Technical Difficulties

Wow!  What a week this has been.  From my camera (a.k.a. my phone) refusing to let me get my pictures off it, my laptop’s battery being dead every time I  needed to use it, and a super busy schedule due to this past weeks pin party, I have not gotten a single post up.  Today that shall be fixed.  I think…I hope.  As long as today goes smoothly, I have all of the kinks worked out.  Lots of fun stuff in store this week.  Yummy recipes, more crochet projects, and boobs (I finally took the time to measure myself and found I was in fact, wearing the wrong sized bra.  What a difference it makes to have the right size!)

Stay tuned and I will have many adventures posted this week.  I am hoping to have one up today.

Didn’t do much today except make dinner

…and it was from left overs.  Yea, it was a low energy day, but dinner turned out great.  I figured since many people do ham on or around Easter, there is usually a lot left in the fridge.  And really, one can only take so many ham sandwiches before you want to throw the whole thing out the door.

I know some people who hate to read a blog just to get to the recipes, so I am just going to list it up here first.

2 big/3 regular servings:

2 cups cooked ham, cubed

2 cups cooked green beans, cut into about 1 inch pieces

1/2-1 tsp seasoning (garlic/herb blends are nice, or a salt/pepper/onion powder/garlic powder would work well too) to taste

1 cup finely shredded parmesan cheese (fresh tastes so much better than the green can)

1 tsp butter or oil

onepot

This was a super simple toss together in one pan and you are good to go kind of a meal, with only 4 ingredients.  How can you beat that?  So I have these darling friends who stopped by with a big old chunk of ham leftover from their family get together over the weekend.  It was really good, but I have this thing.  I hate, hate, hate eating the same thing meal after meal.  This girl needs variety, my guy…not so much.  Anyway, so here I am with this lovely hunk-o-ham, some green beans left over from last nights pot roast, and an empty belly.

beans

The green beans where whole, so I gave them a quick chop.  Used a micro-plainer to make a big fluffy pile of grated parmesan, and cubed up the ham real quick.

saycheese

I am currently without a stove/oven, but I have an awesome little tabletop infrared oven doodad.  (It is one of those as seen on tv sort of deals, but I couldn’t live without this thing.)  I plopped the ham in a stoneware dish with a touch of butter and cooked it on high for about 5 minutes until it got a little bit brown (for stovetop just place in a skillet and saute until a little brown) added the green beans, bout a tsp of garlic & herb seasoning (I used Weber brand and it is pretty tasty if not a little salty.)  Add the cheese, stir well and cook another 5-10 minutes until all if nice and hot.  Serve with an extra bit of cheese on top if you like.

dindin
See?  Super simple, all done in one pan and it helps to clear out the fridge of leftovers.  A win in my book.

A few tips

I have found Pinterest to be a great place for handy tips and trick, not just recipes, crafts and well everything else you can think of.

I just wanted to take a minute to share with you a few of my favorite ones (some that I have used for years and some that I recently heard of and put to use)

This one from Good Ideas For You

Drill

Place a paper cup onto the business end of a drill to catch all the drywall drippings when making holes in the ceiling.  Is that smart or is that smart?  Since I have a lot in the way of renovation projects coming up I thought I would put this one to the test, and it was great.  I wear glasses when I do that sort of work, but I found that I didn’t need to wear goggles on top of them (which is a great look for me, let me tell you)  You may still want to for safety’s sake

This mom shared a tip that I have known for years but sometimes forget to practice resulting in “bubble burgers” when you get a lump of burger that is mostly round.

thumb printWhen patting out burgers, after you form them, stick your thumb in the middle and compress the meat a little more there.  It keeps it from puffing up into the dreaded bubble burger

The lovely folks over at snapguide showed me something fabulous that I never figured out on my own.  How to hang a sweater without making it look like you did.  ❤

sweater saver

They have an 8 picture guide on how to do it, but it couldn’t be more simple.  Place the hanger with the hook at the pit, fold the body over one half of the hanger, the sleeves over the other half and there you go.  The weight is distributed evenly enough that you won’t get the ugly shoulder bumps you get when hanging them the traditional way.  As I am short of drawer space, and have a minor addiction to sweaters, this is a life saver for me.

