Have you heard of the Five Love Languages? They are: Words of Affirmation, Acts of Service, Receiving (Giving) Gifts, Quality Time, and Physical Touch. My interpretation of these principles is that you have primary love languages that you “speak” and other love languages that you “hear”, and that they are not necessarily the same. Christian-roots aside, I believe in the simplicity of this concept—by understanding which languages you and your loved ones speak and hear, you improve communications in your relationships.
For me, I am most comfortable expressing myself with Acts of Service and Giving Gifts 1. No “diagnostic quiz” taken, just deep introspection over time and many dinner conversations with friends rehashing examples and hypotheticals.
Given those love languages, making handmade gifts is my favorite expression of affection. It pains me when I don’t have enough of my own time to create personal gifts by hand.
I had grand plans for this weekend’s baby shower – I was going to make a small tag blanket 2, with one knit side and one minky side, and a matching baby hat with ears. With 18 hours to go (6PM Friday), I was looking at 10 rows of baby hat, AND had just remembered that I volunteered to make a savory finger food. NOT ENOUGH HOURS LEFT. I resigned myself to purchasing a more substantial gift off the registry, but was going to make a great effort to finish the hat and make some food.
FRIDAY NIGHT: Finish baby hat & decorate and wrap the present.
One last-minute baby hat, still made with love.
I really wanted to make the Flour Sack hat from Baby Beanies: Happy Hats to Knit for Little Heads by Amanda Keeys, but I don’t want to buy books of patterns anymore, so I decided to wing it with a basic square hat. (If this pattern were individual PDF on Ravelry for $3, I would have totally bought it because I’m lazy about knitting trial and error.)
My “pattern” is basically a square hat, with the corners tied off for ears. Same as book? I wouldn’t know!
Yarn: Berroco Comfort in Boy Blue. It’s a washable nylon/acrylic blend that is actually pleasant to knit with and I use it on nearly all my items for kiddos these days.
Needles: size 8 40″ circular, using Magic Loop method
- CO 60 stitches, divide for Magic Loop.
- K2P2 ribbing for 10 rows for a foldover brim.
- Knit in the round for 36 rows (or for the height of the hat to fit the entire head, then extra rows for the length of the ears).
- Turn inside out and use 3-needle bind-off. Weave in all ends.
- Turn right side out.
- Thread needle with yarn, and run thread from side “seam” 8 rows down, to top seam” 8 columns over on both sides. Tie in a square knot to form the ears. Leave ends as bows or trim.
I managed to finish all the decorations at 11:30PM. Bedtime until the AM and then, savory snack-making.
SATURDAY MORNING: Savory Treats before 9:30AM
Of all the days, Ben & I had to go to a bath showroom today to look at and pick out a bathtub for house renovations Round 3 (definitely for a different post). With the baby shower at noon, and the showroom opening at 10AM, this meant that all baby shower preparations had to be complete by 9:30AM.
Mac & cheese muffins
You can eat mac & cheese with your hands. Genius!
The momma-to-be does love her mac and cheese, and I really wanted to make these for her shower. However, I didn’t have cheese in the house, and it was really tempting to shelve this in favor of something where I already had all the ingredients.
I opened my eyes at 7:08AM, still felt like mac & cheese was the right choice, ran to our local grocery and picked up cheese in order to make this happen. Fork-free mac & cheese, what’s not to love?
I used Food & Wine’s basic technique: undercooked mac folded into cheese-enhanced white sauce (butter, flour, milk). I doubled the recipe for 1 pound of pasta and 24 muffins. I substituted 1/2 the amount of mozzarella for the American cheese. I added seasoned breadcrumbs to the parmigiano reggiano at the base of the “muffins” and also on top of the muffins to make a better crust and to add flecks of green color. I also baked in the oven at 375-degrees instead of 350 for about 20-25 minutes until the tops were super crispy and the bottoms held together, checking frequently to make sure they didn’t burn (too badly).
I left them out to cool, plated 21 of the 24 muffins, and left 3 to be devoured by Ben at some point during the day. He claims that they’re even better at room temperature, because of the increased crispiness factor.
Everything is better when wrapped in bacon. Yes, everything.
This was my original plan – bacon-wrapped apricots with sage. The prime reason was because I had some sage growing like crazy in the herb garden, we have apricots on hand for snacking, and I had a package of bacon in the fridge. I scrapped this for the mac & cheese muffins because I wasn’t sure about pregnant women and eating bacon. (Big Data must think that I’m pregnant with all the searches I do for what pregnant friends of mine can and can’t eat…)
While the mac & cheese was in the oven, I found myself a little idle…and craving some bacon. So the bacon-wrapped apricots were back on the menu.
Things I learned from the recipe:
- You really only need 1/3 a slice of bacon for each wrap—the flavor balance is perfect.
- You don’t need a whole sage leaf. I cut my leaves up, because I had a few GIANT sage leaves on the plant, and I also didn’t want to completely decimate my sage plant so early in the growing season. It was plenty sage-y and the flavor complemented the bacon so nicely.
- Seam-side down means you don’t need toothpicks. I didn’t believe it, but it worked like magic.
- YASSSSS…brush lightly with maple syrup. NOM.
I managed to get both these dishes out by 9:35AM and make us a breakfast with the leftover egg whites and some ham from the fridge. We were out the door by 10AM, and had picked out a tub by 10:50AM. (I could have mooned over everything at the bath/kitchen/lighting showroom forever.) Back in the house by 11:15, and off to the baby shower at noon. Productive morning all around.
Mac and cheese and bacon and apricots and sage. Eat all of the things!
Why did I put myself through all this? It would probably have been fine to pick up a vegetable platter and some dip and just have the registry gift. In fact, no one notices at a shower whether you actually brought a gift at all, and a late registry gift to the house would have been totally acceptable. Well, two reasons:
- I have a hard time backing off of my commitments. Once I say I’m going to do something, like “make a savory finger food”, I will MAKE the food unless it is completely impossible, or else I will feel bad about it.
- Handmade with love is my best love language. If I can give you a gift made with my time, that is the best gift that I can give you, whether the time is spent knitting, cooking, or just decorating the box that the gift will arrive in. I don’t need my recipients to treasure their gifts forever, just to recognize that I care about them. (Once a gift is given, it’s yours to do what you want with it, as gifts SHOULD be.)
People often tell me that I should sell the things that I make, but I don’t craft or cook for money, and I don’t think that I can be motivated to make things for people that I don’t love. Actually, it’s hard for me to get motivated to do anything that I don’t love. That’s a growth area for me.