Archive for the ‘ Challenges ’ Category

Life: Thankful for Fall Y’all

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! I hope each of you is filled to the brim with yummy vittles or will be very soon. Tonight the boy and I grilled up a couple steaks and whipped up some mashed potatoes. Sounds a bit “different” right? That’s ok though, because my mom had to work today so we’ll be cooking up the full feast worthy meal tomorrow. So while you folks are out shopping until you drop, I’ll be gobbling until I wobble. ;)

A few weeks ago we wandered up into North Georgia to check out the foliage and pick up some yummy jams & produce from Jaemor Farms. If that name sounds a bit familiar that’s because we gave away small jars of jam from there as our wedding favors.  They have all sorts of yummy things there, but one of our favorites are the fried pies.  They are ALMOST as yummy as the ones my grandmother was famous for.

DPP-fall10-8Pickled Asparagus anyone? or perhaps some Jalapeno Honey Mustard?DPP-fall10-10Or how about a colorful squash or two?DPP-fall10-9or some greens?

DPP-fall10-7This is Pecan Biscuit…isn’t he fun?DPP-fall10-4
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Needless to say we filled up a basket with tomatoes, fresh apples, dried apples, a couple jars of jam, 4 fried pies, a loaf of apple bread, and a cone of fresh peach ice cream.   Do you guys trek to a local orchard or farmers market for fresh veggies this time of year?

Fall Foto Contest

Life: You’ve Got Mail

…and so do I!  A few weeks ago I joined in on a fun post card swap hosted by the always lovely Jess of Jesstagirl & Her Officer.  When I’m traveling I always look at the fun postcards, but never actually pick one up and send it.  That all changed with this challenge, and it was fun!

I had been traveling in the Orlando area and came home with a nasty cold…that sadly turned into some sort of respiratory infection.  Between the travel and the sickness I hadn’t checked my PO Box in a while, so imagine my surprise when I found this fun little guy from Natalia in DC.   I’ve only been in the DC area once (waaay back in high school) so I’ve been itching to visit again.  However, one of my favorite places was Monticello.  I have photos of the beautiful grounds in my high school scrapbooks…so imagine my delight when I received a fun postcard from there!

Post Card from DC

post card from DC

Thanks Natalia, your post card made my day (especially since it arrived on my birthday…talk about perfect timing!)…and I agree Jefferson really was a Renaissance man.

Life: Look Mom, I baked!!

So today I’m going to deviate from craftiness for a bit and it might be a bit longer than usual…I hope that’s ok.

Most of you might know my lovely online friend Jess of Jesstagirl and Her Officer, and if so you know she is hosting a cupcake Bake-N-Blog today.  What most of you may not know…is that I really dislike cooking.  To the point that while single I mostly lived off of sandwiches, fruits, and cereal (with vanilla soy milk).  I can cook, I just get very little enjoyment out of it…especially since that means I have to clean it all up later.   Armed with that knowledge it probably makes sense that I’ve never…ever…baked anything from scratch.   Then… I met a boy.  A boy who L.O.V.E.S baked goods, especially those made fresh from quality ingredients.  Thankfully the boy actually enjoys cooking so he typically is the one to whip up fresh muffins or things of that nature.  I always have big plans to bake him a nice birthday or anniversary cake but it seems something always comes up that keeps it from happening.  So, when Jess posted her plans for the Bake N Blog I decided I would use the long holiday weekend (one when we had guests coming in from out of town) to try my luck at baking from scratch. When  I told the hubs of this plan he looked puzzled, and maybe even slightly concerned! ;)

We were to pick a cupcake option from the amazing looking options from Ming Makes Cupcakes, bake ‘em, and post about them.  So here we go!

My one warning is I’m not going to post a correct “food blogger” type post, because me baking is a comedy of errors. ;)

and I chose…


On Friday I printed off the recipe, checked over the list and left work just a bit early to pick up all the ingredients.  I made it home and took everything out ready to hit the ground running, only to realize I had forgotten butter… and crushed pineapple. We went out for margaritas instead.  They were yummy!  *random question* Does it seem odd to anyone else there is crushed pineapple in carrot cake?

