Saturday, August 30, 2008

Make a Difference

Hello! A few days ago I mentioned that I was working on a super easy and inexpensive project that anyone can do. When I was a kid, the term Reduce, Reuse, Recycle was popular. Now, its Go Green! No matter what you call it, we all need to do more of it and this project can help. I truly believe that if we all did our part, we can make a difference.

One of my biggest pet peeves is when I go to Walmart and they put like, two items in a bag. I buy six things and go home with four different bags. Why do they do that? I know those bags are flimsy but surely they can hold more than a box of Q-tips and some shampoo. I constantly find myself taking things out of the bags and putting them in with others...while the clerk just looks at me. Or if I buy just one or two things, I tell them I'll carry it and save a bag. Every now and again I get a thank you for that.

This project is a small solution to those flippy little bags that clutter our landfills and drive me absolutely insane. Tote bags! That's right, by carrying a reusable tote bag you can eliminate or reduce the number of those little bags that you see flying around everywhere. Retail stores are starting to sell more of them but they cost anywhere from $15 on up to as much as you can imagine. Spending a gob of money on a tool to help save the earth doesn't make sense to me, so I decided to make my own. Most plain canvas tote bags I found were around $5 but with a coupon, you can get them much cheaper, as I did. The only downfall I found was that I was limited in size options. So if you're looking for a really large bag, you may need to invest a little more money. I plan on doing some research to find extra-large bags so that I can make a complete grocery shopping trip without using any store bags.

So I started with my washed canvas tote bag, iron-on transfers, and a design. For my design, I used a Doodlebat, dbtrees. I had been wanting to customize a tote bag for a while now so when I found this Doodlebat, I had an idea! Each letter of the alphabet is represented by a different tree. I started with all the letters then started omitting the trees I didn't particularly like. Once I had a good row of trees, I randomly changed their colors to add a little contrast. I found a saying that I thought was fitting and added that below the trees in the font CK Alis Writing. I think I downloaded this font (for free) from the Creating Keepsakes website a while back. So here's the design:I then printed the design on an iron-on transfer sheet. You can purchase these just about anywhere that sells office supplies. There is a difference though between regular iron-ons and dark iron-ons so watch for that. Be sure to print according to the directions, your image should be mirrored. I trimmed my design to get rid of the extra white space. Though it irons on clear, you can still see the transfer sheet on the material so I like to eliminate that as much as I can. Place the transfer face down on your fabric and begin ironing according to the manufacturer's directions.Once you've ironed on the transfer sheet and it's cooled, slowly peel it offViola!Except it looks a little plain to me: *waving magic wand* There, much better! A close up of the details: Now, wasn't that easy?! Head the the craft store today and buy your canvas bag so you can begin to make a difference.
Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go hug a tree.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Cards

Hi friends! I have a couple of projects in the works but nothing to show just yet. One is so inexpensive and easy that even you can do it! Besides that, you SHOULD do it, or at least really, really want to because it's so very important. So stay tuned for that.

I'm digging out a couple of cards I did recently but haven't posted yet, just to give you something to look at. The first is a birthday card for a coworker. I was in charge of buying the card...buying the card?! Who buys cards anymore? :)
This card uses the Circles Birthday Doodlebat from Scrapin Fonts on the front colored in with Copics.

Inside:

And here's another card made with the "Max and Jill" silhouette stamp. Same stamp, completely different look than the first time I used it. Sort of has an old west feel I think. John Wayne and Miss Kitty?

Details:

Monday, August 25, 2008

Fun with Flowers

Thank you everyone for your kind words in regards to my I Did It! post. Though I have a long way to go before I make it to where Id like to be professionally, I realize that this first event is a very important building block for my future. I intend to have a lot of fun along the way and I hope you'll all join me for the adventure.

I mentioned that the centerpieces we used for the event would come in handy for a few other projects. First up (because my other ideas haven't come to full fruition), is some basic fun with pictures. I am a very visual person, love pictures of pretty things. Max laughs at me all the time when he asks about a magazine I'm "reading" and I reply with, I don't know what it's about, I'm just looking at the pictures! Don't worry, I know how to read...I just really love pictures. I know you're not suppose to judge a book by its cover but I do. I really do! And pictures are worth a thousand words aren't they? I digress but one thing I have been enjoying recently is playing around with my camera and trying to understand how it works best and how to take decent pictures. It's hard for me to leave something in its original unaltered state. That's why we have hobbies, so we can play right?!

