Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Revisited: Frayed Fabric Rose

Remember the frayed fabric rose? This one's about two times as big and made of a silky polyester. Just thought I'd show a different version to you...
Due to the last several posts... can you tell I spent my evening in my fabric flower garden? :)

Sassy Silk Sunflower

Time Needed: 10 minutes
Level of difficulty: easy
Materials needed: silky material (like a polyester), felt, beads, a flame source, hair clippie
Directions: Cut several circles in various sizes. Then, make big incisions around the edges of your circles (like, up to 1/4 inch big - they shrink during the next step). Stick the edge near the flame and watch it curl up. This gives the edge a really cool look. Once sufficiently singed, glue the pieces together largest to smallest. Glue felt to the back so you can't see it but so that it's reinforced. Glue a clippie to that, glue some beads to the center, and you're good to go! If you want to go back and visit the frayed fabric rose and put one of those in the middle, like I did in the picture, go for it. I used brown ribbon for that. Just an idea!

2-D Silky Rose

Time Needed: 10 minutes
Level of difficulty: easy
Materials needed: silky material (like a polyester), felt, beads, a flame source, hair clippie
Directions: Cut several circles in various sizes. Stick the edge near the flame and watch it curl up. This gives the edge a really cool look. Once sufficiently singed, glue the pieces together largest to smallest. Glue felt to the back so you can't see it but so that it's reinforced. Glue a clippie to that, glue some beads to the center, and you're good to go!

Crinkle Rose

Time Needed: 10 minutes
Level of difficulty: easy
Materials needed: silky material (like a polyester), felt, thread, needle, a flame source, hair clippie
Directions: Cut a long strip out of the fabric and do a big scallop on the edge. Stick the edge near the flame and watch it curl up. This gives the edge a really cool look. Once sufficiently singed, do a loose stitch through the length of the fabric on the opposite end than the burning took place. Pull the thread tight to get it crinkled. Use the glue to glue the crinkles in place so it looks like a rose. Glue felt to the back so you can't see it but so that it's reinforced. Glue a clippie to that, and you're good to go!

Felt flower

Time Needed: 5 minutes
Level of difficulty: easy
Materials needed: 2-3 pieces of different colored felt, glue gun, scissors, a few beads, hair clippie
Directions: Cut 3 or so circles out of the felt at different sizes. Lay them on top of each other and glue them together. Glue the beads on the top, and the barrette on the back. That simple, and that cute!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Garlic Infused Olive Oil

Once you try it, you'll never cook with regular olive oil (or even cooking spray) again.

Time Needed: 10 minutes
Level of difficulty: easy
Materials needed: 1 clove of garlic, 1 bottle of good quality extra virgin olive oil, glass oil bottle (optional)
Directions: Peel the clove of garlic and slice each clove into 1/8 inch slices (don't slice too thin or you'll burn them). You'll probably only want to use 7-10 cloves, depending on how garlicky you like things. Pour about an inch of oil into a pot and toss in your cut garlic. Bring to a simmer and cook for 2-3 minutes or until the cloves start to brown. You want to cook them until they change color or you run the risk of breeding botulism, which we can all agree is nasty. Once the garlic is cooked (and your kitchen very pungent), pour in the rest of the oil so that the flavors can mix. Pour the oil into the glass bottle, or if you prefer, back into the bottle you bought the oil in. Place some of the cooked cloves into the bottle before re-capping. This not only makes it look really cool but keeps the garlic flavor strong. Don't worry - it won't get too strong if you leave lots of cloves in. Use in all your recipes as a non-stick cook spray. Because it's olive oil, it's full of omega-3's and is a heart healthy oil. As long as you use it sparingly, it's actually good for your body to take some of it in. And, let's be honest, you'll probably want to make yourself a loaf of Italian bread, pour some oil into a dish, and dip your bread in it to your heart's content. I won't tell anyone that you did. It'll be between you and me...

