Saturday, December 31, 2016

Got a 14 Point Buck

I went to Wal-Mart the other day to scope out the marked down Christmas decorations. There wasn't a lot left, but I spotted a small silver glittered deer head. It was made of plastic and had a small metal loop on the back of the neck for hanging.

All of a sudden, I knew it had to come home with me.

I got a scrap of pine from the garage, and cut it into an oval. Shane routed the edges for me, and I did a quick sanding job on it. Then I stained it with the same stuff I bought for Mom's china cabinet. I even did three coats of clear paint on it. The wood itself, like I said, was scrap, so it was a little rough, but that was okay.

I used some epoxy and screws to attach the deer and plaque together, and added a saw tooth picture hanger on the back.


This is going to be a Christmas decoration for next year, and it's actually pretty small, as you can see by the four slot toaster behind it.

I'm not sure why I went with a plaque that size, because I really could have gone smaller than that, but I like this little project. There were some errors I made while making it that were easily fixed.

For one, I actually tried attaching the head with the hanger upside down on the back. And the epoxy alone wasn't enough to hold everything together, so that's why I had add the screws. That was Shane's idea and a good one. I drilled the holes through the back of the wood, epoxied the head on again, and held the two pieces together while Shane added the screws. I had to go with 1.25" long screws in order to get through the wood and the plastic.

Coconut Macaroons/49 Recipes Down

Because tonight is New Year's Eve here in the States and my husband is home, we actually have plans tonight with friends. Shane wants something a little more typical (think chips and dip) to take with us. I did make a dip from Just a Bunch of Recipes. Once I know how that turned out, I'll post the results here.

However, I needed to make something else, so I bused out Awesome Recipes & Kitchen Shortcuts, and made Sam's Coconut Macaroons.

What did I learn from this recipe?
Sam made his with just two ingredients. I decided I wanted to double the recipe and added just a touch of chocolate in them. I bought chocolate sprinkles (not chocolate chips) and added about 1/4 cup of them to the recipe. Once baked, they taste like Mounds candy bars. The nice thing is, the sprinkles, probably because they are so small, didn't melt into everything like chips probably would have. You can still see the intact sprinkles.

However, these suckers are incredibly sweet and sugary! Not that I'm complaining, but damn! We'll need Shane's chips and dip to cut through the sugar. Another note: they are incredibly sticky.

One change I noted that I needed to make was the baking time. Sam said to bake them at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. The edges of my macaroons came out a little darker, on the first batch, than I would have liked, so I shortened the baking time to 13 minutes. I could have easily gone to 12 minutes and that might have been a little better yet.

But I am pretty happy with how these turned out. I usually can't make cookies to save my life (probably an error in my cooking temperature or my ingredient temperatures), but I think these are right on the money.

Not a Sam The Cooking Guy Recipe, But it Should Be

Before we left on our Christmas trip, we were watching some pizza episode of a restaurant show on The Travel Channel. I don't even remember what show it was. But they were talking about innovative and original pizzas around the country, and one of them caught my attention.

The narrator talked about the white clam pizza, which was first made famous by Frank Pepe of Pepe's Pizzeria in New Haven, CT. The recipe wasn't given but the ingredients were mentioned just enough for me to jot them down. "Frank Pepe originated the New Haven-style thin crust pizza which he baked in bread ovens fired by coke. Coke is a byproduct of coal and it was used extensively until the late 1960's when it became unavailable and hence coal was then put into use to fire the oven.

"Pepe's signature pizza, the White Clam Pizza, was most likely an organic inspiration by Frank Pepe; an idea born from the fact that Pepe's also served raw little neck clams from Rhode Island, on the half shell, as an appetizer."

Last night, I took my own crack at it. There is probably a lot more to the Pepe version of this pizza than what was revealed, but I was fairly impressed with how my version turned out. The thing is, I think I have been more inspired by Sam the Cooking Guy than I have by any other cook. A year ago, before I started using his cookbooks and really paying attention to him, I would have had to look this recipe up online first. This time, I just jumped right in without an actual recipe.

Right off hand, this should really be made in a wood fire oven or on a grill. However, it was windy last night and I didn't feel like standing outside to grill a pizza. so, I wimped out and made in the oven.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound prepared pizza dough--Shane didn't want to try this pizza, so I cut the rectangular roll-out pizza dough I bought right down the middle and turned it into two smaller, different pizzas.
  • 4 large cloves garlic--I used store-bought minced garlic.
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive
  • ¾ cup shredded Parmesan cheese--I thought for sure that I had Parmesan cheese, but I didn't, so I had to substitute some sliced Fontina cheese instead.
  • 1 can of clams, drained
  •  

    Position a rack in lowest position of oven; preheat to 350°F.  Roll out the dough on to your baking sheet. The dough I bought came rolled up on parchment paper, and it was recommended to use that paper on the baking sheet while it was being baked.

    Brush the top of the dough with the olive oil. Top the dough and olive oil with your cheese, and then spread the minced garlic over that. Scatter the clams over the cheese. Just so you know, if you've never opened a can of clams, they are kind of stinky. However, once they come out of the oven, that smell is gone. 

    Put the pizza in the oven and bake until the crust is crispy and golden and the cheese is melted, 15-17 minutes, or whatever your dough calls for.

    Like I mentioned above, I was quite happy with how this turned out. I do think the Parmesan would have been better than the Fontina, because Parmesan tastes salty to me. That would have paired well, naturally, with the clams. But overall, this needed a light cheese, both in taste and in color. The whole pizza itself had a very light taste. Because it's got just a few toppings and no traditional pizza sauce on it, it's not a heavy thing to eat.

    Friday, December 30, 2016

    A New Elf Hat

    One of the sets of yarns I bought was three skeins of Facets by Loops and Thread yarn, in Montana (color #44), from Michael's. I wish I had purchased a fourth skein, so I could have made this hat longer and wider. This became another addition to my crochet project list.

