Sunday, June 26, 2011

On the Cheap

The ceiling in Puerto Rico's Capitol.
 I want to design a quilt inspired by this.
Due to a change in circumstances...I am changing the focus of this blog a little bit.  It will still be all about crafting and day to day life and my kidlettes, but it will also focus on practising a hobby, quilting, that is traditionally quite expensive and figuring out how to do it on the cheap. 

It will also focus on my attempt to be a more frugal person and my challenges to do  I might actually be considering couponing.  Oh, whoa is me.  This is not my favorite thing to contemplate.  First of all, I usually feel that the coupons are for junk.   And as I try to feed my family a fairly healthy diet, this is going to be interesting.  I need to cut my food budget down to $500 per month.  I don't know if I can do it.  We will see.   I will let you in on my plan once I have one figured will involve dried beans, lentils and tuna fish on a regular basis.  Yikes.

Luckily for me I already know how to make bread from scratch. 
I think I make 100% whole wheat bread for around $1 per loaf.
As of today, I scoured the coupons and ads in the Sunday paper and decided that the only way I can handle couponing, is if I have a database showing every coupon that I have and which ones are closest to expiring.  This way I can compare the weekly ads to my coupon database and figure out what I need to buy ASAP to avoid having something expire that I really need.  Luckily Mr. Because I Can is a computer whiz and he got my Excel spreadsheet to do exactly what I wanted plus threw in some fancy features.  If a coupon has expired, it will show up in Red  This way I can easily delete it and throw away the coupon, as I am going to file them in expiration date order.  If it is going to expire within 7 days, it will show up in Green  Otherwise it will be Black.  This will bring some order to what I feel is a huge hassle.  AKA storing a bunch of unruly coupons.  Oh BLAH!

 I am not known for being frugal.  So, this is going to be quite the challenge.  I am facing a couple years of budget crunch and I might have to cry on a semi-regular basis.  But I've got a couple of months to prepare.  So, we're going to be fine...just cross your fingers for me that I can figure things out without torturing my kids too much.  Bean soup again?!?!

Here's the back of My Oldest's Wizard of Oz quilt.  I wanted to make it Over the Rainbow themed, so I used solids in all the shades of the rainbow for my panels between the printed panels and along the sides.  I am going to quilt it probably using straight lines that way as the front and back panels are different dimensions, it won't take away from either side.  The wind was blowing extra fierce this morning and so that's why I couldn't get a shot of my fabric that wasn't being partially blown away.  And yes that is a sunscreen bottle holding down the top corner.  I had a coffee cup on one, my cell phone on one and my foot holding down the bottom.

If you insist on piling my cushioning up like this on your cutting mat, then I will just have to lay on them as best I can.  In the future, can you please put them in a more convenient spot?  A little larger would be nice too! 
Sincerely,  Puss
I guess one thing I have going in my favor is that I am headed into a solid phase of my quilting career.  And traditionally solids are less expensive than the designer prints as they are sold at JoAnn's-type stores.  Thanks JoAnn's and for your lovely selection of Kona solids.  So even though I will still look at all the beautiful prints that are being made and sold, I will restrain myself and only buy fabric and supplies as needed, vs. whatever strikes my fancy.  I've got my stash to keep me going in the meantime.  So don't feel too bad for me.  I am not in any kind of quilting crisis.  I will just use what I've got. 

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Anyone from P.E.T.S. don't read this!

P.E.T.S. People for the Ethical Treatment of Snails...I am not a part of your organization.  I hate snails.  Well, okay I don't 100% hate them, only because of one simple Oldest LOVES snails.  She kisses them on their slimy underbodies. She places them gently on the picnic table so they will be safe.  She pets their shells and brings them the most succulent selection of grasses for them to nibble.  She thinks we should be a snail habitat. 

What's that you say?  There's a snail in danger?  I must soothe it and love it and give it sweet kisses and call it my own sweet dear.
Mama on the other hand...well, let's just say that on an almost daily basis...Good Lord, I am turning into my Dad....I go on a snail hunt.  I know where they like to lay low.  Under my dianthus plants.  So, I scour them.  I handpick through each stem and look under each leaf and along the flower bed where there might be some rotting leaf that they've attached themselves to.

