Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Beef & Barley Soup

A friend asked me for this recipe and I thought I had put it on the blog, but I searched and could only find the intention of putting it on the blog. So, here it is. Super easy. Super yummy. I think I now have it memorized.

Beef & Barley Soup
1 lb lean or extra lean ground beef
1 finely chopped onion
3 cups boiling water
2 Beef Oxo packets (I use 2 tsp Better than Bouillon)
28 oz can diced tomatoes
2 diced potatoes
2 shredded carrots
1/2 cup pearl barley
salt & pepper

Brown ground beef. Drain excess fat. Add onion and saute 3-4 minutes until onion is translucent. Season with a little salt & pepper. Add everything else. Bring to a boil, then simmer 20-30 minutes until potatoes are tender and barley is cooked.

Serve with crusty rolls.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Why I Choose Artfire

There are a few places to sell your crafty wares on the Internet, but I chose Artfire to set up my shop. Here's why:
  1. No listing fees. No closing fees. No extra fees. I can list as much as I want for a low monthly fee. If I want to sell lots, Artfire is the place to do it! There are lots of perks in going Pro, too. I love having access to all the extra features.
  2. You can list for free! You can set up a basic studio and list your items for free! It's a great way to feel out the market if you're just getting started.
  3. Artfire has the best SEO (Search Engine Optimization), which means that when people go searching for "Reusable Facial Pads," my humble studio shows up on the front page. Tell me, how often do you click through to the second page of search engine results? This is super important. I get most of my business and traffic through people searching and finding my studio on Artfire.
  4. My buyers don't need to set up an Artfire profile to purchase from me. It's just one more step removed, another possible barrier. 
  5. Facebook kiosk! My friends and fans can shop right from Facebook! No need to leave Facebook, you can do it all from there!
You can set up your own studio on Artfire and get access to all these great features, too. Just click this to go sign up. Bonus: if you sign up for a Pro account through my link, I get a free month & you get a free month (your third month is free).

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Baking with Bokeh + a little rant

You know, all you need to do to make your baking look yummier is grab some natural light and a low F-stop and you get that nice blur in the background that means you can't tell when it was I last gave my counter tops a good scrub (usually daily, but you never know). These banana oatmeal muffins were pretty good, except the big ones stuck to the cupcake paper like nobody's business.

(Here begins the rant; if you're not one for rants, just skip this part, enjoy the picture. We ate muffins; have a nice day.)

I found the recipe on By itself it would be a fine muffin recipe. I probably should have followed the recipe as written just to have actually made it. But I read the reviews. This is my biggest beef with and it really has little to do with the site itself, but much more to do with the users of the site and how they incorrectly use the star system and the reviews. Seriously, no matter how many stars the recipe has, you still need to read through at least 10 reviews to figure out whether you should even bother making the recipe or not and what changes you should make to the recipe should you decide to make it. I mean, it's one thing to make the recipe once, decide it needed a little more *whatever* and write a review saying as much and still rate it well. It's another thing to change 3-5 things about the recipe, declare it fabulous and give it 5 stars. It's like going to Home Depot, going through the self checkout, going home and doing the online survey and saying you got fabulous service at the checkout. "I rock at scanning things and swiping my debit card." I have occasionally seen comments by other users who get upset with previous reviewers who rate a recipe poorly based on the changes they made to the recipe. That makes sense, but it is equally unhelpful to have to read through countless reviews in order to determine what recipe is 4.5 stars. I don't know why someone just doesn't write up their own recipe with the changes they made and then everyone can rate that recipe with 5 stars as written.

This recipe for Banana Oat Muffins has the same issue, of course. These muffins were pretty good made with the changes that most people suggested. They weren't complicated changes, apple sauce for oil, brown sugar for white, add some chocolate chips, whatever. No big deal. I would probably make them again, but follow the recipe as written. 1/3 cup of oil isn't that bad for a batch of muffins and maybe then they wouldn't stick to the cupcake paper so badly.

So that's my rant. I don't know why I don't just use some other site, other than it's just as unpredictable if it's a good recipe or not. I implore you, Allrecipes users, write your own recipe or rate the recipe as written.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Home Improvements

So, in between Halloween and Christmas, a whole bunch of home renos/updates happened, so there are not a lot of other crafty creations in between as a result. So "we" (not really me: my job was taking care of my kids and our handy friend's kids and feeding people) ripped out our kitchen ceiling. I wasn't aware how much of the ceiling was getting ripped out, or I would have done some more covering up of stuff. We thought there was drywall on the ceiling (there was), but there was also lath & plaster, so they had to rip all that down, too.