    When I bought it, it reminded me of the Joker: purples and green, with just a touch of blue. I figured it would either turn into a hat or a scarf, but it wasn't screaming a specific project to me yet.

    We got to my father's house, and on Christmas Eve, we were watching "A Christmas Story," and my husband said something about a hat he had as a kid that was long enough to wrap around him as a scarf too.

    About that time, Schwartz in "ACS" appeared on the TV.  I didn't have any white yarn with me, but all of a sudden, that Montana-colored yarn spoke to me. I'd turn it into a hat, however long I could, similar to his.

    It was something I would have to wait to finish, because I knew I'd want it to have a white brim and a white pom pom on the end.

    I started with this pattern from Third Time's A Charm, but I didn't feel like it was working for me. There's nothing wrong with the pattern. It just was that I was using a J sized hook and the body of the hat is made with DC's, so it ended up looking kind of hole-y.

    I frogged what I had started, and used the pattern more as a guide, making it from SC's instead. It's made from the tip down.


    Right now, it's 33" long. The brim and pom pom are made from white acrylic yarn from my stash. I used a C sized hook for the brim, and worked in the front loops of the rows to give it a ribbed look. It's actually pretty snug on my head.

    It definitely has an elf-kind of feel to it, as opposed to reminding me of Santa's hat.In fact, one of my nephews, Lizie's brother, requested a blue scarf from me. I think I'll send this to him, and then make another hat of some kind for their older brother, Nick.

    Thursday, December 29, 2016

    Got Two Scoodies Crossed Off My List

    I was able to just finish the two crocheted Ewok scoodies that I've been working on. One of them was of course, for me (because what 42 year old woman DOESN'T need an Ewok scoodie?). The other is for one of my other nieces.

    Lizie saw me working on my scoodie while we were back, and that was the catalyst to all the kids asking for something (except for the youngest, because she's only barely a year old). I kind of described it to her in general terms, because I figured she didn't know what was an Ewok is, because she's only six. She decided if I was going to have one, then she needed one too.

    I used Barcelona by Loops and Thread yarn, in Flaxen (color #BA-11), from Michael's, on a J sized hook. The leftover yarn became a couple of washcloths. I used the Yub Nub Scoodie pattern by Kristin Stevenson. This is a free pattern, but you will need a username and password to access it.

    Kristin does include directions on how to make the ears, but I bought two Teddy bears from the thrift store today and hacked off their ears for the scoodies. I got the brown ears and Lizie will get the blonde ears (she has lighter colored hair than I do).

    Brown Bear: "My head hurts!" Blonde Bear: "What?"

    Shitty selfies here, since my phone doesn't have a flash when it's in selfie mode. This yarn is actually pretty vibrant.
    For Lizie's scoodie, I used some wooden buttons from my stash and stitched them on, using them to hold the ends around the neck. The buttons don't do anything on their own, and there's no holes for them.

    I tried to do some rustic-looking stitching in dark brown yarn on top of my scoodie, like what Wicket the Ewok had on his hood. That's where the color inspiration with the yarn came from. Wicket's hood was more of an orange/burnt orange color.


    For my scoodie, I laid the ends flat and used more brown yarn to lace them together, side by side. I flipped it over when I was done, and used some burgundy colored thread to whip stitch that portion together, to help sure them.

    This is going to be very warm once the weather cools off again here.


    Preparing to Lie to a Six-Year-Old

    So here's the first of my requested items from our trip: a chemo hat for my niece.

    No, she doesn't have cancer. I guess she woke up a couple of nights before we got into town, and woke up her dad to tell him she was upset because she didn't have one of Nana's hats. She remembered them and wished she had one. Neither me nor my sister have any. They weren't something we wanted to keep, and I think the ones Mom had were given to the hospital for others who might need them.

    My sister asked me to make one and send it to her daughter, passing it off as one of Mom's.


    I used this pattern, from Oombawka Design. It was made with a C sized hook, out of some unknown boucle yarns from my stash. The white yarn has a thin silver tinsel running through it. It's incredibly rough and would be SO uncomfortable on a bald head. However, it does look like something Mom would have worn. She wore a lot of pastels.

    So I'll get this packaged up and sent off to my niece. Hopefully, she'll be happy when she gets one of Nana's hats.

    And, by the way...yeah, cancer can't cripple love. But it sure as shit can make a 6-year-old cry for her grandma, 3 years after she's passed away. Age is something that can suppress memories in the very young, but how heartbreaking is it to have that same little girl say she wishes she had one of Nana's caps, "because of the memories"?

    Fuck you, cancer.

    Wednesday, December 28, 2016

    Made Some New Wash & Dish Cloths

    I travel with yarn. This is probably not a surprise to anyone that knows me. I actually went yarn shopping at Michael's before we left for our Christmas trip so I'd have something to do while we were away. I think the act of crocheting might keep me sane, especially when I'm making something that is basically freeform.

    I took enough stuff to almost finish off four new hats, but I'm going to wait on posting those here until I actually get them all squared away. I didn't want to bring any bit of the new travel stash home with me.

    However, I was using the leftover yarn to make some new dish and wash cloths, and I'm going to stash these away in the camper stuff in the attic. They are just squares of either SC or SC and HDC, and were made with a J sized hook. There is nothing uniform about any of these.

