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Saturday, August 8, 2015

Salsa Season

Happy Summer!!

Farmer's markets! Fresh veggies! Juicy fruit! I love all the wonderful tasty things that come with the warm weather.  

....and ice cream

But this post is about some of the more healthy sweet options that summer brings.  Freshly made salsa! 

 Have two kinds of home made salsa recipes to share with you: Mango Salsa and Corn Salsa.  Both a bit different from the normal tomato salsa.  Juicy, sweet, crunchy, easy, there's seriously nothing to not love about these two. 

First up, Mango Salsa.  I made this for the first time last year and it's really easy. The hardest part is cutting up the Mango (hint: the riper the mango, the easier it is to peel/cut). 

Mango Salsa

What You'll Need
One ripe mango, chopped
One small red bell pepper, finely diced
One jalapeno, finely diced (leave in some seeds for heat, completely omit them for a milder salsa)
1/3 cup red onion, finely diced
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, finely diced
Juice of one lime
Salt (optional)

Mix all together, add more lime juice to taste. 

That's it! 

Now, for the corn salsa.  I used canned corn, of course fresh corn is better and will taste better.  But it's not yet in season in the Northeasts, still a little early. If you use fresh corn, substitute a cob for each can. 

Corn Salsa

What You'll Need
One can of yellow corn
One can of white corn 
(If using fresh corn, use two ears of corn instead of the two cans)
2 jalapeno, finely diced (leave in some seeds for heat, completely omit them for a milder salsa)
1/2 red onion, finely diced
3/4 cup fresh cilantro, finely diced
Juice of 2 limes
Salt & Pepper (optional)

Mix it all together, add more lime juice or salt and pepper to taste.  You could add a bit of cayenne pepper to add a bit more heat to it if desired. 

That's it!

Both of these salsas go great over grilled chicken.  The following marinade really brings all the flavors together.  Just mix it all in a Ziploc bag, let it sit for at least an hour (no more than three hours) and grill!  Top it with the mango or corn salsa and you have a wonderful tasty easy summer dinner! 

Lime-Soy Chicken topped with Mango Salsa made with green bell peppers instead of red bell peppers

Lime-Soy Chicken Marinade

What You'll Need
One Pound chicken (any style, bone-in, boneless, whatever you fancy)
Juice of 3 limes
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, finely diced
Dash of ground ginger

Mix together in Ziploc bag, marinade for 1-3 hours.  For best taste, cook on the grill. 

I hope you all enjoy the rest of the salsa season, and the rest of your summer!
Happy grilling!
~The Craftmeister 

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Alphabet Wall

Preparing for a baby is a lot of work...

...and a LOT of cardboard! 

Between the furniture deliveries and the boxes and packaging of various products, I had a ton of cardboard and styrofoam. I have four large garbage bags full of stryofoam and more to bag up, and I had at least three recycling cans full of cardboard, and more boxes to break up.  
I felt awful wasting all of it, and breaking up all that cardboard made my back hurt just thinking about it... So I think I came up with a fantastic idea to use it for some nursery decor!

I love the look of alphabet walls.  I've seen them all over Pinterest and they all look amazing! Most of them are made with wooden letters and painted with different designs or patterns on them. I like the look of alphabets that use more than one font, to keep it interesting. The craft stores by me only sell one font of wooden letters. And they're pretty pricey, about $5 a letter.  I could've purchased a random font alphabet from etsy but they're also expensive, although they are beautiful.

I decided I could try to make an alphabet wall myself. If I had more artistic talent, I'd draw the letters myself.  But my handwriting stinks, and I've never been able to draw very well. I opened up a word document, typed out the alphabet, made the font HUGE (like 600 pt) so each letter would take up around a full page. Then I went to town on different fonts. This was a lot of fun, but also time consuming; it's harder than it sounds to make something look random yet cohesive. I think I did a pretty good job though.  Now for the really time consuming part...

I planed on using the materials that would otherwise go to waste to create the letters for the wall.  Either stryofoam or cardboard. First I tried cutting out the letters in stryofoam. The stryofoam was thicker, sturdier, and would make more of an impact on the nursery wall.  Perfect!  Or so I thought...

Oh my goodness! What a mess! I thought stryofoam was messy before I broke it up. Once I cut it with an X-Acto knife all teeny tiny little pieces got EVERYWHERE! 

