Fabric Bombing! And Garden Progress

I have a vague desire to win the Yard of the Month contest here in our neighborhood. (Pay no attention to the husband; he *claims* that it’s “all I talk about” but he’s full of it.) The contest doesn’t go on nominations – the community employees drive around and take notes and decide that way. Our building is structured kinda like a U, facing the street, with our “yard” and some stairs to the second floor in the middle. As such, it’s hard to see my lovely little garden from the street (especially since a neighbor is often parked on the street in front of the building).
We were sitting outside enjoying the air the other night when I had a brainwave. If I decorate the tree in front of the building, it’ll be easier for them to notice my yard! I didn’t want to do just a plain bow – they get floppy in the rain. I went inside and hunted around a bit and finally came up with a half-yard or so of striped “patriotic” fabric (quite fitting since it was Memorial Day weekend and we live on a military post).

I packed my pockets with a long needle, a spool of thread (I chose white at random, and there was a bit of brown already on the needle), a pair of scissors, and some sturdy pushpins, and went back outside.

I cut the fabric into three approximately-equal widths, wrapped them around the tree, and pinned them in place carefully.

Sewing it on was a bit of a workout, but not too bad. (Please ignore the over-processed photo, ugh – Jonathan changed the settings and this photo turned out strange.) (But feel free to check out my kickass TARDIS shirt.)

Here’s a slightly-better photo of the bands being sewn. I did large basting stitches, making sure to double back so it’s secure. I chose an especially long needle so I could put it through the fabric and come back out, since I can’t flip the cloth, obviously.

And here’s what it looks like, all sewn. I put the seam on the back, and I was quite careful not to stab the tree. I only pushed the pins in a little tiny bit.

This is a view of the tree from the sidewalk. I’m off to the side a bit because the truck is parked in front as usual. (And there’s my husband with his sexy post-surgery sling.) I like the look of the bands a lot. It reminds me of the “yarn bombed” trees that knitters have been creating. I guess this is a fabric bombed tree?

While we’re out in the garden, would you like to meet my pet ‘mingo? I got him 2 summers ago and he’s spent some time in the sun. I prefer to think that he just needs to eat more shrimp.

My daughter also provides much-needed decor to my yard. Most of these pictures are “Ponies,” but there are other things too.

For good measure, here’s a photo of my garden again. I did rearrange it, as I expected. (And it’ll need it again soon, when those peppers need to size up to bigger pots.) I took these photos five days ago, and as I was selecting for this post, I was amazed at how much my plants have already grown! My cucumbers, in particular, are growing like weeds! I’ve also got sprouts in my lettuce barrel!

I’ve been watering them liberally (they get a lot of direct morning sunlight and are always dry by afternoon), and every other day or so I give them all a good bath with some coffee-infused water. I save the grounds from my coffee maker and let them dry (I’m saving the filters for a project as well). I filled up a storage tub with water and tossed the grounds in and let it steep. I was unsure if it’d do any good but it seems to have! It has the added benefit of letting all the chlorine and whatnot in the water dissipate as it sits out in the tub.

Do you have Yard of the Month aspirations? Have you ever yarn-bombed? Do you keep your coffee grounds? And what do you think of my ‘mingo?

Web Weekend #14

This was one heck of a crazy week. The turnout for Giveaway Week was INSANE, and I really hope that at least a few of those lovely people stick around. I really enjoyed chatting with you all.

This week I am boasting 448 subscriptions, although I rather expect that that number will decrease a bit in the coming weeks.

Remember you can follow me on Pinterest  or on Tumblr for nearly-daily fun and flailing. Check the right side of the page for a list of all the places you can find me.

Stitch has lost control of his Naughty Level (by silvaniart)

Things to Buy or Make

Cool thrifted and remade art (Recyclart – I got an “attack warning” from Firefox on the source site, so beware.)
Nintendo-themed towels for Geek Pride Day (Zelda Informer)
Avengers Jewelry! (The Mary Sue)
Cute knitting bag (Sleepy Owl Studio)
My daughter would love this pink bag (Sew Delicious)
Literary coasters (Savvy Housekeeping)
Geometry garland! (Savvy Housekeeping)
I love this cool striped quilt (SOTAK)
Simple vinyl wallet with stitched details (How about Orange)
Stuff made from floppy disks (Instructables)
Beaded crocheted bracelet (Cut Out and Keep)
Some cool Kindle cases (Apartment Therapy)
Adorable shirt for a little girl – might use this for Missy (Colette Moscrop)
I love this jacket, especially with the studs! (Corvus tristis)

Ideas to Use

Bees seem to prefer “ordinary” flowers over fancy ones. (Treehugger)
Clever trick for the inevitable Bead Spill (Fusion Beads)
We have a push reel mower and LOVE it. (Art of Manliness)
How to invert browser colors for easier night browsing (Lifehacker)

I need this Allie the Ally (via Geek Mom)

Food

Avengers cocktails. YES. (So Geek Chic)
DIY Magic Shell – dangit now I want ice cream (The Kitchn)
Tzatsiki potato salad – seems like an interesting twist (Smitten Kitchen)
How to make ice cream in a food processor (The Kitchn)
DIY maraschinos – perfect for your ice cream and your magic shell (The Kitchn)
Chicken Monterey – making me hongreh (Blogchef)
Cod Cakes – going to try this with that random fish in my freezer (Inn at the Crossroads)
3 kid-friendly food-for-adults recipes – the chicken salad looks really good (Simple Organized Living)
Watermelon Shark! (Gluesticks)
Lazy skillet potatoes (Frugal by Choice)
Broccoli-cheese potatoes (Shiksa in the Kitchen)