I look through the leaves and stems of my Salvia Nemorosa...are you there little snails?
Maybe you're hiding in my peonies?  Let me just browse through my lettuces and along my dahlias (which by the way is their newest favorite SNACK!!)  And which also is one of the main reasons for my devotion to becoming THE SNAIL HUNTRESS...I think I might need to make me a warrior outfit creation that I wear while on the hunt.  My vision is all buckskin with the occasional bead, crystal and fringe thrown in... knee-high boots, a nice little loin cloth/mini skirt-type business and a buckskin bikini with fringe...I also see a tattoo across my chest...            Snail Death
I mean…I am not a hateful person, but, really, do you have to eat my flowers?  Last year it was my basils and this year it's my dahlias.  All I ask is for the snails to mind their own slimy business and leave my plants alone.  If they did this...then I would surely leave them alone!  Because, it's like I said my Oldest is a fan, so I'm sure she'd be quite saddened if she didn't have the chance every once in a while to love a snail to....death...

I am not going to mention my method of destruction.  I do not want PETS to be on my back....let's just say I get my method from my Grandma...we're talking old school methods.  No sweet and gentle, let them live out their days at a snail farm where they can procreate and munch tasty nibbles the live long day.  NO!  Straight up, ugly death.'s your day going?

Now that we've got snail death talk out of the way, let's talk about WTF...

I was pressured into it.  I can't even blame my Oldest for these purchases.  I can however blame Mr. Because I Can and My Sister!!  Where are the Munchkins?  Where's the Wizard?  Where's Glinda the Good Witch?  Where's the Emerald City?

Fine!  I am not a strong woman.  I give into peer pressure.  Plus, the black and white panels...Freaking cute actually.  So, I went out and bought more fabric for the back of my Oldest's Wizard of Oz Quilt.  Not my fault.  Oh yeah, and no Munchkins.  I could not find any fabric that had a Munchkin on it.  Oh well, I did try.  We will have the Horse of a Different Color though.  So that should be good.

Everyone have peace and love fill your day thanks to this uplifting post about having love for your fellow creature and more munched plants.

Monday, June 20, 2011

KISS...or KIHM more like.

KISS=keep it simple stupid.  But, that's not exactly my motto.  Kind of, as long as you can combine it with...
KIHM=keep it home made.

Let me start by saying Happy Birthday to my Youngest.  She just turned 3.  Now as everyone knows, I'm sure,  3 is the last year she is technically a baby.  After that...she's officially a kid.  So this will be my last year for the most supreme snuggles while holding her on my lap where she fits just perfectly (before she gets too long).  Listening to her cute little voice that is still figuring words and grammar out.  Loving on her sweet cheeks and the last bits of baby fat like her sweet leg chub!  This year it will all disappear.  It makes me a little heartbroken.  I will enjoy every last minute of it!!!

So, as I was mentioning up above, my M.O. for birthday parties is KISS/KIHM.  This is for all ages, actually, but especially for little ones.  This is, in fact, the first birthday party where I've invited friends for my Youngest.  I don't know, I just feel it's best to have family parties only when they're too little to understand and feel overwhelmed by too many people fawning over them. 

This picture was taken at 7 am, prior to the B-Day party.  Ofcourse the first thing the girls saw when they woke up was the playhouse sitting in the backyard waiting for Daddy to finish it.
Also, when they're so little, don't plan anything that's too structured, or has rules or expectations like...following too many instructions.  Make the fun easy to have.  The party started out with free play in the backyard.  Especially in the new play house my Youngest got for her birthday (technically it's for both girls, and luckily for us, she's so little she wouldn't even think that it was just for her, even though it is her birthday present). 