My X-Aacto knife wasn't deep enough to cut all the way through the stryofoam so I had to use a steak knife. Which, if I wanted to do all 26 letters, would seriously dull the knife.  I could just see me saying to my husband later on, "Oh sorry you can't cut your steak darling, I had to use the knife to cut stryofoam!" Oye...

I came across an article on Decozilla and the wheels started turning again.  I wouldn't be wrapping them all in fabric, but I love the idea of using cardboard.
And it wouldn't be my first time working with cardboard.  Here's a picture of one of my college art projects where we had to make a large version of something small from cardboard. I decided to make glasses, and they were a big hit!
I had a friend who wanted to buy them so he could put them on statues as a joke/prank. 

I could wrap a bunch of letters in scrap book paper, gift bags from my baby shower, wrapping paper, or just plain white paper then paint over that.  I think painting directly on the cardboard would leave the grain of the cardboard still visible.  And some of the letters still have pieces of shipping information on them.

I've started cutting out the letters on cardboard and it is SO MUCH easier than the stryofoam, not to mention a lot less messy. I'm using two pieces of cardboard to thicken it up and make it a little more noticable on the wall. After I have all the letters cut out, the fun begins! I can't wait to hang it all up in the little one's room. Of course I'll post pictures if the entire nursery once it's all set up. For now, here's some of the letters I already have cut.  Only a few more to go!

A few hints for you if you're going to try this yourself...
1- Change your X-Acto blade often.  I didn't change mine until I got to the letter M, and I so wish I had done it sooner.  
2- Try to do the harder or more curly letters first, and with a fresh blade if possible.  See that F?  I muttered a few F words to myself while trying to get around all those little furls. Especially with a dull knife and a tired hand. 
3- If the font doesn't look thick enough, make it bold, if it's still really thin, choose a different font.  The W is probably the thinnest I'd do.  I actually cut it adding a bit more to the stems, the original letter was thinner. 
4- Watch the type of cardboard you're using, some is thicker than others.  I was able to use a full box for the entire alphabet, then noticed that other boxes I had were thicker.  Some of the letters are doubled, some are just one piece depending on the cardboard thickness. 
5- Take your time!  It will be much more fun the less stressed you are, and your letters will look better.  Some days I only did two letters a day, one day I did almost ten. Have fun with it! 

Please share some pictures if you attempt an alphabet wall yourself, or even if you just spell out a name or a phrase.  I'd love to see your font and color choices!

Happy Crafting!
~The Craftmeister

Friday, May 8, 2015

Hats & Pillows

Thank goodness I have a few months to work on this baby blanket.  I'm constantly thinking as i crochet this... crocheting blankets takes sooooo long!  I love it, but sometimes I just want to make something I can FINISH!  That's why lots of my family members got smaller crocheted items from me for Christmas. Enter: hats and pillows!

I only have a pattern for a few of these items, the others I free handed based on pictures and on generic hat patterns from my favorite blog (besides mine of course😜).Repeat Crafter Me If you haven't checked out her blog before, please do so now, she's amazing! 

So first up, my adorable nephews.   I have three of them! And they're all the perfect age to wear adorable crocheted hats of cartoon characters or animals... or animal cartoon characters! 

My first nephew, Ben, totally loves Thomas the Train. I saw lots of crocheted hats for Thomas on Pinterest, but nothing that really stood out to me.  So I decided to make my own for him, and i think it's the best Thomas the Train hat I've seen! Not to toot my own horn, but... Toot toot! 🚂

His little brother Holden is just over one years old, and loves Daniel Tiger. If you haven't watched this show yet, you should - or at least the opening sequence. If you ever watched Mr. Rogers Neighborhood it will warm your heart.  Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood is an animated continuation of the classic children's show, and it's just darling. I didn't have a pattern for this one either, but looked at a few pictures, and I even watched an episode of the show! The shape of the hat and the ears are loosely based on the tiger hat. 