    Barcelona by Loops and Thread yarn, in Flaxen (color #BA-11), 11.5" x 10"

    Might be hard to see on the pile here: unknown leftovers from a previous stash, chenille in variegated blue and hot pink, a little on the wonky side, 8.5' x 7.5"

    Facets by Loops and Thread yarn, in Montana (color #44), 10.5" x 12.5"

    Leftover from a previous stash, unknown chenille in hot pink, 11.5" x 10"

    Barcelona by Loops and Thread yarn, in Flaxen (color #BA-11),10.5" x 9.5"

    Leftover from a previous stash, unknown chenille in variegated blue with in Homespun from Lion Brand Yarn, in Montana Sky (color #368), 8" x 7.5"

    I actually came home with a list of things to make for 8 nieces and nephews: individually colored scarves, and 1 chemo-style cap for my sister's daughter. She's six and was upset before we got home, when she realized she didn't have any of my mom's caps because she would have liked to have one. So, my sister requested one that we're going to pass of as being Mom's. Plus, I have a request for a hood and matching cloak for Nicole the Knitter's partner. He's apparently coveted her cloak for years. :)

    I also have a need to make a new scarf for myself. A couple years ago, I crocheted a scarf for Aunt Susie. While we were back, she asked for another one that was longer so she can wrap it around herself more, and she said the scarf I was wearing would be a good length. I like crazy long scarves.

    The yarn of the scarf I was wearing was just some funky, chunky, patterned, bright yarn I picked up at AC Moore about a year ago. One skein of it was the perfect scarf for me, so I whipped it off and gave it to her. :)





    Tuesday, December 27, 2016

    Not Sure What to Call This Entry

    I'll warn you right now, this entry might just be mental diarrhea. I'm not sure why I'm posting it.

    I just got back from a quick visit back home for Christmas, first with my in-laws and then my side of the family. This was the first visit I've made home in about two and a half years, really, since my mom's funeral. It was quick enough that we didn't even have time to get together with any friends.

    My in-laws live about three hours west of my side of the family. I like to start with visiting my in-laws, because I feel like it just sets the tone better for the rest of the trip. It's busy and crazy and chaotic, but it's typically quite happy. His assorted aunts and uncles are happy to see me. They treat me like I'm their own niece.

    The on the flip side, for about the last 10-12 years, every time I'd go home, I'd wind up being sick as a dog once we left my side of the family. My goal this year was for that to NOT happen. I think it was a combination of being run down and mental stress working together, but against me. Here's my ghoulish thought: Mom's gone, so my sister and I don't have anything to argue about anymore.

    I had been loading up on vitamin C, plus my usual iron and vitamin D. So far, I'd like to report that my visit was not as bad as I was expecting it to be and I don't feel sick. Amen!

    The house my mom lived in felt odd. My parents didn't put up pictures of themselves. There were only pictures of me, my sister, and then our families as we married. I never realized it until this visit. Hell, Shane and I have pictures of us and our extended families all over the place here. You walk into our house, you're going to know who lives here!

    Most of Mom's things are gone. I have a lot of them, and so does my sister. Knick knacks are what remain in the house, along with some furniture my father is still using. Right now, I'm pretty sure he'd give me anything else I asked for, and he given me things on this last visit again, but I feel the need to sneak odd things out of the house for no good reason.

    My mom sewed. I took a set of animal print pillow cases that she made. No one will notice they are gone. I didn't need them. I just wanted them. Shit, I have almost half of her jewelry and some of her crystal and furniture here, but I'm stealing pillow cases like I'm visiting fucking Bed, Bath & Beyond because Mommy liked the fabric. I think I have some kind of odd hoarding instinct starting in me. At least I'll actually use what I'm stealing though. There is some comfort in that.

    So yeah, the house feels odd. It feels devoid of her, in just about every way. I lived in that house for about 20 years. It was the house I moved from when Shane and I got married, and moved together to start our lives. But I don't sense her anywhere it in anymore. I might as well be visiting my in-laws and looking for Mom there. Hell, my sister's house felt more like home to me now, than my actual home did.

    I guess I wasn't expecting that, because Mom was everywhere in that house the last time I was there, even though she had already been gone for months.

    My father, Shane and I went to the park where we scattered her remains, along with the remains of her dogs. I would have preferred to go alone, but I knew that if I did that, I'd sit at the picnic table there, under the tree, and cry like a baby all over again. And it felt rude of me, to tell them I wanted to go alone. She was a wife and a mother-in-law herself.

    I bit the inside of my cheeks and my tongue when we got there, and I kept myself together. I kept telling myself that Mom wasn't there anymore. She was gone, in the physical sense, because what we scattered of her, and the dogs, had washed and blown away since that day in April. Wind, rain, snow, and ice have taken them much further than I'll ever go.

    And when we came home, I went into the bathroom, cried a little for about three minutes, got myself together, and no one was the wiser.

    Sunday, December 18, 2016

    Weathered My BB-8

    One day in November, I ran into a Target two towns over, while I was there for work. I had a little time to kill before starting my day, and was there to actually look for a specific type of cat toy for Orion. My intentions were good, really. But then I took a stroll through the toy department, and I stopped in the Star Wars aisle.

    And there I saw him...Jakks Big Fig BB-8 from Star Wars Episode VII. With a couple of batteries, BB-8 has five or so different sounds and lights up. His head only moves if you move it around. On Amazon Prime, BB-8 was going for $50. And Target had him for the same price, but there was only one of him on the shelf.

    He needed to go home with me. Aside from just wanting him, I think this will be a good table display for the next con. But he was a little too clean and pristine. I wanted him a little grubby and grungy, like he's fresh out of the deserts of Jakku.

    Plus, I really still feel like BB-8 color scheme really influenced my X-Wing pilot helmet design and color scheme...orange, white and tan. And besides, he's a cute little shit. Not as cute as R2, but he's kind of close.

    Today's post is really because I ripped off my weathering project from Cosplay Chris. I think this was the first video of his I had ever seen and it really just stuck with me. And as it turns out, if you look through the pictures in the Amazon Prime reviews, you'll see a lot of people also weathered their BB-8's.

    In the end, you'll see that I didn't do as much weathering on BB-8 as some of the Amazon reviewers, or even Cosplay Chris. I love that look, but I was afraid that if I took it that far, he wouldn't look as good as some of the other versions. For mine, I actually feel like less is a little more.



