Life is more fun when you RAWR!

Monday, January 31, 2011

Menu Plan Monday

It's Monday and that means it's....
So what's on our menu this week?

Monday: Chicken soft tacos
Tuesday: Steak and pasta with alfredo sauce
Wednesday: Ground beef with rice and vegetables
Thursday: Baked chicken fingers, mashed potatoes, green beans, gravy
Friday: Homemade Pizza
Saturday: Spaghetti with meat sauce, green beans, salad
Sunday: Hamburgers and fries

No special recipes this week for us.  Just simple, yummy food.  The great thing about Weight Watchers is I can have all of that stuff using portion control and planning.

So what's on your menu this week?

Sunday, January 30, 2011

How I hacked my Cricut

I was so very excited when I purchased my cricut.  I got it last summer after drooling over it during middle-of-the-night-baby-feeding infomercials.  After about five minutes of watching that infomercial I walk away wondering how any self-respecting mother can possibly exist without a cricut at their disposal.  I mean, the possibilities!  Oh the possibilities!  And keep in mind, I am not a scrapbooker.  I want my house covered in Vinyl quotes and fun, seasonal decorations.
And in fairness, I've used the cricut a fair amount.  I've cut fabric, made cards, made birthday party decorations, gift tags, bin labels... the list goes on.
Now though, I'm frustrated.  The designs on cricut cartridges are too complex for my needs (most of the time).  And I have a vision for a few projects that I'm working on that are specific and the cricut just isn't cutting it (pun fantastically intended).
So tonight I rang the bell.
It was time to turn to Sure Cuts A Lot.
It was a little tricky because we are a Linux family and SCAL requires Windows or Mac.  Luckily I do have one laptop with a Windows partition (allowing me to access I-Tunes when necessary).  I had to do a lot of updating... usb driver updating twice as well as two firmware updates for my cricut but now I have the freedom to cut out exactly what I want.  FREEDOM.  If I want to fill my entire cutting mat with one letter I CAN!  Hooray!!  No more $50 cartridges that fill only specific roles.  FREEDOM!!
  Of course, now that it's done it's midnight so hopefully tomorrow I can play with fonts and svg files and get these projects done!

Friday, January 28, 2011

In which: I join the freezer paper bandwagon

I've had my eye on doing freezer paper t-shirts for a while.
I first saw the technique on MADE and fell instantly in love. Little Bit Funky is in on the freezer paper action as well. It's the perfect project because it's fast, simple, inexpensive and has near-instant gratification.
So here we go:
Freezer Paper shirts Julianna style!

First the freezer paper.

I bought a big roll of it at Target. It's in the same section as the tin foil and plastic wrap. I had to hunt for it a little
I cut the shape out using my cricut and the Wild Card cartridge. I wanted to make a Valentine's shirt so I found a card element that was "Valentiney." I put the freezer paper right on my Cricut cutting mat and cut away.
When peeling your paper off your mat remember that you're painting in the negative space so save any small dots for eyes and inner parts.

Next: iron the paper to your shirt (shiny side down)

It's time to paint! I chose a matte fabric paint (did you know they actually still sell puff paint? It's like 1988 all over again!) and used a sponge brush and applied a thick coat.

Put something in the shirt to keep the paint from bleeding to the other side. I used a paper grocery bag. I save tons of those paper bags thinking they might come in handy. And look! They did!
Let the paint dry then peel off the paper.

And there you have it... a fantastic custom shirt!  It looks even cuter on our model!
This is Grant's Valentine Ella.  Her mommy blogs over here.

I purchased all of my supplies at Hobby Lobby. The shirts were less than $3 as was a tube of paint which will last for a really long time.
I'm super excited to do custom shirts, bags, hats, etc using this technique because it's simple and fun.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Thursday Weigh in

Up .2 lbs.
I'm blaming hormones because it's not for eating too much or exercising too little.
EEK am I mad.
Total loss 19.4.

Crafty post to come when I calm down.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Another shawl and a tshirt.

As promised, I completed my second prayer shawl for my cousin Kevin.

I hope to send it off this afternoon.
These shawls are very simple to make. See my tutorial here.

I also finished a tshirt for a special four-year-old. It came out super cute if I do say so myself.

Want to do a shirt like this of your own? There is an excellent tutorial on Little Bit Funky. I had to get a little creative with this shirt since Buzz and Woody are too big to be inside the four but I think it came out awesome. I hope the birthday boy likes it!.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Thursday Weigh In

Another Thursday another weigh in another 1.4lbs lost! That brings my total to 19.6 which the receptionist I try to avoid at weight watchers refused to round to 20lbs. But hooray for 19.6 total pounds lost! This despite the "pretzel turtles" my friend Nicole made for Bunco earlier this week. I managed to not sit down and eat the entire tray of them (as was flashing in my fantasies while rolling dice. Also involved in the fantasy a marathon of bad TV like America's Next Top Model or similar).

