Friday, March 28, 2014

Fast & Easy: Perfect Cornbread

 I love recipes where you are done with the active part before your oven even heats up. And, as my husband says, the answer to "Would you like some cornbread?" is always "Yes!" So, here's my favorite cornbread recipe that always turns out perfectly moist on the inside and nice and crisp on the outside. And it has a great corn-y taste! Here I make muffins but I also love this as a cake (made in a skillet or in a normal cake pan) and as pancakes (though I would add a bit more milk to the batter for pancakes).

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Forgiving DIY: Gifts for Geeks

My father is, without a doubt, a computer geek. So, for his birthday this year I made him some prints of technical diagrams from important patents from computer history -- namely the vacuum tube, the transistor, and the integrated circuit. Happily, these documents are in the public domain if the patent is expired (that's the whole point of public disclosure), and the diagrams are pretty easy to find. You could do this for any of your giftee's interests related to inventions (automobiles, motorcycles, tools, cameras, food packaging, watches, airplanes, music equipment, firearms... you could go on and on!).  I aged the paper so this would also be really attractive with botanical prints, architecture, or bugs... I am really into bugs lately.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Forgiving DIY Projects: Gumball Machine Terrarium

It's been a long winter and I am dying to get out in the garden.  Since that stinking groundhog says we have another century or so of winter left, I am having to make do by potting (and re-potting) around the house.  So today we are doing another terrarium.  There is no shortage of gumball terrarium tutorials on the web, but they really are incredibly easy.  I slapped mine together a few years ago with some plastic wrap to protect the gumball machine and no drainage to speak of so I thought it high time to redo mine in a reasonable manner and to add a little variety of plants.
 I highly recommend stripping out all the innards of the machine, leaving only the base, the globe, and the top.  Then fit an old plastic container to the space in the base (a Chinese take-out soup container worked well for me) and cut it so that the top of the container sits just below the rim of the base (so that the globe will sit correctly in the base).  If you want to do this really well, you would probably seal the meeting between base, container, and globe with some sort of sealant (preferably clear).  I didn't.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Fast/Easy: Pie or Tart Crust

I used to hate the crust. Of any crusted dessert.  But when I started making them myself, and flavoring them to my taste, I really began to appreciate them.  Really.  I could almost do without the filling. Almost.

My favorites tend to be rolled crusts for pies or crumb crusts from cheesecakes and tarts but lately I have really been hankering shortbread.  And I love this crust because it is easy (you can't really overwork this dough like you can with most rolled doughs), it is super fast, and it uses ingredients I always have on hand.  There is nothing worse than getting all prepared to bake something and then realizing you are out of graham crackers or chocolate wafers.

 Ok... there's really a whole lot in the world  that is worse than that, but it still is pretty frustrating.

This is an incredibly easy recipe that yields a buttery, tender, cookie-like crust. I love it!

Monday, March 17, 2014

Avoid Road Closure Delays

It is March in Middle America after a particularly rough winter.  To me, that is not heralding spring (we've got a few more weeks here before I get to venture out into the garden), but the beginning of road construction season.  Since I drive on the interstate more than your average Joe, this is more of a self service announcement - but I will pretend that it is a public service.

We can solve the problem of construction delays WITH THE POWER OF SCIENCE!

Monday, March 10, 2014

Forgiving DIY: Pot & Pan Storage

We don't have a terribly small kitchen.  But I have a ton of kitchen stuff.  So I could always use more kitchen space.  A while ago I got really sick of unstacking ten different pots and pans (and lids!) every time I needed one so I knew I needed a hanging solution.  But the ceilings in my kitchen are pretty low, so hanging from the ceiling was certainly not an option.  We did, however, have a kind of awkward area across the island from the main work triangle area.  Normally I would use the wall space to hang pretty, pretty pictures, as I do with almost all the wall space in my house (funny story: I've been trying to do posture exercises, but I can't find any bare wall space to do them on!  I think I may have a problem...) but this turned into the perfect place to hang my pots and pans.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Forgiving DIY Projects: Succulent Terrarium

I love plants.  And I love old science equipment.  So when I saw this old desiccator (used to keep chemicals, especially powders and crystals, in a low humidity environment so they won't clump or otherwise get ruined as quickly) for a great deal at an antique store (my MIL actually bought it for me, isn't she sweet?) I knew it would make a great terrarium.  The basics of a terrarium are: container, plants that love high humidity, soil, and something to help drainage so roots don't stay so wet that they rot.  That's all I have here.  I put a layer of pebbles at the bottom, filled the remainder of the bottom with soil, and then planted some succulent plants and clippings of plants that I have on hand.  This makes a great home for my Christmas cacti that I could never keep humid enough in the furnace heated winters for them to bloom - until this year!  I put in any pieces that fall off my other plants - usually because I knock them off while watering - and they take off!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Royal Bee Pillow

One of my very first posts described my "current projects" (which, of course, are less than half of the projects I ever end up working on at any given time).   I have made significant headway on the throw pillows for our new couch though.  In fact, I have probably made too many already!  Though I have two more (embroidered G's on a navy field) in the works. 

 The centerpiece is a pillow with a cross-stitched Napoleonic Royal Bee in navy blue on an ivory field.  I have seen a similar motif screen printed a bunch but I have seen much (if any) embroidered and I really love the texture of embroidery - even if it just cross-stitch.  I couldn't find a free bee pattern that I liked a whole bunch so I printed the picture of a queen bee from ClipArt ETC  to use as the inspiration for my pattern.  I traced the pattern onto graph paper, getting rid of a lot of the detail in some places and adding more stripes and different wing patterns in others, so that the pattern would be easier to stitch.  I only did half of the bee this way and then filled in the other half so that I would have a symmetric pattern.  I used a crown from this pattern.   The wreath was modified from this pattern and if I could find what I drew, I would share it with you.


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