Wednesday, October 30, 2013

DIY: Embellished Sweatshirt



I have a confession: I don't wear sweatshirts, because I feel frumpy in them. I LOVE them, don't get me wrong, but I don't like to wear them outside of the house unless I'm at a bonfire. But dang, they are oh so cozy, right!? So to solve this problem I needed a dressier version of the basic sweatshirt. Do you know that prices are nearly doubled for a hoodie with some sequins on it!? Pfffft.. 
 
 
See this super comfortable and incredibly plain sweatshirt? It's from H&M and it was $12.95. I first bought it thinking I could wear a patterned button-up underneath or maybe throw on a scarf to dress it up. Then I remembered that I purchased some silver studs from the craft store a while back to cover up a stain on the back pocket of a pair of jeans I love, but somehow, some way, the jeans have vanished into thin air. I am at a total loss as to where they could've gone to! Has that ever happened to you? My dryer doesn't just eat socks, it apparently eats entire outfits too.

So, anywho, I had these studs and no real idea of what to do with them and then it hit me! Why don't I embellish this cozy gray sweatshirt with them!?!

What you'll need:


  • Sweatshirt
  • Iron-on studs
  • Scissors
  • Optional: a seam ripper
I started off by carefully removing the V that is sewn at the neck of the sweatshirt with a seam ripper. Scissors would work for this too if you're very gentle and careful only to cut the thread and not the fabric it's sewn to!


Next I experimented with placing the studs onto the fabric in patterns. In the end I decided to go with a  very simple descending triangle design:


Following the ironing instructions on the package, I ironed the studs in place. I pulled at them a little bit to make sure they were on there nice and secure. Some of the glue seeped out around the edges of the studs and I just used a toothpick to clean it up. The glue dries clear so it's really not noticeable at all.

I had only used half the package of studs and I didn't want them to go to waste, so I decided to add a few to the sleeves as well!



Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Recipe: Banana Bread

 
Banana bread is good pretty much any time of year, but something about the cool weather makes me crave this delicious sweet warm bread smeared with a little butter on top. My husband had never had banana bread before (what!?) and I had never made it for us (what is wrong with me??) so I hopped right on it when this realization hit. I wish you could've seen the look of delight on his face when he tried his first bite. Mmm hmm.
 
 
Ingredients:
 
4 ripe bananas
1/3 c melted butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 1/2 cups flour
pinch of salt
Optional: 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
 
Preheat oven to 350°.
In a medium bowl, mash your bananas with a fork and mix in the melted butter.
Add the sugar, egg, and vanilla and mix in with fork or wooden spoon. Stir in the baking soda and salt. Mix in the flour, a little at a time. Mixture will be slightly chunky. Stir in walnuts if desired.
Pour batter into a 9x5 stone loaf pan or greased loaf pan of your choice (glass or nonstick is okay). Bake for 60-70 minutes until edges are brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out (mostly) clean.
 
 
 
Recipe adapted from Simply Recipes.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Dinner with Friends

I returned to work a little over a week ago, and as much as I was dying to go back I must admit that now all I want is to be off again! Having so much free time got boring at certain points but it sure was nice to have all the time in the world to cook and do crafts-- my two favorite things! Now I'm back to the grind and free time is slim. Luckily we are in the "in-between time" (the time between busy summer craziness and the fall/winter holidays when our lives are total chaos) so we have a few free weekends to enjoy however we please.
This past weekend we went to dinner with a group of friends at a place that's new to us, called Drake's. It was aggravating at first, because the whole restaurant is open seating and we had a group of 8. We had to stalk a few tables with to-go bags and hope no one else swooped in and stole the table away before we could plant ourselves (which did happen on our first try!) Once we got seated we absolutely loved it there. It had a fun atmosphere with two large bars and a dart board and shuffle board area, but it still had that restaurant feel. The food was great! They had a good variety on the menu and a delicious selection of sushi which was a really pleasant surprise. The men sat to one side and ate their fried bologna sandwiches and cheeseburgers while us girls shared an array of sushi and edamame. Yum!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

DIY: Painted thrift store candle holders


 
I love thrift shopping for project ideas. Buying really inexpensive clothing at the thrift store is great for sewing practice, but sometimes I find other gems like these ceramic lovelies. I'm not entirely sure what they are, but they have little openings in the tops that I thought would be good for taper candles. My taper candles are too wide to fit so I need to go hunt for some thinner ones. In the meantime I'm just using these as decorative pieces with no function!

