Monday, April 25, 2011

Recipe: Smokey Turkey Shepherd's Pie

I've actually made this recipe quite a few times now, but just keep on forgetting to blog about it.  Rachel Ray's Smokey Turkey Shepherd's Pie is a great recipe that I definitely want to share with you.  There is quite a lot of prep needed for the recipe, since there are so many veggies you have to chop up into small similarly sized pieces.  I look at it as a good way to practice my knife skills.  I would say this recipe takes about an hour and 15 minutes once you've done it a few times and don't need to stop and stare at the directions every 5 seconds to keep cooking.  

I usually start the potatoes first since they take the longest. You can three large potatoes, but lately I've been getting a small container of baby Yukon golds and boiling them up.  It makes for less chopping since the little ones don't really need cutting up to cook fast.  

Another substitution I make is the meat.  I started using ground turkey, but since have prepared this with meatloaf mix and ground beef.  All three work great and are very yummy.  

After I get all the meat and veggies cooking in the pan and get the sauce going at a good simmer, the potatoes are usually fork tender.  I let the meat and veggies cook down in the sauce while I mash up the little potatoes with the butter, sour cream and egg.  Then they are all ready to go when I want to put everything in the casserole dish.  

I do find that I really need to season the meat, veggies and potatoes quite aggressively.  For some reason these ingredients seem to be flavor black holes, devouring anything I throw at them.  So, in the interest of keeping your family happy, I highly recommend that you season as you go so you get things just right.  I add salt and pepper each time you add more ingredients and then taste things to make sure they are to your liking.  I for one add at least double if not triple the amount of cumin/paprika, but I know that my husband and I really like highly seasoned foods, so it makes sense. 

Finally everything goes into the broiler to get the potatoes all nice and crispy.  I usually put this in for 15 to 20 minutes and quite a distance from the heating coils on the oven.   You can always put it in for longer, but it's kind of hard to de-char your casserole :-) 

I like having my shepherd's pie with salad and maybe another veggie on the side.  Seeing as hubbie isn't a bog fan of corn and I absolutely adore it, I just snuck some in on the side for myself the last time. 

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Card Class with Basic Grey and Hero Arts

Last night I took a card making class with Jenn Shurkus, the creative chick, and this time she had us create six wicked cute cards using papers from Basic Grey and stamps from Hero Arts.  The papers we used are from Basic Grey's 6x6 Life of the Party Collection.  We only used a little bit of the paper in the pack, so I still have a ton of different papers left over that I can play with, which is definately a huge bonus!  

Image courtesy of Basic Grey

The stamps we used are from the Hero Arts Spring 2011 collection.  You can view that collection by looking through their online catalogue.  The stamps we used featured cupcakes, cotton candy and ice cream just to name a few.  We also made use of Copic Markers, flock, stickles and lots of glitter (which I think I still might have on my face, lol) to make the cards eye catching.  Well, I think I've managed to talk about the cards enough, how about I actually show them to you?

Hmmm, didn't realize I made that sentiment so crooked... oh well!

I miss you cupcake!

With this card, Jenn  taught us how to use extra layers of foam tape to really give our cards depth.

This is what happens when you are stingy (or lazy) with your glue pen when you are using flock.  My bad!  It still looks cute though :-)

Must get a craft stapler!!! Because big staples don't look right...

More CUPCAKES!  And my favorite card of the much.  So simple, yet so striking.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

A Work In Progress Wednesday Without a WIP

So, I've been kind of working single mindedly on just one project lately.  It is almost done, but I don't really want to talk much about it until it is actually completed.  While I have worked on my Simple Beginners Toe Up Socks, I haven't really done anything worth reporting.  Since I have no wood wip's to show you I'm instead going to show you everything that is languishing in my pile of hibernating projects.  After I finish my main project, I am hoping to get back to these sadly neglected ones that are calling out t in an effort to guilt myself into working on them.  Currently they are softly calling to me like the tell tale heart under the floorboards.... 

These projects are the most egregiously neglected:

Teal Forest Scarf
- started 8/27/2009 -

My first try at lace knitting.  It was hard, I got bored, or preoccupied... or something.  I put this down ages ago and since have done lots of lace and am fairly comfortable with the techniques involved.  I bet I could whip this out in notime!

Medieval Hooded Scarf
- started 9/11/2009, frogged 11/8/2009, made corrections to pattern 8/11/2010 -

This was my second attempt at lace and first encounter with a badly written pattern without any errata available to help me.  I tried making this several times, ripped it out each time and then put it down for almost a year.  At that point a knitsib mentioned that I should chart out the pattern to figure out what was wrong.  I did and have managed only this swatch of the pattern.  Some day I have to declare my victory over the pattern and actually make the darned thing!  Maybe I'll even get to finally wear it to King Richard's Faire like I originally planned.  It's pretty chilly when I go there, so the hooded scarf would have been a good costume element to have.

