Tuesday, May 25, 2010

on being brave

This is not something I would normally share with a cyberspace full of strangers, but I've been trying a lot of new things lately so I figured why not.

Not long ago, I mentioned that I was trying Weight Watchers again after giving it a shot for about a month last summer. I'm not doing it perfectly, I'm not obsessing (although it's hard for it not to occupy a lot of your thoughts), and I'm not beating myself up for "falling off the wagon" every once in a while... all I can say is thank goodness for those bonus 35 points each week! :)

Also, I think I've mentioned that I'm not much of a scrapbooker, but I've been having a good time with my little page-a-month 6x6 album. So I thought, by way of a little extra motivation, I'd start a second monthly scrapbook chronicling my attempts at losing weight. I'm making a huge assumption that the photos and numbers will show changes from month to month (or at least every few months!), but even if I fail,  hopefully I'll have had fun making the layouts!

So here it is: Page Number One...

I hate the sideways shot. I really tried hard not to "suck it in" - I never look that fat, even though I am that fat! (Although I have to say that it's not all for vanity's sake... Because of my close to two decades of dance training, I actually have to focus conscious effort on not engaging my core muscles!)

My scrapbooks in the past have pretty much been photo albums built on pretty paper with a few stickers or other embellishments thrown in. But I've been seeing so many scrapbook layouts online that are so impressive. I wanted to try something I've seen a lot of  - I call it "scattered bits of stuff" - and I'm not sure how well I executed it here, but it was fun to give it a shot. I think I may have let things get a little too busy for the size of the page, but I used a lot of elements that I really love. And I adore the look of layered labels - Can't wait to play with that look more!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Father's Day Cards

Father's Day is one month from today!

These cards were inspired by Kristina Werner's May 2010 "A Year in Cards" class for Two Peas in a Bucket. I used Kristina's first card as a sketch and personalized the designs.

Here's what I've got so far...

(If you don't live in the Northeast, those things in the corner are buoys - floaters - used to mark lobster pots in the water.)

P.S. For any musical theater fans out there - Did you know today is Eliza Doolittle Day? May 20th - get it?! I love it! :)

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

to quote Rachael Ray...

THIS is what's for dinner tonight!

... or, last night actually. But either way... :)

So, spoiler alert: I'm not going to blog about crafting today. I'm going to blog about another love of mine: food; and something I know many people struggle with: maintaining a healthy relationship with food. I've been struggling with my weight since about 2003. Actually, struggling is a bit of a euphemism. More like steadily gaining weight since 2003 (not a great slogan). I've mostly managed to stay healthy, but recently my doctor finally managed to convince me that I need to put a little more effort into dropping a few pounds. So I started Weight Watchers on Wednesday... for the second time (I tried it for about a month last summer). My biggest complaint with the program is that the easiest way to follow it is by eating foods with nutrition labels. And meals that come with nutrition labels are not terribly healthy. So I've been checking cookbooks out of the library and looking at blogs that have recipes with the WW Points (r) value already calculated. I made the first of these recipes last night and it was so yummy! So I thought I'd share...

Moo Shu Chicken Wraps
(adapted from http://ww-recipes.net)

Serves 4

2-3 chicken breasts
8 oz. bagged coleslaw mix
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
1 Tablespoon soy sauce
2 Tablespoons hoisin sauce
4 flour tortillas

1. Fill a pot with water and bring to a boil. (You want to choose a pot that all your chicken breasts will fit in comfortably.) Add raw chicken to boiling water, reduce heat, and allow to simmer until the chicken is opaque in the center. Remove chicken from water and shred with 2 forks. Measure 2 cups of chicken.
2. Heat the vegetable oil  in a large skillet over medium-high heat.
3. Add coleslaw mix to skillet and allow to cook until the cabbage becomes slightly tender.
4. Add the chicken to the cabbage and heat through.
5. Add the soy sauce and hoisin, and stir until all of the cabbage and chicken is coated thoroughly.

6. Heat a tortilla in the microwave for 30 seconds. Fill your tortilla with 1/4 of the moo shu mixture, and wrap it up. Yum!


Nutritional information (one serving):
WW points: 7
Calories: 304
Total fat: 14.1 g
Cholesterol: 52 mg
Sodium: 634 mg
Total carbs: 22.4 g
Dietary fiber: 2.5 g
Protein: 21.6 g

Whether you're watching your weight or not, you should really try this recipe! It tastes exactly like your favorite Chinese takeout moo shu, but you made it so you know everything that went into it and there are no questionable chemicals! One serving with a side salad is definitely enough, but if you're into slightly larger portions, this could be a meal for two. Give it a try!

Thanks for stopping by! Enjoy!

