Monday, April 30, 2012

Overnight Berry Coffee Cake

Once a month, our MOMS Club has a brunch get-together for anyone whose kids are in school.  Some of us bring crafts to do, while some just hang out.  It's always great fun.  It was my turn to host in April, so I decided to try out a new coffeecake recipe.  I started with this one for Overnight Berry Coffee Cake by Susan Drenth.  I made a few minor changes along the way.  Here is my version, which is very similar to the original.



Overnight Berry Coffee Cake

                                 2 c. flour                           1/2 tsp. salt
                                 1 c. sugar                          1 c. buttermilk
                                 1/2 c. brown sugar             2/3 c. melted butter
                                 1 tsp. baking powder          2 eggs, beaten
                                 1 tsp. baking soda              1 1/2 c. frozen berries (thawed)
                                 1 tsp. cinnamon

                             Topping:
                                  1/2 c. brown sugar            1 tsp. cinnamon
                                  1/2 tsp. nutmeg

Combine flour, sugars, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt in a large bowl.  In a separate bowl, combine buttermilk, melted butter, eggs and 2 T. berry juice from thawed berries.  Add liquid ingredients to dry ingredients and mix until thoroughly blended.  Fold in berries.  Pour into a greased 13x9x2 inch baking pan.  

Combine topping ingredients and sprinkle evenly over the batter.  Cover and refrigerate overnight.  Uncover and bake at 350 degrees for approximately 50 minutes or until done.  

Friday, April 27, 2012

Trying a Craft I'd Never Heard of

One of the items on my list of 40 Things was to try a craft I'd never heard of.  Obviously, it is difficult to try something when you've never even heard of it!  My plan was to google "unusual crafts," search through YouTube, ask my crafty friends for advice, and keep my eyes and ears open.  It only took a few weeks before opportunity presented itself.  

Lead Fiskateer Rebecca Peck posted a simple question to the Fiskateers.  "Who wants to learn how to etch copper?"  I was intrigued.  I've etched glass before (for my epic 1999 party and at a CHA class), but I've never etched copper and wasn't even aware that anyone does.  Perfect for one of my 40 Things!  Rebecca set the date for the class, which would be live via Vokle, so I made sure I would be free.  

The materials list was daunting to say the least.  When you etch glass, you need glass, a brush, etching cream, some sort of mask, and some sort of adhesive.  Easy.  When you etch copper, at least the way Rebecca taught us, you need copper, copper wire, a 6 volt battery, wires, clips, an empty container, masking tape, distilled water, salt, rubbing alcohol, paper towels, a scrubber, rubber gloves, stamps, Staz-On ink, a sharpie, and a large workspace.  I removed everything from Trevor's bathroom (because it is close to my computer where Rebecca would be teaching the live class) and started gathering materials. 

 
The three of us gathered in front of my computer at the designated time and waited for instructions.  The first part was about how to set up the battery and wiring.  Steve did that, thank goodness.  Then I cleaned the copper and stamped a design onto it.  I used the Sharpie to fill in any imperfections in my stamped image. 

 
Here's what our setup looked like before Steve turned on the power source.  The stamped copper is submerged in super-saturated salt water.  It is taped to a bent copper wire, which is attached to the positive terminal.  The negative terminal is attached to scrap copper wire.  The black tube is a bubbler to move the water around.

 
As soon as Steve turned on the power, the copper started bubbling like crazy!

 
After 5 minutes, it looked like this- Tangerine Tango!

 
We let it bubble for 20 more minutes or so while Rebecca demonstrated some other related techniques.  Finally, it was time to remove it.  Exciting!  I pulled out the copper and wiped it off.
 
Then I used the rubbing alcohol to clean it thoroughly.  Hmm... not quite as nice as I'd hoped.  Cool though.  The shiny part is raised and smooth, while the dark part is rough and sunken.



We continued with cleanup, including removing the wire from the negative terminal.  Check it out- it's totally encrusted with some of the copper that was removed from the stamped piece.  Very interesting!

 
I don't see myself ever etching copper again.  While the effect was cool (Rebecca's projects looked a zillion times better than mine), it was time-consuming, messy, and complicated.  Copper isn't cheap and I have no idea what I'd do with the finished item if it had actually turned out well.  But that wasn't the point.  I had great fun trying a craft I'd never heard of.  Goal #20 accomplished! 