    Full disclosure here: I didn't have really good paints here for this project. For the overall cover, I used Kiwi Instant Shoe Wax in brown. This was leftover from my Freddy Krueger mask project. It took two coats, and wiping off it off in between, to get coverage that I made me happy. But because this was shoe wax on plastic, it left a sticky film. I used a damp Scotch Bright pad to scour off some of the wax.



    I used My Studio craft paint in tan to weather him. I actually started with another color that was more like red brick, so it was too harsh. The pro to using craft paints on something like this is that they aren't permanent. I wet a wash cloth and was able to wipe off the reddish brown paint and started over with the tan. And in a few places, slight traces of the red remained.





    Beauty shot! "Beep boooooooooop!"
    I decided to not make a base for BB-8 to sit on, because this particular figure comes with three little legs that snap into his base, if you want him like that. This makes him con-table friendly.

    And that was also the reason I didn't change out his lighter, like Cosplay Chris did. I need to be able to take him out, without worrying that someone in the public lights him up. Until we go to his first con, BB-8 will chill in my crafting room, next to my TARDIS.

    This project may have taken about 1 1/2 hours, so there wasn't a lot of time involved with him.

    Monday, December 12, 2016

    Made a Dragon Scoodie

    I started making a scoodie last night, with the intention of keeping it for myself. It was based on Niftynnider's pattern, which I've used before.

    I wasn't really paying attention to the length of my starter chain, so it ended up being fairly sizeable. It was really just a free form kind of thing, made while watching Craig Ferguson and Muppet videos onYou Tube. It's 2 strands of Red Heart Super Saver in Frosty Green (#0661), with 2 rows of blue together, on a J sized hook. One of the blues is an unknown yarn. The other is Yarn Bee Airy (#26).

    I was about half way through it, but it wasn't speaking to me, beyond the blue and green combo. I ended up talking to Nicole the Knitter that night, and she mentioned a dragon scoodie would be her choice.

    Bingo.

    That solved it for me right there. After finishing the scoodie, I added green ears from this Yoda hat pattern and whipstitched them to the sides. I actually did a series of SC up the back of the head and down the middle, stopping at the edge. This became a foundation row, of sorts, for the dragon "spikes." I crocheted a series of triangles, starting at the front, that grew bigger as they went. I went back over them with the Airy yarn to outline them.

    Having that foundation row close up the back a little bit does make the scoodie fit a little more snugly than it would otherwise, but I think it's going to be good.

    The last part was to crochet some random circles in the unknown blue, in different sizes. I placed them in odd numbers randomly over the hood. I'm not sure why. They don't look like scales. Maybe they're dragon warts.

    BTW, it's really freaking hard to take selfies from a profile POV.



    This is a shitty picture, but you can see there's a lot of room in the bottom front of the scoodie. I think it's going to be very warm though. I'm hoping to drop it off tomorrow night.

    A Shared Hobby

    Michelle the Cook and I have a unique shared hobby. We like going to new grocery stores when they open in our area. Not just any old store, such as, “Didja hear? Food Lion has a new store opened up over on Hampton Blvd. Let’s go!” They have to be stores that are brand new to our area.

    To be honest with you, I’m not sure why we do it. These places, for the most part, are far enough out, they aren’t going to be enough of a draw to get us to stop going to our usual grocery stores. I think it’s the interest in a new business and what kind of new stuff they might carry. In the past, we’ve visited the local Piggly Wiggly (a dark depressing place, that was the opposite of what you envision when you watch Driving Miss Daisy), a Kroger Marketplace and a few other ones in there. We made the venture out again today.

    Aldi recently came to our area so we finally got out there to visit it. It was more of a morbid curiosity on my part. I hadn’t been to an Aldi since I was a kid in elementary school, because my father preferred their prices. The Aldi back home was a dingy, dimly lit store that seemed to have as many empty spots on the shelves as it did product. And it felt like a small box of a store. Not the kind of place I would take my time in, and for some reason, I enjoy grocery shopping (no shit, right?). In the past, I’d used my solo shopping trips as times to call my mom and talk with her on the phone while I took my time shopping.

    Anyhoo, this new Aldi was getting rave reviews on Yelp and in the local media about it’s selection of products. I was intrigued, and Michelle and I agreed we needed to go. I figured there was no way an Aldi could be this great. Hell, we even had to take a toll road to get there and home again. But when we pulled up, I grabbed one of my reusable bags, just in case.

    It really is that good. I stand corrected. Within getting three/fourths of the way through the store, my arms were full of crackers and cheeses I’d never seen before. The crackers alone might enough to get me to stop there the next time I have to be on that toll road. Hell, Michelle was laughing at me but she got caught up with some bread she likes and didn’t knew they carried. I did think she was going to hurt herself laughing when we turned down the seasonal aisle and my geek eyes spied a 31” tall Star Wars Ep. VII C-3P0 figure for only $25. Look, on Amazon Prime, he’s $35. I had to get him.

    One of the other things I picked up was a wedge of Irish cheddar cheese with Irish Porter (it’s got Guinness mixed into it) from Happy Farms. I ate some yesterday when I got home and it was good. And I grabbed it today and threw it into my lunch bag.

    I think having it unwrapped but open for a bit yesterday, and then put into a container, did something to the cheese’s flavor. It was better and stronger today than it was when I opened it yesterday. I’m not a beer drinker and I might have only 1-2 drinks a year, but today, I could smell the beer in the cheese as I was eating it, and it was good. It was almost like it was the essence of the beer, more than anything else. I put a bite of cheese in my mouth and inhaled (all of a sudden I found myself a little short of breath, but that’s not really the point). When I inhaled like that through my mouth, with the cheese in it (thank God I was sitting alone at the time), there was the Guinness, and it was good. Hell, I killed that wedge by myself in two days.

