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Happy 2017!

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Wishing everyone a great start to a new year. Give your family hugs and spend some quality time with them today. Take some time to remember the good of the last year and wish for something better for this coming year. Make a resolution or two (or not). Make something, eat something, and enjoy your day!

Cheers,

Anna

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T.S.N.E.M – Honeymoon Edition

We just arrived home from our honeymoon. As in we haven’t even unpacked yet. I’m relaxing after our arduous 36 hour span of driving. And I just couldn’t wait to share the projects we did on our honeymoon (There will be more posts, don’t worry).

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We stayed at Massanutten Resort in Virginia. Everything we tried out at the resort was wonderful. We were both delighted to discover the art/craft classes. We were most excited to find a stained glass class and waited anxiously all week to attend the class.

Our first class was 3-D Decorative Window Frame. We were given a frame with glass and told to choose a design to fill in on the glass. There were designs provided, but were given the option to come up with your own design as well. Which we did. Then you choose from a selection of shells, rocks, and beads how to fill in your design on the glass.

Since we are avid garden failures, we also decided to join the Garden Miniature Figures class. We were mostly sold when we discovered painting a dragon was an option! Following brief instructions, everyone in the class was given free rein (with a supervising eye) to select paint and brushes or sponges to complete their selected figure.

Our last class was Stained Glass. We were probably most excited about this class since it’s been our intention to learn this art form. This was probably the most structured class we attended (and also not kid friendly; hot tools are included). You walked in and choose which project you wanted to complete from a group of prepackaged options. We were then walked through each step of creating a small stained glass piece. This is a project I can’t wait to work on more at home now that I know the steps.

I am counting these as my TSNEM projects for the months I missed. I have another project that I should (fingers crossed) be sharing with you Wednesday for my June TSNEM project.

I will also have a couple more posts about our further adventures during our honeymoon.

TSNEM means Try Something New Every Month.

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The Reading Quarterly

I realised two things the other day. First, I hadn’t done any post about books I’ve read since January. And two, I’ve only read 8 books so far this year. According to Goodreads.com I’m 9 books behind in my reading goal for the year.

To catch up, I can either stop trying new things or stop sleeping! I don’t see either happening, so maybe I’ll just pick up a few books that are short. To clarify, I consider around 200 pages to be a short book.

In January, I included a checklist of books to read. Not specific books, but books that fall into certain parameters. I decided that each book can only count for one check. Otherwise, I’d be halfway done with my measly 8 books.

Here are how the 8 books fit onto the list:

  1. From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler – A great book. It is a Newbery Award Winner.
  2. Night – Also a great book. I didn’t know it was a series and my find the rest of the books. It was translated from Yiddish.
  3. The Light in the Ruins – This was an okay story. I felt it dragged a bit. I switched from paper to audio in order to finish the book. The book is based in Italy.
  4. Jane Eyre – While I enjoyed the story, I felt Mr. Rochester spoke for lengths for no reason, really, all the characters did. This book is beyond 100 years older than me.
  5. A Little Princess – I loved the movie with Shirley Temple and when it showed up as an audio book, I had to give it a go. There are similarities, but the book is a pinch better. I was considering this my classic, but I fear it may be from the wrong century.
  6. The Magicians – I almost don’t want to admit I read this book. Ugh. I kept hoping it would get better. For now it’s my sci-fi novel, but it may be replaced.
  7. The Astounding Broccoli Boy – A great young adult book about a boy who turns green and befriends his bully. Oh, and it takes place in London, which is an island.
  8. The Night Circus – The story is a little twisty-turvy with its plot, but I enjoyed it none-the-less. The book refused to conform to any parameters on the list.

I may need to be a little more particular about choosing books to make certain I complete the list.

reading list

 

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T.S.N.E.M -Quilting Edition

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It took me a couple weeks to settle on a project. I wanted to try paper piecing, but couldn’t settle on a project. Or to copy a quilt pattern onto a canvas. I was finally reminded by another participant’s project about the quilt kit I had requested from Quilts for Kids.

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I had requested the kit 4 years ago with the intention of making it my last summer project but got waylaid by another project or work stuff. As you all know, it is very easy to bury projects with supplies for other projects. I’m very glad I was reminded of the little kit I had hiding in the corner just waiting its turn.

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My kit came with pieces to make a Nine Patch Quilt. No easy beginner quilt for me. I jumped right in and followed the detailed instructions for constructing the top. In fact, I had pulled the project out just to get a handle on what I would need to do and accidentally made the entire top in about 3 hours!

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Since I knew my blocks didn’t line up exactly right. Even the pre-cut provided brown doggie squares weren’t quite right. I wanted to quilt each square individually. I probably spent way more time than necessary working on the quilting of this quilt, but I rather like how it turned out. On the 9-square squares, I stitched around each little square. Ugh! For the big squares, I did 3 shrinking squares. I also added a few lines around the framing pieces of the quilt.

