Thursday, August 2, 2012

Bursting with Happy

Good company, crafting, and "Anne of Green Gables".  It doesn't get much better than that.  Last weekend was spent with my good friend Jodi.  This is the Pinterest inspired outcome of that visit.

Bursting with HAPPY
Fabric on canvas.  24"X36" if I remember correctly.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Foodie Friday - Pho

The utmost thing I adore most about Chicago is the diversity of cuisine. I'm not just talking everything from Chili's to Outback steak house; I mean real ethnic diversity.  Within about one mile of me, I have the choice to chow on authentic Vietnamese bahn mi, Mediterranean Shwarma and falafels that are out of this world, or Ethiopian grub in an establishment that frowns upon using flatware. Chicago is truly a foodies paradise and I am soaking it all in. 
Vietnamese Pho for dinner.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Throwback Thursday - Swank Clarinet Lamp

I used to play this lamp in 6th grade. :o) My dad helped me by cutting out and routering the base.  He also taught me how to wire it which came in handy later when I installed my car stereo. It's painted black with silver edging. The shade was given to me as a gift specifically for this project. It uses night light sized bulbs. This is my favorite project yet because of the sentimental value it holds.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Two Cent Tuesday- Tulsi

I've been terrible at posting lately.  Work has been a frenzy! In the evening I'm just too pooped to do anything. I'd like to sit with a cup of tea and space out.  One of my favorites is Tulsi because of its health benefits (described here). The box even says its "stress relieving and magical". :)

Organic India is the brand I always get and I think my favorite flavor is Sweet Rose.  As its name suggests its floral, sweet and mild.  There are others like Lemon Ginger and Honey Chamomile.  Its organic and fair trade certified.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Throwback Thursday - ATC's

Chalk, paper, ink, stickers

Paper di-cut, chalk, ink, sticker

Watercolor, ink

Paper, ink

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Two cent Tuesday - How to get half off organics

Organic food can be a little pricey sometimes but I've learned how you can get at least half off of your organic celery and green onions if you're willing to get your hands dirty. lil fish studios demonstrated how to regrow green onions.  I've tried two methods as shown below.
Method #1-Started

Method #2-Plant root tips in soil.

Method #1-After 10 days

Method #2- After 10 days

You can keep cutting the long greens, and they will keep growing new ones for a while. So technically you can get more than double for your money.  I'm still not sure what the ones in the soil will do since this is the first time I've tried that method.

After 1 week
With the celery, I cut the bottom 2 inches off then put in in a bowl with 1 inch of water until I saw little roots beginning to grow.  then I planted it in a small pot. Putting it in the water isn't necessary, rather it was for my own satisfaction.  I like to see things happening.  Waiting for seeds to germinate is almost agonizing. Another couple weeks and I should be able to harvest round 2 of organic celery.
After 2 weeks

Monday, May 21, 2012

"One small change" Update - Don't door my bro!

Its been almost a month since I posted the "one small change" challenge.  I had resolved to commute to work once a week for the first month.  The first week went well.  we left quite early so we wouldn't have to rush and traffic was light.  The second week, it rained everyday so we didn't ride.  The third week's ride was a bit rough because of some road construction and potholes.  The fourth week didn't happen due to my brother's mishap.

He was out riding for leisure when he was doored.  He took the corner of the door in his shoulder and it left a pretty nasty gash.  It took ten stitches to close it up.  His bike is un-rideable with bent handle bars and wheels out of true. Maybe I should get this shirt for him. Though she was at fault, the lady who doored him had the nerve to say she wanted money to fix her car.

Though I won't commute by bike until my riding partner is healed and in the saddle again, I'm still riding for pleasure.  This weekend I'll be taking my mountain bike out on some trails.