My nephew Archer is still a little baby, and doesn't yet have a favorite cartoon or animal. If you remember, I made him this owl baby blanket while my sister was pregnant.  So I decided to continue the owl theme and made m an owl hat. The pattern for this one can be found in the blog I mentioned above. Here's the pattern:
Here's the hat:

My nephews aren't the only ones who got character hats from me for Christmas. My sister and her husband have a slight obsession with monkeys, they have since they were dating. So I decided to make them sock monkey hats from RepeatCrafterMe. LINKHERE.  I made them in two different colors; one in the classic sock monkey colors of gray and red, and the other in a brown/beige mix. They loved them, and they wear them proudly. 

My dad got a pillow made by me.  He's got a country home upstate and has always favored Americana decor, so I decided to make him a flag pillow.  I found the pattern on Pinterest, and it was really easy to follow.  He loved it, he said it was the perfect size to use behind his head while he reads his books.  You can see the pattern here:
Here's the pillow:

A while back, I posted a brainstorming session about pixel crochet in blankets and pillows. For my brother and sister in law's Christmas gift, I decided to combine two geek things, pixel art and Star Wars. I started this in the summer because it was going to finish up being a very large pillow (the finished piece was almost 20"x20").  I loved working on it piece by piece because it wasn't as hot as working on a blanket and having it draped all over. Each "pixel" is the first round of a Grammy square in a magic ring pulled really tight so there were as little holes as possible. I did a picture if R2D2 on one side and on the other I had a pixel version of Princess Leia and Han Solo. I used bright blue for the background to really help the colors pop. Im so happy with how it came out! 

Speaking of Star Wars, there's one more hat I want to show you. I didn't make this one for Christmas, but I made it by request for my cousin's kid. He loves Star Wars, I asked her who his favorite character was and I was told he loves Storm Troopers!  I have to admit, I was a little intimidated at first. Storm Trooper helmets are three dimensional, and they have a lot going on. I was afraid if I made it too flat it might look like Jack Skellington from The Nightmare Before Christmas. But I took my time (probably longer than I should have) and didn't second guess my choices when they were half way made, and I ended up with a pretty cool looking hat! To make it a little more Storm Trooper-y I did the braids in three solid colors instead of mixing all the colors together. I figured it looked a little more uniform, and a Storm Trooper helmet is a uniform after all! Sorry, no pattern for this one, I made it up as I was going along. 

I hope you enjoyed seeing the things I've worked on this winter. Now, if youlll excuse me, I have to get back to crocheting a certain baby blanket before this baby comes.... 

Happy crafting!
- The Craftmeister 

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Mirror Mirror On the Wall

Spray and Stain

The mirror that came with the house in the master bathroom was nice and big and really ornate looking. The only thing I didn't like about it was the nasty dingy color it was.  I'm not  a big fan of gold to begin with, but then add grime and dirt in the crevices of gold... and you've got a mirror of yuck.  I decided to spray paint it white and add a dark stain over it. I was inspired by this Pinterest post/picture: 

 I'm glad I did! When I first detached the mirror and spray painted it, the pure white paint made it look very plastic-y, as you can see below.

An improvement over the dark gold, but not what I had in mind. So I used Martha Stewart Living Metallic Glaze in black coffee, dabbed it on the dried pure white mirror frame using a cheap-o foam brush and rubbed it in/off with a rag. A messy process, but I didn't use much glaze (have plenty left over for other projects) so it dried fairly quickly. 

I love how the glaze made the detail in the frame pop without making it look dirty or dingy. 

All in all, I think the new and improved mirror is a great addition to the nautical bathroom! 

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Diamond Bobble Baby Blanket

As many of you already know, Dan and I will be adding an addition to our family this August.  My mother was always the baby blanket master in my family, but I figured since she's not here to make the blanket herself, I'd make it this time. I learned a new stitch, used my mother's yarn from her old stash.. it was going to be really special. After I started the pattern, I realized it eats yarn like crazy, and I was quickly running out. I only had a few rows done and would only have enough to make a few more. I was so disappointed, there was no more in her yarn bundle, and no paper to say what brand or what color it was. All I knew is it was worsted weight and an acrylic blend. The other day I walked into a yarn store expecting to be disappointed and expecting to hop from store to store searching for it... but I found it RIGHT AWAY! It was Lion Brand Pound of Love in Pastel Green. You have no idea how elated I was when I found it, I almost broke into song at the store. I'm so glad Lion Brand continues to make an awesome product that has been enjoyed by many generations, and will be enjoyed for generations to come!