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Scrap for Hire

Nancy, my childhood best friend, contacted me with a proposition.  Her family has years of photos sitting on their computer and they've never done anything with them.  She wanted to know if I'd be willing to scrap them.  She'd pay me for both the supplies and my time.  

I gave it a lot of thought and carefully considered my (numerous) current commitments.  I realized that this was both something I could do and something I wanted to do.  The idea of scrapping someone else's photos was interesting and would be a fun challenge.  A bit of income would be nice.  Nancy and I arranged a time for a phone consultation.  (She lives in Colorado and I'm in California.)

During the consultation, we sat in front of our respective computers and went through my blog and online galleries.  She'd said she loved my style and wanted me to have complete creative freedom, but I wasn't comfortable with that.  I wanted to hear exactly what she liked and didn't.  Here's what we settled on:

  • pages will be 12x12 or 12x24
  • layouts will be clean, simple, graphic and linear 
  • pages should not be especially whimsical or cutesy
  • titles should be informational, not clever or punny
  • no journaling - the title will convey the event/place/date
  • titles will be stamps/stickers/etc. (not my handwriting)
  • color scheme is at my discretion, but preferably minimal pastels and brights
  • I have permission to post the completed layouts online
  • no deadlines and no obligations - I can do as many or as few layouts as I'm able

Armed with my guidelines, I waited for the first set of photos.  The email arrived with approximately 20 pictures and instructions to pick whichever ones I wanted.  I chose six, printed them, and came up with this:



It came together so quickly and easily!  I thought it would be harder to scrap someone else's photos, but I realized that the most time-consuming part of my scrapbook process is deciding what story I wanted to tell and then actually doing the journaling.  With that part absent, I was able to just focus on making something that looks good.  I love how this turned out!  Happily, so do Nancy and her family.

By the way, doesn't that green background paper work perfectly for this camping page?!  I thought so too.  It's by SEI and it's part of their Holiday Cheer collection.  Don't forget to check the B-sides of heavily-themed patterned paper.  You never know when you'll find the perfect camping paper on the other side of a page of Christmas trees!


Have any of you ever done any scrap-for-hire?  I'd love to hear about your experiences.  Mine... so far so good!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

An Easy Gift Idea

Need a quick and easy gift?  Add a gift card to an ice cream shop and this would make a great gift for a teacher, coach, neighbor, friend, or just about anyone else!  We live 5 minutes from the Jelly Belly factory, which is AWESOME, so making these is also an excuse to visit.  


Jelly Bellies are widely available now, so you can make these regardless of where you live.  You will need: Jelly Bellies (we used the Cold Stone Ice Cream Parlor Mix in the example above, but you could use school or team colors or whatever else you want), plastic wrap, and an ice cream cone.


Get out a very small bowl, line it with plastic wrap, then pour in the Jelly Bellies.


Gather the edges of the plastic wrap and twist.



Shape the "scoop" of Jelly Bellies to look like ice cream, then insert the twisted end into the cone.

I've never done anything with the cones, but you could certainly add lacquer if you wanted.  You could also create the cone out of paper.  Fun!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Debut of "My ABC Walk"

I've been trying to encourage Trevor's interest in photography.  The last time we headed out for a walk, I offered Trevor the camera and challenged him to take a picture of something that starts with each letter of the alphabet.  He was thrilled.  He loves taking pictures and he loves challenges. Here are a few of his better shots from our walk:




When we got home, I put all of Trevor's pictures into Picasa and showed him how to crop.  He happily cropped away for the next 30 minutes.  It was so neat seeing him look critically at his pictures and crop to develop a focal point.  I was going to leave it at that, but Trevor said he wanted to make his photos into a book.  What a great idea!!

We printed out his pictures (onto normal printer paper, as we don't have a photo printer), then he sorted them by letter.


Meanwhile, I gathered supplies to make a book: 7 sheets of blue copy paper (trimmed to 6.5 x 11.5 inches), a paper piercer, blue embroidery thread, a needle, glue, and a pencil.

I folded each sheet of paper in half and stacked them.  Next, I used the paper piercer to punch holes along the fold line.  I threaded the needle, then waited for Trevor to finish his sorting.

I did a quick demonstration of how to do a backstitch, then had Trevor take over.  He caught on immediately.  And because the holes were already there, he didn't have too much trouble doing the actual sewing.  The finished binding looks very professional and is very sturdy.


