Sunday, January 27, 2019

Navy Bean Soup

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I love soup on a cold day!  Last week we got 18" of snow on one day, so I was happy to stay home and just sit in front of the fireplace with a bowl of soup and some cornbread!  If you have canned or already cooked beans, this is a 20 minute dinner!   You could tweak the recipe by either cooking it in the slow cooker with dry beans or even do the whole thing in the pressure cooker.

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 celery stalks, diced
1 small onion, chopped
2 carrots, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
3 cups chicken broth (or 2 cans)
1-2 cups cooked navy beans
1-2 cups ham, cubed or shredded
2 teaspoons parsley
salt and pepper to taste

In a medium stock pot, heat the oil over medium and saute the celery and onion until soft and translucent (about 5 minutes).  Add the carrots and continue saute for another 3-4 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook til fragrant (30 seconds) then add the broth, beans and ham.  Simmer for about 10 minutes until warmed through and vegetables are tender.  Add parsley and salt and pepper.  I served it with corn muffins made from a mix. 

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Star Wars Day Painted Shoes

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Are you ready for May the 4th, aka Star Wars Day?  I was looking for ideas to celebrate and found this awesome blog called DoodleCraftBlog on painting shoes for Star Wars.  I looked around my house and I had all the things I needed (well, after looking for 45 minutes for the gold paint, which isn't where it was supposed to be and 15 minute trip to the store solved that...I'm sure to find the old bottle now).

I had a pair of shoes in the bin by the door that I slip on when I need to go outside to turn of the sprinkler or take out the trash.  Just some cheap canvas shoes.  If I had had lighter colored shoes, it would have been better--painting over the black was tricky.

Clean off the shoes (and by clean, I made sure there wasn't grass clippings still sticking to it).  Use a foam brush to paint the shoe.  I mixed my craft paint with a textile medium so that the paint will be more flexible (usually on the same racks as the craft paint).   I ended up with about 3 coats to cover the canvas.  I used a hair dryer to speed up the dry time between coats.

Just like on DoodleCraftBlog I sketched out the design with a Sharpie and painted the blue, red and then outlined everything with the black.  The next morning I covered the paint on the decorated end with clear coat to protect the design.

Funny thing, I had stopped by a thrift store looking for another accessory for Star Wars Day and saw the exact same pumps that DoodleCraftBlog used (I was tempted to purchase, but I am highly unlikely to wear them all day at work--I'm more of a flats kind of person).  I really enjoyed painting these shoes.  I might do it again, maybe Disney!

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Patent Office Prints-Free

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Have you seen art prints that have the patent schematics and diagrams for inventions?  They are cool!  And did you know you can access them for free?  The images are usually low-quality PDFs, but with a few tweaks in your photo editor, you can adjust the resolution and add pixels! (If you have a Mac, you can use Preview to Adjust Size.  You can use apps like Photoshop, Gimp or Paint too-there are plenty of tutorials out there, just search for resizing).  Most of the time pictures for the internet are 72 pixels per inch.  If you want to print them, they need to be about 300 pixels per inch.

If you want to find patent prints, just do a Google image search.  When you find one you like, look for the patent number.  Go to the US Patent Office site and do a search for the patent number.  Look for the button that says Images and click it to get the PDF.

I've been a science educator for over 2 decades, so I really like science-y things.  I grabbed some fun patent images of lab ware and I'm going to put them up in my office. If you wanted large-scale size prints, you could use Staples to do Engineering Prints--they are very inexpensive and perfect for black and white prints.

You could look for prints for :

Musical instruments
Science equipment
Sports gear
Fireman or Police gear

Have fun!

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Subway Tile Laundry Remodel

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Winter is a good time for the small, indoor project.  Its cold outside or the inversion has set in and I prefer to hang out inside.  My house has a pretty good sized laundry room and I did a little updating when I first moved in by adding some cabinets (recycled from one of my Dad's projects) and a laminate counter top.  I love subway tile and am thinking of adding it to my kitchen, so I thought the laundry room would be a good place to practice.  

If I were doing this again I would have repainted the wall before tiling...the pale green peeks through at the bottom near the counter and the top near the ceiling (like any 60 year old house, no level walls).  