The one semi-structured activity we did was have the kids decorate vests made out of paper bags.  I bought a bunch of fun puffy stickers and brought out our giant tub of crayons and said...decorate!  They got to choose the stickers they wanted, Mommy's helped take the backs of the stickers and the kids got to choose the stickers they wanted and place them wherever.  Then they got to color with crayons.  It actually turned out really cute and they had a fun time doing it!  My Youngest is still wearing her vest today!

Time for cupcakes!  These cupcakes turned out to be a big hit!!  In fact, my husband has declared them to be his favorite of all time.  He loves the combo of white chocolate with chocolate.

Quick Butterfly Cupcake Tutorial

Supplies you will need:

One box cake mix (any flavor)
Cupcake recipe ingredients (see link below)
Frosting for frosting cupcakes ( I used approx. 1.5 containers of store bought frosting to frost 24 cupcakes)
Candy Melt for making wings (White)
Colored Sugar (Whatever you like, I chose pink, yellow and blue)
Jelly Beans
Vegetable Oil
Wax Paper
Sandwich-size baggies
chocolate chips

To begin:
Use recipe for  Faux Gourmet Cupcake Recipe
Let them cool completely.

Draw yourself a wing template...I took this post-making candy melt butterfly wings.  So, please don't mind the sugar and smudges.

Here's another one.  Now, they both started out fairly simple and as I made more, I would add on or change things a bit.  Like if I wanted the tips to be pointier or if I wanted a more scalloped edge.  So these were just the beginning and I deviated a lot from said pattern.

Cut out approximately 6" X 6" squares of wax paper.  I wasn't exact about this, I pretty much ripped out a largish piece then ripped that in half and called it good.  Place the wax paper OVER your template.  Ahem...there may have been a time when I....forgot to do this and just drew on the template itself with the Candy Melt...yeah...special I know. 

Now, melt your candy melt.  This is easy.  Take about 1/2 C. and add 1/4 tsp of vegetable oil.  Put in microwave safe bowl and microwave in 10 second increments.  Stirring in between each round.  It took me approximately 55 seconds for my candy melt to be melted.

Pour into sandwich-size baggies and snip the corner off.  NOW, this is of utmost importance.  Don't make the snip huge, but don't make it too tiny either.  I found, unfortunately too late as I had never made these before that you want the candy melt line to be fairly thick.  I would say at least 1/8", but approaching 1/4" thick and make them thicker on the inside edge.  The ones that were too thin snapped instantly!  Now, before they dry, smother them in colored sugar. 

You may have noticed that I used orange Candy Melt...well, that's just because I am the new frugal me.  I had it on hand from Easter and decided it would be fine to use.  If you don't happen to have orange Candy Melt on hand...go for white.  It'll show off the colored sugar much more nicely.  See, if you happen to be my Sister..then you would mock my blue butterflies as being gray...which, I will confess they did look a little blueish gray...but it's fine.  They were still tasty.  Set these aside to dry.  Make 24 sets of wings.

Here's one I made with pink sugar.  These actually turned out quite pretty with the orange Candy Melt underneath.

My Table covered in drying butterfly wings.  Be ready to sweep up about a ton of sugar.  It got everywhere.  But it was worth it.  NOW, be very careful when taking the wings off the wax paper.  I found it best to slide the wings to the edge of my table, slowly pull the wax paper down over the edge of my table and let the wings be exposed to the air, and then I would put my hand under the wing that was just hanging over my table edge and gently place it under and life, versus me just pulling the wings from the wax paper.  I broke too many that way.

Very carefully place the wings on top of the frosted cupcakes.  They look so much cuter and more realistic if they are slightly uplifted versus laying flat.  Mine were mostly too flimsy to have them at an upward angle, but if you make your Candy Melt thicker (especially towards the middle) then it will work fine.  Place a chocolate chip on either side of the wings in the frosting.  So, the inside edge of the butterfly wing is sunk in the frosting and the outer edge rests on the chocolate chip versus the frosting.  Now the butterfly looks like it just landed and is ready to flutter away again.

Pipe a line of frosting down the middle and place two jelly beans to act as the body.  There you have it!  So good and so pretty!  They look delicate (they are delicate), and will add a unique touch to your next birthday party.