I'm also adopting one more small change.  Instead of buying boxes of kleenex, I'll be using hankies, as my grandpa used to call them.  Actually I have a ton of bandanna's that will serve the purpose and they will barely take any room in the washing machine with the rest of the load.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Foodie Friday! Canning tomatoes

My favorite food as a kid was macaroni and tomato.  I thought it might be a Wisconsin thing but very few people have heard of it, in or outside of Wisconsin.  I got to eat it on a pretty regular basis due to the fact we canned our own tomatoes.  Last weekend I put up some tomatoes and ended up with 21 quarts and as promised, I’ve made a tutorial.  Tomatoes are very easy to can and its one of the few foods that is acidic enough that you can do it without a pressure canner.  Its advised that you at least use a water bath but sometimes I skip it.

Set up
If you put up one bushel you can expect to get 18-20 quarts.  To prepare, wash all of your jars, and use the sanitize setting on your dishwasher if available.  Put a small pot on to boil with enough water to cover the lids for all your jars.  Put a large pot, filled ¾ of the way with water, on to boil.  This one will be used to blanch the tomatoes.  Also put a cleaned, extra large stock pot on the stove so its ready when you are to the step to put the tomatoes in.  Fill your sink with cold water to cool the tomatoes after blanching.  Put ice cubes in the water to cool them faster if you like.

Blanching and Peeling
Put 4 or 5 tomatoes in the boiling pot of water until the skin cracks or about a minute.  Its not necessary for the skin to crack but it’s a good sign the tomatoes is ready.  You don’t want to cook the tomatoes through.  Transfer the blanched tomatoes to the cold water and let them cool until they can be handled.  With a paring knife, remove the core, skin and bad spots if there are any.  The skin should peel off pretty easy.  If it doesn’t, blanch the tomatoes for 30 seconds longer.

Cutting and cooking
You can cut the tomatoes however you like.  My mom likes to quarter them, I like to make them 8ths or even smash them with my hands.  Think about the recipes you will use them to decide how to cut them. Put the tomato chunks into the stock pot and turn it on medium heat.  It’s best to heat the tomatoes as you add them because it takes a long time to heat the whole pot full.  You’ll eventually want to bring it to a boil.  Continue blanching and cutting tomatoes, remembering to stir the pot, until your pot is full.  At this point you may turn the burner to a medium/high but keep stirring it and make sure the bottom doesn’t scorch.  Bring them to a boil for about 5 minutes.

The jars have to be hot when you fill them.  You can put them in the sink and fill them with hot water, or put them in a hot water bath or if you time it right, use them right after the dishwasher cycle ends. It’s best to use a funnel and a large ladle to scoop the tomatoes into the jars quickly and cleanly.  Fill to ¼ inch of the top of the jar, then with a butter knife, stir around to make sure there are no trapped bubbles.  With a clean cloth wipe the rim to make sure there isn’t anything that could prevent a seal.  Place a warmed lid on the jar and secure a ring on tightly. This is where you should do as I say and not as I do and put your filled jars of tomatoes in the hot water bath to process for 45 minutes.

Now set all your jars in a place where they can cool without being disturbed.  As they begin to cool and seal, you will hear the joyous sound of the lids popping into place.  When the jars are cooled to room temperature, test to see if they all sealed by pressing in the center of the lid.  If you press down and it pops back up, it hasn’t sealed. That jar should be put in the fridge and used within a week.  The sealed jars can now be moved to where they will be stored. 

This time I also put a tablespoon of lemon juice in some of the jars.  I heard that you won’t taste it, but it will increase the acidity, and keep the color brighter.  We’ll see how that turns out.  If the lemon is undetectable, it sounds like a good idea for when I don’t use a water bath or pressure canner.  In the years that my family has canned tomatoes, I don’t remember any going bad.

I hope you give this a try!  Even if you only put up 4 quarts when the grocery store has a sale, it’s better than nothing. Please ask if you have any questions.