 
I used a green paint pen to freehand the designs onto the candle holder thingys and let it dry. There is no need to bake these to set the paint because they will get very light use as a decorative item on the shelf. The great thing is that while drawing, if you mess up before the paint is fully dried you can just use a little water and a paper towel to wipe them clean! And nail polish remover and a q-tip is a life saver after the paint has dried.


Saturday, October 19, 2013

Recipe: Crostinis w/ Apricot-Cranberry Compote & Herb Cheese Spread

 
I am hosting a self defense party on Sunday and I cannot wait! There will be about a dozen of us ladies who, for many different reasons, want to learn how, and be comfortable with, physically defending ourselves if ever needed. Let's hope that it never is! But having the knowledge is valuable none the less. After the lesson we are going to enjoy each other's company over wine and snacks. I have never been to something like this before, and never hosted a party other than my birthday and my best friend's bridal shower, so this is new to me and really fun.
I've got a variety of snacks and appetizers on the menu for tomorrow but one thing that I'm excited about are these crostinis! I had to make a tester, of course. Luckily the compote can be stored for up to three days so making this ahead of time is not a problem at all.
 
Ingredients:
 
 
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • 17-20 dried apricots 
  • 1 cup sweet white wine, such as Moscato
  • 1/2 tsp. peeled and grated fresh ginger
  • 3 tbsp. white wine vinegar
  • 1/8 tsp. dried thyme
  • Salt & pepper, to taste
  • a baguette
  • Boursin Garlic & Fine Herb Spread, or similar cheese spread
 
 
Chop your apricots into small pieces 1/4-1/2 inch in size. I also recommend roughly chopping the cranberries but that is entirely optional.
 
 
In a saucepan on med heat, bring wine, vinegar, apricots, cranberries, and 1/2 cup of water to a rapid simmer. Allow to simmer for approximately 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until fruit is soft and liquid is mostly absorbed.
Stir in ginger and season with salt, pepper, and thyme. (I used approx. 1/8 tsp salt and 3 or 4 cranks of fresh ground pepper).
Transfer compote to a serving bowl and allow to cool to room temperature.
In the meantime, preheat oven to 375°. Cut your baguette into 1/2 inch thick slices.
 
 
Once oven is heated, brush a small bit of oil on either side of your sliced baguette pieces and place on a baking sheet. Season with salt & pepper. Bake for approx. 8-10 minutes, flipping half-way through, until edges are lightly browned and crispy.
Spread a generous amount of cheese over baguette slices.
 
 
And top with a spoonful of compote. I sprinkled a little more pepper on top of mine b/c I love fresh ground pepper.
 
YUM!
 
 
This recipe was adapted from Martha Stewart Recipes and inspired by this recipe at Spoon Fork Bacon.
 

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

DIY: Ombre Wall Art

 
I think I'm starting to lose it over this government shutdown. I should've mentioned a few posts ago that I'm currently out of work because of it, being a federal employee and all. The first day was ok... I took advantage of the chance to be incredibly lazy and watched Dawson's Creek reruns all day. I was a little nervous by the rumors I'd been hearing that it could carry on longer than just a day or two, though, and I was feeling the pressure. I hardly slept that night from worry. Now, 2 weeks later, I am so beyond scared, stressed, nervous, etc. that I don't have any emotion left about it. I'm just plain bored. This can't possibly go on much longer, can it? I never thought I'd be begging to go to work but I'm doing it. Right now. I'm begging!

So obviously I have a ridiculous amount of free time and I've been keeping as busy as possible with craft projects. Here is another one!

Disclaimer: My camera broke several months ago and I've yet to replace it, so these photos are taken by my cell phone which clearly does not take very good pictures. I apologize for this.



