Tag Archives: projects

Projects: Cooking, drinks, and writing

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I’ve been asked a lot lately what I’ve been doing since I graduated while I wait to leave for Belize. My usual answer: “Just sitting around.” In all honesty though, that’s not true (it’s just way easier than an actual explanation). I’m always doing something, whether it’s learning a new recipe, researching Belize, writing my story, or any number of the projects I cook up in my brain. There’s hardly a day when I’m not trying to get something done. And really, isn’t that the way it should be?

So lately I’ve been working on my April Camp NaNoWri Mo writing project. It’s going REALLY REALLY slowly. But I haven’t forced myself to sit down and write as often as I should, so it’s really my fault. I’ve gotten close to 9k words so far. Hopefully I’ll be able to catch up 11000 words in the next ten days, but I doubt it.

On the other hand, another project I’ve been working on IS successful. Since I’ll be gone and my boyfriend will have to teach himself to cook, he asked me to write up a recipe book for him that can help give him ideas and pointers. So, after only about 4 total days of working on it, it’s over 9k words (longer than the NaNo project I’ve been working on for 20 days…) and around 70 pages of recipes. I’m excited to give it to him!

Finally, since I’ve been making a cookbook, I have been finding a bunch of new recipes that I want to try. So today I made Peanut Butter and Jelly Bars. They’re in the freezer solidifying right now, but the warm melty bite I got was delicious! Take a look:

PB&J Bars. After freezing them I’m still not super happy with the jelly texture– too liquidy. Need something a bit more substantial to hold bars together. Also needed to grease foil a lot more, took a lot of work to get them out.

And after dinner, I decided to make a big-kid drink (because… I can). This is my ‘Cup o’ Candy’; 1 1/2 cups cranberry juice, 1/8 cup lemon juice, and 2 jiggers of white rum blended with ice in a shaker, poured over 1/2 jigger of rum in a glass rimmed with chia seeds and brown sugar, drizzled with grenadine syrup and topped with 1/2 jigger of rum. You know those delicious dark red gummy lifesavers? It tastes exactly like that. This drink is dangerous!

Tasted amazing, especially chia seeds ūüôā

By the way, be looking out for more baby shower crafts– a friend is having her baby shower next month! I’ll also be thinking up graduation crafts (presents and party ideas) for my boyfriend’s graduation in a few weeks!

Photos of projects

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I promised some photo updates of the projects I’ve been up to, so here they are:

Jello Shots in Clementine Peels

Made with peach flavored jello and 1/2 cup of silver rum.

  • Jello mix made according to package instructions (replace 1/2 cup of cold water with 1/2 cup of rum or vodka)
  • 6 clementines, halved and insides removed
  • Place clementine halves in a muffin tray cups, then fill with jello mixture
  • Refrigerate until solid, then slice in half

 

Jalapeno Poppers

Jalapeno Poppers

  • Followed recipe from culinaryconfessional.
  • Substituted cream cheese for herb goat cheese and didn’t use bacon.

Inside of the jalapeno poppers.

Pizza

The “House Party” Pizza

  • Easy to make– get Publix (or any grocery store that does it) pre-made pizza dough from the deli/bakery section, your choice of meat/veggie toppings, your choice of meltable cheese, and pasta/tomato sauce.
  • Refrigerate dough, follow instructions on preparation.
  • Prepare toppings- I chopped up onions, bell peppers, spinach, tomatoes, and pre-cooked Canadian bacon.
  • Stretch the dough and form to a well greased pan. Preset oven to temp specified on dough instructions.
  • Put a LIGHT layer of sauce on the dough, then put in the oven to pre-bake for 10 minutes.
  • Get pre-baked crust out of the oven, spread toppings. Cover with a light layer of shredded cheese, then bake until cheese is melted and crust turns golden brown.
  • Let sit for 5 minutes before cutting.

