November 24, 2008

O' Fun For... saving dinner!

I have lost my mind.
The baby (also know as The Terrorist) is stealing my brain away to make its own. Or maybe it was aliens, I don't know.
The point is, my brain has stopped being a reliable resource. Tonight was a fabulous example of my ongoing brain-loss...

I remembered that I had bought some potatoes last week for baked potatoes. I remembered to start getting them ready early enough that they would be nice and baked by dinnertime. As I scrubbed them, I noticed how yam-shaped they were. Then, as I was gouging out the eyes (so violent sounding!) I made an important discovery.
These potatoes were orange.
The potatoes were the last thing I picked up when I went shopping last week. I let Toby help me pick them out. I felt grossly sick at the time. I could come up with plenty of other excuses, but really- it all comes down to this missing brain thing I've got goin' on.
A few spots looked white, not orange, so I stuck them in the oven anyway and hoped that I had picked up some festive new kind of russet potato. After a while, the smell was unmistakable. They were sweet potatoes. Blast!

I searched through a million sweet potato casserole and candied yam recipes on until I found this. Ahhhh! (That was the angel-miracle sound, by the way.) I had all the ingredients! (Well, garlic powder is close to a garlic clove, right?) I have been wanting to learn how to make gnocchi for a while now, so I decided this would be my dinnertime redemption! Hallelujah! Recipe-sharing websites be praised! (Uh-oh, starting to sound blasphemous. One day the lightning will get me.)

The recipe was easy enough, and once I realized why the water wasn't boiling (I may have...ahem..turned on the wrong burner or something...) the little orange gnocchies were cooked and ready for dinner. I was worried that this would turn out like the infamous spaetzla incident of '05 (lets just say there was sticky dough in every crevice of my kitchen with the exception of the pot of boiling water I wanted it to go into...), but no- these worked! They were fabulous! (If I do say so myself...) Even Toby ate his entire bowl of them. Yay! We ate them with store-bought alfredo-in-a-jar, and it was good, but next time I might try a less garlicky sauce, or just butter and parmesan maybe.

Here is my scary picture of the delicious gnocchi. They looked so nice against the blue glass pie pan, but my picture-taking skills are lacking a bit. I have yet to take a picture of food that looks appetizing. The pictures on probably do it justice.

This whole incident reminded me of my favorite Bob Ross quote, "We don't make mistakes, we just have 'happy accidents'. "
True, Bob. True.

This post is dedicated to Bob Ross:
artist, philosopher, squirrel-whisperer.

November 23, 2008

O' Fun newly ear-holed sister

My sister Chelsey turned 21 this week. We were going to go get drunk, but that fell through when we realized that we don't drink. Blast! Instead, I thought I'd do something equally wild, and make a pair of earrings for her newly-pierced ears. Oh yes. I just get crazy sometimes. Don't try to stop me.

I made two pairs of the same earrings since my sister-in-law Corin requested a pair to go with the necklace I made for her last birthday, and these happen to match. The two pairs turned out a little different from one another. One dangled down longer, since I seem to have issues making the same thing more than once. I'll give the danglier ones to Corin, since she is the more experienced earring-wearer. You never know who might lose an eye if you give an overly-dangly pair to a rookie. Safety first.

Since I started this blog with the hopes of contributing to the internet-craftiness-sources that taught me all I know, I have made yet another picture-heavy tutorial for you! I learned, though, why there weren't many wire-wrapping tutorials out there when I was trying to learn. See, you need two hands to do the wrapping, and that leaves very few good options for taking the pictures. I could...

A) Try to mess with the timer on the camera. Get lots of dark, blurry shots of my shoulder or the wall behind me.
B) Hold the camera between my jaw and shoulder like when you talk on the phone while both hands are occupied. This results in more of the timer problems, coupled with the camera falling down my shirt. Those pictures might not make it past some of your internet content filters...
C) Ask my husband to spend half an hour watching me make the earrings so I would have my own personal cameraman for the event. The children will inevitably follow him into the room, resulting in a broken camera and one or more wire-cutting injuries. I decided I'd rather have him put the Christmas lights up.

So.... I took pictures of what things looked like in-between steps, since it left me with a free hand. If you get confused, Google wire-wrapping until you find a handier tutorial by someone who can manage multi-tasking and may actually know what they are doing. Also, the super-macro setting I used to focus on the tiny wire made it look like I have horrible man-hands. I have very lovely man-hands in real life...

*Disclaimer: I don't know much about this whole jewelry making thing, so I use a lot of made up names for stuff and fudge my way through most of it. I thought a tutorial by a beginner would help give people who wanted to try it out some confidence. If I can do it, so can you. (That's why I cook. Yan can do it.)