On Saturday morning we got up, quickly finished preparing the house for guests, and then ran down to the perimeter area really quickly.  We needed to meet up with Jess & Kenny (who were in town that weekend) to pick up something we were buying from them and to pass off the Cupcake Flags that one of her lucky participants will win!  Guess what?  We still forgot to pick up butter but did get the crushed pineapple (and yes I still found it an odd ingredient and asked several people if they agreed…they just thought I was odd).

On Saturday afternoon I finally decided I had put off baking for too long, I mean I’d already talked up the fact I was baking us dessert….from scratch.  There was no backing down at this point,  so I drove down the road and came back with butter.  Smart Balance butter that is.  There was some general concern this might not be baked good worthy, but oh well.  I pressed on!

DPPcarrotcupcake4

To get started I needed to clean and grate 2 cups worth of carrots. We recently purchased a set of new micro-plane graters, and threw out the larger one we hated.  This might have been a mistake.

DPPcarrotcupcake9(No clue why I focused in on the patent number of the grater…but in case you were ever curious it’s 5100506)

Maybe this is where my lack of baking comes into play…but I totally under-estimated how many carrots that would take.  OMG!  I felt like I cleaned and grated a thousand carrots, and apparently I have no idea what I’m doing because there were pieces of carrot all over my kitchen by the time I finished.  I even found one on top of the dog’s head an hour or so later.    Then I measured out the flour and added it to the bowl with my beloved little carrot shreds

DPPcarrotcupcake10
At this point, I was getting a little cocky.  I was thinking, this is a piece of cake *pun intended*.  This was misguided thinking…because it was at this point I realized we didn’t have a full 1/2 cup of canola oil.  So….I made an executive chef decision.  I would use a bit of vegetable oil to round out the 1/2 cup necessary for the recipe.    This is the point my husband rolled his eyes and headed down into the basement.  I often tell people just how smart my hubby is, and while I am typically referring to his ability to process complex equations in his head…this was one of those moments where he decided it was best to say nothing.  Good job B!  So, I mixed everything together…and thought it looked NASTY!

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However my little dollar bin Paula Deen cupcake wrappers were all kinds of cute!

DPPcarrotcupcake13
So, I setup my cupcake pan with the liners, and then popped these bad boys in the oven.  Honestly, I was fully expecting them to explode while baking! :)

DPPcarrotcupcake14DPPcarrotcupcake15(See that mess in the bottom of our oven?…I’d like to point out I had nothing to do with creating that!!)

So, they baked in the oven without incident and actually looked like they might be halfway decent.  I mean they weren’t “pretty” but they didn’t look deadly either.  I set them out to cool on a cooling rack and started on the cream cheese icing.

This is where I was all confident in my abilities… Another bit of random trivia is that my mom decorated wedding cakes throughout my childhood.  I’m talking about those HUGE 80′s cakes, with 500 layers and columns.  So, while the oven might not be my friend…cake icing and I go way back.  You won’t be able to tell in these photos but I can actually do a decent job with the decorative icing when I practice a bit and have the right tools.  Sadly, I did not practice and the right tools are still eluding me after my move into the house (2 years ago).  I also have no photos of this process because by this point my FIL had arrived and was watching me with great amusement and much heckling (but that’s what makes him my favorite FIL. EVER).

Long story short, I mixed up the icing and it tasted wonderful!  Then because all I could find was the tip of the decorating set, I used a large ziplock bag instead.  I just snipped the tip from it and added my decorating tip inside and filled it up with icing.  The tip started to move around so I had to hold it in place while icing at the same time. Not my decorative crowing moment for sure…but icing ended up on top of the cupcakes so I call that a success!

DPPcarrotcupcake16
Then the moment of truth…how would they taste?  Remember I had mixed two types of oil, used smart balance 50/50 blend butter, and ended up with some really runny batter.

