Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Cricut Easy Press

So, I am a huge fan of Amazon Prime Day, even though I know that I buy too many things that I don't really need, but momentarily tell myself I must have.  In other words, I am the sucker they look for every July.

However this year I got something on my wish list and I have no regrets!  It's the Cricut Easy Press which is a 9" x 9" mini heat press.



Since I've started using my cutting machines (both the Cricut Expression and the Silhouette Cameo) I've wondered about making t-shirts, but was always intimidated.  There are too many variables and a lot of opportunity to make a less than stellar product, which I won't sell. Plus the market for custom shirts seems to be oversaturated, so it's not a ring I cared to throw my hat into.  Nonetheless, I still thought it may be fun to eventually make a few shirts for myself and my family. 

Now I am addicted!  So far I've only made three identical shirts because I only had one color heat transfer vinyl, but I have an order expected this week with 8 more colors.  I also have a rhinestone starter kit that I can't wait to try out. 
T-shirt for our upcoming trip to Hershey Park


Then this morning I realized I could probably use this for my notecards!!  I used to love cutting scraps into different designs and then using heat bond to adhere them to cardstock.  


It would take a while to make sure the glue warmed up enough, but now with the Easy Press, it's going to be a piece of cake!  I tried it out with this piece of Belle fabric just to see how it worked, and 30 seconds later I have a cute little card. 


I asked my almost ten year old son if I could make customized t-shirts for his upcoming birthday party that includes an overnight and he emphatically said NO!  But I do still plan on making something..... even if it's just for myself.  I am thinking of a shirt that says:
Sleepover for 9?
Where's the Wine!



Stay tuned.....




Friday, July 13, 2018

Video of Wine Glass Decal Application

As I was finishing the final addition to the 80 wine glass order I was doing, I thought I should video the steps for posterity...or at least to remind myself of what I did in case I need to remember in the future.

Note that I did not include the decal design (using Silhouette Studio), the cutting (using my Silhouette Cameo), or the weeding (removing the parts of the vinyl surrounding the cut or the tiny pieces that lurk inside the 'h' or the teeny triangle that separates the 'y' and 'e' into separate letters, etc).  Honestly, in this case the weeding took the longest time in this process.

Finally, I also did not film the cleaning of the glasses, but that is a must.  They should be washed and free of any fingerprints or smudges before applying the decal.  I did all of that the previous night so they could air dry upside down without needing to use a towel (and risk lint).  In the past I've used alcohol as a final cleaner, but I found that it made adherence of the vinyl difficult this time around. 

So, here is a video of the actual application of the decal to the glass. 


Monday, July 9, 2018

Mulberry Recipes

So, as mentioned in my previous post, I was planning to try several mulberry recipes with my recent "harvest" from our tree.  I had about 2 3/4 large mason jars filled, which was probably 6 cups of berries.  


I had to start by trying to remove the little green stems that were on every berry.  Some recipes say it's okay to keep them and others suggest removing them by using your fingernails as a little "clipper".  Just pulling the stem out didn't work since it's so long and deeply embedded, the berry would just fall apart with the pull.  I will admit that I did give up and only about half of the berries were de-stemmed.  Since I eat them right off the tree, stem and all, this really did not bother me.  And my hands are now a lovely shade of purple... 



The first recipe I tried was this Mulberry Cobbler, which I adapted from: http://sharonglasgow.com/2013/06/mulberry-harvesting-10-ideas-of-what-to-do-with-them/

The original was very health conscious, using gluten-free baking flour, organic sugar, raw milk, etc.  All the stuff I do not ever use.  So, my version was basically this: 

1 cup self rising flour
1 cup granulated sugar 
3/4 cup 1% milk 
2 teaspoons vanilla 
1 stick of butter. 

Directions:
1.      Melt butter in bottom of baking dish (I used a 9x13 glass dish). 
2.      Mix flour, sugar, milk and vanilla together then spread on top of melted butter. 
3.      Mix 2 cups of mulberries in 1/3 cup of sugar- heat to melt sugar.  
4.      Pour on top of flour mixture in baking dish. 
5.      Bake for 35-40 minutes in 375 oven–or until done.

I will admit that the 1 stick of butter seemed so excessive.  I almost was going to pour some out, especially when I added my flour mixture in and so much of the butter was rising to the top.  I swirled it around to try and mix everything and it made a very rich base.   I added the berries, and swirled some more. 




I cooked it for 40 minutes, but probably could have cut it down by a few.  It has a nice brown top and was definitely cooked through.  And all that butter?  It definitely was perfect, although I do notice it still sticks to the bottom a little, which I thought the butter may help, but maybe now when it is melted? We aren't about eating pretty in our house, so as long as I can scrape every last morsel off the pan the family is happy.This one is a keeper!  I love the mild flavor of the cobbler, with just a little sweetness.  It ended up being my dinner last night!






