That crazed scene in Mommy Dearest had a few things going for it- camp, great quote and, who would have guessed?!- craft inspiration. Ditch those wire hangers, kids. Wood is wear it's at. I bought mine at Ikea and with a bit of sanding and a quick dunk in a dye bath, they are just what I needed to add a little DIY fun to our guest powder room. You can see the painstaking step-by-step photo tutorial here but I bet you can figure out the finer points just by looking at the picture, right? Right. Now quit crying and go make me a cocktail!
I cook poorly, I craft obsessively and I love the look of a retro cocktail. When I am feeling guilty about taking time away from my family with my obsessions, I make videos about my guilt as "The Guilty Crafter" or I blog here. Thanks for stopping by!
I cook poorly, I craft obsessively and I love the look of a retro cocktail. When I am feeling guilty about taking time away from my family with my obsessions, I make videos about my guilt as "The Guilty Crafter" or I blog here. Thanks for stopping by!
I've mentioned that I'm a completely uninspired cook, right? I use AllRecipes.com religiously which doesn't exactly make me Julia Childs. But whatever. I'm trying. What I have finally gotten comfortable with is not sticking rigidly to a recipe. People who love to cook all the time have been telling me this is unnecessary for years but it takes confidience and experience. It also takes a stellar memory because whe I make something my family loves- like the stew I made last night that made my family literally dance with happiness- any tweaks must be duplicated EXACTLY.
This is why I'm adding the most simple beef stew recipe on planet Earth right here. Not because you don't already know how to make it (I didn't) or because this one is so crazy complicated but because my family LOVED it and literally danced around the kitchen with glee as they polished off WHOLE pot of this last night because they love a simple dish. And now I have to duplicate this dish with OCD-like precision from now until eternity or they will no longer smile and dance on beef stew night. So I'm making a record of any minor adjustment I made.
4 cups boiling water from the tea kettle
Here's what you should know about my 3rd appearance on Portland's KATU news morning show AM Northwest:
1. Last time it was way worse (click on that to see what I mean- update: I'm still happily married).
2. This time I was prepared: I chose a project I knew inside and out. Unlike last time.
3. I fixed my crazy on-camera hair issues by figuring out how to get away with wearing a hat for my segment (see witch hat).
4. I still freaked out and stumbled a bit because:
a. The guests in the green room were more intimidating than the usual personable and cool local authors and cooks. First up: TOM GREEN for the love of Pete! I had to internalize a little fan girl moment. Then there was Derik Nelson aka The Unnamed Guitarist from Glee with his musician brother Dalten and sister Riana (the trio performed) plus a really sweet local dietician (hi Jessie!) and Ariel from Disney on Ice. Ariel. On ice.
b. And most notably, there was a full, live studio audience that I did not know about until I literally walked on to the sound stage to begin my segment. What- the- ?!?! I didn't expect that. So I was freaking out for a minute or two into my segment. Sigh. Anyway, here's the segment:
(I should note here, for the record, I was clearly too old for the green room today- I'm the only one who recognized Tom Green and Tom Green and I were obviously the only one who didn't know who the Glee guy was. When Tom Green walked out to his interview, the young publicist said, "Hey- he was married to Drew Barrymore!" (she had Googled him, I think) and THEN the rest of the green room started wishing we had taken a photo with him. (We consoled ourselves by taking photos with each other instead but hey- Glee guy!)
I should also note I like to take advantage of the fact that my feet are never on camera so I wore my favorite rain boots. I looked a little crazy. Half witch/ half puddle jumper. Even Tom Green just kind of side-eyed me the whole time he was eating his donut. When Tom Green is looking at you like he's not sure what's going on with you, you know you're looking a little crazy).
But whatever. It was a cool experience as always and I got back on that horse after last time when I was pretty sure I'd never even talk to Mr. Guilty Crafter again OR go back on live TV. I have lived to tell the tale. I just have to figure out how to make it seem normal that I'm wearing a wig next time...
As for my craft project, here's are the tips I didn't have time to truly emphasize on camera:
The main tips are these:
Yes, you can dye in a mason jar. It's just like dyeing an Easter egg. AND you keep the dye in the jar practically indefinitely. I have a few of these dyes under my sink for dye emergencies (that's a thing).
When you use glue as a resist, the best is Elmer's Blue Gel glue. It just is.
Draw that glue on. There are no rules. Think of it as an unwieldy pen. The thicker the glue, the more effect you'll get.