Next, we glued all of the photos into his book.  (I put the glue on the back, but he placed the photos where he wanted.)  Then he did the writing independently.  He asked for spelling help a few times, but otherwise did it all himself.


For the front cover, we used the one photo I took during our walk... a picture of Trevor.  The back cover is an awesome self-portrait.  Here are some of the pages from Trevor's completed book:

 
 
 
 
And here is the author showing off his first book!  He is so incredibly proud of it.  And I am so proud of him. 
  

Monday, April 23, 2012

Our 2011 Garden

This has been a weird weather year so far.  In the past few weeks, we've had hail and thunderstorms more than once, both of which are unusual around here.  Our summer garden still isn't in yet, a full month later than usual.  And with a fourth mouth to feed (the three of us, plus our very hungry bunny), it's more important than ever that we grow our own delicious, organic veggies. 

Here is a layout about our 2011 garden.  Each year I like to record what we plant.  I split the journaling into two sections.  The top right lists the foods we planted for the first time (eggplant, artichoke, blueberries, swiss chard, cucumbers and watermelon), while the bottom left lists our old favorites we'd planted before (strawberries, peaches, tomatoes, carrots, potatoes, basil, chives, parsley, beets, beans and peas).



The layout is based on a sketch by Shannon White.


I kept the major elements of the sketch the same, but replaced the two horizontal 4x6 photos with 5 vertical pics.  I love the way yellows and greens of the Crate Paper make the pictures of the veggies pop.

Have you planted your garden yet?  What's in your garden this year?

Friday, April 20, 2012

Attractive Jello Salad Fail

Growing up, plain Jello was dessert, but if you added fruit to Jello then it became salad. Jello Salad was an important part of my family's holiday celebrations. Jello Salad also played a major role at our church potlucks. I didn't realize it at the time, but not everyone celebrates holidays with Jello Salad. Apparently that is a Lutheran thing.

Bananas, grapes, strawberries, raspberries, canned pineapple (never fresh, of course, because of the enzymes), and canned fruit cocktail were the most common fruits my mom added to Jello.  My favorite was raspberries in raspberry jello, though pineapple in orange jello was a close second.  And then about 10, maybe 15 years ago, Aunt Vickie (who is Lutheran also, and thus believes Jello + fruit = salad) served us Cherry Jello Salad for a holiday dinner.  It might be a bit of an exaggeration to say it changed our lives, but not much.

Cherry Jello Salad is now a staple at family holidays. My sister makes it all the time, not just holidays.  I don't think my mom has made any other kind of Jello Salad since. It is SO good.



My inlaws are not Lutheran, and thus did not know that Jello + fruit = salad. The first time I served them Cherry Jello Salad, they seemed a bit skeptical, but they tried it and gave it rave reviews. It is seriously delicious.

Fast forward to the next holiday gathering with the inlaws.  I offered to bring Cherry Jello Salad.  I usually keep the supplies on hand, but I hadn't replaced the cherry pie filling or cherry jello from the last time we made it.  Not wanting to battle holiday crowds at the store, I made due with what we had on hand.  Trevor LOVES blueberries and had somehow convinced me to buy blueberry pie filling (ugh) and blueberry jello (ugh) during separate trips, awhile ago.  We decided that we could make Cherry Jello Salad using blueberry stuff instead.

Big mistake.  While it tasted good, it looked AWFUL. 

It had a weird purple color to it, and the pineapple bits were an unnatural bright blue.  The blueberry seeds were prominent.  It was hideous.

When we got together for Easter, we brought the *real* Cherry Jello Salad!



Cherry Jello Salad
       
               1 can (20 oz.) crushed pineapple                1 can (21 oz.) cherry pie filling
               1/2 c. water                                             3/4 c. cola
               1 pkg (6 oz.) cherry jello

Drain pineapple, reserving juice.  Boil pineapple juice and water.  Add jello and stir until dissolved.  Stir in pineapple, pie filling and cola.  Refrigerate until set, approximately 3 hours.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Angry Birds Shaped Cards

I've been making shaped cards for an assignment (which I can't share yet), so of course Trevor wanted to make his own shaped cards.  And what shape did he choose?  Angry birds!


Materials: colored cardstock, scissors, glue, and a black pen.