DPPcarrotcupcake20

The Verdict:

AMAZING!  Even the resident food snob agreed, this recipe was a keeper!  He’s even looked over Ming’s options and placed his order for the next cupcake baking attempt.

My Thoughts Looking Back:

  • I would actually check what I have on hand before making my list instead of just guessing.
  • I would have filled the cups with a little less batter so they ended up more rounded and less flat.
  • I would have doubled the icing recipe.  I felt like I cheated some of the cupcakes in the icing department because I was running out…although we love cream cheese icing so we might be the only ones who feel more icing is better.
  • Once refrigerated they tend to get a bit “sticky”…they are still yummy though.  I wonder if this has anything to do with my oil mixture?
  • I’m glad I gave baking a try and maybe I’ll do it again later.

The question now might be…did you enjoy it?  I wasn’t miserable, and I did get cracked up at myself a few times.  However, I still wouldn’t say I had “fun”.  I loved the outcome, but you don’t have to worry about this becoming a food blog!  Crafting is still 99% more enjoyable to me than baking ;)

Am I the only one out there that doesn’t enjoy cooking?  Please tell me I’m not alone? Also tell me which cupcake we should attempt the next time I’m feeling like battling it out with my oven!

DIY: Stamped Plant Marker

This is one of my final “envelope of doom“ projects, but it’s one you could use for many other things.  I’ve been wanting to try my luck at stamping metal objects with my letter punches I picked up a while back with a 50%  off coupon and this gave me the perfect excuse.  I think I still need to work on the pressure I “stamp” or hammer each letter with…but overall I was happy with how it turned out.  Since these items were intended to be gifts, I included this little guy in a SwapBot package (visit this post for more info on swapping).

Project 4 - Stamped Plant MarkersAnd yes, I realize that isn’t Basil.  My basil plant just died so this was my indoor option. :)

Supplies Needed:

Project 4 - Stamped Plant Markers

  • Letter Punches, I have the Making Memories Stamping Die Set
  • Metal item to use as plant marker
  • Large piece of floral wire (not pictured)
  • Hammer
  • Solid surface (in my case our sidewalk)
  • Black permanent marker or paint
  • Glue (like E6000) – optional depending on your item

Instructions:

1. Gather your metal item to stamp.  I’m using a metal pendant from my envelope of doom, but metal washers or even flattened spoons also look fun!  Use your imagination.

2. Find a solid surface that won’t scar, but also won’t give when you hammer the letter into the metal.  If you are worried about concrete marring the opposite side of the item and your set didn’t come with the little mat like mine did, you could always put down a thin layer of fabric to protect the item.

3. Measure to determine if your word will fit on the item

4. Start from the top, pick the first letter and align on the item.  Hit with hammer.  (sidebar: I was a bit frustrated with something the afternoon I attempted this project so it was great stress relief to hammer on something…although it might have caused to hit a few letters too hard.

5. Repeat with the letters down the length of the item.  You’ll get the hang of how much pressure you need after a few letters so having a test piece to work on first would be helpful to some.
Project 4 - Stamped Plant Markers

6. Next it’s time to make those stamped letters stand out a bit more.  Using a black permanent marker or paint quickly color in the first letter and then wipe the excess off so that only the groves are painted. Repeat for each of the letters.

Project 4 - Stamped Plant Markers

7. Now it’s time to attach your metal tag to the wire.  If you are using a flattened spoon, you can skip this step since you already have a stake on your tag!  This is also where your version will differ from mine…I had a loop on the top and two pieces on the bottom of each side. So I was able to bend each of these pieces towards the back of my piece.

8. This is also where your version will differ from mine…I had a loop on the top and two pieces on the bottom of each side. So I was able to bend each of these pieces towards the back of my piece.

9. Fold your wire in half and start to attach it to the back of your metal piece.  For a washer open the wire up much like I have below to form an inverted “V” and then glue to the back of the washer.  I was able to feed the wire up through the top loop and then secure it to the back by bending the sides down on top of it.

