Monday, March 28, 2011

Recipe of the Week: Fruit Bars

This is a recipe I got from my mom. She used to make these for us all the time when we were kids.  She usually made them with some of her homemade raspberry jam.  I made them today with the store-bought stuff since I'm pretty much out of any homemade jams.  Also, I usually double the recipe but again, there are eight of us.

Fruit Bars
1 1/2 cup flour                       
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt                   
1 1/2 cup quick rolled oats
1 cup brown sugar                 
3/4 cup margarine
1 cup jam or preserves, any flavor
Sift together dry ingredients. Add the oats and the sugar. Cut in the margarine to make a bowlful of crumbs. Press half of the crumbs in the bottom of an 8x8 inch pan. Spread the jam over the top and sprinkle on the rest of the crumbs.  Pat them down a little to make a top crust.  Bake at 375F for 35 minutes.  Cool before cutting.


Friday, March 25, 2011

Etsy Treasury: Sunny Yellow for Optimism Month

March is optimism month and yellow is the color of optimism so here is a gorgeous collection of yellow from Etsy sellers.


Thursday, March 24, 2011

Thought for the Week: Sense and Sensibility

So this week it's Jane Austen again and the quote is from Sense and Sensibility.  I believe it's Eleanor talking to Marianne, if I remember correctly.  One way or another, it's good advice:

"Know your own happiness. Want for nothing but patience -- or give it a more fascinating name: Call it hope."


Tuesday, March 22, 2011

March PCC Challenge- Go Vote!

Just wanted to quickly let you know that the monthly challenge over at Polymer Clay Central is up and I'm in it.  The theme is St. Patrick's Day and there are only three entries this month so we're all guaranteed a prize.  Check it out and choose your favorite!  You only have to provide your name and email to avoid voting more than once. 


Tutorial: Polymer Clay Bead Basics Part 4- Covering a Mud Core with a Solid Color

Okay, I know last week I promised some more bead shapes but as I was planning that tutorial, I decided I needed to do the next set of shapes in a solid color of clay to make them easier to see.  So I decided I needed to show how I cover a "mud" (scrap clay that's been thoroughly mixed so it's a lovely mud color) core with solid colored clay so as not to use as much "good" clay.  I always seem to have a lot of mud lying around and am constantly trying to come up with ways to use it.

Anyhow, here it is:

Covering a Mud Core with a Solid Color
Condition your colored clay thoroughly and roll out into a medium-thick sheet.  Mix your mud until it is all one color.

Roll your mud up into a fairly fat log.

Lay the mud log along one edge of your colored sheet and trim the sheet on three sides.

Wrap the sheet around the log and roll until the edge of the colored sheet meets the part still on the table.  Roll back a little and you should see a mark where the clay touched.  Use this as your guideline to cut the sheet of clay.  When you wrap it all the way around, the edges of the sheet should butt up against one another.

Smooth the seam with your fingers.

Squeeze and turn, squeeze and turn your log until it starts to lengthen and get skinnier.  (I really think I should clear my craft table a little before I do the photos for these tutorials.  You can still see the remains from my last project.)

When it gets to a certain "skinniness," my fingers can't handle any more and that's how I know when to move on.That's about as far as I can squeeze.

Now roll it out onto the table until it is smooth and about the thickness around that you would like your beads to be.

Trim the end.  You can see how the mud is running through the log of clay with the pink on the outside.

Mark your log where you want to cut.  I'm using a Marxit tool but you can use a ruler or even just eyeball it if you're good enough at that sort of thing.

Cut your log into even chunks.

Take one of the chunks and start pressing on the sides of one end of it.  Kind of squeeze the color in toward itself.  Squeeze and turn, squeeze and turn.  You can probably see what I mean better in the next photo.

Keep squeezing and turning until the colored clay almost meets.

Then press down toward the center of the bead to squeeze the air out that may be trapped from the shaping.

Roll the bead between your hands to make a ball. 

Ready to pierce or make into another shape. 

Voila!  No one will ever know that these beads aren't pink throughout.

(I promise the next lesson will be about more bead shapes.)


The "Bead Basics" Series of Tutorials:
Part 1: Covering a Core
Part 2: 5 Bead Shapes
Part 3: 6 More Bead Shapes
Part 5: Impressed Beads

Monday, March 21, 2011

Recipe of the Week: Peach Bourbon BBQ Shrimp and Bacon-Wrapped Scallops

Okay, I know that doesn't sound like a family recipe.  Well- it's not.  If you think it sounds like something off of a Red Lobster menu, you're right.