It was a huge mess, as you can see, but the men had it mostly cleaned up the same night, which was pretty impressive. They bagged it up in heavy duty garbage bags and the garbage men picked it up! We thought we might have to borrow a truck and haul it down to the dump, but it totally work out!

The ceiling looked like this. The lath & plaster took up so much space that there was 2-3 inches of extra ceiling height that we got out of the reno.

They needed to get at the plumbing of the bathroom above the kitchen to take care of a leak. We couldn't exactly solve the problem entirely, but the new non-slumpy, bubbly ceiling is fantastic!

Our super handy friend was super awesome and worked soooo hard for us over the next couple of weeks, taping and mudding and making the ceiling all nice and beautiful. Then his wife came and helped me paint it. Not only that, she helped me paint the sitting room, the kitchen walls & then the front entrance, hallways, and stairwell. I guess I haven't taken any photos of the kitchen painted...

These are the colours we chose for the kitchen (middle brown on left), sitting room (red) and house colour (grey triangle in the middle). 

Painting the sitting room. I think this is after the second coat. We did three total. It was done in time for Christmas, hosting the in-laws!

Our handy friend also installed this sweet mantle that my husband scored at an awesome deal on Kijiji. It really put the finishing touch on the room.

The mudroom. 

The mudroom again. We're looking at the closet door, which has since been painted and had hardware put on properly (can you tell what's wrong?) and the kids' sock sorter. I used to have this little organizing rack in our bedroom because there was no room for my night table beside our bed, so I could keep my books and whatnot in it.

Looking at the mudroom from the hallway. There are little organizational containers in the cubbies of that bench, one for each member of the family. We still need to put up new trim throughout the house, which is a pretty big project that we'll just have to plug away at bit by bit.

My friend is going to help me again next week paint the rest of the kitchen (we left one wall because it's getting painted a different colour) and the tv room & dining room at the back of the house. After that is done, there will be just the bathrooms and the sewing room to paint!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Christmas Nightgown

So, I guess I made it back to Christmas now.

There is a tradition in my husband's family of opening a gift on Christmas eve. The gift is always pajamas. It is a sensible gift: that way children look cute in pictures on Christmas morning and they can always use new pajamas. I like to think I'm pretty easy going about Christmas traditions, so we have done this since we have been married and the kids have received new pajamas on Christmas eve their whole lives.

Zoe loves dresses and nightgowns though she has very few nightgowns, so this year I wanted to make a very traditional style nightgown that she would love. She was pretty happy when she opened it on Christmas eve:

She still loves it as much as the day she received it. She loves dresses. She would wear dresses everyday if you let her (which I would since she's in kindergarten and it's not that much longer that she's going to want to wear dresses everyday).

Opening her stocking Christmas morning, wearing her very pink and frilly nightgown.

 The two oldest children in their Christmas pajamas.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

More Cakes

So there were some more birthdays and other cake-worthy events in the last 10 months, too. I guess I didn't make cakes for all of them, but I made some cakes. I may have said this before, but I make cakes for the kids of our good friends and co-church planters. This Star Wars Lego cake was requested for the January birthday. (Star Wars Lego cake? Nothin' like a simple cake, eh? Boys....)

The techniques used here: buttercream transfer (YouTube how to) and painting on buttercream and of course, basic piping. I printed out a coloring page that the birthday boy and my husband found on the internet. I filled in only the grey shape of the Imperial Walker for the buttercream transfer.  Then I painted on the buttercream transfer using a mixture of real vanilla & black icing paste for the detail.

For the sides, I just piped flat monochromatic lego-sized stripes and piped dots on the top of them for the Lego look. I saw this idea here. From what I can remember, it was a hit. I was in my first couple weeks of our diet & exercise program, so I passed on the cake and ate a protein bar instead. I was told it tasted good.

The sister of a friend of mine commissioned me to make this monkey cake for her son's first birthday. It turned out okay. She looked through my Facebook cakes album and found the picture of Zoe's 2nd birthday cake, which I didn't think was one of my better cakes, but oh well, that's what she picked.