So, follow up cupcake eating with opening presents!  Then when they're still sticky and chocolaty from cupcake goodness (by the way, my Youngest would never ask for any other flavor except for chocolate.)  She is the chocolate girl.  Up until a few months ago, she would pronounce "chocolate", "choco-leet"  And it was so precious.  You loved hearing her say it.  More choco-leet please.  Of course you can have more!!!  I mean, how could you possibly resist?

As I was saying.  When they're still chocolaty and sticky from cupcakes, throw them in their swim suits and break out the water toys.  Big shout out to Mr. Because I Can for demonstrating how to go down the Slip 'n Slide.  What a champion!  Although, he did not demonstrate in his clothes, despite chants for it...but it was still awesome!

So, Happy Birthday to my baby for one more year.  sniff sniff sob  I am so proud and happy to be her Mama.  I'll give you choco-leet any time!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

WIP June 8th

Lots going on over here cratfywise.  Nothing finished, but I can show you my works in progress...some I don't even really have an end project...exactly.  I have some ideas...I was just having fun sewing.  I'll come up with something I'm sure.

Applique for the Christmas wall hanging that will cross fingers be finished by December.  Lots of pins.  Lots of piercing myself.

Here is the finished block.  Sorry for the wrinkles.  It gets scrunched a lot mid-sew.

I had sewn a bunch of strips like this for a pattern...then promptly lost the pattern that I had scribbled down on a note pad, and couldn't remember what I was going to do with it anyway.  So, I decided since I had all these already sewn I should do something with them.  All these cutes solids need to be used. 

So I made 4-patches out of them and am planning on something like this.  I don't have enough of the colors to make a complete quilt, so I am thinking of finishing the outside edges in grey and white 4-patches...any thoughts?  Love me some solids though!

My WTF quilt's progress.  I like how the white fabric gives it a slightly more modern vibe than I expected it would have.  I paired it with some Bari J plaids and though the colors are a little washed out in this photo, they're really vibrant and match perfectly I think.  It's a sweet marriage of Traditional and Modern Quilting which is how I roll.  All this hate between the modern quilters and traditional quilters is just silly to me.  If you ask me, we're all making the same things, it's just the fabric we choose that makes them different, and a tendency towards minimalism for the modern quilters maybe.

I'll keep everyone updated on the progress. 

Completely unrelated quote of the day: "Don't you dare hit me with your swimming suit!"  Oldest Daughter as said to Youngest Daughter

Monday, June 6, 2011

No Popcorn Popper, no problem

I don't have a popcorn popper.  Does this stop my family from enjoying their favorite snack on a weekly basis?  I don't think so.  Does this mean that we have to use microwave popcorn and risk getting popcorn lung and worrying about what chemicals are inside it?  No! 

Yes, this is how much popcorn I keep on hand at all times!  Heaven forbid I ever run out.
Look, it is no big deal to pop popcorn without any fancy equipment.  All you need is a large dutch oven with a lid, vegetable oil and popcorn kernels.  Plus whatever toppings you prefer.

Put 3 Tbl. oil in bottom of pot.  Add 1/2 C Popcorn kernels.  I turn my stove to high.  Be careful as you want to avoid burning your popcorn.  I swirl the kernels around in the oil periodically and wait.  Not very long either.  As soon as the oil gets hot, the kernels are popping.

Once the first kernel pops, I turn my heat down to medium.  I swirl and shake the pot every few seconds and then put it back on the heat for a few seconds.  Ensuring that the popped kernels do not stay on the bottom for very long.

Make very sure that you are holding tight to your lid.  You do not want to flip your popcorn and have your lid fly off, that would be a problem.  If you find your lid gets too hot, you can use a hot pad to protect your fingers, I am usually okay without one though.

Pay careful attention to the popping.  Once the popping has simmered down and a couple of seconds pass by without any additional popping, it's time to be done. 

Remove from heat.  Take off lid and add butter and salt.

 I like 4 Tbl of butter for this amount of popcorn.  As soon as I start making the popcorn, I put the butter in a smaller pan and put the heat on low and just let it melt as I am popping the corn.