Helpful Hints - Design Transfer

When working with fabric, you're often left trying to transfer a design from paper to the fabric. I haven't tried this idea personally, but one of my coworkers swears by it. What you do is you buy cheap laminating paper at the craft store. You put that in your printer and print your design on it from your computer. Regular ink works just fine. Anyway, then you put your newly printed design face-down on the fabric and you use an iron on a cool setting to transfer the ink to the fabric. Then, sew or paint or whatever on the fabric, and then send it through the wash. Supposedly, the ink comes out in the machine with just regular detergent. Now how's that for an idea!

Hand Embroidery - How To

I was reading that last post and realized that, if you've never done stitching before, those directions are hard to follow. So, I've created a picture tutorial of how to "trace the line" with your embroidery needlework. Let's see what we've got here:

We start with the fabric already drawn on and in the hoop, like this:
Then, draw the thread up through the fabric at the beginning of the design:
Move a few millimeters forward, and pull the thread back on through the fabric:
Now, on the back of the fabric, move a few millimeters forward still and that's where you're gonna pull the thread through. Think of it like this: From here on out, you'll be working backwards. Only that first stitch goes forwards:To connect the line, work backwards and poke the needle back down where you ended your previous stitch:Once it's pulled all the way through, it'll look like you've traced the line, like this:
Continue the process until you finish tracing your design.

And now you know how to do a simple trace with your embroidery designs. Yay!

Also, for your information, it's typical that embroidery thread comes 6 strands thick. Usually, unless you want a really thick line, it's standard to take two of the strands out, thread those through the needle, and use only those. But, do whatever you want to make your project how you'd like it to be. After all, these are just ideas for you to run with. :)

Friday, September 24, 2010

Cute Kitchen Sign

Time Needed: 1 hour
Level of difficulty: easy
Materials needed: picture frame, scissors, embroidery thread, needle, embroidery hoop, fabric, quilt batting, pencil, computer and printer (optional)
Directions: Use your computer to print out the design you want to embroider. Then, trace it on to the fabric. (Or, just free-hand your drawing on the fabric.) Put the batting behind the fabric and put it in the embroidery hoop. Then, use the embroidery floss to trace the outline you drew on the fabric. This is done by poking the needle through the top of the fabric and then poking it back down a few millimeters forward and pulling the thread through. The next stitch will poke through a few millimeters ahead of the completed stitch and work backwards to where you've previously stitched from. This gives a clean, thin, even line. Continue until done. Then, use the cardboard form in the frame to back the finished stitched product and put it in the frame. Hang and enjoy!
Hint: when cutting your fabric to size, leave at least an inch extra on all sides to be able to fold around the cardboard when you're done. If you cut it exactly to the size of the glass in the frame, you're gonna have a REALLY hard time putting it in the frame without jaggedy edges or blank spots showing up. This extra inch or so gives you room to pull the fabric tight around the cardboard. I usually tape mine firmly into place on the back to make sure they don't go anywhere.
(PS - Don't judge that the wall under the picture frames is wet. I just did dishes and decided to wash down the wall as well. Promise it's clean!)

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Craft Flashback

My parents recently moved, and when they cleaned house, they found this. My Grandma Maurine made this for me when I was born. My grandpa cut the wood for her and she painted the whole thing. What a fun find!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Upgrading Existing Products

Today, I went into Michael's craft store, and all their plastic gourds and pumpkins were on sale. I bought a green and white one to go with my orange one I already had at home. Problem is, the orange and green ones have frillies on the top, and the white one was plain. It started out like this:Well, if you'll remember my Flavors of Fall Door Wreath, I have a few little things laying around that I can use to froof things up a bit. I punched some holes in the top of the pumpkin near the stem and inserted a few leaves and curled wire. I then superglued them in place so they wouldn't fall out, and now it looks more like this:
Now it matches the other two pumpkins just perfectly. See?

Flower Arranging Made Easy

Do you ever get a beautiful bunch of flowers from the store or from your love, only to have them look all floppy and awkward once you put them in a vase? Well, I found this great, new product the other day.What this is is a wire arrangement holder. You put it on the top of your vase, bend it over the edges, and stick your flowers in. This holds the flowers in place without having them flopping around.
Once you get all the flowers in, your arrangement looks much more like the following shot than the average floppy vase flower placement.
Isn't that nice? I bought my wire holder for about $4 at my local super store in the plant/flower section. Definitely a worthwhile investment!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Homemade Liquid Laundry Soap

This is a fabulous feature that showed up originally on my cute friend Nicole's blog!