Let that glue FULLY DRY, sister. No shortcuts. Use a blowdryer if you're impatient (been there, done that).
Go ahead and break the rules and use room temperature water with the liquid Rit Dye. If the water is super hot (as usually recommended), it starts to dissolve the glue and all your hard work washes away.
Shake that jar. Agitation and proper water volume is the key to getting an even dye job. Think of all that dye trying to flow into the fibers of your fabric. It's not going to happen if you project is wadded up in the jar and then quickly pulled out. You also need enough water to get in and around your fabric.
Little known fact- once you have pulled your project out of the jar, spray it with Rit Dye Fixative. For reals. Otherwise, a ton of color will rinse away in the next step. I'm not just saying this because I do consultant work for Rit Dye (but,disclaimer: I do). Spray, spray that fixative.
Once you have all the fixative misted on to your fabric surface, pop it the project into a baggie, seal it and put the whole thing in the microwave for about 20 seconds. The steam will help the dye work it's way into the fabric fibers even better. DO NOT do this if your project has any metal on it (duh but you never know).
Now rinse that sucker WELL. Then wash it if you feel like you must. Let it dry. Iron if you must (but only if you're going to be on a live TV show and don't want to look messy- otherwise, don't bother, it's just a dish towel).
And done. Cute, right?
It is 7 am, I'm all packed up and headed out the door to tape a craft segment for AM northwest in Portland. This time, no major catastrophes or marriage threatening events have occurred so I am optimistic (scroll down a few posts to see what happened last time I did a live craft segment on AM Northwest). Later today, I'll post a detailed tutorial on how to recreate my craft project and I'll post a link to the video from the show. Stay tuned and happy Halloween!
I am working SO unbelievably hard at finishing one project before starting another lately. I thought I'd give myself a pat on the back by blogging about what I'm working on here at our new home. Also, if I work on my blog, it falls under the category of "productive." Sort of. I am the master of procrastination through productivity. Avoid one task while doing another. It's part of how I handle my guilt. It also helps me accomplish a bunch of random stuff while I avoid a whole bunch of other random stuff.
First off, after moving to a new state, my first order of business is always to identify fellow DIY enablers. I look for: paint on hands, a panicked look when someone thinks you might drop by their house unexpectedly and someone with a large van or truck whose eyes light up when you say you like going to thrift stores. I have found the best in my friend Shelllie here in the Portland area. She loves to treasure hunt at thrift stores, she is constantly creating things and she's generous with her ideas. So generous in fact, she's been texting me photos of random chairs from thrift stores lately because I *need* weird, random chairs. I just do. Here's the first one that has captured my heart so far:
Shellie not only found it, bought it for me, she even kept it over the weekend so Mr. Guilty Crafter wouldn't have to see it in it's natural state. I love the man but he has zero ability to spot a diamond in the rough (except me!). I have no sympathy for him having to be married to me. Very early on in our dating, even before he was my Boyfriend, capital "B," I bought a dresser at a thrift store and immediately realized I had over estimated my little car's capacity to hold it. I called him and asked if he could swing by and squeeze it in his car and bring it to me. It barely fit in his car either. He almost left it at the store because he, as he put it at the time, couldn't believe someone would really want something so ugly. P.S. We still have that dresser, completely re-done and well used these past 20 years.
Anway, another sweet things Shellie did was to loan me a book written by a blogger I hadn't previously discovered at www.thenester.com. The Nester's new book is definitely worth picking up but I'll spoil the main point because we all know this, we just need a push sometimes: when it comes to decorating, just do it. I am very often paralized by decorating decisions. I'm not even sure why. I trust my instincts on balance and color but it's a LOT of effort to repaint and hang things and maybe not get it pefect right out of the gate. I am trying to embrace the book's concept and not worry too much about perfection (which I never acheive anyway, worry or not). For this chair, I knew I wouldn't attempt real upholstery. I haven't got the skills or patience. Instead, I thought I could glue on some fur, inspired by some chairs I've seen on One King's Lane. Wanna know what I found when I googled this idea? The Nester! For reals, it's the first entry that pops up. How's that for fate? So, I more or less followed the Nester's idea of hot gluing some fake fur to my $14 chair. I also relied heavily on my elementary school days when I could make pretty awesome frustrations pencils. Cost of fur was about $40 so the whole chair came in at about $55.
If you got down on your hands and knees and really inspected my work on this chair, you'd have a right to be appalled by my craftsmanship (or lack thereof) but you know what, who is really going to do that besides me? Even Mr. Guilty Crafter thinks the chair looks okay... "if you're into fur chairs and weird things like that." Good enough for me.
