Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Mexico Remixed

Here is my latest refresh of my clipboards! I took one iconic image from our trip to Mexic0 and remixed it a variety of ways. I pulled it into Photoshop and added filters to create various looks like watercolor and chalk. I also pulled it into two of my favorite online photo editing websites - Picnik and BeFunky. It was fun to see what different effects I could create.

I used iPhoto to add text in the corner saying Mexico 2009. Then I printed on glossy paper.

When I put them up on the clipboards they seemed a little bland. So I added some pieces of blue scrapbook paper in back to pull in the colors of the sky and ocean.

Monday, April 27, 2009

My Cat and the Ikea Chair?

I've been concerned that the new chair would become a cat hair magnet. But so far, the cat seems much more interested in the paper that was packed in the box. This is her new favorite spot to snooze. I think I will leave the paper out for as long as it makes her happy!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Assembling an Ikea Poang Chair

Several years ago my friends bought a Poang Chair from Ikea, and whenever I visit them, that is MY chair to sit in! So comfortable! I finally decided to buy one with some Christmas money, even though the modern look doesn't quite match with the rest of my decor.

It took me about 45 minutes to put the chair together and about 10 minutes for the ottoman. Here are the steps:

1) The box - easily fit in the trunk of a compact car.

2) Open the box.

3) Here are the pieces:

4) The directions are given completely in pictures - no words. The hardest part is matching the pictures with the parts - at first I kept getting the screws mixed up and they wouldn't fit until I realized there was another little metal piece that it needed to be paired with.

5) They give you this little crank gizmo to tighten the screws. Actually the kit came with 2 different sizes of cranks! No other tools needed! It was very easy to tighten once you had the right parts together.

6) When the legs are assembled, you attach them to the seat.

7) Here is the frame. The chair pads easily attach with velcro.

8) Finished product. It is my new laptop using chair. I love it!

Sometime (this summer?) I hope to make a little quilt to fit over top of it to make it look a little more countryish to match my decor. And I need something that I can use to protect from cat hair (!) that I can easily wash. Because I know it is just a matter of time before the *cat* discovers how comfy it is and claims it as her own!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Green Glass Necklace

A couple weeks ago I was bad! I went to a bead show at the Southfield Pavilion. So much temptation! I had a couple items I had been looking for, but of course I came back with more than I was planning to get.

I found some pretty chain and this cool glass pendant. I liked the pendant because it had the colors of sea glass.

They had some silver bails that I bought and it was very easy to epoxy the bail to the top to make a hook for the pendant. A simple way to make a necklace - I bought a few extra bails to try on other things.

Sisterhood Award Thank You

Recently, I connected virtually with the author of the "Chronicles of YaYa Orchid" - we both have been trying to make some of the aprons in this book. She notified me a few days ago that she had kindly nominated me for an award (which you can read about in this blog post). Thank you so much!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Baked Sweet Potato Fries

It's funny, I really don't like plain sweet potatoes or even the kind with all the brown sugar and marshmallows that people make for Thanksgiving, but I do like sweet potato fries! I kinda got hooked on them when we ate at the Burger Bar last summer. But I usually don't eat a lot of fried foods. So I've been experimenting with making a baked version. Here's what I do:

Cut the fries into slices. I keep them pretty thin, probably about a half inch thick and I am lazy and leave the skins on.

Put them into a ziplock bag and generously drizzle with olive oil. Then season - I like to use seasoned salt and some rosemary.

Cover a cookie sheet with foil (saves scrubbing the messy pan) and spread them in a single layer. Drizzle with a bit more olive oil. Bake in a hot oven - about 400 degrees. As the fries start to get crispy, turn them with a spatula. I bake them until they are very crispy, verging on burnt, for 20 - 30 minutes. Watch them carefull or they will totally burn!

If anyone else has some great hints on how to make crispy oven baked fries, I'd love to know!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Soldered Picture Frame Charm Class - Munro Crafts

The problem with having the "clever" disease is that when I see cute handcrafts, instead of purchasing them, I think to myself, "I could make that" and proceed to purchase supplies that cost 3 times as much as if I just went ahead and bought the finished product. Anyone else out there have this problem? So I have been drooling over these darling soldered charms by Sally Jean since last fall. Thus I asked for a soldering iron for Christmas and purchased some microscope slides and assorted other goodies and set on a quest to make soldered charms.