    Turns out, next year, Lidl is coming to our area too. We’ve already made plans to visit it when it opens. I might need a cart and an extra bag then.

    Wednesday, December 7, 2016

    No-Bun Lamb Burgers/48 Recipes Down

    Tonight's supper was No-Bun Lamb Burgers, from Just a Bunch of Recipes. It was another case of having just about everything for this recipe.

    Full disclosure though: the recipe calls for mint and feta cheese. Tonight, I used dill and Parmesan cheese. I'm not a fan of mint and I've mentioned before Shane doesn't really like feta.

    What did I learn from this recipe?
    I like lamb, but I thought these lamb burgers were a little bland. It might have been because of the lack of mint after all. 

    In reading through the cookbook tonight, I realized I started cooking from them in February 2016. Even by leaving out the alcohol (since I don't drink), I'm not sure I'll be able to get them both completely finished by February 2017. I'll just have to get rid of a deadline and keep plugging away at the recipes.

    Sunday, December 4, 2016

    BBQ Turkey Cornbread Pie Recipe

    I was poking around the internet the other day and came across this recipe, linked back to People. It's for BBQ Turkey Cornbread Pie. I finally got around to making it tonight, with leftover Thanksgiving turkey.

    2 ½ cups shredded leftover turkey
    1 cup BBQ Sauce
    ½ cup water
    1 8.5 oz. package corn muffin mix
    1 egg
    ¾ cup water
    ¼ cup sliced scallions -- left these out, as I didn't have any.

    1. Preheat the oven to 375°. In a bowl, toss shredded turkey with BBQ sauce and water and stir to combine. Transfer to a casserole dish and spread in an even layer.
    2. In another bowl, stir together corn muffin mix, egg, scallions, and water.
    3. Spread on top the corn muffin mixture on top of turkey and bake until golden, about 30 minutes.

    In all honesty, I wasn't really impressed with this. I think I should have cut the BBQ sauce to 1/2 cup and the first bit of water to 1/3 cup. I used Sweet Baby Ray's BBQ sauce, and I don't have a favorite so I buy something different every time, but it seemed too strong here.

    I also think I should have used 2 boxes of corn bread mix instead of 1, because the topping was so thin in my 9"x9" pan.

    Thursday, December 1, 2016

    Tuna Cristo/47 Recipes Down

    Now that my work schedule has calmed down a little, I'm able to get back into the kitchen again.

    For supper tonight, neither of us were very hungry, so I suggested Sam the Cooking Guy's Tuna Cristo, from Just a Bunch of Recipes. 

    "This is the way-less-sophisticated cousin of the classic 'Monte Cristo,' which is made with ham, chicken, and Gruyere cheese--but I honestly think mine is easily as good and a heck of a lot easier 'cuz you've always got tuna in the cupboard."

    This sandwich called for thinly sliced red bell pepper, which my husband doesn't like, so I substituted
    some sliced sweet peppers.

    What did I learn from this recipe? 
    We both liked it, but it was a little on the messy side. I think I should have gone a little lighter with the mayo. And with the way the sliced cheese melted, which added to the messiness, I think I would use shredded cheese next time.

    Wednesday, November 30, 2016

    Freddy's New Hand and Hat

    I never liked the original hat I had for Freddy. It was like a cross between a fedora and a porkpie. Freddy needed something bigger, more like Indiana Jones' hat.

    I ordered this new one from Amazon the other day. It's a part of a Nightmare on Elm Street-licensed costume, but it is so flippin' ugly.

    I'm trying to convince myself to NOT buy another new hat.

    Freddy only gets seen at Halloween and he'll be in the dark...so I shouldn't spend another $40 or so on another, better hat. Right?

    Anyway,  you can see here that he has his new hand now. The mannequin's original right hand had the fingers molded together. To put the glove on him, I'd drilled holes between the fingers and tied the individual glove fingers onto the back of his hand.

    I'm still having problems getting his arm to stay up the way I want. Hell, I used some good epoxy this evening on his arm, and it still slid back down like this. Freddy has kind of a rotator joint inside the arm at his shoulder. It's a separate round plastic cap looking thing that sits on a tab on the shoulder, at his torso. There are grooves around the cap, like an American coin, and I'm thinking the hole for it inside his arm is just too big, because those grooves can't catch on anything, to hold it steady.

    At this point, I decided my best bet would be to wrap the hell out of his shoulder with Duct Tape, to get his arm to stay where I want it, Ace Bandage style.

    I ordered a new set of hands from Amazon the same time I ordered the hat. It was actually cheaper to order a set of hands, than it was to order just the right hand. Shane cut the mannequin's right hand off tonight for me with his band saw (I think), just below the wrist.

    I knew the mannequin was thin plastic but I was surprised how thin it was, once I was looking down the inside of his arm from his wrist!

    Because it was so thin, epoxy wasn't going to work to secure the two pieces together. Instead, I used a couple short pieces of Duct Tape. I gave a little twist of his new hand before securing it, because I want to make sure the glove is seen.

    However, getting those stiff vinyl fingers into Freddy's glove was almost impossible. I had to really wrestle them in and I was afraid the new hand would snap off his wrist. It's holding quite sturdily.

    What I'm thinking I should have done was order a woman's right hand, because it would be a little smaller and would have fit inside the glove easier. I ordered male hands, but it wouldn't have mattered because you can't see his hand with the glove on anyway.



    Saturday, November 26, 2016

    The Grinch in the Christmas Tree


    A couple of weeks ago, my sister sent me a picture from Pinterest and asked if I could make it for her daughter, as a Christmas decoration. It's the Grinch, his rear end sticking out of a Christmas tree, as he presumably gets ready to steal it.

    Like a fool, I said yes. Seriously, what the hell was I thinking? 

    Of course, I couldn't find a pattern online for this monstrosity. So, I had to wing the whole thing.  

    Prepare for swearing.

