Thursday, January 27, 2011

Cheese Crackers

Adapting to the new foods here in London has been quite the experience. At first we thought the food was terrible, but then we learned there is some food here that is pretty good and unique to what we are used to back home. However, there are some foods that are hard to live without. For my kids it is cheese crackers. Call them Goldfish, Cheezits, ect, but you will not find them here. Of course the commissary an hour and a half away has them, but usually for an outrageous price. So I went on an adventure to make my own. I came out quite victorious judging by the fact that the plate of crackers was gone shortly after taking this photo.

I googled Goldfish recipe and came up with a site called Yum Sugar. She has very detailed instructions with nice pics, so I wouldn't duplicate her post. However, I did find that it helps to flip them half way through baking. Also how long you bake them and how thick you roll them out makes a difference, so play around with the thickness and browning and make a note of what you like. I also didn't bother cutting them into any cute shapes, my kids are old enough they don't care (with the exception of the baby who just doesn't know any better). I did some squares and triangles for the most part, but really they were gone so quickly I probably would have been mad if I took the extra effort to cut out super small cracker shapes. I'm just glad we can live the next three years in cheese cracker bliss.
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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Screen Printing - Plaid Simple Screen Print Review

So I decided to try my hand at screen printing. I've always wanted to silk screening, but its an expensive hobby. I have been in the process of making canvas tote bags for reusable shopping bags, and I wanted to decorate them but I lack artistic ability. I found a solution to my problems, Plaid Simple Screen Print. Ok its still a little pricey, but if you break it down to the number of projects it can do its not so bad. So I paid $10 for the screen and $3 for the paint and they said combined it can do 20 projects which works out to be 65 cents a print. The down side is you have to choice one of their pre-made designs, but they have plenty of paint colors to really make it your own. Hopefully the product will take off and they will have a large variety of screen prints to choice from. But for now, they had something I thought would work for my project.

I must say for my first attempts of screen printing, my project turned out awesome. I got a little smudge of paint on the side where I accidentally squeegeed it off the edge. I think one or two of the words could have come out better, but I realized I had selected a pretty elaborate design. For those of you who like shiny things, they have a glue instead of paint that you screen print and then you apply a foil paper. I was tempted to get that since I LOVE shiny things, but it didn't really make since for my reusable bag project.

Overall I am very impressed with the Plaid Simple Screen Print. I am not normally a product reviewer, but I had looked all over to see how well it did and couldn't find any reviews.

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Friday, January 07, 2011

Stylish Tote

I needed a bag to carry all of my stuff in when I go out and about. It needed to be a purse, diaper bag, and hold anything I grab along the way while I am out. I'm about to make a bunch of canvas totes, but before I started with them I wanted to make something a little more fashionable.
I drafted my own pattern for this as I went, but I tried to make measurements for those of you who would like to make a similar
tote. I've included a picture at the bottom with my measurements, but results will vary.

Fabric measurements:
Straps: 56 x 2 inches - sew them as one and then cut them in half
Body: trapezoid with a bottom of 17 inches, top of 12.5 and a height of 11 inches.
Facing: trapezoid 12.5 inches at base, 12 inches at top, and a height of 2.5 inches
Bottom (optional): Eye shape with measurements of 15.5 in length and 5 inches tall at the widest point.

Start off with two long strips of fabric, these will be your straps. Sew them together on three sides, leaving only one of the skinny ends open. Turn the straps inside out. The 2 inch side that is sewn will help you turn it inside out. Once you succeeded at turning it inside out, then you can trim off the sewn 2 inch side. Now you should top stitch the strap, I always feel that top

stitching gives everything a finished look. It takes a project from homemade to store quality. Once you get the one long strap top stitched on both sides, fold it in half and cut it in the center. I always like dealing with straps as one long piece of fabric rather than two because it gives the strap more consistency. One of the bigger challenges of making two separate
straps is to make them seem identical, but if you sew it as one long strap then it is more likely the two will look the same. Once the straps are done, then it is time to baste stitch them to the top of the tote. I like to put mine two inches in, but place yours where you see fit.

Now we move onto the facing, which is used to give the top of your bag a finished look rather than a hemmed edge. I would recommend serging the sides and shorter end of the facing. If you do not have a serger,

then you can use a blanket or zigzag stitch from
your sewing machine. If you want to make the inside look a little nicer, you can take the shorter of the ends (not the sides) and fold it over for a nice hem. It is time to sew the facings, straps and bag together. Since we have already basted the straps in place, all we need to do is sew them in place. Layer the bag fabric, handles pointing down to the bottom of the bag, and then the facing. When you top stitch the facing, make sure you pull the handles out so that they are now one top of the bag.