Medieval Pouch
- started 8/31/2010 -

This is yet another King Richard's Faire projects.  I started it for last year and then quickly realized I wasn't going to be able to go due to having all my weekends booked :-(  So, that's why I stopped mid project.  I had no more motivation. I actually think I need to rip back a few rews just to make the griffins not pucker so much.  It's tough when you are carrying yarn behind 16 or so stitches... no matter what there seems to never be enough slack. 

Autumn Round Ripple Afghan
- started 11/14/2010 -

Ok, so this one isn't so bad.... I powered through this afghan back in November but quickly ran out of yarn and had to stop.  Please note that I cannot proceed without more of said yarn.  You think that might enter my head and oh say, motivate me to purchase more.... nah!  Anyway, I love this project and it will be going on the back of my couch once finished.  It has no deadline, hence it's half finished existance.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Ten on Tuesday: Ten Things I Love About My Family

The Molliwog
I know this is about family, but I do have some very close friends (and animals) who I consider to be family in addition to those both biologically related or via marriage. You know who you are :-)

1) They are always there for me... whether I'm happy, sad, or indifferent. 

2) They love unconditionally despite my (many) shortcomings.

3) They put up with me constantly talking about whatever knitting, crocheting, stamping or other random project I'm working on.

4) They are extremely generous with their time.

5) They are willing to tell me things I don't want to hear, but need to hear anyway.

6) They are ready to give me an opinion and advice whenever I ask for it, or they think I need it.

7) They are excellent at encouragement and suppport me in whatever new thing I want to try.

8) They make me stop and think, not just go through my life in my own bubble, focused on my own issues and wants.

9) They hold me accountable for my actions.

10) And last but not least... they are all wonderful, hilarious, loving people and I am very blessed to have them in my life!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

A Very Happy Birthday Card for Mr. Harley Kitten Shurkus

In honor of her very cute kitty's 3rd birthday, my favorite crafting instructor, Jenn Shurkus, is hosting a raffle on her blog.  In order to enter we needed to make a birthday card just for Mr. Harley and send it to her.  I'm coming in just under the wire and submitting it just after midnight on April 13th rather than on Mr. Harley's birthday, but I think he'll forgive me.  I had a pretty long day and he is a very sweet guy.  

Materials I used to make this card:
  • Stampendous - Kitty Silhouettes clear stamp set
  • a muse - Happy Everything clear stamp set
  • Ichiyo- Cat with long tail stamp (not the real name, couldn't find it online)
  • a muse square note cards (unavailable)
  • Shake it Up - mini mat stack papers
  • Memento Ink - Tuxedo Black
  • Dew Drop Versamagic Ink - Pretty Petunia
  • Spica Glitter Pen in Olive
  • a muse olive ribbon
  • foam tape
  • mono adhesive
  • patience of a saint

So, while this wasn't what I had planned to do originally, it came out nice and I am happy.  I need to exercise my paper crafting and stamping juices more often... this card took me way to long to finally figure out.  Oh well, hopefully more stampy goodness to come in the future!

 I hope you had a wonderful birthday Harley!!

Edited for spelling and grammar issues.  Apparently, one shouldn't blog tired ;-)

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Ten on Tuesday: 10 Favorite Snacks

1) Nature Valley Nut Clusters - Just found these when I was picking up as stack at a gas station a few weeks ago.  I was shocked to find such a healthy option.

2) Sensible Portions Veggie Chips and Straws - Another gas station find.  Perhaps HESS should be the place I start looking when I crave new and different snack foods... two out of ten favorites isn't bad. 

3) Stop & Shop Bruscetta Salad on french bread - Had my frst taste of this snack in a long time this weekend.  I totally forgot how yummy it is.  Too bad it seems like a seasonal item at my store.

4) Hood Cottage Cheese with Pineapple - A great sweet and creamy treat.  Almost feels like I'm eating dessert... almost.

5) Quaker Chewie Snack Bars - Good to throw in your pocket when you are running around and very busy.  I really like the chocolate chip ones.

6) Granny Smith Apples and Peanut Butter - Just the right amount of tart, sweet and salty!

7) Blue Diamond Bold Flavors Almonds - My favorites are Wasabi & Soy and Smokehouse.  Very filling and good for you if ou can stick to the serving size.

