Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Sweater Mittens

A while back (okay honestly in December I think), I went to a craft fair where they had some adorable sweater mittens, but I didn't have $30 to spend on a pair of them.  Sad day.  Instead I started scouring the web for a free pattern, but wasn't that surprised that I couldn't find one that worked well.  I did find a few, but they weren't very accurate and didn't make sense proportionally.  Five attempts later, I finally figured one out myself.

What do you think?  What should I do to make them better (or do you miraculously like them this way already)?  I'd love to hear your feedback!

The cuffs on the white pair turned out a lot better than than teal pair.  I'm still trying to figure out why and how to fix that so the wrist cuff lays flatter.  (I think they look a lot better on, but since I already mailed off this pair to my sister-in-law, I can't take any more pictures of them on to prove it to you.)

Some constructive criticism would really be great!  How would you want them changed if I were to send a pair to you?

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Soup and Homemade Bread

Yesterday, I was making one our family's favorite winter meals: Potato Bacon Cheddar Soup.  Even the girls gobble it up!  It's a crockpot meal, so that makes me love it even more.  Maybe someday I'll have to share the recipe with you.  What do you think?  Would you like to try your hand at it, too?

I felt inspired to try my hand at some homemade Italian bread, and I was ecstatic to find that not only did the bread turn out but it tastes amazing with the soup.  It was a little overkill; the recipe creates two gigantic loaves of Italian bread, but I guess that's not all bad because it will freeze, and I won't have to bake any more bread for a while.

So what's your favorite soup and bread combination?  What fills you up and warms you to your core?  Is there a recipe for soup or bread that you just love and can't get enough of?

Monday, February 27, 2012

Essentials Bag

For Christmas, my husband's family always does stockings.  I didn't grow up with them, so the concept is still a new one that I struggle each year to figure out what in the world I'm going to do for.  This year, I made all of the girls a little thing I like to refer to as The Essentials Bag.  If you have a giant purse like I do, you know that it's easy to lose stuff in the bottom of it that you need but maybe don't use all the time: chap stick, lotion, lipgloss, etc.  You know, essentials.  (My list is a lot longer, but I don't want to scare you.)  A smaller zippered bag that can fit inside of my purse sounded like the perfect solution!

I wish I knew which website I got this idea from, but my inspiration was pre-Pinterest, and I foolishly didn't bookmark it.  So to whoever it was who geniusly came up with the design for this bag, I'm really sorry that I'm not giving you the credit.  I got the tutorial for how to make a basic zippered bag from MADE and embellished it from there. You can find the basic tutorial for how to make a zippered bag here.

This Essentials Bag is for my niece, who just turned 10.  Happy birthday, Liz!  While she probably doesn't have a gigantic bag that needs some organizing, I'm hoping she can get some good use out of it anyway.  A girl can never have too many purses and bags, right?

UPDATE:  I found the original designer, Anna Graham over at Noodlehead.  She even has a tutorial for how to make the bag.  (She calls it the Gathered Clutch.)  Hop on over to Noodlehead and check it out!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Distressed Photograph Canvases

It's been a really long time since I posted any projects.  Not that I haven't been working on things, and not that I haven't been taking photos of them.  Mostly, I've been trying to finalize a bunch of patterns to post online for free and haven't gotten around to getting them completely to my liking and scanned in for uploading.  Eventually some free PDFs will be coming your way.

For now, this is another project I've had on my to do list for a long while and finally had the time to do: distressed photograph canvases.  

I originally got the idea from Delia over at delia creates.  If you want to find out how to make your own, here is the tutorial over on her site.

The pictures are from the photo shoot with did for their one-year birthday with Aubrey and Emma's godmother Skyler.  She's such a gifted hobby photographer, and we all love her and are thankful that she's such a special part of our lives.

There are two things I really love most about this project.  It's really inexpensive, especially if you can get the canvases and gel medium on sale with 40-50% off coupons for Michael's or Joann Fabrics (I think I calculated it to about $7 a canvas after my savings).  Also, it's a project that's easy to work on for five minutes and come back to later without having to really start over or try to figure out exactly where you were at.  With these two, I need projects like that!

A couple tips I'd give out would be to be patient and not work on a canvas too long in one spot.  I'd advise letting it dry and coming back to it later or moving on to a new spot on the canvas so that you're not rubbing on the same wet spot too long (or you might rub some off).  Also, make sure you're liberal with the gel medium, and don't rub too hard to make sure the picture is pressed down on it.  I know you want to press hard enough that it sticks well and you've gotten rid of all the air bubbles, but if you press too hard, your picture might end up looking a little like this:

I already apologized to Ryan for taking off a chunk of his forehead, and I'm sure someday I'll hear about it from the girls how my face magically has the least damage.  It wasn't on purpose, I promise!  You can tell where I spread out the gel medium too thin with an old credit card because there are lines where the corners pressed in.  Luckily I left enough of the gel medium to stick to most of the picture, and it's not too bad.  I would have liked to leave our faces completely on the picture, though, without chunks and lines missing.  Oh well.  I guess I learned for the future.