I already knew that I wanted to replace the wire-rack shelf with a thick wooden shelf.  I debated the order of installation, but decided that I'd get the holes into the studs done first, and then tile.  It worked out great (if you pull the shelf out, you can see a couple gaps in the tile, I cut out some notches, which was easier than drilling a hole through the middle).  

I used 5/8" threaded rod (12" long).  I found the studs and drilled 3" into the stud.  Be careful to stay really level while you are drilling--you need the rods to point straight out of the wall (not up or down).  I had to use some pliers to twist the rod in 3" (mark the rod with a sharpie at 3" mark so that you know when you have reached the right depth).  

The hardest part of this project was drilling the 10" holes in the back of the 14" shelf.  I bought a 1.5 inch thick board at the home center and had it cut about 1 inch shorter than the width of my room (again, walls are not level and having the shelf 1" shorter meant I could finagle the placement).  To drill the holes, I measured the location of the rods (my wall did not have 16" on center I measured the distance between the rods and transferred those measurements to the back of the shelf. 
My drill has a level built in that helped me keep going straight into the board.  I opted to use a 1" bit, which gave me enough wiggle room to slide the shelf over the rods in the wall.  
Once I knew the shelf would fit, I took it off and started on the tiling.  You always tile from the bottom and move your way up the wall.  Use a level to draw a straight line.  I checked for level every single course, just to be safe.  I chose to use premix mastic rather than thin set (because I was pretty sure I would spend a couple days on the project).  I bought an inexpensive tile saw at Harbor Freight and a nice diamond blade.  My first course started with a full tile and the next row I started with a 1/2 tile--and I followed that pattern up the wall.  

I debated on the grout color.  I really wanted the gray, because its so in-fashion, but I worried about it being too trendy.  But I decided to do what I wanted, not the safe choice--and I'm glad I did!  I love the gray.  

I repainted the walls a soft gray and the cabinets are now white with dark hardware.  The last update was to the counter top.  Eventually, I'll have a new top made--but for now, I spent $8 on two rolls of marble-look contact paper (Lowe's).  Measuring and unrolling slowly, I smoothed on the sticky paper.  It looks amazing and its held up all year with no trouble (I use the counter for folding, unloading laundry).  


Including the cost of the tile saw, the entire remodel cost about $240

Wood for shelf-$20
Stain -already had some $0
Extra long drill bits-$9 (Harbor Freight)
Tile saw $45 (Harbor Freight with coupon)
Diamond Tile Blade $15
Subway Tile (Lowes) $35
Mastic $20
Grout $20
Gray Paint $22
White Paint $22
Contact Paper $8 (Lowes)
Cabinet hardware $5 (super clearance find)
Oversize outlet plate (to hide cut tile) $4

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Baby Diaper Balm and Lip Balm for Mom

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Want a great baby shower gift that is useful and easy to make?  I stumbled across a site for lots of homemade beauty products--and they all look awesome, but some are complicated.  This one is not!

Diaper cream.  Have you ever gotten some of that white stuff from the tube on your hands?  Its sticky, hard to wash off and it stains clothes!  Although it is very effective at helping protect a baby's skin.  The active ingredient in the store bought stuff is zinc oxide.  In this homemade version you also use zinc, but you also use organic olive oil and beeswax, chamomile and calendula petals.  Makes for a soothing balm that feels good on skin, isn't sticky and is all organic! 

You'll need:
zinc oxide powder
organic olive oil
organic beeswax pellets
organic chamomile tea bag and dried calendula petals (optional)
tin or jar
jelly jar or glass measure cup

I'll send you back over to Humblebee and Me for all the details on crafting the diaper balm--but it takes me about 10 minutes from start to finish to make a single tin (and yes, you can double the recipe and make a large tin).

Coconut Oil Lip Balm

Also from Humblebee and Me--I ordered my balm tubes from Amazon.  You'd think a funnel would help on this project--but it does not.  The beeswax cools super fast, so using a funnel just clogs up and makes things harder. 

