My 3 Monsters: January 2012

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Pride & Prejudice Plates {Free Downloads!}

I'm a HUGE Jane Austen fan.  HUGE.  The Collected Works of Jane Austen is my go-to source for literary pleasure.  It never, ever disappoints.  I've read all of her novels over and over again, but Pride and Prejudice is my favorite.  Who doesn't love Mr. Darcy?!  Anyway, I had this grand idea a while back to make a set of dishes with my favorite quotes from the book around the edges of the dinner plates and silhouettes on the salad plates.  I picked up some fun, mismatched white dishes at Goodwill and bought a ceramic paint pen and set to work.

And it was truly awful.  I think I have nice handwriting, but I just couldn't free-hand the quotes and make it look "professional" and I wasn't getting the detail I wanted in the silhouettes.  Luckily, ceramic paints can be washed off until you bake them on so I was able to salvage the dishes.  I was still determined to see this project through, I just needed to put it away for a few {six} months and let the idea percolate in my subconscious for a little while.

Then, out of the blue the other day the solution hit me.  WATER SLIDE DECALS!!!  Have you seen them?  You buy the special paper, print your design on it, then soak it in water and a thin layer of film slides off the top of the paper and onto pretty much any non-porous surface.  So easy!  I bought my decal paper on Ebay.  There are several different brands available if you look around.  I chose Incal because the reviews I read said it was a thicker, higher quality paper AND it can be heat set to make it permanent.  Some decals can't be washed, which would mean the dishes would be purely decorative.  That's fine, but I kinda' like the idea of actually using them.  Make sure you get the right kind of paper for your printer {ink jet or laser} and choose white or clear background.  I got the ink jet clear paper.

I designed all my images in Gimp and printed them out onto the decal paper.  Set your printer to Best Quality and Photo Glossy paper.  Then you need to spray the paper to set the ink so it doesn't run when it gets wet.  I used Rust-oleum Crystal Clear Enamel in a glossy finish.  Any kind of clear acrylic spray would do the job.  Spray two or three coats and let it dry for about an hour.  Trim off the extra paper around the edges of your design.

Wash the plate you want to use to make sure it's really clean.  Then get a shallow pan of warm water and completely immerse your decal.  The edges of the film will start to curl up away from the paper backing.  That is good.  Once the entire design is loose and slips around on top of the paper backing pretty easily, VERY CAREFULLY slide the design onto your plate.  I'm not gonna' lie, this is difficult because these designs are so large.  I think it would be much easier with a smaller design, but I want what I want so big it is!  Use a soft, dry cloth to gently smooth the decal film onto your plate and remove air bubbles.  Make sure the edges are sealed down.  Be sure to be gentle with it because the decal film will stretch and crease if you're not.

Once your decal is firmly in place with no air bubbles, stick it in the oven at 300*F  for 30 minutes.  Easy cheesy.  I love how it turned out!  Unless the light hits it just right, you can't even tell it's a decal.  I'm in the process of redoing my plate wall in the dining room.  I got a pewter tray at Goodwill a while ago for $5 that I want to hang along with a few more of my Pride & Prejudice plates.  I just couldn't wait to see this one hanging up, though.
This technique is so quick and easy and professional looking.  I may have to make plates for every season and change them out. Here is the full set of my Pride & Prejudice designs if you'd like to use them:

Just click on the pictures to enlarge to full size, right click and save to your computer.  I'll also be offering plates and digital prints in my etsy shop, if you would rather just purchase the finished product!  Have a great weekend!


Girls Cruise!

Just a little weekend getaway with 30ish friends . . . no big.  Actually, I only knew eleven of these ladies before we left -- the others are sisters, friends, cousins, etc. of my friends.  It was so much fun.  We ate too much and laughed a lot.  It was just what the doctor ordered.  Now, if my head would stop spinning I'd be thrilled.  I've felt dizzy ever since we got off the boat.  Small price to pay, I guess.  I'm ready to go back again this weekend!