I'm always so nervous doing commissioned cakes. People tell me my cakes look professional, but I'm not so sure. I can tell the difference when I look through professional cake albums vs. my own. I'm not down in the dumps about this or searching for compliments, I'm just telling it like it is. I make nice cakes. Some are better than others. Most are better than these and I never make spelling mistakes, though occasionally I make a blunder and end up with a cake that unintentionally looks like boobs.

(It's supposed to be a purse, but it is kinda pathetic, even if it didn't look like boobs.)

Then there was a wedding. I wasn't really supposed to make a cake for this wedding. I'd thought of offering in advance, but the wedding date was only a few weeks after my due date, so I wasn't sure I would be feeling up to making a cake. But then we were visiting with the couple and while I know they're not big cake people (she's celiac & he doesn't really really care for cake), one of the reasons they opted for no cake was because it was expensive for something they didn't really care for. But everyone's grandma wants them to have a cake, if only for the opportunity to take pictures of them cutting it.

So, this was my first attempt at a gluten-free cake. I used this recipe and the bride told me it was delicious. I'll have to try it sometime. I didn't have leftover cake for me to try, so I was really hoping it was yummy.

For the roses, I made them out of fondant using this technique found on YouTube. Seriously people, I don't know how to do anything. I just Google it and figure it out. The beauty of the Internet is that everyone wants to be an expert so there are free instructions out there for just about everything. LOVE! I was pretty happy with this cake, though the seams were kind of obvious, but not if you take pictures from the right side!

Now, the final cake I haven't shared yet. Simon turned three the day after I began my 10 month blog hiatus. This was his cake. He loves basketball.

I was pretty pleased with the basketball colour I achieved for the fondant. Not always easy to get exactly what you're looking for. I used a bowl to make the shape and then used a lot of icing to make it more ball shaped and less bowl shaped underneath the fondant. It's round enough.

If you had a birthday in the last 10 months, Happy Birthday. If you have one coming up in the next 10 months and need a cake, let me know and we'll work something out.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Crafty Birthday

In March, we had a birthday. Two actually. Mine and my daughter's. Mine totally gets overshadowed by the child's. I am totally okay with this. I made cupcakes to send to school on her actual birthday. They were strawberry cupcakes made with this Martha Stewart recipe. Honestly, I've been a bit underwhelmed by Martha's cake recipes. I made a perfect white cake (or something like that) from her site, too. And it was kind of dry. I really like that the ingredients called for in both the cake and the icing were simple, real ingredients, so that's nice. No food coloring and no artificial flavours.

While I have a this great cupcake icing kit from Bake it Pretty, with a number of large, fancy tips, the recipe didn't make enough icing for me to frost them all cupcake-shop fancy. I still need to make some cupcakes with that kit. Personally, I prefer a lot less frosting on my cupcakes and I like the homemade look of just frosting them with a spatula and dipping them in sprinkles.

Last year, I made a 3 shirt for my son's birthday. My husband insisted I put the large 3 on the back of the shirt, since jerseys don't have the numbers on the front. Against my better judgment ("It's not a jersey..."), I complied and my son has insisted on wearing it backward from day one. Funny.

I made a six shirt for Zoe. Pink pink pink. She loves pink. That six is sparkly fabric paint. I used the freezer paper stencil technique to make the six. So easy peasy. I also recently discovered in a different t-shirt embellishment project that using freezer paper as a stabilizer for the jersey knit fabric is super helpful. I could draw on the paper side and then cut the paper and the fabric at the same time instead of fussing with slippery fabric.

So, I sent my birthday girl to her favorite place in the world (school) with 30 cupcakes to share with her classmates and teachers with strict instructions not to return with any leftover cupcakes (remember how I lost 25 lbs this year?). She wasn't feeling great. I knew she wasn't feeling great, but she hadn't vomited and she wanted to go to school. On her birthday. She gets a birthday crown. She hadn't talked about anything else since January. This kid rarely gets sick. And when she does, she can time it to Thursdays (no school) and weekends. She just got her days off (her birthday was on a Wednesday).
By 10 o'clock I'd received a phone call from the school saying she was laying in the infirmary, having thrown up. Of course. So, I picked her up and she spent the rest of the morning laying on the couch at our friend's place while I took her brother to the paediatrician.

She spent the rest of the day at home, napping a little, but mostly being okay and feeling a little sad. We made pizza for supper.