Next up: The TV Wall Project (currently in progress):
I have taken a bit of a hiatus from cooking since I moved to the Portland area. There are just WAY too many amazing options for eating out and about here. Eating out is our big luxury and we feel like our world has opened up again since moving from Reno where the food selection is a bit limited. We may have over-indulged a bit this past year.
One thing we particularly love is having many Mediterranean restaurants to choose from here. Mr. Angela Daniels and I joke that we nearly moved to Seattle instead because our very favorite, The Mediterranean Kitchen, is there- and we're only partially kidding. I could eat Greek salads, humus and tabbouleh. Every. Single. Day. Mmmmmm. I also try the lentil soup at every new Mediterranean restaurant we go to and I generally favor Lebanese-style versions. Lentil soup and Greek salads are basically my litmus test for all new Mediterranean restaurants. If you put black olives in your Greek salad (rather than kalamata), you are dead to me.
With all that in mind, today, I decided to brush up on my creative cooking skills and try my hand at recreating the flavors I love in the best lentil soups I've tried lately*. I could NOT be more pleased with the results. I want to make sure I record the specific variations that went into my version of this soup because I cobbled together many recipes as I worked on recreating my favorite flavors. I tend to try and get away with working with what I happen to have on hand (which isn't always successful) which makes following one recipe to the letter impossible. When it's successful, I get a little giddy. When I can get rid of utilize our CSA, I'm ecstatic. Anyway here's my variation. Everyone here LOVED it. I'm calling it Guilty Red Lentil Soup:
1 chopped onion
1 or 2 cloves fresh garlic
2 or 3 carrots, thinly diced
2 or so dashes of olive oil
1 or so tablespoons of butter (optional)
2 or so dashes of salt & pepper
➡️Sauté ingredients in a skillet until soft
To a crockpot, add:
All sautéed ingredients from above
2 cups rinsed and drained dried red lentils
2 boxes of chicken stock (substitute vegetable stock if meat ain't your thang)
1 can of partially drained diced tomatoes
Liberal sprinkles of:
🔼 Simmer on low for a few hours, turn up to high for last 2 or until lentils are mostly dissolved
▶️Use a stick blender to blend soup (I do this to hide the tomatoes and onions from my picky eaters- if you don't plunge the blender all the way down to the bottom of the pot, you'll retain some of the lentil and soft carrot texture which I prefer).
▶️To each individual serving bowl, add:
A squeeze of fresh lemon (a must for true Mediterranean flavor)
Several fresh cilantro leaves.
Now sit with your bowl on the couch (where you tell the kids no one is ever allowed to eat), pull up the tackiest Bravo show saved to your DVR and have a way-better-than-a-restaurant experience for a fraction of the cost. I do t know what to tell you about the baklava you'll want when your soup is gone though. A great store-bought baklava is my culinary holy grail. I do know this, I can't imagine make it from scratch. No. Don't even make me think about it. I'm thinking about it...
*I am probably really making food because I have started a ton of crafting projects (which are laying all over the house 1/2 done) and I don't want to finish them. I feel less guilty when I procrastinate by doing something relatively productive. Don't you?
Way back at the begining of this summer, my blog went on life support. I had an expired credit card associated with my account and my choices were to let my blog linger in a peaceful, non-clickable coma indefinitely or to finally pull the plug on this old frenemie of mine. I've gone back and forth. Pulling the plug meant killing the guilt associated with never posting. I would never have to wonder why I have a fear of commitment when it comes to sticking to writing consistent, themed subject matter. Plus, aren't blogs dead? I mean, my posts are ALWAYS longer than 144 characters. Who is READING this stuff?!
But a tiny voice in the back of my head couldn't do it. Actually, that voice was on the phone. My friend Lisa's voice to be precise. She wouldn't let it die. She insists blogs aren't dead. So, this summer I opted for indefinite coma. Until today. I just received an advance copy of Lisa's new "Craft Your Stash" book (http://tinyurl.com/Buy-Craft-Your-Stash) and now I am reading it and want to review it here on my blog. Wouldn't you? What if this is just the begining of a huge book empire for Lisa? What's that old quote? Keep your friends close but keep your rich, famous friends closer-?
And yes, I'm eating Spider-man gummies for breakfast. On a "tablecloth" curtain I bought at Goodwill, as evidenced by the pricetag I haven't gotten around to removing. I meant to crop the photo a little tighter. So much work.