Overall, I love them and am so glad I found a way to have canvases hanging in our house that I can afford!  Imagine our dining area walls without them:

Doesn't it look so much better?

Monday, December 19, 2011

Apple Nachos

Our small group had a Christmas party on Friday night, and I signed up to bring appetizers.  I love spinach and artichoke dip, so I jump at any excuse to make it.  (I'll share my recipe another day.)  I decided that spin-art dip wasn't enough for a party of 20 people, and I know that sadly not everyone likes it.  I decided that I should make something else, and I saw this amazing idea for apple nachos on Pinterest, but there wasn't a recipe, so I made mine up using some recipes for a caramel sauce and chocolate/peanut butter drizzle that I stole from some other recipes.  They ended up tasting even better together than I had anticipated.  I love it when food surprises me like that; don't you?  It's the perfect combination of sweet and salty with a "healthy" kind of crunch.

What you'll need:

4-5 apples (I used Braeburn, but any crisp or slightly tart apple would work well)
lemon juice
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup butterscotch chips
2/3 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup chopped pecans

How you make it:

First, slice your apples and soak them in a water and lemon juice mixture.  I would recommend a 3:1 water to lemon juice ratio.  I started with 2 c. water and 2/3 c. lemon juice and added more as I needed it.  Make sure that the apple slices are completely submerged in water.  This will keep your apple slices from browning.  I let mine soak for a little over an hour, and the apple slices stayed white until after we got home from the party that night.  (Of course your results might also vary depending on the type of apple you use.)

Once your apples have soaked, drain the water, and pat the apple slices with a towel to remove any excess water.  Lay the slices out on a plate or tray.

To make the caramel sauce:  In a saucepan, combine the butter, brown sugar, and vanilla.  Warm on medium heat until the caramel sauce starts to boil, whisking constantly.  Continue to stir until sauce begins to thicken and change color slightly.  If you leave it on the burner too long, it will begin to burn; you only want it on long enough to thicken and caramelize.

Remove from heat and let cool for 1-2 minutes.  Transfer to a liquid measuring cup for easier pouring, and drizzle over top of the apple slices.

To make the chocolate/peanut butter drizzle: Melt together chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, and peanut butter.  Transfer to a liquid measuring cup for easier pouring, and drizzle over top of the apple slices.

Top with chopped pecans.

I hope you love them as much as we do!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Paper Snowflakes

I love making paper snowflakes.  Any of my former students and roommates can attest to it.   When I student taught 7th graders, we had homeroom each morning, which every once in a while had something that actually needed to be done, but most of the time it was just a free little chunk of minutes to help students feel connected to a teacher in the school and a group of students they could fit in with.  It also meant random games and little activities.  That's where I worked hard at the skill of paper snowflake making.

Every year now, my husband and I put on a few Christmas movies and work at folding and cutting so that we can decorate with a new batch of wintery goodness.  There's just something about not knowing exactly what it's going to look like until you unfold it that makes cutting out snowflakes  really exciting to me in an admittedly totally craft-geeky way.

I often hear comments from people about how cool my snowflakes look and how they wonder why mine looks so cool.  So I thought that I'd take the time to make up a little tutorial on how to fold six-pointed and five-pointed snowflakes along with some tips that I use to make them look the way they do.  Maybe some of you have some awesome tips you'd like to share, too.  If you already know how to fold your paper into five or six points, you can skip those parts.  

I've also included separate sections on tips that will make some nice-looking snowflakes.  The tips can be mixed together in any number of combinations and can be used with five- or six-pointed snowflakes.  

Five-Pointed Snowflake

First, always start with a square piece of paper.  (Mine are 8.5 x 8.5 in)

For the five-pointed snowflake, you need to fold your square paper from corner to corner so that it forms a triangle that looks like this:

For the next could of folds, you won't actually the fold the paper all the way through.  You want to simply make a mini-crease so that you'll be able to figure out more accurately where to make the next fold.  (You can also measure and use a pencil to mark the points, but I think it's faster to just make a small crease.)

Along the bottom fold you just created, make a mini-crease at the halfway point so that you have a way to mark the middle of that fold.

Next, open your paper back to the triangle with the fold at the bottom.  Then make a mini-crease to mark the halfway point between the far-right point and the top point of your triangle.  (Sorry, I turned my paper in the picture below, so now the "top" corner is actually on the right because it was easier to hold for the picture.)

Fold open your paper back to the triangle with the fold on the bottom.  Then make a mini-crease to mark the halfway point between the second mini-crease you just made (marked with a circled "two" in the picture below) and the top point of the triangle.