8) Celery Sticks and Blue Cheese Dressing - A nod to Rick on the Knit Wits Podcast... I must admit this snack is fantastic so long as you aren't trying to record a podcast while you're eating.  Best podcasting bit ever!  Sir, your snark is epic!

9) Bagel, Pepperoni and Blue Cheese Dressing - Might as well continue with the blue cheese theme!  This snack goes back to when I used to do live action role play (LARPing) with some of my friends back in college.  We'd pack up and head down to CT for a weekend and live off of a cooler until Sunday night when we would leave and go out for dinner.  This bagel sandwich was great because you only needed to refridgerate it after the packages were opened and most of the time there wasn't any leftovers to worry about in the first place. 

10) Curry English Muffins - My mom used to make these for us on Christmas eve and they are fantastic!  They are a mixture of olives, curry and cheese served on top of an english muffic and toasted.  So very yummy and a Loranz Family Tradition.

A Walk on the Beach

This past weekend, hubbie and I were able to get away for the first time since Christmas.  While we didn't have a particularly busy weekend planned, we did get to spend some quality time together and relax.  We started off  with a nice walk on the beach.  While it was still a bit chilly and windy, it was a nice walk and I was able to finally take some pictures of something that wasn't snow or full of the blandness of color that winter provides.  

Self portraiture at it's finest... in high winds, lol.

No problem!  Too damn cold to swim anyway :)

A tiny jetty in the middle of the beach.  Perfect for perching AND taking project photos!

I finally was able to get a nice picture of my finished Checkers Scarf crocheted in Cherry Tree Hill in the limited edition colorway Afflication Anyone?

After our little beach excusrion we went home and worked on our craft of choice.  Brian worked on his Warhammer 40K minis.  This is his form or relaxation, whereas I spent my time crocheting and reading.  Then we went out to dinner at one of our favorite restaurants.  It was a wonderful day and I can't wait until we can do something like this again!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Enough Love to Go Around Afghan Block

After about a week of this block absolutely kicking my butt... I got some much needed help from a fellow crocheter at the FiberKnots weekly meetup last night.    Ok, so me having problems with this block shouldn't exactly be surprising.  The description for the month's block did say that this block is not for beginners.... meh...  I like a good challenge!  While making this block didn't so smoothly, it didn't take all that long either.  From getting stuck on the beginning of row 2 last week to finishing everything up tonight, I'd say this block took me about 4-5 hours to complete, which I don't think is too shabby.

The pattern I used was the 2011 Crochet Block a Month filler square for January which was Enough Love to Go Around by Penny Davidson.  While I started with her directions, I have to say that I didn't follow her pattern for long.  Unfortunately I found her directions extremely hard to understand, which could be due to my inexperience, so instead I followed a rewrite of the pattern by BlameCrayons which you can find on her blog here.  I thought her directions were quite clear and relatively easy to follow even for me. 

Now that I have three 12" blocks done, I'm really starting to understand just how big an afghan made of 24 12" inch blocks and 12 6" blocks will be.  Actually, I think I need to do some math to figure out how things will go together... or if I have the correct number of square to make things work for that matter.  Well, it's too late now.  My brain went into sleep mode so figuring out a diagram for the afghan would be nothing but an exercise in futility.  Night all!

Work In Progress Wednesday: The 6 month old Beginner's Toe Up Socks

So... I kinda started these socks back in September of 2010 as part of a knit along.  Then, well... real life hit and I kind of lost track of the whole "knitting along" concept.  Oh well!  Honestly I'm really not a sock knitter to begin with.  Of the two pairs of socks I have attempted to make in 3 years, I've only completed one sock!  It was knit from the top down and I made the cost on edge way too tight, so I can't even pull the darn thing all the way up my leg >:-(  It bums me out so much that I don't want to even attempt it's match.  I think that original sock might just get used as decoration somewhere rather than fulfill it's purpose as a foot covering. 

Now, the sadly neglected knit along socks are going to be another story.  I am determined to finish them.  I even have both of them started!  Also, they are knit from the toe up, so there won't be that nasty too tight to fit over my calf problem. Back when the knit along started I was smart and cast on and finished the toe on both socks so I wouldn't get second sock syndrome and have yet another lonely foot covering.  So, as of right now I have the right sock completed up to where I will start the gusset increases so it fits over the arch of my foot. As for the left sock, I still have a few good inches before I get to that point.  I'm trying to work on the both in stages so they both get something finished before I start the next section.   So, hopefully in between all my crochet projects I'll be able to get these done in some semblance of a reasonable amount of time.  Only time will tell however.  Oh, in case you are curious, I am making them out of Plymouth Yarn's Happy Feet sock yarn in a variagated turquoise.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Ten on Tuesday: 10 Favorite One Hit Wonders

Apparently there were quite a few one hit wonders in the 90's!  All of my favorites are from then, which I guess makes sense as that when I was in middle and high school, my musical formulative years so to speak.  And just so you know, I still adore all of these songs.... no matter how bad they might sound.  All the links go directly to a video of the song on YouTube, so feel free to listen to each.

