Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Strawberries are a cheap girl's best friend

I just put up 15 jars of strawberry preserves.

And I'm thinking about going back to get more strawberries so I can use the other 9 jars I have.

After the strawberry tart and the strawberry stuffed french toast, I was just a little strawberried out. So I decided to do something with the rest of the strawberries. that I could share with others.

Some were suggesting freezer jam. But after discovering that freezer jam is dependent upon sugar to act somewhat as a preservative, and, thus, requires enormous amounts of sugar (in most recipes twice the sugar as strawberries), I decided to go the traditional route and make preserves. With traditional jams or preserves, I could control the amount of sugar going into the recipe.

Now mind you, I have only made jam one other time and it was probably ten years ago. I made concord grape jam with grapes from my friend's grape arbor.

Nonetheless, this morning, I acted like I was a total pro and got out my pots for boiling and my sugar and my Pomona Pectin, which I get at the local co-op. Pomona is a pectin made especially for creating low-sugar or no sugar jams and jellies. These types of pectin are available in the grocery store now too. Don't worry, I am not crazy enough to make strawberry preserves with absolutely no sugar. My mother would never forgive me if I did such a thing.

The recipe in the pectin box recommends that you do a test batch with 1 cup of strawberries to make sure it gels up and everything. But you know me, I can't be bothered with testing, mock-ups, measurements, or anything that smacks of meticulous planning.

So I just went for it. Hey, it worked the first time with the grapes and that was much more time consuming cuz I had to smoosh the grapes through a screened collander to get the seeds out. But the grape jam turned out fabulous, so I'm pretty confident about my strawberry preserves.

Anyway, with the help of my man, it only took two hours to put up 15 pots of strawberry preserves. [Yes, you heard me right, I have a man who likes to help me in the kitchen. It doesn't suck.] I ended up using 3 cups of sugar for 10 cups of smashed strawberries. That's a pretty good amount of sugar, but still less than traditional recipes.

These will make great gifts. And just in time for a birthday party I have to go to tonight.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Strawberry Fields Forever

This is day 2 of trying to figure out what to do with the 4 packages of strawberries I was lured into buying at the Kroger. They were on sale, 4 for $5 and I couldn't resist.

First, the strawberry tart . . .

It's just a graham cracker crust, a layer of softened cream cheese (I used a whole package plus somewhere between 1/4 and 1/3 C. of sugar and some vanilla) and sliced strawberries on top.

After I got it all assembled, I painted it with a simple syrup (1/4 C. sugar and 1/4 C. water boiled on the stove).

Then, at the last minute, after I took most of my pics, I decided to melt some chocolate chips and drizzle them across the top.

Mom and I dug into this scrumptious tart last night after a lovely evening of white wine, crab cakes, coleslaw and southwest shrimp and corn chowder.

Then this morning . . .

Strawberry Stuffed French Toast

I used whole grain bread for this one. I mixed fat-free evaporated milk with the eggs, spread some softened cream cheese between two pieces of bread, added sliced strawberries, smooshed the two sides of the sandwich together, dipped it in the egg and fried it up on the griddle.

Some real maple syrup and turkey bacon made this breakfast unbelievably yummy. Almost forgot to take pics so here is the half-eaten pic.

And I still have two and a half packages of strawberries left . . .

Saturday, February 25, 2012

A crafter is born

My niece Sydney, the one I do alot of crafting with, had her mom go out and buy her a bunch of duct tape. She has been busy all week perfecting her duct tape crafting techniques.

Her latest creation is this beautiful wallet, with plenty of compartments for credit cards, bills, etc.

I got word of her latest creation last night while I was out having dinner with friends. I received a text from my younger sister that went something like this . . .

"Your daughter has just made a beautiful duct tape wallet . . . I will post soon."

So when she crafts, she's my daughter. Cool. 
Sydney takes the pics herself also.