Unfold again to the triangle you first made with the fold on the bottom.  Take the far-right point and fold it (not a mini-crease!) so that your fold starts at the first mini-crease you made (marked in the picture below with a circled "one") and lines up over the third mini-crease you just made (marked with a circled "three).  The fold will be longer than the bottom part of the paper.  Hopefully this picture will make more sense:

Take the far-left corner and fold it over so that the bottom edge lines up with the fold you just made from the picture above.

Then fold your entire origami-ed craziness in half one more time to make an even skinnier "triangle."  It should look something like this when you're done:

Six-Pointed Snowflakes

Just like with the other folding technique, you need to start with a square piece of paper.  Then fold in half to form a long rectangle.

Then make a mini-crease to make the halfway point of the bottom fold you just made.

Take the bottom left corner and fold it, using the bottom mini-crease you just made as the starting point of your fold so that you make the folded-over section the same angle as the leftover piece on the right.  In the picture below, my angles labeled "here" and "here" are the same size:

Next, fold the right tab under so that it lines up under the top one you just made.  (For mine, the right-hand "here" got completely folded under.  Sorry the picture is a little blurry.  I guess I don't know what I was focusing on.)

Then fold your piece in half again so that it's an even skinnier "triangle."  Your final piece should look something like this (hopefully minus the writing and arrows):

Tips for Snowflake Making

These first tips i used the five-pointed snowflake to demonstrate.  You can use these tips on the six-pointed snowflake, too, though.  They look good using either technique.

Most importantly, you always want to make sure that you cut off the extra sticking-out pieces, because those will make your snowflake look strangely not uniform in an awkward kind of way.  Trust me--my husband doubted me once and tried it.  Not pretty.  Make sure that you've cut off enough excess that every layer of your paper goes up to the top edge.

Tip #1: Cutting triangles, large or small, along long edges gives a cool look.  I'd recommend spacing them out evenly.  It can also look pretty to make some of the lines run parallel (like I did below with the two lines in the middle).

Tip #2: Cut long tines that are evenly spaced apart.  Don't be afraid of making big cuts into your snowflake that go from one edge close to the other other.  Generally, the less white space you have left, the better your snowflake will probably look.  I'd recommend evenly spacing apart your cuts to make them look more planned and purposeful.

Tip #3: Cut from the opposite side so that it's parallel to to the lines you've already cut.

Using the tips that I just shared, your snowflake using these tips just as I shared them would look like this:

These next set of tips are demonstrated using the six-pointed snowflake I showed you how to fold earlier.  These tips can also be used with the five-pointed snowflake technique.

Tip #4: Cutting different angles for the top edge makes for an interesting look.

Tip #5:  Just like tip #1, try cutting smaller triangles of the same size evenly spaced apart.

Tip #6:  You don't have to limit yourself to cutting straight lines.  You can also cut curved lines.  Create a pattern with it--cut more than one curved line, and space them evenly apart.

Tip #7:  Cut the tip off at an angle.  Additionally, you can also cut some lines out that run parallel to the line you just created by cutting off the tip.

Tip #8: Cut long lines along a crease.  You could even line it up with another cut you've already made.

Using the tips I just shared, you can make a snowflake that looks like this one:

Get creative and combine any number of different ideas.  Also, it never hurts to look at other people's snowflakes that you like and copy their ideas.  That can often help you learn what you like and don't like and how to do certain techniques well or improve on them.  Happy snowflake making, everybody!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Book Page Wreath

I've wanted to decorate for Christmas for a while now, but it's hard to find baby-safe things to decorate with that don't involve my having to watch Aubrey and Emma like a paranoid person.  Decorations that hang on the wall and Christmas trees in non-baby rooms will just have to do this year I fear.  Hence this project.

A few days ago, I created this book page wreath using an old book, a basic wreath I already had in the house, and a lot of hot glue.  I got the idea from Delia over at delia creates.

For those of you who know me well, you might be shocked that I would actually tear up a book, even for the sake of a good home decor project.  My husband couldn't believe it, either.  However, I assure you that book was tear-worthy.  It was entitled Nineteen from Seventeen: Stories from Seventeen Magazine selected by Bryna Ivens, Fiction Editor of Seventeen.  I'll let your imagination run wild with the cheesiness of that one.  (I apologize, Bryna, if you felt that this was the culmination of your most important life work.  Honestly, I doubt that, though.)

In fact, I'm not the only one who wasn't a fan of this book.  I got it free from a library cast-off pile, and on the back someone had scrawled in pencil, "I hate this book."  Harsh words, but  I guess I don't have a right to judge since I just ripped it apart.  It was for a good cause, though.

For those of you who have/had small children, do you have any tips and tricks for how to keep your Christmas decorations safe, or did you just resolve yourself to decorating in future years when it wasn't so hard to keep curious hands from committing ultimate destruction?  (I type this as Aubrey honestly just got ahold of a stray book page that didn't make it into the wreath and just took a bite out of the page.)