Project 4 - Stamped Plant Markers

10. Let glue dry, add to plant and enjoy :)

Project 4 - Stamped Plant Markers

Do you label your garden plant? We didn’t do such a great job of that this year, but next year I plan to create DIY plant markers.  If you’ve created your own please share your favorite garden marker project links.

PS.  I hope each of you has a wonderful Labor Day Weekend & War Eagle!

Challenge: Craft it Forward Reveal Part 2

In the last post you saw the fun Craft-it-Forward apron that made it’s way to Lisa (visit this post confused by what Craft-it-Forward is all about).  Today’s post picks up with participant #2′s crafty treat.

Becky is a fun internet friend I “met” while planning our wedding, and she and her mister will tie the knot in a few weeks.  After glancing over Becky’s blog it is apparent she is a fan of  sunflowers…so I decided she needed something with a sunflower on it and intended to make her an apron with a sunflower pin as well.  Until… I was watching Glee one evening and had a fun idea for her based on my girl Emma’s necklace.

(source: Polyvore)

So I decided to attempt to create something similar for Becky, and set off to several local thrift stores in search of the perfect flower.  I found something similar and then posed the following question to her via twitter, “Painted or Gold”…she choose painted and so I painted the gold-tone brooch to be the bright colors of a sunflower.  I then paired the sunflower brooch with three strands of green glass beads to get this:

And finally to help get her started on her own Craft-it-Forward projects I included a little bag of crafty items from my ever growing stash:

I had a blast putting together these two fun Craft-it-Forward packages and I hope they enjoyed receiving them.  Now, tell me…am I the only person obsessed with Emma on Glee?  I wish whoever styles her character would come make-over my wardrobe!  Want your own Emma inspired necklace?  Check back next week for the opening of the Dill Pickle Picnic Shop!!

Oh…and congrats to Becky & her mister as they spend the next few weeks wrapping up their wedding plans and celebrating their marriage!

Challenge: Craft it Forward Reveal Part 1

Ages ago you might have seen several posts about a fun little crafting challenge/giveaway I participated in called “Craft it Forward”.  If not, check out this post for all the details.  I ended having a really hard time getting in touch with the 5 winners (who knew it would be so hard to give something away) and I ended up with only 2 participants.    Hopefully my next challenge/giveaway will be a bit more successful (hint, hint…there might be something coming up in September).

Today, it’s time to show off the goodies that the the lovely Lisa M found in her mailbox earlier this summer.  Using that large bolt of fabric I picked up at Goodwill for $2.00, I created this little apron for her:

And since the flower could get a bit dusty with all that baking, there is an extra flower pin to switch it up with from time to time:

And finally to help get her started on her own Craft-it-Forward projects I included a little bag of crafty items from my ever growing stash:

It was really fun getting back into sewing (this was the first project I had sewn start to finish in a long time) and it was especially fun to just sit down without a pattern and see what I could come up with.  Lisa, I hope you are enjoying your apron and have as much fun as I did when you do your crafts to pass along.

Check back on Monday to see the second project from my crafting it forward.  Have you ever participated in a crafting challenge?  And if so, did you have problems getting your winners to respond so they could collect their prizes?

Review: If you craft, you should swap!

Do you Swap-Bot?  No, that isn’t some sort of robot comic…it’s a super-fun swap site that brings together crafters (and non-crafters) from all over to participate in item swaps through the good old fashioned mail.  This description from the site sums it up pretty well:

What is Swap-bot?