Articles and News

Russia wants to build a base on the Moon. (io9)
Did you hear about this Hitler-esque guy? Shudder. (A Teacher on Teaching)
The NAACP endorsed marriage equality efforts this week! (Gawker)
Behold! The most disturbing men’s garment ever created – NSFW (The Gloss)
BB creams are coming to America! You will love them. (Nouveau Cheap)
What are your thoughts about children and religion? (BlogHer)
How much privacy is there in your relationship? (BlogHer)

Gratuitous picture of Robert Pattinson (via The Mary Sue)

Entertainment: Books, TV, Movies, and others

Pattinson as Finnick? I’ll take it. What do you think? (The Mary Sue)
Matt Smith carried the Olympic Torch through Cardiff! (The Mary Sue)
I’m just going to leave this Joffrey Practice Target here. (io9)
Fill that Tardis-shaped hole in your life with this mini-sode. (io9)
Gratuitous article about Helena. (The Gloss)
First trailer for The Great Gatsby! I love Baz. (Gawker)
Jim Parsons is thirty-nine?! (Gawker)

Art

Goodnight Pond” by James Hance (James Hance)
A cool take on the Three Wise Monkeys by Charles Santoso (Charles Santoso)
If the Doctors were dinosaurs by Peter Fogelsong (via The Mary Sue)
Some awesome art by Claire Hummel (via Comics Alliance)

Weekly Greatness:

People were soooo weird in the 1890s (Hark a Vagrant)
This needs to exist. It MUST. (Drawn)
Accurate comparison of literatures. (Drawn)
This guy turned a giant jawbreaker on a lathe to make a shot glass. (Youtube)

Let’s begin our week with some inspiring bravery. (by Brooke Pennington, via Colossal)

Did you see anything cool around the internet this week? Is there a blog I should be reading? Got an opinion or thought about anything here? Share your own thoughts and links in the comments!  Make sure to follow me (here, there, and everywhere) to get more updates!

WINNERS!

I am just so amazed at the turnout this week. I started this week with a little over 700 pageviews; I now have more than double that. I had less than 200 comments total, and now I have over 400!  (Half of those comments were, and still are, me – I respond to every single comment that comes to my blog.)

Previously, my highest one-day page views was around 30. I was amazed when I passed 100 on Tuesday, and posted a second giveaway to celebrate. Little did I know that I’d soon get 40 pageviews in a single HOUR, and recieve 329 views just on Wednesday. Suffice it to say that you guys BLEW MY MIND.

I received 107 entries in my original giveaway! I wrote down each name on a bit of paper (the margins of my printed coupons for next week’s groceries), put the slips in a pickle jar, and had my daughter choose one at random.
This is the name she chose:
CONGRATULATIONS, calikisses! Check your email inbox! You are the proud winner of a whole bunch of fun crafty things and a handmade bag!

Now for the second giveaway! 32 of you followed me and left a comment on that post to enter. I wrote all THOSE names down on margins of papers and put THEM in the pickle jar. This time my medicated husband reached in the jar and chose:
CONGRATULATIONS, radiya! Check your email inbox! You are the proud winner of 4 lovely pieces of fabric!

Both winners have been contacted by email. Seeing that it’s a holiday weekend, I will give them until MONDAY at 9pm EST to respond before I draw another winner. Both winners have responded and I will be shipping their prizes soon. Sorry, everybody else.

Good luck to all on the other giveaways you may have entered, and I hope to see you all back here again soon!
I’ve really enjoyed this giveaway thing, and I think I’ll be doing it again. I may or may not announce them in advance. I’m the sneaky little thing who might just draw a name from the comments on a post and send them a gift. ;)

Garden Planting – Year Two

Last year was the first time I ever had what could be called a “garden.” I bought a wholllle bunch of pots, a whole bunch of dirt, a lot of seeds and a couple plants, and threw ‘em out in my front yard. I was a bit overambitious and grew some things that I shouldn’t have bothered with, but I learned a lot. I really enjoyed it.
Clearly I’m just a pioneer girl at heart. Last post was homemade butter, and now I’m going to talk for an hour about vegetable gardening. Haha.

So now, it’s time for Year Two. (We live in zone 4a according to this new Hardiness Zone map, which is why my planting is so late in the year.) I’ve got all the pots from last year, which is nice because pots are expensive. While Jonathan was having his shoulder cut open (the surgery went well by the way), me and Missy went home. The house was stifling me, so I decided to go out for some retail therapy, lol. The lovely weather reminded me that it is finally planting season, so I ended up at the local nursery. Sadly, they didn’t have much selection on veggie plants (they focus more on flowers and shrubs and fruit trees, it seems), so I went to Home Depot.
I did try to start some seeds earlier in the year, but those failed spectacularly. Whatevs, I bought some plants.

Jonathan found this little baby on the curb on trash day a few weeks ago. It’s missing its bottom and some of the staves are loose, but it’s still good. :) It’s got “character.” I am very grateful for it, because I’ve been wanting one but they cost like 40$.

As you can see, my front yard, such as it is, is rocks. If I just fill this half barrel with dirt, it’ll all wash out. :/ I did some research and decided that burlap would serve well here.