Towel Robe

Towel Robe

  • Reverse-engineered the robe my mom made me a few years ago (not nearly as well).
  • Used 4 oversized towels (from Walmart).
  • Towel 1: back. Cut a slant at the top for shoulders and half-circles on each side for half the arm circles.
  • Towel 2: Cut in half (long way). Cut one arm hole half-circle in each half, as well as one shoulder slant. Match with the back, each half should be the front sides.
  • Sew the front pieces (towel 2) on to the back piece (towel 1) leaving the arm holes open.
  • Towel 3: Cut one 3 in strip on the long side. This will be the belt once folded in half and sewed. Cut the remaining towel bit in half (long way). These are the arms.
  • Cut arms to length desired, then sew the sides of each arm piece together to create the sleeve. How sew the cuff of the arm, then attach to the armholes of the robe.
  • Towel 4: Pockets and collar. *This is the part I had trouble with*. Matching the right length between chest level on the front of the robe on one side, around the back of the neck and to the same point on the other side, cut from the 4th towel the collar. it should be curved on one side and flat on another, thicker around the back of the neck and thinner at the chest. Attach this carefully to the correct places on the robe.
  • *Optional*: Cut 2 pockets (about 3in square). Attach to robe.

Playing House

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It’s been a while since I’ve done a serious “Life Lessons” post frankly because I couldn’t think of anything to add. Sure, I’ve been keeping myself busy with little projects here and there, but I don’t want every post on this blog to be about a new cooking adventure, my writing, or the craft projects I’ve been doing. This started out as a blog to talk about advice and my own learning about how to “be an adult”, and I want to make sure it stays true to that topic.

To tie up some loose ends:

  1. No I did not meet my March writing goal. I didn’t even get halfway there. I’m having some existential issues with books two and three and also rethinking my editing of book 1, so I got sidetracked from the writing part. I signed up for Camp Nano this month, so we’ll see if I can meet my 30k word goal.
  2. I have been busy with projects. Cooking is the main one; I recently prided myself on making jello shots in clementine skins, jalapeno poppers, cheese sticks, and a veggie pizza that actually holds together. In the crafts department, I made a towel robe out of oversized towels for my boyfriend, but after sizing it to him I need to go back and cut it WAY down (apparently when I don’t see him I think he’s a giant…). ** I’ll post some photos in another blog**
  3. I am currently house/pet sitting for my parents while they are out-of-town. Which is the inspiration for this blog.

The Grown-Up Test aka House-sitting.

So my parents are off in Europe for two weeks to do the second part of the Camino de Santiago. They walked the first part last year and will do the last part next year. So, while they are gone, I essentially am the caretaker of the house; care for the cats, make sure the house doesn’t get destroyed by the cats, do all the cooking, cleaning, and maintenance, and in general keep things going like normal. Here are some things I’ve been learning in the past week or so:

