Because crafts are like crack.

Knitting Party Favors January 30, 2011

Filed under: Cricut,Paper Crafts — Casey @ 4:48 pm

Next weekend I will be holding my first learn-to-knit party. Part of the preparations are these favor boxes. Each is personalized with a guest’s initial.

Part of the fun was getting to play around with my new Cricut. I used the Mini Monograms cartridge. I still need to fine tune my work with the machine, but I’ve been having so much fun with it.

Inside each box are a few knitting essentials:

A retractable measuring tape
A yarn needle
A few stitch markers
Two needle tip stoppers
A nifty double ended crochet hook key chain perfect for binding off and picking up dropped stitches

My hope is that this kit will be everything my guests need to continue knitting after they leave my house!


Road Trip! January 17, 2011

Filed under: My Life,Photography — Casey @ 11:22 am

It is only January and already the cabin fever is hitting hard. The downside of visiting Shaker Village when it is 18 degrees out is that it is 18 degrees out.

The upside is we have the entire place to ourselves!

Meet Travis and Trevor. Well, those may not be their actual names, but we have decided is we ever own a pair of longhorn bulls, we will definitely call them Travis and Trevor.

The Shakers were utopian society that believed each individual had natural God-given talents that should be cultivated to best contribute to the group as a whole. If I were a Shaker, I think I would live here.

I can only hope to one day create things this gorgeous.

Those Shakers sure seem to have been crafty people!

Have you ever seen a man made so happy by a broom?

Despite the cold, we had a fabulous time. Next time we plan to visit when we can spend a little more time outside.


Because I do whatever Matt Lauer tells me to do January 9, 2011

Filed under: Cooking — Casey @ 12:00 pm

Turkey Pozole Soup

While normally not a huge Matt Lauer fan (in fact I think he might be a bit a goober in real life), I admit the NBC crew is part of my morning routine. I find Matt, Meredith, Ann, and Al to be just innocuous enough to not annoy me while I am attending to the more important tasks of getting caffeine into my system and checking Facebook. On Monday the background noise seeped into my consciousness when Matt commented the Turkey Pozole from the previous segment had been REALLY good (if very spicy) and everyone should make it. Everyone? That is a pretty resounding endorsement. I figure that Matt probably gets to sample food from lots of great chefs so the soup must be super tasty to merit such enthusiasm after a commercial break. Would Matt really risk his journalistic integrity on a mediocre soup?

With all my previous cooking experience, I only had a vague idea of what hominy is all about. I think I might have been able to purchase it for my settlers when playing Oregon Trail, because I mentally have it filed as something you might eat with hard tac and sourgham.

In fact it appears hominy is maize soaked in lye. Yum? Additionally, pozole seems to be a traditional pork and hominy soup. Double yum? But Matt would never steer me wrong, right?

Right! Holy cow, this is one tasty soup! It is very spicy, but has the kind of heat I find myself craving. This soup was so good that the husband went back for a second bowl two hours after dinner.

I tried to shop for ingredients from memory and I was not very successful. I remembered some Mexican “A”-spice. Thus I purchased Adobo paste instead of Ancho chili powder. I also forgot a fresh jalapeno. In all frankness, my palate is not sufficiently developed to taste many subtle flavors below the spice of this soup. Someone more accustomed to heat might worry more about Ancho vs. grocery store chili powder, but my tongue can’t tell the difference.

So this is the recipe that WE made and that we can vouch for. Obviously, I can’t follow a soup recipe to save my life.

Turkey pozole soup with green chilies

Adapted from Michael Lomonaco, executive chef at Porter House New York on the NBC Today Show


  • 1.5 pounds cooked turkey tenderloin cut into 1/2 inch cubes (any meat would be great – especially any leftover poultry)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 large onions, peeled and chopped
  • 2 red peppers, seeded and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons diced pickled jalapeno peppers
  • 2 tablespoons ground cumin
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 2 tablespoons peeled, chopped garlic
  • 2 4 ounce cans chopped green chilies
  • 1 cup crushed tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon Adobo paste (just because I bought it!)
  • 2 quarts chicken broth
  • 1 28 ounce can white hominy
  • 1/4 cup roughly chopped cilantro leaves
  • 1/2 cup chopped scallions
  • Sour cream
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper


Saute the onions and red pepper in the olive oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pan over medium heat until lightly browned.

Add the jalapenos, chopped turkey. Season with cumin, chili powder, salt and pepper. Stir in garlic, green chilies, tomatoes and Adobo paste. Let warm through.

Stir in the chicken broth plus two cups of water. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium low and allow it to simmer, partially covered for at least one hour.

Add the drained and rinsed hominy. Cook until warmed through, about 15 minutes.

Serve with cilantro, scallions and sour cream.


Having a ball with Mom January 8, 2011

Filed under: Sewing — Casey @ 12:50 pm

One of the best parts of the holidays is once all the presents are opened there is lots of family downtime. No really, I mean that! My family is great! Coming from a crafty family, downtime can mean getting out the sewing machine. (We really know how to party.) And a couple of days after Christmas, I got to work with my mom on making baby balls for some of the new arrivals in my life.

I am not sure who first discovered the pattern for these balls, but I know my grandmother made them for many years before passing on the secret. I watched Mom make them for years, so it was so much fun to make one with her.