I had these pieces of burlap left over from making an (awesome) banner for my Halloween party last year. I dug them out of my fabric box, cut them into pieces, and applied them thusly:

I put two squares of off-white burlap on the bottom, and put strips of black around the edges. Seems pretty secure to me. (By the way, the pictures in this post are going to look super weird. The light was odd when I took the photos, and while I managed to take away the overexposures and the weird blue tint on some of them, I still ended up looking like Instagram Gone Awry. Oh well.)

Next I had to fill it. I had already decided this is going to be the home of my lettuce crop (which doesn’t have very deep roots as far as I know), so I didn’t need to have the whole thing filled with dirt. I put a nice layer of mulch in the bottom, which I think will also help keep my dirt in the barrel.

This year, I got some fancypants ~organic~ dirt! :) Last year I got Miracle Gro. I’ve learned a lot about that company in the last year and I really didn’t want to buy anything from Scotts (their parent company). I’m not totally committed to organic gardening, but I do what I can. I had already planted all my other plants (see below; I do things backwards sometimes), so I dumped all the rest of my potting soil in. I’m starting the lettuce from seed (it’s pretty much just grass), so I added a layer of organic seed starting dirt that I had left from my ill-fated seed starting earlier in the year. Then I sowed the seeds and watered thoroughly. Sure hope I did it right, lol.

What about the other plants, you say?

You mean these plants? ;-)

The two green bushes on either end and the one in the middle (in front of the watering can) are part of the standard landscaping here and I don’t have much choice in them. Actually the one in the middle should look like the others. I think it’s dead because I think the green leaves there are just a weed. I’m not sure if you can tell, but there are random weeds that grow up from the rocks as well. Clovers, mostly. I like clovers though, so I just leave them.

I’m not sure if that little table is going to stay permanently – we shall see. What do you think? On it, I have 6 small pots: two mints, a basil, a curly parsley, a bee balm, and a stevia. The bee balm and stevia are new to me, but I’ve done the others before.

Before I talk about these plants, I want everyone to notice my pallet. I want you to notice it because I dragged its heavy ass ALL the way home from the playground on King Loop (probably half a mile) by myself. It’s missing one plank on this side, but that’s okay with me. I like it because it’ll keep the rock-dwelling weeds from climbing up onto my pots.
In the front, you see two windowboxes with marigolds in them. I’m hoping to attract bees. (One day I’d like to beekeep, and also I need some bees to pollinate one of my plants.) I was hoping both of those would fit neatly into the space left by the missing plank, but alas. Oh well.
The three medium-size pots will eventually be replaced with bigger pots. I only had 6 of the bigger pots, and these three plants were all small anyway. I’ll get more large pots in a few days. Those three are all peppers – the ones on the left are bells, and the one on the right is jalapeno. I’ve grown both before.

My largest pots now: I have a cherry tomato variety, a “Patio” tomato, and two heirloom tomatoes – one is apparently purple, and the other is pink. (Yes I know these are indeterminates and shouldn’t be in pots. Leave me alone.) There is also another bell pepper plant, and a pot of cucumbers! I’ve grown tomatoes before but actually all of these species are new to me. I tried cucumbers from seed last year and they didn’t thrive, largely because I don’t think they were pollinated.

When the peppers in the medium size pots get repotted, I’ll need to reconfigure my layout here. I wish I could score another pallet, but they don’t fit in my car so they have to be within dragging distance (lol). Cross that bridge when I get to it, right?
I applied a layer of red mulch (I was forced to buy a Scotts-made product for this – my hands were tied by the selection at the store. Boo.) to each pot. I chose red because I read last year that tomatoes like to have red mulch for some reason. Maybe they see it and think “oh okay I’m supposed to be that color”?

Do you garden? Why or why not? Do you consider gardening to be a creative pursuit? Do you think I have a chance of winning Yard of the Month? If you have any suggestions or ideas for me (like ways to lay out the garden, for example), I’d love to hear them!
(Remember! I’m still doing TWO giveaways this week! Number one is here, and any comment on my blog all week counts as an entry. If you’d like to comment but not enter, just say so and I’ll exclude you. Number two is here – if you’d like to enter it, follow my blog and leave a comment on that post telling me how you follow me! BOTH giveaways close on Friday (today) May 25 at 5 pm PST. That’s 8pm Eastern. Any comments after that time are welcomed but not eligible for entry. I’ll announce the winners sometime on Saturday.)

How to Make Homemade Butter

I was a voracious reader as a child (still am, at that), and was always fascinated by the prairie housewives who made their own butter and bread and cheese. (And clothes and everything else. Seriously, Caroline Ingalls was amazing.) It’s been a running theme in my life to learn how to do things “from scratch.” You will never ever see a boxed cake mix in my home. I’m working on producing a perfect sandwich bread, and frequently make artisan loaves. I’m a bit of a snob, I guess. (I do hate making pie crusts though. Despise.)

A wave of Pins about homemade butter went around a few weeks ago, reminding me that I’d never yet tried this one. I calmly pick up a pound of butter every couple of weeks, no big deal. Well, that has now changed.

All you need for this food project is heavy cream (possibly labelled as whipping cream) and a bottle or jar. I used a Nutella jar because of the wide mouth. After the actual churning, you’ll need a bowl and probably a colander and a jar for storing the buttermilk.

