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1  COOKING / Recipes and Cooking Tips / Easy Slow Cooker Paleo(-ish) Ribs on: July 03, 2014 06:15:25 PM

This is a recipe my personal trainer shared with me a few years back.  I only started experimenting with crockpot cooking a month ago, so I didn't think to try making it until now.  Since the recipe is currently just sitting in my inbox, I wanted to type up a page for it so I could add pics and get it on my Pinterest board.

Ingredients: (I made some alterations based on what I had on hand, which may make it a little less Paleo-appropriate)

  • 2 - 3 lbs. beef short ribs
  • 1 Tbsp. canola oil (original recipe calls for coconut oil)
  • 1 15 oz. can plain tomato sauce
  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins (original recipe calls for 4 whole dried dates)
  • 6 cloves garlic, smashed

Step 1:

Season short ribs.  Heat oil in large skillet over medium high heat, and brown ribs on both sides (2 - 3 mins per side).  The goal is just to get some nice color on the meat, since it'll get cooked through in the slow cooker.

Step 2:

Place short ribs, tomato sauce, balsamic vinegar, raisins (or dates) and smashed garlic in crock pot.  Cover and cook on low for 4 - 6 hours.

Step 3:

Et voilà!  Dinner is served -- pretty easy, huh?  (I'll admit, it's certainly not the most appetizing-looking dish, sitting in the crockpot like that.  But like Anne Burrell always says, "Brown food tastes good!")  As an added bonus, you can take that pan you browned the ribs in, put it back on the stove and use a little white wine to de-glaze the pan.  Now you have a yummy flavor booster to help you quick sauté some baby spinach/kale -- season with salt, pepper, lemon zest, lemon juice, and some red pepper flakes, and you've got a delicious and very quick side dish!
2  PAPER CRAFTS, SCRAPBOOKING & ATCs (ARTIST TRADING CARDS) / Artist Trading Cards (ATCs) / February & March 2014 ATCs (pic heavy) on: March 22, 2014 06:48:06 PM
I've been busy with the Ongoing ATC Swap the last couple of months, and since I'm very proud of many of the cards I made this round, I wanted to take the time to give them their own thread.

This first one depicts a scene from the Japanese folktale "Kaguya-hime" (also known as "The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter").  The image is based on illustrations from the "World Masterpiece Fantasy" series edition -- kind of like the Japanese version of Golden Books (i.e., every Japanese I know under the age of 30 had them as a kid).

Also with a Japanese theme is this origami card.  The front of the card has origami paper glued on, and an origami crane design has been cut out of the center.  The cut-out actually goes all the way through, but I put a black card behind it to help the image stand out in the photo.

This is a Word Puzzle theme card -- the first letter of each mini-picture spells out the mystery seven-letter word.  One can pull up the flap to get a peak of the answer.  Which is...

Along a similar vein is this Harry Potter-themed card featuring a portrait of the Fat Lady (this is before I added the  cut-out window panels):

Looks like some Gryffindors are trying to sneak out past curfew!  (As soon as I saw that book of HP stamps at the post office, I envisioned this project in my head.)

The next card was for a "Hello Kitty as...." theme.  I found an inspiration image on the recipient's Pinterest of a Dia de los Muertos-style Hello Kitty.

I also did a couple of needle-felted cards, both with a spring theme:

And now, on to my favorites.  Wink

blupaisan made an amazing Valentine's Day present for her daughter, which featured (as one of MANY elements) a Richard Scarry aspect.  This immediately took me back to memories of my childhood: whenever my grandmother would come to visit us, the first thing my brother and I would do is sit down with her in the big recliner and have her read the same Richard Scarry book to us.  I went on to make an ATC for blupaisan featuring a scene of my grandmother reading to us, with all of us represented as Scarry characters.  (I'm Lowly Worm!  Cheesy)

I did a couple of yaoi-themed cards based on images from the recipient's Pinterest:

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Last but not least is this Figure Study themed card.