I don’t know who Liniweenie is, but the girl(?) has some great ideas, and gets bonus points for creative reuse ideas.  In my house, we are doing the low carb thing.  So we go through our share of no sugar added drink flavorer.  Mios are great to punch up a boring glass of water (after 10-15 glasses a day, they can get a bit monotonous) I have seen and tried the ones made by Crystal Light and a few store brands.  They all have worked for this little travel container.

reuse is greatYou pull off the label,  pop off the top and you have a cool little travel container for salad dressing, soy sauce, any kind of condiment that is more or less liquidy works.  One person said they use theirs for lotion!  I love that.

A Cherry on Top shares a neat little tidbit on how to sharpen dull punches.

SharpYup – just punch a piece of tin foil a few times and you should be good to go.  (The same trick works for scissors) That part I had known, but she adds an extra hint.  Do the same with some wax paper to kind of lube up the punch so your embellishments don’t stick to it.  Clever!

I love Lifehacker!  They have so many cool ideas on there.  This tip is for grilled cheese for a group.

baked cheeseSo, it is more a baked cheese than a grilled cheese, but it is really an awesome idea.  I have done this when we had some friends over and needed to make more that 2 grilled cheeses. I think I ended up doing 6 at once.  You want to start by preheating your oven (I did 325 f) with 2 jelly roll pans in the oven to get nice and warm.  You butter the bread and assemble your grilled cheese, and place them on one pan and place the other on top of the sandwiches.  Then you just cook them until the bread gets crispy and the cheese is warm and gooey (Mine took about 12 minutes).  One thing I did was placed a large heavy skillet on top to mush the sandwiches down and ensure really good contact with both pans, you don’t have to go that route, but if you do, make sure your skillet is oven safe (no plastic handles) and be careful when removing it from the oven.

The next tip came from a dead end pin, so I don’t know who to credit for this (sorry!) but it is so brilliant I have to share.  At the end of the morning (or afternoon, or evening) pot of coffee, if there is any left, here is what you do with it.

iced coffee cubesMake ice cubes.  That way, when you have iced coffee, rather than having to make double strength coffee to keep it from getting watered down, you just use your left over coffee that you froze into cubes.  I also often make pot roasts or pork loins with a bit of brewed coffee (it makes them really tender) so I just toss in a handful before I turn on the crock pot.  I have been playing around with the whole Once A Month Cooking and for those I just toss a handful of cubes into the bags of food that still have to be cooked in the crock pot before freezing them.

My guy loves this one.  He thinks ketchup can solve most of the worlds problems.  Stuckihouse shared this fun little tip. Ketchup to the rescue!

ketchup to the rescueFreeze small ketchup packets for tiny ice packs for little ones or just small boo-boos.  Plus, when the ouch is gone, toss it back into the freezer and you can use them again.  I keep mine in a small ziptop baggy just in case they get used on a knocked toe or something like that.  Who wants feet grime in the freezer (and with kids you never know where they ended up before getting dropped back in the freezer)

The Gardeners Eden shares a tip about saving herbs.  I have the blackest thumb, so I buy fresh herbs in bunches and don’t grow my own, but I still have some left over before I use them all up.  I have historically just laid them on a jellyroll pan in the freezer and then transfered them to a container until I used them up.  This tip changes that idea up a bit.  (And I don’t have to clean out my freezer to fit the big pan in there – YAY!!)