Next it is time to sew the sides in place. Make sure that the handle straps line up as well as the fabric pattern. Start from the top of the bag and work your way down. It is less obvious if the bottom doesn't match up perfectly rather than the top.

The final step is to sew the bottom. Personally I made an eye shaped bottom for my bag, but you can simply sew the bottom in a straight line and call it a day. If you do use a shaped bottom, then I would recommend using a pattern as mine was a lot of guess work and fiddling with in order to get it right. For a shaped bottom, it looks even nicer if you top stitch it with the main bag fabric on top. It helps to start from the middle and work your way out because it helps get more into the corners.

I think my stylish tote turned out great, and I can't wait to test it out!

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Wednesday, January 05, 2011

A New Year a New Design

I started this blog many years ago. I admit there are times when it has been sorely neglected, but I had a lot going on in my life. With going to college, moving all the time, and raising three kids, the blog seems to hit the bottom of my priorities. However, I recently started a new blog which revived my love of blogging. So to spruce things up a bit I decided to change out my blog style. Hopefully it is less busy and easier to read. Enjoy everyone!
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Christmas in London

First Christmas in London

For the first time we moved during Christmas, an overseas move at that. We had no Christmas decorations to put on our tree this year, and very little money left over from the move and buying gifts. The challenge was that all my craft supplies where gone as well, so these projects can be done by those who have very little crafting tools. So we set out to make our own ornaments, and it was a lot of fun. We did these projects together as a family, which made it extra special. Our tree turned out wonderful, and the kids really enjoyed helping out with all the projects.

Orange Slices
It turns out that dried orange slices are popular here in London, especially on the trees in historic areas. It was very simple to cut the oranges into small slivers with a sharp knife and lay them on a cookie sheet
lined with foil. I baked them on a low heat until the edges got a darker orange. Then I flipped them and let the other side cook. I am sorry I can't tell you specifically what temperatures, but our oven has numbers not temperature ratings. Once they cooled down I threaded some ribbon through it and hung it on the tree.

Paper Tubes and Cones

The secret to the success of these is having the right paper. I found some that had a nice shininess to it with Christmas prints. This should be easy enough to find in the scrapbooking section of any craft store.
Take the 12 x 12 sheet and cut it down into four equal squares. To make the tubes you roll up the paper like a toilet paper roll and tap the sides so it says. Next take the top of the roll and squeeze the circle together so it touches. Tape this shut. Turn it over and tape the other end in the opposite direction. If you would like now is a good time to tri
m the cone to the size you want. Tape it shut and tape a ribbon loop on it.
The cones are much easier, you simple take the bottom right hand corner of the curl it so it touches the upper left hand corner. Tape the seam, and at the top of the cone make a hole punch. Thread ribbon through the hole and tie it off to hang from the tree. Martha Stewarts website has a nice elaboration on how to make very cutesy paper cones for those interested in something a little fancier.
Origami Ornaments
Here we made some origami ornaments. To mix up the paper and give it an antique look, we used some pages from the phonebooks that were left behind here. I tea dyed the pages to give it a different look, so it didn't look like we ripped out pages from the phonebook. I took the pages front the front where there are more informative pages. One or two of the ornaments are from pages of the Tube map. With the yellow pages paper we made origami cubes, and I took some of the fancier paper and made some other origami creations such as the flower and the paper cup. Origami Fun is a good resource for learning how to do basic origami creations.

Finishing Touches
In putting the tree together we added some finishing touches. Misty came crawling to us with a key chain full of skeleton keys, so we put ribbon on those and hung them on the tree which added a nice touch. We also put up some cookie cutters we strung with embroidery floss.

Another thing I did this year which I haven't done in eons is string popcorn and cranberries. Its been a family tradition of mine forever. My mom and I used to do it together and she told me that her grandmother did it with her every year. The kids helped me do it this year, so it was kind of special. Of course two days before Christmas we got some of our ornaments in, so we picked a few of our favorite ones, but the kids where so happy and proud of the ones we made that they pretty much left the tree alone. It was nice to have our angel as the tree topper and our tree skirt.
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