Please learn from my mistake – do NOT do so much at one time. You’ll want to do this with a much smaller amount. I did this again later with about a third of this volume and it came together MUCH quicker.

Shake shake shake, baby. My preschooler could do it in the early stages. She wasn’t strong enough for the whole process, but this is a great project for older kids. Also a pretty good arm workout!

After a little while, you’ll have whipped cream! You actually can add sugar (and maybe a dollop of vanilla extract) in the beginning and use this method to make a quick batch of whipped cream without dragging out your beaters. This stage was quick and easy to reach, even with this too-large volume. I can’t give you a specific time on any of these stages because it will depend on the amount of cream and the size of your jar.

Keep on shaking. Feel the burn. Its starting to get grainy now.

This is the part where you’ll regret it if you put too much cream in the jar. It will take an insanely long time to get past the grainy stage and into the part where the liquids separate from the solids. I took to hitting it against the frame of my couch – the thickened cream inside just was too much for my puny arms.

But hang in there! Soon it will do this. You’ll be shaking/banging away and suddenly hear a “flop.” The solids have finally clumped together into a blob and will now hold their shape and be a lot easier to shake through the final stage.

Shake it for a few more minutes. The butter will become more and more yellow as the buttermilk separates. I am unsure if it is possible to “overchurn” your butter, so use your instincts. This here seemed to be a good place to stop.

This is why I chose a wide-mouth jar – I knew I’d have a big blob at the end, and the big opening made it much easier to get out. You do not have to keep the buttermilk, but you should because it’s a delicious ingredient. Set a colander over a bowl and drain baby drain. I happen to have a tiny colander (aww so cute) and a salsa bowl, but you can of course use whatever you have on hand.

Plop the butter into a bowl and press it with your fingers. You’ll see more liquids come to the surface. Press and rinse, press and rinse, until there are no more liquids coming out when you press. Shouldn’t take too long.

Save the buttermilk! I started with a partial container of cream (left over from something) so I don’t know how much I started with, but I ended up with a fistful of butter and half of a molasses jar of buttermilk. (That’s my clay crafting supplies in the background, fyi.)

You’ve now got a nice clean blob of butter. You could, if you wanted to, press it into a form and refrigerate it to use later as an ingredient. I always use unsalted butter, but you could salt it if you wanted. I’m not sure how that works or what amount you’d need.

This is your final product. A beautiful, pale-yellow blob of milkfats. It’s very satisfying to spread the soft fruits of your labor onto a slice of fresh baked bread. I’m not sure that I’d want to do this all the time, for all my butter needs, especially since I bake a lot. (Although maybe with a mixer?) But for a fancy event? Heck yes. I want to experiment with adding things like herbs or garlic to the cream for fancy flavored butter. It was really easy to reach a smooth creamy whipped cream stage, and I actually have used that trick already – cream and sugar and vanilla, shake shake shake, pour on top of strawberries.

What is is that’s so impressive about “made from scratch”? I don’t know, but I know that it’s very personally satisfying to be able to make a final product, something that we all take for granted like butter or bread, all by myself, from a few basic ingredients.

Have you ever tried to make butter?

(My husband will be having surgery today so I don’t know if I’ll be around. All comments this week are entries in my Giveaway, though! Please check out that entry if you’re interested. If you don’t want to enter the giveaway, you can still leave a comment – just make a note that you don’t wish to be entered. There is also another giveaway here, in case you’re interested.)

Score! A Bonus Giveaway!

~Both giveaways are NOW CLOSED! Stay tuned to find out the WINNERS!~

In celebration of the fact that I received over 100 pageviews today (and nearly 100 yesterday), I’m announcing a SECOND GIVEAWAY.

It’s been super exciting, watching your comments roll in for my Eclectic Bundle giveaway! As the end of today neared, I wondered if I’d break the mythical number of 100 pageviews (I’m a small blog, okay). And I did!

As a big THANK YOU to everyone, I’m offering up a second prize. My bundle is up for grabs to anybody who comments this week; this giveaway is for FOLLOWERS! All you need to do is FOLLOW me and leave me a comment telling me how you follow (via your WordPress account, by email or an RSS reader, or by Twitter). (I have internet mojo – I will know if you lie. ;) ) The links for all of those are over in the right sidebar – super easy to find.

Now, for what you really want to know: THE PRIZE IS FABRIC! Some of you mentioned that I ought to have included yarn and embroidery floss (and maybe some paint) in the previous one, and I thought about it, but, well, who doesn’t love fabric.

I had a dig in my (very small) stash and found these four pieces of fabric.
— A red-on-ivory toile – it’s oddly shaped but it’s about the size of a fat quarter, and it’s a very heavy fabric
— An orange-and black tiger print – fat quarter
— A bright pink tiger-y looking print – about half a yard
— and a yard of a bright hippie-ish print (see below for a better shot of it)

Don’t you just love that jaunty little birdie?

Just to clarify – comments on this post are NOT entries in the other giveaway, just to make it easier to determine a winner. To enter this giveaway, follow and comment here. To enter the other, comment on any other post on this blog.
Sorry, but both giveaways are US-only. Maybe next time, Internationals!
This giveaway will close at 6 pm PST on Friday May 25.