Do you like sending and receiving snail mail? Do you like writing letters, making crafts, or putting together fun packages? You should try swapping! Swap-bot is a online service that organizes group swaps and a community of creative individuals. Swap-bot takes the hassle out of participating in group swaps by organizing all of the participant information and doing all of the partner assignments. On Swap-bot, you can host swaps, join swaps, and chat with other swappers from all over the world. Give it a try!
Click here to read more about the Swap-Bot

I originally happened upon Swap-Bot during the Weddingbee Valentine Swap in February (click here to see my post on that swap).   Once I had completed the Valentine exchange and saw how easily  I was intrigued about this swapping community and how it worked.  My problem is I enjoy making things but often don’t have a reason to do so…and swapping might give me an outlet to experiment with new techniques and methods!   After a couple more simple swaps (postcards and handmade envelopes) I was hooked.

Through Swap-Bot I’ve been able to swap different things with people all over the US, and a few other countries as well.  While I’m sure every group has it’s problem children, I have yet to encounter a less than wonderful person on Swap-Bot.  I’ve found a group of people that love crafting as much as I do, and go out of their way to cheer a fellow swapper when they are down.  The other fun thing for me is the great variety and range of crafters involved.  In one swap I might receive an item from someone who is just learning to sew and my next swap might be an old pro.  Each swap is hosted by another member and comes with a set of rules/suggestions to follow for that particular swap.  One example might be to only use recycled materials, or only spend $1…all things that make it a bit of a challenge to master!  I’ve swapped aprons, thrift store finds, postcards, craft stash items, stickers, handmade envelopes, embellished tote bags, and all sorts of other things.  Sometimes I might not necessarily be able to use what I receive (and it’s ok to re-gift later) and other times I LOVE them…and that’s all part of the fun.

Check out a few of the fun items I’ve either sent or received through Swap-Bot:

These are a few photos of a book of photos put together as part of a photography scavenger hunt I received from a wonderful new blog friend in France!
Would you have guessed the cover collage was a single shot of glass beads?  Pretty fun huh?

And here are a few shots of handmade envelopes I’ve sent to people in Florida and England:

Cons:  Can be addictive & if you aren’t careful with the swaps you choose could add up to more $$ than you think

Pros:  Too many to list!! :)

I love swapping and I think you might as well!  Do you Swap?  If so share the sites you use and what you think?  And if you don’t check out Swap-Bot and see if it’s for you.

Hope to swap ya soon!

**Note** I do not work for nor do I receive any support or benefit from my recommendation of any products, websites, or corporations.  These are purely my options based on my experiences with these products, websites, and corporations.

DIY: Flour Sack Boo-tiful Pillow Cover

I know Halloween is still a few months away, but I couldn’t resist posting this fun (and cheap) project now.  It was easy & cheap…plus it’s tied to the infamous  “envelope of doom“,  so that makes it even spookier ;)  My Boo’tiful Flour Sack Pillow Cover:

Supplies Needed:

  • Fabric for pillow cover, I used a Flour Sack Cloth from my local Dollar Tree.  You will one piece of fabric that is 14 x 14.5 inches.
  • Small Pillow or stuffing
  • Yarn or Other Trim to make letters
  • Sewing Machine with matching thread
  • iron & ironing board
  • glue (I used hot glue)
  • Ruler

Instructions:

  1. Gather all your materials and press the fabric to remove all creases.
  2. If using the thin flour sack fabric you will need to cut the fabric in half length wise.  If you remember I used the other half of this same piece of flour sack to make this fun fish pin board.
  3. Using your ruler pull the top edge of the fabric to the back 3.25 inches and stitch down along the bottom edge.
  4. With the sewn edge facing down, pull the bottom edge of the fabric up and over to the top 6.5 inches and press.
  5. Using your ruler pull the top portion down 7 inches.  It will overlap the pressed portion from step #4
  6. Take the folded fabric package to your sewing machine and sew both the left and right sides closed (leaving a 1/4 inch seam)
  7. Turn the pillow cover inside out and you are ready to use.
  8. If you don’t have a small pillow already you could either use a pre-purchased accent pillow form, or fill it up with stuffing :)

Then to make it boo’tiful:

  1. Place a piece of cardboard inside the pillow cover to keep any stray glue from gluing it closed.
  2. I wasn’t sure of my freehand skills so using a washable pencil I drew a quick outline of my letters.
  3. I took my spooky yarn from the “envelope of doom” and glued it around the letter outlines.
  4. To make it a bit more sturdy for future washings I added several stitches around the furry dots to hold everything in place.
  5. Let dry/cool
  6. Remove cardboard, stuff, and enjoy!