HerbsThey added cleaned herb to ice cube trays and added oil (for frying) broth (for stews/soups) or a bit of butter (for doing herbed butters) all for use in the winter when the fresh herbs aren’t in abundance.  Once they have frozen pop them in a bag or container for longer term storage and label each one, just in case.  I have done the oil method and also used a bit of low sodium vegetable broth.  (I feel it is better to use something certified vegan rather than a mix of beef/chicken/seafood/veggie, in case I end up using them in a dish where our veggie friends join us, I don’t have to worry about if it is ok to use or not.)

No picture for the last hint.  It is one that I have done for years now – I know I ran across a pin for it at some point, but I didn’t repin so I don’t know where it lead.  I store my knives in the block upside down.  I have heard people rail on about how unsafe it is, but the handle makes it quite obvious that the blade is up.  If you can’t tell by looking at it, maybe you should not be handling them to begin with.  But I find that it makes things much easier.  I don’t know if it actual helps to not dull the knife, but it does keep the block from giving off splinters and getting pretty well marred on the inside.  So, use your own judgment, but in my house it works best for us.

Getin Knitty With It

Na na na na na na na…Sorry I have had that song stuck in my head today.  So, I found a stash of Wool Ease that I had purchased for a project several months ago, that was abandoned.  So I had this great ball of crisp white wool yarn, a cup of coffee and an evening to myself.  Instead of doing the million or so things on my to do list, I made a scarf.  Yup, that is what I felt I needed to do.

lump of scarf

Things have been moving very fast around here.   Things have been rolling along a bit too quickly for my tastes; I was feeling a bit overwhelmed.  I needed something to let my brain just mush and not have to think about anything.  Thinking along those lines I had this scarf earmarked for something to make.  I figured I would sit down, play some music, sip some coffee and just knit.

Boy was I wrong.  You see this scarf is adorable, a quick knit – or it should be at least, chunky and airy at the same time.  It uses a few very simple stitches that I am comfortable with, and I just couldn’t get it to come together.  I didn’t know what was going on.  Knit, yarn over, purl to together.  I know these.  But I cast on the number called for, and ended up with one less on the next row.  What was going on?!  I think it was my first yarn over that was tripping me up.

Since I know I am quicker and better at the knit stitch than the purl stitch, I thought I would mix it up.  The directions over at Labor of Love are great.  I understood them just fine, I just couldn’t get my yarn to do what I needed it to do.  (Go check out her lovely orange scarf.  I need to get that yarn because I am just in love with hers.)

What I ended up doing was reverse her directions.  And it worked for me!  I cast on the right number, 12, and purled my way across the first row.  Purl one, yarn over and knit 2 together for the middle ten, purl the last one in the row.  Flip and repeat.

Once I was sure the reverse directions would work I stopped to admire the scarf.

Once I was sure the reverse directions would work I stopped to admire the scarf.  I think this was about 10 rows?

It knitted up so quick and nice.  I was thinking this one would be a gift but I am kind of loving the clean simple white of this scarf.  Oh man!  I hate when I make something for someone, fall in love with it, give it away, and then plan to make one for me…later.  Because I never get around to it.  I can’t be the only one who does that, can I?  At least I know I would feel worse if I kept it for me and didn’t get around to making it for the giftee.

Going to have to call this one: Nailed It – mostly!  While mine fought back, and I don’t think mine turned quite like the one she made, I love it!  I don’t usually want the same thing everyone else has anyway, so I rarely set out to make a carbon copy.  Since it turned out really cute, and I am happy with it, it goes in the win column for me.

scarf

Yes, that is the fabulous new scarf. Now I just need to pry it off of me and put in a gift box….maybe =)

Crazy Cat Lady

You may not know this, but I am a crazy cat lady.  Or at least I hope to be one day.  I currently have 3 living here (and I am trying to justify getting more).  They do not get along well so one has separate living space.  The one that is alone is definitely a loner when it comes to other cats, but we didn’t know that when she first came to live with us.  (Yes, us.  Crazy cat lady status not withstanding, I am not an 87 year old blue haired lady who has 20+ cats and no guy.)  My Guy loves cats, too.  In fact, all of our cats where once just his.  Which is why he didn’t look at me like I was nuts when I told him I wanted to get the little one some furniture, I think.  The other cats have all sorts of things to jump up on, but our little one didn’t have a whole lot of places she could perch.