  1. Going to the grocery store is actually fun. I can honestly say that I usually HATE grocery shopping. It’s always crowded, the prices are always more than I want to pay, I always forget to buy something, and I always feel slightly judged by the cashier for buying beer (plus the inevitable “you can’t be old enough for this, can you?” before I pull out my ID, and then the awkward “well, you’ll always look young for your age” comment). It’s just an ordeal. But after you’ve been stuck alone in the house for a few days with only your cats to talk to (I do realize how lame that sounds), going ANYWHERE with people is fun. And to get the ingredients for the recipe you’ve been wanting to try for days? Amazing.
  2. Just because you’re at home with nothing to do doesn’t mean you do nothing.¬†So I kind of blew off my own advice for a few days. I had just gotten back from a vacation with my boyfriend when my parents left, and all I felt like doing was sleeping and watching TV. But after a couple of days¬†watching TV and not changing out of my PJs, I realized how lazy I was being. And it wasn’t just my conscience scolding me for being a bum, I¬†felt¬†terrible. I was always tired, but I didn’t sleep well at night. I felt like I was gaining weight. My brain felt fuzzy, and no matter how bored I felt I couldn’t get myself to do something productive like read a book or write. No matter how cool it may seem of be able to sit around watching TV all day in your PJs, eating junk food, etc…. it’s not. I stopped that pretty fast and set a loose schedule for my days.
  3. Time flies when you’re doing things. So before, when I was just watching TV and doing nothing productive, it seemed like the day took forever to go by. It was one crappy daytime TV show after another, and it was boring. But once I started to actually do things with my day, the time went by faster. Morning breakfast, exercise and shower took until almost eleven. After lunch I either read, work on a puzzle, or work on some craft/cooking project. Before I knew it, it was dark. Then it’s dinner and¬†then¬† I can allow myself to veg out by the TV for a few hours before bed.
  4. Animals are a HUGE responsibility. This is really something I already knew, but wanted to emphasize it even more. Our pets are like family, and we make sure they’re taken care of. But it’s constant hard work. I know a lot of people who adopted pets before realizing how much of a responsibility they were, and the pets don’t get the proper care because of it. Honestly, I’d recommend waiting until at least after you graduate college and have a job to consider a pet. They need food, water, toys, and care products that take a lot of money. They need constant attention (even cats) and love. If you’re not ready to dedicate your time, money and attention to them, don’t adopt them. I love my cats, but my mom is really the one that cares for them usually. And when my parents left, I was shocked at how much attention the cats needed– the first few days they kept me up at night because I didn’t play with them enough to tire them out (that and they were worried about why my parents had left them). I love the cats, but they are a lot of work. (Also, it makes me sympathetic for mothers everywhere. I find myself constantly yelling “Don’t scratch that!”, “Don’t eat that!”, “Stop fighting with your sister!”)
  5. Being safe doesn’t mean being crazy. Being alone in a big house at night is never¬†very fun. Besides the cats being noisy and annoying when I tried to sleep, I was constantly worried about the house. My parents moved into the house last summer, so it’s still pretty new to me and I’m learning all the normal bumps and creaks of the house at night. I’d get myself worked up over some little noise that was probably a cat, and go downstairs with all the lights on to recheck the door locks and the alarm. Yes it’s important to check the locks before going to bed and make sure the alarm is on. But every little noise is not someone breaking in, just relax and go to sleep.
  6. Screening your calls makes life a lot easier. So I do this already on my cell phone. If I’m not expecting a call and I don’t know the number, I don’t answer. If it’s important, they will leave a message. I have been doing this at the house while I’ve been here alone, and out of the 2-3 calls a day we’ve gotten, only 1 (total) has bothered to leave a message. Obviously the others were telemarketers and not worth my time on the phone.

Now obviously this experience hasn’t given me insight into everything that I’ll have to do and worry about as an adult. There are bills and taxes and those pesky jobs… but I have learned that if I decide one day to become a stay-at-home wife/mom, I can not only manage it, but have fun doing it. I love cooking for my boyfriend (he stayed over the weekend so I cooked him pizza and jalapeno poppers) and I can manage my days to be productive. It’s all about self-discipline, structure, and the drive to have an adventure everyday whether with a new craft, a new recipe, or just continuing a project.

Projects: Chromebook, Writebox, and Writing on the go!

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It’s been a while since I’ve posted here, and it’s because I’ve been gone the past week on a ‘spring break’ trip with my boyfriend (his spring break… I guess just a normal week for me!). He was invited to interview with a company in Florida, and we were able to make an almost week-long trip out of it.

Now, for anyone who writes often, taking vacations can be difficult. You have to decide if you’re willing to take a break from writing or not, how you want to write while you’re gone, and how to save your writing. I prefer to write using my laptop, but it’s old and has only about a 20 minute battery life at this point, so not ideal for long car rides or days without guaranteed electricity access.

For graduation, I was given a Chromebook. I love the lightness and the long battery life, and have been working on how to adapt my writing to more easily use the Chromebook (I really only love using my laptop because it has all my documents saved to it and I don’t have to alter my formatting). So here are the pros and cons I’ve found to using a Chromebook:

Chromebook Pros:

1) Long battery life. You really don’t need to worry about a charging cable unless you’re going to use it for more than four or five hours, and that’s with doing a lot of internet surfing and keeping the screen brightness up. If you were to turn off the wi-fi completely and turn down the brightness (plus other battery-saving habits), you can get even more time out of it.

2) It’s light, so easy to carry around with you. I walked two miles from my hotel to the beach with it in my shoulder bag. I shudder to think of the back pain I’d get from doing that with my 17 in. laptop!

3) Easy access and upload to Google Drive. As long as you have wi-fi, the Chromebook syncs automatically with your Google account, which allows easy access to documents on your Drive. You can also set up specific documents to be able to be viewed offline.

