Tuesday, July 31, 2007

New Bags for me!

So, here's the bag that started my tote frenzy! On Sunday I made three bags for myself for an upcoming trip. The tote kicked the whole lot off, made from a too small shirt that I bought solely for the pirate screen print! I lined the insides with a pirate themed fabric and finished it all of with a black strap. This bag is for beach and pool going . . .but not quite right for dinners out. So I added a cocktail wristlet just big enough to hold my camera, a phone and a lipgloss. Since wristlets are a bit too small to hold my everyday wallet (and honestly, who needs a checkbook on vacation?) I added a third bag, a mini coin purse big enough to hold my id and cards. I'm all set for my trip! Better make sure to stock a few business cards in that coin purse, in case anyone asks where I got all of my fabulous bags! ;)

Listening:  Old 97s- "Wish The Worst"

Monday, July 30, 2007

Market Tote Bags

New Etsy item alert!!! Last night I made a tote bag out of a tshirt I love but never wore (too small!) . . . I salvaged the screenprint and transformed it into a simple tote for beach and pool going. The boy was extremely impressed and insisted I needed to make more totes for my Etsy shop, so I whipped this one up. I adore it (and want to keep it, as per usual). Totes take a bit more fabric than my usual purses, but they're super fun and quick to make. I'm going to try to do a few more this week with embellishments perhaps. They're a simple, fun project with an adorable, very useful result.

Listening:  The Notwist- "Pick Up The Phone"

Friday, July 27, 2007

Black Bean, Barley and Vegetable Chili

Whats a girl to do when she plans to make chili for dinner but gets home only to find that her cupboards are completely empty of canned kidney beans? Improvise, of course. And the results were pretty spectacular, so here they are!

Black Bean, Barley and Vegetable Chili:

-1 28oz can diced tomatoes
-1 16oz can tomato sauce
-2 tblsp tomato paste
-1 can black beans, rinsed well
-1/4 cup pearl barley
-1/2 cup frozen sweet corn
-1 large onion, diced
-1/2 cup sliced carrots
-1/2 cup sliced celery
-1 bell pepper, diced
-1 clove garlic, minced finely
-3 tblsp chili powder
-1 1/2 tblsp cumin
-1 tblsp dried parsley
-1/2 tsp salt
-black pepper to taste
sliced green onions and shredded cheddar cheese to garnish

-put everything in a stockpot
-simmer for about 45 minutes
(chili is pretty easy.)

Listening:  Goldrush - "Heaven Is My Destiantion"

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Breakfast on a Saturday Morning

On Saturday mornings I like to make a "real" breakfast for me and the boy (yes, he's spoiled). It only takes 20 or 30 minutes to pull together a breakfast that tastes just as good if not better than anything I could get in a diner, but also has the added benefit of being far healthier. Eggs are also really accommodating: I can add pretty much whatever leftover veg or cheese I have in the fridge to them. If I've got a few potatoes and onions in the pantry too, there's breakfast!

Breakfast Potatoes:

1 large russet potato, peeled and chopped into a small dice
1 medium onion, cut about the same size
olive oil
seasonings (I use Mrs. Dash or lemon pepper, but feel free to experiment!)

-place potatoes, onions, oil and salt in a large nonstick pan over medium heat, stir to combine and cover
-cook covered for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
-when potatoes are cooked through (they yield to a fork), uncover, add seasonings and cook over medium heat for a few more minutes to evaporate any steam that may have accumulated while potatoes were covered

"Irish" Eggs:

-4 eggs, beaten with a little milk, salt, pepper and grated Parmesan cheese
-about 1/4 cup shredded Dubliner cheese
-2 green onions, sliced finely
-1 tsp butter

-melt butter in a nonstick pan and add onions, cooking for a few minutes
-scramble eggs, adding cheese when eggs are almost done and cooking until cheese melts

Listening:  Dodgy- "Staying Out For The Summer"