I had spend a good bit of time on a great site for Ikea Addicts.  I stumbled onto it via Pinterest.  I had seen some cool ideas to use some of the pieces from Ikea to make pet related items, and one was one of my favorite bookcases.  That was it.  I was going to Ikea and coming back with cat furniture, or the beginnings of it at least.

A simple to build bookcase, a piece of carpet and a pet bed is really all you will need.

A simple to build bookcase, a piece of carpet and a pet bed is really all you will need.

So I buzzed over to the store and picked up a 2×2 Expedit bookcase, an indoor/outdoor rug, some heavy duty Velcro, and got to work.  These cases are really easy to put together.  I did it by myself and I think it took 20 minutes or so.

20 minutes later…

I cut a piece of the rug to fit the top, about 15″ by 34″ as I wanted some over hang.  I attached this with Velcro so I can change it out once it gets torn up.  The original project that inspired this had rope wrapped around the side pieces so the cats could scratch, but knowing our cat, I knew the rug is what she would go after so I didn’t bother with the rope.  In one of the cubbies I put a pillow (with a removable and washable cover) I left 2 unaltered in case she wanted to cool her belly on the wood, and the 4th cubbie I lined with her fuzzy blanket.  She loves to look at herself so I have a mirror set on the top so she can admire her cute furry self.

She loves to sit on the top of the petting station and look at herself in the mirror. It is covered in little nose prints.

She loves this thing!  We have taken to calling it her petting station.  She hangs out on top of it more often than not, and everyone who passes her must pay the toll (which is a few pats on the head or a butt scratch)   Since I originally made the petting station a few months back, I have whipped up a cute little pet bed that sits on the top.

This is the pet bed that sits on top of the petting station.  It is possible that she is a little spoiled

This is the pet bed that sits on top of the petting station. It is possible that she is a little spoiled

She is almost always up there now, but I put a few treats in the lower cubbies every now and then so she checks those out occasionally.  Over all this was a great idea for kitties, and if she ever decides she doesn’t like it, it is still an awesome bookcase.

Here she is waiting for treats

Here she is waiting for treats

Gonna call this one: Nailed It! since the little one is so happy with it.

Things have been just crazy! But I have a ton of projects to share =)

So I have not disappeared, but sometimes I wish  I could!  Things have been crazy busy and I haven’t had time to document any of my projects.  I feel so bad!  I have done a ton of projects since my last post, and I plan to continue.

One of the things I have done, was learned to crochet.  It is a ton of fun!  I have been knitting for years, my aunt taught me how and I have made so many scarves that I hate to think of counting them all.  I make washcloths too which are fun, but I never really progressed much after that.  I feel there is so much more I am able to do with crochet though.  I love, love, love that I can stop at any point during a row and not have to wait until I get to the end to pause my work.  It makes working up items in a long line, waiting room, or where ever  so much easier.

If you do not know how to crochet I highly recommend the site I found (via Pinterest of course) that taught me how.  The woman who teaches the lessons is fantastic.  If you have ever wanted to learn, check her out.  She has a whole lot of other fun projects on her site as well.

Anyway – since I followed her lessons I have ventured out on my own and started many new crochet projects.  I have even finished a number of them!
Over the next few days I will detail them here, add a few pictures and any hints/tips I find useful.