I would say I use approximately 1 1/2 tsp of salt.  Salt to taste.  Stir, serve and enjoy!  A lovely bowl of popcorn without any additives and no extra equipment that you have to store and drag out every time you want popcorn.

They were too busy eating popcorn and watching a movie for Family Movie Night to even look at me and give me a smile.  We love popcorn in this family.  Often times I will add a candy like Junior Mints or M & M's and give everyone and individual-sized portion as we watch a movie.  This is a weekly tradition and one that we all love.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Hamburger Cupcakes

Not made out of meat, as my sister asked.   Cupcakes.  Brownies.  Frosting.  Yum.  My Dad's favorite meal is hamburgers.  I have been wanting to make this recipe for him for, I don't know, two years now.  But last year he wasn't eating sugar.  So, hopefully this year he will set aside some of his calories for this tasty treat.  If not, I can guarantee there are several little girls who are willing to devour anything with frosting on command.  So, let's get started:

Make a box of brownies and just use the directions on the box.  Sit out to cool.  I used Fudge Brownies, that was my first mistake.  I would say go with a regular brownie mix.  The fudge made them too gooey.  Although, because I cut them too big, it turned out to be in my favor as I mushed them together and then formed my patties.

Next make my Faux Gourmet Cupcake recipe that uses any cakemix you like.  Just use the ingredients listed here and you will have a winner of a cupcake

Faux Gourmet Cupcakes1 box cake mix, any flavor you like
3 large eggs
1/2 C. melted butter (that's 1 stick)
1 C. water

Preheat oven 350 F
Add all ingredients to stand mixer.
Mix on low 2 minutes with wire whisk attachment. 
Scrape as needed.
Mix on high 1 minute.

Line 2 standard muffin tins with cupcake liners.  (Make sure to choose really stylish liners, it'll make you feel fancy).
Scoop batter 2/3 full in each cup.
Bake for 18 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean.
Cool completely on wire rack
Frost as desired.

As usual, I struggled with the 2/3 full amount.  So I had to scoop some out of the extra full cups to fill the 2 empty cups this time.  Yeah, I did especially bad this time, I had 2 left over without batter.  But as I hover over my oven it appears that I got it just right.  I don't have any of my cupcakes tops spilling into each other.  Hurray!

Take your store bought white frosting and tint it yellow, red and green.  To my red frosting I added a small drop of brown to try and make it not so pinkish.  I only needed one container of white frosting.  I split it evenly between my 3 colors.  Next time I might use two containers if I want to be more liberal with my frosting.  But 1 was just fine.  If I was to use only 1 container again, I would do a little less yellow and more green.  I used the yellow to fill in any gaps in my frosting and so that was the color I used the least. I was just careful in not putting too much on any one.  If you have coconut, which I did not, you can also dye your coconut green for a more realistic lettuce look.  I would have done it, but I didn't want to go to the store for the 3rd time for this recipe.  I wasn't sure of all the ingredients the first time.  The 2nd time I was sure I had coconut so I didn't look.  Oh well.  Frosting will be just fine.

After your cupcakes have cooled, take a serrated knife and slice the tops off and set aside.  These will be your top bun so don't toss, or eat as they are needed later.  My 2nd mistake was sitting the tops upside down on top of each other on a platter.  This caused the tops to have crumbs on them when I flipped them over.  I would say lay them all flat on parchment.

 If you happen to have a round cookie cutter (I do not) cut your brownies into little rounds.  These are the patties.  I simply cut my brownies into squares, forgot to count and only cut 16.  So next time I would make 2 batches of brownies.  Because as it turns out, having to mush and shape them, makes the patties quite thin and I think they look better with a nice thick piece of meat.

I am a firm believer that a cupcake needs tasty frosting.  If you do not feel this way, you can skip the chocolate frosting part.  I used chocolate frosting as the glue to connect the "patty" to both sides of the "bun".  I just put a dollop of chocolate right in the middle of both "buns" ready to hold everything in place.  But really I suppose your lettuce and condiment frosting would work fine as glue as long as you spread it all over the cupcake.  I personally think store bought frosting is yuck, except for chocolate.  So to me, what's the point of eating nasty frosting. 

