Friday, December 30, 2011

Mom's Lacy Scarf

I hope you're all having a great holiday season! I've had a fantastic week off of work just relaxing, visiting with friends and family, crocheting, and reading. It's been so nice! I'm not looking forward to going back next Wednesday and kind of wish I would've taken off all of next week too, but it really has been a nice break.

For the next few weeks, I'll be sharing with you the presents I made for my mom and sister for Christmas, as well as a few things I crocheted for myself. Today is this lacy scarf I made for my mom.

This was my third crocheting project ever (check out my first project, the basket) and I have to say it wasn't too difficult.. I didn't have to restart at all, and was able to just chug along once I got the pattern down. I used Patons Lace because it was the only brand of lace yarn I could find at JoAnn's. This yarn worked out well because my mom loves blue and it's also a very easy yarn to work with. It only took me one skein to create a 50" scarf, plus there's quite a bit of yarn left over.

You can find the pattern for free on Ravelry here (you will have to sign up for a free account but it gives you access to all kinds of patterns)!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

A Gigantic Salad

There's a food blogger that I follow who recently posted about her healthy habit she swears by: eating a gigantic salad every week day for lunch.

I thought this was a great idea because everyday when I go home for lunch (I have the luxury of living a mile from my work), I eat leftovers from the night before, which can be heavy, and make me sluggish and uncomfortable for the rest of the day. I decided to give it a try from the first day she posted it, which was Wednesday, and so far, I've been feeling great in the afternoon! I also don't feel quite as guilty about indulging on sweets later on either (like these Caramel Apple Cheesecake Bars I made a couple days ago), knowing that I had a great lunch.

If you'd like to read what Andie has to say about her habit, click here. She also followed up with ways to add variety to your salads.

Friday, December 16, 2011


If you're a crocheter or a knitter and haven't been on, you should really take a look at what they have to offer. I've only been on there for a couple weeks and I've found free patterns for the hat I was making in my last post (I'll share that soon!) and two gifts for Christmas. Here's a screen shot I took of a search for mittens that my sister and I are going to make together:

It's so easy to find what you're looking for, because you can specify cost, if you want crochet or knitting patterns or both, and if you require a photo. There are many, many more search options, too. You can save your favorites, browse projects and yarns, and connect to other yarn lovers. You have to register but it's free, and gives you access to everything. Take a look!

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Perfect Evening

Crocheting on my pretty new hat next to hubby and the Christmas tree. It was so peaceful. 

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

How to Crochet a Basket

Today marks the one week anniversary of my starting to crochet. In that time, I've made this basket, two gifts that I don't want to spoil by posting here yet, and I've started a hat for myself. I like crocheting so much better than knitting .. I can keep track of what I'm doing easier, the instructions seem clearer in patterns, and I'm not constantly dropping stitches. It's almost instant gratification. For this basket, I did have to restart three times to get it to look right, but it was worth it. On one of the gifts I made, I pulled out almost 400 stitches to restart, and it ended up looking great (although it's smaller than it should have been). I guess what I'm saying is that I'm learning as I go. It's fun teaching myself through blogs; there are a lot of good ones out there!

For the basket, I followed this blog's tutorial on how to begin the basket and increase the stitches to make a circle. For her basket, she added a stripe and kept the basket low, but I wanted a taller basket to store my embroidery supplies in. So, if you want to make a basket like mine, once you get done increasing your seventh row to 84 stitches, start the eighth row crocheting with one double stitch per stitch (no more increasing). After two or three rows, you should see the sides of the basket curling up. Total, including the seven rows of the bottom circle, my basket has 22 rows (seven increasing on the bottom plus fifteen normal double stitching). Hope you enjoy making a basket as much as I did! It turned out really cute for a first project.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Zuppa Toscana

This soup is so good that even though the recipe isn't mine, I felt like I had to share it with you anyway. I love Olive Garden unlimited soup, salad, and breadsticks. Zuppa Toscana is my favorite soup they have there, and I was overjoyed to find this recipe! I made it last night and it turned out great! Pair it with some greens with balsamic vinaigrette and you'll have a wonderful lunch .. plus leftovers for a few days!

