January 26, 2009

O' Fun For... tree huggers and preschoolers

...and anyone else so inclined to enjoy some granola goodness. But not you, Duke, so you can stop with the pathetic puppy face.

This last year or so I have been building my kitchen braveness. I have discovered that there really are a bunch of easy things to make that require pretty minimal time and effort. I know, who knew? Bread (thank you oh mighty KitchenAid), croutons, soup, pasta, and now... granola bars. It was quite a shock to learn that these things don't grow straight into their packaging on a special Wal-Mart farm somewhere.

I had tried granola bars before, but the recipe was a bit involved for me and didn't turn out like I wanted. I decided to try again (mainly as a way to distract the kids from destroying one another on this endless snow-bound day). I found what is perhaps the easiest recipe in the world on allrecipes.com, and before I knew it we were basking in oaty goodness.

**The link is having issues, so here is the recipe in a nutshell, or go to "easy granola bars: at allrecipes.com :

3 c. quick cook oats
1 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
2 T. melted butter
4 c. mix ins o' some kind

Mix it all up, press into cookie sheet or 9 x 13 pan, bake 20-25 min, depending on how crunchy you want them, at 350. Cut a few min. after it comes out of the oven- before it cools.

Here are my sidenotes to the recipe:

*I have no idea if my oats were quick or regular, as they are in a huge #10 can marked "oats" and that's all. I think they were regular? Whichever kind was on a huge sale about 3 years ago at Albertsons. That cleared things up, huh.

*After the oats, sw. cond. milk and butter were mixed I put half into another bowl so we could get two different kinds of mix-ins. Half was butterscotch chips/dark chocolate chips, and the other half was golden raisins, tiny chopped pecans, and a little bit more oats.

*Just go ahead and figure the amount of oats, cond. milk, and butter called for plus 4 c. of mix-ins.

*I used a cookie sheet lined with parchment, and then sprayed that with Pam just for the heck of it. After they came out I cut them with a pizza cutter (again sprayed with Pam, because needless grease is just fun) and then lifted the whole parchment sheet onto the counter to finish cooling.

*Once cooled I wrapped them individually in plastic wrap and then put them all in a big ziploc. I got 20 from my batch, but I cut them pretty huge and will cut them smaller next time to make 30. You can make a ton and freeze a bunch if you are feeling ambitious.

And that's it! Not too tricky! Now go on and make some granola bars. Go on now, you know you want to.

January 23, 2009

O' Fun For... keeping up my BS skills

...and by that I mean bologna sandwich skills. You have to break those skills out in college art classes often as the professors want you to explain the meaning behind your paintings, and there isn't usually much to explain. See, a rookie might say, "uhhh, you told us all to paint that bowl of fruit... so I guess.. it's a bowl of fruit." A seasoned BSer would respond, "Well... (tilt head and look introspective) I guess I was trying to represent the fruit as the different personalities we all possess. I tried to capture the vulnerability of the peach through use of soft brushstrokes and flesh-toned hues, the obvious superiority complex of the pears by outlining them in black, and the inaccessibility of the pomegranate by keeping it unfinished."

You see the skills you learn? Invaluable.

So, here's what the heck that has to do with today's post. My awesome Mac died, I got a new computer, and I don't yet have Photoshop on it. I took pictures of recent projects, but need to crop them and such before I post them, so until then, please enjoy this exercise in the fine art of BS:

Here is a painting I have been working on. I haven't picked up my oil paints in years, but I think it all came back pretty quickly. Just like riding a bike.

The gesso I used must have been old- the paint is cracking pretty badly. The woman in the picture wasn't so much posing for me as being a crazy window-peeping stalker-type, but I thought I'd make lemonade out of that situation by using the time she spent staring eerily though my craft room window to get some painting done. Besides hollering "Cats! They're everywhere!" or random bouts of eye twitching, she held still for hours. Although, before I could get her eyebrows done, she heard sirens a few blocks away and took off running. Oh-well. I should really call the cops and report her tomorrow, since I suppose the whole situation was really pretty creepy. Hey, and I have a pretty good picture to identify her by now, don't I?!

I don't know where the insanity which fuels my thinking process flows from, but there seems to be an endless supply. Fun times.

January 15, 2009

O' Fun For... spending more money than I really have

Hello all. My computer has died for now, so I had to figure out how to do all the picture-importing-ness on James' for the time being. I hope the more I use his computer the more he will want to fix mine. After coming home last night to find cheesy Pringles on his keyboard and mouse pad, he explained to me how a person's computer is like their underwear- no one else should use it but the owner. I then told him not to leave his underwear (computer) in the living room if it was off limits...

Back to the topic- I thought I would blog a bit about the happiest place on earth. No, not Disneyland. (How many people actually think that, anyway?) It's...

Gracie Lou's Quilt Shop in Salem!

Yes, it just might be the happiest place on earth. Twenty bonus awesome points each to Lauralee and Shauni for introducing me to it. Here are a few resons why...

It is bursting with so many cute things that your wallet won't know what hit it... and you won't even care. Here are a few of the fabrics:

Those are a small few of the cute fabrics they have. They also have flannel fabric in similar cuteness, ric-rac the likes of which you have never seen before, fringy pom poms, buttons of all shapes and colors, ribbons, patterns, etc.