4) Offline functions. I haven’t fully explored these because I almost always have internet, but the Chromebook has an assortment of offline options. You can compose emails, documents, and do an assortment of other activities once you’ve fully set up your offline features. Here’s a full list of the offline functions: Use your Chromebook offline.

Chromebook Cons:

1) Formatting issues. I’m used to using Microsoft Word to write in. I love all the options I have for formatting and editing, and just got used to it. As far as I have found I can’t really get an offline version of Word for my Chromebook, so I’ve had to look at other word processing application options. Google Drive tends to mess up any Word formatting if it’s converted to a Drive document and while I can view a Word document in its original formatting, I can’t edit it. In addition, since all my previous work has been saved as a Word document, I have to transfer all my Drive documents to Word on my laptop later.

2) Original Apps. The Chromebook comes with an app called Scratchpad, but it’s not so much a word processor as a note-pad. I knew I couldn’t use it for writing anything of length.

After using my Chromebook for a few months, I love it! I still prefer the ease of saving and organizing my documents on my laptop, but as for just writing, I love to use it. And now that I’ve been exploring word processing apps, I can say that my love for writing on my Chromebook has only increased now that I use Writebox. For some reason I really dislike writing with Google Drive; it just seems slow and the formatting always seems to mess up somehow. I have started using Writebox to do my word processing, and it seems to work a lot better. Here’s why:

Writebox Pros:

1) Offline access. No matter where I am, I know that I have access to a blank Writebox page. Saving is a bit tricky without internet, but you can write however much you want.

2) Syncing to Google Drive and Dropbox. The way Writebox works is you compose in the application, then use the syncing feature to save the document to your Google Drive or Dropbox account. You can manipulate the file name and saving location within each account, and it shows up immediately. I like to use this to copy-paste into a Google Drive document for future editing, while saving the formatting structure that can easily transfer to Word.

3) Simple and Distraction-free. Maybe the reason I don’t like to write with Google Drive is because it’s too busy for me. I’m used to the business of Word. Somehow, I don’t see all the little buttons and features while I’m trying to write. But put me on a Google Doc and I keep having to check to see when it last saved, click through several buttons to find the cord count. Also, my go-to font, Times New Roman, looks different both in spacing and design on Google Docs, and¬†that throws me. But Writebox is absolutely no-frills. There is a small toolbar at the top that gives options for opening a document, creating a new document, seeing recently created documents, a preview button, a short menu (save, download, settings, etc), and the sync button. At the bottom of the screen is a breakdown of word count, characters, and lines. Nothing else. I LOVE being able to see the word count as it grows (which you can’t do with Google Docs), and I’m not distracted by anything else. The text looks the same as in Word, and it’s easy to use.

Writebox Cons:

1) A bit too simple. There’s not real option to alter the formatting. I like it, but anyone who doesn’t like the Writebox formatting is SOL. You can’t double-space, you can’t center any text, and you can’t change the font at all. Again, not a big deal for me, but it might be for someone else.

2) Saving. From what I understand of it, you have to either have a Google account or a Dropbox account to be able to save anything. Not really a problem; who doesn’t have a Google account anyway? Both are free and easy to set up, and if you don’t have one or the other for document saving you probably should. (If you don’t know about Dropbox, check it out here. It’s a great file storage and sharing site.)

So for my readers here’s a question: What are your opinions of the Chromebook? And if you’re a writer, have you used a Chromebook and/or Writebox? What are your favorite online file sharing/saving/editing websites and apps?

Happy Friday night, and GO SHOCKERS, JAYHAWKS, and WILDCATS!

Edit: Thanks to twitter, I found this blog post about the Four of The Best Text Editors for Your Chromebook. Check it out and tell me what you think of the two alternate options that Mr. Price discusses.

Writing Update: Word count rising!

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I was so sure not two days ago that I had finished book 2 of my series (the first draft). I spent hours yesterday writing out my chapter-by-chapter plan for book 3 and brainstorming a working title. But then last night I realized… book two isn’t done yet. It was close, so very close, but not yet complete. I brainstormed for ¬†a while sitting in bed, and resolved to figure everything out in the morning. Luckily, I was so engrossed with planning that somehow I continued thinking about it in my sleep. And by the time I woke up, I knew what I needed to do.