You can find the recipe on Steak n Potatoes Kinda Gurl's website. Mine didn't turn out quite as pretty as hers but it still tastes amazing! The only thing I changed was rather than dicing the potatoes, I thinly sliced them to make the soup more like Olive Garden's. This reduced the simmer time to about fifteen minutes from twenty.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Struggling with Creative Distraction in Business

I’m distracted constantly. At work, at home, everywhere. I can hardly even work on a project without having music or a movie on in the background. I can’t even speak without getting so sidetracked by my thoughts that I forget what’s actually coming out of my mouth (this was a particular problem making presentations in school). Although most of that doesn’t bother me too much, creative distraction has been a struggle for me recently. Especially how it relates to dedication to my small, hobby business. I desperately want to build a small business selling items that I make. However my lack of dedication to a specific project makes it tough to commit to developing one line of items. As soon as I get a project ready to sell (aka clutch purses, fabric flowers, iPhone cases), I immediately lose interest once it’s online to be sold. I no longer care to develop ideas ... I just want to move onto the next thing!

My interests are ever changing, and I don’t know how to find a project to sell that will continue to allow me to explore different creative avenues and keep a cohesive product line. I thought I’d found it with the iPhone cases. I could print whatever I wanted on them, which allowed for some creative freedom, and I sold two within the first two weeks of listing them online so there’s some market for them. But unfortunately I still feel limited by the medium, and since posting them online, have began personal embroidery and crocheting projects. 

I really just need to split my time between my current interests and my business. As much as I’d like to work on the things that interest me the most at the moment, I need to continue being dedicated to my business if I have any hope of being successful. It’s going to be really difficult; especially because I have hardly any discipline when it comes to doing things I don’t want or have to do, and I feel like my time is limited as is. I’ll give it a whirl though! If you see new designs in my shop soon, that means I’m going through with the plan. If not, I’m probably working on something I’ll enjoy myself (and maybe share on here!)!

Do you have a distraction that gets in the way of your goal? How do you deal with it?

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Here I Am!

Here's some of what I've been up to since you last saw me:

With the help of my lovely husband, we transformed my hillside garden into beautiful raised beds! It took almost 200 retaining wall stones and three cubic yards of composted soil, but doesn't it look pretty?! Now onto deer control ..
Enjoyed my favorite season (even though I might not look like it here)!
Started making iPhone and iPod cases first for my new phone, then to sell on Etsy. I like the versatility that printing on fabric lends. Check out my Etsy shop here!
I've been going to the Ann Arbor Farmers Market on Saturday mornings. Nothing beats going to Kerrytown and exploring the market and the stores.

Turned 24!
Studied for and took the GRE. Now I have some more free time on my hands and don't feel guilty about spending it not studying. And, no, I didn't embroider this as an ode to my GRE studying days. It's part of a Christmas gift!
Invested some time into making Mario and Luigi costumes for the annual Thanksgiving Turkey Fry!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Easy Whole Wheat Bread in a Bag

I've had my share of bad bread making experiences .. making bread from a popular bread book only to have the end result turn out so salty it was inedible; letting foccacia rise on parchment paper which did not allow it to slide onto the bread stone then deciding to flip it over only to get it all over the inside of the oven .. yikes! This recipe for bread is so easy, I've made it several times without any glitches. I'm still going to work on my artisan bread skills, but for now I'm enjoying making homemade wheat sandwich bread. Here we go!

Sorry for this crummy on-the-fly photo! You get the idea..
Whole Wheat Bread in a Bag
1 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 packet dry yeast (or little less than 1 tbsp)
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp vegetable oil
2 tbsp honey
1 cup warm water
1 cup white bread or all purpose flour

1. Add whole wheat flour, yeast, and salt to a 1-gallon zip close bag. Shake it.
2. Add vegetable oil, honey, and warm water to the bag. Shake, squeeze, pound, etc. for about 10 minutes.
3. Add white flour to the bag. Squish it up for another 10 minutes.
4. Let sit in a warm place covered with a towel  for 1 hour.
5. Spray a bread pan with cooking spray. Add the contents of the bag to the pan and smooth over the top. Cover with a towel and let sit another hour.
6. Preheat over to 350 degrees F. Bake for 35 minutes.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Summer Veggie Pizza

This pizza is perfect for using some of those vegetables at the farmers market .. and for getting in all your veggies for the day! I was a little skeptical when I first tried this recipe a couple weeks ago, but it ended up being so good, I'm craving it for dinner tonight.