Total Cost:  $1.00 and up

Using Envelope templates…of doom!

I love paper and I love office supplies.  There, I admitted it, so when I found a fun piece of paper in my envelope of doom I figured what better than to turn it into paper office supplies.  If you’ve followed my blog for a while you already know I love both lining envelopes and making my own envelopes, and some of my favorite tools are the templates you can purchase from Paper-Source.  I’ve more than gotten my money’s worth out of the ones I own, so when I was in the store a few weeks back taking a little class and saw the new baby sized envelope template I had to try it out.

This is the template kit I choose, the other option had pink paper selection but looking around here should explain how much I love blue and green so naturally I selected the “pool” color selection.

And this is the paper I found folded up in my envelope of doom!

Using their envelope templates is super-simple.

  1. Trace around the template on the reverse side of the paper.
  2. Cut out along the lines
  3. Score where the inner opening of the template are (I use a scoring board from Martha & love it)
  4. Glue the edges
  5. Put those babies to use, these just happen to be the perfect size for a business card!

So basically I used contents from my “Envelope of Doom” to create “Baby Envelopes of Doom” ;)  In keeping with the rules of the game, the items were to be gifted to someone else…and these just so happened to be included in a swap package I was sending out!  I love it when things work out like that!

** I have been in no way compensated for my options or the products referenced above.  These are purely my unsolicited options of crafty products I use and adore! **

DIY: Fishy Thumbtacks

You’ve already seen the fishbowl message board I made as a gift to a friend.  Now, let’s bring on the fish…the fish thumbtacks that is. I mentioned the Envelope of Doom in a previous post, this is second of the 3 (or more) projects I created using several components from the “envelope of doom“. Don’t have an envelope full of supplies…don’t worry. You could create this project using items from your local dollar store & craft store as well! This is one of the quickest projects I’ve taken on in ages.

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.Supplies & Materials Needed:

  • Fish beads
    Fresh from the envelope of doom, these happen to be glass
  • Thumbtacks
    The old school, plain kind with flat tops
  • Glue
    Any glue that will attach your bead material to metal will work here.  I used super glue which held “ok”.  One commenter suggested E6000 as a better option.
  • Foam block
    Optional but extremely helpful
  • Pliers
    Also optional for most people, but I’m not allowed to use super glue without the supervision of an adult and these help me not glue myself to things.  One day I’ll tell you about the time I glued both hands to separate tools and needed my then boyfriend to rescue me.  So many things will make more sense after that I’m sure! ;)

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Instructions:
This is potentially the easiest tutorial I’ve ever written, and I think the photos tell the whole story.


  1. Count out the number of thumbtacks you need, and spread them out onto your Styrofoam block.  By placing the sharp end into the foam it will hold them in place while you glue down the fish.
  2. Squeeze a medium-sized amount of super glue onto the first tack.  I’m using the gel type of super glue from my local dollar store, this is because it is thicker and easier for me to work with.  It also means fewer drips which makes it MUCH safer for me to use.
  3. Place a fish bead onto the drop of glue and press down.  Let dry completely.
  4. I use the pliers to help center the beads really quickly before the glue sets.  It is also helpful when removing them just in case they aren’t completely dry.
  5. Repeat for each tack

I had all the supplies in my stash to make these fun tacks, so my grand total was FREE!  Gotta love that

Total Cost: $1.00 and up

And after they dry, you end up with these cute little guys:

I think they really make the note board look more like wall art… even though now I wish I had painted the frame a fun green to match the ribbon.

I think this process could be fun to make all sorts of cute thumbtacks, so I see more of these in my future.  How about you?  Do you use cute things to attach things to your memo boards and if so where did you find your favorites?