Friday, February 24, 2012

It's a sickness really

So my sister calls me from IKEA last weekend--mind you IKEA is two hours away so this isn't just a jaunt across town--to tell me she is buying new storage solutions for her house.

Specifically, she's buying a bookshelf to replace the tired old laminate unit that currently holds her large 80s amplifier, CD player, and Bose speakers. She's asking how to get rid of the stereo. I suggest taking it to our local Music-Go-Round store that buys used musical stuff from instruments to old speakers, amplifiers, etc.

Then she asks if I would be interested in taking the shelving unit that stereo is in.

Guess how long I thought about it.

Yeah, like thinking ever got me anywhere. Snatched it up like a hungry puppy I did. This old piece of crap--near as my sister could figure, it originally came from IKEA some years ago--has been housing her 80s stereo since the 90s. It has tape marks from when she probably put duct tape on it during a moving process. It has holes in the back where the cords for the stereo components went through, two adjustable shelves and a bottom cabinet with a door. Definitely a piece of crap.

But just look at it . . . poor little thing. it just needs some love (read: paint) and care (read: decoupage) to make it useful and beautiful again.

And I have a need. No really. I need something in my living room to put piano music, sheet music and vocal songbooks in. If you play the piano, you know that music does not fit on a traditional bookshelf. Those of us who play and teach are always looking for storage solutions for music. File cabinets can be very practical for this use, but not when your studio is in the middle of your living room. I need something that says, "Hi, I'm a nice piece of furniture that also happens to hold music."

Once in a great while, I'll see a beautiful antique piece built specifically to hold sheet music. Those pieces are usually from the Victorian era or are art nouveau. Beautiful pieces but usually smaller with spindly legs that wouldn't hold a ton of music.

This bad boy is gonna hold a bunch. A new back piece, some sanding and priming. And I do believe some decoupaging may be in order.

Woohoo! Project!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Frenchmen Love Women Jewelry Armoire

I know I should be writing a tutorial right now on how I decoupaged the jewelry armoire. The tutorial would drone on about what kind of primer I used, what kind of paint, how many layers of each. Then how I use a wallpaper seam roller to press down the paper images into the glue, yada yada yada.

I'd rather talk about how much I enjoy the process of making things like this.

First, the part where I'm walking around a secondhand shop or thrift store, picking up pieces of what would appear to be crap and turning them around in my hands to figure out whether I can recreate them to be better, prettier, more functional.

Then there's the part where the piece of "crap" sits in my house for a period of time and I just mull it over, thinking about what I might do with it, what color it might become, how I might take it apart and rebuild it, whether I will glue things to it. I might even get hung up about it, not able to make a start, not able to decide what to do with it. It might sit in my basement for months. It might sit in my craft room for weeks, even taking on a different role altogether before something finally hits me. Yes! That's it! That's what I'll do.

I have a wood shelving unit sitting in my craft room right now, for instance. I picked it up at a garage sale. It has some lovely fluting down the sides and I'm trying to decide whether I'm going to keep it and re-work it for myself or re-work it and sell it.

Not all things sit around the house waiting for ideas to hatch. Some things I have a very sure idea about. But then perhaps the process is long and arduous. Finding the right paints, finding time to get to it. Like the dresser and vanity I did for my niece's bedroom a couple years ago. "It will be ready for your birthday in March," I told her. Then, "It will be ready for Christmas." And now I can't remember when it finally got done. Probably in the following Spring.

I always figured I'd rework the jewelry box, but it took me awhile. And as I said, once I settled on the Matisse print, everything else fell into place.

Two coats of primer, two coats of yellow enamel paint, making it nice and shiney. Sanding off the ridges of the metal hardware to shabby chiq it up a bit. Then prints from three French painters, Matisse, Gauguin, and Toulouse-Lautrec complete the look. Thus the name:

Frenchmen Love Women Jewelry Armoire

I'll still put a few more layers of Mod Podge on. So the process continues, but for me, that's the best part.