What you need:
  • A large inexpensive picture frame (I paid $1 for this one at the dollar store)
  • Thick white paper that fits inside the frame
  • 3 paints: 2 shades of your chosen paint color, plus white (ex: dark blue & light blue & white)
  • Round sponge brush
  • (Not pictured) A plate for mixing paint on
What to do:

 
Step 1- Remove the "photo" that comes inside your picture frame. Confession: I just flipped this over and used it as my white canvas! You can do the same, or use other white paper of the same size.
Step 2- Without paint on the brush, place invisible dots across the paper to map out your pattern and see how many dots you can fit onto your canvas. I used a pencil to make light markings on the paper as a guide (although you may notice I didn't follow them very well and went a little lopsided on my picture).
Step 3- Pour a large blob of your darkest color onto the plate and dip your brush in. Paint a whole row of dots across your canvas in this color.
Step 4- Mix a teeny tiny bit of your lighter color into the darker color and mix well. Use this to make another row of dots directly above the first row.
Step 5- Add another little bit of your lighter color to the darker color so that it's slightly lighter than the previous row, and make another row of dots across the canvas.
Step 6- Pour a new blob of your lighter paint color on your plate. Do not mix this in with the other paint, wash your plate if necessary. Paint a row of dots in this color right above the previous row of dots. Now, you should have one row of solid dark color, 2 rows of gradually lighter color, and 1 row of solid lighter color.
Step 7- Add a teeny bit of white to the lighter color and paint another row of dots.
Step 8- Add even more white to the lighter color and make another row of dots. Continue to do this until you do not have room for any more rows of dots.



Monday, October 14, 2013

Undy 5000

This weekend was the 4th annual Undy 5000, a 5k walk/run for colon cancer, in Cincinnati. Earlier this year we lost a very dear family member to colon cancer at the age of 59. He lived a full and positive life though much too short. He was a remarkable man that touched the lives of every person he met. It goes without saying that this was a great loss to my husband and me, as well as to the rest of his family and many many friends. We walked on Saturday in honor of him, and in support of two other members of our family who are colon cancer survivors. Colorectal cancer is hereditary and it runs rampant in my husband's family. I don't believe it gets the recognition it requires. As with most cancers, early detection is the key. This means getting regular screenings and recognizing the symptoms if you have them, although symptoms don't always occur. Here is some info if you're interested in learning more about colon cancer.

 
After the walk, we went to the Moerlein Lager House for lunch out on the back deck. It was a really lovely day and the food was great! The company was even better. We don't often get together in such a large group unless it's a holiday, so this was a special and memorable day for everyone.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Recipe: Mexican Pizza

Did anyone else have favorite "food days" in grade school? One of my most favorite days of the week was pizza day. (My other favorites were nugget day and taco day). I could eat way more slices of pizza than you'd think my tiny little child tummy could hold. I didn't like the regular pepperoni or cheese pizza, I always went for the hexagon-shaped Mexican pizza with it's orange cheese and perfect spiciness. I honestly don't think I've eaten Mexican pizza since grade school, so it was long overdue. I wasn't able to exactly mimic that greasy school pizza but I came pretty darn close as far as flavor goes. I hope you enjoy my version of Mexican pizza!



Ingredients:

1/2 lb ground beef
1 refrigerated pizza crust
3/4 cup shredded Mexican blend cheese
3/4 cup refried beans
1/4 cup mild cheddar cheese sauce (or hot if you like!)
1/8 cup mild taco sauce-- optional
Approx. 3 tbsp. taco seasoning
2 1/2-3 tbsp. water

Preheat oven to 400°.
Spread pizza dough onto a baking stone, or a lightly greased cookie sheet. Roll or press dough out with your fingers to desired thickness. Our school pizza was always a thin crispy crust, but in my case there was just too much dough and not a big enough pan for this so I pressed it out to about a half inch thick.
Prebake your dough in the preheated oven for about 8 minutes. While this is baking, brown your ground beef in a pan over medium heat and drain. Add the water and taco seasoning to the meat and mix well.
Remove pizza dough from oven and spread the refried beans onto the dough as close to the edge as you would like. I like a little crispy crust with no toppings on mine so I left about an inch all the way around my pizza.
Spread the cheddar cheese sauce on top of the beans. Drizzle the taco sauce over the cheese sauce if desired.
Spread the ground beef mixture evenly across the pizza and, finally, top with the shredded cheese blend.
Bake for an additional 16-17 minutes until cheese is melted and slightly crispy and crust is golden brown.



