Saturday, January 29

Grocery Lists

Ok, so I know I promised a blog regarding "making a custom sign," but another project popped in my head that took precedence. So the sign project will just have to wait a few more days. The other project is one that can help anyone who has to go searching through cabinets or the fridge to figure out what you need from the store. A LIST! Well, really it's more than a list. It's multiple lists: one for each area that you keep food (fridge, lazy susan, pantry, etc) and is comprised of your "staples" that hold your kitchen, and life, together. It may sounds stupidly simple, but it's a total timesaver!
I'm sure some of you are super efficient at keeping a grocery list up-to-date as you need supplies (and it never ever looks like the pic to the left...), but in this household, we're not. These lists are constructed so that when we run out of something, or we notice we've run out of something, we check it off on the list. Then, when grocery day comes, or when figuring out what to make for dinner, we'll know what items we're out of. You can make these lists for anything: bathroom, tools & hardware, office supplies, etc.

Step 1: Go through your kitchen and find out the main areas you store food or supplies that need semi-frequent replenishment. Or, you can go the category route (Vegetables, Fruits, Canned Goods, etc). For my lists, I used these labels for the storage sections: Refrigerator, Freezer, Spices, Baking Supplies, Dry Goods, Pantry, Lazy Susan, Medicine & Vitamins, and Cleaning Supplies.

Step 2: List out your staples for each of these sections. To avoid lists comprised of just a few items, I combined some items onto other lists (e.g. putting potatoes and onions under the Refrigerator section, and tea under Medicine & Vitamins). My definition of a staple item is something that you'd require at least once every two months. You can visit some sites that have printable lists as well, just make sure your favorite items are incorporated. Here's a bunch of free printable lists:
http://www.freeprintablegrocerylist.com/

Step 3: Type it up! Or write it out if you're super handy with a pen. You'll want the list organized so things are simple to find. I used the sorting tool in my word program to alphabetize each list. In front of each item, I placed a checkbox which will be used to mark off which items I need to purchase. Add any other decorations you'd like, just make sure you don't clutter-up your list.

Here's a tip! If you're alphabetizing, write out sub-categories of foods with their main category first. For example, if you want several types of cheese in the refrigerator, write them like this:
Cheese - Cheddar
Cheese - Mozzarella
Cheese - Swiss
This way, they're all grouped together and easier to locate. 

Step 4: Print out the list and laminate them. You can purchase contact paper or go fancy and buy your own laminating machine. (Teachers have the added bonus of using the machine at their school!) I opted for Kinkos. Fast, simple, and for less than $2 a sheet, I had professional-looking laminated lists.

Step 5: Hang lists inside the doors of the cabinets they correspond to (using tape or velcro). I attached my refrigerator and freezer lists to the inside of the pantry door. Inside the fridge would be inconvenient. Or, if you prefer, hang them all in one place so their grouped together. I like the lists inside their corresponding cabinets so that you can mark things off immediately.

Step 6: Attach a dry erase marker next to each list. This can be accomplished simply with tape and string (the route I chose), velcro, or you can make a pen loop at the bottom of the list. Of course, if you can always just make sure there's a dry erase marker in a nearby drawer.

That's it! No more digging through cabinets to see what you need to buy at the store, no more starting to make dinner only to find out you're missing one of the key ingredients. Naturally, this plan only works if everyone who uses the items in the kitchen utilizes it. So make sure everyone in your household knows the rules: if you use the last of something, check it off on the list. And if you notice something's gone, check it off on the list. 

I hope this is helpful to some of you, I know it's going to be a HUGE help for my home. To clue you in on how bad we needed this, we currently have four containers of crushed oregano.  All purchased at different times. Oi...

Hope you're weekend's going well, and check back later for that sign tutorial. I promise it will be here! =)

Wednesday, January 26

Wine Wine Wine!

I just finished the move Bottle Shock and it was soooo great! I would consider myself an aspiring wine-o, and honestly wouldn't have it any other way. I think it's the complexity that I love. What other beverage has layers of flavor that divulge themselves through the nose, different groups of taste buds, the way it interacts with oxygen, and the lingering aftertaste? The whole things is an entire, beautiful experience.

It took me awhile to appreciate wine, and even longer to appreciate the reds. I think my downfall was expecting the taste to be one-dimensional, like pop, beer, or juice. However, working at a winery taught me to approach wine with a whole 'nother attitude. As I learned to fully experience each glass of wine from swirl to swallow, it's as if an entire world opened to me! No wonder there are so many fans of wine that span back through the centuries. It is a truly beautiful drink! So, in honor of this wine-loving spirit, I'm going to write a little something about how to fully experience this "nectar of the gods."