These colorful toys are perfect for grabbing with tiny fingers and mouths, but are fairly cheap and simple to make once you get the hang of it.

To print the pattern or learn how to create your own, go here.

Begin by tracing and cutting out 24 triangles and 12 ovals from your fabric.

These are my mother’s lovely hands. One of the best things about crafting with others is picking up tips and tricks, along with what should be some obvious techniques. This time I learned that it is much easier to trace onto the light-colored back of the fabric than the patterned front. I guess that is probably obvious to most people, but it never occurred to me. Thanks, Mom!

With a little careful placement, a seven inch ball can be made out of a fat quarter. I would suggest using contrasting fabrics to make the ball more visually interesting, so two fat quarters could make two complementary balls with the tops and sides interchanged.

Cut out the triangles and ovals.

With right sides together, align the rounded edges of a triangle and an oval and sew with a 1/4 inch seam allowance.

Repeat for all 12 ovals.

Align a second triangle along the rounded ends and straight sides and pin. Folding the oval in half can help.

With a quarter inch seam allowance, sew along all three sides to create a pyramid. Leave about a half inch open near the point.

Repeat for all twelve triangles.

Confession: Sewing these triangles together requires quite a bit more fudging than the above pictures make it seem. Most of my triangles look more like this.

And I use this a lot.

And this a little.

Once all twelve triangles are sewn, turn them right side out and stuff.

Sew the stuffed triangles closed with a whipstitch. This can be a messy process… no worries about Frankenstein seams. We will hide them all later.

Once all 12 triangles are stuffed and sewn together, it is time to start connecting them.

Begin by sewing two triangles together at the point of the oval shapes. Be sure to stitch neatly and firmly.

Attach a third triangle point-to-point to create a line of three triangles. Fold the string of triangles, and attach the two end points together. This creates the first of four cones.

Roughly tack the loose tips of the triangles (the orange ends for my ball). Once again, these won’t be visible when the ball is fully assembled so there are no points for neatness.

Complete all four cones. Sew two cones together at a their intersecting points.

Tack the back (orange) ends again. Repeat for the other two cones. This gives you two X-like shapes.

With the two inside faces (in this case the orange sides) together, rotate one of the X’s 90 degrees. Match up the remaining triangle intersections so that four ovals create an X at all points.

If you are a really together crafter, you can secure these corners with a safety pin. But if you are me, you can’t find safety pins anywhere and you can use bobby pins to hold the points together.

Secure those corners to complete the ball!


You… light up my crafts….. January 5, 2011

Filed under: General Crafting,Photography — Casey @ 12:16 am

This is the thing that you need, but you don’t have and now are going to make whether you craft or not. I promise you need one if you have a camera.

Have you ever noticed how some people capture such amazing close up shots while others have such tragic results?

The above is an example of the tragic variety. That is supposed to be ice cream, not toxic sludge. There are actually many flaws here, including focus and composition, but I contend that the craptastic lighting is the reason this picture was never going to be good. The light source is too close and is obviously coming from one small point up and to the right, creating the dementors of photographic shadows.

This picture demonstrates significantly better lighting. It was also taken at night and the only light sources were the overhead ambient light in the room and a desk lamp with a single 100Watt incandescent bulb.

The secret is building a light box.  This is a tool many professional photographers and ebay auctioneers use to get soft, indirect light on a subject. To purchase a light box might take approximately $100, but I made mine with things I had lying around the house. Take that Hoarders… an old box can be used again!

I started my light box with a box from Crate and Barrel. Unbelievably, I had a few of those lying around after the holidays. The idea is to open three sides of the box to allow in more light, so we turn the box on its long side.

Beginning on one short side, I marked about 2 inches in from the edge.

I used a Sharpie to draw a rectangle with a two inch frame on the side of the box. I chose to leave the flaps (that originally would have been the top flaps of the box) intact and use those to block a glare if necessary. However, my rectangle did extend about two inches into the flaps because I was a little worried that the openings might not let in enough light otherwise.

I then used a utility knife to cut out the rectangle. Remember to keep any digits to which you are attached out of the path of your cutting if you would like to stay attached to them. I always have a couple close calls.

Repeat this for the second short side and the top so that three sides are open.

Be sure to leave the back (formerly the bottom of the box) as well as bottom (formerly one of the long sides of the box) uncut in order to maintain structure.

To filter the light, any white translucent material may be used. This is what will prevent harsh shadows. I would imagine fabric would work great, but I have plenty of freezer paper lying around. I cut pieces large enough to cover the three holes and attached them with masking tape.

I used a length of white muslin for the interior of the box, but patterned fabrics or a poster board would work well too.

I secured the fabric to the top rear of the box using mini-clothespins just because I had some.

As mentioned earlier,  I used a desk lamp as my light source.

I would really like to get a better light bulb, but for now I have adjusted the white balance on my camera to compensate for the yellow cast of the light. Compare the yellow cast of the picture below to that above.

And this is the final product! I am really excited to try varying light sources and backgrounds. Not bad for free!

And if anyone has a tutorial for a device that automatically cleans after a crafting session, I would be very interested. As you can see, my dining room table is currently consumed.