1) Walking in Memphis - Mark Cohn

2) Life is a Highway - Tom Cochrane

3) Stay - Shakespeare's Sister

4) I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles) - The Proclaimers

5) Breakfast at Tiffany's - Deep Blue Something

6) The Freshman - The Verve Pipe

7) Bittersweet Symphony -The Verve

8) Closing Time - Semisonic

9) Mambo No. 5 - Lou Bega

10) Three Little Pigs - Green Jelly

Well, that was a fun jaunt down memory lane.  I think I might have to make a new playlist in iTunes now!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Painting with Bleach and Luminarte Twinkling H2O's

A couple weeks ago I took a class with Jenn Shurkus, the creative chick, on painting with bleach on black card stock and then painting over the bleached areas with Luminarte's Twinkling H2O's to create a beautiful mottled stain glass effect.  You can see the cards I made during that class at the bottom of the post. I have been itching to play with all my lovely H2O's for quite some time now.  They have been reformulated, come in bigger containers and I have a whole mess of them that have been calling to me to start playing.  So, today I decided it was time to get my craft on and try this technique out at home.  

When I was looking around for some good candidates to stamp with and I found this gorgeous poinsettia stamp by Magenta I got last Christmas.  I ended up embossing it with a Versamark pad and some fine detail gold embossing powder since the leaves and petals were so intricate and fine.  Then I painted the whole thing with my standard issue grocery store bleach and sat down to wait.   

Now, the thing that's so hard about painting with bleach is that you don't exactly know how things are going to come out all the time.  your results can vary greatly depending on the bleach and card stock you are using.  I got pretty lucky with the card stock I bought today.  The bleach did work on it, but I wasn't totally happy with the amount of bleaching that occurred.  Compared to the painting I did in class with Jenn, the results today were much more subtle, which in turn made the final product look less like stained glass than I had hoped.  That's ok though, I'll just have to try out some different types of black card stock to see how they work.  I only had one option for paper today and considering, I'm reasonably happy with the results. 

Since the paper didn't lighten as much as I hoped, I ended up really layering on the H2O colors and trying to shade with them using some of the techniques I would normally use when working with copic markers such as shading by repeatedly going over one section after letting it dry.  I also was having a bit of a problem with my heat tool, which I use to emboss and dry the H2O's between coats.  It was the first time I had used it since I got it and it started smelling funny.  I looked carefully and the metal tip where the heat comes out was touching the protective covering around it rather than free floating.  I guess I'm going to have to invest in another heat tool soon... sadness.   

Anyway, if you want to learn more about Luminarte's Twinkling H2O's or their other products, you can check out the Luminarte Blog.  When I get better paper, I'll make sure to try this technique out again and share the results with you. 

Friday, April 1, 2011

Work in Progress Wednesday (just a bit late): Checkers Scarf

Since I've had so much going in lately, I decided to start a very simple crochet project that I could easily throw in my purse and have with me at all times. On Monday I started working on the Checkers Scarf by Sally Beaty in a special colorway of Cherry Tree Hill worsted weight superwash merino called Affliction Anyone?  This yarn is one of four different colored skeins I bought online from a hand dyer that based her colorways on MMORPG, The World of Warcraft.  This one is supposed to remind you of the colors of the warlock class and since most of you probably haven't played the game, I'll just tell you that the colors are spot on.  

I have been holding onto these four skeins of yarn for quite some time now because I wanted to use for a really good project because I literally can't get any more of the yarn.  The person who dyed it is no longer in business :(  Unfortunately, I only found out about her lovely yarn very close to when she stopped producing.  Oh well, you win some you lose some.  

I really like the pattern because a) it is really easy and therefore memorize-able and b) it's a basic granny square type look, but the way you turn each row makes the double crochets lean and look really interesting.  I should be able to finish this up this weekend since it really is so easy to work on.  This past week has just been so busy that I really haven't had any time tow work on it at all.  So, I'm just happy that I have as much done as I do.  It's also really nice to not have a deadline for something, seems like life has been filled by those lately.  Anyway, until we chat again... happy crafting!