December 2, 2012

An A-Door-able Wreath

   When I brother asked me to create a wreath for the door of our apartment, I'll admit, I sort of panicked. Not because it was such an extreme request, but because I realized that Christmas is real and truly on it's way and I have gotten almost no shopping done for family and friends. So instead of solving that problem, I took my brother up on his challenge and decided to make a wreath for our door (yes, the old standby of productive procrastination).

    For some reason, I felt the need to use ribbon in this project. After buying the ribbon, I had no real idea of how to attach it or how to make a ribbon wreath. So, while walking around the store, I bought a set of fancy pearled topped pins, figuring I might be able to wrap the ribbon around itself and pin it to keep it together.

    When I got home, I checked pinterest to see if I could find any good ideas, but none of them really spoke to me (they were either too girly or not fancy enough.) So I thought about my original plan, and came up with this easy 2 hr. wreath:

  • Extruded Styrofoam ring (mine was about 12" across)
  • 2 different colors of 2.5" ribbon
  • 2 or more different colors  of 1/4" ribbon (I had 4 - yay for 50 cent ribbon spools at Michaels)
  • Sewing scissors (believe me, using regular scissors on this project would have been ridiculous)
  • Straight pins
  • Tape (optional)

November 12, 2012

Picture Hanging Trick

    Our living room walls are incredibly bare; it is sad. To make up for the fact that we have no art that matches the look of our living room, I came up with the idea of hanging 5 monochromatic canvases I spray painted blue. I have 2 canvases of one size and and 3 of the other (odd numbers look better, but 3 wasn't quite enough and 5 of the same size was too big.) For visual interest, 2 are flipped vertical while the others remain horizontal. I worked all this out by laying them out on the living room floor and trying several different configurations until I found this one.

     And I will be honest, I hate hanging pictures.  Especially when I have to do math or use a ruler- two things that aren't hard by themselves, but when combined with my brain making things overly complicated, become impossible to use when hanging frames. But, I still like to have beautifully straight pictures that are exactly as far away from each other as I want. So I came up with an alternative method that my brain understands better.

October 27, 2012

Quick Tip- Sauce Portioning

Whether it is from homemade sauce or jars of store-bought sauce, I always have leftovers. Since they don't last that long, even in the fridge, I always freeze my sauces. But it can be messy to get sauce into sandwich bags, so I use this trick that I borrowed from my days working at a Bakery and filling bags with icing - shout out to Bobbicakes!

  1. Place a sandwich bag inside of a wide-mouth mug or cup. Make sure that the top of the bag folds over to the outside of the cup. 
  2. Place a funnel inside the cup and pour in the sauce (if you are super confident about pouring, you can skip the funnel part.) If any lumps stop up the funnel, shake it gently from side to side until the clog clears.
  3. Once all the sauce is poured into the bag, zip the bag closed. Then remove the bag from the cup. Mess free sauce portioning!

October 17, 2012

A Pumpkin Pake

Pumpkin Cuppake with a little bit of whipped cream on the side, sprinkled with a bit of cinnamon
      Well, technically, they are pumpkin cuppakes- cupcakes wrapped in little pieces of pie dough instead of the usual paper wrapper. Fair warning, this recipe makes for one heck of an awesome carb-filled biteful.
    For those of you who remember my first foray into baking a pake- it was a blueberry pie with a sour cream cake, aka a blueberry pake- I did it for the sake of Drop Dead Diva. They now have a recipe on their site for those wishing to make a pake, but all the ingredients are canned or come from a box (lame!) So, I set out to make another wonderful pake, this time with fall flavors in mind. My dad and mom came to visit last weekend, so I made these treats in my dad's honor since he loves pumpkin pie. And as much as I rag on the Lifetime recipe for not being "from scratch." I am not a total glutton for punishment, so I did use store bought pie dough and store bought canned pumpkin (if you want to make your own, feel free- I've done it in the past and it is delicious, if time consuming.)

October 6, 2012

Make A Card- Halloween Edition

Finished card- pumpkin patch
     Now, obviously, I am a bit early for Halloween, but when you send people things in the mail, you have to be ready earlier than the actual holiday. And when you make them yourself, it is even earlier, so I am actually on schedule this year to send them to people during the correct holiday (versus normal when I send Christmas cards as New Year's cards- whoops.)
     Cards still take me a long time to make, mostly because I am a perfectionist and I like to do as many of the pieces as I can by hand. However, I have shortened my hour per card standard a bit by using repetitive shapes and rifts off the same card style.

