Friday, May 9, 2014

New Series: Neat Freaky Fridays

Recently I have sort of doubled down my efforts to keep my house clean. I was starting to feel like a slacker and wanted to get on top of things before I became a complete slob. In that effort I found a ton of daily checklists but none of them were completely useful to me. I found that most of them had things on the list that I don't even have in my house, like vacuuming carpets. I realized that the reason these lists weren't all that useful to me is because they were tailored for someone else. I mean they don't know my life, they don't know how often I need to wash a load of laundry. 

So I decided to create my own checklist and here is how I did that. I started off using a cheat sheet, aka a premade checklist that I found in a search. I crossed off the things I didn't need and I added in things from my own life, like scooping the litter box. Then for a couple of weeks I did everything on the list once a day. It was a bit time consuming at first because nothing was really clean but after a few days I found that there were some things that I just didn't really need to do that day. For example the toilet in my front bathroom only really needs to be cleaned once a week. 

Now I felt like I was getting a handle on my checklist situation. I had found the things that do indeed need to be done every day, like dishes, and the things that only really need to be done once a week, like the toilet. Once I figured all of that out I reconfigured my list making daily and weekly tasks. It was also then that I decided I needed a reminder to do these things and an easier way to keep up with them. So I downloaded a free checklist app for my phone that alerts me in the morning telling me I have unfinished tasks and it lets me check them off as I finish them. There are a ton of them for both android and ios, just search daily checklist. Make sure you go for one that allows at least three types of tasks a daily recurring task, a weekly recurring task, and a one time task. This way you don't have to keep adding in your tasks every day and you can also add in one time tasks that only need to be done every once in a while, like cleaning ceiling fan blades.

I made a sample of my daily checklist for you to see what I mean, it's down at the bottom of this post. I start off in my kitchen because it's at the back of the house and I like to work my way towards the front but you go in whatever order works for you. I do the tasks for each room in the order they are on the list, even if I don't do the kitchen first. They are ordered so that I won't create a new mess with each task. For example if I sweep the floors and then clean the counters I'd end up getting crumbs on the newly swept floors. My order of things may not work for you, and the point is for you to do this your way, so experiment a bit, but in general you always want to clean from the top down. 

Another thing worth mentioning is that for me, do a load of laundry means put the clothes that are in the washer into the dryer and turn the dryer on, then put another load in the washer and turn it on, and then fold and put the load from the dryer away once they are finished. If you need to break that task up go for it, it's all about customization here. You can also combine a task that I have broken up like empty and load the dish washer. The last thing I'll mention about my list is I have five weekly tasks, cleaning the toilet and then mopping the four rooms I clean every day. I put one of those tasks on each week day so I'm not doing a ton of extra work on one day. You can put all of your weekly tasks on an off day if you would rather save that time on your week days. 

BTW if you're wondering I made this checklist in Mircrosoft Works using a premade chore list template, so if you don't want to go the app route you can make one for yourself or print mine and go from there.The point of the checklist is to simplify your cleaning routine so make your list as efficient and easy to get through as you can. If windows aren't important to you leave them off of your list. I did ;)

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Pears and Cream ... a culinary memory.

Ok, so it's not terribly culinary but The Man and I were reminiscing recently about the rare items on the school lunch menu that we actually liked, and pears and sour cream was a win for both of us. He remembered his mom making it for him when he was very small and she put a cherry on top. My memory of it was of lunch ladies handing me little neutral colored bowls filled with half a pear, a scoop of sour cream and some shredded cheese. I decided to make it his moms way to see if it was as good as I remembered and with the cherry it was way better. 

It's easy peasy, you just need some canned pear halves, some sour cream and some bright red maraschino cherries. The pears I used were kind of small so I wound up using four halves, (two whole pears) and about a quarter cup of sour cream per bowl. I also poured a little bit of the syrup from the cherries on top to sweeten the deal and make it pretty. The cherries and the pears are sweet enough that the sour cream becomes almost like yogurt, and I suppose you could use yogurt instead, but I liked that the tang of the sour cream could still shine through the sweetness. It was a successful walk down memory lane for the both of us and you should try it ... and feed it to everyone you love so they'll love it too.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Spicy Sloppy Joes

Sloppy Joes are perhaps the perfect food for a weeknight. They taste really great, they are good and filling and they don't cost a lot to make. Oh and if you do it my way it only takes about fifteen minutes to make them.