I had a book with instructions and followed them and was a pitiful failure. The solder wouldn't stick. A few weeks ago I noticed that Munro Crafts had a soldering class and it was $30 dollars to take a class to make a soldered charm bracelet and that included supplies. So I signed up for a Saturday class which was taught by Jennifer Vermeerch. Our class had 3 people and so we had plenty of personal attention and in 2 hours were able to complete our projects.

We began by learning to cut the glass from the microscope slides into pieces with this handy glass cutter tool. My pieces were a bit uneven - hopefully I'll improve with practice! Then you cut pieces of paper or fabric or whatever it is that you want to put inside the charm to match the size of the glass. I used some red and blue origami paper. (No pictures of this step, sorry.)

You wrap the edges with this nifty copper sticky tape. I learned the hard way that it is important to put it on evenly or else the edge of the solder is thin on one side and thick on the other.

When done, you carefully press the edges down like a little package. Then you take a wooden stick or something similar to burnish the edges down so they seal tightly.

I discovered right away that the instructions that I had been following totally omitted the need to use flux when you solder! You need to put flux and solder on the tip of the soldering iron the first time you use it.

You also coat the copper tape with flux. Then you lay the solder along one edge of the tape and put the hot soldering iron on it. The iron will heat up the tape and melt the solder. You slowly drag the soldering iron across the edge and the melted solder will gently slide across the top. In theory that is! I had an awful time to get it to melt smoothly. Yes, I was going for the rustic look, that's it!!

After you've put the solder along all 4 edges on both sides of the charm, you set it up straight and level on the table and run the soldering iron across the top to even the solder across the top. You don't need to add additional solder for this step.

Here are my finished charms. Don't look too closely - they are so uneven. I think I need a remedial soldering class!! (I tried to make another charm at home and the end result was even worse. My soldering iron is not the right type, I think. You have to hold a button to heat it up and it's very clumsy.)

Final step is to add a jump ring. I liked Jennifer's idea of using floral foam to hold the charms in place for this step.

I decided not to put them on the bracelet chain that was a part of the supplies. Instead I used a ball chain and a leather strap necklace and strung them with a couple metal charms. Here's the "hanging around" shot.

One of the nice things about taking the class was they gave you 2 coupons for 50% off for purchasing supplies when the class was done - one for that day and one for a future purchase. (Yes, they are like drug dealers, enticing you to get hooked, so you will buy more and more supplies! And we all know I have a bead addiction already!) I bought several tools, but I think I will need to get a different soldering iron to really be able to do this. Fortunately they aren't very expensive.

If I ever get the hang of this, you will be the first to see whatever I end up creating! I'm off in a bit to give it another try! And if I ever get it mastered, guess what everyone is getting for Christmas this year?

Note: Since I took the class I purchased Simple Soldered Jewelry & Accessories at Amazon. I found it very helpful for a beginner! The project ideas were excellent. More about the book posted here.

I bought a Helping Hand which I have found to be an easier method of holding the jump ring while I solder because I can move it into any position.

I also invested in a better soldering iron, the Weller WP35 35-Watt Professional Soldering Iron, and it truly has made all the difference in the world!  I went through 3 inexpensive soldering irons and dozens of tips - they just didn't last!  Since I updated to a heavy duty Weller soldering iron, I have had much better success with my soldering and have not had to replace a single tip!  In the long run, well worth the investment!  I dumped all the other irons that I had!  Here is a link on Amazon to the iron I am using and a few other helpful items:

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Bistro 110 - Chicago

When we arrived in Chicago on Monday around 1 pm, it was cold and rainy and we were hungry and didn't want to walk miles to eat. Fortunately, the one restaurant that I was familiar with in downtown was only a few blocks away. So we held on tight to our umbrellas and hurried over to Bistro 110. When we walked into this lovely French restaurant located near the Water Tower, there was a fire in the fireplace and it seemed warm and cozy and a perfect place to eat lunch. My picture of the interior doesn't do justice to how charming a place it is - I was too embarrassed to walk around the restaurant taking pictures but I should have!