Ruffled Collar Cardigan Refashion

Phew! I got the other project done with time to spare. I've had this really cute J Crew cardigan pinned for a while now as an inspiration piece. I love the ruffly collar especially. {Ruffles are my favorite! I'm so glad they've come back into fashion lately.}
J Crew cardigan
I just so happened to have a green v-neck cardigan in my stash and some green taffeta-ish fabric that was almost a perfect match.  Here is my knock-off:
It was a really easy project. I started by cutting two long strips of fabric about 7" wide by 45" long {just the entire width of the fabric from selvage to selvage}. Sew the two strips together on one end so you end up with a strip that is 7" wide by about 89" long.  Fold the fabric in half the long way with right sides together.  Sew a curved line to round out the corner on each end.  See in the picture how the edge of the ruffle is a little curved on each end where it buttons together?  That's what you're doing here.  Trim off the excess fabric and turn right side out.  Press the entire strip along the long edge to make a sharp crease.

Now sew along the open edge of your strip to gather it and create your ruffle.  Start pinning your ruffle to the inside of the collar edge by matching up the center of the ruffle and the center back of the sweater.  It will look ridiculous at this point because your ruffle will be standing straight up from the collar of your sweater.  That's OK.  We'll fold it over and press it a little later.  Sew around the collar edge with a straight stitch to attach the collar to the sweater.  Then sew around the rough edge of the collar again with a zig-zag stitch to hold the edge down inside your sweater and keep the raw edge from fraying.

At this point you'll fold your collar over to the right side of the sweater and press the heck out of it to make it lay flat and stay in place.

If you use a light-weight fabric, like a cotton or chiffon, that might be enough to keep the collar in place.  Mine was a heavier taffeta-like fabric so it needed a little help to stay laying flat.  I took a needle and thread and tacked the collar down to the sweater every inch or so all the way around.  Be careful to not sew through the top layer of the collar as you tack it so that your stitches will remain hidden.  At this point I pressed it again for good measure, but that's about all you have to do.  I plan to wash the sweater on gentle cycle and lay flat to dry to keep the collar in good shape.  I love it.  It's going to look so good with jeans and a little floral top underneath it.  Yee haw!  Cruise on Friday.  Can't wait!

{P.S. My husband got a job today so it has been a great day all around!!  Thanks for all your well-wishes these past few months.  It has meant a lot to us.}


The French Knot Cardigan Refashion

I'm going on a Girl's Cruise to Mexico next weekend with a few of my besties and I am so excited.  I know it seems like odd timing what with my husbands lack of employment, but it was a surprise gift from my friends and, I'm not gonna' lie, I could use a break from real life right now.  I have been mentally preparing my wardrobe and lamenting the fact that I can't go out and buy a bunch of cute new outfits to take.  It's fine, really.  I don't need any new clothes.  But then I had a stroke of inspiration the other day.

Y'all know I love a good thrift-store sweater makeover, right?  I troll the local Goodwills on Thursdays {dollar days -- holla!} looking for boring old sweaters and I have amassed quite a stash.  I had actually started working on this one during our trip to Las Vegas for Thanksgiving, but had grown weary of it and put it to the back of the craft closet -- I'll show you why.  I found this sweater refashion from Two Butterflies on Pinterest a while back and fell hopelessly in love with it.

I adore the scattering of French knots around the neckline.  Uh-dore!  So I set out to loosely recreate this sweater on one from my stash:  

It's easy enough, sure.  French knots are not that hard to do. {Here is a really great tutorial on The Purl Bee.} There are just sooooo many of them.  My fingers got sore and I ran out of embroidery floss about halfway through one side, at which point I jumped ship and abandoned the project.  But my desperation for new cruise clothing inspired me to pull it back out and finish that bad boy.  I'm so glad that I did because I absolutely love it. 

Like I said, this is really an easy project.  I started by ironing lightweight fusible interfacing onto the inside of my sweater in the general area where I wanted my design.  I thought maybe that would keep my sweater from stretching as I sewed and keep the knots from slipping through the weave of my sweater.  It was really helpful.  Next I laid my sweater out flat and used a piece of white chalk to sketch out my rough design on the front.  I just drew a line straight across to mark the lowest point I wanted the knots and a curved line on each side about an inch and a half from the finished neck edge as a guide for my transition from the really-close-together knots and the just-kind-of-close together knots.  After that all you have to do is make half a billion french knots while you watch three or four movies and voila!  You're done.

The hardest part was getting the two sides to match.  I had to lay it out flat every once in a while as I working and look at it from a distance to be sure.  Even so, I ended up with a lot more knots on the second side.  I had to go back to the first side and fill in some empty spots, but then that side looked too crowded so I had to go back to the other side and add a few more.  I finally just had to walk away from it and I think it looks fine. And now I'm excited about having a new sweater to take on my vacation that didn't cost me anything.  {OK, $1, but I paid that so long ago it's like it was free.}

I'm going to try to get another sweater done before we go, which I will share here, of course.  Have a good one, folks!


