Monday, September 26, 2011

Homemade Pumpkin Apple Butter

It has been an extremely demanding weekend/week. I had planned to post this on Saturday, but I ended up spending the entire day baking for a Traffic Jam bake sale. It was quite the experience as I still haven't found a replacement for my teflon pans. I got a tip from a friend about using the silver cupcake liners by themselves which was awesome- but then I didn't have my debit card so I couldn't buy them (long story). I ended up baking them just a few at a time in ramekins (it worked!) but it took all day. Then Sunday was an entire Sargent Avenue day, the guys headlined Traffic Jam Fest in Rosa Park, Grand Rapids for Art Prize and Katie, Kathy and I ran the bake sale. We got home around 1:30 am and poor John had to leave again just after 5 am this morning. Today was a mix of beginnings and endings... I started my new job and my niece learned to crawl, but a friend of John's, who he really admired and esteemed, passed away. What a wonderful woman she was. I've never heard anyone speak a word against her, but the loving stories have been innumerable. She left such an impression on her city, and her absence is already felt. Many thoughts and prayers go out to her family, from all who knew her. And as a stranger remarked to John today, "you can't live in Lowell and not know Chris West".

The pumpkin apple butter was so easy- it was really similar to my previous post about homemade applesauce.

3 lbs of baking apples

1 can (15 oz) of pure pumpkin puree
1/2 tbs pumpkin pie spice (or a mixture of cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, cloves, ginger, etc.)
1/2 c. brown sugar
1 c. white sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 c. water (or cider/apple juice)

First, peel the apples. This was the worst part. I don't love peeling apples. After that, it's a breeze. I sliced the apples and then used my Pampered Chef food chopper to finely chop them. You can chop them by hand, that was just mucchhhhh easier.
Next, throw the apples and all of the other ingredients into your slow cooker. Mix everything really well. Turn it on high for 2 hours (stirring every 30-45 minutes) and then down to low, stirring every hour, for another 5-7 hours. It'll be very thick when it's done and slightly lumpy, but not chunky. If you notice that it seems like it's burning or getting too dry, you can add more liquid- a tablespoon or so at a time.

So, it's a very easy process and quite rewarding. This is one of my favorite treats, which I have been known to plead with my mom to make. She's been so great to give me multiple batches each fall, but it was time for me to learn it myself. It was awesome because I didn't even need a recipe. Thanks, mom!

Pumpkin apple butter was made for toast and biscuits, but try it on a toasted turkey sandwich (with brie!), mixed into oatmeal or cottage cheese or many other various ways. It will not disappoint you.

Enjoy! Remember to hug your loved ones today. Every day we get to spend with the people closest to us is such a blessing.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Keira Knightley makeup, pt 2

So. I really don't love the way this turned out. My camera still hasn't been replaced and no matter what I did, it still looks like there isn't much eyeshadow on my lids and I can't get it to look as bright via photo as it does in real life. I'm thinking there may need to be some WHITE EYESHADOW highlighting along the lash line (top/bottom) visible past the black liner. I also need some sweet photoshopping like Ms. Knightley has to make the whites more vibrant. Or some really great visine :)
Basically, you follow the same steps outlined in this blog, stopping before the liner stage.

Bring the bronze shade all along underneath the eye and around it with a thick liner brush. Repeat with the darkest brown shade

Add a liquid liner along the top and bottom- thick on the outside and thinning as you come toward the inside. I used Stila's felt tip liquid liner.

Add thick amounts of mascara to top and bottom. Don't be afraid to go all "twiggy" on the bottom if you want the same look she has.

Use a pencil liner to line the waterline all along your bottom lid and into the corners of your eyes. You can skip this if you'd like, I really don't think it's good for the health of your eyes. I used 24/7 from Urban Decay in Zero. It doesn't tug at all... it's the best pencil liner on the market.

