Saturday, October 16, 2010

Bottle Cap Coasters

The gift giving season is nearly upon us. We have, at the minimum, 47 days to get our acts together and this little project should help motivate us!

The Hubs and I usually only exchange gifts with immediate family. We have a pretty small family considering I'm the only child to a single (superstar) mom. Dave has one brother and a sister-in-law. And none of us have kids...yet.

Around the holidays I start to feel extra crafty, so only making gifts for, at the most, five people just doesn't satisfy my craving. That means our friends get the extras! Our closest friends live 2,500 miles away in Berkeley, CA and because of that I make them things that remind them of home. Nothing says Michigan like...Microbreweries. More specifically, beer bottle caps of local brew pubs.

Of course you could use any kind of bottle cap, but we really enjoy a good local brew and happen to have a lot of those caps on hand.

What you need:

Cork (I used a package of thin crafting cork)
Stiff Felt (one regular sized sheet (or halfish of an extra long sheet) per set of 4 coasters)
Hot glue
Trim (I used extra hemp I had lying around)
Caps (36 per set - You'll have to start collecting these now if you wanna have enough in time to turn them into a gift, but there are places like this where you can purchase them)

Lay out your cap pattern for each set first. I was making three sets, so I created a theme for each group and separated.

Then I measured the dimensions of each coaster and cut a piece of felt and cork to match those dimensions. I suggest doing this because each cap is a little different in size and shape. You don't want it to look like you were actually drinking the beer while making the coasters, do you?

Hot glue the felt to the cork and begin gluing your caps to the cork. This takes a little patience. If you've ever read my blog, you know that I have zero of the 'P' word. So, I got a little help from the Hubs on this project. He's married to me, the man must have patience! After you've got your felt and cork covered with caps, trim your rough edges. I used hemp because I have a lot of it laying around, but you can use whatcha got!

Once we had finished gluing, the Hubs had to try one out. He discovered that we needed a little height on bottom (like lifts on a bed frame, knowhatimean?), so that the coaster sinks a little when you set a bottle on them making the bottle less likely to slide off. He cut me little felt 'feet' to glue onto each corner of the bottom of each coaster. You can skip this if you're happy with your results. --and yes, I do have a photo of the one and only time he's helped me craft!

The most time consuming part of this project (besides collecting the caps) was measuring and cutting. Once that's done, you sail right through.

Our friends really liked these and every time they use them they see a little piece of home. Try 'em out!

<3 dani


Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Smoked Sausage & Beans

Yesterday, I received my October/November issue of Simple & Delicious. I made the ginormous mistake of reading it in bed on a semi-empty stomach. It ended with me eating a 100 calorie bag of popcorn and marking about half the pages of the mag.

In case you aren't familiar, S&D is similar to the Rachel Ray or Sandra Lee style of cooking. Those are my kinda girls. We most definitely can make meals from scratch, but usually it's just quicker to take help from the store.

On with the recipe.

The magazine calls it 'Zesty Sausage & Beans,' but considering I didn't follow the recipe exactly, I think I get to call it what I want. Therefore, I now introduce you to...wait for it...

Smoke Sausage & Beans (clever, I know)

1lb smoked sausage
1 can (15 oz)  black beans (rinsed and drained)
1 can (15 oz) northern white beans (rinsed and drained)
1 can (15 oz) tomato sauce
1 medium red bell pepper
6 slices of bacon (cooked  and crumbled)
3 tbsp. brown sugar
2 tbsp. vinegar
5 garlic cloves (pressed or finely chopped)
palm full of thyme
palm full (plus) crushed red pepper
salt and pepper

I also made some Minute brown rice to put under this concoction. Believe it or not, I'm not a huge fan of rice, but brown rice seems a little more appealing than white.

I don't usually set out all of my ingredients, but I happened to just get back from the store. Besides, I'm trying to get the feel for this camera. Taking blog worthy photos is tough.

I started by cutting the bacon into my pan and cooking it. I do this instead of crumbling after it's cooked. I really hate touching meat, no seriously. I could never touch meat again and be a happy girl, but the Hubs is the quintessential meat and potatoes kinda guy. So instead of making him become an herbivore, I suck it up and make the meat. Note the halved and sliced sausage in the background. Make sure ya do that.

Right after the bacon was finished, I wrapped it in paper towel and set it aside. Then, dropped the sausage in the grease. If Ima cook meat, Ima go all the way!

While the meat was browning, I chopped the veggies and opened the cans then dumped everything (including the sausage) in the slow cooker. Set to High.

After an hour and a half (of course you could go longer, I'd just keep the heat on low), I took the lid off for about a half hour to let it thicken up. When the rice finished (those last five minutes are agony) we topped it with the sausage and beans. De Lish!

You could definitely go Veggie with this stew(?), but be sure to add something in place of the meat. Maybe another can of beans and a can of diced tomatoes.

<3 dani


*If you can dig it, follow JDitB. There's more where this came from...until I run out of fabulous ideas...which is, at least, another three or four days ;-)

Craft Zone Destruction Construction

My craft supplies have had many homes in the three short years we've lived in this house. Every single spot has had two things in common; lack of space and zero organization. A few weeks ago I promised myself that I would find/create/build a perma-home for my crafts, whether it killed me or not!