Monday, July 23, 2007

I Should've Taken A Before Picture

After over four hours of back breaking labor last night (hmm . . . wonder how many calories I burned?), my closet is officially cleaner than it has been pretty much ever. I literally got rid of more than I kept. I found a few hidden gems in the back like a pair of perfectly fitted Miss 60 jeans that were missing a button (I hoard buttons, so that was a super easy fix), but most of what I pulled out fell in the "why do I have this?" category rather than the "why did I forget I have this?" one. Its a little scary to think that I'm getting rid of so many things which at the time I bought them obviously seemed essential to me. But in honesty, am I really ever going to wear shirts from high school again? Is it important to keep a pair of jeans simply because I bought them while on vacation? If I've loved an item and worn it to death but don't wear it anymore, is it ok to let it go? And if I've really never worn something whats the point of holding on to it in case I might "someday" feel inspired to wear it?
We'll see how maintenance on the new closet organization goes . . . If anything though for a few months at least I think I'll be inclined to pay more attention to what I buy.

Listening:  Division Day- "Hurricane"

Friday, July 20, 2007

Cheese Sauce

I make cheese sauces really often to go on veggies, potatoes, pasta . . . whatever! As a vegetarian, I feel fully justified in getting a large part of my protein from cheese. The following recipe is how I make a basic cheese sauce. The measurements can be cut down or doubled or tripled, depending on how many servings you're aiming for. Leftovers will keep in the fridge for a few days, and this sauce is almost better for having sat for a bit!

Cheese Sauce:

-1 tblsp butter
-1 heaping tblsp flour
-about 1/2 a cup of milk
-about 1/2 a cup of shredded cheese (I use Dubliner, like above or any white cheddar, Italian blends, leftover odd knobs from the fridge. You name it! The only rule of thumb I think is to make sure you've got at least one cheese in there with a strong flavor, like a cheddar or Parmesan, since the milk will dilute the flavor a bit)

-melt the butter in a saucepan over low heat, add flour and cook for a few minutes.
-add milk and whisk vigorously until all flour blobs are gone
-let simmer until milk mixture begins to thicken. If the mixture is taking more than 5 or 6 minutes to thicken, add a bit more flour and whisk well.
-when mixture is thickened, add cheese. Stir until cheese melts.
-remove from heat and let sit at least 5 minutes, as sauce will thicken on standing.

Now there . . .that was even easier than opening a packet, wasn't it?

Listening:  Jimmy Eat World- "Roller Queen"

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Just Plain Morbid . . .but cool nonetheless!!

My swap partner for Magic Yarn Ball Wisted a pillow like the one above and I sewed one up to include in her swap pacakge (unstuffed, of course. A pillow sticking out of a ball of yarn would be pretty darn obvious, not to mention hard to mail!). My friend Nick liked it so much that I made him one for his birthday too. And then insisted that he lie around on his office floor with it so I could take pictures to post online. I have pretty accomidating friends.
I "drafted" a pattern on butcher paper and used it to trace two matching squiggley shapes onto red fabric. I seamed them up and stuffed. Very stragightforward and pretty darn cool . . . if you're into that sort of thing.

Listening:  Cut Copy- "Future"

Monday, July 16, 2007

Extremely Interested In Ribbons

Since making special, unique, embellished purses is my favorite thing to do lately, and since applique is only interesting for so long, it was natural that my next obsession would be ribbons. I love them!!! There are lacy ribbons, tapestry ribbons, glittery, satiny velvet . . . they have a really romantic and old fashioned quality that I adore.
I've finally hit the point in my sewing where I can get an idea in my head and make it a reality. I can use the things that inspire me throughout the day in my work instead of being limited by what I can or can't do with my machine. The purse above is such a great example of that and I'm so proud to have taken a bit of inspiration and turned it into a finished product!

Listening:  Ryan Ferguson- "Not On My Watch"