In some ways, it is my very favorite of the whole batch.  I have never been very strong at drawing, and when I first joined the ATC Swaps, I refused to freehand cards, instead tracing or using other mediums to do cards, because I feared that the recipients would be disappointed if they received a free-handed card from me.  But over time, I have been slowly building up my confidence in my drawing, and I feel like I've come a long way.  To think that I've gotten to the point where I can do black-and-white cards (in other words, I can't rely on color, etc. to "cover up" my drawing) is a big deal for me.  In fact, the only cards in this post that were traced were the two yaoi ones, and the origami crane (for the sake of achieving straight lines).  I am looking forward to continue improving my drawing skills in the coming months, especially once summer starts.

Thanks for looking!
3  TOYS, DOLLS AND PLAYTHINGS / Toys, Dolls and Playthings: Completed Projects / My Loyal Mutant: The Tree Octopus Guardian on: March 11, 2014 08:25:57 PM

Last month, I participated in the inaugural Loyal Mutant Swap, in which we were given an ingredient/part list by our partner, and tasked with incorporating two (or more) items from the list into a heretofore undiscovered "mutant".  My partner Annchen had a lot of delicate and "pretty" elements on her list, which allowed me to craft what I consider to be a "pretty" mutant.

The items I chose to incorporate from my partner's list were:

  • tentacles
  • buttons
  • lace knitting
  • shawls
  • pinecones
  • yarn
  • owls

My partner is a HUGE yarnie, and while she did not list any colors on her ingredient list, my investigation of her Pinterest revealed that she definitely seems to favor the color purple, so I used that as my inspiration for the color palette.  Similar to my previous doll (the Zombie Mermaid), I created a yarn "wig" by cutting out a teardrop-shaped piece of felt and hot glueing yarn strands of various length.  It was a little more challenging this time, though, since the yarn was thinner and I was trying to go for a "prettier" look.  I had to double over a lot of the yarn strands and do a lot of layering in order to get the hair to not look so flat.

By far, my favorite element was the tentacles.  I quickly traced out vague tentacles shapes on the fabric, sewed them right sides together and turned them inside out.  After stuffing them with polyfill, I hot glued them together to my store-bought cloth doll base (which I just cut the legs off of).  Since I didn't create a pattern/template for the tentacles, they ended up having wildly different sizes, so next time I'll remedy that.  I absolutely loved the effect of the different buttons as suction cups on the tentacles.

Even after I finished crafting, I did not exactly know what she "was", but our knowledgeable Organizer quickly identified a genetic similarity to the (in)famous Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus.  It was ultimately determined that she serves as a kind of Guardian Forest Spirit, hence her being dubbed the "Tree Octopus Guardian".

I have to say, I would have *never* imagined myself making dolls before joining Craftster.  But now, I've had the opportunity to make them for two different swaps, and they are some of my favorite projects I've worked on!  I love how swaps have a way of pushing me into experimenting with mediums, techniques, materials and inspirations that I would never have gravitated towards on my own.
4  NEEDLEWORK / Needlework: Completed Projects / Four Elements Hoop 1/4 - Fire on: January 12, 2014 12:42:59 PM
I am basically brand-new to embroidery (outside of cross-stitch).  For my research project in the Harry Potter Craftalong, I am crafting four hooplas to represent the traditional Western four elements (earth, air, fire, water). My goal is to research and implement some of the most basic stitches and techniques, and I specifically want to try out some different techniques on each hoop.  There is so much talent on this board, and so I am posting this piece specifically in the hopes that I can get feedback and advice on how to improve my work.

Originally, I fretted a little over what to do for the composition of each hoop.  I knew I wanted to have a pattern of some kind to follow, but did not want to pay for professional ones, nor did I feel up to the challenge of designing my own for my first work.  The idea of using the Chinese/Japanese character for each element seemed like a good choice, since it would hold significance for me but be very straightforward as a compositional element.  In order to get a pattern, I typed up the character in my word processor, and found a font that had a little more shape to it.  After printing each one out in the size that best fit my hoop, I used my window as a light box to trace the pattern using a white transfer pencil.  I outlined the pattern of this "fire" character with a split stitch using 3 strands of embroidery floss (which meant I always had to divide it 2-and-1 -- I'm thinking that 4 would've been better), and then filled in the whole thing with two strands of satin stitch.  All of these techniques were brand new to me.