To complete the quilt, I used black quilt binding and attached it like bias tape.

 

The quilt has been shipped off to be loved and used by a deserving child. I would like to send more, but that will have to wait until I’m able to more easily sort through my sewing scraps. If I’ve inspired you, check out Quilts for Kids and send in quilts or request a kit to start your own.

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I’ve even kept to my resolution goals. I did need to purchase batting and binding, but the rest of the materials I already had on hand. Woo!

February’s challenge is to try a tactile craft such as candle making, clay, paper mache, or candlemaking. None of these sound particularly interesting, nor do I have supplies on hand. I’m going to have to spend some time searching my Pinterest Board: Crafty Corner for some inspiration. Or just stare long and hard at all of my supplies until inspiration hits.

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Deadmau5 Helmet

01_completed helmet

Prepare yourselves, guest post by Sean headed for ya…

About a month ago one of my coworkers comes to me and asks, “Do you think you could make a Deadmau5 head?”  I’m vaguely aware of who Deadmau5 is, enough that I can name at least one song and know what the “Mau5heads” look like, so I consider it for a few seconds and then answer in the affirmative (for anyone who doesn’t know, go here).  He goes on to explain that he would like to have one for his son for Halloween this year.  It sounds like fun and he gives me an open checkbook, so of course I dive right in.

The project started with a 12″ Acrylic Globe meant for lamps and a sheet of foam core board (before you start writing things down, I’ll have a parts list at the bottom of the post).  I measured the diameter of the globe (to ensure it was actually close to 12 inches) and used that measurement to draw a large circle on the foamcore, and then performed various complicated maths to decide what shape I was going to make the ears.  Truth be told, I guessed a bit…  I ended up drawing another circle an inch or so away from the first, and then drew lines that went from the tangent of the first circle to the center of the second.

02_ear template

After that was finished, I cut out the ears and did a quick mockup with some painter’s tape to see how it would look.

03_first mockup

Not too shabby.

Notice the washi tape in the above photo that outlines the mouth area of the head? I just sort of eyeballed that, but the idea was to go from one side of the head all the way to the other and make the mouth large enough so that it would not only look similar to an original Mau5head but also provide enough room to see.  The next step was cutting it out, so I grabbed my trusty Dremel and went at it.

06_cut mouth

It was just after this step that I had my first disaster.  It turns out that this acrylic is pretty brittle, and one of the times I was moving the head around from one place to another I managed to split it almost in half because the corners of the mouth create a really weak spot in the plastic.  After acquiring another acrylic dome I performed the same cut, but this time I cut some reinforcement circles out of the plastic leftover from the mouth, and then epoxied those into place inside the head near the corners of the mouth.  This provided enough reinforcement in that area of the Mau5head to prevent that from happening again.

07_reinforcement discs

08_reinforcement glued

Next were the eyes.  I was originally planning on using some large plastic Christmas ornaments that split in half, but decided I wouldn’t like the look of them once they were painted, and also I wanted to backlight them with LEDs.  This, of course, gave me no recourse but to go ahead and build the vacuum form table that I’ve always wanted.  I made a small one, sized for the styrene sheets available at the local hobby shop.  I ended up making a buck out of half of one of the ornaments and vacuum formed the eyes over the buck.

04_vacuum mold

05_vacuum form

The second mockup looked even better.09_second mockup

I painted the ears with white glue to provide a little extra stiffness and to seal the paper so that it would accept paint without soaking it all up.  I then added mounts for the ears using foot long lengths of threaded rod that were hot glued into channels that were cut into the back of the ears.

10_coated ears

11_ear mounts

One thing to note… while the hot glue worked pretty well, I ended up redoing one of the ears using E6000 after someone accidentally headbutted a street sign while wearing the Mau5head.  If I ever have to build one again I’ll likely do the ears in two layers that sandwich the threaded rod.  Lesson learned.

The next step was marking holes on the head for mounting, drilling them out, and then everything was given another test fit.

12_marked ear holes

13a_ears mounted back

13_ears mounted

I then prepped and painted the head with rattle cans.  Eventually this ended up being four coats of gloss black and two coats of clear.  I rushed the paint a bit and didn’t have time to do wet sanding between each coat, so the paint has quite a bit of texture, but honestly this ended up looking great.  It catches the light well and looks, well, not too bad.

14_first coat

19_closeup of paint

While the first coat was drying, I started working on the eyes.  The mounts were made of a couple of strips of plastic that were cut from the remainder of the mouth material that I had used to reinforce the sides of the Mau5head.

