Monday, January 31, 2011

Um. One of the Coolest Things to Happen. Ever.

So.  This morning I woke up to a beautiful surprise.  This little ditty:

won!  Not to toot my horn.  I'm just so gosh darn excited.  Thanks, AGAAGG for picking me!  And thanks, A Craft A Day for the awesome challenge.  I am looking forward to more.  Go check her out!

*Be sure to check below for all the fun parties I link to!

Presto Change-o Holiday Board

A while ago... back on Christmas Eve, in fact, I had the ridiculously awesome chance to guest post over at Infarrantly Creative.  In the off chance that you live in a cave or at the bottom of a swamp, and HAVEN'T yet made it over to Beckie's place, I encourage you strongly to go check it out!  She's got some seriously sweet inspiration you don't want to miss.

Over at Infarrantly Creative, I showcased my completely customizable, alterable, changeable, magic holiday board.  (But we’ll just call it the Holiday Board for short.)  And I thought I'd repost the tutorial here for your enjoyment!

That is my Thanksgiving version.  Right now, my boards decorated for Valentine's Day.

Want to see how to do it?  It’s ridiculously easy.  (and I even cheated a little bit, too.)
First off, here’s what you’ll need:
A small 2x4 cut to the length you’d like.  (I just used a scrap board from our closet shelves which we took down.)
Spray paint (in your choice of color)
Plain white tissue paper
A computer/printer
Mod podge (glossy or matte)
Ceramic Tiles (whatever size you’d like - enough to make at least THREE tiles per holiday)
Leaf paper punch (optional)
Colored tissue paper (optional)
SECRET INGREDIENT (to be disclosed later)
Oh, and the other necessities, like pen, scissors, paint brush... you know.
Ok. I’m using my Thanksgiving tiles to show you the technique I used for the majority of the holiday tiles I created.  It’s a super easy and cheap technique (I’m especially fond of easy and cheap) that you can use for all different types of designs.  (You can see some antiqued photo tiles using this technique, here).

Take your white tissue paper and cut a piece slightly smaller than a normal 8x10 computer paper.

Lay it as flat and unwrinkly as possible on top of a piece of computer paper and tape down the edges.  I suggest normal scotch type tape, but you can use clear packing tape in a pinch.  
Now, load it into your printer so that your image will print on the tissue paper side of the paper.  Print out your holiday design.  

Now, measure the tissue paper and mark with a pen so it will fit exactly as you want it to on the tile (i.e. with a tile border around the edges, or right to the edge of the tile, etc.)

Cut it to size.

Grab a tile. 

Spread mod podge all over it.

Carefully lay your tissue paper design on the tile, starting with one corner and working your way diagonally across the tile.
See how it’s all wrinkly?  That’s ok.  That’s what we want.

Now, gently pat it down - especially over those wrinkles and such.  Just press gently with your fingertips, and don’t rub too much.
If you’ve got a tile with dents and rough spots, use it in your design.  I gently pushed on those dented spots, so the tissue paper followed the natural pattern of the tile.

Run your fingernail lightly around the edges to rough them up JUST A TOUCH.

Brush over the top of it with a little mod podge.
When it is dry, you can’t see the tissue paper, just the colored design you created!

We’ve got two other tiles to create for this holiday, though, so we need something extra.
Here’s where you’ll use the colored tissue paper.  (Note: You could also simply run white tissue paper through your printer again, this time printing out rectangles of colors)

Fold your tissue paper up and punch out some leaves.  It’s necessary to fold it first, as the punch won’t work on one layer.  It’s too thin and will tear.

When you’ve punched out all your leaves, spread mod podge on a corner of one of the tiles.

Begin laying your leaves down randomly.

Layer more leaves on top, adding some mod podge if necessary.

When you get the look you like, mod podge over the top.

Add a falling leaf or two.

And do the same thing to the third tile, but in the corner diagonal from the tile you just completed.

For this time of year, you could very easily do a Christmas or winter theme using the same design - just use a Christmas quote instead and snowflake or other Christmas paper punch!)