Web “Weekend” #13

Hello Hello! I actually have a good reason for delaying the roundup this week! I wanted to include it in my GIVEAWAY WEEK festivities. (Also I am horribly behind in my readering.) For those of you who missed the memo, I’m participating in a massive giveaway party hosted by Sew Mama Sew. I’m offering a fun and eclectic bundle of crafting supplies, and EVERY COMMENT ALL WEEK counts as an entry. If you happen to not want to be included in the giveaway, just make a note of it in your comment. If you’d like to enter one/some/many/all of the other giveaways (there are hundreds), check out this link here. There are 5 categories, so have fun.

So for the newbies (hi out there!), let me lay down my ground rules for this thing here. I usually do this on the weekends, and my goal is to feature links to all the various things I found on the blogosphere that tickled my fancy that week. None of these links are sponsored or requested in any way – this is just me giving some love to the things I enjoyed. (And it’s NOT exhaustive – I have to cut like 90% of the things that I “star” as I’m readering.)
I share a lot of crafty things and recipes. I share a handful of interesting articles about a variety of topics including current events and science. I share links to fabulous art, and I share a smattering of things that I just thought were great. I get my geek on frequently – I put in a sprinkling of pictures and they tend to be quite geeky.
I’m currently following 413 blogs, holy crap. This giveaway thing is quite unhealthy for my reader, lol. I added probably 100 of those today as I was surfing the giveaways. I expect that number will be, like, 700 by the time I’m done.

Remember you can follow me on Pinterest  or on Tumblr for nearly-daily flailing and excitement. Check the right side of the page for a list of all the places you can find me. And if there’s somewhere else you’d like to connect with me, let me know! (I’m not making a facebook page until I know that people are interested.) Now let’s get to the links!

I featured this photo on the last roundup and just couldn’t bear to delete it. Uh oh, I may be stuck in an infinite loop. (via FY Link)

Things to Buy or Make

A colorful and cheap spiked macrame bracelet – hardcore, dude. ;) (Thanks I Made It)
Cute patchwork pillow – excellent intro to piecing, I would imagine (SOTAK handmade)
Patchwork from the selvage edge of fabrics – this makes the waste-not spirit inside me very happy. (Happy Cottage Quilter)
Make a real life Pinboard, with a cool sliding panel in front! (Knock Off Decor)
Turn your spaghetti sauce jars into gorgeous Moroccan lanterns! (Matsutake)
DIY a shrinky jewelry piece from #6 plastic (Rust and Sunshine)
Use up that paper hoard by making this origami flower! (Creative to Keep My Sanity)
A purse that looks like Cap’s shield. YES. (So Geek Chic)
Crocheted Yoshi egg blanket. VERY yes. (So Geek Chic)
Homemade sidewalk chalk (Modern Mom)
DIY nail polish – an area of crafting that I’m itching to try! (Delighted Momma)
Awesome hardware necklace (Thanks I Made It)
Blackwork is gorgeous, and here’s a free pattern! (Feeling Stitchy)
Geometric felt bookmarks – very fun and modern (How About Orange)
I feel very inspired by this cats-and-laser-dot embroidery (&Stitches)
One of many old-school Zelda quilts I’ve seen. Gotta try this. (Copiously Geeky)

Ideas to Use

A list of commonly-wasted foods, and some ideas on how to avoid doing that (Savvy Housekeeping)
I’m not the only one who’s been changing up my grocery-shopping. Do you have any revelatory tricks? (Simple Organized Living)
Mary Corbet’s Stitch Play Index – an index of gorgeous embroidery stitches by a fabulous stitcher (Needle N Thread)
Really easy-to-follow tutorial on applying grommets (A Quilter’s Table)
DIY Wood Butter to keep your wooden stuff looking pretty. (Lifehacker)
DIY Reusable Dryer Sheets – brilliant! Already added them to my to-make list. (Lifehacker)
Apparently MAYO will clean crayon off your walls? (Lifehacker)
3 ways to enhance your embroidery (also 3 adorable inspiring projects) (Wild Olive)
This party theme (and the post title) absolutely cracks me up. (Young House Love)

I could watch this ALL DAY. (via Hipster Game of Thrones) (YES, this is another repeat; what is WRONG with me.)

Food

A cake covered with Whoppers. My husband would DIE. (Stars and Sunshine)
A tip for a better PB&J (Lifehacker)
Basic Yellow Butter Cake – a great one for my Basic Recipes series (The Kitchn)
A copycat recipe for a Wendy’s frosty. Gotta try this one. (The Kitchn)
10 cheap staples everyone should have in their pantry – oh, great post idea! (The Kitchn)
23 homemade breads. Yes. Bread is one of my faaaavorite things. (The Kitchn)
Candied Ginger, two ways (Inn at the Crossroads)
Simple chicken salad with a twist: Basil! (Blogchef)

Articles and News

A time lapse video of the recent annular eclipse. Boo for living on the East Coast – it must have been awesome in person. (Wired Science)
What do you know (or think you know) about the Pacific Garbage Patch? (io9)
This article will generate a 20-minute workout for you. You have 20 minutes, right? Sure you do. (Lifehacker)
Thoughts on couponing – got any suggestions to add? (Get Rich Slowly)
This week, let’s have a history lesson on … bra-burning? (The Mary Sue)

I am not entirely sure why this happened. (via Epic Ponyz)

Entertainment: Books, TV, Movies, and others

All the new SF/F shows: this list is pretty depressing, honestly. (io9)
Someone researched how our “future” was portrayed in fiction for more than a century. You know you want to see the infographic. (io9)
There’s a nifty-looking Harry Potter web series coming soon. (io9)
If you had to guess which literary characters are most frequently portrayed on film, who would you choose? (io9)