Friday, July 13, 2007

"Meat" Loaf

I've said it before, but the things that I miss being a vegetarian I don't typically miss so much for the meat as for the comfort factor. Things like my dad's chicken stir fry, my mom's split pea and ham bone soup, and most of all: my grandma's meat loaf patties. My mom thinks my fascination w/ meatloaf came from the fact that my grandma was making meatloaf patties as I was brought home as a newborn from the hospital. She might be on to something there.
The entire time I was growing up, I lived in LA with my parents while my grandparents were about a 5 hour drive away in Las Vegas. We'd drive up there a few times a year . . . sometimes more than a few times. The one thing I could count on after making the long trek out there was that my grandma would have a batch of meatloaf patties and a casserole of au gratin potatoes ready and waiting for our arrival. When I became a vegetarian at 18, I can remember my grandma trying at least a dozen times to replicate her meatloaf patties using tofu or fake meat products. While the tofu patties were spectacularly unsuccessful, the kind we made with fake ground meat were usually pretty darn good. It wasn't until after she died, however, that I finally figured out the secret to making meatloaf patties that were close enough to hers to fool me. My grandma used to steam her patties to cook the meat through, but every veggie version we tried fell apart on the steamer rack. Eventually I realized that I could skip that step, since veggie meat is perfectly safe to eat without cooking to any specific temperature. And to get the patty shape, the big "trick", I use muffin tins.
My usual disclaimer aside (I haven't had meat in a decade!), I DO think that these patties taste very much like the real thing. I wonder if my grandma would agree.

My Grandma's Meatloaf Patties (Veggie Style!):

1 package of Yves brand fake ground meat (or any other variety, thawed if frozen)
1 egg
pinch salt
about 1/3 cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs
1 very small onion, minced very finely

-mix all ingredients together well with your hands
-form patties into six balls and place in the wells of a 6 cup muffin tin
-bake at 375 for 15-20 minutes (or until tops start to brown and crisp. Be wary of overcooking though, since this can dry the patties out)

For maximum authenticity, serve with au gratin style potatoes (from a Betty Crocker box, of course!)

Listening:  Failure- "Enjoy The Silence"

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Polenta Bruschetta

In Vegas, the boy and I had the most amazing polenta "fries" with marinara sauce at Caesar's Palace. I was inspired to try something similar at home. Using prepared polenta made these super quick and easy. They're a nice twist on my usual bruschetta recipe!

Polenta bruschetta :

1 "tube" of prepared polenta (plain or flavored)
2 medium sized tomatoes, seeded and diced
about 12 basil leaves, cut into ribbons
1 egg, beaten well
a handful of seasoned breadcrumbs
olive oil
mozzarella or Parmesan to garnish

-slice polenta into rounds about 1/2 an inch thick, dip each round into egg first, then breadcrumbs
-fry rounds in a single layer (using multiple batches if needed) in a nonstick fry pan with a little olive oil, turning over once
-meanwhile, mix tomatoes, basil, salt and about 1 tsp of olive oil
-top fried polenta cakes w/ tomato basil mixture and garnish with cheese

Listening:  Facing New York

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Yarn Ball Goodies!!!!

So, you've seen the scarf, now here are all of the goodies that my lovely partner included in my magic yarn ball!!! Some of my favorites were a set of veggie stitch markers from her Etsy Shop, a cookie mirror (soon to be in her shop!!), a sheep tape measure, nerds, liplgoss, and an adorable crocheted carrot!
And in her magic yarn ball, I included two brooches to decorate the bag she planned to make, an unstuffed blood pillow, fabric for lining her bag and a matching coin purse and kleenex cover set, an Electric Soft Parade CD and some trinkets and tea.
I had SO MUCH fun with this swap!! I was able to craft a bunch of my items and my partner was the best. We had such a great time emailing and coming up with ideas for each other . . . I'm sad it's over! But at least I have Mr. Carrot, my favorite new desk toy, to keep me smiling!

Listening:  Ryan Ferguson- "Suddenly"

Monday, July 9, 2007

Butterfly Stitch Scarf

On the way to Vegas for Tara's wedding, I worked on my scarf from the Magic Yarn Ball Swap in the car! My partner sent this GORGEOUS avacado green merino wool yarn and I thought it'd be perfect to use in trying my hand at writing my own openwork crochet patern, something I've been meaning to do for some time now! The scarf is sort of a checkerboard between blocks of dc and buttefly stitch blocks. Here's an attempt at a pattern!

Butterfly Stitch Muffler:

Special Stitches: Butterfly Stitch (BS), sc around 3 chs

1-ch. 34
2-dc in 3rd ch from hook, *(5 dc, ch 5) repeat until last ch, 1 dc in last ch, ch 2, turn
3-1 dc in dc, *(ch 5, 5 dc) repeat until last dc, 1 dc in last dc, ch 2, turn
4-1 dc in dc, *(5 dc, ch 5) repeat until last dc, 1 dc in last ch, ch 2, turn
5-1 dc in dc, *(ch 2, 1 BS, ch 2, 5dc) repeat until last dc, 1 dc in last dc, ch 1, turn
6-1 sc in dc, *(ch 5, 5 sc in dc) until last dc, sc in dc, ch 2, turn

Repeat from #2-6 until desired length.