    The shopping was going to be the easy part. I could break down the various parts in my head before I cut a single piece of fabric. I knew right away the Santa coat would be made from a Christmas tree skirt. I picked one up at Target for $15.99. I think it was 48" across.

    The 2 yards of green polar fleece, Fiber Fill and wooden dowels came from Wal-Mart. The feathers were from A.C. Moore. The two Velcro ties came from Home Depot. The thread I used was already mine. I even used the leftover polar fleece pieces as stuffing in the body. None of that green fleece was wasted.

    The fact that the Grinch is not a regular person took a lot of the pressure off me. I decided to use a variation on the poppet pattern from Good Cookie Creations. I sketched out enlarged versions of the legs (stopping at the ankles), front and back pieces with a Sharpie marker on the fleece and cut them out.

    For the feet, I still had enough green fleece, so I decided to stick with his natural green feet and not make Santa booties for him. I traced around one of my Converse Chuck Taylors on a piece of cardboard. Then I enlongated it and thinned it out, giving it a pointed toe. I made one of these for each of his feet, as kind of an insole.

    I traced around those pieces, twice each. One piece became the bottom of his foot, and the other became the top of his foot. I used a small rectangle of fleece for the back of each foot. For the sides, I roughly sketched out on the fleece what the sides of Chuck Taylors might look like.

    I sewed the front and back pieces together. I think once or twice, I went back over my stitches to take some of his "girth" in.

    When I sewed his legs together, I actually ended up making them a little shorter than originally planned. If I hadn't, his legs would have been longer than mine! Instead of using joint buttons, I sewed the legs into the body like I was making a leotard with skinny leggings, and flipped the whole thing right side out.

    I sewed the feet pieces together, flipped them right side out, and slipped in the cardboard insoles. I stuffed them firmly, folded over the top edges of the feet and whip stitched them to the legs.

    At this point, I inserted a wooden dowel into each leg and started firmly stuffing around the dowels. At the very top of the dowels, I used Duct Tape to attach them to each other for extra stability. While the dowels do go all the way into the ankles, these dowels are really what makes the Grinch stand by himself. I did try stuffing the legs without dowels, and his just fell over. I think the dowels I used where just over 1/4" wide. I didn't trim them for length.

    When I got his legs completely stuffed, I started whip stitching the top (just north of his rump) halfway closed. After I had him stuffed completely, I finished sewing him closed. It didn't matter how neatly this as sewn, because it got covered up anyway. I went back and after adjusting the Fiber Fill, I was able to take his hips in a little more, which actually helped to get that booty of his under control.

    Once the entire body was stuffed and sewn shut, I draped the Christmas tree skirt over his hips and rump and started whip stitching that into place. There's no real way to describe how I did it, other than just folding and adjusting the skirt as I went, so that it looks like the bottom portion of a Santa Claus jacket.

    But because I can't ever be satisfied with something the first time, I hot glued some green feathers to his ankles, just to hide how they are stitched together. Plus, I wanted another texture on him. In watching "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" this year, I couldn't decide if the Grinch was furry or had feathers. I didn't bother watching the Jim Carrey version for source material, because I wanted this to look cartoony.
     
    Do you know how hard it is to hot glue feathers to polar fleece while your cat is trying to molest you??? Of course, THAT'S when she wants attention! :)
    I also whip stitched a Velcro tie to each side of his front, to help secure him to the tree, once he arrives at my sister's house. He's going to be shipped out on Tuesday.

    I literally have his ass cheeks sitting on the top of this chair. I am 5'4" without shoes. This thing's "waist" is damn near as tall as mine!




     

    Today Has Been A Productive Day

    Today has been a good day. The whole weekend has been good, but I've been especially productive today.

    1. I finished Freddy's face (previous post).
    2. I picked up the last few things, and a ginormous box, for a Christmas decoration for my niece (upcoming post).
    3. Wrestled and cussed at the new window shade I bought for the bathroom, but I finally got that bitch hung, BY MYSELF! :)
    4. Replaced the dish rack in the kitchen sink, and replaced the tub stopper in the bathroom.
    5. Sent two cards off in the mail today: a thank you for an interview I had earlier this week and an aunt's birthday card.
    6. Sent an email over to the guy making my X-Wing pilot vest.

    Freddy's New Face

    Now that Halloween has come and gone, as has Thanksgiving, you'd think all of my Halloween decorations would be put away by now.

    If you thought that, you'd be wrong. :)

    Something about Halloween and our yard just didn't click with my this year, so I'm still dicking around with my Freddy Krueger. He's still downstairs in our second bedroom.

    We made one quick fix to him before the trick or treating started this year. I had Shane pull Freddy's sweater up from his chest, while he was standing behind Freddy, and I blasted his chest with black and red spray paint, plus some brown shoe polish and some brown craft paint. This is the sweater I bought for Freddy originally (although I did buy it from Spirit Halloween, in person) I realized there was a lot of unblemished skin showing through the holes in the sweater. I also blasted Freddy's left hand with color as well.

    But I still wasn't completely happy with him. I never was going for Robert Englund as Freddy. I just wanted a decent haunted house Freddy, if that makes any sense.

    Here is the before of his face, from Halloween this year.




    The red burns on that healthy colored flesh was pretty stark and it just wasn't working for me.

    And then I decided to try the brown shoe polish on the mask. It was something I learned from Cosplay Chris: brown shoe polish can be used to weather and age just about anything!

    I ended up doing about 3 coats on Freddy's face, and about 4 on his chest. The chest inserts are made of a different kind of plastic than the mask, which is actually latex. I also went in with some black craft paint (to "burn" one of his ears) and some brown craft paint, just for some more detail.

    I had actually bought a very pale pink paint as well, because I thought I'd layer the paints to give the face and head some depth. That pink really didn't work at all. It dried chalky and looked like I had rubbed Pepto Bismol on his face. I had to wash that shit off.