Art

Video game characters in the ukiyo-e style by Jed Henry (via io9)
Sonic Screwdriver beats Lightsaber. What happens next, though? By KK Jordan (via io9)

Weekly Greatness:

How to throw an insult like Shakespeare (Aunt Peaches)
Just a bit of fandom silliness, at the expense of Legolas. (Cleolinda)
Australia is TERRIFYING. And funny, if it’s a comic. (Momentary Lapse of Reason)
Matt Smith, everyone. (Who Generation)
TESLA. (The Oatmeal)

This would scare the bejeezus out of me. Via Epic Ponyz

Did you see anything cool around the internet this week? Is there a blog I should be reading? Got an opinion or thought about anything here? Share your own thoughts and links in the comments!  Make sure to follow me (here, there, and everywhere) to get more updates!

It’s Giveaway Week!

~Both giveaways are NOW CLOSED! Hang tight for the WINNERS!~

A couple times a year, Sew Mama Sew hosts a “Giveaway day” party, and I decided to be part of it this year. You can click that link above to find other blogs where you can enter to win fabulous crafty prizes, but first, read on and find out what I’ve got!

For the new visitors, let me introduce myself. Hi, I’m Jamie B. I make a lot of things and I spend way too much time on the internet. I publish a weekly list of cool and awesome things I’ve found around the internet, as well as my own craft and recipe tutorials. This week I’m delaying my internet roundup (I’m planning to post it on Tuesday) and I’d love for you to come check it out. I’ve also got a great recipe in the hopper to share with you, and maybe a few surprise posts as well.

I thought long and hard about this giveaway, and decided to gather up a collection of fabulous supplies for your crafting pleasure!

Here is a quick shot of all the supplies gathered together. I selected them carefully to represent different parts of my own crafting personality. I like to be diverse in my life and my blog, so here’s what may be the most diverse prize you’ve ever won. There’s something from just about every Arena of Crafting that I participate in.

In the photo above you can see a small packet of beads in various colors (I just dove into my box and chose a handful), a package of jump rings (perfect for making 12-in-2 Flowers!), a bottle of black crackle nail polish, 2 packets of cupcake decorations (they are Irish themed), a gorgeous green-and-gold ribbon (it’s quite long), and a nice big piece of fabric in pink-and-brown stripes.

AND this isn’t even all! These lovelies will be accompanied by a SECRET HANDMADE ITEM that I think you’ll love. I already know what it is; it’s sitting right next to me. I just felt like being mysterious. shipped with a HANDMADE velcro-sealed bag. It measures approximately 7×7 and is designed to be used like a sandwich baggie. It’s lined with very thin vinyl and the outside is a pretty brown and ivory floral print. Just wipe it out and reuse. I don’t have any photos of it because I’m lazy.

ALL YOU HAVE TO DO is leave me a comment! I embrace diversity in my crafting, and I yearn for discussion on my blog. So let’s talk! Tell me what your favorite kind of crafting is! Do you like sewing, or maybe beading? Maille? Knitting? Maybe you’re into fashion arts, or even food! I want to talk about it with you!

For additional entries: come back all week and join in the discussions! I’ll be posting several times this week, and every comment will count as an entry in the giveaway! Tweets, facebook posts, pins, and the like are appreciated but will not count as entries. I will delete all spammy comments or anybody who’s being mean.

This contest is open from Monday May 21 at the time of posting until 5pm PST on Friday May 25 – so enter early and enter often! I will contact the winner by email, so make sure you leave a contact email when you comment. I do screen comments so yours may not show up immediately – just be patient!

Remember to COME BACK (you can subscribe by email or RSS if you’d like) throughout the week to join in the fun and grab more entries! I can also be found on Twitter (I automatically tweet a link to each post), Pinterest, Tumblr, and a couple other places which you’ll find listed in the right sidebar.

May Birchbox – Gossip Girl Edition

I’m going to be totally upfront with you this month – I’m kinda disappointed. My first Birchbox was exciting and awesome and I loved every bit of it. Last month was a bit lackluster, and I definitely found myself wishing I’d gotten the Teen Vogue box (even though I’m definitely not a teen). This month… well, I enjoyed the products, but I have some suggestions for improvement (at the end of the post).

Okay, enough complaining. To the box!

This month, there was a theme: Gossip Girl. I don’t watch the show so that was rather irrelevant. I had (ultimately unfulfilled) hopes that this would mean blingy stuff, inspired by on-the-town young’uns. Honestly, not seeing the connection, other than in the color of the nail polish I got.
Dang, okay, seriously no more complaining.

And here are the contents of my box! There on the left you can see a card with 4 trivia questions about the GG finale that aired earlier this week. It sounds like a very *drama* show. The trivia questions were the basis for a contest they ran over on their facebook page for a shopping spree in the Birchbox shop. I may or may not have googled for the answers (unsuccessfully), eventually made up some answers up, and entered. ;-) Also, you can see this month’s “lifestyle extra” – a little postcard. I think I’ll include it with the prize for my Giveaway Week winner next week.

This perfume sample is Arquiste L’Etrog. I assume from the price of the fullsize product that it is quite fancy indeed. This is how it describes itself: “A bright blend of citrus and other fruity notes, L’Etrog captures the aromas of a family harvest celebration in medieval Calabria, Italy.”
My thoughts: I like it! I usually find floral scents overpowering, and gravitate to earthy scents like this one. It’s got a richness to it. I am not a professional and have no idea what a harvest smells like in Calabria, but I can see the medieval connection – it smells very “natural,” more like the sort of scent that an ancient princess would procure, instead of the overly chemical perfumes of our time.