Can We "Guac"?

This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of Avocados from Mexico for SocialSpark. All opinions are 100% mine.
Ha ha!  Get it?!  Guac instead of talk?  I am just soooo funny.  But seriously.  Let's have a little chat about guacamole, shall we.  I wrote a post a little while back where I told you all my {and my dog's} love for guacamole.  It's still true, every word.  I could eat guacamole every single day.  Guacamole is the perfect party food and, guess what!  It's football party season!  I was thrilled to hear that Avocados from Mexico is hosting a Guac-Off recipe contest on their Facebook page.  Not because I have such a revolutionary recipe, but because I'm always looking for new and more wonderful ways to enjoy my beloved guacamole.  Head on over to Avocados from Mexico on Facebook between January 5th and 15th..
Once you "like" their page you can enter the Avocados from Mexico Guac Off Recipe Contest  for a chance to win some pretty awesome prizes:  Three lucky winners will receive an iPad 2 and autographed cookbook by Celebrity Chef Roberto Santibañez and 7 runners-up will receive a $200 grocery gift card and autographed cookbook by Celebrity Chef Roberto Santibañez.  Plus, just for playing, all entrants are automatically entered into a separate sweepstakes for a chance to win a $100 grocery gift card. Ten winners will be selected.  The contest runs 1/2/2012 - 1/20/2012.
How can you "Get in the Game"?
First Down:
Submit your favorite guacamole recipe using your most valuable player- Avocados from Mexico- along with one photo of the recipe.
Second Down:
Avocados from Mexico will select the top 10 qualified players to be posted on the Avocados from Mexico Facebook Page.
Third Down:
There will be a grand prize winner in the following three categories: Most Popular, Best Recipe and Most Creative. Avocados from Mexico will choose the Most Creative recipe, Chef Roberto Santibañez will choose the Best Recipe, and Most Popular will be chosen by the Facebook voters. Touch Down!
Huddle all your teammates- friends, family and coworkers- to vote for your recipe and win the Most Popular category!
I thought I'd share a recipe with y'all today to get your creative juices flowing and inspire you to enter the contest.  This is on oldie, but a goodie -- trust me!

Cowboy Caviar {Chunky Guac}

2 cans (15 oz) black beans, rinsed and drained
1 can (17 oz) can whole kernel corn, drained
2 large tomatoes, chopped
1 or 2 large avocados, peeled and diced
1/2 red onion, chopped
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
3-4 Tbsp. lime juice
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
Combine all ingredients in a large bowl.  Cover and chill. Garnish, if desired with additional avocado slices or cilantro sprigs, and serve with tortilla chips.  {Or inside a shredded beef burrito, which I will be enjoying for dinner tonight!}

I even entered the contest, just for funsies.  See:

It couldn't be any easier!  If your looking for more avocado inspiration, here are more  Avocados from Mexico recipes!  Now get out there and make me proud, fellow guacamole fans!  Wouldn't it be fun if one of us actually won?!  Have a great day!
Visit Sponsor's Site


Meal Planning Printables

Pinterest never ceases to amaze me.  I'm sure many of you are here because you came across one of my printables on Pinterest.  In fact, I think my post on housekeeping last year has more page views than every other page on my blog combined, due to Pinterest.  That's a tiny little bit embarrassing to me because now THOUSANDS of people know that I sit around in my jammies watching junky tv shoes and drinking Coke instead of cleaning my house.  Whatever -- I believe in keeping it real.  I'm over it. 

I got an email a few days ago from a sweet reader, Kristen, who was wondering if I had a meal planning chart that matched my chore charts.  I immediately thought, "What a great idea"!  So I set about creating one -- because if we're being really honest here, I'm not good at cooking dinner either usually.  I do well if I have a plan, though, and a plan is easier to follow if it's cute, so this should help me immensely.  This is the one I will probably use:
I am going to laminate it so I can write my meal plan for each week on the one side and the groceries I need to get for those meals {or things I need in general} on the other side. I created a few other versions, too, including a blank meal list and a blank grocery list that you can customize to meet your own needs.

As always, to download just click on the image to enlarge it.  {That will usually bring it up full-screen.}  Then you need to right click and choose "Save As" and save it to your computer.  The images can be edited {to add text}in Photoshop or any other photo editing program.  If you don't have a photo-editing program, you can upload the image to a site like Picnik and add your text. 