Time Needed: 5-10 minutes
Level of difficulty: easy
Materials needed: 1 bar fels naptha soap, grated, 1 cup arm and hammer washing soda, 1 cup borax, 2 1/2 -5 gallons of hot tap water, 1 5-gallon bucket, containers to store soap in (like old detergent or juice bottles)
Directions: Heat up a pot of 8 c. water (don't bring it to a boil!- also anywhere from 4-16 cups works, just make sure you know how much you use!). Dump in your grated fels naptha soap and wait for it to dissolve, stirring occasionally, if desired. Dump into a 5 gallon bucket and add borax and washing soda. Make sure both are dissolved and add your water. If you go with 5 gallons just fill up your whole bucket, don't worry about measuring. If you do less than 5 gallons, there are 16 cups in a gallon. Stir a bit to make sure it's mixed. then, using a funnel and something to scoop with (I use a 4 cup liquid measuring cup) put your detergent into your containers.

NOW: to explain the difference in amount of water used. Helen, a friend of mine, has 7 boys ages 2-16, I believe. She uses the 5 gallon recipe and puts in roughly 5/8 cup detergent to each load. I imagine with boys (though hers seem pretty clean) the clothes are sometimes nice and dirty, and she has no complaints about her soap not working. Hilary uses the 2 1/2 gallon recipe and uses 1/2 cup unless the load is really dirty, when she uses 1 cup. So they've been using about the same amount of soap with very different concentrations. Last night when I made my soap I decided to meet in the middle and used 3 1/2 gallons (56 cups total) of water and plan on using 1/2 cup unless super dirty. I'll let you guys know if I think I need to use a little more.

This recipe costs about $1.50- $2.00 to make, depending where you get your ingredients!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Homemade Peanut Butter

Time Needed: 5 minutes
Level of difficulty: easy
Materials needed: 1 cup roasted and shelled peanuts, 1 1/2 teaspoon peanut oil, 1/4 teaspoon salt (only if using unsalted peanuts)
Directions: Put it all in a blender and blend until it's smooth as a baby's bottom. Want chunky peanut butter? Reserve 1/4 cup peanuts from the initial blend and put them in at the end just long enough to add some chunks. Just so you know, because this is homemade, the texture will be slightly grainy. I don't want you to get done and think you failed because of that!

Note: Don't have peanut oil and don't want to go buy any? You can use vegetable oil as a suitable substitute. Don't want to use oil at all? I've never tried it, but rumor is if you still blend the crap out of those peanuts, butter ye shall have.

The Power of Tin Foil

We all know that tin foil can be a kitchen creator's best friend. However, tin foil has about a bajillion other uses. The best list I've found was at Life Hackery, and I've reposted their list here, plus a few extra uses that I've found around the kitchen. Feel free to leave your tin foil ideas in the comments section!

1. Frosting a cake but you’ve run out of pastry bags? Just grab a double thickness of aluminum foil and roll it into a cone shape, leaving a small opening at the point. Fill with frosting of spreading consistency. Twist the top to close the cone and use the device to make pretty frosting designs on your cake. Admittedly, this whole process is easier with a plastic zip-close bag with a corner snipped off, but when aluminum foil is all you’ve got it can be a lifesaver!

pastry bag

2. Sharpen your scissors. In between professional sharpenings (or for those 99 cent pairs of scissors that you don’t want to pay to have sharpened), use aluminum foil to keep your scissors in top form. Cutting through 6-8 layers of aluminum foil will improve the cutting surface of most scissors.

3. Make an Aluminum Foil Deflector Beanie. You know, for protection from mind control enemies.

4. Shine up rusty chrome. With a bit of water on a wadded-up piece of aluminum foil, you can rub most rust spots off of chrome car parts.

5. Keep your oven clean. Tired of scraping burned-on food out of the bottom of your oven? Line it with aluminum foil before making something particularly messy. Don’t leave it in there permanently, however, because it can lead to oven damage over time.

cleaning the oven

6. Protect the heating element in your electric oven. For those times when you have to scrub burned-on crud out of your oven, cover the heating element with long strips of aluminum foil before spraying the inside of the oven with oven cleaner.