    Because I then decided I wanted kind of an oozy, moist look to Freddy's skin (I don't know why, since Freddy didn't look like that in the movies), I sprayed a light coat of high gloss clear coat over the mask.

    Before putting it back on the mannequin, I used Duct Tape and some Fiber Fill on the inside of the mask and stuffed the nose and ears, to help give them a little more definition. Before, they were kind of floppy.

    I can't do anything about the mask's jacked up teeth, so I'm leaving that as it.

    The clear coat made the latex a little stiffer so I had to really pull to get the mask back on the mannequin's head. I used a more Duct tape to hold the mask down on his neck, to give it a little more of a natural shape. Through the slit in the back of the head, I stuffed more Fiber Fill into the mask, around the cheeks and jawline to fill it out a little more naturally.

    While I now hate the hat he has, Freddy looks better to me. I'm going to end up replacing the hat, I'm pretty sure.

    Ignore the droopy right side. His arm wouldn't stay in the position I want, so I took it off and will epoxy the shoulder in place next week. Thankfully, I've left Freddy to come apart at the waist, for easier transport and storing up in our attic.




    While he looks a little more like beef jerky right now, I am happier with how he looks. The burns seem to have depth to them, and they don't look as fresh anymore. Jesus, did I actually just write that like it's a positive thing?

    I was going to weather the store bought glove, bought from Spirit Halloween as well, but in order to that, I'd really have to prime it. I just don't want to do that because I'm feeling lazy. I'd have to mask it off from the glove and that just seems unnecessary. But fixing Freddy's face was necessary?

    I am going to buy him a new right hand. The hand that came with the mannequin has all the fingers together. I'm going to cut it off and replace it with a hand with the fingers spread. That will be a separate post, though.

    Until then, sweet dreams.

    Tuesday, November 22, 2016

    Chucky Gets His Own Platform

    This last October, I ordered a Chucky doll from Spirit Halloween. I've been pretty happy with him. I had been thinking about making one out of MDF board for Halloween, but duh, Chucky is a doll and that's the form he should be displayed.

    I had actually been looking for a used Chucky from either eBay or Etsy, but as it turns out, Spirit had them new and in much better shape, plus, he was cheaper there, even with shipping. I didn't want a talking Chucky, but I did want him to be a good, realistic size, so this version of him fit the bill. The Mezco brand of  dolls actually reminded me of Jack Nicholson. I think it was his hairline.

    I will admit, his hair does leave a little something to be desired. In fact, that was something he got negative points for in people's reviews on Spirit. Some people thought it looked too girly. In my case, my problem was that it seems to fall out too easily. But when your face is as jacked up as his, do you really care about your hair?

    But anyhoo, we had him out for Halloween this year and he tipped over a few times. Before the night was done, Shane said we needed to make a stand for him, since he didn't come with one. I figured getting Shane to make a stand for him now would be about as likely as me getting a day off right now. But as soon as he mentioned it, I thought it was a damn good idea.

    I played around in the wood section of Michael's a few days ago, thinking I'd get three trays or something, in staggered sizes and with routed edges. I couldn't find what I had been envisioning. I stumbled across a small wooden slat box (I think it may have been balsa wood) and inspiration struck.

    I've been watching Cosplay Chris's YouTube channel lately. What I came up with for Chucky's stand is really just a rip-off, errrrrr, inspired by, the stand he made for his BB-8 and his First Order Stormtrooper.

    Just a cheap little box, flipped upside down and spray painted black. I picked up a wooden dowel, cut it in half, and drilled appropriately sized holes in the box to line up with the back of his feetsies. They go through the box all the way and actually sit on the floor, same as the box.

    I picked up some gravel from a new housing development out in Chesapeake. I could have used sand, but since Chucky is/was from Chicago, sand didn't make sense (but a murdering doll, inhabited by the soul of criminal makes perfect sense), so I looked for roadway gravel at the end of a road. I used a healthy amount of Modge Podge and laid the gravel in it. After it dried, I sprayed just the top of the platform with some clear coat, to help secure the smaller pieces.

    Right up the pant legs. It makes me think of Deadpool here, grabbing his ass after he had been shot. "RIGHT UP MAIN STREET!" I might need mental help to make that connection here.

    "Ya wanna play?"
    I liked this little project. Minimal cost, because I got the with a coupon, and I already had the paint and glue.

    Monday, November 21, 2016

    Jake the Dog For Christmas

    Right now, my crafting room (and part of my house) looks like it has thrown up on itself. I'm just coming off a consumer trade show that lasted 10 days, with 2 days for move in for the exhibitors and a half day of move out. Tomorrow, it will be a 15 day stretch of working before I get a day off.

    During that time, I had a half-assed attempt at trying to be crafty and finish a couple of projects. But no such luck, until tonight.

    Hell, I've even emailing Comodo, trying to get my blog unblocked. It was blocked for having "prohibited content" for several days. I'm not sure how far reaching that blockage was, and I don't know if my emails to Comodo did anything. All I know is that when I went back into my blog through the admin portal, I removed a YouTube video of a Pizza Hut commercial, it seemed to open me back up for business for a short period of time. But now, I can't see it again.

    In fact, if anyone can see my blog, would you leave a comment for me? I'm starting to wonder if I need to stop this one and just move to a new site and link to this one.

    Anyhoo, during the show, I started crocheting in my down time, which there was a decent amount. I decided to make, or rather, remake Jake the Dog. Last year, I wrote about my tiny Jake that fell off my backpack while I was on my scooter. I'll probably make another one that size, but for right now, I worked up Jake to keep me company.

    I actually made Jake here about 1 1/2 times, because I just wasn't feeling it. I used this amigurumi crochet pattern by VACH. There's nothing wrong with it. I just felt like tweaking my version of Jake as I went.