-UPDATE- I have opened and tasted the tomatoes that I tried putting the lemon juice in.  I couldn't taste the lemon at all, and they tasted just like the ones without it.  Every one of the jars sealed fine and tasted great.  I only have one jar left to last me until next tomatoe season.  I won't be using the lemon juice option again just because I don't want to add the extra step.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Throwback Thursday-Pointy Kitty & cell phone case

This is Pointy Kitty (free pattern), guarding her yarn stash. Looks like she snagged my cell phone case that I embroidered using the Urban Threads Cameo Mori pattern.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Two Cent Tuesday - Creative Memories Custom Cutting System

Cutting circles is such a pain sometimes when you're running around trying to find bowls or glasses that are the right size, to trace onto your paper.  When scrapbooking with friends, I've really enjoyed using the Creative Memories Custom Cutting System. Its templates are easy to use and making different sizes for matting is so convenient.  The blade sets in a groove on the template and you just guide it around. It keeps the blade straight, the way it should be, so it cuts nice and clean, unlike the Fiskars circle cutter that I have.  They have oval and fancy frames templates too and also sell replacement blades and a self healing mat. These are great for any paper craft.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Kool-Aid Swap

I follow Happy Daisy's blog and she was saying that in England they don't sell Kool-Aid but she likes to use it to dye wool.  We decided that I would send her Kool-Aid in exchange for something she handmade. She sent this lovely dream catcher as well as a painted fabric heart with an inspirational quote on it.  The dreamcatcher is already on my wall but I still need to find some materials to frame the heart. They actually both match my bedroom rather well. I love swaps!  Its so fun to get some nice handmade surprise in the post.

This weekend I'll be canning tomatoes, so a tutorial on how to do that will be up for next week's Foodie Friday!
You don't need a map to follow your will take you where you need to go.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Throwback Thursday - Paintings

Acrylic on canvas 12x24
 For both paintings I tried to replicate pictures I saw online.
Acrylic on Canvas 18x24

Bike painting for trade or sale

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Two Cent Tuesday - Soap Creations kit

I got the Innovations Soap Creations soap making kit and one weekend my mom, roommate and I tried our hands at melt and pour soap making.  The kit comes with a melting pot and warmer, a chunk of glycerin soap, and a mold.  The instructions are very simple.  Cut chunks of the soap, melt it in the pot, and then fill the molds.  The pot is like a hopper with a valve on the bottom so you can easily stop the flow while filling the mold.  However the melting pot was a major disappointment.  As the soap was melting it began to leak, unknowingly to us, all under the warmer!  We thought maybe we got something in there that didn’t allow it to seal completely so we cleaned it up well and tried to melt some soap a second time.  Again, it leaked out of the pot onto the counter.  We manage to make 4 little soaps with what didn’t leak out and added some essential oils and lavender flowers to fancy them up.  I would not recommend this particular brand to start your soap making adventures.  

Friday, May 4, 2012

Foodie Friday! Kombucha- My fizzy refreshing soda pop alternative

Because of all the great things I’ve heard about kombucha (a detoxifying, immune boosting, cancer fighter) I really wanted to like it.  The bottle of kombucha I bought at the grocery store was very vinegary though and expensive.  I decided to try making it at home where I could control the flavor and now I can’t stop drinking it.

Kombucha cultures, called SCOBY’s, can be purchased online or nutrition stores or sometimes found on Craigslist.  I learned from Bonzai Aphrodite how to make my own from a bottle of store-bought, raw, kombucha. 

Once you grow or procure your SCOBY, these are the directions to brew a gallon of kombucha:
Make sure that your items are very clean. 

Things you will need:
1 gallon sized glass jar
6 teabags or 4 tablespoons of loose tea
3 quarts of water
1 cup sugar
1 large spoon
1 medium/large pot
1 strainer (if using loose tea)
1 cloth or coffee filter to cover jar
1 rubber band or tie

Bring the water to a boil in the pot then add your tea.  You can turn the burner off and just let it steep for a couple hours.  You want the tea to be strong.
If using teabags, I stir in the sugar while the tea is still warm to help it dissolve, then let it continue steeping until its room temperature.