Next up were Mulberry Muffins, adapted from: https://www.allrecipes.com/recipe/18516/mulberry-muffins/
Boy, did I screw this one up. My dad always says to try a recipe exactly as it is written the first time around, then you can start making adjustments the next time. I wish I did that with this one.  Instead, I listened to a few of the commenters and made some of my own tweaks.  I saw that the original recipe only made 6 muffins, so I doubled it right off the bat.  Then I added brown sugar based on some suggestions, and finally the original called for applesauce, which I didn't put in and that was a mistake!  These were stuck to the paper wrappers and very dry!  My husband slathered them with butter and said he would definitely eat them again, but I am not sure that I will.  Here is the original recipe without my changes....I will probably make them again, but definitely follow exactly as stated.

Ingredients
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 pinch salt
1/2 cup fat free sour cream
1/4 cup skim milk
2 tablespoons applesauce
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 cup mulberries

Directions
1.      Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).Grease 6 jumbo muffin cups or line with paper muffin liners.
2.      Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, soda and salt. In a medium bowl, mix together sour cream, milk, applesauce, egg and almond extract. Stir in flour mixture until batter is smooth. Fold in mulberries. Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups.
3.      Bake in preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into center of a muffin comes out clean.




My final experiment was Mulberry Jam which I found here: https://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/2012/06/mulberry-jam.html. This one was so simple, it was easy for me to follow it exactly.

Ingredients
2 1/2 cups mulberries, rinsed (the tiny green stems do not need to be removed)
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
3 tablespoons water
  
Directions
1.      Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Drop heat to medium-low and add jars and their lids. Simmer for 10 minutes to sterilize. Using tongs, remove jars and lids and place on a clean towel to let cool.
2.      In a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan set over medium heat, combine mulberries, sugar, and water. Bring to a boil, boil for one minute, then drop to a simmer. Cook fruit, stirring occasionally, until foam subsides and mixture thickens slightly, about 7 minutes.
3.      Using a ladle, carefully transfer hot jam to sterilized jars. Wipe mouths of jars clean and screw on lids very tightly. Let cool at room temperature for at least 8 hours before using.


This was my first time canning anything, so I am glad I found a very easy recipe to start with.  I sterilized my little jars just like it told me.



And melted my sugar into the berries and water.  So pretty to watch it boil down!

 



Then I let it cool overnight, just in time to have some on my Dave's Killer Bread this morning. 





OMG, YUMMY!  Not too sweet (I may actually cut back on a little bit of sugar next time) and it spread on nicely without being too runny, which I feared.  This was a definite make again!



So, here are the FRUITS of my labor on a beautiful Sunday afternoon.







I've already started picking more berries, and I can't wait to see what other recipes I can find. 

Friday, July 6, 2018

Mulberries!!!

So, last year we discovered that we have a mulberry bush.  Well, not really a bush, but a tree.  There weren't many berries on there, but what we saw, we would pick and eat right then and there.  However this year, the tree seems to be BURSTING with berries.  Unfortunately part of the tree hangs over our pool, so cleanup has been a nightmare.  The berries are constantly falling and staining our patio, unless the birds -- or our bulldog -- get to them first. For some reason, it never occured to me to pick them in bulk and do something with them!

This morning during my "pool walk" (I literally just walk back and forth beside the pool while reading my Kindle so I can start the day with some extra steps) I decided to grab a mason jar, throw on some rubber gloves (these suckers stain), and see what I could pick.  It took no time to fill this jar up ..and that was even with three berries falling to the ground for every one that I picked. 





I then decided to put a towel on the ground and shake the branches gently.  SO MUCH EASIER.  I wish I had more time...and another jar....to continue, but I had to get ready for work.  But I do plan to grab some old sheets, lay them down under the tree and shake like crazy later on.  I cannot wait to try mulberry cobbler, pie, and granola!!  I found some great recipes on Pinterest, of course.  If I try some that are real winners, I'll post them here and on my new "Favorite Recipes" page on my website!! 





Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Change is good!!

For days I have been trying to come up with a word that will guide me through the year. One that will represent what I want to focus on in 2018, and I think I may have it. CHANGE.
Now, I don't mean that I want to change my job (I like it here) or my relationship (hopefully my husband will be happy to hear that), but just change the things that would make me feel like a better person. 

Change how I react to adversity
Change how I eat
Change how I prioritize
Change my boring routine
Change the things that bother me
Change perspective
And even actual Change (nickels in a jar eventually start to add up).

I find my fuse has been short lately when it comes to my nine year old. I always forget he is just a kid and I have thirty-plus more years of experience than he does, so when he pushes my buttons I want to CHANGE the way I react.  I want to CHANGE how he sees me.  
My husband and I have been married for 12 years (as of New Years Eve) and we are very comfortable, but I want to CHANGE how we spend our time together.  Just simple things, like moving closer to him on the couch so we feel connected again, or going to bed earlier when he does so we have a few more minutes together at night.
I want to CHANGE my lifestyle to be healthier and to be a better role model for our son.  I want to find a way to balance my sweet tooth with proper nutrition so my family feels better about themselves.  

I don't need to make really big changes...just small things each time I notice something I don't like. I tend to complain about things a lot, or get down on myself when I look back on situations with a "woulda, shoulda, coulda" attitude.  But now I want to actually do something about it.  