Monday, May 17, 2010

fruit salad

I've been dying to use these stickers from American Crafts for a long time now, but for some reason I just couldn't figure out what to do with them! I wanted to use them for Kristina's Color Inspiration Challenge... they've got the pink, green, blue, and white all right there! ...but I just couldn't figure out how to incorporate the gray without bringing down the whole card. So I took a different route for the challenge, and came up with two different cards using the stickers. Check it out...

Kristina's Color Inspiration Challenge

This is my first time participating in one of Kristina Werner's Color Inspiration Challenges! And this is a special challenge too - a "Reader's Choice" Color Inspiration! We all voted on a photo of a color combination we liked, and Kristina translated the winning photo into swatches for the challenge.

And let me say this color challenge thing is not easy to do! Six colors is a lot! I mean, yeah, most of my projects have 6 colors on them (if not more!). But to have all 6 colors prescribed to you by someone else makes it really challenging. In this case, the gray was the hardest part for me. I love the color combo, including the gray, but I wanted to do something really summery and bright, and the gray element didn't really lend itself to that summery feeling. BUT, I'm actually really thrilled with what I did come up with!

Supplies: Stampin' Up cardstocks in Certainly Celery, Cameo Coral, and Pretty in Pink; Studio Calico rub-on (my first time ever using a rub-on - I've never been able to figure out what to do with them!); K&Co./Amy Butler brad; AC Dear Lizzy glitter Thickers (I'm in love with these!); October Afternoon Fly a Kite Collection patterned paper

ETA: Be sure to check out Kristina's blog here and take a look at the other submissions! They're shaping up to be really awesome!

Thanks for stopping by!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

let's be honest...

I don't usually over-estimate myself or my abilities in any area of my life. I'm actually more likely to sell myself short, although I'm generally pretty honest with myself. However, the one area in which I cannot seem to be honest with myself is the caliber of my sewing skills. I cannot sew. I can't even sew a line neat enough or straight enough to hem my own pants! I don't have a lot of practice under my belt, but I'm just not patient enough to take on projects that would allow me to gain more experience. And yet I continue to purchase fabrics and patterns, lying to myself far too easily that yes! I will make these someday soon!

So I found myself embarking upon today's cardmaking adventure via a few different influences. First, sewing on cards is so hot these days. I've played around a little recently with hand sewing techniques, and wanted to try some more. Second, Valerie Mangan, whose blog Paper & Cookies I've just recently discovered, posted some cards that she made using the most recent Studio Calico kit and some machine sewing. Third, some of the design team members have been posting on the Studio Calico blog this week actually encouraging us all to scraplift! So I decided, since I already had the same supplies as Valerie, and I've kind of been interested in trying machine sewing, why not go ahead and lift her cards?

So... here's what I came up with...

Sewing in circles is super hard, and you can tell by this photo that I had an especially hard time! But I'm proud of me for trying something new!
I couldn't tell exactly what Valerie had done for her sentiment, but it looked sort of cork-like, and I thought cork would be nice with the color scheme. I didn't have an appropriate stamp that was small enough (plus, I wasn't sure if stamping on cork would even work!) so I pulled the yellow tones out of the patterned papers with the Pink Paislee brad.

When I first saw Valerie's cards on her blog this morning, I immediately remembered that the reverse of the button paper was the same print but in a lovely pine-y, lime-y kelly green color. Wouldn't that be fun, I thought to myself, accented with real buttons as holly berries for a Christmas card? So I took Valerie's second design and put my own, albeit small, spin on it...

I knew I didn't want to mix too many patterns, but the holly leaves weren't standing out enough, so I did some white "faux stitching" around them.
No sewing in circles this time!

So there you have it. Three new things for me today: Machine sewing on paper, directly lifting (as close as I've ever come to CASEing) somebody else's design, and admitting to the world once and for all that I cannot sew!! :)

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

my other love

... canning. Preserving, putting up, putting by... whatever you choose to call it, I adore making jams, chutneys, butters, etc! And, as far as seasonal produce goes, there's not much out there that gets me going as much as rhubarb does! So what could be better than an afternoon spent with my hubby making two different kinds of rhubarb jams?!


Strawberry-rhubarb is, of course, what everybody thinks of first. And it's yummy, don't get me wrong. But I personally prefer jams that are unique and different from what's available in the grocery store. I do love strawberry-rhubarb, especially in pie form,  but I'm such a rhubarb fan that what I don't always appreciate is how the strawberry overpowers the rhubarb's flavor. So I chose something different: Rhubarb-Citrus Marmalade. Yum!

If you've never tried making your own jam, I promise, you can do it! (get it? har har.) We've never tried jelly or pickles (though my parents have been making them every year since forever), but jams, compotes, and chutneys are so much easier than you'd imagine! Home canning is gaining in popularity, so I bet you could find a class or workshop in your area if you'd prefer to have an experienced "professional" help you out on your first go. That's what my husband and I did. But really, I promise, it's so easy to do and really is relatively foolproof. So here's my little beginners' jam-making primer. Good luck!