I took scads of pictures of these centerpieces, both at night and during the day to see how the lighting effected the pictures. Then, I uploaded them to a photo editing software and started playing around. I bought Corel Paint Shop Pro last semester but was way too busy to take the tutorial to learn how to use it. I still haven't done that but Ive had fun trying to learn on my own. I find I learn best through trial and error. Until I learn the right way then I wonder why I wasted so much time trying and erroring... So this post is nothing more than a reason to show you some pictures of flowers and to talk about the fun I had playing around with the images.
Before:

After:
The pictures look a little fuzzy here on Blogger so I hope to get a Flickr account open soon so photos can be viewed in their best format.

Friday, August 22, 2008

I Did It!

I did it! I've successfully planned my first event...professionally! Yeah sure, Ive been doing stuff for myself and family for years now, but this, this was for work. *angels sing*

I work in the Treasury department for a large manufacturing company and each year we hold a lenders meeting where we invite in all of our bankers (the wonderful people who we bank with and borrow money from if/when needed). Not a huge deal but sort of a deal. We bring them in for a two day affair to show them around, wine 'n dine them, present them with our company's latest and greatest, then entertain them. And yours truly was responsible for putting this entire ordeal together. Okay, we're only talking about 30 people here but they're important people in fancy suits. That drive fancy cars. And make fancy salaries! And we as a company, are feeling the effects of our current economy so I had to do it reasonably. I'll try to give you an idea of how it went while sparing you all of the mundane details.

On day one there is a plant tour so they can see our manufacturing process in progress. Cut 'n dry really. There was a slight hiccup with the timing but that wasn't my fault :) That evening a cocktail reception and dinner was held at a local hotel. We have slim pickins for nice hotels around here so I changed it up a bit and went with one a little further away that we as a company hadn't tried yet for this type of meeting. When I booked the hotel they failed to mention that they would be undergoing a major renovation to their main lobby area...uhhh huh! Not ideal but it worked out okay as our people were confined to the banquet rooms and were none the wiser til they stepped outside. Anyway, we chose to have cocktail tables scattered throughout one side of the room with large rounds for dinner on the other side. All covered in ivory linens with yellow napkins. Not my favorite choice of linens but I was working with a) what the hotel had and b) a limited budget. So, we had shrimp cocktail and crab cakes with dill sauce for appetizers and a duo of chicken and tenderloin for dinner accompanied by asparagus with lemon zest and smashed potatoes. It was all very tasty...for hotel food. Let's get to the fun stuff right? Okay!

Because I'm a girly girl, I'm thinking the whole time that I'm planning this that gee...we really need flowers on the tables. Hmmm, limited budget, not sure if my boss will go for flowers. We've never done flowers in the past... I asked and was told by my male boss that "flowers might add a nice touch, just don't sell the barn to buy them." Woo hoo, I get to buy flowers!! Except its 6 days til the event, can I get flower arrangements this late. Sha-yeah! I requested some small arrangements for the dinner tables with a few bud vases to go on the cocktail tables in "sunset colors". I specifically told them red, orange, and yellow, with maybe some dark pink in a short square vase. What I got was orange and pink with some yellow and...blue. I was disappointed when I first saw them but contained myself. Turns out, they looked lovely on the light linen covered tables and really brightened up the room! The florist had just gotten in some amber colored square vases which were perfect and toned down the flowers a bit. I guess those ladies knew what they were doing, here's how they turned out:

Fast forward...the dinner went great, next was the meeting. The room was divided in half and set-up classroom style. As a fleeting thought the night before, I asked the banquet manager to take the flower arrangements and reset them on the tables for the meeting. So glad I did that as the room was darkened for the presentations so the flowers helped add a little pop to an otherwise drab conference room. And dual purpose, gotta love that. And...I'll tell you later how these flowers will end up serving many more purposes! Okay, so the dinner went great, the breakfast and meeting went great, next...lunch followed by golf.

Again, this new kid in town wanted to switch things up so I picked a new golf course which is beautiful. I'm no golfer so I was at a bit of a loss to know what golfers think, like, do... Don't they all wear argyle? We usually give the attendees a little gift, like mugs or umbrellas or some other junky thing that will end up in the back of their car never to be seen again. Uh uh, I wasn't doing that. We need something cooler. *snap* That's it, a cooler! How about a cooler that...looks like a golf bag?!

Total score! These were a big hit! I handed out the coolers after the meeting and instructed them all to bring them to the golf course where they would be able to fill them with the beverage of their choice. *patting myself on the back* This worked out really well! Then, another lady and I filled our own coolers and drove around the course refilling theirs when they were in need. Each cooler was compact but large enough to hold a six pack plus ice. Like I said, they worked out really well!