Go back through and add more shadow if necessary underneath and around the eye. Then use your liquid liner again to line along the entire lid (connect outside corners and along the inside corner)

Highlight the inside corners of your eyes with some white shadow or a highlighting pen. Sorry for the extremely bad quality. Does anyone want to sponsor my new camera?? :)

Another shot of the waterline and eyeliner

Anyway, best laid plans, right? I don't love how it turned out... but I suspect that white shadow highlighting would really help. If anyone tries it, let me know if that works better. Maybe I'll go hunting for some bronze shadow that's more reflective. Good luck with the look... I've got to finish the Pumpkin Apple Butter :)

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Keira Knightley Makeup Tutorial- Bronze eye (day)


This is insanely late. I know. So let's get right to it. I did a version of this for DAY (read, less dramatic). If you want full effect, stay tuned for the next tutorial. Keira often wears a bronze eye and it's very attractive without being over the top. The version we did for today is appropriate for work or other daily activities, but it's still fun.

Products used:
Stila illuminating finishing powder- bronze
Stila illuminating finishing powder- rose gold
Stila convertible eye color- Teak
Mascara- Clinique bottom lash mascara and Dior Show

For the record, I couldn't find my Dior Show until after I'd already done the tutorial, so I had to use a really old tube. This resulted in reallyyy scraggly eyelashes that aren't very nice. When you do it yourself, use a nice tube and apply a few coats. I also had left my Clinique Bottom Lash Mascara on the other side of the state, but it works much better than the standard mascara I used for the pictures.

First, apply a light, champagne-ish shade across the entire lid, from lash to brow. I used Stila Illuminating Powder in Rose Gold

Next, apply a bronze (Stila- Bronze) shadow from lash line to crease

Lastly (for shadow) apply a dark brown (Stila- Teak) in the outside corners and in the crease. Blend well

Add a brown liner from the outside corner to the inside corner. Start with a wider line at the outside corners and taper it in as you come toward the inner corners. I used Stila convertible eye shadow in Teak. This little pen is AWESOME! It comes with a liner, coordinating eyeshadow and a smudger all in one little tool. You can use it for the dark shadow and the liner. Smudge the eyeliner after applying with a smudger.

Now add the same liner to the bottom lash line and smudge

Lastly, two coats of mascara on top on one on the lower lash line

Below you'll find more pictures from various angles in case the look isn't totally clear. Enjoy and check back for the EVENING version.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

DIY spice up your shoes with shoe clips!

Just a very quick blog from me today! I have a full plate this afternoon, still needing to write the rest of the week's blogs as well as go to my job interview (!!) and then John and I have an appointment in the evening.
It's ok, though, because this is so incredibly easy that you won't need much direction at all. Shoe clips are a fun way to add a little zest or flair to a pair of shoes that may seem plain or a little overworn. I got my first pair for our wedding. I had ordered gorgeous shoes that I absolutely loved and they arrived just before the big day... and they were also huge. Enormous. Massive. I couldn't wear them. So, I really had to scramble to find a pair that would work in the right heel size (my dress had been tailored to that exact heel height). I settled on a nice gold pair, they were nice, but they didn't seem very special. So, I found a huge pair of shoe clips that matched my purse exactly and went for it. It wasn't an ideal situation, but it worked out!

my wedding shoes

All you'll need are the clips (which can be found at any craft store), the item you'd like to embellish with (fabric flowers, feathers, gems, anything!), a glue gun and hand sewing supplies.
If you want to use a single flower (like in the picture) you'll only need to sew the clip on to the flower and be done (there are holes on back of the clips for attaching with thread). If you want it to be a little more complicated... for example, you'd like to combine several elements, then I suggest that you glue everything to a small piece of felt and then sew *that* to the clip. If the embellishment is very large, you may need to attach a few clips to it (middle and sides) so that it lays nicely against the shoe.
It's really easy and making them is far less expensive than buying them (mine were around $25). If you aren't interested in assembling an embellishment, but you want to make shoe clips there are definitely options. Craft stores sell tons of fully embellished pieces for headbands that will work marveously for this project. All three flowers in my example pictures were sold as headband embellishments!
I hope you have a wonderful day! check back tomorrow for more inspiration.