I had to edit through the plans for book 3 to fit in the changes that my addition in book two would make on the plot, but all in all, I love the new bits! I’ve just finished adding on the two chapters that I needed in book 2, and will continue on to book 3 later. Super excited!

With the writing I’ve done today, I managed to catch up my word count to past where it was supposed to be to complete 50k this month. Honestly, 1.6ish thousand words a day is not difficult once you’ve actually sat down to write. Getting yourself focused long enough to actually write is the hard part.

Here’s the updated word count as of now:

Questionnaire and a Question to YOU!

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I found this questionnaire via Jodie Llewellyn, who got it from The YA League. I loved it so much, I wanted to type up my answers for my own blog. I promise I’ll get out a ‘real’ planned post soon!

Writing Habits 

1. Typed or Handwritten?

I prefer to type. It’s easier to save and review than paper; I like to write and save by chapter, so then I can go back easily to change bits or search for accuracy in future (I can’t imagine searching through pages and pages in a notebook to find the chapter I ‘think’ something is in, and having to repeat that over and over.) I also noticed when I did have to write by hand that my writing couldn’t keep up with what was going on in my head, and I’d get lost! Typing is much better for me.

I do use a hand-written journal for notes and planning. Since it’s just for me and I am not planning to send bits off to my brainstormer/critic (aka, my boyfriend), I can keep it on paper and in a pretty leather-bound journal.

I love my journal– handmade paper and leather bound. Sure, my cat knocked nail polish remover on the cover, but my notes and planning stayed safe inside!

Even in my journal I can’t resist having some things typed!

Notes and plans in my journal. I’ve got everything from character bios to location ideas to timelines to chapter-by-chapter (roughly) guides.

2. Cursive or Printed?

Kind of a rough mixture of the two. Another reason I don’t write by hand– my handwriting is terrible, especially if I write fast (which I do when writing my story, see my explanation about keeping up with my brain!) and it all jumbles into a bunch of loopy, messy chicken scratches. For a perfectionist like me, this won’t do at all.

3. Show us your favourite pen.

Don’t have one, I just use whatever is near me. If I’m writing in my planning journal a fountain or gel pen works best. Ballpoint doesn’t write too well on handmade paper.

4. Where do you like to write?

When I was at school my writing space was my desk. I had to have everything cleared off except for my writing journal and my laptop, but it worked well. Now that I’m home I can’t use my old desk because the chair has no back and is uncomfortable (firstworldissues much?) so my writing spot is either on the living room couch or at the kitchen table.

5. Who are your five favorite authors in terms of authorial style?

I am in the middle of the Divergent series and I love Veronica Roth. I have issues with the first-person style, but Roth and Suzanne Collins both are great and have made me enjoy reading books in that style. I prefer writing in third person limited, my favorite author in this style is of course JK Rowling.

6. What are you your three favourite books on writing?

I haven’t read much on writing. I should probably do more so I can perfect my writing style. I did win a copy of The Negative Trait Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi. It’s a good resource, but I haven’t used it much since I developed the characters for my current book years ago. I’ll be referring to it when I start my next book!

They also have The Positive Trait Thesaurus and The Emotion Thesaurus. Check them out!

7. Have you ever competed in NaNoWriMo?

Yes. My first time competing was way back in 2007, and I failed miserably. I thought I couldn’t possibly ever write a novel after that. Fortunately, I tried again in 2011, and have been participating ever since.

8. Have you ever won NaNoWriMo?

Yes! After my disaster in 2007 I took a few years to mature as a writer (I was in high school back then and had neither the time or the discipline to write 50k words). I tried again in 2011 and won, and have won each year since then!

9. Have you ever had anything published?

No. I’d like to eventually get the series I’m currently working on published. I’ve got 2 of (hopefully) 3 books written for the series, one edited through once. I’m getting some other people to read and critique them (my boyfriend, bless his heart, isn’t a good critic. He gets some grammar edits and tells me when something doesn’t make sense, but that’s it). Hopefully before I leave for Belize I’ll be able to start the query process.

10. What projects are you working on now?

I’m working on a YA/NA series. I just finished my first edits of book 1, As the Blood Moon Rises, and the first draft of book 2, Ice on the Horizon. Now to start book 3 (no name yet)!