15_eye mount

I mounted each of them on my soldering station and got to work on the first of the lights, a strip of LEDs mounted on either side of a short bolt that was hot glued into the hole in the center of the strip.  My soldering skills aren’t the best, but the lights worked afterward!

16_eye mount leds

16a_they work

I then mounted the strips on the inside of each of the eyes using a small amount of hot glue.

17_eye mounts in place

18_eye led testTo mount the eyes on the head, I marked where the center of each eye would be and drilled two holes, one for the bolt and the other for the wiring.  The mouth grid went in next, made from the lath that is used for putting stucco on a house.  It is held in place with epoxy on both ends of the mouth.

21_mouth grid test fit

I then mounted the LED strips around the outside edges of the ears, and finished up the wiring inside.  It’s intended to be run at 18v from two 9v batteries that are held in place inside the helmet. Anna ended up making a small mounting bag for them that is held in place using sticky velcro, but I neglected to get a photo of that.  Anyway, I turned the lights off and lit it up.. and the results were astounding.

23_holy crap leds

The last thing to go in was a child’s bicycle helmet, I pulled the styrofoam shell out of the helmet and mounted it directly to two of the bolts that are holding the ears in place on the head.

22_helmet mount

The styrofoam shell can be left out and a small piece of foam placed into the top of the helmet so adults can wear it.  I mean, if anyone were inclined to do so.  It’s smaller than the real deal, since it was intended to be kid-sized, but still looks pretty good.

Overall, I had a really good time making this.  After I was finished I was a little sad, because I wanted one for myself.  Maybe I’ll get around to that sometime before next Halloween.

Since you made it this far, here is the parts list that I promised and some links to where you can find each item:

12″ Acrylic Globe – $17 at Home Depot
One sheet of foam core – $2 just about anywhere
LED strip – $15 at Amazon
Plastic Ornaments – $4 at Amazon
Threaded Rod – $2 at Lowes
Styrene Sheets – $7 or so, here’s an Amazon link
Krylon Fusion Black Gloss (2 cans) – $9 at Walmart
Krylon gloss clear – $4 at Walmart
Various mounting hardware (nuts and such) – $5
Stucco lath – $10 for a 3×8 sheet at Lowes, you need a very small piece though
9v batteries (2) – $10 or so
9v battery clips (2) – $4 at Amazon
Assorted wire (I gutted an old mouse) – Free!

Total: $80-ish

Hope you enjoyed it! I’ll hand the keys to the blog back to Anna now.

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Ambrosia Candies Giveaway!

Melissa from Ambrosia Candies is hosting a giveaway. She is giving away a box of 24 cake truffles! Head over here to get the details. It is running from now until 31 July.

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Battle of the Wills

My sewing machine and I have been at odds for the last week or so. I don’t know what I did to make it so upset. It’s true that I haven’t taken it in for a proper cleaning recently, but that’s no excuse. I take the time to dust off the nooks and spread drops of oil into the correct places and yet, it’s been in a foul mood. Maybe it’s the weather.

It can’t be the needle, I change that on a regular basis, about every 8 hours of sewing. I also do my best to use the proper needle for the type of material I am using. Sometimes I’m just not certain if a universal needle should be used for corduroy or if it gets its own special needle. Satin, knits, cotton; all have their own needles.

I’m certain it’s not the thread. I know I have been a loyal Coats & Clark user for many years, but when you started protesting, I began buying Gutermann. Unfortunately, I can’t afford to make the switch in one fell swoop and you are just going to have to suck it up for a few more months.

Maybe it’s the mountains of fabric I have made it stitch together piece by piece over the last few months. Maybe it just wanted a few days of reprieve from the relentless stream of projects I have been feeding it.

I’m telling you now, Sewing Machine, you better shape up! We have work to be done and I can’t have you chewing up fabric and breaking thread. I also cannot have you trying to go straight when I need you to curve. Don’t even thing about pretending you can’t sew through 3 layers of fabric because I know you can sew through at least 5 layers of denim.

I will even make you a deal. Promise to give me 10 more days of cooperation. That’s just over a week. During this time, I need you to stitch like a pro, feed fabric with no eating, and turn curves with ease. If you do this, I promise to take you in for a cleaning while my parents are visiting.

Do we have a deal?

Great! Let’s get to work!

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Perfecting Pickles

We have spent a portion of the last three weekends making pickles. Our first attempt (you can read about here) turned out satisfactory. We found the brine to be much too potent. Since our cucumber vines only provides a cucumber every other week, we headed to the Auburndale Flea Market that hosts a large farmer’s market section. We have now made two trips to stock up on cucumbers and will probably make another trip next weekend. I want to make my Oma’s recipe.