To make the bird, fold the red cardstock in half.  Without unfolding, cut out a circle shape, keeping a portion of the fold line intact.



Cut features from cardstock: two white circles for eyes, black eyebrows, a yellow beak, a red tuft of feathers, and a white tummy.  Glue features on the front of the card.  Use the black pen to add the pupils of the eyes.  You can write your message on the inside of the card.


To make the pig, fold the green cardstock in half.  Without unfolding, cut out a circle, keeping a portion of the fold line intact.

Cut the features from cardstock: two white circles for eyes, black eyebrows, a green circle for the nose, a green oval for the mouth, and two green half-ovals for the ears.  Glue the features to the front of the card.  Use the black pen to add the pupils of the eyes.

Here's Trevor with his finished cards.   He's really excited about them.  It will be interesting to see if he is willing to give them away as cards, or if he ends up keeping them himself. 


I'm still not done with my shaped cards, so maybe I'll encourage Trevor to make the rest of the Angry Birds characters while I'm working on my assignment!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Inspiring Others

One of the coolest things about sharing my art projects online is when others tell me that my work inspired them to make their own.  Last week two different friends emailed me to say that they'd made their own version of my Magazine Mosaics project.

Here is my original: 


And here is what my friend Gayle made:


Isn't it stunning?!  I love the colors and the texture.  Check out the texture on that tail fin!  

My friend Sheena turned Magazine Mosaics into an activity for the whole family on Easter.  What a great idea!  I love how they turned out.    

 
 
 
 
Aren't the eggs (and bunny) fantastic?!  I love how different they all are.  I don't know any of Sheena's extended family, but I imagine their personalities are shining through in these projects.  

If any of the rest of you have been inspired by any of my projects, please let me know!  Send your photos to derosier@gmail.com ... I'd absolutely love to see them! 

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Flambe!

I've never been brave enough to flambe something before, so it was one of the first things I added to my list of 40 Things.  

My experience with flambe is pretty much limited to eating Baked Alaska, Crepe Suzette, and Cherries Jubilee on cruise ships.  They're ok (it's hard to make a dessert I don't like), but for my first experience flambeing I wanted to choose something that I'd love.  I read through several dozen recipes with the goal of choosing one entree and one dessert.  I settled on my recipes and got to work.  

For dinner, I would be making Flaming Fajitas.  I started with this recipe from About.com.  I changed some things about the prep (strips of flank steak, less garlic, no peppers)....


.... but I followed the directions exactly for the flambe portion.  The recipe called for brandy, which seemed like a weird choice for meat.  Every other recipe for flambeing meat called for bourbon, but I stuck with the brandy.  

We had this bottle in the back of a cabinet.  I haven't shopped at Lucky since before I moved here in 1997.  It was probably Steve's from before when we were married in 2004.  Though he didn't shop at Lucky either.  I'm guessing one of us inherited this from a roommate years ago.    


I reviewed Flambe Tips and Cooking Hints (subtitle: How to avoid a fiery explosion from your flambĂ© recipes) one last time, then heated my pan.  Notice me biting my lip?  

 
As I browned the steak, Steve heated the brandy in the microwave for exactly 15 seconds.  He poured in the brandy and I lit it.  WHOOOOOP- a small (yet awesome) blue flame.  It was gone as quickly as it came and there was no time for a picture.  I melted some cheese on tortillas, added the steak, and garnished with guacamole and sour cream.  It was tasty!  The brandy added a fruity flavor that was pretty good, though a bit strange.  


Once we finished dinner, it was time to tackle the dessert flambe.  I chose a recipe from Cooks.com called Strawberries Flambe.


The instructions were a bit vague for a flambe newbie like me, but I did my best.  This time Steve was ready with the camera when I lit the brandy.

But no impressive blue flame this time.  I'm not sure what the problem was, but either it lit and I didn't see it, or it didn't light at all.  So no flaming picture this time either!  Darn!  

I dished up the strawberries.  They smelled amazing.

 
It was SO good!  Like, one of the best non-chocolate desserts ever.  It was intensely sweet and rich, with the perfect blend of strawberry and citrus flavor.  There was a subtle caramel flavor.  Steve and I decided that next time (and there will definitely be a next time) we'll put this over sweet biscuits for the ultimate strawberry shortcake.  


Goal #19 achieved!