11. What is your soundtrack to writing?

I have a concentration problem when I write. Not that I don’t love to write, but I also love to sing along with music. And the two do not mix well.

12. Do you have a writing pump-up song?

However, if I need help with inspiration to START writing, Muse’s¬†Supermassive Black Hole¬†is a good one.

I also love¬†Arctic Snow¬† and¬†Heart Full of Black¬†by Burning Brides. Thanks to my friend Alyssa for giving these to me in high school on a CD with other ‘pump up’ music. We had created a story about ourselves as assassins, and these were part of the soundtrack.

(ONE OF MY OWN Q’S) Do you plan your work ahead of time or are you a ‘pantser’?

I am a planner. Strictly. I’ve decided my downfall during my first NaNoWriMo was due to the fact that I had nothing planned out. Beginnings and endings are easy to write. Middles are hard. That’s why I must have everything decided. That’s not saying that while I write new things don’t come up; my original plan for book one of the series I am working on was 20 chapters long. The first draft was 67.

As I said before, I use journals to plan. I have one for the series I’m working on, and I have one for this blog. It’s a place to write down notes, ideas for future posts/chapters, and help my brain stay organized.

I want to hear from you!

If you’re a writer like me, I’d love to hear your answers to these questions! I don’t care if you’re a blogger, a novelist, or a professional tech writer, all are welcome to comment. I’d love to hear from you!

 

Also I just got into twitter (sigh) and I use it to send out tidbits about my writing and my blogging. If you’re there, follow me @k_smith007!

Projects: Writing

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As you can probably guess by how long-winded my blog posts tend to be, one of my passions is writing. I have mentioned NaNoWriMo here before, and want to emphasize how amazing the program is. First, it’s free. Which is wonderful in itself. Second, it not only helps you practice writing for the sake of loving to write, it also helps you learn and develop as a writer. Forums on the website give you pointers to better character development, establish reasonable plot twists, and encourage you when it seems like you’ll never get past the 5k, 20k, and 40k walls. I can’t gloat about them enough, and I encourage anyone who has ever even toyed with the idea of writing a story to check it out.

So, shameless promotion aside, I’ve participated in NaNoWriMo the past 3 years and amazingly won all three (despite all attempts by my schoolwork to keep me from doing so last November). I love the story I’ve been working on, which now consists of two books in (almost) completed first draft form, with a third on the way… when I get around to it.

It’s that last bit that is the catch though. I’ve always been success

ful spitting out 50000 words in November. But somehow ones the race is over and the competition ends, I can’t keep myself driven to write. I love my story, I¬†want to finish it. I¬†want¬†to be able to send out queries and maybe get it published one day. But I just can’t get myself to write. So, it an attempt to get myself to do this, I’m doing an unofficial “miniNano” in the Month of March. I’ve found a widget that I can post to update my word count and you, my readers have to hold me accountable to achieving my goal.

Here’s the goal: Write 50,000 words in the month of March. This is only about 1612 words per day, just under what I did in November. And this time, since

I’m not taking classes or working, I have no reason not to write as much as I can all day. Mini-goals that I have are less strict: I’d like to finish the first draft of book 2 and start book 3. I’d also like to dedicate at least an hour each day to editing through book one, and maybe I’ll be able to have it query-ready before I have to leave for Belize.

Projects Update: Baby Shower Crafts

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The past few weeks, I’ve been dying to share some crafts that I’ve been doing in preparation for my sister’s baby shower. We finally had it this morning, so I can post the baby crafts that I made and the baby shower theme!

Project 1: Hooded Animal Towels

So, my first project was a baby gift idea that I found (of course) on Pinterest (if you haven’t figured it out yet, most of my ideas do!). From crazylittleprojects.com, I found the instructions for hooded towels for babies shaped like animals. I thought it was perfect, because my sister’s ‘baby theme’ is forest animals, specifically owls. It was too cute to pass up, and seemed easy enough to do, so I bought towels and got pointers on sewing machine use from my mom (and used her sewing machine), and got to work. I decided to use Amber’s guide for the owl towel and the frog towel. For a beginner sewer like me, I think even the ‘easy’ instructions listed on the frog towel page are a bit hard to follow, but I managed to get everything together. Anyone who knows their way even a little bit around sewing machines and patterns would probably have no problem. I did have my mom applique the eyes of the animals on, I wasn’t confident I’d be able to get an even applique. Here is the result:

I think they turned out pretty cute!