Our first goal was to alter the first recipe we used. I did some reading about vinegar and after some debate we settled on using three equal parts white vinegar, apple cider vinegar, and water.  We also doubled the amount of sugar we added. I don’t know that this made a difference in the taste, but my boyfriend cut this batch into spears instead of disks.

As we were mixing up our second batch of dill pickles, we decided to try a second recipe instead of making 6 jars of the same kind of pickle. I did a quick search and chose the recipe that sounded the most different from the dill recipe we were already using. Thank goodness it was an amazing recipe. Since they were already in the jar, we added jalapeno peppers and garlic to the recipe.

We ran out of jalapeno peppers for the last two jars, so we added crushed red pepper flakes. We made certain to make one of dill and one of bread and butter pickles with this variation. I didn’t think I would like these since I don’t like spicy, but I really enjoyed them.

This weekend, we once again picked up cucumbers. This time we doubled the amount of cucumber we purchased. We also had to purchase jars since we have used our entire supply. We opted for the pint size jar so we can give them out to more people. We stuck with the bread and butter pickle this time. The only addition we made was to add Pickle Crisp Granules. We are hoping the pickles keep their crunch.

Spicy Dill Refrigerator Pickles (revised)

Ingredients :

1 ½ to 2 lbs pickling cucumbers (5-6 medium cucumbers)
1 jalapeno pepper, quartered
2 cloves garlic, for each jar
2 tbsp chopped fresh dill
1 ½ tsp whole black peppercorns
1 ½ tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper (optional)
1 cup white vinegar
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1 cup water
¼ cup kosher salt
1/2 cup sugar
Directions:
Wash cucumbers and slice lengthwise into 1/4 inch slices. Arrange cucumbers into 2 quart jars or 4 pint jars. Divide jalapeno, garlic, dill, peppercorns, coriander, and crushed red pepper between jars.

In a medium saucepan, bring vinegars, water, salt, and sugar to a boil, stirring to dissolve most of the salt and sugar. Divide brine among jars, almost to the top (Do not worry about leaving head space; these are refrigerator pickles). Screw on jar lids.

Leave jars on kitchen counter for at least 3 days. After that, refrigerate. They can be eaten after the three-day mark but the flavour will continue to develop so you can certainly leave them longer in the fridge before eating.

Bread and Butter Refrigerator Pickles

Ingredients:

cucumbers (enough to fill two quart jars)

1 jalapeno pepper

3 cups sugar

3 cups apple cider vinegar

1 tsp salt

1 tsp mustard seed

1 tsp celery seed

1 tsp ground turmeric

1 tsp ground cloves

Directions:

Slice cucumbers into medium slices (the thicker the slices the crisper the pickle). Cut up Jalapeno and remove seeds (unless you want these really spicy). Fill 2 quart jars or 4 pint jars with cucumbers and peppers.  In a medium saucepan, mix the remaining ingredients. Cook and stir until the sugar is just dissolved. Divide among the jars; filling almost to the top. Cover and let sit for 24 hours before refrigerating.

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Pickling Cucumbers

We picked up a small pile of pickling cucumbers at the farmer’s market at the Auburndale Flea Market. We very quickly began their conversion into pickles. This round we made dill and bread and butter pickles. I’ll be sharing them later this week. These batches turned out much better than our first recipe. Which we felt was much too strong.

 

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Apples’n’Onions

After reading The Wilder Life by Wendy McClure, I am inspired to try all sorts of new kitchen projects. I want to churn butter and bake bread. I want to attempt Ma’s Vanity Cake. I’m ok with not trying maple or Horehound candy since I prefer to stay away from foods that stick to my teeth.

The recipe that stood out as the one to try first was Almanzo’s favourite dish. Something simple, apples’n’onions. This dish was usually served with salt pork and all manner of fixings, but we don’t live on a farm and aren’t in need of that large of a spread. I pared the meal down to pork chops. We added a bit of leftover rice at the last-minute.

I’m going to have to agree with Almanzo that this simple dish is delicious. I hadn’t imagined that onions and apples would taste so well together. They combined to make a good sweet and sour flavor. I think next time I may add a bit more brown sugar just to see what happens. Traditionally, brown sugar would not have been added since su

gar was a coveted ingredient. I also plan on using an equal amount of apples to onions.

Apples’n’Onions (adapted from The Little House Cookbook)

Ingredients

4 medium apples

2 medium onions

1 Tablespoon Bacon Grease

1 Tablespoon Brown Sugar

Directions

Cut and core the apples. Then thinly slice apple pieces and onions. Heat skillet and add bacon grease. When the skillet is hot, add the apples and onions. Reduce heat to medium and fry until the apples are soft (about 5-7 minutes). Add salt and pepper to taste.

After comparing various posts of this recipe, I followed the one listed here. I believe next time, I will follow this version  to see if there is much of a difference.

 

 

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