Put your patty on the bottom bun and I just piped a nice thick line of ketchup around the patty and then later smoothed it down with a knife.  This saved on using too much red frosting.  On top of the patty I piped the lettuce in a thicker, wavy pattern.  Put top bun in place.  Any place that had cupcake exposed, I dotted with yellow mustard.

 I got a paper towel wet and lightly moistened the bun tops and then sprinkled on some un-toasted sesame seeds.  This allows them to stick.  And there  you have the most delicious hamburger cupcake around!  Enjoy!

Here is an example of a burger with a thicker patter and one that I had to form.  Much cuter with thicker brownie.

So, in retrospect, these cupcakes were slightly more difficult to make than I had expected.  I had to mush my brownies and shape them instead of just placing a piece of brownie on top.  If I made two batches of brownies, this obviously would have been easier.  I don't know, as I cut off all the crunchy edges, but I think they would be difficult when eating and the cupcake would fall apart.  So I would probably say cut off the crunchy edges.

Don't put your cupcake tops on top of each other, this will make them crumby and ruin the sesame seed effect.  I used a paper towel and managed to lightly brush of all the excess crumbs, so everything turned out fine.

I think they're darn cute though, I am guessing they are not going to be my favorite tasting cupcake because of the frosting.  The store-bought plasticy tasting frosting of course has ruined them, but for looks, they can't be beat.  So if you're not worried about them being the tastiest cupcakes ever and just want them to be adorable, use store bought frosting.  If I was ambitious and planning on making these again, I would probably make home made frosting.  Much tastier. 

Update:  The cupcakes were a major hit!  People couldn't believe they were actually cupcakes.  And they were gobbled up left and right!  So, if you are in charge of dessert for a bbq, or if your Dad, like mine is a hamburger fan, then you should make these asap.

Thursday, June 2, 2011


Do you ever look at a piece of fabric and just wonder...what was I thinking?  This happens to me far too often.  I like to buy fabric on sale just to have a bunch on hand for any impulse projects.  And sometimes what looks good under the magical store lights doesn't look so good in reality.  Or something I am sure I will use because it is so completely awesome, just sits there on my fabric shelf and collects dust.  So, this is my new series called WTF... what the fabric. 

The fabric I am going to showcase today though is not my fault.  It's my oldest's fault.  We were walking through a quilting store, perusing their clearance fabric when she came running up to me, a couple of bolts in hand, looked up with her big blue eyes and pleaded, Please Mummy, can I please have this lovely fabric?  Imagining her talking in a British accent allows you to see why this was so hard to resist.  A Mummy's got to do what a Mummy's got to do.  And besides, I want to foster a love of fabric and crafting so that my kids will raid my fabric stash and visit with me in my dotage...not unlike what I do with my own Mom.

Oh yes...Wizard of Oz fabric.  Mr. Because I Can introduced her to this movie and she has loved it ever since.  In fact, when we changed television providers, she was most distressed to know that our DVR no longer had this movie available for her to watch.
We are talking about panels here.  What am I going to do with panels?

And not just panels, then we have this with the characters skipping through the poppies...only they're at oddly placed if you cut it out on a straight line, on one side they're a couple inches lower than on the other side. 

And this second favorite of the bunch.  What's up with the upside down and sideways characters?  This does not work for me or for anything I might want to make with this fabric.  WTF!  I am not fussy cutting and it's distressing to have to chop off parts of the Tin Man to make other parts of the Cowardly Lion fit.
And finally we come to my favorite one of the bunch.  The hideous flying monkeys!  The lovely colors!  Oh and did you notice that awesome border between each of the panels?  I will not mention that when my sister saw this particular fabric, she said how sad it was that I would be cutting out this border...and she was serious!  The only redeeming quality about this particular fabric is that I do get to cut out the border and not have to include it in what I am making.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...