Monday, September 19, 2011

DIY Samoa style brownies + 'la vie' this week

Isn't today the perfect day for laying in bed all morning, drinking cocoa (or coffee?) and snuggling with someone you love or a good book/movie? Yeah. I think so, too. However, I'll settle for laying in bed while blogging and eventually snuggling with Odette since Johnny boy is out all day. I love rainy days. I always have. I think they're so inspiring and gorgeous and peaceful. My mentor always teases me about my love for gloomy days, I can't help myself! The sun is wonderful, but there's almost something magical about a nicely stormy day.
Of course, these days always inspire people to seek comfort, often in a cozy sweater or some very hearty food. I'll give you a dose of that today with some Samoa inspired brownies. Late last week I asked John if he wanted me to make him a treat and he replied with an emphatic "YES!". He never turns down treats.
"cookies" on top of the batter
I thought I had pinned some sort of "5 ingredient, easy Samoa bar", but I couldn't find it in my boards, but I figured I could make a brownie version pretty easily. I was right! If you like the Samoa girl scout cookies and you like brownies... you will LOVE these. To all of you coconut haters out there, I'm sorry! My best friend's mom *really* hates coconut and I almost feel like I'm betraying her just for posting this.

Here's what you'll need...

Your favorite brownie mix (yes, we aren't doing a brownie tut today ;))
1 small bag of shredded baker's coconut
1 bag shortbread cookies or lady fingers
Caramel sauce

The first caramel layer
I should mention that our grocery store in town has a very limited selection (hmpf), so I could get neither lady fingers nor shortbread. I had to settle for animal crackers. And then, when we got home we discovered that the bag was already open (?!?!?!), so I had to use honey wheat braided pretzels. I didn't love their texture after coming out of the oven, but it was OK.

First, break up your cookies so that they're in little bite-sized pieces. Only break up enough to cover the top of your batter. Make your brownie batter and pour it into the pan specifications of the recipe. Next, add your cookies on top. You don't want it to be too thickly covered, though. After that, layer on some caramel.
Adding the coconut
After your first caramel coating comes the coconut. I used nearly the entire package, but there's just a little bit leftover. You can put on as much as you'd like! Remember, though, the more layers you have, the longer it will take to bake. I baked mine for nearly 40 minutes at 375. It's hard to tell when the brownies are actually done since you have to poke through caramel sauce to get to the batter. Remember not to over bake brownies. They tend to appear slightly undercooked, but they cool to a perfect state.

final carmalization :)

Once you have applied your desired amount of coconut, then you can put your final layer of caramel on top. Follow the baking instructions for your brownies, realizing that you'll need to add in some extra time due to the layering. I suggest letting them bake for the full recommended time and then fork-testing every 3-5 minutes after that. They came out really delicious, except for the pretzel layer. That part was ok. It would have been better with shortbread. The coconut was perfectly toasted and the caramel was warm and gooey. Ohhh I love treats. We each ate two brownies the first night and we've been trying to ignore them ever since. I packed one for John to take with him as a surprise today, but he didn't see it and it was left behind. I'm thinking that I should probably eat it.
In other news, my camera is about to ride off into the sunset. It can no longer zoom and the picture quality is really starting to lag. I do have a Minolta SLR camera. My parents got it for my birthday JUST before DSLR cameras hit the market and unfortunately, like most film cameras, it doesn't see much use. I've read that the lens can be transferred to other Minoltas and even some Sony DSLRs, which would be awesome. Then I'd only need to buy a body and not the entire deal. If you have any suggestions for either brand, please let me know!

And now, for 'la vie' this week...

Monday: DIY Samoa style brownies
Tuesday: DIY Shoe clips
Wednesday: Keira Knightley makeup tutorial
Thursday: DIY Men's suit pants into slim fit/skinny suit pants
Friday: DIY Pumpkin apple butter

It's going to be another fun week... praying GOOD things happen in your life and inspiration abounds!


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Friday, September 16, 2011

DIY pattern-free, basic & easy dress!

