown sugar

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (8 ounces) granulated sugar

2 large eggs

2 teaspoons natural vanilla extract

1 1/4 pounds bittersweet chocolate chips, at least 60 percent cacao content

Sea salt.

1. Sift flours, baking soda, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Set aside.

2. Using a mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream butter and sugars together until very light, about 5 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Stir in the vanilla. Reduce speed to low, add dry ingredients and mix until just combined, 5 to 10 seconds. Drop chocolate pieces in and incorporate them without breaking them. Press plastic wrap against dough and refrigerate for 24 to 36 hours. Dough may be used in batches, and can be refrigerated for up to 72 hours.

3. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat. Set aside.

4. Scoop 6 3 1/2-ounce mounds of dough (the size of generous golf balls) onto baking sheet, making sure to turn horizontally any chocolate pieces that are poking up; it will make for a more attractive cookie. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt and bake until golden brown but still soft, 18 to 20 minutes (I did a little less than 18). Transfer sheet to a wire rack for 10 minutes, then slip cookies onto another rack to cool a bit more. Repeat with remaining dough, or reserve dough, refrigerated, for baking remaining batches the next day. Eat warm, with a big napkin.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

The stars at night

Are big and bright
clap clap clap clap
Deep in the heart of Texas!

Lisa wins a coin purse for being in tune with my uterus.

This is Lisa's prize for her freakishly accurate prediction of when Will would be born (seriously, she was off by ten minutes). She and her husband moved to San Diego from Texas a few years before Lorne and I came here, and we met when she befriended me at my last job. Lisa regularly threatens to disembowel anyone that might think about being a jerk to me and is 40 different types of awesome.

An off-center picture of the innards.

I associate Texas with Lisa, then with this clip from Pee Wee's Big Adventure. I've trained myself to disassociate it with our current president.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

more nursery stuff

Lorne and I bought this rocking chair from an Etsy seller. In keeping with the loose theme of Will's nursery - sports and teams that Lorne and I like - we decided to make it a Husky rocking chair.

Lorne drew the University of Washington's logo W on the seat, and I painted it. Well, I still need to paint the bottom of this and go over the edges of the W so they're more smooth, but who knows when I'll get around to that. =) The purple is a little more purpley and a little less blue looking in real life.

While we both went to UW for our bachelor's degrees, we won't force Will to go there. We'll just force him to watch the Huskies play football for the next 18 years. Hopefully they won't be as terrible as they have been for the last few years.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

look what I made

Well, Lorne helped.

William Logan arrived at 3:50 AM on Friday the 13th. This means that the winner of our little contest is our friend Lisa, who guessed 4 AM on Friday the 13th. He's a little bit gigantic and awfully cute. We're pretty happy. I have some of Lisa's prize completed, but things have been a little hectic since Will arrived (who knew babies took up so much time?), so I'll finish it up and post pictures at a later date.

Will was 11 lbs, 5 ounces at birth. He's lost a little weight since then, but I'm pretty sure he's storing at least four or five pounds in his cheeks. It gets tiring carrying all of that adorableness around, so we're going to go take a nap.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

June is a busy birthday month.

Aside from our little dude showing up in June, my grandma, my mom, Lorne's mom and dad, and my friend Tammy all have birthdays in June. I'm probably forgetting someone else I know. Anyway, last week I was making all these bags to put up on the PenguinBot website (I swear, there will be shop there at some point - Lorne is just working out some bugs). When I finished this one, I realized that it just screamed Tammy. Hot pink + polka dots = Tammy.

As Tammy not only has a birthday this month, but will also be finishing up her Master's in Social Work, I figured I owed her a present. And for once, it was finished early. Unlike Margie's present. Or Katie's present. Or Miranda's. Or...well, just about everyone else this year. I've been slow.