I'm also still getting craft. Tonight I'll finish binding a second prayer shawl, this one for one of my cousins who is battling cancer. Next up is a shirt for a special four-year-old and another prayer shawl that a friend of mine asked me to make so she can give it to a friend of hers who is battling breast cancer. I'm pawing at the fabric for that shawl as I type and oh it's so soft and has the most beautiful color tones. After that prayer shawl I'm going to work on some freezer-paper projects (Yippee!), repurposing some old picture frames and I've been scouting some headboards and china hutches. I'm starting to get an idea of what I'm looking for in both departments. Also, I bought some awesome robot fabric for Andy's headboard and pillow case. So why am I sitting here typing?? It's time for me to get creating.
As always, pictures of projects are coming.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Thursdays are big days in my world

Thursdays are big days for me.
Thursdays I attend weight watchers and weigh in.
This week I was down 2.4 lbs! This brings my total weight loss to 18lbs.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Book Report: Freedom by

Book #1 for 2011 was Freedom by Jonathan Franzen.
Heralded as the book of the century, featured on the cover of Time magazine, picked by Oprah for her own book club, the darling of all sorts of NPR discussions, lists and interviews, the hype surrounding a fiction novel was overwhelming. I was very excited to read this book and was more than thrilled when the book club I'm in picked this to start the year with.
It's hard to pinpoint what exactly it is about the story and characters that is so captivating. Perhaps seeing warning signs of bad decisions and consequences long before the characters care about or even recognize them gives the reader an instant stake in rooting for the best for everyone involved. The characters are all, to a one, so completely unloveable and yet immensely sympathetic. The relationships, and I do mean every relationship in the book, are entirely inappropriate and yet the reader finds themselves rooting for a resolution, hoping that these pitiful creatures will find absolution and resolution in the end, the same way we're all hoping for the same thing in our own lives.
Freedom is a meandering read. Don't be turned off by the first chapter. You're introduced to about 40 different families and couples. Only the next door neighbors remain players in the book. Walter's portion of the story is intensely boring. It's worth the struggle to get through his rantings about obscure birds and zero-population growth.
In my mind the only person who can play Richard when the inevitable movie comes out is Judd Nelson.

Ultimately I found this an engrossing read, powerfully written, current-event-topical and not too preachy.
I recommend it highly!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Mod Podge Collage

It's that time again... time for my Mod Podge Collage.

Every December since 2005 I've printed out pictures of our family throughout the year and turned them into a fun collage that we hang in our kitchen. They're a great conversation starter when we have people over and really they tell the story of our family in a fun, special way. In 2005 you can see our trip to Gettysburg, our moving truck, my brother before he left on his mission. 2006 has my brother-in-law's wedding, my baby shower, my nephew's birth. 2007 has me becoming a mom. 2008 has our snow and travel adventures. 2009 has me becoming a mom again (from positive pregnancy test to baby shower to birth) plus me with Ben Folds! Now 2010!! It has Paris, it has the beach, the pool, snow, Santa, all of our fun times summed up. Admittedly, 2005's collage isn't nearly as well done as 2010's. I've gotten pretty good at these over the years. It's a really easy, fun project to do and since I've ironed out the kinks, here's a quick tutorial.

What you need:

A canvas

A ton of pictures from throughout your year. Go for pictures where the background can be cut out but you still know exactly what the picture is about. I happened to order mine from shutterfly. It really doesn't matter. What does matter is that they are a matte finish NOT GLOSSY. The ink from your glossy pictures will run when you put the glue on them.


Mod Podge

A paint brush.

This year I tried using spray adhesive but, meh, made no difference so feel free to skip it.

The first thing to do is cut out your pictures. Go for pictures that don't have a lot of fine, subtle details. Those details will be lost in the “bigger” picture. Cut out extraneous backgrounds but save those pieces. They're great for filling in small white spaces.

Here's an example:

A cute picture of father and son fishing. We don't need the whole lake to make it clear what they were doing, so cut it out!

Still a cute picture but much smaller and with interesting edges so other pictures can overlap a little bit.

Once you've cut everything out start playing with them on the canvas. It's like putting together a jigsaw puzzle with no right answer. You want everything to look cohesive but not too planned.

Watch for having clumps of the same season or person. I think it looks better when there is a picture of kids playing in the snow next to mom lounging at the beach. You may disagree. Play with it and find out. Also if there are any glaring empty spots that aren't big enough for another picture, fill in with pieces of generic background that you've cut out.

Next come the Mod Podging. I've done this two ways. A few of the years I've taken everything off of the canvas once I've played with it and coated the canvas with the mod podge then stuck everything back on. Some years I've put the podge down before I started playing with the pictures but that makes a huge mess of the pics. In my opinion the best way to do this is to lay out your pictures then gently use your paint brush to coat everything with the the Mod Podge. If some of the pictures start moving put a little podge on the back and they'll stick down. You may also need to lift up some of the edge pictures and coat the backs so they'll stick. Coat the whole canvas. IT WILL GO ON WHITE.