This page also linked to Skip to My Lou Made by You Mondays, Made In a Day Made U Look Linky

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Pictures are worth a couple words anyway

I don't think I'm ready to reveal the decoupaged piece yet. It's turning out really nice and I want to kinda savor the moment. Plus, it doesn't have enough layers of finish on it yet.

Decoupaging is like a zen thing. You have to be patient to get through the process. You have to let it dry, go back to it, hit it again with the decoupage medium or other finish. Then wait. Then go back and hit it again. Then wait. Then go back again. Then wait some more. Sometimes I end up working on them for days until I get just the right amount of finish on.

If you recall my previous post, I gave you a hint as to what the jewelry armoire might look like in the end. The hint pic included a print of an Henri Matisse painting done very late in his life. Here's another pic to tease you. The Matisse print is now firmly Mod Podged to the jewelry armoire. I believe it's Matisse's wife in the painting, but I'm not positive about that.

As I said in my opening post, I am not an artist. I didn't go to school for art history and I do not lay any claims to being an artist of any sort. That does not mean, however, that I don't enjoy and appreciate art. And one of the artists that appeals to me is Matisse. The simplicity of his later work, particularly, and the fact that he winds up "cutting and pasting" in his advanced years, one of my favorite activities (thus the decoupage!), just endears him to me even more.

And when I look at Matisse's representations of women, I think he really must have loved women. His paintings and drawings of women seem so loving and generous.

So this print is what inspired the direction of this decoupage project. This print sent me to the basement to search for yellow paint, a very bright golden yellow paint. So this piece is definitely gonna be bright.

And it will have a name. It's going to be the Frenchmen Love Women Jewelry Armoire!

Check back tomorrow for the reveal!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Duck Tape Nirvana continued

As I think I've mentioned, I get distracted easily. I thought the next post would be about the decoupaged jewelry armoire. Fear not. The jewelry armoire is well underway. It has two coats of golden yellow paint on it and is going to get decoupaged today.

But just because I have one project started, doesn't mean I can't start and finish another one before the first one is completed. Remember, I'm the crazy thrifty crafter, not the highly organized, completion-obsessed crafter.

My neice Sydney owns an iPad I. We decided that the leftover Duck Tape Brand duct tape from the purse project, would make an awesome iPad cover. So, we consulted the internet for design ideas. The only one that we used is one we found on youtube by coregeek. We only partially used this idea. We used the 3-panels-so-we-can-make-it-into-a-stand idea from his design. But coregeek uses magnets to keep it together and we prefer velcro. It looks like he might have used corrugated plastic and we prefer recycled cardboard. Plus, I don't like measuring and planning so we winged this one on a number of features.

So once again, Sydney and I bring you our very own Duck Tape design, this one for an iPad I notebook cover and stand.

First, we gave thanks for cereal boxes, which can be used for a million different things.

We cut three peices of the cereal box for the body and then covered them in duct tape. The back piece is the size of the iPad, or maybe just a little bit bigger. The other two are for the front. One is a 2-inch strip of cardboard so the front cover can fold and become a stand when we turn it inside out. Here's where you can get creative with color. We used pink for the front and aqua blue for the back, and on the front just one zebra strip.

Now, don't get carried away because we have to tape together the 2 inch peice of card board that is covered in duck tape to the other peice of cardboard you want to be on the front, giving the front a natural fold that will make the stand when turned inside out.

Next we brought the back and front together with a "spine" made of one strip of duct tape fabric. We used aqua for the spine and just taped the spine fabric to the front and back pieces to form a book. The thickness of the ipad is about a half an inch so that's the distance between the front and the back, taping the spine on both the inside and outside of the "book" to make it stronger.

Now here comes the tricky part. We created a little pocket for the iPad to sit in so it would be secure in the case. We made one strip of duct tape fabric one tape-width wide. We then folded that piece longways in half, tucked the ends under to create a pocket, and taped the pocket to the edge of the back of the cover.

