January 28, 2012

Mason Jar Inspiration

Growing up mason jars were used to bottle up and save the best parts of the year- Vegetable and Brunswick stew mom made during the winter months, green beans and other garden vegetables Grandma & Grandpa Otwell picked from their garden in the summer, and jams and jellys made from peaches when mom and Susan accidentally bought far too many for their simple afternoon project. When I went to college away from home, mom sent cases of jarred soup to me, and it was like having a piece of home and her instantly in my hands.

All this might explain why I have an insane love for mason jars in all their forms, both when used for foods, and for decoration. They're simple vet versatile and I just can't get enough!

Here are some of my very favorite uses for mason jars, hope they are lovely and inspiring to you also..

(These are not my personal images, I simply found them online and fell in love)
Outdoor lighting might be my favorite use for them (couldn't save it for last)--
it's so romantic and southern feeling.
Adds a touch of awesome! Gives a light and breezy feel to the room.
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On the flip side, this DIY light fixture is very rustic.
 If I get super ambitious, I might try this, thanks to the tutorial at Home To Heather.

Subtle lighting and detail for a great patio
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Love the punched top on these creative drinks. Perfect for summertime events!

Another drink idea that's just precious!
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A girl's two of three favorite things.. flowers & dessert (diamonds not pictured ;) )
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Maybe I'll try some of these projects coming up! Have a great weekend! xoxo!

January 23, 2012

DIY Picture Frame & Slow Cooker Chicken Tacos

Here's a DIY double whammy for ya- make a fabric picture frame and cook dinner at the same time! (except one will take about 5 1/2 hours longer than the other.)

Cute right? And if you make it in the same fabric you made your lamp (here), it will help tie everything in your room together. And your friends will think "oh wow she's crafty!"

So here's what you do..

Pick out an old frame, frame you've had forever, that you got as a gift, one that you never really liked, or whichever one, and lay your fabric over it. Make sure you have enough fabric to cover the top and a little bit of either side.

Remove the glass. Pull the fabric tight, and hot glue it down starting on the outside of the frame. Like this..

Then use an X-acto knife to cut out the middle, remembering to leave enough to tuck under. You'll also need to cut really close into the corners so that the fabric tucks correctly.

Then glue the insides. Keep it taunt.

Waaa laa! Easy! (and cute)

I put mine on my new shelf!
(Yes this is a corner shelf.) 
(Yes, it's made from a door.)
(Yes, my dad made it.)
(Yes, he's the best dad ever!)
(Yes, I love it, and him.)

Now for the dinner part.. Slow Cooker Chicken Tacos

So stinkin' easy!

3 chicken breasts
1 jar of salsa
1 packet taco seasoning (but I only used half)

Dump it all in and stir! Cook it about 6 hours on low. Shred it with a fork.

Put that baby on a tortilla. Add lettuce, tomatoes, sour cream, cheese, whatever you love.


January 22, 2012

Lamp Shade Re-Cover

I've been on a mission lately to find the coolest/cheapest lamps to pair with really interesting fabrics in hopes I can create inexpensive fun accents for the home. I struck gold at Goodwill twice, finding two really great lamps for $5 and $8. Of course, when I got started with this project, I decided to use a lamp I already had- imagine that! So I consider the project below to be a super successful test run, and I still have big plans for the other lamps I bought.

I found this fabric at Joann's and fell in love. It has a very delicate yet Roman feel?- maybe it's the color combination? Either way, I knew I was leaving that fabric store with it in hand, although I don't have the slightest idea where it would work in my house.

Here's the before picture. Previously spray painted for a college dorm room, and survived longer than it probably should have!

Here's the after! Way more funky while still simple- LOVE the outcome!

So here's how we did it- (shout out to Amber for her super helpful assistance)

(1 yard or a little less if your shade is sized similar to mine)
Hot glue

First, We cut and tore the original cover off this lamp. This lamp was originally green, then black, so this is the third round for this lamp- yay upcycle!

You may need to iron any folds out of your fabric.

Lay your fabric out on the table. Lay your lampshade on top, centering it between the top and bottom of the fabric, and between the ends. The first glue you'll apply should be to glue the center of the fabric to the part of the lampshade that's facing down.

As I learned the hard way, only apply hot glue to the trim part of the lampshade. If you add glue (even dots) to the middle, it will show through the fabric.

Once your center is glued on your lamp, roll it slightly, apply a bit of glue to the top and bottom trim, and pull the fabric tight around the shade, securing it. continue this pattern until it's all glued down.