In the picture below, what's already done is from my mother's yarn, and the new skein is above it ready to be made into whatever! I may even have enough leftover to make a matching hat and mittens!

After sharing my story on Lion Brand's Facebook page, many many people commented commending me for carrying on my mother's talent, and complimented my choice of color and pattern.  Many people asked me for the pattern, so I figured I'd write one up! 

The original stitch is from 101 Stitches For Afghans by Jean Leinhauser, put forth by the American School of Needlework, this pattern was #74 out of 101.  I got my copy from Amazon, used for about $3. Here's a link to get your own copy:

This pattern is fairly easy, if you can do the Single Crochet (SC), Double Crochet (DC), and a Triple Crochet, you will have no problem creating this blanket.  It may look like an intimidating pattern at first, but once you get a few rows done, you'll be surprised at how simple it is. 

Worsted Weight Yarn (I used Lion Brand Pound of Love, in Pastel Green)
Size H hook (5.00 mm)

Stitches Used
ch: Chain
sc: Single Crochet
dc: Double Crochet
Bobble: (Keep last loop of each triple crochet on the hook as you perform the triple crochet stitches) 5 Triple crochet in chain 1 space 2 rows below, Yarn Over and draw through ALL 6 loops on hook.
I plan on creating a video how-to on the creation of the booble, it took me a few times to get it right. In the meantime, there are plenty of tutorials on YouTube or Pinterest.

Feel free to message me if you're having any issues with this pattern, I will try my best to explain further. 

Foundation chain: 150 chains (Any multiple of 12, then six extra stitches will work)

Row 1: (Right side) 
Sc in 2nd chain from hook and in next chain; *ch 1, skip next ch, sc in next 11 chs; repeat from last * until you get to the last 3 chains. ch 1, skip next ch, sc in next 2 chs. Ch2 (counts as first dc on following rows), turn.

Row 2: 
Dc in next sc (remember the ch 2 counts as the first dc, so youre basically skipping the first sc here), *ch 1, skip over ch 1 space, dc in next 11 stitches; repeat from * until you reach the last ch 1 space. Ch1, skip over ch 1 space, dc in last sc. Ch 1, turn. 

Row 3: 
Sc in first dc, Bobble (in ch 1 space on 2nd row below), back to the working row, sc in next dc; *ch 1, skip next dc, sc in next 7 dc, ch 1, skip next dc, sc in next dc, bobble (in ch 1 space on 2nd row below), back to the working row, sc in next dc.  Repeat from * to turning ch2, sc in 2nd ch of turning ch2. Ch2, turn. 

Row 4: 
Dc in next 3 stitches; *ch 1, skip ch1 space, dc in next 7 stitches, ch 1, skip next ch 1 space, dc in next 3 stitches. Repeat from * until you reach the last sc; Dc in last sc. Ch 1, turn. 

Row 5: 
Sc in frist 4 dc. *Bobble (in ch 1 space on 2nd row below), back to the working row, sc in next dc, ch 1, skip next dc, sc in next 3 dc, ch 1, skip next dc, sc in next dc, Bobble (in ch 1 space on 2nd row below), back to the working row, sc in next 3 dc.  Repeat from * until you reach the turning ch2, sc in 2nd ch of turning ch.  Ch 2, turn. 

Row 6: 
Dc in next 5 stitches,*  ch 1, skip ch1 space, dc in next 3 stitches, ch 1, skip next ch1 space, dc in next 7 stitches. Repeat from * to last 2 ch1 spaces, ch 1, skip next ch1 space, dc in next 3 stitches, ch 1, skip next ch1 space, dc in next 6 stitches. Ch 1, turn. 

Row 7: 
Sc in first 6 dc, *Bobble (in ch 1 space on 2nd row below), back to the working row, sc in next dc, ch 1, skip next dc, sc in next dc, Bobble (in ch 1 space on 2nd row below), back to the working row, sc in next 7 dc.  Repeat from * to last 2 ch1 spaces. Bobble (in ch 1 space on 2nd row below), back to the working row, sc in next dc, ch 1, skip next dc, sc in next dc, Bobble (in ch 1 space on 2nd row below), back to the working row, sc in next 5 dc, and in 2nd ch of turning ch2. Ch 2, turn. 