September 27, 2012

A Sour Attempt At Pickling

     Puns aside though, this was a colossal disaster: please in no way follow any of my instructions to make this or your hopes for pickles will turn into salty seas of sadness.
    My brother subscribes to get a farmer's basket every other month with various vegetables (I call it Hippy Harvest); a few weeks ago we got a few pickling cucumbers from the farmer's basket. Now, I love pickles. LOVE THEM. I used to be the kid who would buy a cup of frozen pickle juice for 50 cents while at the skating rink- Or, if I was feeling incredibly wasteful with my allowance, I would get an entire giant pickle. And while I can't quite stomach that much acid at a time any more, there is nothing I like better than sneaking a little crunchy pickle snack into my day.
    So, I thought, I should make my own pickles! What a grand adventure it will be- battling all the possibly dangerous bacteria floating around in home canned pickles (well, so say the critics). And of course, should I go with the classic kosher pickle recipe, using lacto-fermentation (mostly salt) or the modern stand-by (mostly vinegar.) Since I have had so many vinegar pickles, I decided to go with salted pickles. The theory is that as the brine increases in it's fermenting, the salty cucumbers will excrete salt in the form of a sour, tanginess. Or something more scientific than that. So the longer you leave the good bacteria to do it's thing, the more sour your pickles become. And they continue to ferment until they are eaten and "go bad."
     But for some reason, I didn't actually try to follow the recipe that the video pickle-guys used. Instead, I used a recipe from a random cookbook. And while I am sure the recipe was great, I apparently can't convert a recipe for one large crock into the three jars I ended up using. Instead of splitting the mixture between the three jars adn then adding water (as the directions for the crock recipe said to), I added all the salt mixture to one jar and then made a new batch. the amount of salt I used was a bit extreme (1/3 cup for the big jar and another 1/3 cup split between the smaller jars); this is expesially ridiculous when you look at the measurements from the first video (1 tablespoon per jar.) Yikes! As soon as I tried them, I winced in salt-shock and I was still tasting salt in my mouth hours after I tested them. I should have just put the slices over my eyes and called it quits for the day.

     I found a couple of really good videos explaining the process, which I will post below:

How to Make Dill Pickles with Lacto-Fermentation 

How to Make Fermented Dill Pickles 

September 11, 2012

Plant Buckets

Finished product- I actually have 7 hanging on the balcony railing, but it was hard to get a shot wide enough to show it
     Ok, for those of you that read my blog (or know me), you know what an avid gardener I am. One of the sadder parts about leaving home was not having access to garden spaces at my parents house. And with how stuffed my car was, I couldn't even fit my miniature pepper plant or my - admittedly large- aloe plant on my trip to Houston.
     Living in a second floor apartment now, I only have access to two tiny balconies (ok, technically one since the other is my brother's.) But I can't live without plants either. So I decided to maximize space by hanging the plants instead of clustering them on the floor of the balcony. This isn't necessarily a novel concept, but I didn't want to spend a bunch of money on a fancy pantsy "do-it-yourself kit" when I know I could do it myself.
      I went to Tuesday Morning and happened to find these little buckets for $1.50 each. They are a great size to start off with for what I needed at the time, but I will probably have to expand as the plants grow. Cooking is really important to my brother and herbs are great plants to start out with as I get used to growing in this new climate (so tropical- I want a citrus tree!)

August 29, 2012

Curtain Drama, Part 2

Hello again,

Measurements (1.5 X length; add 6" to height)
     I just finished the curtains for my room. This project was full of decisions, starting with whether or not I wanted to buy commercially made curtains or make my own. The window in my new bedroom is rather large (74"x 60"), which means usually means expensive. An added challenge was the amount of light being let through at all times- my room was as almost as bright during the day as at night- which was the whole reason I thought of doing curtains. I needed to make sure I got black out material to solve this problem.