On the "back side" you'll need to trim the fabric in order to tuck it under and glue it, creating a seam.

Stand your lamp up and trim the extra fabric from the top. Make it pretty short, as you'll want it to be able to be tucked into the inside for gluing, but not show through when the light is shining. (you'll see my mistake below)

We cut little notches in the top to keep fabric from awkwardly stretching. Note the amount of fabric trimmed isn't enough, it should be shorter.

 On both the top and bottom, apply glue to the trim, and go along, pushing the fabric down, making sure it's pulled tight.

There she is!

But then.. I was disappointed by how you could see the fabric tucked behind the shade. And you could see the faded black spray paint from the original cover.

See? It looked bad.

Then we thought "OMG! Let's double cover it!" So GENIUS! (And we trimmed the heck out of the fabric on the underneath to make sure it didn't show through)

So we did, and it came out awesome!

And when it's on, it's really funky cool!

I can imagine you probably don't need to double cover it if it's not a white/light fabric.

With the extra fabric, we covered a picture frame. I'll show you that tomorrow! Stay tuned!

January 19, 2012

My Drunk Kitchen

Please believe me when I say I've been super busy preparing projects while not really ready to share anything yet. Soon I will refinish two shelves, do a lamp project, document us tearing out old carpet and installing new carpet, and the list goes on! In the meantime though, please enjoy my favorite episode of My Drunk Kitchen - it's hilarious, really. Especially if cooking is a challenge for you.

Disclaimer: a fair amount of bad language is in this video, and of course alcohol. If its not for you, no hard feelings. Otherwise, enjoy!

My Drunk Kitchen Video

January 15, 2012

Boston Cream Whoopie Pies

I've been cooking and baking new things a LOT lately, I guess because it's been FREEZING outside and I sometimes lack crafting motivation when it's cold. So what do I do instead? Bake, and eat! Trust me though, this is the greatest recipe, and you'll thank me (and Annie's Eats) for sharing this with you!

Here's what you'll need:

For the pastry cream:2 cups half-and-half
½ cup sugar, divided
Pinch salt
5 large egg yolks
3 tbsp. cornstarch
4 tbsp. cold unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
1½ tsp. vanilla extract

For the cookies:8 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
¾ cup sugar
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2¼ cups all-purpose flour
1½ tsp. baking powder
¾ tsp. salt
½ cup milk

For the ganache:2 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
¼ cup heavy cream

Here's how you do it:

To make the pastry cream, heat the half-and-half, 6 tablespoons of the sugar, and the salt in a saucepan over medium-high heat until simmering, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar.  Meanwhile, combine the egg yolks and remaining 2 tablespoons sugar in a medium bowl and whisk until the sugar has begun to dissolve and the mixture is creamy, about 15 seconds.  Whisk in the cornstarch until combined and the mixture is pale yellow and thick, about 30 seconds.

When the half-and-half mixture has reached a simmer, slowly add it to the egg yolk mixture to temper, whisking constantly.  Return the mixture to the saucepan, scraping the bowl with a rubber spatula.  Return the mixture to a simmer over medium heat, whisking constantly, until a few bubbles burst on the surface and the mixture is thickened and glossy, about 30 seconds.  Off the heat, whisk in the butter and vanilla.  Strain the pastry cream through a  fine mesh sieve set over a medium bowl.  Press plastic wrap directly on the surface to prevent a skin from forming and refrigerate until cold and set, at least 3 hours and up to 2 days.
To make the cookies, preheat the oven to 375˚ F.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.  Fit a pastry bag with a wide round tip. Combine the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Blend in the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Blend in the vanilla.  In a medium bowl combine the flour, baking powder, and salt; whisk to combine.  With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients to the bowl, alternating with with the milk, and beating each addition just until incorporated.

( why yes, that is a snowman spatula. Jealous?)

Transfer the batter to the piping bag.  Pipe 1½-2 inch circles onto the prepared baking sheets, spacing an inch or two apart.

 Bake 8-10 minutes, until the cookies are set (they should not brown.)  Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.  Repeat with any remaining batter as necessary.

Once all the cookies have cooled, match them up in pairs by size.

To make the ganache, place the chopped chocolate into a small heatproof bowl.  Bring the heavy cream to a simmer in a small saucepan.  Pour the cream over the chocolate and let sit for 1-2 minutes.

 Whisk in small circular motions until the chocolate is completely blended and the ganache is smooth.  Dip the rounded side of one cookie of each pair into the ganache and coat with an even layer.  Return to the cooling rack, flat side down, and let the ganache set before proceeding. (By the way, dipping cookies in ganache is NO JOKE! Didn't turn out so pretty for me- but, they tasted like heaven!)