So, everything went off without a hitch and many compliments were received from both upper management and the bankers. After the meeting, my boss stood before us and thanked everyone for coming. Then he publicly thanked me for my help in planning the event. The room broke into applause and I even heard a "woo hoo, go Jill!" from somewhere in the room. Lol!! I'm not kidding...! I don't know who it was but I like to think I now have my own little fan club! It could happen... :)

I'll be back later to share the plans I have for the centerpieces.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Minnesota Pictures

I am ready to throw my computer in the lake but alas, the Minnesota pictures are finally ready for your viewing pleasure. I put together a slide show, set to music, which last about 4 minutes or so. The featured song, one of my current favorites, is Life In A Northern Town by Sugarland featuring Little Big Town and Jake Owen. Though I have no idea what this song is really about, the title fits and it will now remind me of my trips to Minnesota each time I hear it. All of the photos displayed in the slide show were taken by me, a VERY amateur photographer-wannabe. Sit back, relax, and enjoy the show!
video

Friday, August 15, 2008

Countdown to Country Living Fair

By now you may have seen my little countdown on the right hand side for the Country Living Fair. This is its third year and I am so excited! I went with my mom and aunt last year, really not knowing what to expect, and was blown away! I think it is what kick-started my desire to get back on the crafting wagon. There were so many wonderful vendors with such stylish booths and innovative ideas. Talk about sensory overload!! I cant wait to go back this year to see what’s going on in the industry. Because many of these vendors have blogs, I feel like I already know them. So when I see them this year, they’ll seem like celebrities! I’ll try to retain my urge to ask for their autographs but just might have to get some pictures of them!

The other thing that I love about this event is that it has been Mid-west based all three years. It seems like we never get the cool shows…until now! So if you’re in the Columbus, OH area on September 12-14, you MUST stop by the Country Living Fair! If it’s as good as last year, you wont regret it! Check out Country Living’s website for more details.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Missing Minnesota

I miss Minnesota. I miss being out on the water, the beautiful scenery, the peacefulness. Though our time there was short, it was a great blessing to be able to spend time with family and revisit some childhood memories. As children, you never know which experiences are going to stay with your memory forever. The images that this lake has imprinted into my internal photo album will be there for years to come, evoking the familiar feeling of being in a place that I love.

My parents' and brother's site was on Cut Foot Sioux while my other brother and cousins were over on Big Winnie (Lake Winnibigoshish). Though they are connected, each body of water has its own personality (sounds like my family!). One small and tranquil, the other large and abundant. Here are two videos that I captured on my camera that give a brief glimpse at each lake:

Big Winnie
video

Cut Foot Sioux
video

I am almost ready to share my photos with you so stay tuned!

Better Banana Bread

Good news, last night’s dinner experiment was redeemed with Better Banana Bread! I happened to have a couple of very ripe bananas on the counter and needed to use up the left over yogurt from the crispy chicken recipe so I Googled a banana bread that used yogurt. Here’s the one I tried from The Fresh Loaf:

Better Banana Bread
Makes 1 huge loaf or 3 small loaves

Preheat the oven to 350.

In one bowl, combine:
1/2 stick (4-5 tablespoons) butter, softened
2 eggs
2 or 3 very ripe bananas
1 cup vanilla or plain yogurt
2/3 cup sugar
Use a potato masher, fork, or spoon to squish the banana and mix the ingredients together. It is alright for there to be small (1 centimeter) chunks of banana in the batter, but you want most of the banana to be reduced to mush.

In another bowl, combine:
1 1/2 cup all-purpose unbleached flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)
Combine the wet and dry ingredients and mix until the ingredients are blended together.

If you like, stir in additional ingredients here, such as chopped walnuts or pecans, dried cherries or apricots, or chocolate chips. A handful (about a half a cup) is about right.

Pour the dough into greased baking pans and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Small loaves take around 30 minutes; a normal-sized loaf takes around 50 minutes.

Remove from the oven. This bread is great warm, but it is excellent cold too.

After they have cooled for 5 or 10 minutes the loaves can be removed from the pan to cool. Once they are cool they can be individually wrapped and frozen.

The only ingredient that Im not sure I like is the cinnamon. Had I baked this on a crisp autumn day, I would love it but cinnamon just isn’t a summer spice in my kitchen. It added an interesting flavor, that’s for sure. Im wondering what nutmeg would taste like. What other spices would you use?

I added walnuts (a 2oz bag) and a few handfuls of semi-sweet chocolate chips. I would have used milk chocolate but a little squirrel ate them all before I had a chance. I also poured in some vanilla since my yogurt was plain. I was only able to get one standard size loaf out of this mix and I baked it for about 55 minutes. The yogurt really kicks up the moisture in this bread but beware, it does make it a bit heavy. So if you’re looking for a light snack bread, find a recipe without yogurt.