At Brugdorf's, we use the five S's to guide our guests in their tasting: See, Swirl, Sniff, Sip, and Savor.

See
There are much more colors than red, pink, and white. While these three colors can be considered the "primaries" of wine, each has it's own multitude of tones (just like there's light blue, dark blue, topaz, indigo, cyan, etc.) And the colors can mean things about the wine, like prevalence of oak or sweetness, but not necessarily. We tell our guests at the winery that the single most important thing to do in wine tasting is to leave your expectations and prejudices at the door. EVERY wine is different! So look at the color, tip the glass slightly and hold it up to the light. Note the color variations within the liquid.

Swirl
Gently swirl the wine in your glass. This allows oxygen to mingle with the wine and pulls the flavor out to prepare for the next step.

Sniff
Stick your nose deep into the glass and take a big whiff. Your nose plays a pivotal role in tasting anything, so be sure it incorporate those Olfactory glands. This is where some people can sense a big handful of the flavors and prep their tongues for what's to come.

Sip
Take a small sip of the wine. Don't swallow it yet! Hold it in your mouth and let it roll all over your tongue. Slurp some oxygen into it to pull out more of the flavors and let it warm to your body temperature. See what flavors you can find - oak, cherry, pepper, grapefruit, clove, etc. The flavors are limitless and can range from prominent to subdued.

Savor
Mmmmmm, swallow the wine and just take a moment to let the entire taste fade. Some wines have an extremely strong aftertaste while others disappear from your palette like water. Think about how the wine interacted with you. Did it remind you of a place or memory? Does it make you want a certain food? Think about it, and enjoy it!


While I don't do this whole process with every sip of wine I have, I do go through it with the first few sips. And why not? What's to be lost in exploring the intricacies of wine for a few minutes? Well, except your worries ;)

I encourage each of you to visit your local wineries. They have sprung up all over, and in the most unlikely places. Arizona, for instance! For those of you who are in the area, check out Haslett's own Burgdorf's Winery. They have a HUGE selection. Here's a link to their webpage: http://www.burgdorfwinery.com/

I guarantee there are wineries near you, wherever you are. And each region will have different flavors, so go explore! Also, don't limit yourself to simply grape wines. People have made wine out of pretty much ANY fruit or berry. Even from dandelions! Try everything you get the chance to, you never know which will be your favorite.

If you're interested in the movie that sparked this post, rent it! It's called Bottle Shock and is available to play instantly on Netflix. It's about how California wineries is the 70's broke the myth that French wine was superior to all others by beating them in a blind taste test in Paris. It's kind of cool seeing a "hippe" watch a group of wine snobs taste and judge French and American wines. Here's a link to it:
http://www.bottleshockmovie.com/

Hope you all enjoyed this, and happy tasting!

Sunday, January 23

Hello readers!

As you can see, I changed up the look of my blog! I wanted something a little more soothing, and I think that goal has been accomplished. Since I'm new at this, I'd love any feedback you all have to offer! Especially on my posts. There are a few ways you can do this: commenting, messaging me, or, I've added an even more convenient way! Simply check off one of the boxes that follows the post you read in the "What do you think" section. This way, I can track what you all would like to see more/less of.

It's always great to hear that people are enjoying what I've posted, and I love that I've inspired some to do more projects! Here's a picture of the flower pens my friend Mary made after reading my post on them. Aren't they gorgeous!

Anytime you all do a project that was inspired by one of my posts, please send a pic to me! And if you ever have questions, or something you'd like to see me work on, please let me know. Hope you all kick off the week strong, and thanks for reading!


Coming up this week...
Create a customized sign for your home!

Saturday, January 22

Flower Power! I mean, pens! =)

A few years back, one of my close friends made me a bouquet of these flower pens and I LOVED them. Not only did they provide year-long color, they were incredibly fun to write with! Since then, I've seen flower pens at coffee shops, the pet store, and registers where any flower-loving person works. They're great! So to continue my "one project a week" as well as my "Pay It Forward" vow, I made a small set to pair with the notecards I made last week. For all of you looking for a quick, simple, and cute gift (even if it's for yourself), I'm including some step-by-step instructions.