Summer Veggie Pizza
Adapted from Cooking Light
Prep time: 35-45 minutes, Servings: 4-2 slice servings

1 package pizza dough mix or pre-made pizza crust
Cooking spray
2 tbsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves
1 cup sliced onion
1 red bell pepper, sliced
8 oz asparagus, cut into 2" pieces
2 ears of corn, kernels removed
1/2 cup cherry/grape tomatoes, quartered
3/4 cup shredded mozzarella (add more if desired)
1/3 cup chopped fresh basil
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper

1. Preheat oven according to directions on dough packaging; prepare dough.
2. Heat a small skillet over medium heat. Add 4 teaspoons olive oil and the garlic. Cook 2 minutes then remove to small dish.
3. Add the remaining 2 teaspoons of oil to the skillet. Add onion and bell pepper. Cook 5 minutes then place in a separate bowl. Mix in the asparagus, corn, and tomatoes with the onion and bell pepper.
4. Roll out dough. Brush the dough with the garlic oil. Top with veggie mixture. Sprinkle on cheese, salt, and pepper. Bake according to dough instructions. After removing from oven, garnish with chopped basil and red pepper flakes.

Monday, August 22, 2011

My Sister's Birthday: Stenciled Tote Using Freezer Paper

I've been gone so long! I'm sorry, so much has been going on recently that I have not made it a priority to share. I'm actively studying for the GRE, which is very consuming both in terms of time and mental capacity :). Other things have been going on, too, that have made it difficult to write. Hopefully I'm back for good after my hiatus! I've still been working on things and documenting, so you should see a whole lot of catching up in the near future.

This project is so neat, I thought it was necessary to be shared with you. My sister's birthday was last weekend. We had a great day: went downtown to the farmer's market, to lunch then did some shopping before going to our mom's for dinner. I really wanted to make her something special because I feel like I've been lacking and last minute for everyone on the gift front this year. My sis has a totally adorable boxer who she loves very much, so I wanted to incorporate her dog into the gift. I've been looking at posts on using freezer paper for stenciling so I thought I'd give it a shot on a handmade tote bag for her gift! I know this technique has been around for ages but it was my first try and it worked perfectly. If you're going to try this, just don't believe anyone who says wax paper will have the same results. I did not have luck with the wax paper sticking to the fabric, so I had to retrace my stencil. See the results below! I hope to have the personalized tote and the patterned tote in my Etsy shop soon.
My inspiration.
One side of the finished tote.
The stencil.

The patterned side of the tote.
Pretty cool, huh? The tote is a soft linen lined with a fun cotton print, but didn't take a picture of that before I gave it to my sister. She loved it! Having her puppy on her tote is a good reminder of what's waiting for her when she gets home. She plans to use the bag to take her laptop to work. If you'd like to learn how to stencil with freezer paper, check out How About Orange's tutorial.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

DIY - Thread Holder

Welcome back from a beautiful Fourth of July weekend! Hubby and I went to his aunt's lake house yesterday to spend time with family. It was fun .. Other than spending five hours on the backseat of a motorcycle! Talk about tough on your body.

Last week on one of the rainy days I made this thread holder. I went to the store looking for a basic holder to nail to the wall, but all I could find was a very nice, but very expensive, standing holder for almost $20. So I put some thought into it and ended up with a thread holder that cost only 59 cents! I apologize for not having step by step photos; with it being rainy and dark, I couldn't get anything worth posting. This tutorial makes a thread holder that holds 18 of the small Gutermann spools. If you have larger spools of thread, you can use the same methods, just make sure to give yourself enough space between the spools.