The easiest method of home canning is called the "hot water bath" method. It's really foolproof - you don't even have to worry about sterilization! Use glass jars with two-piece lids - these have a lid, which actually seals onto the jar, and a "ring"/"band" that helps hold the lid in place. Jams usually go in 8 oz. or 4 oz. jars. You're also going to need a large pot ("canner"), and a rack that fits into the bottom of the pot to hold the jars. (Yes, you really do need the rack. It's a one-time investment and you can find them at KMart or your local hardware store.)

The first thing you do is wash your jars and rings in hot soapy water. Set the lids aside in a heatproof bowl or small saucepan. Place the rack into the bottom of the canner, set the jars inside, and fill with water until the jars are just covered. Heat the canner on medium heat - don't worry about boiling or anything. You just want it to heat to 180-200 degrees F. Set the rings aside for later. Now make your jam. When the jam is ready to go into the jars, pour boiling water over the lids. Lift the jars out one-by-one (lift, fill, replace, repeat) and empty the water back into the canner. Ladle jam into a jar, wipe the edges with a damp cloth, center the lid on the jar, and screw on the ring - just to "finger-tight." Then put the jar back in the canner. When all the jars are full, put the canner on high heat until the water boils. Once it comes to a rolling boil, set a timer for 10 minutes (or whatever time is specified in your recipe). When your jars of jam have boiled steadily for 10 minutes, turn off the heat and remove the canner's lid. Let the whole mess sit for 5 minutes. Then you can lift the jars out - try to keep them straight upright! - and wait and listen for the wonderful little *pop* of the jar lid sealing!

See? Easy! If you want a little more info, the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving is amazing! And, to get you started, here's the recipe we made - In case you've forgotten while I was up on my do-it-yourself soap box, it's...

 Rhubarb-Citrus Marmalade
1. Roughly chop 4 c. of rhubarb. (Don't bother peeling it.)
 2. Cut up 2 oranges and 1 lemon. (I sliced them thinly and then ran my knife through the slices to cut them up into small pieces.)
3. Simmer the oranges and lemon in 2 c. of water for about 20 minutes.
4. Add the rhubarb and bring to a boil.
5. Stir in 4 c. granulated sugar.
 6. Boil, stirring constantly (or at least really really really frequently) until a "gel" state is reached, which means the liquid part of the jam "sheets" off of a spoon, which looks like this:
7. When you see the "sheeting" occur, remove jam from heat. Go ahead and fill your jars! (See above.)
8. You just made jam! Yummy! :)

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Happy Mother's Day!

Here's what I came up with for the mothers in my life :)

For meine mutter:
(This is probably my favorite card I've EVER made! Thanks to Laura Craigie for the AMAZING inspiration! I also think this technique would be pretty with a vellum window under the buttons.)

For my mother-in-law:
(Thanks to Kristina Werner for the inspiration and great tutorial!)

For my Grammy:
 (Cosmo Cricket's Garden Variety - LOVE this collection!)

For my Grandma:
(October Afternoon's Fly a Kite collection)

Happy Day to all the moms out there!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

the excitement of simple pleasures

Seriously, be honest - Is there anything that better represents simple happiness than buttons. I adore buttons - I love looking at them, I love the feel of them, I love how versatile they are and I use them on so many of my cards. So I was positively giddy when I opened my Studio Calico May kit yesterday afternoon to find this little baggie of love...
Have you ever seen anything so adorable?! How absolutely perfect are these colors of pinks?! Look at this!
I'm giddy - absolutely giddy! I just cannot get over these buttons! These are my favorites:
I want to just put that heart button in my pocket and carry it around with me!

Ok, ok. I'm a huge dork. Enough's enough. Here's my first May kit card, using my new favorite technique with buttons.
This was also my first attempt at using acetate/transparency/overlay. I really like how the ivory cardstock shows through the window.
I'm definitely going to have to try a couple more variations on this card. BUT, I'm having a very hard time fighting the urge to hoard these amazing buttons! My fantastic LSS Colorful Creations has a Creative Cafe station with some super cute color coordinated buttons - I bet those will work just as well as these adorable coral buttons. I'll let you know how that works out :)

Thanks for stopping by!

Friday, May 7, 2010

*sigh of relief*

NOW to mess it all up again! :)

why I hate Sundays...

... no mail.

Today, on the other hand, is not Sunday and was a *spectacular* mail day!

 Studio Calico delivery!

Unity Stamps + Cosmo Cricket Garden Variety = Better than cake!

Pink Paislee goodies from ebay! :) 
I'm hoping they'll work with the new Starlight collection, but I haven't gotten the chance to put them side by side yet.

But first, I've got to tackle ... this ...