A few weeks ago a fabric website sent me an email saying they had some of Amy Butler's newest line on sale, so I bought some for my stash. This is one of them. The dots remind me of olives. While I don't particularly care for the taste of olives, I like the way they look when they're stuffed with something. They look fun. This fabric looks fun. Tammy is fun!

Even Gracie likes it, and as you can see here and here and here, Gracie doesn't like much.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Did you know that Lorne is awesome?

Consider the following:

Fact: Lorne has made dinner every night for the last I don't know how many months.
Fact: Lorne tells me to sit down and relax while he does things like clean and do dishes.
Fact: Lorne painted this awesome toy box for our son.

Fact: We found the unfinished wood box at Michael's. We were about to buy it when Lorne found a 50% off coupon near one of the registers that went into effect the following day, so we came back the next day and got it for half off.

Fact: Lorne drew the Twins logo and the baseball on to the box.

Did you know that Lorne is awesome?! WERE YOU AWARE OF IT?!!?!

Monday, June 02, 2008

yellow cake with butterscotch frosting and apples

I think my nesting instinct is coming out in a desire to bake and sew. Last week I made some chocolate chip cookies to give to my co-workers, I've been doing a lot of sewing, and tomorrow I plan to work on some knit gifts I've been putting off for far too long. On Saturday I really wanted cake. Lorne and I have pretty similar tastes when it comes to non-dessert food, but our dessert leanings are pretty opposite. He likes pie, I like cake. He likes lighter, fruity things, I like rich, chocolaty things. This cake was me trying to come up with something we'd both want to eat - I don't think being pregnant is enough of a reason for me to justify eating an entire cake by myself.

I turned to a few recipes I'd used before (I made cupcakes with the yellow cake recipe once, and the apples are from the caramel apple toffee cheesecake I made for Valentine's Day earlier this year) and one I hadn't (I really like butterscotch, so I just found a recipe for the frosting that looked good).

partially eaten cake

Yellow Cake

2 cups all-purpose flour, stirred before measuring
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 1/4 cups sugar
2 eggs
3/4 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
Mix flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside. Cream sugar and butter in a large mixing bowl, beating until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add half of the flour mixture then half of the milk.
Add vanilla. Mix until blended; add remaining flour and milk and beat until smooth. Fill 4 greased and floured layer cake pans(4 1/2 inch diameter) with the batter. Bake at 375° for 25 to 35 minutes, or until cake springs back when lightly touched near center.
Frost as desired.

Source: Southern US Cuisine section

Apple Topping

4 green apples
4 TBSP butter
1/4 cup sugar

Peel and core the apples, then slice them thinly. In a heavy saucepan melt 4 TBSP butter. Stir in sugar and cook until the sugar starts to caramelize. Add the apples and cook them until they are tender. Cool.

Source: Culinary Concoctions by Peabody (I added another apple and a little more butter than her recipe.)

Butterscotch Frosting

1/2 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
4 tablespoons milk
2 cups powdered sugar

Melt butter in saucepan. Add brown sugar; bring to a boil over low heat for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Stir in milk; bring to boil, stirring constantly. Cool to lukewarm. Gradually add powdered sugar. Beat until thick enough to spread.


cake guts

Though I bake cupcakes fairly often, I don't think I've made a regular cake since I was 13 or something. My lack of cake experience led to some mistakes, but luckily, none of them were fatal.

Mistake 1: The only cake pan I have is a 9" silicone one. Greasing and flouring it didn't go very well, and then when I tried to take the cake out of the pan it was still a little warm and a lot of cake bottom stuck to the silicone thing. Whoops.

Mistake 2: I was planning on putting the apple topping stuff on top of the frosting. Even as I told Lorne of my plan for topping and frosting the cake, I started putting the apples on the unfrosted cake. I blame pregnancy brain. I ended up slathering the frosting on top of the apples, which worked okay, but the cake ended up a little less pretty and a little more lumpy than I'd planned.

lumpy frosting
Despite the mistakes, it's pretty much the most delicious cake ever, and we both really like it. Hooray!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

baby contest!