Isn't it awful when you think you're going to have a great day and then it turns out horribly? I really thought today was going to be fantastic, and it started out that way... but I just discovered that I drove off from the ATM this morning with my banking session still open and *without* my card. Brilliant. And, I left my phone on the other side of the state, so figuring things out has really started to take over my day. However, I think I have done everything that CAN be done until I can get a phone, so I'm choosing to move on... and write this blog! Which is good, because I didn't write this one in advance and now the day is getting away from me. Far, far away from me.
Anyhow, this dress is extremely easy. I did it in a very little amount of time and with minimal effort. The best part is that you can make all sorts of dresses using this same idea and then you can really take them from basic to super fun. You can change the neckline, add some elements (buttons, lace, trimming, pockets)... all sorts of things! In the future, I'll do another blog entirely about adding to an already made basic dress, and I'll even do more blogs about pattern-free dresses, but let's start with this super basic dress for today.
you will need...
Sewing machine
Another dress or a loose t-shirt

STEP ONE: (fold your fabric in half) I literally made this dress by tracing a t-shirt and tube dress on to fabric. Seriously. I found a t-shirt with a good fit and put it over a tube dress, then I traced the outline (plus 2 inches on each side for seam allowance and tightness factor). I think it would be easy to do this with a men's t-shirt and then just trace an extra 2 feet on to the bottom to make it long enough. After it's traced, put all along the dress on the INSIDE of the tracing. You can see that I traced on the *outside*, that's because I decided that I wanted it to be a loose-fitting dress and I wanted to actually cut it out even bigger than what I had traced. However, I had entirely forgotten that by the time I started cutting... so the dress is form fitting instead. Oh well. It just means I'll do it again! You can make the dress tighter, but be sure to cinch in a little bit at the waist or else you can just belt the dress when you wear it. If you're blessed with a bigger bum, remember to angle the dress out more like an A-line after the waist to create more room.

cut out and pinned
Cut out the dress. Decide what you want the neckline to be (sweetheart, boat neck, crew, whatever) and cut that out. You can trace it from another shirt with a good neckline or eyeball it. If you're going to do the latter, you may want to cut the first half and then fold it over and trace the other half, then cut it out. That will make it even. Remember that when you hem your neckline will be lower, so keep a seam allowance. Also, take a little bit off the back at the very minimum. You can always make the back the same as the front, that's kind of fun if you don't mind showing off your back!                                                   
Stitch together everything and hem the sleeves, neckline and bottom.

Try it on and make adjustments. My sleeves were really messed up. I had to go and play with the seam, loosening it with my hands so that they would lay right. You may decide that you want the hem shorter or that you want to take it in a bit. If that's the case, try the dress on inside out and pin it as needed. Then take it off and sew again!

Accessorize and wear it!

Audrey in Funny Face
I hope you have fun with it! There are so many ways you can spice this up. I really look forward to doing it again for a future blog. I'd like to make a shift and then an A-line dress similar to one I've always loved from the movie Funny Face. Audrey Hepburn wears it for a photo shoot in Paris while releasing tons of balloons. It's gorgeous! And it would be easy. You can check back for an entire blog about making your basic dresses and shirts more spicy as well. Have a great day... and if you're feeling cold, maybe you should make a knitting free lover/bff scarf

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Homemade crock pot applesauce... insanely easy

Today, I bring to you one of my favorite things in the world. Applesauce.
I love applesauce... always have. The only thing better is HOMEMADE applesauce, and for extra credit, serve it warm. Mmm.
This applesauce is adapted from Cookin' Canuk and is so easy to make, you won't believe you did it so quickly!
You will need...

10 apples of your choice (I used entirely gala, but I bet it would be more fun to mix in something tart, like a granny smith)
1 tbs of honey
1 tbs brown sugar
1 tbs regular sugar
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice (or a mix of ground cloves, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg)
1/2 tsp cardamom (optional, if not add one of the above spices)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 c water/apple juice/ apple cider

chop flesh face down, it's easier
 The original recipe calls for the apples to be peeled. I didn't feel like doing that, so ... the peels remained intact! I didn't mind them at all once it was finished, but if you think they'll bug you then you can always peel your apples.
Chop your apples. I used two methods for this, since chunky applesauce appeals to me. Half of the apples were chopped by hand (not so finely) and the half I used my Pampered Chef chopper on, and they were VERY finely chopped. If you really want smooth applesauce, then run them through a food processor.