Anyway. I'm blogging again.
If you read the post below, you know that I was excited to be a repeat guest on Portland's local morning show "AM Northwest" this week. If you also happened to watch the video of my live appearance, thank you and I hope you thought I did reasonably well. I still haven't figured out how to make my hair look good on TV but, other than that (and saying, "right" too many times), it was fine. If you know what REALLY happened as I got ready for the news show, I think you'll share my feeling that I was AMAZING, all things considered...
To backtrack, I've been SUPER busy here in my new hometown. Portland is a fun city so we've had back-to-back guests. This weekend, it was my fun-loving mother-in-law. We were too busy shopping in the Alberta Art's district and touring local wineries for me to have time to create my succulent planter/birdhouses in advance. I wasn't too worried though, I'm the Clay Aiken of Craft Wars after all. I am accustomed to creating things quickly and under pressure. Right?
The day before my AM Northwest appearance, I got the greenlight from Lowes for a shopping spree for my project. Wheee!!! It was almost, but not quite, delayed consolation that I never won the Toys R Us Shopping Sprees that used to be given out, with much fanfare, in the 80's. I bought all my goodies- particularly loving on the fashion-forward gardening gloves and the 98 cent wooden yardsticks. Because it was a shopping spree, I even splurged and bought 2 Valspar paint samples in a pretty lavendar and a complimentary yellow to jazz up my birdhouses into something a little extra special. All I needed was Mr. Angela Daniels to help me cut the yardsticks into pieces that would be glued to the birdhouse roof to create a planter box. Got that? That's ALL I needed Mr. Angela Daniels to do. Make 16 very quick cuts on 6 yardsticks. In a pinch, I probably could have done it myself with a steak knife (I try and stay away from powertools since I tend to be accident-prone and I've never had real training on the big boy toys in the garage). But I didn't need to. I have Mr. Angela Daniels for that stuff.
See where this is going? First, I showed Mr. AD the very easy-to-follow instructions from the Lowes site just to make sure he understood my final vision. Then I worked on other things while he made the cuts in the garage. This apparently EXHAUSTED the poor man (16 small cuts on thin yardsticks, mind you) because he went to bed early, immediately following his woodworking job. I stayed up to glue and embellish and figure out what to wear on TV. An hour later, I started to add the rulers to the birdhouses- the yardstick pieces were 1/4" too short! Aaarrrgh! But I decided to let Mr. AD sleep and wake him up early in the morning and ask him to re-cut the pieces. Anxiety was now starting to build. I would not have time to have my Gorilla Glue dry completely before the live show so I had to dig through all our moving boxes to find my hot glue guns. I finally went to bed at midnight, having blown through the one single glue stick I had managed to ferret out of the boxes. Good grief! I was now going to have to figure out where to buy glue sticks on the way to my 8 o'clock call time.
At 5:45 am, after tossing and turning most of the night, I gingerly and apologetically woke Mr. Angela Daniels. I explained that the wood cuts were too long and needed to be trimmed a bit. To his credit, he got up immediately and came to surmise the situation. He Just. Couldn't. Grasp. The. Issue. I don't know if I wasn't explaining it correctly or if it was too early but 1/2 an hour later, I had devolved into chanting, "I just don't want the dirt to fall out of a crack." and then "No gaps, no gaps" over and over. Seriously. It took me a full 45 minutes of trying to not kill him as I finally got him to understand that, even though he thought it wasn't aesthetically pleasing, he would have to cut the yardstick for me to close up any gaps around the birdhouse. All I cared about was dirt staying on the roof and not tumbling out around the sides. Live. On TV.
Satisfied I had finally conveyed the urgency of the situation, I went to get ready. I could hear Mr. AD down in the garage cutting (sorry neighbors!) and I felt I could relax a little. I still needed hot glue sticks but if I was lucky, my grocery store would be open early and I could swing in and (hopefully) pick them up on the way to the TV station. When I was dressed, I returned to the kitchen to collect my newly cut yardstick pieces. Mr. AD was standing, in his bathrobe, working hard- at painting my birdhouses. PAINTING them. With a crazy bright blue I didn't even know we owned. PAINTING with that color. MY birdhouses. I still can't explain what possessed him. He can't explain it either. We aren't going to talk about it anymore. But I'm getting ahead of myself.