Let all the tiles dry for at least a few hours.
Now that they are finished, you could just stick them up on the wall, right?  Totally!  BUT, if you want them to pop a bit, all you need is some wood.
To prepare your board, take out any nails and seal up the holes with wood putty, if applicable.  (I like to recycle as much as possible, which is why I used scrap we already had).
Spray paint it whatever color you’d like.  I went with this mossy green because I kind of love it.  (Yes, I know green isn’t usually associated with EVERY holiday - like Valentine’s Day, for example, but I’ll show you how I made it work.)
Now beat it up a little bit to distress it.  Use sandpaper and a hammer.  Pay special attention to areas that would normally get wear and tear, like corners and edges.

And how do we make this board changeable according to holiday?
I will now introduce you to our SECRET INGREDIENT (this is totally where I cheated by the way).

That’s right.  3M velcro picture hanging strips.  I know, I know, it seems like a cheap trick of a way to hang your tiles, right?  But it works and it’s easy!  (remember how I like easy?)

Lay out your tiles and measure and mark where you’ll need to place the strips, first on the tile,

then on the wood.  Plan on at least two strips per tile.

And because the backs of your tiles most likely are NOT flat:

for some added security, whip out the E6000 (aka, crafter’s best friend).

Squirt that on the strips,

lay the strips where you marked, and add clamps to really keep things in place.  Leave this overnight so it dries really well.

Now you can place your tiles,

and hang!

But wait!  There’s more!  How about some Christmas tiles?

I used the same tissue paper/mod podge technique for these, but I used slightly smaller tiles for everything but the stable.  The tiles were also smooth and shiny, not natural and rough like the Thanksgiving tiles.

See how many different versions you can do?
How about Valentine’s day?  Same technique, again, but a big huge 9x11 tile in the middle there.  I also simply hot glued some colored twine around the smaller tiles, to add a pop of pink (you know, because it’s Valentine’s day!)  I also glued the velcro strips to the back on an angle, so they'd hang with a tilt.

And since there are a few times during the year when we aren’t in holiday mode, here's a design for everyday.

For these tiles, I printed the design out on cardstock and mod podged that to the tile.  In this case, it really doesn’t matter what your tile looks like because it won’t show through.  You could use mismatched tiles you find at the thrift store, or scrap wood from the garage - whatever.  Just mod podge the tile, stick on the cardstock monogram, and mod podge over the top.

(Side note: Most of my tiles were just designed in

As for display possibilities, don’t even get me started!  You can hang as normal right on the wall.  

Or you could prop it on your piano, like this.  (or, for those of you without a piano, how about the mantel?  Which I don’t have...) 

You could even use a little easel.  

Or prop it by a lamp.  

How about using ribbon and a wreath hanger?  

Me?  I like it best propped on the piano.  So although it started out on the wall, my nativity is now propped.

Here are a few special notes to help you out:
  1. When taping the tissue paper to the computer paper, make sure you tape all around the edges.  You don’t want the tissue paper to peel up anywhere because it could cause a major printer jam which means spending a naptime turning your printer upside down and tearing it apart - don’t worry, that only happened once.  When I was in a hurry.)
  2. Personal Opinion:  Matte podge looks best on natural tile, glossy podge on smooth tile.
  3. If you use smooth tile, think about cutting the tissue paper the exact size of the tiles - instead of leaving a “tile border” around the design.  The tissue paper wrinkles up, you know, and I think it looks better if the whole tile is “wrinkly” than if part of it is smooth.
  4. And for those of you who are worried about those little velcro strips - I’ve had my tiles up since before Thanksgiving, and they are still going strong - no problems.  (This note is mainly for my sister.  See, they’re all good.)
  5. Check ReStore, Craig’s List, Thrift Stores or the clearance section of your local hardware stores for cheap, cheap tiles.  They may not match, but that doesn’t always matter.
There’re a few reasons why I like this holiday decoration, but the biggest ones are ease and storage.  I haven’t got a ton of storage space, and with this ONE item I can decorate for every holiday without needing lots of wreaths and bins and boxes!  Not that I don’t have all those too...