I started small. I found a little corner in the laundry room that was perfect, but it certainly needed some work. Because I'm a glutton for punishment, here's the space. Feel free to have a little laugh, I can handle it...

Disaster, right? Yeah, I'm well aware. Nonetheless, I jumped right in. Everything was going well. I was purging like mad and categorizing. It felt great. Things got even better when I found an old cabinet that used to live in our second bathroom. Though functional, it was hideous so it came down within minutes of moving in and eventually I forgot about. As ugly as it is, it would be perfect to hold my crafty things.

Here's what it looked like in it's old home just minutes after we moved in.

PS That stupid cabinet is so insanely heavy that I'm pretty sure I lost a good 5 lbs hanging it. Getting it to stay was difficult. But I did it! All by myself too! Needless to say, I was basking in my own accomplishment for days.

I filled it up immediately and I had purged so much crap that I actually had space leftover (for future crap). Ahh, still basking. Even slicing my finger with my rotary cutter couldn't slow me down. Public Service Announcement* Don't EVER grab your rotary cutter from the top. There is a distinct possibility that you carelessly left the guard down. Siiigh.

Once again, proving to you that I am genuinely lazy (or incredibly's a thin line) I didn't go upstairs to get a band-aid. Kleenex and raffia worked just fine! Ah, the hazards of organizing.

Still beaming with excitement, I finished what I could and patted myself on the back. My hope was to move a table from another part of the basement in as my workstation. But that wasn't all going to happen in one day. I settled for partial reorganization.

Not too shabby. Until today. I had a simple plan this morning: move the table from one side of the basement, to the other. Yup, that's it. Ten minutes tops, right? Sure if your cabinet doesn't FLY OFF THE WALL spewing it's contents EVERYWHERE! Holy cannoli! Granted, I was moving things around inside of it. And sure, I never really stabilize it into the studs, but geeeez!

My sweet little ten minute project turned into a lot more. After staring in awe for a while, I started to pick up all of my supplies and had a revelation. Take a hammer to the cabinet!

I can't lie, it felt great to smash that thing. I'll even admit to yelling "Tawanda" a few time while taking my whacks! But truthfully, it was with great purpose that I smashed it. I had a plan. I was going to use the pieces of the cabinet as shelves. Genius! I made a quick trip to Menard's and snagged six brackets at $.50 each. Look how fantastic it turned out. So much better than that silly cabinet. Now I'm actually thankful it collapsed on me.

You may be saying to yourself, 'is that a spice rack I see on your work station?' and to that I would say, 'definitely!' Last week I grew tired of that huge rack on my kitchen counter, even though I still used quite a few spices in it. I put the spices I use regularly into the spice cupboard and the empty spice rack went into the corner of my basement where all old decor pieces go to die. But she was reborn when I realized how perfect my craft paints would fit. This is magical. 

And in the end, this is what I have. Finally, a perma-home.



Let this be a lesson for all of us. Even when organizing is physically harmful. When projects are failing so miserably that parts of your mind have literally been blown...just power through to the end. It just feels so good!

How many of you have created a disaster while trying to fix another?

<3 dani

*If you can dig it, follow JDitB. There's more where this came from...until I run out of fabulous ideas...which is, at least, another three or four days ;-)

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Fall Is Taking Over My Life

The Hubs got the afternoon off unexpectedly and because I was so super excited, we made a trip to the Farmer's Market to pumpkin pick! One for me, one for the Hubs and one for the Pup. Transporting the cornstalk in my Mitsubishi was hilarious, but when I want something, I force it to happen! ;-) Here's our new front porch.

Earlier in the day, I stopped by Organize and Decorate Everything  and saw these stinkin' awesome Halloween poison bottles. I They would go so perfectly in the kitchen/dining area a.k.a zoned spooky area. And the best part about this project...totally free - weee!

I dug into my pile of bottles (which the Hubs says I hoard, but it's just one little shelf in our kitchen, I swear!). I came up with a few good ones and filled them with a little food coloring and water. It took a few tries to get the color right. My first looked similar to a bottle of...well...let's just say the yellow was a little much.

See, I keep the bottles for moments like this (honey!). Back to work! I've got the potions brewed and poison bottled, now I just need some labels. Oops, forget the lids (mostly on purpose). Craft paint to the rescue. Yup, I definitely painted the lids after I filled the bottles. Hey, I'll admit to my laziness. I want things done now, not ten minutes from now!

Okay, back to the labels. Leanne at OaDE suggested searching "Halloween Labels" for plenty of options and boy was she right. Seriously, just Google it. Tons of options. I allowed myself five whole minutes to make a final decision and printed! Any longer and I don't think I would have completed this project today. I pasted  the images into a Word.doc and resized them to fit my bottles.

I wiped the paper with used coffee grounds to create a little aging. Originally, I wanted to dip them in tea, but I thought it through and, yeah, that would take waaaaay too long. This way, the paper was pliable and still dry enough to adhere to the glass. I spritzed the paper with Elmer's Adhesive Spray and slapped it on. Perfect.