Now in order to close the cover and create a stand we needed one more peice of cardboard. We used the side of the cereal box and covered that with purple tape. You can see in the picture that we cut a pretty long piece. There's a reason for this. Running this connector piece all the way across the back of the book gives stability for it to bend both ways--to close the book and make a stand.

Then, before we taped this piece on, we tested to see where we would need folds going to the front of the cover and back when we create the stand. We taped this piece onto the back up to the point where the fold for the stand would be, reinforcing with a couple layers of tape.

Then, we attached a piece of velcro to the purple strip and the front (where the zebra strip is) And now when you fold the the front back under and attach the closing strip backwards it creates a stand.

My first attempt to link to Skip to My Lou's Made by you Mondays is with this post. Of course, I failed miserably because the thumbnail I tried to upload is not showing up, but there it is. I'll do better next time, I promise.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Here's a hint

Matisse . . . some leftover yellow paint . . .

Look out jewelry armoire, here I come!

Stay tuned . . .

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Too many choices

I'm not good with having too many choices. I don't like restaurant menus--too many distracting images and too many delicious things to read and get confused by. Everything sounds good to me and it doesn't seem to matter what I order, i always end up coveting the dish that the person next to me ordered.

My niece and I want to do an experiment where I commit to not ordering my own food in any restaurant. This is how it will work: When the server asks us for our order I will say to him or her, "I would like you to order for me." I'll give the server a couple of parameters, such as letting them know how hungry I am, whether I might enjoy a large salad or whether I'm in the mood for chicken, that kind of thing. Then I will shut up and eat whatever I am served and like it.

If you get overwhelmed by too many choices, you might understand this idea, and you might understand why it is sometimes difficult for me to get moving on a particular project.

This jewelry box has been sitting on my dresser for more than a year. When I bought it at a thrift store I had every intention of re-working it with paint and decoupage.

BTW, I LOVE to decoupage! (See how easily I get distracted?!)

A couple years ago I did decoupage projects for everyone's Christmas gifts.

Here's the tray I did for my mom using a French toile wallpaper. It was a wooden bed tray I bought at a thrift store for $3. I took the legs off of it, painted it black, shabby chic'd it up a little, put some nice pewter-finish drawer handles on the sides, applied the wallpaper and then layers and layers of matte-finish acrylic polyurethane. Now it's the centerpiece of my mother's living room--a $3 item from a thrift store and some leftover wallpaper! [NOTE: I used acrylic polyurethane instead of Mod Podge cuz it's more durable and I knew mom would put drinks on it.]

Anyway, I need to get going on the jewelry box project, but I can't decide which direction I'm going in. Should I paint it black and use something like the French toile?

I was thinking about black paint and leopard print paper for the decoupage but I haven't been able to locate any cheap (READ: FREE) paper for that idea.

I always comb thrift store book piles for coffee table books and other picture books to use for decoupaging. Coffee table books have big glossy color pictures that are great for re-use in decoupage or even for framing for wall art. Right now I have some TIME/LIFE books on modern art, including a book on the impressionists and one on contemporary American painters. I also have a big sailboat book, a book on national parks, and a picture book on gardening.

So now I'm thinking maybe a garden theme where I paint the jewelry box a nice bright color and then use pics of annuals and perennials to cover the sides and top.

What do you think?

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Any excuse will do

I don't need much prompting to bake something. Valentine's Day is as good a day as any to spend in the kitchen instead of the craft room. So while I stuff my face with iced sugar cookies, I'll just post some pics of my day's accomplishment (which, you'll be happy to know, will not include pics of my ever widening arse, an inevitable by-product of the baking that goes on in my kitchen time and time again).

These are not my own recipes. Although i do not enjoy watching Alton Brown, I do tend to follow his advice. So these are his sugar cookies and the cream cheese filling I used comes from the Food Network also.

So I won't bore you with any superfluous how-to's. You can hop on over to the Food Network site and get the recipes you need.