I already mentioned that last week Rock and I celebrated our wedding anniversary.  We always go to Red Lobster for lunch and then spend the night in a gorgeous theme-suite hotel nearby.  This year for lunch I had the Peach Bourbon BBQ Shrimp and Bacon-Wrapped Scallops.  To Die For!!

The rest of the week I didn't have much time for proper cooking so I decided to see if I could find a clone of this recipe online.  Even better, the Senior Executive Chef at Red Lobster shared the recipe on this website here.

So I know it's sort of a cop-out but I really loved this dish and wanted to share it with all of you!


Friday, March 18, 2011

Etsy Treasury: Woodland Wedding

Rock and I celebrated our 15th wedding anniversary on Tuesday and in honor of the occasion I created an Etsy wedding treasury.  Yes, you will see a lot of green and purple again this week- what can I say?  They're my favorite colors!


Thursday, March 17, 2011

Quote for the Week: Harry Potter

Happy St. Paddy's Day!

This week it's Harry Potter again.  I think that one of the reasons these books are so popular is because every one of us can relate to at least one of the characters.  The classic battle between good and evil parallels real life.  I could wax philisophical for a while but instead I'll just share another quote from the books.  This one is from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.

"Remember, if the time should come when you have to make a choice between what is right and what is easy, remember what happened to a boy who was good, and kind, and brave, because he strayed across the path of Lord Voldemort."


Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Fairy Trees and a Dragon

Wednesday is the day I set aside for showing you what projects I have been working on in my craft room.  Well, this week has been kind of slow for clay (and I've been working on my piece for the PCC Challenge- more about that later) so I am going to show off some other stuff I have been working on lately that I really haven't said much about.  Some of these are listed in my Etsy shop and some are still waiting to be listed.  I call them my "Fairy Trees" and the idea started with the Harry Potter Forbidden Forest piece I did last October...

This is the Harry Potter piece. 

Winter Fairy Tree- Listed on Etsy here.

Moonlit Winter Tree- Listed on Etsy here.

Moonlit Winter Tree ACEO- Listed on Etsy here.

Fire Tree- Listed on Etsy here.

Snowy Tree

Apple Blossom Tree

Spring Love Trees

Dragon Sunset.  I know this one's not a tree... the background was originally meant for a tree but after I got it made, I decided a dragon would fit much better.


Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Tutorial: Polymer Clay Bead Basics Part 3- 6 More Bead Shapes

I hope you have enjoyed the first two installments of my Bead Basics tutorials.  This is the third one in the series.  You can find the first one (Covering a Core) here and the second one (5 Bead Shapes) here.

So in this one, I will show you 6 more basic bead shapes that all start with a ball.

Here we go:

Shape 1: Oval
Take a round bead between your hands and roll it straight back and forth, keeping your hands slightly cupped around the bead.  The more you roll, the skinnier your bead will be.

Pierce the bead lengthwise.  (Somehow I didn't get a photo of the hole.)  You can see more about piercing beads in my first Bead Basics tutorial here.

Shape 2: Football
For this shape, you start with a ball and shape it into an oval, as shown above.  Then pinch each side between two fingers on each hand (only one shown here).  Pinch a little, then turn the bead a little, pinch and turn until you have a football shape.  

Pierce the bead lengthwise...

... or across the end.

Shape 3:
For this one, make a football, then roll the middle between your fingers until it lengthens out a bit.  Pierce the bead across the end...

... or lengthwise. (It's almost too long to fit on the needle tool.)

Shape 4: Disc
Start with a ball.  Dust your work surface with a very small amount of cornstarch and place the bead on it.  Use something flat (also lightly dusted with cornstarch) to squash the bead into a disc shape.  I used the end of my acrylic roller.  

Squash it a little for a fat bead or a lot for a skinnier bead.  The cornstarch should keep the bead from sticking to anything.

Pierce the bead through the middle...

... or lengthwise.

Shape 5: Cube
Hold the bead as shown in the photo with two fingers of each hand opposite one another so you are holding four "sides" of the bead.  Press evenly on all four of the sides you are holding.  Give the bead a quarter turn and press on four other sides.  Turn and press, turn and press until you have a rounded cube shape.

Now pinch each of the edges tightly between two fingers on all sides of the bead, making the edges and corners good and sharp.  

This will press in the flat sides of the bead a little but we will fix that in the next step.

Now set the bead on your work surface and gently press down on it.  Give it a quarter turn and press again.  Do this over and over until you have a nice sharp cube shape.

Pierce the bead through two opposite flat sides...