If I’m using loose tea, I let it steep until its room temperature; strain the tea leaves while pouring the tea into the jar, then stir in the sugar. 



Once you have basically sweet tea in your jar and its cooled to room temperature, you can put your SCOBY in.  Now you can’t use metal utensils because metal doesn’t react well with kombucha.  I like to put it in gently to try to make it float at the top.  It tends to do that usually but it’s okay if it sinks.  The new culture will still form at the top.   Then cover it with a towel, cheese cloth, or coffee filter and secure it with a rubber band.  You want to cover it with something that breathes that will keep any pests out.

Now set it aside for 3-10 days, depending on how strong or sweet you like.  The warmer your house is, the faster your kombucha will turn from sweet to vinegary.  Taste it every day to find out where you like it.

At the end of the week, you will notice that your SCOBY has 2 layers.  They can be peeled apart and you can use both to make more batches or you can store extra SCOBYS in the fridge in a glass container with a little bit of Kombucha covering them for later use or share with friends.  You can reuse a SCOBY several times but if it ever turns black or the taste is off, throw it out and use a new one.
If you want to add flavors, like fruit juices, do it after you remove the kombucha from the jar.  I usually add it in my glass.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Throwback Thursday! ATC's

Here are some ATC's I've made and traded.  For those of you who don't know, ATC's (artist trading cards) are miniature pieces of art that are traded but never sold.  The only rule is that it has to be 2.5inches by 3.5 inches.  They can be drawings, paintings, stitched, paper, tin foil, wood; anything goes.

The person I made this paper collage for requested a personal haiku.  This is the short story I based it on:
     A five year old giggles while waving a jar in the evening air.  Her bare, little feet, dance on the dew laden grass.  Grandma’s house has fireflies that come out at night to fly to the moon.  The little girl swoops to scoop a firefly into the jar and covers the opening with her hand.  She proudly carries her mystical lamplight to Grandma, who puts a lid on.  The girl asks to keep it forever.  Grandma said that if it stays in the jar it will be sad and won’t glow.  The little girl took the jar and unscrewed the top, watching the firefly flicker up, up towards the starry sky.  That little girl was me but memory is hazy now like a scene from a fairy tale.  

 This is buttons and colored pencil on paper for a "tree" theme.

 This stitched felt card was to help the recipient to spell out "kitchen"
 This is Warhol's Marilyn done in accrylics on canvas board for the recipient's "mini works of art" theme.
This little guy in his cute hat was embroidered on cotton for the recipient's "owl" theme.

Thanks for looking!  Let me know if you'd like to swap.  I'd love to have an ATC made by you! :)

Friday, April 27, 2012

Foodie Friday! Candied Orange Peels

My friend's mom grew up in Sweden in the 1950's.  At that time, importing fruit wasn't that common and at Christmas the kids would receive an orange in their stocking as a special treat.  So as not to let any of it go to waste, they would candy the peels so they could eat that part too.  I love chocolate covered orange peels and there is a store in the neighborhood that sells them for $25 per pound.  That seems a bit steep for part of a food that most people would consider garbage.  So in attempt to reduce waste and have delicious snack at a far reduced price I set out to make my own chocolate covered orange peels.  Here's how:  
Clean oranges and cut off ends

Score sections of the peel

Cut narrow strips, about 3/8"

Bring a small pot of water to a boil and blanch peels. Repeat 3 times to reduce bitterness. 

Simmer 1 cup water, 1 cup sugar and peels for about 40 min. Stir occasionally.

Place peels on a rack to drip and for the glaze to dry.

It was getting sort of late so I was going to let my peels sit over night and cover them in chocolate the next day.  I sampled one a few before bed and they were delicious.  In fact, they were so good just as they were, that they all ended up getting eaten before getting their chocolate bath.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Throwback Thursday

For over five years I've been a volunteer with Adopt-A-Pet. Now, I'm a webmaster, but in the early days I was able to foster.  I miss the kitties.  They were great victims subjects for my photo shoots.