    After looking at multiple stores to curtains, I decided to make my own. All the ones I saw were either too childish (bright colors, sheer, glitter) or too grown up (boring colors, muted tones). I really needed something in between, so onward and upward to the fabric store. I went to Jo-Ann's, and though I will be the first to admit they aren't my favorite craft store, they did have a home decor section with blackout curtain material. The Hobby Lobby across the street did not (...I miss you hancock fabric).
Blackout fabric: middle seam   Make sure so sew both sides of the seam (1/8") so that one side doesn't flap open

August 27, 2012

Curtain Drama, Part 1

     I desperately need curtains in my bedroom. After being attacked by something (eww, creepy bugs that bit my face) on our family reunion in upstate NY, I threw out my face sleeping mask. When I moved to Houston, I realized how much light came into my room at night, but couldn't bring myself to buy another mask just in case it happened again (eww, creepy bugs that bit my face). Curtains were the answer!
     The story of how I finally got my curtains will be in the next part post. This is the story of how I made my curtain rod. After wandering around Home Depot for almost 2 hours, I was emotionally exhausted. Who knew putting up curtains and a shelf in my closet would be so draining? All the curtain rods for a window my size were ridiculously expensive ($27-$32) and I would still have to buy curtains to put on these rods. The tension rods, while cheaper, wouldn't be able to hold up the amount/weight of fabric that my curtains were sure to have being blackout style. 
Curtain Rod assembly, once complete: Closet rod + U conduit clamp + screws + end caps + spraypaint

August 24, 2012

Measure Twice, Cut Once

    Ah yes, the age old adage: measure twice, cut once. Meaning that if you take proper time to figure out what you are going to do with a project before jumping in willy nilly, you (hopefully) won't have to do it over again.  But I have never been one to listen to tried and true wisdom and In dislike tedious calculations (I'd rather eyeball it- which made my decision not to pursue architecture fairly obvious.) So, instead I ended up having to do much more trouble shooting with these three projects than I would have if I had just measured and thought about what I was doing before I started sewing.
Finished product: 2 metal slats that make up the tiers, covered in a fabric sleeve to keep shoes from falling through

    I have lots of fun projects to tackle now that I am living in Houston, Texas. So, first things first: make sense of my shoes. My brother gave me a shoe rack with 3 tiers a while ago, however, whenever I used it, my shoes would always fall through. Basically, it is missing the middle metal rung on each tier (no idea what happened to them...) When I moved, it got taken apart and it was the perfect opportunity for me to fix the problem. My solution? Making sleeves out of fabric (I was thinking of wrapping paper at first, but I didn't go for that as I had more fabric and no wrapping paper). It probably would have worked fairly well with the paper, but fabric will stand the test of time for sure.

It looks classier with fabric sleeves
     This, of course, should have been an easy problem. You have a length/width of fabric and you measure around the bars. I could have wrapped a piece of string around this and measured. Easy right? But I didn't do it that way. Instead, I tried to use a length of fabric I had left over from a previous project, thinking that sewing the ends together I would have plenty of room. Not so much. However, I carried on, squeezing it over the rungs/tiers and making the next two sleeves. Unfortunately, when I went to screw in the second set of screws, I had a bit of a problem on my hands. The material was too tight on one end (yes, on all three of the pieces.)

     So I had to take it apart and sew on a scrap length of fabric to make it fit. Not my most stellar craft moment, for sure.  After that, they fit. Thank goodness.

August 5, 2012

Avacado Ice Cream?

     Ok, when I saw this recipe on Alton Brown's website and had to try it. After all, I absolutely love avacados- a well made guac is where it's at, but avacados are at their finest plain with just a bit of salt.  The texture thing can be a big issue for some people, but it doesn't bother me at all. And they have a good amount of fat (one day it's "good" and the next its back on the "no no" list), which makes them a perfect ingredient for ice cream.
     Yes, ice cream!
Getting ready to use my Kitchen Aid ice cream attachment; reading the instructions and assembling

July 10, 2012

A Blueberry Pake

   In the last month or so, I finally decided to move to Houston, TX (shout out to my brother Chris!) So I have been thoroughly busy deciding what to take instead of making anything new. However, I had the day off on the fourth of July and I wanted to bake! I wanted something "American" - and I had a lot of blueberries just waiting to go bad before I could eat them all- so I immediately thought of making blueberry pie. I mentioned this idea to my boyfriend, who said, "oh I hate pie, I like cake better" and that blueberry pie dream was killed. Of course, I never really love fruit pies myself and I know how much work they take (hello lattice crust: my worst nightmare), so I wasn't entirely mad at my BF for pointing his preference out.