Project Picture:

I would love your feedback on the following questions:

1) I'm using a set of variegated threads for all four hoops.  On this one, I started out the satin stitch from the middle of the top, and then you'll see the "split" where I went down the left "leg" of the character.  After working on this for a while, I became concerned that the variegation wasn't showing up enough in the thread (when I cut out a length of thread from the skein, split it up into 3 sets of 2 stands and used them one right after the other, the same color pattern repeated 3 times in a row).  So, for the right leg, instead of keeping the 2 strands of floss running the same direction, when I separated them, I would put the opposite ends together, making the variegation a lot more random instead of gradual.  I used that same technique on the two triangles at the sides as well.  Which style of variegation do you think ends up looking better, gradual or random?

2) Doing the satin stitch, there are several spots where I came up through (or even outside) my split stitch outline, which looked quite sloppy.  Do you think I should use something other than split stitch to outline my pattern if I'm filling in with satin, or do I just need to be more fastidious about coming up inside the outline?

3) Also, as I was reading online about satin stitch, some websites said that you need to carry the thread all the way around on the back side, and others advised to just come up right next to the hole where you exited.  I ended up using the first technique, even though I felt like I was wasting a ton of thread, since I was afraid of coming through my holes if I didn't.  Which technique do you recommend?

Thank you so much for taking the time to look and comment!
5  OCCASIONS AND HOLIDAYS / Winter Holidays / woodland-themed Christmas stocking on: December 15, 2013 09:04:22 PM
I made this for my partner in Round 9 of the Christmas Stocking Swap.  It is the swap item I am most proud of to date, so I hope she likes it.  Smiley

Since my partner had a lot of natural elements posted to her Pinterest, I chose a Woodlands theme for the stocking.  The appliqus are made of everyday craft felt sheets, and needle-felted onto a slightly higher-quality felt that was cut from a bolt.  Originally, I wanted it to be more of a "Winter Woodlands" theme, but I felt that the white felt was too bright and clashed with the other colors, so I opted to sew on clear and white opaque beads to connote the idea of snow.  Although they look a little dull in the photo, they add a nice touch of sparkle in person.  I didn't take a picture of the back, but it features my partner's name cut out in red felt letters, with an "in-line" of beads sewn down the centers of the letters.  It kinda ended up looking like marquee letters a little.   Tongue
6  TOYS, DOLLS AND PLAYTHINGS / Toys, Dolls and Playthings: Completed Projects / Zombie Mermaid on: October 26, 2013 06:02:43 AM
This is quite a step-up from the previous project I posted on this board!  I recently participated in the Creepy Cute Stuffie Swap, and my partner said she liked creepy mermaids, so I decided to craft her a zombie mermaid.

Initially, I tried to draft a pattern for the entire thing by hand, but having never even made a doll before, that was a bit beyond my skill set.  Thankfully, I found a $3 blank stuffed doll form at Joanns, which even had the bonus of being that perfect zombie un-dead gray!  So I chopped off the legs, and used that for the upper body.  With a good base for the torso, I was then able to draft a decently-shaped pattern for the tail.

Two pieces of black felt, machine-sewn together and stuffed with poly fill from the bottom up as I went along.  I intentionally cut the top of the tail a little wider than the waist of the doll, and after the torso was glued into the tail, I hot glued the over-wide edges of the tail to the backside to create the effect of her wider hips and narrower waist.  The tailbones were all painted on with white fabric paint -- which I did not realize had a velveteen effect, so when I used a blow dryer on the paint to speed up the drying, the paint actually started to bubble up.  It was a happy accident, though, as I think it adds some interesting texture.

I figured that crafting her chest would be difficult, so I went with the requisite mermaid shell-bra, hot-glued on.  My friends and I had a good laugh over her Madonna-esque cones.  The face and scratches were all painted on using black and white fabric paint, and a Tim Holtz brand red distress paint for paper crafting (which I figured would be more subtle, and I think it was.  It actually comes in a dauber, so I had to daub it onto a paper plate to be able to get some on my brush).  I wish I had taken a little more care into how I had applied the scratches (they look more like pus sores than wounds to me, but I guess that works too).  Her little cameo was purchased at Joann -- I was hoping to make a skull one, but based on the time I had and supplies I was able to find, this ended up being the best option.  So, it is the mermaid's treasure, recovered from a shipwreck at the bottom of the ocean.