Step one: gather your tools. There is sterling silver jewelry wire... uhhh... some gauge that makes it bendy, but not too bendy? I don't remember what gauge. Time to Google for more information. Maybe this is not the most informative tutorial I have ever made... Baby nail-clippers to cut the wire, two sterling silver fishhooks earrings, flat-nosed jewelry pliers, tiny rounded pointy pliers (I should learn what to call all this stuff) and your beads.

Cut a nice long-ish (12 inches or more?) piece of the wire, and pull it through your fingers a few times to straighten it out a bit. Pinch it about 1" from the end with the flat pliers, and bend the ends down to get the wire the right shape to work with the teardrop bead. You'll have to straighten it out while threading, but this makes it easier to work with once it is threaded, I think.

Once the bead is threaded, bend the ends up towards the point of the bead and twist a few times. (Just like a twisty-tie for your bread bag.) Snip the extra from the short end.

Now make a loop by clamping the wire with the pointy pliers and wrapping around one plier-point. (This is where Google can clear things up again...) Pinch the loop with the flat pliers, and use your other hand to wrap the wire around a million times, starting directly below the loop and working down over the point of the bead as far as you want. Now, there is probably some magical technique I haven't run across yet that tells you how to finish this off so your wire doesn't lose its shape and get all bunchy, but I haven't learned it. I clip the wire just after turning past the edge of the bead, then bend it back at the tip or up or wherever I need to until the wire stays put. Pretty sure that's not the right way, but that's what I do.

Now take the wire leftover from the teardrop part, and make a tiny loop with the pointy pliers at one end. This is to hold your bead on the wire. You can get all fancy and make a swirly or something instead if you are feeling daring that day.

Thread your smaller beads onto the wire. For this pair of earrings, I made the three smaller-bead-danglies in three sizes: long, medium, and short, to make it awesome. Yes. It was awesome indeed. This picture is of the long one. Decide how long you want the dangly to be, and use your pointy pliers to bend the wire at a 90 degree angle there, and then make your loop. Now, don't mess with your loop too much. It probably won't be a nice pretty circle without a lot of practice, but that doesn't really matter. If you mess with reshaping it too much, it becomes weak. Then right when you have finished your lovely project, you put the earring on and the wire snaps and it falls apart. (That may have happened to me a few times...) After you make your loop, grip it with the flat pliers and use your other hand to wrap the wire down from the loop to the bead, like before with the teardrop, but you stop when you reach the bead. Clip the end close to the wrapped part. Mine look best when I focus on wrapping back and forth instead of trying to make the wire go downwards. (What does she mean, you say? Well, I make sense in my head, if not here...) Repeat for the other two round-bead danglies

Use your flat pliers to bend the loop on your fishhook earring to the side so you can slip your dangly-bead loops onto it. Start with the shortest round bead dangly. To attach the teardrop, make a loop in the end of a wire. About 1" or less up, make another loop perpendicular to the first, then clip. (See picture)

Put the teardrop-dangly on one end of this new loopy-wire thing, and thread the other end onto the fishhook loop. Make sure the pretty side of your teardrop wire will show when the earrings are hanging. (Not the oddly-cut and bent end of your teardrop wrapping.) Then add the medium round-bead dangly, then the longest round-bead dangly. Use the pliers to close the fishhook loop, and Ta-Da!!! You now have some amazing, sparkly earrings.

You can change up this design by using different beads, making the dangly parts different lengths, making more or less danglies, etc. For these red and black earrings I followed what I had done to make these ones a few months ago and made a few small changes.

So happy birthday Chelsey! (And additional Happy Birthday, Corin!)

November 17, 2008

O' Fun For... complicated quilters

Last year I made my family quilts for Christmas. I used fabric from my Grama T's sewing room scraps. This year I decided it was about time to make one for myself. I scoured the internet to find the most complex, time-consuming quilt pattern out there. Not really. I wanted something that would look cool with bright colors on white, and the part of myself that hasn't learned to simplify found this pattern. This blog simplified the process compared to other instructions I found for cathedral window quilts, but it still has a ridiculous number of steps. Why can't I learn to enjoy nice, simple projects? What is this crazy part of me that thinks cutting, folding, ironing, pinning, cutting more, folding more, and then sewing is a better plan than cut, pin, sew?