5 grams beeswax pellet
5 grams coconut oil
2-3 drops almond oil or vitamin E oil

Melt everything in a glass jar or measuring cup set inside of pot of water (on medium/low).  When its all melted, pour into your tubes (don't delay, just quickly pour).  This makes 2 tubes.  You can double the recipe.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Hymn Cards

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Music is such an amazing gift.  We use music to celebrate, to remember, to cheer, to inspire, to heal, to contemplate, to feel.  At church, I often find that the sermon found in the text of the hymn may be more meaningful and applicable to me than the one given at the pulpit.  As a choral singer, I know a lot of hymns.  When I'm at church, I rarely need to look at the hymnal, since I know most of the songs in our book.  I also know lots of hymns from other faiths or even hymns that used to be in our hymn book.  Last year on a trip to Magnolia Farms, I saw some really sweet stationary sets that had phrases from hymns printed on them.  I was inspired by those so I took my love of hymns and my love of printables and made my own set.

The images are made so that you could print them as big as 8.5 x 11, but I think they'd be ideal as a small 4x6 print (from the photo center at Costco or Sam's) to put in a frame and change it out from time to time.  I also thought they might be nice as a card to a friend in need, or someone who you wanted to send a note just to say you were thinking about them.

The watercolor floral graphics are from a site called can use her work as long as you are not selling things.  I made lots of variations in the folder--so you can print them for personal use, but please do not sell my work.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Tomatillo Sauce and Weeknight Chicken Enchiladas

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Last Saturday was a gloomy day and I was cozy on the sofa watching PBS and came across Pati's Mexican Kitchen. I'd never seen it before, but everything sure looked great.  In particular was a green tomatillo sauce that she used on some tacos and as a side for dipping chips.

I love green sauce when I head out to Mexican restaurants--so I thought I'd try this one.  I made it on a Tuesday after work--it was super fast and easy to do on a work night.  I served it with tacos that night and the next night made up some chicken enchiladas!

2 lbs tomatillos
1/4 c. white onion, rough chop
2 cloves garlic
1 Serrano (or jalapeƱo) pepper
1/2 bunch cilantro with stems
1 T. vegetable oil
salt to taste

Peel the husk off the tomatillos, rinse and  and place in a pot with the whole garlic and whole pepper.  Cover with water and bring to boil, cook about 8-10 minutes until tomatillos are soft. In your blender, blend about 1/2 cup of the cooking water, the tomatillos, garlic and pepper (if you think it will be too spicy, use just half the pepper).   Pulse until thick but not super smooth.  Add the onions and cilantro and puree again until its pretty smooth. 
Empty the cooking pot of any leftover cooking water  and heat 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil and pour in the puree.  Simmer for about 20 minutes. If it seems a bit tart, try adding 1/4-1/2 teaspoon sugar.

I loved it so much, that the next day I made a triple batch of sauce and froze it to use in future recipes. I have a Latino grocery store near my house--and the ingredients there are usually super inexpensive (like I spent a total of about $4 for the triple batch ingredients).  If you've got a market like that, check it out!

My Weeknight Chicken Enchiladas

1 1/2 cups green tomatillo sauce
6 corn or flour tortillas
1 pound cooked chicken, chopped (I used Costco rotisserie chicken)
1 can green chiles
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
1/2 cup onions, finely chopped
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon garlic, chopped
1 pound jack cheese, grated

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a saute pan,  heat the oil over medium and then saute the onion until translucent (about 5 minutes).  Add the cumin and the garlic and cook another 30 seconds.

In a mixing bowl, dump the chopped chicken, chiles, onion mix and about 1 cup of the shredded cheese and 1/2 cup of green sauce; stir to combine.

In an 8x8 baking dish, pour about 1/4 cup of the green sauce and spread over the bottom. Soften the tortillas (corn, a quick fry in oil or spray with oil and bake for a few minutes.  Flour, heat in the microwave for 15 seconds).  Fill each tortilla with the chicken mix.  Roll up and place seam side down into the dish.  Repeat.  Pour the rest of the sauce over the enchiladas and sprinkle with the remaining cheese.

Bake for about 30 minutes until bubbly (I sped things along by microwaving for about 3 minutes first, then adding the cheese on the top and finishing in the oven for 15 minutes).

Serve with sour cream, guacamole, cilantro, chopped lettuce or tomatoes.