My absolute favorite part of the doll, however, is her ridiculously-long hair.  I had already figured I would end up using yarn for the hair, but when I saw this one at the craft store, I knew it would be perfect.  The black, white and gray colors say "zombie" to me, and it was all knotted in weird places, which really helped to add a lot of volume.  Originally, I was just going to start gluing long strands of yarn to the top of her head, but my best friend wisely advised me to create a base for a wig, using a teardrop-shaped piece of black felt.  That way, I could more easily create a part, instead of having hair hanging down in the doll's face, and it worked really well.  I still managed to almost permanently lose the use of a couple fingers to the hot glue gun... but, y'know.  Crafting problems.

She is even a little bit blinged-out, with a jeweled fishbone stuck in her hair.  Wink
7  MISCELLANEOUS TOPICS / Completed Projects / video game sprite perler explosion! (pic heavy) on: September 22, 2013 06:30:17 AM
I did a private swapalong with mama24boyz during the recent Video Game Round 2 swap, since she wasn't able to participate.  After stalking her Pinterest, I decided I wanted to do something that could be enjoyed by both her and her family as well.  So, I ended up making personalized key holders/racks for her and each of her 5 kids.  But of course, we need something more fun than keys to hang off of them, right?

My very initial idea was to make a giant "character selection screen" on canvas, personalized with everyone's names and a bunch of character sprites to choose from.  After realizing that would be impossible to ship, I thought about it a bit more, and ended up going with individual small, rectangular-shaped canvases.

So, without further ado... bring on the perler bead video game sprites!

Mario and Peach:

Baby Daisy and Luigi (he's looking a little grey-haired, isn't he?  I ran out of black perler beads about halfway through this whole project, and it took me more than a week before I could find a local store with black beads in stock.  So, some of the characters were subjected to some "creative coloring") :   

Link and Zelda (sporting their summer tans -- yep, ran out of "sand" colored beads too!)

Sonic and Yoshi:

Minecraft guy (or, a study in how NOT to melt your fuse beads.  Turns out that our iron at home distributes heat incredibly unevenly, so when I just turned it on high and pressed it down hard, things got super ugly quickly.  You can see how uneven the melt job is on the guy at left.  In order to get a much more even melt, like the guy on the right, I had to constantly move the iron around, and apply pressure from all directions.  Turning the heat down to medium helped, too.)

And let's not forget, good guys need some bad guys to battle, right?  First up is King Koopa himself, Bowser (sporting some neon coloring today):

And finally, Ganon from the Zelda games:

Each of the smaller hero characters took around an hour or less to set the perler beads on peg boards and fuse.  Bowser was about 2 hours, and Ganon took around three and a half.  I am so glad I saved him for last, because I would've ended up destroying him with the iron if I had done him early on.  I only have the small peg boards that connect together to make bigger ones, but you have to be very careful when ironing over the seams where two peg boards join together, or you are apt to have beads spill everywhere.  This happened with Bowser and some of the smaller guys, and I would have to try and do touch-ups after the beads had already started fusing (not particularly fun).  So by the time I got to Ganon, who spanned across four boards, I knew to be *very* careful with the iron.

For the key racks themselves, I took a small, rectangular canvas and painted it black.  Then, my friends helped me make a ton of letters out of poly clay and a letter mold.  Obviously, painting on the words would've been way easier, but I wanted a 3-D effect to add some visual interest to the key holder itself.  We added a glaze to the letters to make them glossy, and after baking and cooling, the letters were glued on with Aleene's tacky glue.  I found the hooks at the grocery store for I think 88 cents per pack of three, and they screwed into the wood frame of the canvas very easily while still staying firm and snug.

Each of my partner's four sons were designated as a "Player" (1 - 4), with the rack personalized with their names as well.