Step 1: Choose your flowers! 
Obviously, you'll want to go with a fake flower, and it's best if the shape extends outward and drapes down slightly. Think daisy or lily. However, any flower will do. It's nice if you can find a bouquet already made, or, the "twist tie" versions that I found a Michael's. These were perfect because I didn't have to trim the stem to fit on the pen.

Step 2: Choose your pens and gather supplies. 
The pens don't have to be fancy, just grab a box of 20 for $3. As long as they write well, they're good. And it's nice to have a round barrel. The other supplies you'll need are floral tape (best if it's the sticky kind) and hot glue (yesssss).

Step 3: Attach flower to the pen.
Use your hot glue to affix the flower to the blunt end of the pen, utilizing the stem.

Step 4: Wrap the pen in floral tape. 
I highly recommend the sticky floral tape, however, Michael's was out of it when I stopped by, so I improvised. To work with non-sticky floral tape, I put a dab of hot glue at the tip of the pen (writing side), bonded the tape to it, and wrapped the pen up to the flower where I secured it with another dab of hot glue.

And you're done! Yay! So simple, right? To really embrace the pen bouquet idea, display them in a vase, or a flower pot filled with pebbles. Or, you can just have them hanging out on their own. =) They make excellent gifts or party favors, and the possibilities are endless! You can play with using ribbon instead of floral tape, combining multiple flowers on one pen, decorating a pot or vase to put them in, etc. I just love it! Or, if you're not so keen on crafting but you really dig these pens (ha, dig, get it?), there are professional flower pen crafters who sell them online. Here are just a few of the many shop sites:

Tanya's Bead 'n Craft
Favors by Serendipity
FlowerPens.com

Just to give you an idea of the many possibilities, here are some shots of other people's projects:



So much fun! I can't wait to experiment more with these. I have entire Saturday to do whatever I want, and I'm pretty sure crafting is on the schedule. The fact that it's 9° outside and snowing doesn't really make me want to leave the house. Although the movie theatre is pretty tempting... I hope you all have a wonderful weekend, and for those in the cold-weather areas, stay warm!

Wednesday, January 19

Headboard

It's time for my second installment in functional art. I suppose this one may not be as blatantly "art," but then again, art is what you make it! One of the simplest projects to beautify a bedroom is to create a new headboard. You can make anything into a headboard. Canvases, a door, books, etc... The opportunities are endless. However, one of the simplest versions only requires a few materials and a staple gun.

The first step is to find out how large you want your board to be and cut it to size, or have the gentlemen at Home Depot do that part for you. Next, add a layer of batting to the entire surface of the board and cover in your fabric of choice. Secure the fabric on the back side of the board using your staple gun. Make sure the fabric is pulled taught. Then, using your staple gun again, staple on the front side where you want your dimples to be. (I'm sure these "dimples" have an official name, but I don't know what it is.) Once the staples are in place, hide all but two with buttons. These two will be used to hang the board on the wall, which is the next step. Once secured, cover the final staples with buttons and your headboard is complete! Sorry I don't have step-by-step instructions for this project, but here's the final product:




I LoVE this headboard, and the project took me all of 90 minutes, if that! The hardest part was getting the giant board home in my Corolla. Make sure you have a large enough vehicle to transport your board... otherwise it can be quite a challenge.

Here are a few more headboards that I think are really great. I especially love the lighted one! I'll probably attempt it one day, at least as some artwork if not a headboard. Though the glow would be awesome!













Like I said, you can make a headboard out of anything. Pretty sure I'll need fifteen bedrooms one day to house all the headboard ideas I have! Or I can just alternate =)

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad. Because it's awesome.

Sunday, January 16

Cards & Cake

Today has been so long already... and it's only four o'clock! I bottled wine all morning and into the afternoon (handled just over 1,500 bottles), and am exhausted... but instead of napping, I'm blogging! 

For week two's project, I decided to bake. One of my facebook friends had posted a pic of a cake they made and I instantly started drooling. Therefore, I had to attempt to make it. The recipe is for a Caramel Apple Cake and it is soooooooo good. Well, at least the cake part is. I successfully failed on the frosting aspect of the recipe and had to improv with another frosting recipe because I had run out of sugar. So instead of a silky caramel buttercream, there's a caramel frosting that has the grit powdered sugar gives to frostings. I'm just not a fan. Thankfully, my boyfriend is making a run to the store to get me more sugar so I can attempt the caramel buttercream once more. This time I'll add the caramel to the mixing bowl instead of a hot pan so as to not burn it to a crisp. Anyways, the cake is AMAZING! I highly recommend it to anyone who likes apples. Really, it doesn't even need a frosting. So good... here's the recipe:

Ingredients:

For the apple cake


For the caramel buttercream


Directions:

  1. 1For the cake: Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Butter three 8-inch round cake pans, line the bottoms with parchment paper, and butter the parchment. Dust the parchment with flour and knock out the excess flour. The cake is very moist, so not using parchment paper will results in pieces of the bottom sticking to the pan.
  2. 2Sift the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, allspice, and cloves together into a large bowl. Set aside.
  3. 3In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter until creamy, about 4 minutes. Add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the egg and beat until combined.
  4. 4Add the flour mixture to the mixer bowl in three parts, alternating with the applesauce, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Scrape down the bowl, then mix on low speed for a few more seconds.
  5. 5Divide the batter among the prepared pans and smooth the tops. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through the baking time, until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Transfer the pans to a wire rack and cool for 20 minutes. Turn the cakes out onto the rack, remove the parchment, and let cool completely.
  6. 6For the caramel buttercream: In a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan, whisk the sugar and flour together. Add the milk and cream and cook over medium heat, whisking occasionally, until the mixture comes to a boil and has thickened, about 10 to 15 minutes.
  7. 7Transfer the mixture to the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat on high speed until cool. Reduce the speed to low and add the butter and vanilla; mix until thoroughly incorporated. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat until the frosting is light and fluffy.
    8Add 1⁄3 cup of the caramel and continue mixing until combined. If the frosting is too soft, put the bowl in the refrigerator to chill slightly, then beat again until it is the proper consistency. If the frosting is too firm, set the bowl over a pot of simmering water and beat with a wooden spoon until it is the proper consistency.
9Assemble the caramel apple cake: Place one cake layer on a serving platter. Trim the top to create a flat surface and evenly spread about 1 1/4 cups frosting on top. Add the next layer, trim and frost, then add third layer. Spread a very thin layer of frosting over the top and sides of cake and put in refrigerator for 15 minutes to firm up. Frost sides and top with remaining frosting. Drizzle on a few swirls of caramel and refrigerate the finished cake for 15 minutes to firm up before serving.

Here's a picture of how mine turned out:

Unfortunately, I was too lazy to cut the parchment paper to the size of the pans and suffered the consequences. My cake collapsed on one side... but it will still taste delicious! And that's what really matters, right? Right!

 


After finishing my baking adventure (and it was an adventure), I put together a small stationary set to give as my second homemade gift for the year. I'm also going to make some flower pens to go with it. I love these little cards and am kind of sad to see them go... but it makes me excited to create more.





I'm an avid scrapbooker, and hate the idea of throwing out beautiful paper, so I have these ziplocks FULL of scrap paper and they're perfect for making cards. Now, what I do every time I make a scrapbook page is create at least one card using the leftover pieces of cardstock and embellishments. It's a great way for me to minimize my paper collection without throwing away everything. 

It wasn't until after I had completed these cards that I realized my envelope stash is running low, so the cards don't necessarily fit snugly into their paired envelopes, but I guess that adds to their homemade character.

Alright, time to get back to laundry, cooking, and all sorts of domestic things so I won't have to worry about them during the week. I like this blogging thing, it gives me an excuse to take  a break from all the stuff I do. Today has been so long already... and it's only four o'clock! I bottled wine all morning and into the afternoon (handled just over 1,500 bottles), and am exhausted... tonight is dinner with some friends and devouring of that deeeelicious cake! Check back later in the week for the instructions on how to make flower pens! =)

    Tuesday, January 11

    Hot Glue Art?

    Ok. Turns out hot glue is much harder to work with than I thought. I've used it before, but never without a base of some kind for it to latch on to! I figured I'd need a frame, so I found a broken one that I didn't mind experimenting with and took out the glass. It was really a whole debacle of trials and errors that resulted in a piece that I'm not very excited about. But practice makes, well, at least somewhat better!

    Initially I just draped strings of hot glue to the sides, kind of like a spider web construction without the main strands that actually offer the support, ha.





    Didn't work so well. It was a good first attempt in that it taught me that hot glue re-melts the cooled glue strands (duh, right?) and the glue strands have an elasticity of about 2 inches that will hang without the weight dragging down the whole strand.

    This was the final result.


    It's actually not that bad, and really looks a lot better when you're face to face with it. The hot glue is extremely delicate and reflects the light beautifully so that it sparkles. I'm not very happy with my first hot glue project result, but I am interested in trying it out again and hopefully improving the results! At the very least, I have a cool Halloween decoration.
    Posted using BlogPress from my iPad. Because it's awesome.