Allow me to introduce you to Dr. Jart+ Water Fuse Beauty Balm SPF 25+. It’s a real multitasker: “A moisturizer, sunscreen, and treatment serum all-in-one, this tinted balm even helps hide imperfections—so there’s no need for foundation or cover-up. Think of it as the Swiss Army Knife of your beauty cabinet.”
My thoughts: Well, first of all – maybe next time they ought to put a bit more in the bottle. I had a bit of trouble getting some out! Maybe it just settled weirdly. It’s tinted a light brownish color and has a very faint scent, similar to most sunscreens (I like that scent so that’s a plus). It was smooth and went on easy; my skin felt smoother and looked a little more even afterwards. I think I’ll cut open this little bottle to dig it all out and apply all over my face when I go out tomorrow, and see what I think. Overall, I’m pretty positive about this.

You may know that I am a nail polish fiend, so I was quite happy to find this sample of Color Club Foils in Disco Nap in my box. It’s a really shiny metallic gold polish. (There’s also a gorgeous purple in this collection.)
My thoughts: New favorite gold! The previous incumbent was Bling Dynasty by OPI, but this one easily beat it out. I’ve always loved the texture of Color Club lacquers (bonus: they’re cheap!), and this was no exception. The color was solid with one coat, and it really does earn the title “foil” – it was almost as if I’d applied gold leaf to my nails. I am picturing using it with stamping plates to create some gorgeous blingy designs for fancy occasions. Definitely highly recommend this one if you’re in the market.

This is a bottle of beautyblender blendercleanser – a special cleanser for your cosmetic brushes and makeup sponges and the like. It’s scented with lavender, earth-friendly, and apparently designed to remove oils and deposits from any implement that touches your skin.
My thoughts: First, I have to register a dislike of the scent. When I was a child, I got a horrrrrible Poison Ivy rash, and had to bathe with this special soap to remove the Ivy oils from my body. This cleanser smells EXACTLY like that soap. Which I suppose makes sense, since they’re both designed to remove unwanted oils. Scent aside, though, this stuff worked really well! I tried it on an eyeliner brush (just dipped it right into the bottle, and rubbed the brush in my fingers). The cleanser sudsed up and then rinsed away clean. Then I gave it a real test and tried it on an eyeshadow applicator. I have a really dark blue Ulta eyeshadow (their applicators are the same texture as those sponge wedges you can buy). To my complete surprise, this stuff cleaned the applicator to like-new condition! Not a trace of color on the sponge!

Last but not least, this here is a Twistband Skinny headband, sold in a 6-pack at Birchbox. Mine is brown, but they come in many colors. It’s pretty much exactly what it sounds like – an elastic headband to hold your hair.
My thoughts: I actually wear elastic headbands a lot. My hair is fluffy and frizzy and I hate when it gets in my face. I always choose headbands that are MUCH wider than this though – this width is just not enough to control my thick hair. It’d work well for lighter, thinner hair, or if it’s just being used as an accessory, not for functionality. Also, I’m kinda ambivalent about the “knot” in it – it gives it a too-casual feel to me, and I’d only want to wear it around the house or to the gym.

This month wasn’t as much fun as I am hoping for from my Birchboxes, but it still contained some great products. I still recommend to any of you readers out there to give it a try (it’s 10$ a month). However, I want to take this opportunity to make some suggestions to Birchbox (I’m submitting this post to their Birchbloggers program, so hopefully someone will read it):
Firstly, the boxes feel just a little bit bare. My first box, in March, felt like it was overflowing, while April and May just felt empty. I’m sure you’ve got budgets to consider, but please, just throw in one or two more things?
Second, more FUN please! That was my primary reason for joining Birchbox – I want to try fun new products! The cleanser worked great but it’s not anybody’s definition of fun.
Third, I think it’d help all of us be happier if there were a way for your subscribers to tell you what kinds of products they’re interested in. For example: I would like lip glosses, eye liners or eye shadows, lotions, body washes, nail polishes, and maybe the occasional hair product (that will actually match my hair type). Perfumes are okay too, but I rarely wear it to be honest.
(Oh, and fourth: can we get a “maybe” option on the “are you planning to purchase this item” question when we’re leaving feedback?)

Are you a Birchbox subscriber? What did you think of your box this month?
Do you have any suggestions or ideas you’d like to share? Or, are you thinking of subscribing? I’ll be happy to answer any questions you have, if I know the answers.

(In the interests of transparency, I’d like you to know that the two links at the beginning and end are my personal referrer links to Birchbox. If you click on them and then sign up, I will receive Birchbox Points. The other links go to the Birchbox shop, but I will not be compensated if you purchase from those links. There are also two links to my previous Birchbox reviews.)

Busy Busy Busy

I don’t know why exactly, but I’ve just been insanely busy lately. I enjoy most of the things I do, but it seems like I haven’t had any downtime in forever. I haven’t even had spare time for reading! Today I’ve got a collection of pictures to share, of some of my recent projects in progress!