What You'll Need
One 3/16" x 36" dowel cut into 2" lengths
A scrap piece of wood, approx. 1 1/2" x 19"
Drill with 3/16" drill bit
Wood glue
Paint (if desired)

What You Need to Do
1. Measure and mark a center line down the long length of your wood piece
2. Measure and mark every one inch down the center line to give you where your posts should be positioned. If you are using a 19" piece of wood, there should be 18 marks.
3. Drill your holes where you marked. It's best if you drill about half way through.
4. Dip your dowel pieces into wood glue and place in the drilled holes. Wipe excess glue with a towel. Let sit to dry.
5. Paint if desired.
6. Hang it up!

Super simple and for 59 cents, worth the time I put into it. I think I'm going to make another because I have too much thread for just one!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Easy and Fun Planting: Green Onions

I had no idea how easy it is to plant green onions, so I'm guessing many of you reading didn't know either. I needed green onions for a recipe this week so I bought some (99 cents a bunch), but then what do you do with the white, rooty ends of the onions? Throw them away? WRONG! You can plant them and they'll grow more green onions. Pretty sweet, huh? I had no idea, I saw this idea on a blog somewhere and decided it was worth a try. I cut each green onion a couple inches above the white part and planted it by burying the white part of the onion. Most have new shoots growing already (the photo above was taken a couple days after planting) and all of the previous shoots have grown significantly. Now you know ..

And if you must have all things green onion, bacon, chicken and cream cheese, then for the love of all things wonderful and delicious, try this recipe. You won't regret it.

My version of Kayotic Kitchen's Katucky Chicken

Monday, June 20, 2011

A Backyard Update

I'm going to tell you right now that this is not going to be a pretty post. It ends in pretty but everything else is really, really dirty. And it's a lot of photos, so if you're a picture person, you're in luck. Over the last month, hubby and I (but let's be honest, mostly I) have been working on our yard to get it exactly the way I want it. I guess since I want it a certain way, I'm the one who has to do most of the work, and that's okay with me. Take a look at the pictures to see how far we've come. First I wanted to show you how I dug out a garden bed on a Saturday afternoon. I was sooo tempted to make raised beds, but I really wanted to see what I have to work with first, before I started building up. If this year isn't as successful, raised beds will come next year.
Remember this? Ew. My plan was to make this into a vegetable garden, but it wasn't nearly as big as I wanted. So I decided to cut out a second area.

This is the second part of the garden laid out with string. I wanted there to be a path between the two so I could walk between. The path opens up on the right side to the house.
I staked it out using leftover wood from my trellis tutorial.
My neighbors don't go out much..
I felt it was significant to document how long it took me to do this. This is one hour in.
Two hours in (I promised myself I wouldn't cheat and get that little piece of sod out before taking the two hour picture)
After mixing bags and bags of manure, peat, and top soil into the clay soil.
This is what it looks like today. I planted the new bed a few weeks ago. We cleared out the jelly bean (the other bed) of the lilies, daisies and yuccas and I just fenced it and planted it two days ago.
That's it! Everything seems to be doing really well, but I still might make some raised beds by using stone for next year.
We relocated the jelly bean plants to next to the carport. They actually survived and are all going to flower this year!
Tornado warnings - it's why you tie down your trellis
I'll finish up this post with one of my favorite photos of the year. These are the roses that are next to our house. It was a great surprise to see what they would look like.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Stuffed Strawberries

These strawberries are the best, and the perfect part about them is you don't need to stick to a recipe (I'll still give you mine, though!). You can make them with just the cream cheese filling or add a chocolate filling too, like I just did for the first time. It's completely up to you. And I won't judge if you eat the leftover filling right out of the bag, it's too good to waste!