But what else could I make?
Of course, of course! A Pake!

    If anyone else out there is addicted to Drop Dead Diva, they will immediately know what I am talking about since Stacy's Pakery has been in the plot-line for the show for a while now.  For all those others though, a pake is a pie recipe mixed with a cake recipe. If you search for "pake" on google, you will get a fully made pie inside of a cake (aka too much work). Instead, my pake has a pie crust and the bottom half is fruit filling; the top half is a sour cream cake. Goodbye need for a lattice top.

June 15, 2012

Steampunk Jewelry, Part 2

My friend Courtney reminded me today that I haven't posted anything new here for almost a month. Mainly, this is because I haven't had any new crafts to post about because I have been working so hard on getting ready for my first show at Soonercon (a comic convention in Oklahoma). I was making pendants (refer back to my first post about this topic) and my life exploded steampunk.

     Everyone in my family kind of jumped on board, from helping me take apart watches to coming up with new things to make steampunk-esque. My grandfather had a huge collection of keys, including some awesome skeleton keys, so those began to feature prominently in my work.

     Today was the first day of the convention and it was an interesting experience (shout out to: the guy who bought my very first piece; the girl who picked out my mother's favorite; and the little girl who loved the shiny, bling-ed out keys- thanks!) I will be putting up a page devoted to my work, so check back later for more on that.

May 22, 2012

Get Organized

      This is a project we've needed for quite some time: Cleaning up the workbench. Usually, it's such a mess that you really can't find anything you need in order for it to be productive. So over time, it gets used less and less because it isn't easily accessible and you can't ever find the tool you are looking for.  My dad is a bit of a tool hoarder (sorry dad, the truth had to come out sometime)- even if it is rusty or doesn't work well, it is kept just in case "it could be of use someday"
Just look at the amount of tape I used to make all these labels! (To the left of the storage bin)
     He already has one storage bin for small pokey things (nails, screws, molly bolts, washers, etc.), but he still had more, overflowing from recycled butter tub containers. And, they were all mixed together, which just killed my OCD side. So when I saw another clear plastic storage bin at a garage sale, I jumped on it like there was no tomorrow. I gave it to him for Christmas- he wasn't as humored as I was. He put it in the garage, on top of the workbench on its side and eventually piled stuff on top of it rather than actually using it. I hinted that perhaps we should clean the workbench after the drawer planter project, but he was decidedly ignoring my pleas.

    Of course, I couldn't just leave it like that! So I busted out my favorite tool, the label maker, and went to work. We still have 50x the amount of tools we need, but on the special occasion that I am looking for a brayer, a cordless drill, and a level, I have 3 of each to pick from, which makes me happy.

May 18, 2012

Garden Tripods

   Yes, yes, yes. I will admit, I am on a bit of a gardening craft kick right now. I'm sure it will end soon, with the full heat of an Oklahoma summer looming. Blech. 100+ degree weather is not the best environment for plants.

    Which means I must get it out all now, right? This week, I made an easy garden tripod with just 3 simple materials (plus a pair of scissors)! Awesome, right? But I can't take any of the credit. I actually found great instructions to the project online, here. Anyway, it was a snap to put together these bamboo poles. The only adjustment I made was cutting down the bamboo to fit the needs of a small climbing vine rather than using an entire length of bamboo for each leg. This also allowed me to be able to make more support structures for the vines. So let's grab some leftover bamboo and get climbing.

April 18, 2012

Garden Name Sticks

Finished product
      After the doozy of last post, I wanted to keep it nice and brief. However, I'm still in the garden mood. I got an idea for this project when I couldn't find any metal dowels to use and after I tried banging on a metal spoon to make it flat (it worked much better in my head). When I failed at both of those options, I began rooting around in the wooden skewers and found some unused (and washed, but used) chopsticks. At first, I was just going to color coordinate them - because I'm organized like that- but I figured it would actually be better if you could see what the plant was.

      I need to make a ton more of these for all the various plants we are growing this year (onions, carrots, peas, blueberries, blackberries, squash, zucchini, lettuce, mustard greens, and tomatoes, plus a few others)! Especially since they are so easy. But to start, I focused on the herbs for my new garden center on wheels.