Finishing: sc in contrasting color around scarf making 2 sc in every 2ch or dc space. Repeat with one row of straight sc around.

This is the most complicated pattern I've written to date, so if anything is confusing or if anyone has any feedback, please let me know! Criticisims are welcome :)

Listening:  Electric Soft Parade- "Misunderstanding"

Thursday, July 5, 2007

A Little Obsessed with Applique

I've been adding appliques to pretty much everything I can think to lately. I cut them from scrap vinyl and sew by hand. There's something supremely relaxing about sewing by hand. The work starts slowly, but as I progress I start to get into a rhythm and build speed.
The keyhole applique pictured above was inspired by a custom trade order I did for Opulent Oddities. I've also done record and star appliques on bags for myself and for my shop.

Listening:  Elvis- "Viva Las Vegas"

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Quick Steel

I've spent the last several months searching high and low for a glue that would hold together button and coin rings. Rings take a lot of abuse; they get wet, they get knocked around, they get dropped. I needed something super strong and with a little bit of body to it to fill in the gaps between button or coin back and ring pad. The rundown on what I've tried is as follows:

1) E6000. Works great bonding paper to glass, but is pretty much useless and peel-off-y when trying to bond metal to metal or metal to plastic. Also, it has no body whatsoever.

2) Hot Glue. Tons of body, but one sharp knock and its hold just lets go.

3) Super Glue, Locktite brand. Ok for bonding two perfectly flat surfaces, but not 100% permanent. . . after about a week or so of wear rings made with this glue tended to break. Also, it has no body so bonding two surfaces that weren't completely flat was impossible. Which leads me to . . .

4) Hot glue, broken after drying and then supplemented with super glue. Lasts the longest of the methods listed above, but still not 100% permanently bonded.

5) Gorilla Glue with clamps. Neat-o foaming, space filling action, but completely useless as a bonding agent.

I've figured for some time that I'd have to make a run to Home Depot to look for a "real" industrial glue . . .but that place terrifies me. Its completely scary and overwhelming. And that aside, I seriously doubt I could go up to one of the employees there and ask which glues would be best for jewelry making. They'd think I was insane.

So, fortunately, after picking the boy's dad's brain about glues, he picked one out for me that he thought would work and it DID!!! The stuff is called Quick Steel and it is AWESOME. Its a putty, so it has body. It contains ACTUAL STEEL, so it's bond is super tight. And, most of all, the putty form makes it soooo easy to work with. I can get the right amount of glue just where I need it and if I do happen to mess up, I've got about 3 or 4 minutes to fix the mistakes. I've been wearing a ring I made using this stuff for the last two days and I've been actually TRYING to break it, but no luck! This stuff really might be the permanent jewelry glue of my dreams!

Listening:  Electric Soft Parade- "There Is A Silence"

Monday, July 2, 2007

Cupcake Insanity!!!

Let me just preface this by saying I'm not usually a successful baker. I heard somewhere once that you're either good at cooking or good at baking but rarely good at both. Since I consider myself a pretty good cook, the baking is definitely not my strong point. I think, however, that considering my track record, I enjoyed some pretty darn near phenomenal success with these cupcakes. All 12 that I brought to the boy's family picnic were gone in a flash and at Tara's party I got a thumbs up from a pastry chef!! So, in short, this recipe is foolproof :)

Chocolate Cupcake Recipe
My modifications included adding a small bag of chocolate chips, baking for about 3-4 minutes longer than recommended (ie: until a toothpick came out clean) and filling the cups 1/2 way or thereabouts instead of 3/4. I came out with 24 cupcakes this way. Also worth mentioning are my Disney princess cupcake papers. Any cupcakes would benefit from the addition of a few princesses!

My Grandma's Cream Cheese Icing:
1 8oz package of cream cheese
1 stick butter
1 box powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla

-beat until combined, thinning with a little milk if necessary

Listening:  Ides of Space- "Arthur's Car"