Her daughter (the youngest) was a "mini-boss":

And for art to imitate life, my partner had to be the boss, naturally.  Wink (In this case, boss refers to "I run this place", not "I'm out to get the goods guys").  The boss names are an homage to Zelda bosses (I actually looked up Zelda boss names online, and tweaked a couple to fit my purposes.)

The idea is for the perler sprites to be hung from the key holder hooks with string/yarn/whatever, so that they can be easily switched whenever people want to select a new character(s).

This was SUCH a fun project to work on.  Perler beads go perfectly with video game crafting, and I kinda got carried away working on all those different character sprites.  Grin
8  PURSES, BAGS, WALLETS / Purses, Bags, Wallets: Completed Projects: General / GLaDOS quote/Companion Cube bag on: September 10, 2013 10:14:20 PM
I recently made this Portal-themed bag for my partner queenofmarigold in the Video Game Round 2 swap.

The front of the bag features a Companion Cube made out of felt, appliqued to the bag with felt glue.  (I was pleasantly surprised that the glue kept the felt stuck to the bag, even all the way across the ocean!)  The two quotes are from GLaDOS, the games' primary antagonist, and were done in fabric paint.

It was interesting making this bag, because I have never played either of the Portal games before, and so I had to do some research on it.  The snarky, sarcastic comments of the enemy computer seemed to be one of the highlights of the game, so I featured them prominently on the back.

I actually worked on the back side first.  I ended up not being crazy about the rainbow colors -- I wish I had only used blue and orange like I ended up doing on the front, because those colors are significant to the game.

My favorite part is the "surprise" at the bottom.  (The "smear" on the last word is intentional -- it's meant to mimic graffiti from the game.)

Thanks for looking!
9  PURSES, BAGS, WALLETS / Purses, Bags, Wallets: Completed Projects: General / Legend of Zelda/Mario coin purse on: September 10, 2013 10:01:20 PM
I recently cross stitched this coin purse for my partner queenofmarigold in the Video Game Round 2 swap.

My partner said she liked useful items, and so when I saw the undecorated black coin purse for $5 at Michaels, I knew it would make a great canvas for something.  When she listed rupees (the jewel-like currency from the Legend of Zelda games) as one of her favorite video game items, I knew it would go perfectly.  On the other side, I added a Yoshi coin (Yoshi being one of her favorite characters) and two regular gold coins from the Mario games.

For the rupees and the regular coins, I simply let the black of the coin purse show through; I liked the slightly 3D effect it gave.  For the Yoshi coin, however, I had to go back and stitch the black parts with black thread to clean it up.  That was probably the worst part, as stitching black thread on black canvas (just like white on white) is no fun.  All in all, it probably took me about 6 hours or so.

Thanks for looking!
10  NEEDLEWORK / Needlework: Completed Projects / "Onion Sweet Onion": Pikmin cross stitch hoopla on: September 10, 2013 09:38:03 PM
I recently made this Pikmin-themed hoopla for queenofmarigold in the Video Game Round 2 swap.

Close-up of some of the critters:

The spaceship/home of the Pikmin creatures is called an "Onion".  I wanted to play with the idea of juxtaposing a very traditional, old-fashioned sampler with something modern/geeky, and so the saying in the middle is an homage to that.  I searched in Google for an online cross stitch letter pattern generator, and used that for the text.  If you look at the bottom of the pic, you'll see that I mod podged images from a Pikmin game instruction manual around the entire wooden hoop.   This was inspired by a great comic-themed hoopla queenofmarigold had made and pinned on her Pinterest.

The black dots you see in the four compass points are velcro buttons sewn into the aida cloth.  (Man, it was a pain pushing the needle through that thick velcro!)  This is so that a "cover" can be attached on top of the hoopla.

The cover is designed to look like the outside of the Onion spaceship.  It is made out of felt, with black puff paint for the lines.  The daisy at the top functions as a propeller in the game; mine actually spins around too!  I glued a game spinner I got from a Tim Holtz ephemera kit, and pushed the brad through the felt fabric.  You can see the game spinner peaking out in the right side of the pic, and how the velcro dots attach the cover to the hoop on the left.

All in all, it probably took me about 20 hours total, but I really enjoyed making it.

Thanks for looking!
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