For my quilt I used Grama T fabric for all but about 10 of the 500-ish bright squares, and bought a ton of white quilting fabric for the rest. I made my white squares 12" instead of 9" since my quilt has hopes of becoming queen-sized, so enlarging the pattern made it 3" easier. (What?) Hmmm... what other changes.... I don't pin the white fabric "frame" down, I just fold while it is under the sewing-machine foot then quickly lower the foot and sew, taking one side at a time. When you have a few blocks sewn together, you'll notice that there is a tiny hole at the point where the "window" tips meet up. I sew a few stitches back and forth across this, just because it makes me feel better inside. My sewing motto is "Sew the crap out of it." Then I don't worry that the things I make are going to fall apart. Somehow they still manage to, though...

Here is where I have pinned my "window" squares up so I can choose which ones to use as I sew. I have a post-it where I keep track of the number of each color I have left, so I can make sure I don't end up with a bunch of reds at the end or something not awesome like that.

I cut and fold the white squares about 6 at a time, since this is the most tedious part. Getting them nice and square with clean, pointy corners is a freaking pain. Besides the occasional swearing to myself over the folding part, I have really enjoyed making this quilt so far. (Probably because I'm only about 1/20 done with it...) I like the fact that once you are done, there is no batting or backing or binding to deal with.

While I quilt, I listen to audiobooks on my IPod. I recommend books or short stories by Alexander McCall Smith- especially the Number 1 Ladies Detective Agency series, and the Thursday Next series by Jasper Fforde. The first one of that series has a brief languagey moment- don't hold that against me! (she says, shaking her fist threateningly...)

Wow. I sound so grown up and dull, discussing quilting and recommending books. Poo. There, now I feel better and less grown-up.

Now I just need to load a new book on my IPod, and I can use all this feeling-gross pregnant time to get a bunch of this giant project done. I'll post a picture sometime in 2018 or so when I am finished.

November 14, 2008

O' Fun For... me. Thanks!

Families are full of traditions. Things passed down throughout the generations that become a part of who that family is. Some may pass down the china that their great-great-grandma brought across the plains in her covered wagon. Others may pass down a love of music or a talent for sports.

And then there's the Turners. Some of the most obvious traits and traditions from our family (the one I grew up in) include an acute sense of sarcasm, a pressing need to publicly embarrass those we love, and perhaps most unavoidably, a shocking lack of essential brain-chemicals. Seretonin, endorphins, whatever. You name it, we probably don't have it. That makes for all kinds of fun times. Between the five of us Turners, we have various levels of depression, anxiety, ADD, ADHD, and Tourettes (the twitchy kind, not the sweary kind. usually.) to name a few.

You are probably thinking "My, this is certainly fascinating. However, I fail to see the connection to making things, which is what I thought this blog was about." Well, this has all been a lovely lead-in to the latest adventures in baby-making (the baby-growing part, not the explicit part.) See, I have the Turner Family depression fun, as well as a sprinkling of anxiety. Over the last 12 years or so I have learned that keeping certain things as an important part of my life help keep my chemical issues in check as best as they can be. Things like running for ridiculous distances (or biking or swimming if I need a substitute activity), taking plenty of happy-pills, staying involved in regularly-scheduled activities outside my house (like volleyball teams or classes of some kind), sunshine, doing spiritual-y things like going to church or getting involved in service projects, and staying healthy all help. If those still don't do the trick, it's nothing a trip to the shrink can't fix.

Enter Terrorist. Now, it's not The Terrorist's fault that it makes my happy-upkeep difficult. I knew that going into this. That is one of the reasons I am not a huge fan of pregnancy. Over the last few months almost everything on my upkeep list has been crossed off. No running, biking, swimming, volleyball, feeling healthy, leaving my house, or going to church and church activities regularly. The sun tends to vanish this time of year in Utah. And above all- I chose to go off my pills o' happy for the first trimester. They say they are safe for use in pregnancy, but this isn't Tylenol that has been around for long enough to test for years and years. Sure my baby may not be born with two heads or anything, but there is no research to say he or she won't sprout another head in, say, 20 years or so. That could get awkward. So, I stay off the drugs o' fun for the first trimester.

All this finally started to overwhelm me lately. By Wednesday, I could feel that familiar "losing it" tremor, and knew the crazies were-a comin'. After a day full of crying and hiding in my room, I found that night that I was bleeding a little. Not emergency-room bleeding, but enough to tip my fragile scales right over the edge. Psch! Stupid scales. After a blessing from James, I crawled into bed to eat things covered in lots of peanut-butter and watch Star-Trek episodes on his laptop. (Blast!.. I mean.. uh.. Friends episodes...) I was still feeling freaked-out, but almost immediately the awesomeness started up. I had friends call or stop by to check on me and offer support and prayers and dinner. The person over me in my church assignment called me to make sure I wasn't getting overwhelmed or overloaded. James called work to tell them he would be staying home the next day. Verna said she was going to call the temple to put my name on the prayer roll. (I told her maybe not. I mean her temple is San Diego, and once those protesters break in and find my name written somewhere it's all over... )

Thursday I was still hiding out in my room with the peanut-butter and Star-Trek, but being taken care of. One friend brought over dinner and another brought over some frozen-Indian-food goodness (mmmmmm) so I had another meal taken care of. By Thursday night I was feeling amazingly better. I knew I still needed to get back on my lovely pills o' happy and get out of my house more and whatnot, and the panic-tremors were still threatening to take over, but I felt okay about it all. By this morning, the sun was making a rare appearance and I had just enough energy and motivation to clean up a little, refill my drugs, and get dressed and ready for the day.