The recipe takes traditional sugar cookies and makes sandwich cookies with cream cheese filling out of them. They are delicious and a nice contrast to traditional sugar cookies with butter cream frosting. So I made both kinds for some variety.

Since these cookies are intended as gifts for family and friends, the crowning touch is the final packaging. I got some plastic candy bags at JoAnn today with a Valentine's theme. It pays to wait til the last minute to shop for seasonal stuff. All Valentine's stuff was on sale 50-70% off today.

I made heart-shaped bookmarks for each of the recipients, an idea I got from Helena at Craft and Creativity through Pinterest, attaching each one with a ribbon around the bag.

I put about a half dozen cookies in each bag. Now I'm off to deliver my Valentines.

Happy Valentine's Day ya'll.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Kitchen craftiness

Those that know me on FB know that I get a little crafty in the kitchen too. So although it's not a "craft" here's my idea for a Valentine's Day Breakfast for your lover.

First off, fresh blueberry scones, recipe courtesy of Cooking Light Magazine.

For the main dish, you can call it a frittata, a crustless quiche, or a strata. Whatever you wanna call it, mine is made with yukon gold potatoes (cooked in the microwave first then cubed), sauted red bell pepper and onion, and turkey smoked sausage. I use fat-free evaporated milk instead of milk or cream with the eggs, thus making it a tad less fattening (albeit a tad). You could use more egg whites than yokes and take this a step further. For this one I used 5 eggs and about 1/4 cup of fat-free evaporated milk. 

I coat the casserole dish with spray to make sure it doesn't stick. Put all the ingredients in the casserole, sprinkle with low-fat mozzarella cheese and a little bit of a good hard white cheddar for flavor.

Then bake it at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for probably 30-40 minutes, depending on how deep a dish you use and how much you fill it. I just keep an eye on it. When it becomes that wonderful golden brown color all the way across the whole top, you know the sides are a beautiful deep golden brown. Yumminess!

I sliced up an orange and made a nice pot of chai tea.

This is how I repay my lover for a beautiful evening out dancing the night before. Thanks baby!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Need help with kitchen colors

My dear friend Kathleen has brought some fabulous tiles back from her mideastern travels. She is incorporating them into the backsplash above her stove. Apparently she has a great eye for picking out tile, but says she did not get the color gene. So, now she needs help with choosing paint colors for the kitchen that complement the tiles. Any ideas on what colors she should go with?

My idea: strip the wood cabinets, paint them black, then paint the walls red.

What do you think? Let us know by your comments.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Not all crafters are the same beast

Part 2 of Duck Tape nirvana

So, I've come to the conclusion that there are many different kinds of crafters.

There are those who are unbelievably meticulous about their crafts. They plan out their crafts in meticulous detail and execute them with the same rigorous attention to measurements, adornments, final appearance, and photogenic excellence. These are what I like to call the Meti-Crafters. The internet is full of them. They are the folks making beautiful crafts, posting thorough and meticulous tutorials with plenty of in-process pictures.

Then there are crafters who are highly specialized in one area. They do one kind of craft, they do it very well, and they do it in great volumes, seemingly unable to stop themselves from creating more and more and more. They sometimes create highly complicated forms of what may look like a simple craft because they have created so many they eventually compulsively make the craft more complicated than it starts out to be. These are our OCD-Crafters. They are the ones making youtube videos of their unstoppable crafting and then speeding it up into fast motion for our perusal as the measurements and directions are posted across their lightning fast handiwork.

There are other sub-categories of crafters I am still identifying as I wade through the world of internet crafting. But more on that later.

Please don't get me wrong. I am not casting derisions upon the afore-mentioned character types. Because the fact is the quality of their crafts far outshines my meager offerings executed for myself and a very small circle of friends who tolerate my madness.

I mean only to explain why, even though my niece and I had the best of intentions when we bought all this Duck Tape yesterday, we failed to take enough in-process pictures to fully execute a proper “tutorial” on our design for a Duck Tape purse. As I think I've mentioned before, I tend to get swept up. I am neither a Meti-Crafter or an OCD-Crafter. I'm a Crazy Thrifty Crafter, characterized by my willingness to fly without a net, build without a blueprint, dive in head first, etc.