Also, they have on display throughout the store quilts, aprons, skirts, purses, etc. that make you realize you need to start a few new projects. Then they offer free classes on how to make these. (You pay a $20 deposit to sign up, which is returned as in-store credit to get the fabric for your project.) They have a million of these classes every month. See these cute aprons? Don't you suddenly feel the urgent need to make them?

And if all the cuteness isn't enough, there's the shop dog to distract your kids from wanting to grab everything they see:

They also have a shop Grama who plays with the kids and gives them candy while the moms shop. She wasn't there this time, so I didn't get a picture.

And when you leave, they give you cookies. See there on the counter? Yes. Cookies.

Also, I am not sure if this perk comes along with spending a certain amount, but last time they popped a dinner-menu notepad into my bag with the fabric I bought. I checked on this to make sure I wasn't accidentally shoplifting stuff, but no- it was supposed to be there. Awesome.

I was drooling over the flannel selections today and trying to think of ways to justify the ten to twenty receiving blankets my baby suddenly seems to need...

Here's the address & phone number so you can go visit the happiest place on earth for yourself:

416 North State Road, Salem UT, 84653
(801) 423-1339

After you go, call me and we'll sign up for a few classes together.

January 7, 2009

O' Fun For... uncooked batter eaters

The intense food cravings are back, and with it all the baking and cooking. Today I made ribs for dinner, complete with my own bbq sauce, an apple pie, and at about 10:00 tonight I decided I needed warm fudgy brownies right away or I might lose it. I am not usually this handy in the kitchen, but the intense food cravings lead me to the kitchen more often than I am used to. I hope my family makes the most of it before the baby comes and we eat off the Wendy's 99 cent menu for a few months...

Here is the recipe I used, minus walnuts. My regular pans seem to have all disappeared, so I used a 9" cake pan. This lead to a bunch of 5 minute checks to see if the brownies were done. You can only do so many of those before you decide the uncooked batter in the middle can be kind of like a sauce, so that makes it okay to take them out right away. I dug right in and dished up a gooey heap, and am burning my tongue on chocolatey, battery goodness at this very moment.

Here is a picture of my fix:

Ahhh. It's all better now. Or it will be after I get a glass of milk, and a few more plates of brownie goo.

*Five awesome points to the first one to name what show the blog title came from and who said it to who. Or whom? I don't know.

January 4, 2009

O' Fun For... people who like chess and their families

I realized I have never revealed the super-secret present I made for James' Christmas present. Well, the wait is over. Here is a picture of the super-secret present:

Still confused about just what is is? Well, I have a tradition of giving James a chess set each year for Christmas. This year I forgot to get one until after I had spent all the money I had budgeted on his other presents. So, I made a set of chess pieces from our family. I admit, it looked a lot cooler in my head, but there it is. James is the king, I am the queen, Toby is the Bishop, Brady the Knight, Ellie will be the rook just as soon as we get an actual picture of her, and Duke is all of the pawns. It worked well that we had the pictures of us in the Vanguard-themed party hats from James' birthday. I should learn to take more pictures as I make things so I can have better tutorials, but I guess a step-by-step will do for anyone who actually feels the need to have one of these super-cool chess sets of their very own.

1. Find pictures of all the people/animals that will be used. You need to see their whole face. Crop them in photoshop so you have just the faces, each about 1-1.5" wide.

2. Still in photoshop, cut and paste each face onto a letter-paper-sized blank background. If you are having trouble getting the images to stay the right size after pasting, make sure the resolution is the same for both the original image and the background you are pasting onto. You will need to paste the faces multiple times so you get the right amount of images for all the pieces. Make: 2 of the king's face, 2 of the queen's face, 4 of the bishop's face, 4 of the knight's face, 4 of the rook's face, and 16 of the pawn's face.

3. Copy each sheet of faces you made, and then flip the images horizontally, so you have the mirror-images of each sheet. This will give you a front and a back for each piece.

4. Print the sheets of faces you made, and cut them out.

5. Using fimo (polymer) clay, shape the bases for the pieces. I rolled the clay into balls about 3/4-1" wide, and then smooshed down from the top all around so they had flat bottoms. If you want marbley pieces, fold two colors together before you roll it into a ball. Use whatever colors and designs you want to designate which piece is which. (crowns, horseshoes, castle towers, etc.) Make a hole in the top-center of each piece with the wire you plan on using to hold the heads on. Bake the clay according to package directions.

6. Use wire-cutters to cut pieces of thick, sturdy wire for the posts of your pieces. Mine were about 2.5-3" long. You can make them taller or shorter for different pieces.

7. Cut a piece of packing tape or clear contact paper the size of your head-pieces. Lay one cut-out head face down onto the sticky side.

8. Put a thin row on hot glue onto the top of one of your wire posts. Lay it onto the back of the head piece you have taped. Use the mirror-image cutout of the same head to sandwich the gluey-wire. cover with another pice of tape. Now you have a sandwich- tape, head, wire, head, tape.

9. Cut away the excess tape- now it should just cover the head-piece with a bit extra around it.

10. Put a tiny bit of glue onto the end of the wire with no head. Shove it into the hole on the fimo-clay base.

TA-DA!! See? No? Well, I'm sorry, but that's the best I can do without pictures.

Next time I'll take pictures so you have some idea of what the heck I am talking about. Tutorials work better with images.