I think it is awesome when things like this happen. Not the freaking out, the rest. God knows what's going on. He knows who has some time or energy or concern they can use to help you out, and lets them know when it would be useful to share those things. Thanks, everyone! It really meant a lot.

This is definitely the last time I use my creative urges to make a child, though. I'll stick to making quilts or purses or things like that in the future.

November 11, 2008

O' Fun For... people who enjoy huffing paint

I BLOGGED! See? Right here below, there is a PICTURE-HEAVY TUTORIAL on how to do freezer-paper stencils! The Terrorist has slightly relented, allowing me to finally blog for you all! (All 3 of you. You know who you are...) Verna is visiting, and she helped me with this handy tutorial extravaganza. Thanks, Verna! Everyone needs their own Verna.

On to the tutorial-

We will begin with my trip to Wal-Mart to replenish my stencil-spray paint stash. This is what to look for on the shelves in the craft section. They sell them in multi-packs of colors. Having tried a few, here's what I can tell you about them- Black works the best. It is nice and even and does not bleed. Red and Copper are thick, but work fine if you shake them enough. Orange is thick and spattery, but that can be fun. Silver bleeds like crazy, so take care not to use too much detail or lay it on thick.

Materials needed:
*Fabric paint (spray works best)
*Freezer paper
*Shirts or whatnot to spray onto
*paper to draw or print design onto
*Marker to draw design with
*exacto knife (I wish I had one...) box cutter, or scissors
*tape and scrap paper to protect shirt and work surface from over-spray
*self-healing mat or cardboard or something to put under the image while you cut it with the blade
*iron and ironing board
*awesomeness of some kind

I let Toby draw his own design and then outlined it in marker. (Well, I eliminated some of the detail. You try cutting all that detail with a box-cutter!) Brady requested Lightning McQueen.

Cut a piece of freezer paper big enough to cover the image and put it shiny-side down on top of your design. Put these both on top of the self-healing mat or cardboard if you are cutting with a knife or blade instead of scissors. Scissors don't work very well for most detailed designs. Cut your design out of freezer paper by tracing over your marker-lines with the blade.

Good luck keeping your kids' fingers out of the way while you are working. Maybe now is a good time for a Sponge-Bob break...

When you are done, the freezer paper should remain wherever you want the shirt color to show through, and you should have cut out areas where you want the paint to cover. Sometimes you will have little, unconnected pieces to put back in place when you lay the stencil on the shirt. Put the stencil shiny-side down on the shirt, then iron into place. My iron was set to high heat with no steam. In these examples, McQueen will stay shirt-colored and be outlined with paint color. The shark will be filled in with the paint color.

Once the stencil is ironed on to the paper, lay it out where you want to paint it. Cover areas of the shirt that you don't want painted with newspaper or scrap paper and tape it down so the over-spray doesn't creep on in. I like to cut corners, so I just folded the parts of the shirt not covered in freezer paper underneath. This makes the shirt all bumpy and not level, though, and if the paint is runny it will pool and bleed. (That's what I found out after using this slacker shortcut...) Shake the crap out of the can, point, and spray. Look, even Brady can do it!

I made a star shirt, and Verna made a flower shirt:

This is the point when you should take some Excedrin. The fumes will get you! I usually like to do the painting outside, but it was cold and wet today. After the paint is mostly dry, you can peel the freezer paper away and... TA-DA! Amazing! Here are today's finished products:

Thanks to the runny silver paint and the 3-year old "helper", this one bled a bit. Okay, a lot...

Toby's shark worked well:

My stars bled a ton, too. I laid the paint on way too heavy.

Verna got the hang of the silver. Super groovy, Verna!

Here is a dragon shirt we made for Toby when he started school. The image wraps around the entire shirt. To paint it I ironed the stencil on the front and back and then held it from a hanger outside while I sprayed the paint.

This is an example of what can happen when I don't force myself to simplify. Here's to you, James Taylor:

Phew! Well, I think that may have made up for 5 weeks of no posts. Don't expect another one that long for a while, but I will try to keep up with my blog!