I think I will start with what is my favorite project so far, well…this week at least.  It is a poncho.  I had never really been into ponchos, (I alway think back to one of the first season episodes of One Tree Hill where Nathan picks on Haley’s Poncho) but my mom had bought me one last year and I just loved it.  They are easy, comfy, and at least the ones I have had are light.  I hate to be too warm!  I am happiest at around 60 degrees, even though sometimes I freeze my guy out in the winter.  Anyway, when I saw a poncho that was even lighter than the one I had at home, I knew it was going to be on my “need to make that” list.  and oh my!  It was easy.  I think it took me about 2 hours to whip up, and mind you I am not a fast crocheter, as I had only learned the basics about 2 weeks prior.  I also had this small stash of yarn that I was in love and had no clue what to make with it.  It was just so pretty, it looked like peacock feathers, and was soo soft.  (And it was on CLEARANCE!)

I found the pattern over at The Sunroom, and got to work.  It was beyond simple to make.  I did tweak it a bit, but nothing over the top.  It uses the chain stitch, double crochet, and slip stitch.  That’s it.  Easy peasy.  She has the full instructions listed for the ones they have posted, but I will show you what I did.  I imagine for a smaller person the original would do just fine, but for me, being a bit….larger in the chest area, I made mine a bit longer.  Also I wanted it to come down to my elbows and the pattern they had only came to about 3/4 of the way down my upper arm.

Well, moving on.  You do a simple chain, but do it where you aren’t going to get interrupted as you will need to make about 100 chains.

IMG_20130318_195754

They used an 8 mm hook, but as I am limited in what I have on hand, I used a smaller K sized hook (which I think is 6.5 mm) For me the 100 chains is large enough to slip over the tops of both of my shoulders, so if you want something a bit closer in, do less chains in 5 chain increments.  I think 80 90 would look really nice. (I originally thought 80 would be great but I think it is a little too small)  So you join the chain at the end with a slip stitch.  For the first row after the chain, you chain 9 and do a double crochet into the 5th chain on the first row, and continue to chain 6 and double crochet into the 5th chain along the initial chain, and at the end of the first row do a slip stitch to join that round.

single round

The next row you start by doing a double crochet into the bottom of the first one, chain 7 (each row you add one more chain to every section) and double crochet into the bottom of the one in the previous round, slip stitch at the end.  The original pattern called for 10 rows, and if you stop there, at least for me as I am a bit loosey goosey would have been one skein of yarn (85 grams, 102 yards medium weight Yarn Bee brand Andes Alpaca yarn) but I had two skeins and wanted a bit longer poncho, so I forged ahead.  I went another 3 rows, increasing the chains 1 extra for each round, ending with 18 chains in each section.  It turned out so lovely, I have found myself digging through my yarn stash looking for another great yarn to make one of these for me, my mom, my aunt & a few gal pals.  I am just in love.  Now this is not a poncho that is going to keep you warm on a blistering cold day near the ocean.  But even as open and airy as it is, I find it does keep the chill off.

my new project

If you are looking for a cute and quick gift this is an awesome little project that doesn’t take much yarn, time, or skill for that matter.  But it looks so nice.  I think it would be so great if done in a hairy scary eyelash yarn or something light and feathery like a mohair.  It could really dress up a simple dress if done in a yarn with some sparkle to it, I love the dewdrop yarn that has some sequins every now and then worked into it.  Also, you could make this a bit warmer if you did a closer knit pattern.  I am thinking if you did your starting chain with 90, 93, 96 or 99 and doing your double crochet at every 3rd chain rather than every 5th, and for the first round the in between chains would start with 4 rather than 6 chains it would be much warmer and less open.  Great for those evenings dinning outdoors on a patio in early spring or fall.

Just so you can see what doing a smaller starting chain can do – here is a picture of 80 chains with 3 rounds of stitches.  For me, it is a bit too small, I think that 90 would be much nicer, but for a tween, maybe this would work?

80 with 3 rounds

Just a little hint that I think will help.  When I made this, after the first 10 rounds I tried it on and didn’t like how short it was, but not sure how many more rounds I needed to go to get it just right, I left it on and crocheted around and around until I liked the length.  It really helped me so I didn’t have to do a round, secure the yarn, try it on, tug at it to get it just so and see how I like it.  I just kept going until it looked right, tied it off, tucked in the ends and called it done. ponchoForgive the excessive eraser marks.  While I have been busy doing lots of projects, cleaning was not one of them and if my mom ever saw the background…well I just didn’t want her to disown me.  You understand, I am sure.