You'll need:
1 1/2 cups of picante sauce, I used mild but you can use whatever intensity you'd like
1 10 oz can of diced tomatoes and peppers drained, also use your favored intensity
1 lb of browned ground beef

Start off with a skillet on medium heat and toss in a pound of pre browned ground beef. This is what's going to save you so much time. I get a three to five pound pack of ground beef and brown it all up at the same time then store it in quart sized bags in my freezer I use it for soup and tacos and all sorts of things. If you don't want to do that ahead of time you can brown it now but it will take the cooking time up to about a half an hour which is still great. After about a minute or so the meat will warm up and you can toss in your tomatoes and picante sauce and mix it up. Let it simmer for about ten or fifteen minutes until it's the thickness you desire and serve it on hamburger buns with a side of fries. Oh and yes paper plates are the proper dinnerware for sloppy joes ;)

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Kitchen Sink Soup

It's that time of year again, time for hearty and comforting foods. I can't think of anything more hearty and comforting than a good bowl of soup. The best thing about this soup is that you can put almost anything in it and it'll be good. The only constant ingredient is a 28oz can of whole tomatoes which I crush by hand. This week I used a 28 oz can of Veg-all which I rounded off with some left over corn and Lima beans from the fridge and some browned ground beef. I've added everything from cabbage to pearl onions to this and it always comes out tasty and if you leave out the meat it's vegetarian. A cube of corn bread on top to soak up the broth and you've got a meal fit for any Autumn night. The basic recipe goes something like this:

1 28oz can of whole tomatoes
1 28oz can of mixed vegetables *
1 14 oz can of corn*
1 14 oz can of lima beans*
1 lb of browned ground beef

*substitute frozen versions or any other veggie you would like.

Start off by pouring the tomatoes into a 4q soup pot and crush them by hand. Mix in all the other ingredients and let it simmer for about 45 minutes, or longer if you use frozen veg. Top with a square of cornbread and dig in.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Plastic Canvas Cuff Bracelet

I have done a few plastic canvas projects in the past but recently I have had a slew of great ideas for projects to make with it. I don't know what brought it on but I am enjoying it. Yesterday I made a cuff bracelet for one of my nieces. Since it is personalized I can't really give a pattern for it but I can detail the process I used to make it.

You'll need to start off with a measurement of your wrist, mine for example is seven inches. Next measure your closure, I used these nifty paracord clasps I found at Wal-mart in the kids craft section, but you could use tons of closure methods. Subtract the measurement of the closure from the measurement of your wrist and you'll know how big to cut your canvas. 

For this bracelet it was 12x40 but you could make them as thin as you'd like. On a ten count canvas like this I wouldn't go much further past 12 because that is quite a thick cuff. Now all you have to do is design your image. I have a stash of cross stitch alphabets and perler bead patterns on my DIY pinterest board that I use for plastic canvas projects. Just do a search for cross stitch patterns or perler patterns and you'll find a wealth of ideas. I also find that plotting a design on graph paper before I stitch it helps me to keep the design symmetrical and looking nice.

After you have your design plotted and you are ready to stitch take a look at your closure. You need to be sure that you are attaching it in the right spot to keep it centered. If you don't center the clasp the bracelet will be wonky. I attached my clasp while I did the edging of the canvas with a double whip stitch. When it came time to put the clasp on I did the first whip of the square under the clasp and the second one over it. My clasps covered about four squares on the canvas so this method was a pretty steady closure. 

I already have two more bracelets in the works and tons of ideas for others. If you make one I'd love to see it.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Crochet Christmas Bootie Candy Dish

Recently The Mom and I went to a huge community wide yard sale and wound up at my uncles house where he and his new wife were having a sale. Both lost their spouses a few years ago and are trying to pare down their belongings from two households. The Mom came across a huge tote full of Christmas decorations that belonged to my aunt so of course she bought it. We waited a while to go through it but when we did I found a little piece of nostalgia. It's a little crocheted boot that I remembered all of my aunts and my mother having when I was a kid, that I'm pretty sure my Aunt Sharon made.

It's meant to hold a small coffee can and be filled with Christmas treats but this one is good and old, and has seen better days, so I was afraid to wash it. I'm also more of a fan of a darker red and brighter green for Christmas colors so I decided I would make a new one for myself with some scrap yarn that I had on hand. The one my mother had was lost in a fire but I remember that she put in shell mixed nuts in hers. My aunts all used theirs for something different but I remember there being ribbon candy, peppermints, candy canes, and Christmas themed Kisses in these little booties. I think I'll use mine for fancy mix candy this year.         