Here's what you need, plus two plastic bags to pipe the filling into the strawberries and a teensy bit of milk.
Wash the strawberries and take a knife to the center, cutting out the stems and a little of the insides (be careful!)
Mix together the cream cheese, powdered sugar, strawberry dip, and vanilla. In a separate bowl (not pictured), mix together the chocolate chips and butter. Microwave in 30 second intervals, stirring between intervals until melted and blended. Add a splash of milk and mix well.
Fill a small baggie with the cream cheese mixture. Close the top of the bag, cut a corner of the bag off and squeeze onto one side of the inside of the strawberry as shown below.
Next, spoon chocolate mixture into a separate bag, close the top and cut a corner off.
Squeeze chocolate mixture on top of the cream cheese mixture to fill the rest of the strawberry.
That's it! Soo easy and definitely worth the little time it takes to make these. Here's the full recipe:

Stuffed Strawberries
2 quarts strawberries
1-8 ounce package cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup strawberry dip (you could also try cool whip or yogurt for this)
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla

3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 tbsp butter
1 tsp milk

1. Wash and hollow out the strawberries. Lay them on their sides to fill.
2. Mix together cream cheese, strawberry dip (or substitute), sugar and vanilla until well blended. Spoon into a plastic bag, seal the bag, then cut a corner off of the bag. Pipe the cream cheese mixture into half of the strawberries.
3. Place chocolate chips and butter in a microwave safe dish. Heat in 30 second intervals, stirring between each interval, until melted. Mix in the milk until well blended.
4. Spoon chocolate mixture into a plastic bag, seal the bag and cut a corner off. Pipe the chocolate into the top half of the strawberry.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

DIY - Folding Trellis

I'm sorry .. I promised you a trellis tutorial last week and didn't follow through on it! I ran into so many problems with it, so I kept leaving and coming back to it. Finally it's perfect! Trial and error is the best way to describe it.  I've been keeping busy with other projects (you'll see those soon, too). I've finally gotten around to playing with Camera Raw to edit the photos; it's a sub-application of Photoshop. Camera Raw makes it super easy to make a great difference in the quality of your photos, here's a simple tutorial courtesy of Etsy if you're interested in finding out more. On with the tutorial!

I saw a folding trellis similar to this one at Lowe's for around $20. I am a thrifty person, and didn't want to pay that much for some wood and staples, so I decided to make it myself. Each folding ended up costing around $9.50 for wood and hinges (I borrowed the staple gun and staples). Half price .. not bad! Update: If you cannot find these slats at Lowe's, call around to or check at other home improvement stores with lumber sections (Home Depot, Menard's, etc.). I had a reader comment that she wasn't able to find these at her local Lowe's. 

Here's what you need: a bundle of wooden slats (these are from Lowe's and cost around $13 for fifty, you can make two folding and one single trellis out of this bundle), a pack of rust-resistant hinges (mine are zinc coated) or 4"x8" of heavy duty plastic (see hinge photo below), a staple gun with 1/2" staples, and some type of staple remover for mistakes (scissors, flat head screw driver, etc.). EDIT 3/22/13: You also will want some wood glue.

Make a square with four slats by placing two slats parallel on the ground, then two more on top of them. Glue then staple to secure. I would recommend at least two staples per joint.

Evenly space three slats parallel to your first two slats. Glue and staple in place.

See how the parallel slats all go under the slat they're perpendicular to?

Overlay three evenly spaced slats so they cross over the previous. Glue and staple in place, and glue and staple at each of the center joints. Let the wood glue dry per bottle instructions.

Repeat to make another trellis.

Screw in hinges at the corners of the trellises to join them together. Make sure you screw the hinge on so it will close fully when the trellis is folded. Double check! The hinge will only close completely one way. If you're brave, you can experiment with using a heavy duty plastic in the place of a hinge (think of those annoying packages that can't be opened without scissors). The folding trellis at Lowe's used a heavy duty plastic for a hinge .. in this case, you could staple on the plastic like it's shown below:

Taadaa! What a cute trellis. Here are some tips for keeping it standing up: 1. Make sure the trellis base is spread apart so it'll have a wider base and less chance of blowing over in the wind 2. Dig a trench and bury the bottom slats 3. Cut slats into four-8" pieces to use as stakes and attach to the bottom with zip ties 4. Secure the trellis to a tree or fence using twine or string