It was hard to make a decision what to eat. The wait staff was very patient as we asked questions about the menu. While we perused the selections, we nibbled on the classic French bread served with roasted garlic and butter.

They had a wonderful prix fixe menu for lunch with a choice of 2 or 3 courses. My friend Jenni decided to try that out and ordered this steak sandwich (which had a fancy name that I forgot). The toasted bread was flavored with pesto and it was layered with steak, tomato, lettuce, French fried onions, and other good stuff that I also forget. The fries were divine - perfectly crispy like good French fries at a French restaurant should be!

I had seen the Crêpes Farcies a la Fricassée de Volaille when I had looked at the menu online (and yes, I did have to copy/paste the name from the restaurant website!) and decided that was still what I wanted to order. Mmmmm - chicken, mushrooms, pearl onions, and bacon in a rich sauce and covered with melted guyere cheese.

Yes, it was good. Witmess my skillet licked clean.

Jenni had creme brulee with her meal and kindly shared it with me. I do love to crack through that sugar and the custard below was rich and creamy. We tried not to think about the calories.

Bistro 110 was a warm and cozy spot on a cold day. A perfect lunch to begin our visit to Chicago.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Hilton Suites - Chicago

We stayed at the Hilton Suites in downtown Chicago during our trip. Great location - one block from Michigan Avenue and two blocks to Water Tower Place and the Cheesecake Factory. With the miserable weather, it was good to be close to good food and shopping. We searched the internet and were able to get a good price on the hotel. Lots of families checking in - with the suite you could comfortably fit 6 into a room and it had a pool up on the top floor. Plus it was close to American Girl Place - we saw several girls with their dolls in hand.

The main living room was huge. We had and refrigerator (for our leftover cheesecake) and a microwave and sink in a little kitchen area. There was a desk, sofa, and a wonderful large flat panel TV. Not much of a view - our room faced inside. I read that the rooms with the king beds face the lake.

The bedroom had 2 cushy beds and another tv. The beds were very comfortable. Wish the mirror in this room was lighted - it would have been nice to have an extra spot to put on makeup.

The bathroom was lovely as well - beautiful vanity, nice shampoos and lotions, but no shower cap.

Here is the view from the pool level on the top floor. You can barely see the lake - just the gray in the background.

Only downside on the hotel was the $50 dollar parking per night. Yikes, but as we learned, parking is simply outrageous in downtown Chicago. Other than that, it was a great place to stay in downtown Chicago!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Chicago Snapshots - searching for spring

I spent a couple days this week taking a quick trip to Chicago with my friend Jenni to celebrate the completion of her dissertation (and she certainly deserved some fun after all the hard work, pain, and suffering she's been through the past few years!). It was a last minute trip and the weather was cold, windy, rainy, and rather miserable. We did a little shopping, some dining, some museums, some attractions, and a lot of walking while struggling to keep our umbrellas from turning inside out.

Looking out at Michigan Ave through the window of the Apple store.

Despite the weather, it seemed warm and springlike inside of Crate and Barrel.

It was "Tulip Days on the Magnificent Mile" and the hotels and stores had beautiful planters and displays.

Lego Man outside the Lego Store in one of the malls. At least it was warm and dry in the malls!

We wandered through the American Girl Place. I think these dollies were out in the rainy weather and needed their hair done. I wish I could have hopped on the chair because my hair was totally limp. This place was a trip - they even had a "doll holder" rack in the restroom stalls.

No pictures of the Museum of Modern Art - free on Tuesdays, though! Not very big, but a couple interesting exhibits.

Navy Pier - Let me say for the record that parking in Chicago is outrageous! Parking here was $20! Unless you spent less than an hour and then it was free. It's amazing how much you can see in under an hour with such motivation!

The Stained Glass Museum at Navy Pier was a free treat! Really just a long hallway filled with all styles of beautiful stained glass windows.

And by the way, the $16 parking fee at the Museum of Science and Industry was quite ridiculous, too. Cost more to park than admission to the museum - something is wrong with that! (Forgive the bad picture - I didn't take many inside.) Favorite part of the museum is Colleen Moore's Fairy Castle - I'd seen that years ago - totally had forgotten how cool it was!

Some hotel and restaurant pictures will be coming!


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