Dig in!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

DIY: Painted pumpkins




Carving pumpkins is a fall tradition for most folks, including myself. I hope to make it out to the pumpkin patch in the next couple of weeks to pick out some yummy fresh pumpkins to carve, but in the meantime I wanted a festive decoration that was a little less messy and a little more long-lasting.

These are fake pumpkins that I purchased at Michael's craft store on sale this past weekend. I wanted all three to be unique but cohesive, so to achieve this I picked out three colors to use on all three designs.

What you'll need for all three designs:


Craft paint
Brushes of various sizes
Painter's tape
Pen
Paper
Scissors

Argyle pumpkin:
This design is made up entirely of equal sized diamonds.

Step 1- Draw a diamond shape onto paper and cut out. Label the left and right points of the diamond as 1 & 2, respectively. Using the stencil you've just made, lightly mark the 4 corners of the diamond shape onto the pumpkin. Moving around the pumpkin, match up the left corner (1) of the stencil to the right corner (2) of the previous diamond and mark it. Continue doing this until you've moved all the way around the pumpkin and met up with your initial diamond.
Step 2- Using painter's tape, mask off the outside of every other diamond using your marks as a guide. Press the tape down firmly into the ridges in the pumpkin to keep the paint from seeping under.
Step 3- Choose your first color and paint inside the tape and let dry. I had to do three coats to get the desired look, letting each coat dry completely in between.


Step 4- Remove the tape and repeat steps 2 and 3 on the remaining diamonds with your second color.
Step 5- Once your solid diamond shapes are dried, you can remove the tape and make touch ups if needed. A little water and a thin brush will allow you to clean up rough edges or places where the paint seeped under the tape. Don't worry if it's not perfect!
Step 6- Using the same diamond stencil and method as before, place your stencil in the middle of two diamonds so that it overlaps them on either side. The left and right points of your stencil will land in the center of the diamonds to it's left and right. Mark the corners as before and move around until you've done this across the whole pumpkin.
Step 7- Mask off the diamond with painter's tape exactly the same as you did before.
Step 8- Using the head of a sewing pin or other similar tool, dip into your third paint color and dab dots along the edge of the tape like shown:


Step 9- Let this dry (shouldn't take too long since it's just dots) and continue around the pumpkin until your argyle design is complete. Remove all tape and you're done!

Color-blocked letter design:
This one is really simple! Only uses 2 paint colors.
**I forgot to take photos but I hope it's easy enough not to need them.

Step 1- Place a strip of tape all the around the middle of your pumpkin. Try to keep it as even as possible but don't worry too much if it's not exactly perfect all the way around. Press it firmly into the grooves of the pumpkin to prevent seepage.
Step 2- Paint the entire bottom half of your pumpkin in your first paint color. This may take a few coats, letting each coat dry completely before the next. I used a tall vase to prop my pumpkin upside down as I worked.
Step 3- Trace your desired letter onto paper (I used an S for my last name) and cut out. Lay the letter onto the center of the pumpkin and lightly trace around it.
Step 3- Paint inside the lines you've just traced, getting as close to the line as possible to hide it with paint. I found it easiest to trace with black ink and use black paint to cover.
Step 4 - Let it dry and it's complete!

Owl pumpkin design:
This one is made entirely out of triangles and various sized circles.