I did wonder if I could make one in a smaller size as not everyone is going to want something that will hold a twelve ounce coffee can so I went about making one that would hold a cream of mushroom can instead. Oddly enough both cans were about twelve ounces by weight but the coffee can is two or three times bigger. I dug through my scrap yarn and found some DK yarn that I had used in a baby blanket a while back and it dawned on me that in these colors it looks like a baby bootie. These suckers work up pretty quickly so it might make a cute center piece at a baby shower that the mom can take home with her afterwards. It looks good with butter mints in it as well which is a bonus because I never fail to find butter mints at baby showers.

You could also gauge this up with thicker yarn and a bigger hook to use a larger vessel in the middle. For my large one I used Red Heart Super Saver in Cherry Red, Spring Green and White and a size I/9- 5.50 MM Boye hook. I don't remember the brand of yarn I used for the smaller one but it's acrylic DK yarn with a D sized hook. My large grannies measure 3.5 inches squared and the smaller ones measure 2.75 inches squared. If you know how to make a simple granny square use whatever method you favor to make thirteen squares. Sew them together to make the two configurations in the picture below and then follow the instructions to make the boot. 

If you don’t know how to make a granny square I’ll add a quick pattern for one near the end of this post. Once you have the boot made turn it right side out and attach your main color yarn to the top of the cuff with a slip stitch in the middle of any chain space. *DC six times in the middle DC of the next three DC on  the cuff. Slip stitch in the next chain space.* Repeat from * to * until you come back around to the original slip and slip in that stitch. 

Here is the method I use to make a granny square. With color A ch 4 and then 2 DC in the 4th chain from the hook. 

Rnd 1 Ch 1 *three DC in the same Ch then Ch1* Repeat *to* twice then slip stitch into the top of the ch3 and tie off. 

Rnd 2 Attach color B into any corner of the center square with a slip stitch and DC twice then ch1. *In the next corner 3 DC, ch 1, 3 DC all in the same ch space of the corner. Ch 1.* Repeat from * to * twice. In the corner that you started DC 3, ch 1 and connect to the top of the ch with a slip stitch. Tie off.

Rnd 3Attach color C to any corner with a slip stitch ch 3, DC 2 ch 1. *3 DC in the next ch space ch 1. 3 DC ch 1, 3 DC in the corner, ch. 1* Repeat from * to * twice. In the last corner 3 DC ch1 attach to the top of the chain with a slip stitch. Tie off sew in your ends.

I also have a few quick tips for working with grannies. Sew in the ends very well, they tend to want to come loose in grannies so you have to pay close attention to getting them good and sewn in. When I have a lot of grannies to make I tend to make them in an assembly line fashion. First I make all of the centers, then I do the second round on all of the squares, then the third round and then I sew in all of the ends. I usually start each round in the same corner so that all of my ends are in the same area when I’m finished. I almost always use a mattress stitch to sew grannies together no matter what I’m making.

Ok to put the structure of the boot together fold square 1 up toward the center and sew it to square 2 then square 3 on the other side. Next fold square 6 up to the center and sew it to 4 then 5. Now fold 7 over and sew it to 4 then 5. Next fold 9 toward 8 and sew those together to form the cuff and then place them over the hole on the lower part of the boot and sew it on taking care to line the squares up.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Board Games, a New Obsession, Plus a Craft.

I know I haven't posted a blog in over a year but I was employed and busy for most of that time. These days I'm no longer employed and I've discovered a new hobby/obsession. That would be board games. I happened to catch Wil Wheaton's show Table Top on youtube and since then I've been obsessed. Based on an episode of that show I bought the game Zombie Dice. In Zombie Dice you need a method to mark points, up until tonight we had been using pennies. I don't like handling pennies a lot, it may be in my head but they make my hands smell weird. Since I don't like the pennies I decided to make my own markers. I could have just bought a bag of flat marbles and decide to be done with it but I wanted to have brains dang it. So here is how I made my Zombie Dice braaaaiiiins markers.

To make these you'll need clear flat glass marbles, white glue, access to a decent printer and a sheet full of printed out brains. I just went to the interwebs and found a cartoony picture of a brain then repeated it at about 3/4 of an inch across a page. I decided that the light color wasn't cartoony enough so I colored it pink with a magic marker to make it pop a little bit more.

Then I put a dot of glue in the middle of each brain and placed a flat marble onto it, pressing down to make sure the glue spread out and covered the whole picture. Then I let them dry and trimmed the extra paper off.

I really like the way they turned out, the marble magnifies the image so it looks larger than the print out. That helps with the detail you might lose from making the image so small. Now we can play Zombie Dice in style and I can get rid of those pennies.