7. Make your soap last longer. Put a piece of aluminum foil on the bottom of your bar of soap to keep it from sitting in a puddle of water and wearing away quickly.

8. Make interesting cakes. Novelty cake pans in odd shapes are expensive. Get the same effect by using a regular cake pan but making a shaped liner for the inside. Make sure the liner is at least as tall as the edges of the pan and several thicknesses so it will hold its shape. This makes it easy to make that snowman or heart-shaped cake without spending a lot of money on a new pan.

a  cheeseburger cake

9. Make a sun box for seedlings. If your plants are growing crooked or looking less than healthy, cut off the top and one side of a cardboard box, then line the bottom and remaining sides with aluminum foil. Place your plant inside and put the entire operation in the window with the open side facing the window. The sun will reflect off of the foil and cause your plant to grow up straight.

10. Make a portrait reflector. Forget those super-expensive professional photography reflectors. Just cover a sturdy piece of cardboard with aluminum foil and you’ll have an excellent light reflector for portraits and still lifes.

11. Keep birds out of your fruit trees. Hang twisted strips of aluminum foil all over your fruit trees using fishing line. The light reflections and the sound will keep birds away from your fruit.

12. Protect saplings. Rodents and other animals sometimes chew on young trees in the winter. Protect your saplings by covering their bases with aluminum foil. Remember to change the covering periodically as the tree grows.

13. Re-soften hard brown sugar. Many people put hard brown sugar in the microwave to soften it up, but this can actually backfire and make the sugar harden even more. Instead, wrap the block of hardened sugar in some aluminum foil and bake in a 300° (Fahrenheit) oven for 5 minutes.

brown sugar

14. Keep the bottom of your fireplace or charcoal grill from becoming encrusted with soot. Line the bottom of your fireplace or grill with aluminum foil before starting a fire, then dispose of the foil after the fire is out and the coals are completely cooled.

15. Protect your furniture. Pets can’t stand the feeling or the sound of crinkling aluminum foil. If you want them to stay off of your furniture, cover the seats with clean aluminum foil whenever you’re not using the furniture. Your pets will learn within a couple of days to avoid sitting up there. You can also prevent them from scratching or biting furniture legs by covering them in aluminum foil.

16. Avoid moving the heavy furniture. When you want to quickly shampoo your carpets but don’t want to lug all of the furniture out of the room, simply cover the legs with aluminum foil to avoid getting shampoo on them.

17. Although we haven’t tested this tip (and it seems a bit dubious), it’s said that you can put a wadded-up ball of aluminum foil in your dryer with a load of clothes to reduce static cling.

18. Get creative and make fun sculptures with your aluminum foil.


19. Remove daily buildup on silver jewelry. With some common kitchen items you can make a simple but effective way to clean your jewelry at home.

20. If your TV and DVD player are stacked one on top of the other, you may find the picture is a bit fuzzy. This often happens when the electromagnetic fields from both devices interfere with each other. Place a sheet of aluminum foil between them to cut down on the interference.

21. When ironing, put a piece of aluminum foil under the ironing board cover. The foil will reflect the heat from the iron so you can essentially iron both sides at once.

22. Steam your silk or wool garments by placing a piece of aluminum foil on top of the ironing board and under the garment. Pass the iron over the garment from a few inches above the fabric while holding down the steam button. The steam will remove wrinkles without harming the cloth with direct heat.

23. Use it as wrapping paper in a pinch. You can glue or tape interesting cut-out pictures onto the aluminum foil to make it even more personal.

24. Make interesting Easter eggs.

easter eggs

25. Reflect heat into your house. Put a layer of aluminum foil behind your radiator when it is off and completely cool. When the radiator is turned on, more of the heat will be directed into the living area and less will be absorbed into the wall behind the radiator.

26. Keep pie crusts from burning. This may be one of the oldest aluminum foil tricks in the book, but it’s a good one. When baking a pie, cover the edges of the crust with aluminum foil at the very end of the baking time to keep it from browning too much.