    I think I need to get a better camera... Oh well, work with what you have and work for better, I guess. =)

    Saturday, January 8

    Crayon Art

    I have successfully kept my resolution for one week! Yay! Only 51 more to go...
    For this week's project, I decided to do another melted crayon artwork. My boyfriend and I created one of these artworks awhile ago and it's currently displayed in our apartment, and I used a segment of it for the banner on this blog!

    This project is SUPER easy to do and I'll outline the steps on here for anyone who'd like to try it for themselves.

    Gather you supplies:
    Hair dryer
    Crayons
    Board or firm canvas
    Hot glue or superglue




    The first step is to arrange the crayons in the order you'd like. I really love the way a rainbow type organization blends the colors. You csnt realy go wrong with it, but my friends tried this out and did some cool arrangements too (as pictured at the end of the blog).


    Once you've decided what order you'd like the crayons in, glue them in place. It's best to glue down 2 or 3 crayons at a time so you can adjust the alignment if needed and the glue doesn't dry before you get the crayons on.


    Now, you're free to heat p the crayons with the blow dryer! This can get messy, so lay down a tarp and wear clothes you don't mind getting crayon on. It takes a minute for the crayons to melt. I like to work in sections until the color flows are the way I like them.



    It's so amazing watching the colors pour out of the crayon wrappers and blending together.


    Since I promised to create six homemade items for six different people, I figured this would be an awesome creation to gift! I still need to spray a protective layer on it and probably frame it, but I love how this turned out!


    Here are some other crayon artworks that my friends (more like family really) created after Justin and I told them how we created our piece. I think they did a great job! They actually removed the wrappers from the crayons, and the radial design is one I think I'll attempt next!





    - Posted using BlogPress from my iPad. Because it's awesome.

    Wednesday, January 5

    Pay it Forward in 2011 & togeNYC

    I saw this on one of my friends' facebook page and instantly had to put it as my status:

    "Pay it forward 2011: I promise to send something handmade to the first 5 people who leave a comment here. They in turn must post this and send something they make to the first 5 people who comment on their status. The rules are that it must be handmade by you and it must be sent to your 5 people sometime in 2011."

    Within 10 minutes I had my 5 people and started brainstorming! While I do have throughout the entire year to complete this project, I'm going to challenge myself to have all the gifts mailed out by the end of February. Plus, it will help with my New Years resolution to create one project a week throughout all of 2011! I'm so excited about it.

    Speaking of that resolution, I really need to get started! Only 4 more days to complete something... Hmm... What to create...

    If you come up with any ideas, send them my way and I'll take a shot at it! In the meantime, I saw this on Huffington Post and think it'd be fun to do a project with this concept:


    A dragon made completely out of plastic knives, forks, spoons, and cups! Well, and some hot glue as well. So cool! I'm not sure the actual artist's name, but you can find more of their stuff on DeviantArt.com and "~toge-NYC" is the username.

    Just goes to show that art can be found in and made of ANYTHING! It's up to us to see it =)

    - Posted using BlogPress from my iPad. Because I can post while my pit bull sleeps on my elbow. =)

    Tuesday, January 4

    Game Wheel

    This project is probably the one I am most proud of, and it was definitely the most challenging. As a solution to the hassle of starting some bar games, I created this game wheel for Jammin' DJ's. Entering into the project, I knew it would be time consuming and would require a lot of attention to detail, but I was really excited! I immediately started construction on the 3' diameter wheel that stands just over 6' when mounted on the base. One of the most difficult aspects was designing it all in a way that was collapsible so it could be transported to various bars. It's in 3 separate pieces: the base, post, and wheel. Thank goodness I have a mom who's great with woodwork, otherwise it would not have turned out as awesome as it did!


    The most exciting part is the wheel's face. There are 8 sections, each denoting either a game or action the spinner has to do. There's song (pick next song), hula (hula hooping), airplane (paper airplane contest), rock paper scissors, ping ping (shoot ping pong balls into a container), flip cup, bartender's choice and trivia.


    We revealed the wheel last night for New Years Eve at Reno's East and it was a big hit! Unfortunately, a disgruntled man who was being kicked out took out some frustration on the wheel and broke off three of the pegs. Those are the easiest things to fix, so it could have been worse! The wheel will mainly be at one of the Reno's (typically East), so you should check it out if you can and put your name in to play!

    - Posted using BlogPress from my iPad. Because it's awesome.