Once everything is chopped, pour your liquid (water/apple juice or cider) into the bottom of your crock pot and then add the apples. Throw in the spices, sugar and honey and stir it all until well mixed. Set your crock pot to high (4-5 hours) or low (8 hours) and enjoy the delicious smell wafting through your home.

I literally devoured this when it was done. It was sooo good! You can always experiment as well, try making it really heavy with brown sugar or adding some different spices to see what you come up with. I bet caramel would be amazing!

Once the sauce has cooled, you can pour it into your container of choice. I hear mason jars are all the rage right now ;) It'll last for 1-2 weeks in the fridge.

I'm considering sharing a few of my very own personal recipes soon. Usually, I just take a general idea for my blogs and shake it up, but there are some things that may be coming in the near future that are a bit different.

Tomorrow will be another DIY day, I made a pattern free dress in a matter of MINUTES that is super easy. You can use a variety of fabrics and patterns to create different looks using the same technique. I hope you like it!

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Wednesday, September 14, 2011

DIY Anthropologie shirt- NO pattern!

I saw a knockoff of this shirt floating around, but the instructions were wrong. They were super simple, easier than mine even, but they wouldn't lay right if someone were to actually do them. I decided to right the wrong and make my own!
I used the extra fabric from the dress that will be featured Friday (insanely easy...) because it's what I had on hand. If you *really* want this shirt to be gorgeous, I suggest that you use chiffon or jersey, something more fluid that lays nicely. This is a much stiffer fabric. It's also a bit shorter than I'd like, but again that's because it was remnant fabric.

Choose a loose-fitting tank top from your wardrobe. If you haven't got one, just use any tank top and then add 4-6 inches on each side, tapering it so that it's angling downward (tighter at the top and looser at the bottom). Fold your fabric in half and place your tank on your fabric. Trace it out, adding an extra inch all around for seam allowance. You'll notice that I started where the straps turn into the underarms. You need the curve of the underarm, but no straps. The ribbon becomes your strap. Remember, if you're using a flowy material, the wider you make the tubing (top/collar), the more you can bunch it together. This fabric wouldn't flow right if I made it *too* wide. But, I really would have preferred it to look more bunched. The next time around, it will!
Pin inside of the traced lines

Pin around the entire thing from the INSIDE of where you traced about an inch. Once it's all pinned, cut along your line.


Tubing, pinned
Pin your tubing. In order to lace the ribbon through the top, you'll need to create a tube at the top of the front and back. Simply fold over the top 1.5 inches and pin in place (fold it so that the top end touches the 'ugly/traced' side where you'll do all of the hemming. You should leave more room than I had, add an extra 1.5 inches straight up at the top. I had to make it work since I had a limited amount of fabric left, but you have the opportunity to make it perfect! If the directions seem unclear, reference the picture. You can see the two tubes fold away from each other and the fabric is pinned down on to the ugly side, the side that will be inside when you've finished sewing and turn the shirt right side out. It may be more helpful once you start sewing to move the pins higher on the tubing so that you can sew as close to the bottom as possible. You want room in your tube for the ribbon to go through easily.

Stitch the tubes in place, then hem your underarms and the bottom of the shirt. After that, stitch the sides up. I didn't hem the underarms, instead I used Fray Check. Normally I would, but because I had to scrimp on the fabric toward the top, I didn't think it would look good. The type of fabric I used made it easy to do that, but if you use the chiffon or jersey, you'll need to hem *everything*.

Push your ribbon through both sides of the tube. It will help to use a closed pen or something else to push the ribbon through. Connect the ribbon on the front (either side), knot and tie a pretty bow! Also, use clear nail polish or Fray Check on the edges of your ribbon so that it stays pretty. Lastly, you have the option of sewing tubing from excess fabric to use as ribbon. This would be really pretty and make the shirt look more expensive, but I wanted to use my excess fabric for another project. If you want to do that, just fold over a long strip of fabric (or connect two to make a really long strip) and then sew along the sides. Push them inside out and stitch up the ends.

I can't wait to try this again with a different fabric. It would be great to make and give these away as well. The fit of the shirt allows for a lot of variance in size.