This is a quick shot I took of my to-do list just before I sat down to upload pictures and write this post. The right side is tasks for my home or family – stuff like “clean the fridge” and “mail Mother’s Day cards.” The left side is personal projects or desires, mostly for Etsy or for my blogs. Yes, it’s giant. And it’s mostly not very itemized. It just says “clean,” instead of “clean living room and bathroom and bedroom and kitchen,” for example. Told ya I’m busy.

I’ve been trying new recipes, but I haven’t been photographing them. I’ve got such a backlog of recipes to blog about. So it’s a great time to try new things, so I can improve on them before I blog about them. This is last night’s dinner – Spinach, Ricotta, and Parmesan Stuffed Shells. I based them off a recipe I shared with you a few weeks agoSpinach-Stuffed Canneloni by Happiness Stan. Delicious, although there are a few things I’m going to do differently next time. I’m really loving recipes that fold the vegetables into the main dish, because we have a tendency to forget to make the veggie until the food is done. Also, I officially love ricotta. It makes such lovely leftovers.

A new project! Care to guess? I shared the inspiration for this with you just a few days ago. It’s rock candy! I loved the jewelry idea from 1 Fine Cookie, but I decided I’d better try out just plain rock candy first. I stirred up some sugar syrup, added in a little of the flavor extracts I had on hand, and some coloring. It’s a pretty simple concept, so I don’t anticipate any problems.

Here’s a quick shot of some earrings I knocked together today. The ones on the left are for Kako. They’re a version of my Corkscrew earrings, with silver-colored copper wire and Sapphire blue freshwater pearls. They turned out a bit longer than I expected. The ones on the right are pearlescent black glass pearls, wrapped with 26-gauge wire. Quite delicate. I like them. Look for them in my shop on June 1st!

Here’s a sneak peek of another commissioned jewelry piece. My friend Ri likes cameos like my Secret Cameo earrings, but doesn’t wear earrings. So I went on the hunt for a necklace for her. I found this classic-looking pendant, and embellished it with 28 green Swarovski elements. It hangs at about the breastbone, from a double-loop of black cable chain. I’m really happy with it.

I’ve also been sewing! This is a prototype of an e-reader cover that I’m hoping to produce for my shop, but it’s giving me fits at the moment. I’m happy with the front side, but the back just isn’t cooperating. I’ve got an idea I’m going to try next time I sit down with it, so hopefully it’ll work out well.

My sewing has been successful on other fronts though. Here’s a shot of a “string backpack” I knocked together from 2 fat quarters. We have a similar one (that we found in a parking lot haha) to carry dog-related items when we take Charlie for a walk. This one is the new home for kid-related stuff when we walk to the park. I really like the two velcro’ed pockets on the front, to stash my keys and wallet.  I’m thinking about Etsying these as well. What do you think?

If you want to find out what this is, you’ll have to read about it on the Snark Art Blog!

In honor of Matt Smith’s debut as the Eleventh Doctor 2 years ago, April 3 was Fish Custard Day. (Go watch The Eleventh Hour; you’ll understand.) I got brave and tried it. It was actually pretty good!

Here’s a process shot of a set of items that should be appearing in my shop on Listing Day (the first of June). Care to take a guess?

Another process shot, of a very old and long-since-completed project. I had this lovely skirt, but it was longer than I liked, and, um, too small in the waist. So I shortened it by hacking off the top. I’m quite happy with it. I’ve got to get the courage to model it so I can put up a proper post about it.

When I joined Paperback Swap a few weeks ago, I went through my box of “get rid of” books and listed them all. Except a few. Four of the seven Chronicles of Narnia books, in pretty rough shape. I couldn’t list them, but I didn’t want to just throw them away. So I salvaged them. I cut (by hand) hundreds of circles from the pages, and glued them onto a paper lantern I already owned. It turned out AMAZING. I’ve got a ton of scraps, as well as a whole book and a half, left, so I’m thinking about other things to do with the papers. I kept a couple of the chapter illustrations, and am thinking of using my scanner to blow them up and use them as embroidery patterns. The scraps of paper might get blended up into pulp so I can make “fresh” paper – I’ve got a bookmaking project running around my head too.

PONY CUPCAKES. Our FRG had a “cupcake social” this past weekend. (I apologize to my Pinterest followers for the deluge of cupcakes that one day that I was looking for ideas.) I made these little picks from the box art (yes I saved it, why do you ask) from my daughter’s ponies. I am particularly proud of these lovelies. Definitely expect to see a post featuring these babies in better detail soon.

Last photo of the day! This is a shot from wayy back at the beginning of April, the day of the season two premiere of Game of Thrones. I prepared a fabulous Westerosi feast. Somehow, the blog never got written about it. I made a number of amazing recipes that day though, and I plan to share them – especially those lovely Dornish peppers you see on the right in the foreground. Deeeeeelicious. Fresh bread dipped in salt was also a revelation of flavor.

This isn’t even all of the amazingness that I’ve been up to! Here’s just a quick sample of the things I’ve got folders of pictures for: Homemade Butter, Cola Cake, Fried Chicken, Roasted Chicken, Lasagna, Onion Rings, Shield Weaving, and Wheat Bread. I’ve also got some great craft tutorials in the planning stages (it’s harder than you think it is to take process photos of delicate things). Oh, and I got my May Birchbox the other day – that blog will be coming soon.
Don’t forget – next week is Giveaway Week! Be sure to come back early and often for your chances to win free stuff!

I hope you’ve enjoyed this mishmash photoblog. Which project are you most excited to see more of?

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