I am going to have to say: Nailed It!  Since I have worn it 4-5 times since I made it and am loving it =)

Start small – Chalkboard paint

I wanted to start with a small project.  Also, I am a bit on the broke side.  I am currently smack in the middle of starting a new business and that has me pretty strapped for cash these days.  That being said, I do need to step away from the business stuff and do something for me every now and then.  Today, I thought I would do just that.

Todays project: This whole chalkboard paint thing.

This has got to be one of the simplest projects I have ever done, pin or no pin.  If you are looking for something little, easy, and way cheap, this just may be the project for you.

Materials needed are minimal.  The instructions are pretty straight forward.  I am thinking I can handle this, so let’s see.  Shall we?

Gather supplies and get ready!

You need: 2 tablespoons unsanded grout (had some on hand from a locally owned hardware store)

1 cup paint – any color you please (I grabbed a 7.2 oz sample size of paint from the same hardware store ages ago and never used them for what I had in mind.)

Something to stir with

Container to mix it in (I am just going to use the container the paint came in)

Something to paint

If you are anything like me, you will want to get your painting clothes on and pull your hair back because no matter how hard you try, you just get paint everywhere.

Once you have all of your stuff together, here is the tricky part.  You pour the grout power into the paint and mix it pretty well.  Real tricky, right? The paint looks a bit dry – but not to worry.  It came out great.

Just remember to stir it up every now and then while you paint.

Next you want to paint a thin layer over your item.  From what I have read, you want to paint on a clean surface, and paint in a different direction with each coat.  I used this glass platter that I got from a yard sale.  I think it was marked 25 cents, so I treated it as my test subject.  I also didn’t clean it before I started.  I painted top to bottom for the first coat and left to right for the second.  The paint looks a little lumpy when you start but it smoothed out as it sat.  It was like the grout power dissolved in the paint in between coats.  I can be a bit impatient from time to time, so I went around grabbing other things to paint while I was waiting for my platter to dry.  I painted the sides of some drawers, these glasses, and a few other trinkets I found laying around.

The glass platter and drinking glass both took the paint just fine.

Once the paint has dried overnight you are supposed to sand it, but I didn’t really feel like it, so I skipped that step.  I did prep the paint though.  That is, when you color the whole surface with chalk to keep the ghosting from happening where you can see everything that was every written on it.  Yea, I hate that.  So I coated the surface and now, for the test.

Rub a bit of chalk over the entire painted surface to avoid ghosting.

I think it turned out pretty well.  What do you think?

As you can see, the paint worked well on the wood surface of this drawer too.

As I have said before, I am working on starting a new business so all of my spare change goes to that.  This means I am going to be doing pretty inexpensive projects, at least for a while.  Since I used only things I already had around the house, this project cost me nothing.  If you were to go out and buy all of the supplies then you can figure on the following costs.

Unsanded grout – about 10 bucks for a HUGE bag that will lasts you for gallons and gallons of this chalkboard mix.

Paint – if you stick to samples or Oops cans from the store, then 5 to 10 dollars.

For items to paint – well this is where you imagination gets to run wild.  I haven’t yet tried this paint on plastic so I don’t know how well it will take to that, but for glass and wood I have had no troubles.  A favorite place of mine to get cool stuff on the cheap is IKEA.  The Rast line is decent unfinished wood that you can make into just about anything. (Check out Ikea Hackers and search for Rast for inspiration.)

So if you much buy paint, grout and even a rast nightstand to try it out on we are talking 30-35 bucks.  Not too shabby, eh?

Going to have to call this one:  Nailed It!  I love the way it turned out, plus the green is my favorite color.