That's all from me today... have a wonderfully warm afternoon!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Places and Spaces

Generally I write the entire week's worth of blogs in one-two days and then just post them daily. I have the entire week finished *except* for the anthro shirt, my sewing machine went haywire on me. So, we'll be posting tomorrow's blog today and today's tomorrow!
Today, I wanted to highlight some of my favorite spaces. It's really important to have places you absolutely love in your home. Our culture and our world is becoming increasingly more complex and therefore, more stressful. It seems like each year I get more and more busy! The same goes for my family and friends, we're moving at warp speed these days. Having places of respite in your home helps to alleviate some of the stress of life. I like to fill our home things things that make me feel comfortable and at peace as well as things which make life easier.
There are TONS (especially in the "make life easier" category), but I'd like to highlight two today.
the bringer of relief
The first is so simple, and probably the best $10 I've ever spent. It has really improved the quality of my generally restless sleep. Like many people, I have the inside "side" of the bed against the wall. For some, it really isn't a problem... especially for you insanely blessed few that can fall asleep anywhere, any time and in any amount of noise. I am so not you. I have at least 2 sleep disorders and one of my biggest goals is taming them. Throughout the night I wake up often, and as soon as I wake up, I *have* to check the clock. I just have do! I have to know if it's worth trying to go back to sleep or if I may as well get up and start my day. We also have an entire army of birds in our complex that have decided that 3 am is clearly the best time to ward off would-be competitors and make as much noise as possible. If that weren't enough, I like to stay up a little bit later than my spouse reading and I also wake up at a different time than him, making a separate alarm necessary. All of these issues caused me to have to a) wake him up several times a night intentionally or b) try to lean over to him to get/see what I need... which woke him up anyway. Sometimes, I'd feel really guilty (around the 7-8th time) and just lay there awake trying to wait as long as possible.
However, all of that was solved with a $10 shelf from Ikea. This bad boy is TINY but it works wonders! It's just the right size to keep from being obtrusive, but it can hold my earplugs (those crazy birds!), alarm clock, phone, glass of water and book with ease. If you're like me- which studies show that Americans are increasingly suffering from sleep disorders- then really consider this. Sometimes you may not know what is causing you to lose sleep at night, but take some time to investigate it. Having a shelf full of solutions has really increased my peace of mind at night and allowed me to sleep longer and fall asleep faster.
Next, I'm going to attach a magazine rack below the shelf, right at the level of my mattress to tuck away my laptop at night. Very exciting!
The second doesn't help me sleep at night, but it DOES fill my life with inspiration! It's my very own little corner. Everyone needs their own space at home for doing ... whatever it is that they do! My husband and I share everything, even our "amusante" room, which is a place we invented for being artistic. In that room we have stored all of his musical gear and equipment as well as my art/craft supplies and the majority of our books. I love that room. It speaks to me. However it's our room. This little corner is mine (well... still ours, but mine). When we first moved into our little home this was a very empty and barren corner. I knew immediately that if nothing else, it needed a chair. Then I knew it needed some art... but not just any art... I knew exactly what I wanted it to look like, so I painted something specifically for it myself. Then I knew It needed a bookshelf. I love bookshelves. So, I got one and I assembled it and now I'm filling it up. And finally, it was just the right place for the little white column that I took from my mom. I really love that column and they didn't have a use for it anymore, so I snagged it right up even though there wasn't anywhere to put it yet. Even just *looking* at this corner inspires me because it's so full of things that speak who I am to myself.
I really encourage you to make a little space of your own in your home for yourself. It can be where you write, plan, create, think, journal, pray... whatever it is that you do that makes you who you are. Even if it's just a quiet place where you can be by yourself and free from pressures of life to collect your thoughts and recharge, make it, and make it your own.  It has been a great investment and a way to help make an empty, barren place a little bit more like a home.
I hope you have a wonderful day today... remember, your home is your castle! Do what you can to make it speak to you.

ps- just so we're all aware... when we made out the color chart for our home (yes, we charted each room!), yellow + grey wasn't a trend yet. Hence the reason we had to make our own art, I bet we could get TONS now!

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