The poncho that wouldn’t end

So sorry for the delay (I know you were on pins and needles) I thought I had this one scheduled to be posted, but I did something wacky and it didn’t work.  Anyway, here it is.  There is a poncho that I had fell in love with on Pinterest a while back.  It looked so cozy and comfy while still looking classic and elegant.  I had to have it!  But…it was a crochet pattern.  I didn’t know how to crochet a few months back.  So, alas, no poncho for me.  It never occurred to me to try to knit it, but since I have since learned how to crochet so now it should be no problem. (The pattern for this gorgeous thing is avail for free!)

poncho love

Except, it was.  I started this project more than a week ago.  I had an enormously long starting chain (because I wasn’t following instructions) and when I got several rows into it, I noticed it was just waaay too long.  That wasn’t going to work.  So I pulled out all of my stitches and started anew.

I had to re-roll my yarn into balls, count my starting chain doing many fewer than the first try, and get back to my half and full double crochet stitches.  Then…at the end of my yarn it was not what I wanted.  I didn’t have enough to make it as wide as I had envisioned, and I ran out of one of the colors before the other and had this weird color blocking thing I was not digging at all.

Now here we are at attempt number 3.  I re-rolled all of my yarn into one huge ball (that I am constantly fighting the cats for) dropped my starting chain down by about 15 more stitches, and once again got back to work.

take 3

Mine final poncho ended up quite different than the one I wanted to recreate, but I am liking it.  Next time I attempt it, I will follow the directions better to try to get something closer to the one I first fell in love with.

What I ended up with was very simple to create once I  started the third time.  I made my starting chain of 100.  The first row I made my turning chain and then did half double crochets to the end.  The next 12 rows was a simple turning chain with double crochets until I ran almost out of yarn, and left a very long tail in order to seem together the two end pieces.

In order to finish this piece, what I did was to take the other corner in the same line, the last row of the full double crochet, and count up the number of stitches to equal the same number of rows so the two pieces end at the same point.  On mine, I started seeming them together 19 stitches up from the end.  I used a simple slip stitch to make it a nice flat-ish seem that was not too bulky.

Pointy poncho

I like the end result of this because you can wear it a few different ways.  I like it with the point down in the front.  It feels much more poncho-like to me that way.  But you can also wear it off to the side, more like a wrap, which is cute too.

Side

 

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Happy Hour!

The Michelada’s were a hit at the Pin Party this past week, but I had never heard of them before hand.  It was a new and exciting drink for most of the crowd.  It is a refreshing and much lighter version of a Bloody Mary was most of the guests opinion, and it went great with the Fire-Roasted Chili we made.

Luckily the host of the party had enjoyed the cocktail before, so she knew what the end flavor should be.  With that knowledge and a vague memory of the recipe in mind, we bravely ventured forth and came up with a great drink that everyone enjoyed.

michelada

How it was made:

4 12 oz bottles of light Mexican Beer (We used Corona Extra)

12 oz Tomato Juice

1 tsp sea salt

1 tsp cayenne pepper

2 tsp hot sauce

Juice of 1 lemon

Extra hot sauce for each drink to bring the heat up to each persons preference.

Pour everything into a large pitcher, give it a good stir, and serve chilled.  You can rim the edge of the glass with a big of salt and chili powder for a nice added touch.

The heat Is On

So around here, things have been crazy busy.  It was a great week, filled with friends, new and old.  The best part was the pin party hosted at a local shop that I helped with.  There where make and take crafts, snacks, drinks, and tons of awesome folks.

It was a little chilly out, I want to say mid-50’s, and so the recipes that everyone loved were the ones that brought a little heat.  There were two that I made that fell under that category.  The Michelada’s, a new to me spicy beer and tomato cocktail, and Fire-Roasted Chili.

Now, I’m a chili fan in the extreme.  I am also deeply in love with my crock pot.  I think, one lead to the other, but I don’t know which started it all, but either way, you could very easily make this recipe on the stove or in a large dish baked in the oven if you so choose.  For me, chili never turns out the same twice, and I think that is why I love it.  I get bored easily with the same foods, and while I do love to cook, standing in the kitchen baby-sitting a pot on the stove, isn’t my kind of fun.  I am more of a fit-it-and-forget-it kind of a cook.  I got the inspiration for this recipe from Emily, a Pittsburgh blogger who has killer recipes and is a great lady all around.

Since I do the low-carb thing, and our hosts are vegan, it did limit some of the possibilities of the food we could do.  A good thing in my book, it helped to keep the party manageable.  Emily’s recipe called for kidney and garbanzo beans, two that I love but stay away from due to the carb content.  So I switched it up with white soy beans and black soy beans (These are the ones my local grocery store carries.  If you haven’t tried them, I highly recommend that you do.  They are awesome and I have never gotten them mushy no matter how long I cook them.)  I also left out the corn, though I do adore it in chili, it just has a bit too much natural sugar for me right now. Finally, in place of the veggie broth I added 2 cans of regular diced tomatoes with green chilies.  I knew I was going to mix it up the day before in order to make my prep work on the big day less stressful, and I do not know what it is about those tomatoes/chilies, but the always get hotter when stored in the fridge overnight, so just a warning, if you make this dish ahead the way I did, or plan on having leftovers, it will get hotter.

chili shots

The Fire-Roasted Chili recipe as I made it:

2 cans (15 oz) Fire Roasted Tomatoes, with liquid

1 can (15 oz) Black Soy Beans, with liquid

1 can (15 oz) White Soy Beans, with liquid

2 cans (10 oz) Diced Tomatoes with Green Chilies, with liquid

1 Tbsp Chili Powder

1 Tbsp Oregano, dried

2 tsp Ground Cumin

1 tsp Ground Coriander

1/2 tsp Ground Cayenne

Salt and Pepper to taste

Round Tortilla Chips (optional)

As I was serving these in shot glasses to be more finger food friendly, I did pulse all of the tomatoes in the food processor 3-4 times just to get them in smaller pieces.  I them dumped everything in a crockpot including the liquids from all of the cans, gave it a quick stir, placed the lid on and set it to cook on low for 6 hours or so.  Recipe makes about 80 ounces, or 50 shot glass servings.

If serving in shot glasses, I recommend letting the chili cool a bit before ladling into glasses and top with a tortilla round.  Makes for a very cute presentation, and easy to eat while milling around talking with friends.

Tomorrow I will be posting the Michelada recipe we used for an interesting, refreshing yet spicy beer and tomato cocktail that was a big winner at the Pin Party.

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.

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.

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.

A word of advice

Just wanted to share some rules I have implemented with much success for myself regarding Pinterest.

1. Set a time limit – If you are only pinning awesome things and not taking any action, set a time limit for yourself on how much time you are ok with wasting.

2. Stick to time limit – Well, more or less.  You ought to know better than to the click the “see more pins” button if you only have 2-5 minutes left on your 8 hours of Pinterest today.

3. Dream vs. Real Life – Know the difference and pin accordingly.  That awesome looking dish that takes 18 hours to prepare, probably not going to happen.  Cutting a sandwich with a cookie cutter to make it cute – I may put forth that sort of effort.  Make boards for things you will be likely to do, and ones that you wont.
4. Do it! – I know not everyone has a problem spending hours on Pinterest, and not doing anything with those great ideas.  But for those of you that do, make something, use a tip you found, try the workout routine, do something creative with the kids…Just use the pins you find.