Project 2: Themed Homemade Coasters

My second project really started out of my desire to clean out some things in my room. I had bought thin cork board to make a note pin board for my mom over the summer (shadow box frame, two cut sheets of thin cork board– super easy). I had several sheets of cork board leftover, and wanted to figure out something to do with it. I found some Pinterest ideas for mouse-pads and wall decor, but then saw a coaster and knew that was the project for me! After all, for a neat-freak like me, you can never have enough coasters when there are guests over! I didn’t use a pattern or instructions, just played around with what I had, so I’ll put the steps I did here. I will warn you, this is VERY time consuming because you have to let several layers of mod podge dry, but it is very easy.

Tools:

  1. #2 Xacto Knife and #2 Blade
  2. 4.5 sheets cork board
  3. 4.5 sheets scrap booking paper (optional)
  4. 4.5 sheets (to make 18) of select theme image
  5. Mod podge (either matte or glossy, but make sure it’s CLEAR)
  6. Paint brushes
  7. Glitter (optional, but who doesn’t love glitter?!)

First, I used an Xacto knife to cut out 18 4 in. x 4 in. pieces of  cork board this should take 4 1/2 sheets of the cork board. I then created the images I wanted for the top of the coasters and printed them out on regular printer paper, then cut each image out in 4 in. x 4 in. squares. For the bottom of the coaster, I wanted to decorate with patterned paper, so I used scrapbook paper and again cut it into 4 in. x 4 in. squares. I used two different patterns so there was a little variety.

Once everything is printed and cut (I used a ruler and my #1 Xacto knife and blade, but you can easily use plain scissors), set the cork squares out on newspaper to keep from getting a mess everywhere. Then break out the mod podge! I used a paintbrush, and painted one layer of mod podge on all surfaces of the cork squares. Read your mod podge labels and make sure to allow everything to dry sufficiently so it doesn’t stick to the newspaper!

Once the first layer of mod podge is dry, start applying the paper. I did the scrapbook paper side first so that I could make sure I was good at it before starting with the theme paper. I learned some lessons I’ll share that will make this easier for you and keep the bubbles out: make sure to paint a THIN layer of mod podge on BOTH the paper and the cork board. I thought it would be better to just put it on the cork, but that makes them bubble more. Also, try not to get mod podge on the top of the paper, so that once you attach the paper to the cork, you can lay the cork square paper-down , pressing lightly to make sure all the air bubbles are out and letting them dry upside down to let the paper dry evenly.¬†When the scrapbook paper is applied and the mod podge is mostly dry, go ahead and paint a layer of mod podge over the scrapbook paper and let it dry. Make sure to make it a thin layer and be careful of soaking the paper too much. It will dry quickly so don’t worry too much about it, just don’t soak it.

When that layer of mod podge is dry, you can flip the coasters over and use the same process to apply the themed paper to the other side. Remember, light layers of mod podge on both the cork and the paper, turn over and press then leave to let dry. Again, when the mod podge is dry, turn them over and paint your first layer of mod podge over the theme paper. BE VERY CAREFUL. Since this is printed, the ink can smear with the mod podge. Allow enough time in between printing and mod podge-ing for the ink to set, and keep the layer light.

The next step is completely optional. I added glitter to the edges of the coasters for two reasons: first because I didn’t cut the paper exactly right for each coaster so it covered even edges, and second because I love glitter and it made them coasters just a little more fun! This part is pretty messy, so be ready to see glitter around your craft areas for days. Put the glitter on a flat surface with a lip to hold it (a paper plate, a plastic container lid, etc.) that is longer than the sides of the cork. Put a lot of glitter down, you want to coat the edges well. Make sure the two sides are fully dry, and be careful holding the paper (a couple of mine tore slightly as I was holding them and pressing the coasters into the glitter). One at a time, paint a layer of mod podge on all four edges of the coasters (a bit thicker than you did on the paper sides) and then press each edge into the glitter to coat heavily. Set carefully back down on the newspaper to reduce the amount of glitter spill. After you’ve gone through each coaster, let them dry a bit longer than you did the sides, then one at a time coat the glittered edges heavily with mod podge.