Step 1- On your paper, trace 4 different sized circles varying from large to small and cut them out. (The largest is for the owl wings, the next sized down is for it's feet and eyes, the next smaller is for the pupils inside the eyes, and the smallest is for the light source in the pupil.)
Step 2- Trace a small-ish triangle shape that goes along proportionally with your circle sizes, and cut it out.
Note: I recommend tracing your design onto another piece of paper first to make sure you are happy with your sizes and to give you an outline of how to line the pieces up.
Here is mine to use as a guide:


Step 3- Starting with the first eye, place your medium circle onto the pumpkin and trace around it. Do this again for the second eye, leaving a large gap between them.
Step 4- Take the triangle shape, turned so that one point faces down, and place it centered below the two eyes and trace.
Step 5-  Directly below that triangle, trace another triangle the same way. Now trace another one on the right and left side of it, keeping them aligned with each other. Move below those and trace two more triangles centered between the ones above it. And last, trace one more triangle in the center below the two triangles you just did. (I used dots to trace my pieces just in case the lines were hard to cover with the light paint.)


Step 6 - Take your largest circle and cut it in half. Using these halves to make wings, trace them on either side of your group of triangles so that the rounded edges are facing out.
Step 7- Finally, for the ears and top of the head... Take the two halves of the large circle and place them above the eyes, with the rounded edge up, so that they touch in the middle and form a widow's peak between the owl's eyes. Trace around the rounded top edges and the peak, but not the bottom flat part of the stencil. For the ears, place your triangle at an angle so that one corner touches the left side of the half circle you just traced, and another corner points outward at a slight angle. Do this on the other side also. Now draw a straight line connecting the two remaining triangle points to each other. (Take a look back at my outline for help with this.)
Step 8- Using one color at a time, paint inside all of the shapes you just traced. For the straight edges it does help to use the painter's tape to keep the edges clean. For the round edges, all I can say is do your best! Mine is far from perfect, but that is what makes it special.
Step 9- Finishing the eyes: After you've fully painted in the medium eye circles and let them dry, trace your pupils with the next smaller circle. Paint the pupils in and let dry. Finish off with the last and smallest circle to give off the impression of a light glinting in the owl's eye. Try to place these in the same spot on both eyes.
Step 10- Take the same circle that you used for the main eye and cut it in half. Use those two halves, flat side down and rounded side up, to trace feet at the base of the owl. Paint this in completely with the same color as you used for the wings and ears and let dry. (I went a step further when I was painting to make little points like toes or claws, but that is not necessary if you don't want to!)

Now display your adorable pumpkins with pride!






Monday, October 7, 2013

Recipe: Hot Oven Sandwiches



CHICKEN PESTO SANDWICH

I first saw the hot roast beef version of these sandwiches by Ree at The Pioneer Woman and knew I had to try them. But when I went to the deli for roast beef, I spotted the rotisserie chicken and lost my entire train of thought. I decided then to do something completely off the wall, and it paid off. The beauty of this delicious warm sandwich is that you can make it however your little heart desires. The basic components are meat, cheese, dressing, and a bun. I hope you'll try mine, and make your own. You won't regret it!

The main ingredients:

Shaved chicken from the deli, I used rotisserie style
White American cheese
Good sandwich buns

The dressing:

1 tbsp. prepared pesto
1 tbsp. real mayo
1 tbsp. sour cream
A few drops of lemon juice

I also made a little sesame seed topping that I think finished this off nicely.
For that, you'll need:

Sesame seeds
Butter
Garlic powder
A pinch of fresh chopped parsley

And finally, you will need a few squares of aluminum foil and to preheat your oven to 350ยบ.

Mix together your dressing ingredients and topping ingredients in separate small bowls. Now it's time to assemble the sandwiches!


First, you'll need to slice the buns if they aren't already sliced. Slather on a good amount of the dressing onto the bottom bun, or on top and bottom if you're feeling bold.
Lay a slice of cheese on top of the dressing.
Pile on a bunch of meat, as much as you want!
Lay another slice of cheese on top of the meat.
Place the top bun on top of that.


Brush a heavy helping of the sesame seed butter mixture on top of the bun.


Place a foil square on top of the sandwich and wrap it around, flipping the sandwich over, and then fold all the corners under. Bake in the preheated oven for approx. 20 min.


Remove from the oven and carefully unwrap the foil from the sandwiches. They should be ooey gooey and delicious with a slightly crusty bun. YUM!



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