I have some bananas frozen in the freezer so Im going to keep experimenting with this recipe. I think some sort of a fruit thrown in with the walnuts would be tasty…cherries, currants, cranberries… Mmmmmm!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Crispy Yogurt Chicken

Have y'all checked out The Pioneer Woman yet? If you haven't, what are you waiting for? If I'd met her, I'm sure we'd be best friends. I think she's just great, with her whit, humor, amazing talent and all. Her photography is amazing and she has a unique way of making everyday things seem larger than life yet approachable. When she posted her recipe for Crispy Yogurt Chicken, I thought I would give it a try. Maybe its this time of year or the fact that I finally have a little more time on my hands but Ive been having fun experimenting with various herbs and recipes lately. This recipe seemed simple enough and it gave me a chance to try something new. I had all of the ingredients so I went to work.

I know that Pioneer Woman would never let me down, since we're best friends and all, so I'm not sure where I was led astray with this recipe. Emmm, I give it a C+ but definitely with A potential. Problem? Bland. Blah. Ho-hum. I even added an extra clove of garlic! I love that its made with yogurt, definitely a healthy spin on chicken, but it needs a lot of spice to kick it up a few notches. Max makes a delicious recipe that is very similar except it uses Miracle Whip and seasoned croutons. Okay, so its loaded with fat and everything that's totally bad for you, but at least its tasty. Not that my BFF's chicken wasn't tasty, it was just average. But I'm not giving up!

Fortunately, Max said the carrots (cooked in butter and brown sugar) and Alfredo noodles (topped with fresh grated Parmesan cheese) were good, so that's a plus. And why I cooked my carrots in butter instead of boiling them and then adding the butter-sugar glaze...I have no idea. Sometimes I do weird things for no apparent reason. They look funny, but were delish!

I can only hope that tonight's cooking experiments are revived with this sweet concoction:

If all goes well, I'll share the recipe with you later. Stay tuned!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Home Again in Indiana

We're home! Our time in Minnesota was wonderful and relaxing. Now, its time to catch up on laundry and cleaning before heading back to work. I need to organize and edit my pictures from the trip (what I was able to take when my camera wasnt dead!), so I'll post those for you very soon. In the meantime, enjoy this snapshot of the view we had from my parents' campsight:

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Hop Skips

I just received a call from my sister-in-law up in Minnesota. Boy am I jealous! They’re on the big lake, aka Big Winnie, and had just stopped off for a shore lunch (literally pulling the boat to shore and having lunch). Thankfully, everyone arrived safely in MN, although my brother’s entourage blew a tire on the boat trailer and lost some bearings during the trip. 14 hours later, they arrived to camp and have been successfully pulling in fish. I told them to save some for us; we’ll be headed that way in less than 24 hours!

They’re going into town tomorrow to get more lemonade and vodka; apparently the Hop-Skips are flowing nicely! What are Hop-Skips you ask? Mmm, a delicious concoction traditionally named Hop Skip and Go Naked! Or, hop skip and fall on your face… Or, as our friend who had a few too many once called, Jump Kicks. We’re not sure where Jump Kicks came from but it’s my new favorite terminology. Hop Skips are great to serve at large social gatherings since they can be mixed in large portions, much like margaritas (my personal favorite). Here’s the recipe if you’d like to give them a try:

Hop Skip & Go Naked

1 bag ice
1 can limeade
1 can lemonade
2 liters Sprite® soda
1/2 gal vodka
1 case beer

Empty a bag of ice into a large cooler. Add the cans of limeade and lemonade, then the 2 liter bottle of sprite. Add 1/2 gallon of vodka and 20-24 cans of beer.

There are several renditions to this recipe so feel free to switch it up to suit your taste. More or less beer can be used (I say way less!) and I’ve seen some recipes that use whiskey and other devilish liquids. Remember to drink responsibly!

We're getting very excited about our trip to Lake Winnibigoshish and are scrambling to get things purchased, organized, and cooked before we leave tomorrow. We have lots of fun to squeeze into three days of fishing and boating, so much to do!

Monday, August 4, 2008

Tattered Rose

I have shared a couple of inspiration snippets with you over the past few weeks, and though I am not ready to reveal the completed project, I am going to share a small piece of what I have been working on.

I have had these pink silk roses for years. Literally, years. A Joann Fabrics was going out of business and I thought these roses were so lifelike (and cheap!!) that I had to grab 'em. I have used a few here and there but I still have a couple left.
Though they are nice in their current state, they were just too...perfect for what I'm needing. So, I grabbed my Distress Ink pad by Jim Holtz in the color tattered rose. Tattered rose, perfect! I was going for a shabby look so I inked up the rose petals as much as I could until I was satisfied with the look. I find myself distressing just about everything I create in one form or another. I either ink the edges or scuff them up with scissors...or both! I love the shabby look and think that distressing adds a nice softness with a worn in feel. Here's the finished tattered rose beside an original: The distressed look helps the rose to blend in better with the overall project scheme. At least I'm hoping that it will!