Long story short, I lost my mind, screamed, "WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!?!?!?" I snatched up the very wet, very bright blue bird house as dramatically but still as carefully as I could (if you look closely in the video of the show, you'll see that my fingers have paint on them). I stormed to the car with all my supplies. I managed to score some glue sticks, make it to the TV station with enough time to spare that allowed me to quickly create a sample birdhouse/succulent garden planter. I created it ON the counter of the news anchors' make up room. This meant that important (I assume) people were stopping in to the make-up room to do their makeup as I apologized and shuffled and re-shuffled my cloud of chaos (which included scattered potting soil everywhere). I was a HOT MESS. I also realized (too late) that Mr. Angela Daniels had not done the final cut on the piece of ruler that I would be glueing on during my segment. Just not cut it at all. WTH?! Luckily the camera man did a close up of that "wonky" piece so I can lord this over Mr. AD ad nauseum.
A hot mess in a cocktail dress. I guess that's one way to stand out in a sea of revolving guests on a morning show. But in the end? I *think* you can't totally tell that I built my sample birdhouses in the makeup room. The great thing about realizing this is (and it took me a full 36 hours before I would watch the video of myself), I promise you can make this project in under 30 minutes. I can say that with authority. From experience. And it's still kinda cute. The whole thing tipped over in the car on the way home though. I had to re-glue the faucet on and replant everything for my blog photos. This evening, one of my kids asked, "Who spilled DIRT all over the backseat?!" Breathe. It's going to be there for awhile.
Yesterday, I had the pleasure of being a returning guest to Portland's KATU AM Northwest morning show. Last time I was on, I did a really simple, tried-and-true project. This time I decided to get a little more complicated. For the past few weeks, I've been admiring these beautiful succulent planter birdhouses being sold at our fancy grocery store. I linger over them but they are so expensive! Every crafter knows the ever-present thought: "I can make that!" and so I started planning. First, I Googled- I found a great tutorial on how to make the birdhouses from scratch at the Lowes Home Improvement website (here). Since I'm not a woodworker, I wanted to challenge myself to make an even easier version- and Lowes was nice enough to provide me with a special project account so I could go on a mini shopping spree. Score. Even then, my favorite item was Lowes' 98 cent wooden yardstick in the paint section- love the retro look and feel of them. I am definitely going back for more soon.
Anyway, a quick shopping trip to Lowes, a few side trips down the plumbing aisle and the hardware aisle for unusual embellishments and I had enough supplies to make 5 versions of the succulent garden birdhouses I have been admiring for well under 1/2 the cost of what my grocery stores (and some of the local nurseries are charging). Here's my video from AM Northwest:
Just a few notes: I truly am brand new to gardening. When Dave asked me about keeping succulents inside, I should have dazzled him with amazing facts about succulents and how they thrive in full sun. Instead, I said the opposite and suggested shade. I should have also made sure to double and triple emphasize that the hot glue gun was ONLY to hold the rulers in place while the REAL wood glue dried. I used Gorilla Glue which is fantastic wood glue but it does take time to dry and with such a narrow edge (the ruler) to stick to the birdhouse, the hot glue served as a great way to tack it in place while the Gorilla Glue had time to work it's magic. But hey, I only claim to be a crafter- not a gardener or a woodworker so there you go. If you want to read about the behind the scenes chaos that proceeded the live taping of this craft segment, you can read: "DIY Succulent Birdhouse On Live TV: What Really Happened." In the meantime, another big thanks to Lowes- I appreciate your support... and maybe you shouldn't read the What Really Happened follow-up post... ;)
For the past few years, I've blogged about the lunches I pack for my kids on April Fools' Day. I thought I may have outdone myself last year with the pet food containers I very carefully cleaned out and filled with (wrapped!) lunch foods. I giggled about that one all day as I thought of them opening their lunches in front of their friends and teachers.
This year, we have an unexpected bonus. We're hosting a Japanese exchange student for the week who is not expecting anything. My daughter said there was no way I could pull the same prank I pulled on my husband and son this morning. Can you imagine?! I'd have to dig through his suitcase which *might* be taking things too far. But lunch? That I can do. Naturally, I am considering this an educational and cultural lesson. I even thought of a very American spin on the whole concept- junk food!
Now I will be giggling all day thinking of our sweet exchange student opening his lunch. I put a note in his that says "What is April Fools' Day?" hoping he'd have the presence of mind to ask one of his tour chaperones. This is just too good. I've been trying very hard to act normal since he got here but I guess today we are moving on to a new level in our relationship.
Really. I am giggling.