Row 8: 
Dc in next 7 stitches, skip next ch 1 space, * dc in next 11 stitches, ch 1, skip next ch 1 space.  Repeat from * to last 8 stitches, dc in last 8 stitches. Ch 1, turn. 

Row 9: 
Sc in first 6 dc, ch 1, skip next dc, sc in next dc, * Bobble (in ch 1 space on 2nd row below), back to the working row, sc in next dc, ch 1, skip next dc, sc in next 7 dc, ch 1, skip next dc.  Repeat from * to last ch1 space on 2nd row below, Bobble (in ch 1 space on 2nd row below), back to the working row, sc in next dc, ch 1, skip next dc, sc in next 5 dc and in 2nd ch of turning ch2. Ch 2, turn. 

Row 10: 
Repeat row 6

Row 11: 
Sc in first 4 dc, * ch 1, skip next dc, sc in next dc, Bobble (in ch 1 space on 2nd row below), back to the working row, sc in next 3 dc, Bobble (in ch 1 space on 2nd row below), back to the working row, sc in next dc, ch 1, skip next dc, sc in next 3 dc. Repeat from * to turning ch2; sc in 2nd ch of turning ch2. Ch 2, turn. 

Row 12: 
Repeat row 4

Row 13: 
Sc in dirst 2 dc, ch 1, skip next dc, sc in next dc, * Bobble (in ch 1 space on 2nd row below), back to the working row, sc in next 7 dc, Bobble (in ch 1 space on 2nd row below), back to the working row, sc in next dc, ch 1, skip next dc, sc in next dc. Repeat from * to turning ch2, sc in 2nd ch on turning ch2. Ch 2, turn. 

Row 14:
Repeat row 2

Repeat rows 3 to 14 until you've reached your desired length. 

Last Row: 
Sc in first dc, *Bobble (in ch 1 space on 2nd row below), back to the working row, sc in next 11 dc. Repeat from * to last ch 1 space on 2nd row below, Bobble (in ch 1 space on 2nd row below), back to the working row, sc in next dc and in 2nd ch of turning ch2. 
Finish off. 

I hope you enjoy this pattern and have as much fun making your project as I am with my baby blanket. I plan on adding a ruffled border to the blanket once I have it at the size I like.  Stay tuned for that pattern, and for the video tutorial on the bobble stitch. Good luck!  

Thank you for reading and checking out my blog! As a cute bonus, here's a picture of my dog, Henrik using my crochet book as a pillow while he takes a snooze...

Happy Hooking!
~The Craftmeister

Thai Style Meatballs & Peanut Dipping Sauce

I was in the mood for meatballs, but I also recently had Italian food. I wanted something different, so I looked up a few recipes for Thai meatballs (I had them in a restaurant once and loved them). A lot of the recipes I found had Thai fish paste in it...sounds yucky.  I don't like fish, and I don't like paste. I'm suuuure it's a delicious addition to many dishes, but it wasn't something I had on hand. So I decided to take a little from all of the recipes I found and make up my own...
Cooking experiment! 

And a successful experiment it was!  Here's the recipe I came up with, and immediately added to my recipe book for my kitchen because it was so tasty.   They have a bit of a kick to them, you can leave out the red pepper flakes if that's not your thing. But honestly, they're delicious the way they are!

Not the best picture... pardon the paper plate!

Ingredients Needed
Meatballs - Thai Style
~1 pound of ground beef (I had a little over a pound, maybe 1 1/4 pounds)
3 tablespoons coconut milk
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon (heaping) cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon red pepper (optional, but adds a delicious kick)
1 teaspoon (heaping) basil
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
2 tablespoons peanut butter (I used Skippy Chunky, the chunks of peanuts added a yummy crunch)
1/4 cup Panko breadcrumbs 
1/4 cup water 
Splash of soy sauce
Zest of 1/2 lime

Peanut Dipping Sauce
1 cup coconut milk
1 cup crunchy peanut butter 
1 lime, juiced. (Zest optional)

For meatballs, mix all ingredients in a large bowl until well mixed. Form meatballs into walnut sized spheres. I was able to make 21 meatballs. Bake in oven @350 degrees Fahrenheit for 35 minutes, or fry in peanut oil. 

Mix together the peanut dipping sauce in a medium sized bowl. Serve with jasmine rice.

I hope you all enjoy this recipe as much as we did! Enjoy!