The coasters are almost done, you just want a few more layers of mod podge to ensure that they will be fully waterproof. After the glitter edges have completely dried, cover one of the paper sides and the edges with two medium-thin layers of mod podge. Don’t worry about getting them fully dried before you do the second layer, and don’t worry if the glitter spreads a little bit over the paper (it looks nice once dry). Wait for this layer to dry, then flip them over and do the same on the other side. You can repeat this as many times as you want, but the more layers don’t do much after the mod podge has fully covered the coasters.

Here are my final Theme Coasters. They will stick together and to cups a bit even after they are dry, but it won’t hurt them or any surfaces.

Project #3: Baby Shower tidbits

My younger sister and I planned the baby shower for our older sister to follow her forest animals theme and green/yellow/brown color scheme. We also added in blue because the baby is a boy! My mom baked all the food (with some help from the mom-to-be!). Here are some photos:

Other than the coasters, the towels, managing the guest list, and general planning, my other contribution to the shower was making theme cupcake toppers. I found some cute images of owls and frogs online, and drew similar images, cutting them out with my #1 Xacto knife, coloring with colored pencils (lines in thin sharpie), and used a glue stick to attach them to toothpicks. I made them two sided, cut out of folded paper to make the size perfectly line up. Here’s the final product:

Update on the Pizza

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My pizza turned out really good! The dough didn’t turn out as crunchy as I like, but I think pre-baking and using a pizza stone would be the only way to fix that. The crust was supposed to make two pizzas, so I cut it in half and made bread sticks with one half and the pizza with the other. I should have taken pictures after I baked them, but I took pictures of the leftovers today! They were very yummy!

Projects: Pizza dough?

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The past few days I’ve had a huge craving for pizza. But being the frugal person I am, I’m not about to order out or go to a restaurant for pizza. I also don’t feel like going to the grocery store: I have pasta sauce, I have veggies, I have cheese. The only thing I need is pizza dough. I’ve been teaching myself how to bake, and I can make a mean bread dough if I do say so myself… So I decided to try making my own.

So right now, I’m waiting for the yeast to set with the water, I’m writing up this blog.

I found a very simple recipe from Pioneer Woman for pizza dough you can find here. But of course, I’ve got my own adjustments that I’ll talk about here.

Ingredients: 1 tsp Active Dry Yeast, 4 cups flour, 1 tsp salt, 1/3 cup EVOO.

So of course, I had to spice the recipe up a bit. Instead of normal salt, I used 1 tsp smoked Sriracha salt. It’s a specialty salt I got for Christmas (because I LOVE sriracha), and I’ve been using it as a general replacement for salt in all my recipes. It’s not really spicy, but it does have a bit of a smokey, chili kick that I like.

Then, I added 1 tbsp of flax seeds. I love the flavor they give to bread, and the health benefits are great. Consider getting a bag like this and adding flax seeds to a TON of different recipes whether they’re baked, raw, stove-cooked, or smoothies. You can also buy flax-seed meal, which I’ve used to make really great bread and bagels. For more on flax seeds and their health benefits, see the entry on WebMD.

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Finally, I love having herbs in my bread. I had some leftover garlic-infused olive oil in the fridge, so I used that instead of the EVOO, and then I added in basil paste. I can’t tell you how amazing this smells right now!

Thanks to Sybaritica for the photo!

I combined everything except the water/ yeast in my stand mixer.

Then added in the water and yeast.

The recipe had me use the paddle instead of the dough hook attachment. I thought that was strange, but followed what it said. I think next time I’ll try to use the dough hook; the times I’ve made bread, it seems like it is easier to remove the finished dough from the hook than the paddle. This is the finished dough.

Anyway, the dough is now covered in a bowl in the fridge, and will use it for fajita chicken pizza for dinner! (Pizza recipe here. BTW- raw chicken is disgusting. It was an ordeal to marinate it, or more so to CLEAN after working with the raw stuff.) Later tonight I’ll put together the pizza and post some photos of the final product!