Do no worry. It dries clear. I always let mine dry about 24 hours.

Don't forget to label your collage with the year! Use stickers, cut them out, write them on. Use your imagination.

Hang it up and enjoy!

This project is easily done in two hours but it's something your family will enjoy for years to come!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Quilted Prayer Shawl

Quilt number one for 2011 is done. It turned out quite beautifully if I do say so my self and was simple to make, easy for even a bginning quilter.

Take a look at my final product:

It's a quilted prayer shawl for a family member who is having surgery next month.

Want to make one of your own? Here's how:

What you'll need:

Five fat quarters

2.5 yards of backing fabric to coordinate with fat quarters

2.5 yards of batting (I prefer a natural batting rather than synthetic)

two packages of bias tape (or make your own for binding)

Start with five fat quarters.

These were a fantastic Christmas gift from my sweet husband. He has a good eye and knew I'd love these fabrics. Cut the fat quarters on the width into 2.5 inch strips (so the quilt strips are 2 inches wide with ¼ inch seam allowances on each side).

Sew the strips by putting right sides together and sewing a straight line down the length (remember we are allowing for a ¼ inch seam allowance). Remember you will be sewing on the back of the fabric not the front. After sewing the first pair together open them up, add another strip so that the right sides face each other and sew again. Repeat until you've used all of your strips. Initially I wanted to sew the strips randomly but because I'm me I ended up falling into a pattern right from the start. I suppose I naturally try to make order out of chaos. I am who I am. There really isn't a wrong way to piece the strips together though so have fun with it. When the top is done don't forget to set the seams by ironing them. There is some debate about ironing them flat vs ironing them open. I'm not sure it matters with this quilt since no interlocking squares are involved.

Next, we cut our backing and batting. Cut the backing so that it is about an inch bigger than your quilt top on all sides. Now, tape the backing to a clean area of you floor. Hardwood or tile is better than carpet for this. When taping your backing down stretch it fairly tight to avoid lumps or creases in your final product. Cut your batting to size next using the backing as a template. Next step: roll your batting as well as your quilt top into a jelly-roll. With the batting it doesn't matter which way it unrolls since the top and bottom are the same. With the quilt top you want it to unroll so that the top become visible as you unroll it. Now it's time to baste. I used spray-basting rather than pinning. Spray the top of the backing (which is taped down to the floor, remember) and then unroll your batting onto the backing. Go slowly so there are no lumps or gathers. Once the batting is laid out spray the top of it with your spray adhesive and repeat the process with your quilt top. Unroll it carefully and smooth as you go.

Ta-da! It's pieced.

Next, square it off by folding it in half and trimming the edges down using a rotary cutter.

Time to quilt!

What makes this prayer shawl easy to quilt is that you simply stitch down the fabric seams. There are no intricate patterns involved and also, again, no wrong way to quilt it.

This was a great chance for me to use many of the different, fun stitches available on my machine. The result is whimsical and beautiful.

When the quilting is done it's time to attach the binding.

If you need directions on how to sew with bias tape check out this you tube tutorial. She's fantastic and explains it way better than I ever could.

Trim your strings and you're done!

It's customary to include a note or poem explaining the prayer shawl. If you need ideas – google “prayer shawl poem” and you'll see all sorts of different prayers, blessings, dedications, etc.

It took me three partial evenings to complete the prayer shawl. One evening to cut it out and sew the strips. One evening of laying it out, basting, cutting, squaring and quilting a few strips. One evening to finish quilting and bind.

If you make a shawl inspired by this tutorial I'd love to hear how it goes and see your results!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Motivated Moms

I'd like to bring your attention to Motivated Moms. Similar to "Fly Lady" but profoundly more effective for this family, Motivated Moms is a year-long home cleaning and organization system. Each week you have a new "sheet" that lists your every day tasks as well as special tasks to complete that day. Using their system I have been able to keep my house pretty clean with about 90 minutes worth of effort per day.
I, personally, function best with a physical checklist and get fantastic satisfaction from physically crossing things off my list rather than clicking a dot on my iphone.
If you're looking for a way to get and keep the house in nice condition check out the Motivated Moms.

Resolution watch:
Two days in and I'm doing great! I actually finished a quilt top yesterday. I need to get batting, backing and binding to finish it off, hopefully, tomorrow. Blog post with pictures will naturally follow.

And if you'd like to see the other pea to my pod, check out Follow Your Bliss, a new crafty blog by my crafty, quilty, funny, read-y, mommy doppleganger Megan. Please note: we did not know about each other's resolutions until after they'd been posted. Think there's a reason we get along so well?