    I eyeballed his arms and legs, and I went back and pulled them off to shorten them. I also redid his nose roll. I was just having a hard time getting him to really look like Jake.

    For his eyes, I actually did those three times. The pattern calls for crocheted eyes and then stuff them slightly as you stitch them on. Then I used iron-on patches to create his eyes. They still didn't look right. On my last try, I used white and black felt and blanket stitched them together and on his face. I like that better.

    The same went for Jake's nose. It was supposed to be crocheted. I wasn't feeling that, so it became a felt nose.

    I didn't really know what I was going to do with him. As I was finishing him up tonight, I decided to use him (and the Finn the Human I'm currently working on) to do a little good for Christmas this year.

    I met a couple through the trade show, new coworkers but only on a temporary basis. They have two kids and both of the parents were working every shift they could get. The wife told me her 13  year old daughter likes "Adventure Time," and the mom actually knew who Jake the Dog is when I told her what I was working on during the show. She said her daughter has a little bit of a developmental delay.

    I got to meet her daughter and thought she was kind of a fun kid. I also happen to have their address, based their daughter's letter to Santa, written and "sent" during the show, because I'm the one that is sending the replies. So after Finn is done, I've decided he and Jake are going on a new adventure together. I'm sending them both to their daughter, with another letter from Santa.

    Saturday, November 5, 2016

    Balsamic-Roasted Brussels Sprouts

    A few years ago for Thanksgiving, Michelle the Cook brought over roasted Brussels sprouts. Man, they were so good. And it's taken me, literally, a few years to find a good recipe for them. But it finally happened: Balsamic-Roasted Brussels Sprouts by Ina Garten.

    Full disclosure here: I think Ina's show, the Barefoot Contessa, is a bit obnoxious for some reason. I don't know if it's her or the show's format, but I don't really care for it. That being said, I have good memories of watching her on TV with my mom when I was last with her. we watched a lot of Food Network those two weeks.

    Ingredients
    • 1 1/2 pounds Brussels sprouts, trimmed and cut in half through the core
    • 4 ounces pancetta, 1/4-inch-diced--I didn't have any pancetta.
    • 1/4 cup good olive oil
    • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
    • 1 tablespoon syrupy balsamic vinegar
    Directions
    Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place the Brussels sprouts on a sheet pan, including some of the loose leaves, which get crispy when they're roasted. Add the pancetta, olive oil, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper, toss with your hands, and spread out in a single layer. Roast the Brussels sprouts for 20 to 30 minutes, until they're tender and nicely browned and the pancetta is cooked. Toss once during roasting. Remove from the oven, drizzle immediately with the balsamic vinegar, and toss again. Taste for seasonings, and serve hot.

    Damn it, that Ina Garten is good! :) This turned out as good as my friend's recipe did, and I believe she had bacon in her sprouts.

    My husband doesn't like Brussels sprouts so I had leftovers and actually finished them off for breakfast today while I was waiting for the cable guy to show up. :)

    Wednesday, November 2, 2016

    Artichoke Chicken Stuffed Pizza/46 Recipes Down

    Supper tonight was one of those happy coincidences when you know what you want to make and just happen to have everything you need to make it.

    Tonight, it was Artichoke Chicken Stuffed Pizza by Sam the Cooking Guy. I saw him make this on his tv series so I was able to hunt it down on his website, which is why I'm sharing it here.

    Two crusts make this a crazy 'deep dish wonderland of chicken and artichokes' - it's great.

    Ingredients

    • One Pillsbury 11 Oz Thin Pizza Crust or enough pizza dough for approximately two 10" circles
    • 1/3 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
    • 2 cups cooked chicken, shredded
    • 14 ounces marinated artichoke hearts, drained and roughly chopped
    • 1/2 cup Alfredo sauce
    • 1/3 cup spaghetti or pizza sauce
    • 1/3 cup mozzarella cheese, grated

    Directions

    1. Preheat oven to 375
    2. Grease a 9" cake tin or pie plate
    3. Roll pizza dough into two 10 inch circles and lay one circle on the bottom and up the sides of the tin
    4. Sprinkle crust with Parmesan cheese then add chicken & artichokes and top with Alfredo sauce
    5. Add second crust on top and pinch both crusts together around the edge
    6. Spread pizza sauce on top of the crust, and sprinkle with mozzarella
    7. Bake about 35 minutes - or until golden brown.
    What did I learn from this recipe? 
    So I learned it's wickedly easy to make a stuffed pizza. This thing would be amazing with some ground sausage or beef in it, along with some mushrooms.

    Monday, October 31, 2016

    Happy Halloween!

    Halloween never lasts long enough. :( But we had nice weather tonight, even though I think this was the coolest Halloween we've had in a long time (temperature wise, anyway). We had so many kids here tonight, almost as many as last year.

    And like the last few years, I've had to work on Halloween, so I had prestaged my life-sized uglies in the second bedroom the night before. The smalls and the lights were already outside, so we hustled to get the big guys set up. It was just a quick "pass through the gauntlet" along the sidewalk, but it's given me ideas for next year.


    Homemade Freddy that's being updated after this Halloween, even though this is only his second Halloween.

    Homemade Michael, new for this year. However, the fan that operated his head burned out after an hour and a half.

    Michael in the fog.





    Pennywise and Chucky were new this year.

    There was the good mixed bag of little kid screams and laughing parents this year. However, it just felt a little rushed and not my best effort this year. We had just two chalk outlines but they were noticed, so that was good.

    I guess this year, it's like I had a little bit of a "bah humbug" feeling for Halloween. I've been slammed at work and just recently found out that my supervisor is leaving, and I might be out of a job sometime between, oh, now and April, because of cutbacks. So I've had to start looking for another job, again.

    There's just a bunch of random things in my life that I'm not happy with right now, so it's making me a bear to be around. I wish I could change a whole bunch of things in my life, even stuff in the past.