Oh, yes, and of course, I can't commit to just ONE thing.  And this way, I don't have to.

Here are the Valentine images I designed in Picnik!  Feel free to download and use.

Friday, January 28, 2011

More Mexican?

This has been one of those "life gets in the way" weeks... we postponed Yummy Mondays until Thursday.  But it turned out my parents couldn't make it on Thursday either!  We made dinner anyway, and took some of it over to my parents.  See what good kids we are?

Of course, I realize now that I still need to pack my whole family for our weekend "beat the winter blues" trip (have I mentioned that winter here kind of stinks?)

And so, I hope you will forgive me if I, without further ado, deliver the recipes and kudos.  (Nothing fun happened while I was making it anyway.)

We made Chimichangas - submitted to the cookbook by Lynne.  Amazing.  I did make one change.  The recipe calls for you to fry the tortillas and then wrap them around the chicken mixture.  I found this a little difficult though, because the tortilla kept crumbling.  So I wrapped and then put the whole thing in the oil, turning it every few minutes.  They turned out beautifully.

Here's the recipe:

Cut up cooked chicken
3 chopped green onions
garlic salt
3/4 of a jar of green taco sauce
about 1 C of shredded monterrey jack and cheddar cheeses
small can of diced green chilies
1 package of large tortillas
veggie oil
Sour Cream
Shredded lettuce

Mix the first 6 ingredients together - using only half of the cheese.  Set the other 1/2 C aside for later.  In a skillet, heat about 1/2 inch of oil.  Dip the tortilla in hot oil and then set on a piece of wax paper.  Spoon some of the chicken mixture into the middle and then wrap up.  Bake at 350 on a cookie sheet for 30 minutes.  For the last 5 minutes, sprinkle the rest of the cheese on top.  Garnish with shredded lettuce and sour cream.

As I said, I rolled the tortillas up first, then fried.  I tucked in the top and bottom to the middle, then rolled from right to left.  (I'm sure you've done this method before.)

Our side was from Marsha and Kevin (we've heard about them before.  They gave us the awesome enchilada casserole!)  It's called Quinoa Salad.  I couldn't find Quinoa, though (I know, right?  What's wrong with this grocery store?) so I used Orzo.  I really don't know what kind of difference that made... but it seemed delicious, anyway!  I think the next time I make it I may be more generous with some of the seasoning, though.  That's all personal preference though.  I'm withholding this one, guys.  Sorry.  But you can always get the cookbook if you want!

And dessert was Cherry Bars, submitted by Joe.  Seriously tasty.  They weren't super rich, they weren't overly sweet... they were, in short, a nice change from almost everything I make.  I did encounter a slight issue when making these though; when I went to preheat the oven, I couldn't find any baking directions.  No temperature or time... or how to actually put the different components of the bars together.  So I winged it based on what was there.  The recipe provided here is the version I made, since I don't really know how to bake the original!  In any case, it tasted wonderful.

Cherry Bars
1 C butter or margarine
4 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. almond extract
2 C sugar
3 C flour
1 can cherry pie filling
1 can of frosting - your choice of flavor

Mix all the ingredients except the cherry pie filling.  Spread 3/4 of the dough in a greased 9x13 pan.  Spread the cherries on top.  Add the remaining dough on top of that and spread it out, kind of mixing it with the cherries.  Bake at 350 for about 1 hour.  Drizzle the top with the frosting of your choice.  I used cream cheese frosting (which was delicious).  Heat the frosting in the microwave first, and you can pour it all over the top.  

It's phenomenal warm, but good cold too.

Just a side note, I kind of thought there weren't enough cherries - but that's because I'm a huge cherry fan.  I think I'd use two cans - or at least 1 and 1/2 - next time.

Phew!  And that's a wrap!  Hope your weekend is yummy and as chillaxin' as mine's gonna be!

*Be sure to check below for all the fun parties I link to!
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