Hope that helps.  Have a great day, guys!


In Which I Learn When to Specify and When to Not and I Share Some Yummy Recipes

Obviously I didn't get my act together and post those yummy New Years Eve treat recipes.  This mommy had a little melt-down over the weekend, fueled equally by too little down time {mommy needs to be left alone once in a while}, the stress of unemployment {finally catching up}, insomnia, being sick, and forgetting to take her anxiety medication for over a week.  Probably it was mostly due to the lack of medication, because that seems to make all those other things waaaaayyyyy more tolerable.  So, on New Years Eve I'm sitting at the computer working on Year-in-Review card orders when I realize it's 8:00 p.m. and no one has made the food to take to the party at 8:30.  I don't know who I thought was going to be making the food.  My mom, maybe?  She always has her act together.  Alas, she is in Houston, not my kitchen.  The only assignments I gave out were to Riley to make cupcakes and Brent to put the Lil' Smokies in the crock pot with some BBQ sauce.  I rushed into the kitchen and lost it when I found the tiny crock pot with what couldn't have been more than 20 mini-sausages in it and every contertop covered in dirty dishes from the cupcake making process.  {And maybe some of them were from dinner the night before, but, ahem!  I've. Been. Sick!  Don't you judge me.}

Now that I'm calmer, and a little more medicated, I can see that it wasn't such a big deal.  To be fair, I hadn't specified how many of the Lil' Smokies needed to be heated up and I only told my son to make cupcakes, not clean up.  I wasn't mad at the guys, I was mad at the kitchen for being so small and messy.  I might not have been completely rational at the time.  I was a wreck, sobbing and slamming cabinet doors {punishing that darn kitchen for offending me so} as I rushed to put together a cool ranch veggie pizza and some of my brother-in-law Josh's famous beef dip.  The beef dip never materialized since there was no can of roast beef in the back of the pantry like I thought and the "cool" ranch pizza was more of a "room temperature" ranch pizza, and we were late for the party, but in the end it was alright.  Our friends don't care about stuff like that and we had food enough to feed an army. {There were 13 of us present.} I know that now.  I actually knew that then, too, but I was too busy melting down to think it through. 

We ended up having a lovely evening playing a new Ticket to Ride game{Asia!}with our friends while the kids played on the new trampoline in the back yard {one of the many great things about Arizona}. And now I know that I should specify exactly what needs to be done at home and not specify when or what I will be posting here on the blog.  Four days into the new year and I'm already wiser! 

Now for the Recipes:

Cool Ranch Veggie Pizza

{source: Pampered Chef, I think.  I've just made it from memory for years.}
2 (8 oz) packages crescent rolls -- Pillsbury now makes those crescent sheets that are awesome!
1 (8 oz) package cream cheese, softened
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
1 package dry ranch seasoning
2 cups vegetables, cut into bite size pieces {we usually do broccoli, carrots, red peppers, green onions, and olives if I have them on hand}
1 cup shredded cheese

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Unroll crescent dough sheets onto a large non-sick baking pan to completely cover the pan. Press the your fingers over the dough to seal the seems. Bake 12-15 minutes, or until the top is lightly browned. Set aside to cool.
2. Mix together the cream cheese and ranch. Set aside.
3. Once the crust is completely cooled, evenly spread the cream cheese mixture over it. Top with the vegetables and cheese of your choice. Refrigerate until ready to serve. 

Uncle Josh's Jalapeno Beef Dip 

{source: my brother-in-law Josh Colin -- my kids just call him Uncle Josh}

2 (8oz.) bricks cream cheese, softened -- {did you know they sell a loaf of cream cheese at Costco?!  That was heaven-sent this Christmas with all my baking and pepper jelly cravings!}
16 oz. carton sour cream
1 can roast beef chunks -- that sounds disgusting, but hang in there with me! {These are cheapest at Costco, too.}
1-2 small cans diced jalapeños, depending on how spicy you like it {you could also used diced green chiles to make it really mild}
Fritos Scoops -- you're gonna' want the Scoops, trust me.

1. Combine all ingredients in a mixer -- except for the Fritos -- don't mix in those.
2. Dip Fritos in and enjoy!  That's why you wanna' get the Scoops.  They hold more delicious dip.

Happy New Year {a little late} blog friends!

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