Transfer the pastry cream another piping bag fitted with a smaller plain round tip.  Pipe a dollop of pastry cream onto the flat side of the plain cookie of each pair.  Press the flat side of the other cookie to the pastry cream, sandwiching the two together.
Keep refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 2 days.

Thanks To Annie's Eats for sharing this awesome recipe! I absolutely loved the challenge, and loved the taste even more! Hope you try them and enjoy!

January 8, 2012

Chicken Piccata with Mushrooms

A little spin on regular chicken piccata with the addition of mushrooms, I've found this recipe to be my favorite of all the chicken piccata recipes I've come across so far. If you've never made this before, just know that in order to really love it, you should be the following two things: a caper liker, and a lemon lover as there are some capers (although they are optional), and quite a bit of lemon flavor. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do! Also- there are quite a few ingredients but hopefully as I did, you'll have most of them on hand already.

Here's what you'll need:

1/2 cup flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp paprika
1 egg
2-3 tablespoons milk
6 (or less) boneless, skinless chicken breasts
4 tablespoons butter
1/2 lb. fresh mushrooms, sliced
1/4 cup onion
1 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup white wine
2 lemons, divided
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 jar capers, rinsed

In a small bowl, mix together flour, salt, and paprika. In a separate bowl, mix together egg and milk.

If needed, pound chicken breasts to flatten slightly. Rinse chicken in sink, pat dry. Dip in egg mixture to coat, then in flour mixture.

Melt butter in large skillet (med-high heat). Saute chicken until golden brown on both sides. Add mushrooms and onions and continue to cook for about 3-5 minutes.

In a medium bowl, combine chicken broth, wine, 1 1/2 lemons worth of juice, and cornstarch. Pour over skillet and reduce heat to medium-low. Add rinsed capers (as many as you like- I usually use about 1/2- 3/4 of the jar).

Simmer for 25 minutes or until chicken is cooked through. If you wish to eat the chicken over linguine, then begin cooking your pasta during this 25 minutes.

Cooked Linguine on the bottom, chicken on the top and sauce poured all over- DELICIOUS! and some people like to squeeze a little extra lemon on there!

Who needs Olive Garden? This is a great stay-in date night dinner!

January 7, 2012

Yellow Lace Lantern

It's the most beautiful day- 67 degrees! It's like September in January, totally amazing! And I'm inside blogging :) But I couldn't wait, I just had to share a lace lantern I've just finished! I originally got the idea from here, but couldn't find doilies to SAVE MY LIFE! So when i found yellow lace (after 5,000 stores- almost) I thought it would be perfect for a trial run if nothing else. Now it's finished and I love it! Not sure if it will stay yellow though? Thoughts?

So here's what you'll need:
Lace/ doilies, newspaper or wax paper, fabric stiffener, shallow bowl, scissors, a balloon (24''+)

A couple things: I found the lace at a thrift store, the fabric stiffener at Michael's Crafts (use a coupon!), and balloon from Party City. Unfortunately you have to buy a pack of 10 balloons, about $9.99 so it's bit of a splurge. If you're making more than one, like I am, then it may be worth it. Otherwise, maybe you can use a smaller size balloon?

Also, the brush is pointless. It's SO much easier to use your hands, so just know- it's going to get messy!

So.. blow up your balloon and tie it up (to the chandelier if you're extra classy like me). Put newspaper underneath- it will drip like crazy! So here's your setup..

Pour some fabric stiffener into the bowl. Cut your lace into square like pieces. They don't need to match or be perfect or the same size. I think it actually looks better when they vary (because when it overlaps in different places on the lantern, it gives a really cool effect)

Dip one piece of lace in the glue at a time, totally soak it in the glue, and stretch it out onto the balloon. Start at the top where the balloon is tied up, and leave space (which will serve as the hole where the light bulb goes through).

Continue adding pieces of soaked lace, overlapping them slightly, ensuring they all connect.

This is when I thought the brush was a good idea.. nope.

What it looks like when part is dry and part is wet..

Once it's all on there, add some extra stiffener in places it seems needed. Then let it dry overnight. Once dry, pop the balloon, and carefully detach the shrinking balloon  from the lace sides. It's less fragile than it seems, but don't get crazy!

Once the balloon is removed, it will look similar to this:

And once it's lit up, there she is!

Stay tuned for the doily version! let me know if you have any questions about the process, and pin it to your pinterest board if you love it!