And so, without further adieu, and because the world would not be any friggin' fun without a variety of crafters on the internet, for your crafting pleasure, my niece Sydney and I bring you our very own Duck Tape Purse Design.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Does "duct tape wallet" really return over 2,000 hits on

Guest Blogger Sydney Hooper

Syd (Sydney) is my niece. She was featured in a previous post where she and I constructed a safety pin bracelet for her friend Elizabeth. Today, I have invited Syd to guest blog because she has made a duct tape wallet that is absolutely adorable. It's perfect for carrying her money and her cell phone. She tells me she got this idea from her friend Madison, so she wants to give Madison a shout out for the idea.

Syd is in 5th grade, plays basketball and softball, loves science, plays the trumpet, is a fisherman, a movie maker and a crafter.

Here is the unedited e-mail from Syd on how to make the duct tape wallet:

First start off with a BLANK piece of paper. Fold it up to WHAT EVER size you would like it to be. Get the duck tape you want, and now layer the duck tape onto the duck tape till it feels like JUST duck tape.

NOW, you may decorate that ONE (you should only have one right now) Get another blank piece of paper and do the same thing with that. MAKE SURE IT IS LONGER THEN THE OTHER PIECE OF PAPER! connect that to three of the four sides with the same duck tape NOW YOU HAVE A FLAP. which would be the "cover"

now, to keep it closed, you need a short string of paper as you see in the picture, (what im holding it by) TAPE THIS STRING TO THE FLAP OF THE "COVER"

NOW, make a pocket (like you see in a checkbook for your credit card at a restaurant) MY pocket is where the S is, that S is pink duck tape on the COLORED duck tape. it is about 2 by 3 inches long (the "POCKET")

last step, try to stretch the duck tape to make a little way for the string to POP in there to hopefully keep it closed

if you had trouble, it should make enough sense to fix. HAVE FUN:)

Thank you, Syd. I'm hoping you will teach me to make this next time we get together to craft.

How about it folks. That's Sydney's first blog post. Is she awesome or what?!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The 80s called; they want 'em back

I saw some cute legwarmers on Pinterest and I just couldn't resist trying to make some for myself.

I can't take credit for this idea. This is from mrsfleury at split the lark and you'll find the music. There's a tutorial included at this site so I won't bother repeating her instructions. Bless her heart, her dainty little legs (or the legs of whoever is modeling them) wear them much better than my big ole honkin' calves.

But if you're anything like me and you find yourself at the thrift store YET AGAIN looking at old sweaters and saying “gee, what can I do with this,” then you are always on the lookout for ideas like this one.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Auction follow-up

I learned a lot today.

First, I learned that no matter how much I looked at the online pictures of what was available, I wasn't really struck by what I wanted to bid on until I got there and previewed the lots.

I took a seasoned auction pro with me to my first auction. And the minute I started bidding, she looked at me like I was nuts and said something about waiting for the auctioneer to go down further before putting in the opening bid.

But I couldn't help myself. All that clambering from the auctioneer, all those people huddling around and bidding against one another. I totally got swept up in it.

Friday, February 3, 2012

My very first auction tomorrow!

My prized thrift store find, a mid-century liquor cabinet
Used to be you could get really great furniture at thrift stores. The last great piece of furniture I got at a thrift store is my mid-century liquor cabinet with the boomerang formica on the interior prep surface.

Since then, things have changed in the world of thrift stores. All the good stuff is scarfed up by secondhand stores before it ever gets to the thrift store. And the thrift stores here are full of cheap new furniture from North Carolina.

What I'm looking for is some smaller accent pieces that I might paint, decoupage, change up, whatever. End  tables, small tables, display cases, bookcases, or small desks. So I'm taking my first foray into the world of auctions.