I know it is such a broad word, but every time I think of what I want to accomplish in 2018 and how I am going to do it, one word just pops into my head and that is CHANGE.  So, that's what I will focus on, then maybe in 2019 my word will become MAINTAIN.


What do you want to change in 2018??

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Family time!

Last night I fished up all of my outstanding orders! What a liberating feeling!!  Nothing is hanging over my head.  My official custom order deadline has passed and everything was completed in record time.  Now, I can finally concentrate on my home and family.  I was able to decorate the house for the holidays over the last two weeks, but it felt like a long, drawn-out process, since I couldn't carve out one entire day to do it all, as I have in the past.  I was always running to my craft studio to finish one thing or another.  I even have bins still in the dining room waiting to make their way to the basement because I've been doing everything piecemeal. 

But today I am leaving my full-time job early to go see my son's winter concert (first year trumpeter, so this ought to be good).  Then I am heading home for the afternoon so I can just relax with my family.  It will be nice to sit on the couch and watch cheesy Christmas movies with them, without having to run upstairs for "just one minute" and then come down two hours later.

Of course, don't get me wrong - I truly LOVE making custom orders.  I really enjoy those emails that start with "I was wondering if you could do this..."  In fact, these were two of those such requests that I completed last night:

 This time of year is already so hectic with lots of gifts to buy, baking to be done, presents to wrap. I am always a procrastinator, so it is nice to have just a little extra time to breathe.  But of course, I know myself.  The minute I get that "by the way, would you mind doing...." message, my first reply will be "I'm on it!!"  But at least for today, I am all caught up!



Friday, December 8, 2017

Evernote and the Cluttered Mind

Have you heard of Evernote?  If not, then let me open you up to an amazing app that is basically your brain in software form.    First, I will state that I have no affiliation with Evernote, other than being a very grateful customer.  I was not asked to give a review, nor do they even know this review exists...and it's really not even a review, more of a big THANK YOU to the company for keeping my sanity this holiday season.

Image result for brain clipart
See, to me Evernote is an online notebook that helps me capture and organize my thoughts, lists, web clippings, audio notes, etc and share them across different platforms.  I rely heavily on the Evernote for Windows app so I can create or refer to notes while at my desk, but then when I am on the fly I can open my phone app and have all of the same information right there at my fingertips.

I screenshot like crazy and save to Evernote.  I bookmark sites and save them to Evernote.  I forward emails I want to keep to Evernote - then if I have several emails referring to the same subject I can merge them all together in one note so I have a running history of everything I need to know about that subject all in one place.  It's amazing.

I discovered the software when I started to take on more and more orders for my crafting business, Joatmon Creations. I needed a way to organize my customers so I would know what they ordered from me before, or questions they asked, etc.  I tried several different programs but nothing really fit what I needed.  Then I discovered Evernote and played around with a few ideas.  I ended up creating a "notebook" within the program called Customers. Then within that I had individual notes for each person.  I added a table within the note that had the date of the order, what they wanted, a picture of the final product, cost, shipping fees, what was owed/paid, and when it was shipped.  As they improved their table function (thank you, by the way) it became so much cleaner to work with and it is invaluable to me now.  If a customer says "I love that ornament I got from you last year and I want another one for a friend" I can go and see exactly what they are talking about so I can recreate it.

To make it even more useful, I tag everything.  When I get an order I tag it "to be made".  When it is completed I change the tag to "to be paid".  Then "to be delivered".  Whenever I need to see what is in process or how many outstanding invoices I have, I just sort on the tags and I can easily see what is due.

But I use Evernote for EVERYTHING.  Not just my business. I keep track of gifts I have to buy, medical records, things I need to look up, my son's school work and class lists, etc.  I could go on and on and on. Everything I ever need to reference is right there at my fingertips.

My latest hack that has saved me this season is my Task note.  It compiles everything I need to do in one note with multiple links. I can do a quick glance to see what items need to be made, either for a customer or an upcoming craft fair, or what still needs to ship out.  I have links to my Christmas list so I know what stores I need to hit after work, or what online orders I am still expecting to be delivered (with links to the confirmation emails that I forwarded from my email program to Evernote).  My grocery list is also on that note so I can keep track of what I have to add to my Peapod order.  And once I receive payments from a customer I track it on that task note until I can enter it into my Excel tracking sheet.  With one look I can see if I am on track - or if I am overwhelmed!

Tomorrow I have my fifth craft fair of the season.  At most I normally do two a year.  To say that this year has been busier than ever for me is an understatement.  Just look at all the stuff I have to set up:


Plus tomorrow I will be offering my new Boston Sports ornaments which have already been a big hit on Facebook and Evernote has been instrumental in helping me keep track of my inventory so I know if I need to make more sets.  I also keep this picture in there as a point of reference for setting up.
If I didn't have this "second brain" to rely on, I'd be shuffling through post-it notes or paper files to keep track of everything I have to do.  Instead I can just concentrate on etching a few more wine glasses tonight.  Maybe I'll even fill one up for myself.....