I've mentioned a million times here that I'm pregnant, and a few weeks ago posted a picture of my gigantic belly, so you might have guessed that I'm due soon. Lorne and I decided to copy Nate and Miranda's baby contest* idea. Lorne and I will get a child**, and one*** lucky guesser will win a fabulous prize!

Here is how it works: guess the day and time of Will's arrival. The closest to his actual debut will receive a fabulous prize (to be named later). Also guess a weight to serve as a tie-breaker. We'll stop taking entries on Friday at 4:30 (when my maternity leave starts!) or until labor begins (whichever comes first), and keep all guesses secret until then. Doesn't that sound like fun?

So, if you'd like a shot at a fabulous prize...
Send an e-mail to (not a comment on this post) containing:
- Your guess at the date and time (to the nearest hour)
- Your guess at Will's weight (for tie-breaking purposes)

Here are some details to level the playing field:
- Will's due date is 6/8
- He's technically "full term" now, so if I went into labor now, they would not try to stop me
- If he doesn't arrive by two-weeks post-due date (6/22), they'll probably start to think seriously about inducing labor
- Will looked like this about 18 weeks ago, if that helps you somehow:

*If you already received an email from Lorney, this is the same contest.
**The prize is not a baby, unless there is a hidden twin in there.
***There is only one fabulous prize! GET OFF OUR BACKS, WE AREN'T MADE OF MONEY.

Monday, May 26, 2008

too pregnant and lazy to write much

Just a short post. This is for JoAnn, who I made wait for awhile to get a bag. I thank her for her patience. Here are some pictures of her large tote bag. =)

I'll try to post something more interesting soon. Lorne painted a toy box with the Twins logo and I painted a rocking chair with the Washington W.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Eight is Great

I made Lori a knit clutch almost a year ago (which you can see here, just in case you don't have an encyclopedic knowledge of everything I've ever made). She emailed me a few months ago to find out if I'd be able to make some of the smaller tote bags for her. Seven for her bridesmaids and one for her. I feel that this blog entry will be super picture-heavy.

I finished up with the last two bags today, and here they all are, lounging on the chaise in the baby's room. Lori gave me free reign to do pretty much whatever I wanted, though she did ask if I could make a few that were similar to ones she'd seen on the blog already (if you read the blog often, you may see some familiar-looking faces in the group shot above).

Here are closer-up shots of all the outers:

Blue/black dot tote and brown/teal flowery tote.

Blueish/greenish/orangeish paisley bag and light blue/brown dot bag.

Pink and black swirly bag and pink/brown geometric bag.

Rose bag and brown/cream flowery bag.

And here are some shots that show some of the innards:

Innards of the light blue w/brown dots bag and blueish/greenish paisley looking bag.

Innards of the pink/brown geometric bag and the brown flowery bag.

Innards of the brown/teal bag and the blue/black dot bag.

Innards of the pink swirly bag and the rose bag.

I hope Lori and her bridesmaids like them all!

Happy Birthday Margie!

My little sister turned 19 yesterday. I failed to finish her present in time to send it up to arrive on her birthday. In fact, I failed to finish it until today. Anyway, I made her a little tote bag that looks suspiciously similar to the green tote I made myself a few months back.

Lorney took these pictures after I finished up with the sewing so I could go sit in a cold bathtub for awhile - it's been ridiculously hot here the last few days. The tote is on the chaise lounge thingy we stuck in the baby's room. The stripes on the chaise are dark blue, but the bag is dark purple. Just in case you were confused.

Margie is in her first year of college at UW. I mentioned how smart she is last year when I made her this pillow for her graduation. Well last quarter she 4.0'd all her classes. So she's still a nerd, and I'm super proud of her.

If my remembory serves me right, Margie is a fan of polka dots. I used purple vinyl because (1) I liked how it looked and (2) it's one of her school colors. Go Dawgs.

Margie rules, and I hope she had a really great birthday yesterday.