  • chopsticks, unfinished wood
  • permanent markers        (I used sharpies)
  • A fine tip black permanent marker

April 10, 2012

Gardening...on Wheels?

Finished project!
    Well, spring is here and being able to go outside again is both good and bad for my creative side. It means I spend less time indoors with idle time on my hands, but it also means more time spent in outdoor spaces. And since the backyard becomes an extension of our home in spring, what better craft project to do than one involving plants and our patio.

   Last summer, I found a few old drawers at an estate sale. The lady sold them to me and asked what I planned on doing with them. I said I wanted to make a planter out of them - of course, right? Now that was all well and good to say it, but actually getting there was kind of a struggle. First, I had to clean them out (they had sat outside all fall and winter) and put holes in them for drainage. Then I painted the decorative details purple and water proofed them using spar varnish. Next came the question of how to actually arrange them. My dad and I went through quite a number of configurations before settling on the final design. And then I was so happy, thinking all we had to do was put it together and we'd be done. But then my mom got in on the design process, suggesting we add height and wheels.

     Wheels? What? Why? But still, I was intrigued by the idea of a cart peddling herbs. So, we added old chair pieces and AV cart wheels my dad had lying around. And Tada! We were done, right? No, now we must paint the chair legs white so that they match the drawers. This is an example of a little input from others being a good idea, but too much having the potential to derail a project. My garden clock is ticking away, letting me know that time is running out for my herbs to be able to grow and flourish as the heated onslaught of summer peaks it head over the horizon, laughing that we are at a standstill.

March 7, 2012

Steampunk Jewelry

A sample of the pieces, right before they are baked
    As promised, I have a new craft for you, based on a steampunk aesthetic. Basically, this is a brass/metallic look including gears, sprockets, wires, etc. Steampunk is based upon an alternate version of reality; an idea of how our world would have developed differently if Victorian England had relied more heavily on steam power rather than developing electricity. There are tons of sources out there to describe how this look came about, so check some of that out for a better explanation. 
My craft zone for steampunk jewelry projects. You can see clay, embossing powder, as well as tools (in the soup can)
     My mom keeps checking out books on this aesthetic used in crafting and one of my really good friends recently went to a steampunk/scifi convention in Dallas that really got me into the idea. Especially when it comes to costuming and jewelry, I love make-believe and whimsy. This craft lends itself well to the beginner. Gathering all the little tidbits is probably the hardest part of the whole creative process. Luckily for me, I am a compulsive craft/object hoarder, so I often have lots of junk lying around dying to be played with and put in a project.

February 17, 2012

Baby Tees

The happy recipient
     So in my last blog, I wrote about wanting to combine silk screening with my slice die-cut machine. I found the perfect project in making baby clothes. This is something my mom has wanted me to do ever since I got the Yudu silk screening machine (to be honest, I think that is the real reason I got it.) But anyway, baby clothing is always so adorable and the pieces we love the most are always hand printed or hand sewn little jewels in a wardrobe.

    Since I was bringing over some of my weapon pillows for my cousins, I figured the newest addition to our family should also get a little something uniquely made. Why not a baby romper....with a throwing star or with my dad's face on it. A perfect baby gift, right? Ok, I thought so, my mother wasn't so sure. But honestly, she should be happy I put her idea (with a few tweaks) to actual use.  : )  Just don't throw the baby.

January 20, 2012

"Pillow Fight!!!!!!"

     So, it is still pretty cold here and I am still mostly doing indoor crafts (the papermaking has been saved for days where my hands won't freeze as I splash water everywhere in the garage).  Also, with Christmas came presents and one of my presents this year was a Slice machine! Basically, it is a die cut machine like a Cricut, which allows you to cut out different shapes and sizes depending on what design cards you have. I am really excited to start incorporating this into my cards as well as any new paper (or fabric) oriented crafts I do in the future.
Finished products, laid out like a plushy arsenal, ready for play
     Another fun project I am working on has to do with my friend Jordan. She asked me to create some pillows that would be more fun in a pillow fight, like a light-saber pillow, grenade pillow, nun chuck pillows, etc. I immediately jumped on the chance to try this new project out not only because it was a great idea, but also because it would allow me to use another fun toy I acquired recently, a YUDU machine. This is an all-in-one screen printing machine and so far I have had not only great fun, but great success using it.