My center piece went from this:

To this:

Which do you like better?

Huge shout out to Organize and Decorate Everything for fueling my fire!

<3 dani


Monday, October 11, 2010

T-Shirt Extravaganza

When I was eleven, I got a karaoke machine for Christmas. I love singing, I really do. I've done a handful of musicals and I even wore my Sound of Music tee today. As much as I love it, I wanted to exchange the karaoke machine for a sewing machine. Sad thing is, aside from one Home-Ec class, I'm clueless on that thing. My specialty a straight line.  Just today I got a package of no-sew adhesive to fix my dining room curtains, but this evening everything changed.

Last week was homecoming where I teach and, as usual, game day is school spirit day. It was insanely warm on Friday, which made wearing a sweatshirt a terrible idea. Trouble was that my school t-shirts are all XLs. I'm no skinny mini, but an XL just makes me feel frumpy. I wore one anyway and end up tying it up a little in the back. By the end of the day, I had counted at least ten students with the same...ahem...idea.

I decided there was no better time than now to alter my tees. I fail pretty regularly when using my sewing machine, but knowing that I could buy a new shirt was a small comfort.

This evening, I did not fail. Huge sewing win, huge.

I started out by finding a shirt that fits perfectly. Then I laid the big tee out inside out and front up. I matched the little tee up at the neck and shoulder line. Then I pinned the bottom of the big tee together. My hope was that pinning the bottom would prevent them from slipping.

I absolutely dread pinning before sewing. I would rather something come out crooked than have to concentrate on pinning, but I thought this project was short enough to just suck it up and do it.

After pinning the bottom shut, I traced along the edge of the little tee with pins, pinning the sides together (and creating an outline for me to sew next to). I went ahead and did the sleeves too because I thought it would look silly to have a slim shirt and floppy sleeves.

I had the right thread color, but once again my laziness took over when I saw that my bobbin was already full of thread. Sure it wasn't the right color, but no one is going to see that...I hope.

I finished sewing all the way around. The pic above is with one side trimmed. I mistakingly turned it inside out before trimming the edges and it looked terrible. Horrible. Bad. In fact, it was so ruffled and pinched up around the edges I considered throwing in the towel. But I pushed on and to my surprise, after trimming the edges it looks juuust fine. Fine enough for a t-shirt that is.

And here are the finished pieces. I'm pleasantly surprised. I can actually wear this to school. In total, I spent about 45 mins from pinning to flipping right side out.

We all have a few shirts that we wish fit a little better, try this out. Big thumbs up! Let me know if you'll try this or have tried it before and how it turns out!

<3 dani


Fall is in the air...and all over our house

Even though it was 84 degrees outside today, it is still, most certainly, October 11th and well into the fall decorating season. I started decorating the very first day of October, but I haven't really stopped since. Considering we're hosting the Halloween Partay this year, I probably won't stop adding to it until Thanksgiving!

I went all autumn colors in the living room and all black and spooky in the kitchen/dining room. Right after the Halloween Partay, the autumn colors will take over until after Thanksgiving. 

Here's how I usually start a decorating project. Yeah, it may appear to be a pile of stuff, but it's so much more. We all have that shelf (or several, hell we might even have an entire storage room) full of extra decorating stuff. Before I got out and buy anything, I compile everything I have with the style I need. Color doesn't matter of course, cue the spray paint.

I don't necessarily use everything, nor do I limit myself from pulling from all over the house.  
before #1

before #2

annnd After

The foliage, ceramic pumpkins, and ribbon are all dollar store finds. The large candlestick and paper pumpkin are Goodwill treasures. The rest I had! [doin' the cheap-o dance right now!] The little candlestick used to live in my bedroom and in it's past life was bright blue. The candles are clearly recycled from my 'I got sick of that scent' candle bin. The big wooden vase thingy was a Pier 1 going out-of-business find. In total, I'd guess the entire mantle was under $20. Considering most of this stuff I already had and used, which obviously cancels it's cost, I spent $8! So sweet.

An old grapevine wreath, covered with black crepe paper and ribbon and a dollar store black bird. $1.

**Here's the updated and way cooler display.**

Craft scraps and a few Christmas decorations, along with a dollar store sparkle skull and a black charger and, Vuala! The candelabra was a half off find at Michael's a few years back. Not my best work, but I had to come up with something creepy to fill the space for now at least.

The beads, ribbon and balls in the bambo vase thingy are all Christmas decorations. I know, right? Black christmas stuff!? Totally. My hubby and I found it at the Hob Lob our very first Christmas in our house and we loaded up on it. It may seem odd, but I promise, it's be-u-ta-ful. The skull was a Michael's half off find and the skeleton jumped into my cart at the dollar store. 

I feel like the kitchen/dining room is sparse, but that stuff only has to last through the partaay, so I didn't spend too much time (or moola). 

I heart fall decor and have spent, maybe, $15 updating and adding on this year. When I make the change in the spooky room, I'll post more, babushkas!

<3 dani