The teacher saved the cupcakes until Friday (3 day old cupcakes...mmmm) and she got to celebrate with her class then.

Then we had her home party on Sunday. It was her request. And it worked out rather well because she invited her grandparents and as it turned out, my mom could make it on Sunday. She requested a Barbie cake. I looked for a picture of barbie that was mostly face, so she could have nice big eyes so she wouldn't look scary and ugly in buttercream, but alas, there were no such pictures to be found in Internet land. When Zoe announced Barbie was beautiful, that's when I knew to stop fussing with her eyes and just let it go. My cake decorating mantra: "You are working in a medium that is meant to be eaten."

She is kind of ugly though.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011


 I've been working on some hats for the shop. I love these cute crocheted hats with flowers or other bold designs on them. I am having a hard time photographing in the new house, in the still winter-like light, so I'm not happy enough with the photographs to put these up in the shop yet. It's a lot of work to properly photograph your work to make it look professional! If you're interested in any of these, they are available, just let me know and we can talk.

This one is suuuuuuuper soft. It's like baby angora or something, such a lovely yarn. If you have trouble with sensitivities to wool, try washing it in a lanolin wash (Eucalan) and you just may find that you can wear it. This hat is newborn size. I need to measure it before I list it.

This one is acrylic and a little different with the circles instead of flowers. It has a brim and it looks better on someone than it does just sitting there by itself. Still needs to be measured for size.

 This one fits a baby with a head about the size of my baby. But his head is in the 98th percentile or something like that (Benign familial macrosephaly is what the doctor called it. :)), so it could fit your small headed two year old niece for all I know.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The 90 Minute Shirt ... Lesson

Last week on Facebook, I posted that the baby doesn't have much in the way of t-shirts for the summer. Since the budget is a little tight right now, I thought of this tutorial from Dana of MADE and figured since I have saved a few old t-shirts, I should be able to make some of these shirts for my big-headed little guy for next to nothing.

My first attempt:

To be fair, I didn't have an envelope shirt I was happy about cutting up, so I tried to make the pattern without cutting one up. My failure to follow instructions properly should in no way reflect upon Dana's fabulous tutorial(s). I definitely think this is a pattern failure and if I head back to the drawing board on the pattern, I should be able to fix it up for next time.

So, someone had posted a quote on Facebook this morning saying something about a mistake is only a mistake if you don't learn anything from it, otherwise it's a lesson. So, this is my lesson. Follow the instructions! (sigh) When will I learn this? On the plus side, I didn't spend anything on fabric. I cut up an old t-shirt of Dan's and an old tank top of mine (for the ribbing). The tank top ribbing was a little loosey-goosey so that probably didn't help the situation, but I don't think having a tighter rib would have fixed the pattern issue. I will try one of these again, but I'll have to have a pattern re-do.

Monday, April 18, 2011

I Made This: Spring Bunny

So, I'm working backwards here. I just finished this painfully cute amigurumi bunny that was featured in CRAFT Magazine a few weeks ago. As I mentioned, we welcomed a new addition to our family last fall. He is also painfully cute.

This will be his first Easter, so I made him this.

I used some leftover, fabulously soft yarn from a shrug I made myself last year (was it just last year? I can't remember... I don't think I blogged about it since I couldn't bear to expose my back fat for a photo of the shrug), so this little guy is super soft on top of being unbearably cute. It's a pretty easy pattern to follow. I really appreciated the part where they show you how to make the nose and where to position the eyes/nose; it makes all the difference in the cuteness factor.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

So... yeah... how ya doin?

Well, yes, ok. I don't usually do apology posts for long absences from my blog because this is my life and my blog and I can do what I want, but I mean, we're going on 10 months here, so perhaps a little apology is in order. Sorry. Anyway, it's been a busy year. We sold our condo, bought a house, moved, put a new roof on the house, painted the bedrooms in the house, took a vacation to Tennessee in August (eight months pregnant: what were we thinking?... it was great), had a baby, replaced the ceiling in the kitchen, painted some more rooms, hosted the in-laws for Christmas, painted some more, and lost 25 lbs along with doing the regular life stuff. In there I managed to do some sewing and some other crafts, which I'll share here. If you don't already, follow me on Facebook, I am marginally better at posting there.
Me in my new jeans (after losing about 20 lbs here)

I'm coming back here, though, with all the stuff I've been working on, and with some projects I need to work on and maybe y'all can help me with that.
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