... or through two opposite corners.  (My clay was pretty soft, so the cube wasn't as sharp as I would like it to be.)

Shape 6: Elongated Cube
Make the shape as for the cube above but don't press in as hard on two of the sides and press harder on the other four.  Pierce the bead lengthwise.

There you go!  Six more bead shapes to play with.  Next week will be some less basic shapes (but just as easy to do).


The "Bead Basics" Series of Tutorials:
Part 1: Covering a Core
Part 2: 5 Bead Shapes
Part 4: Covering a Core with a Solid Color
Part 5: Impressed Beads

Monday, March 14, 2011

Recipe of the Week: Mandarin Spinach Salad

I went to a dinner at the church the other night where they served soup, salad and rolls. Since there are so many people in our family, we are usually asked if we want to take home some of the leftovers and that night was no exception. I went home with a gallon of taco soup, three-fourths of a bag of tortilla chips, a gallon bag half-full of shredded cheese, and another bag full of this salad plus the dressing for it.

I absolutely fell in love with the salad! When I fed the leftovers to my family the next night, they loved it too. So I'm sharing the recipe with you. I'm not sure who's it is but if I figure it out, I will let you know. Since I've never actually made this, I'm not sure of the amounts but I'll do my best to guesstimate and you can adjust according to your needs.

So here goes:

Mandarin Spinach Salad
3 cups romaine lettuce- torn into bite-size pieces
3 cups fresh spinach leaves
1 can mandarin oranges- drained
1/2 cup slivered almonds
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1 red onion- cut up
1/2 lb mushrooms- sliced
8 oz bacon- cooked, cooled and cut into bite-size pieces
lemon poppyseed dressing
Toss everything together in a bowl and serve.

Notes:  I'm thinking this recipe will make enough salad for about 4 people as a main course.  Of course, I could be way off as I am used to cooking for twice that many.  
When I make this for my family, I plan on just setting out all of the ingredients separately and letting everyone decide what they want in their salad- everyone wins!
I love the lemon poppyseed dressing on it but Rock and Eli prefer a raspberry vinaigrette.

This photo is actually of the day-old leftovers so it doesn't look quite as nice but it was still delicious!  (And it has the raspberry dressing instead of the lemon.)


Friday, March 11, 2011

Friday Finds: Etsy Treasury

Lots of gorgeous green things on Etsy this week. Every one of these shops is owned by a lefty.


Thursday, March 10, 2011

Thought for the Week: Harry Potter

There are so many gems of thought in the Harry Potter books and I will probably be sharing a ton of them. So here's the first of many to come:

"It is our choices... that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities."

Professor Dumbledore, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets


Wednesday, March 9, 2011

What I've Been Working On

I am doing my first craft show of the season in a few weeks and I have been busy working on Easter eggs for it.  I'd like to get these listed in my Etsy shop but I just haven't gotten to it yet.  I just opened a shop on Artfire (nothing in it yet) so maybe I'll skip Etsy all together with these.  (I'll let you know when I "officially" open my Artfire shop.)

Meanwhile, enjoy these photos- keep in mind that I just snapped these.  I didn't work very hard to get great photos as most of these eggs aren't even finished yet.

My first applique egg.  All sanded and ready to go...

Another applique egg.  This one hasn't even been baked yet. 

Another applique in brighter colors.  Also unbaked.
One of the first eggs I did this year.  I really enjoy doing vines and flowers.  This one is finished.

Also finished.  I'm not sure how much I like it.  I'll probably keep experimenting with this style.

Another applique egg.  Baked and awaiting sanding.

This one's a mini egg.  They all have plastic Easter egg cores.  I used to use real blown egg shells but I just don't seem to have the air power to blow them plus I have too firm a hand to not break the darn things.  I really don't think I like this egg but that's okay, I was experimenting with technique.

An applique mini egg waiting to be baked.

You've probably noticed the lint in these.  (There's a lot of it on this one.)  It's actually not lint.  I've been working on these in our basement where there is a wood-burning stove we use for heat.  So it's actually ash in the eggs.  Luckily it doesn't take much sanding to get it off. 

Another mini-egg experiment.  I really don't like this one.

Yet another mini-egg that I think is really ugly.

An applique mini egg.  Baked but not sanded.

Another applique.  On this one, I decided to blend in the seams completely.  I decided I like them better with the seams showing a little.

I love this one.  Eventually all of the eggs will have stands (although not as fancy as this one) .  I didn't put a flower on the bottom of the egg here because the stand has a cup-shaped flower that the egg sits on. 
 Hope you enjoyed these!