27. Make a cool noisemaker with your kids.

28. Make a solar cooker. You’ll cut down on energy costs and experience a traditional way of cooking.

a  solar oven

29. Use strips of aluminum foil to wrap your hair, then coil them up to make impromptu curlers.

30. Cover doorknobs and hinges with aluminum foil to avoid having to take them off while painting.

Bonus Tip: In many locations, aluminum foil can be recycled along with all of the other household recycling. When you’ve used it for cooking and all of the other interesting projects listed here, just throw it into the bin along with all of your other recyclable materials to keep it out of the waste stream.

Create-A-Torium Tips:
  • Have a full-sized bread pan but want small bread loaves? Use a folded piece of tin foil to separate the two loaves within the big pan. You'll end up with super cute square loaves.
  • Want to save a bit of money? If you trust yourself to do this, buy an at-home highlighting kit and use tin foil like they do at the salon to keep highlighted and non-highlighted hair separate.
  • Cover a piece of patterned or shaped cardboard with tin foil (maybe even colored foil). You now have a cute serving tray that you can chuck when you're done.
  • Doing other crafts like beading, glittering, or using buttons and having a hard time keeping things in their place on the table? Bend a sheet of tin foil so that there are substantial edges and put your tiny pieces in your makeshift foil holders. Cheap and easy!

Homemade Butter

Time Needed: 5 minutes if using a mixer, 20-30 if doing by hand
Level of difficulty: easy
Materials needed: heavy whipping cream, cheese cloth
Directions: Put the whipping cream in a bowl, if using a mixer. If mixing by hand, put in a container that seals completely, and shake. Mix until the milk solids separate from the liquids. Pour out the liquid (which is, by the way, buttermilk, and is a wonderful ingredient for other recipes, so don't throw it out) and put the liquids in the cheese cloth. Squeeze the butter out, using the cheese cloth as a barrier between you and the butter. This will get the excess buttermilk out. Store in the fridge or freezer, and enjoy!

Note: This is for unsalted butter. If you prefer salted butter, just add a pinch of salt when you start the mixing process.

Half and Half Bread

Time Needed: 5-15 minutes
Level of difficulty: intermediate
Materials needed: 2 packages yeast, 1/2 cup warm water, 1 teaspoon sugar, 2/3 cup honey or brown sugar, 2/3 cup vegetable oil, 2 tablespoons salt, 5 cups warm water, 7 cups wheat flour, 7 cups white flour, 4 greased loaf pans, kitchen towel
Directions: Combine yeast, 1/2 cup water, and sugar and set aside to develop. Meanwhile, combine honey/brown sugar, oil, salt, and 5 cups water. Add all the wheat flour and mix thoroughly. Add developed yeast mixture and mix. Add the white flour 2-3 cups at a time. Knead for 10 minutes and then let rise until double (I let them rise in a cold oven with a towel on top - this keeps the temperature level and keeps moisture in). Once risen, punch down and shape into 4 loaves (this is hwy you've used so much flour!), which you will place in your greased loaf pans. Let this mix for 25-30 minutes, covered with a towel. Bake at 350 degrees fahrenheit for 35 minutes. Once done, cool loaves on a cooling rack. While cooling, you are welcome to brush the tops with butter or oil to increase sheen and slightly increase flavor, but it's awesome without it.

Disclaimer: I have a friend who does NOT eat any carbs. This has been her rule for years, starting even before the Atkins craze. I made her a loaf for her kids. When her daughter opened the package I'd put the bread in, my friend said the smell was so intoxicating, she had to try it. She said the crust was crispy and the inside was so soft. She said that before she knew it, she'd eaten half of the loaf herself! Now if that's not a vote of confidence for the recipe, I don't know what is!

Strawberry Peach Freezer Jam

Time Needed: 15 minutes (plus 24 hours of sitting)
Level of difficulty: easy
Materials needed: 2 cups crushed strawberries, 1 1/2 cups crushed peaches (I throw both in the blender to crush), 7 cups sugar, 3/4 cup water, 1 package pectin (such as Sure Jell), 6 or so pint-sized Tupperware containers with lids
Directions: Combine your fruit mix and sugar and let sit for 10 minutes. Once that's had time to marinate, boil your water. Once it's boiling, add the pectin and boil for one minute. Then, add to the fruit and stir for 3 minutes. Put in freezer safe Tupperware and let sit on your counter for 24 hours. Then put one in your fridge and the rest in your freezer. Woo hoo!

Variations: This is obviously a VERY basic recipe. It's amazing with any fruit by itself or any combination you can think of. Besides strawberry peach (which is our ultimate fave), we love strawberry, raspberry, peach, and mixed berry. For just berries, I'd go with 4 cups of berries total.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Sushi - A Beginner's Guide

Do not be alarmed - this isn't nearly as hard as it looks!
Time Needed: 5-15 minutes
Level of difficulty: easy to intermediate
Materials needed: short grain rice (cooked), sushi vinegar, nori (seaweed wraps), plastic wrap, plastic gloves, water, cucumber (sliced), carrots (sliced), cream cheese (sliced), avocado (sliced), crab (sliced), sharp knife
Directions: Once the rice has cooled to the point where you can stick your hands in it, add about a tablespoon of sushi vinegar per two cups rice to your rice and mix together. Then, lay a sheet of nori on the plastic wrap with the rough side down. Put on the gloves and spread a thin layer of rice over the nori, leaving a 1/4 inch spot untouched at the top. You'll want to really pack that rice down, and thinner layers of rice wrap better. Then, at the bottom end, layer the cucumber, carrots, cream cheese, avocado, and crab in a thin line. This is where it might get a bit tricky. Take the plastic wrap and use it to help fold the bottom over the veggie layer. Then, pull it back so that it is tight. Continue rolling up the length of the nori (the rice should make it stick together), using the plastic wrap to keep things in place. When you get to the end with no rice, take a tiny bit of water to just dampen this edge (think licking an envelope amount of water). Continue finishing the roll (the water will seal the end). Use your very sharp knife to cut the roll into individual pieces, and enjoy.
  • Don't think you like sushi? It's rice and veggies at this stage. If you like those, you'll like sushi. The seaweed flavor is actually very good and very minimal.
  • Don't ever make raw fish sushi at home. Restaurants who do this are trained and know what they're doing. They have ideal situations and are specialized. Don't risk it and make yourself sick.
  • Another good ingredient is tomago, or a scrambled egg mixed with a little soy sauce and sugar. Cook like an omelet, slice, and add to your roll.
  • Cooked shrimp, whether purchased cooked or bought and fried in tempura batter, is an excellent addition as well.
  • We use imitation krab and love it. Real crab is great, but is expensive. Don't use canned crab - it's terrible.
  • If you're feeling REALLY brave, go buy unagi at your local Asian market. It's eel. If cooked, it's actually really good.
  • This is fun to mix and match. Add sesame seeds, try brown rice, add spicy mayo, do whatever you want. It's also a fun party activity to have everyone help prepare the ingredients and make their own rolls.
  • When you cut the rolls, stuff is gonna poke out the ends. No worries - it's a snack for the chef! Plus, sushi chefs use these pieces to liven up their place settings.
  • Don't be intimidated - it's fun and really easy once you get the hang of it. The caterpillar looking roll we made is from just playing around and being creative. You'll notice the rest are very plain. Experiment and have fun with it!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Flavors of Fall Door Wreath

Time Needed: 5 minutes
Level of difficulty: easy
Materials needed: woven wreath, 3-4 clumps of false foliage of your choice, pliers, wire cutters, floral arrangement wireDirections: Clip off any excess length from your clumps of foliage. Stick the foliage into the woven twigs so they start to weave in to the design as well. Then, take the wire and wrap it around one twig near the base of your design. Then, wrap the wire up the design in a spiral, leaving about an inch between each coil. Be sure the wire is hidden in the foliage so it can't be seen. Once it's all wrapped, tie off the wire as before, and clip off. Add any extra wire where things need to be more sturdy.

Helpful Hint: I bought my woven wreath, wire and foliage at Dollar Tree. Because the foliage was 2 for $1, the whole project cost me $3.50. How sweet is that?