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New Blog Address

02Mar11

For all the lovely people that have started to follow this blog, I apologize profusely. This blog has been imported from my blog at blogspot.com. I was playing around with formatting and trying some different blog hosts, but unfortunately this is not the one for me. I am considering starting a blog here to occasionally talk about my personal life, but for now, my blog megshandmadelife will continue to live at http://megshandmadelife.blogspot.com. Please update your bookmarks.

 

Sorry for any inconvenience.

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How to Unstick a Sticky Zipper

24Feb11
So before my trip to Mississippi I bought two new pairs of work pants. The ones that I had been using were nearly two years old and had seen more than their share of abuse. So I went to Le Walmart (a headache in itself. Walmart + old retirees = a lot of pet peeves embodied) and picked up two new pairs of Dickie's pants. Of course, being a woman, they don't carry work pants in my normal size, so I had to shop in the men's section and get a lot of weird looks when I kept holding them up to myself to see if they were long enough. I found the pair of heavy duty pants I wanted, complete with a industrial strength, impossible to use zipper.


So this little tip I got came from Joe and the Naval Aviation community. Apparently 3 feet of flight suit zipper tends to get cumbersome and so the zipper occasionally needs to be lubricated to make it run more smoothly. But what can you use that won't come off and ruin whatever else you happen to wash with it? Soap. A regular old bar of soap.


I used the cheapo, off brand soap from Walgreens with a lovely ocean aroma, ie. the bar that Joe already had lying around for his zippers.



Holding the zipper taught, rub the bar of soap up and down the teeth until it looks like your pants have dandruff.



Once there are enough soap flakes in your zipper teeth, repeat on the other set of teeth.
Once both set of teeth have been soaped up, run the zipper pull up and down a few times to evenly distribute the soap flakes and work them down into the teeth. Then you can brush off the extra flakes and go to work!
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Crab Risotto Before I Go

23Feb11

Now there's something you don't see everyday!

So the Saturday before I had to drive out to Mississippi I went on a DIY spree. After a day of packing, baking, and sewing (or rather ripping apart) I was ready for dinner. And I decided to make crab risotto. I used a Martha Stewart recipe that I found online that sounded yummy. It was a little labor intensive due to all of the stirring, but most of that stirring is necessary in order to really break up the starch in the rice. That starch, along with a lot of parmesan cheese, is what makes the risotto so creamy (I learned that from Rachel Ray).  Hence the press ganging of the fiance into service.

Obviously there are a few changes that I made due to availability. I used basil and oregano instead of sage, used the last of my parmesan cheese instead of the recommended measurement, bypassed the onion since I didn't have any, and completely forgot to add the butter. However, despite all of that, it still came out very well. I would, however recommend using lump crab meat instead of the shredded stuff that I bought. This would help the crab stand out more and keep the consistency from being too much like mush. Delicious mush, but still the texture of mush.


Parmesan Crab Risotto
From Martha Stewart and Sunset

Ingredients

6 to 8 cups Homemade Chicken Stock, or canned low-sodium chicken broth, skimmed of fat
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup finely chopped shallots, (about 2)
1 cup Arborio or Carnaroli rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
4 to 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for grating or shaving
3/4 pound shelled cooked Dungeness crab
1 tablespoon minced fresh sage leaves
Salt, freshly ground pepper
Directions


  1. Heat stock in saucepan over medium heat; keep at a low simmer. Heat olive oil in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat.
  2. Add shallots to oil, and cook, stirring, until translucent. Add rice, and cook, stirring, until rice begins to make a clicking sound like glass beads, 3 to 4 minutes.
  3. Add wine to rice mixture. Cook, stirring, until wine is absorbed by rice.
  4. Using a ladle, add 3/4 cup hot stock to rice. Using a wooden spoon, stir rice constantly, at a moderate speed. When rice mixture is just thick enough to leave a clear wake behind the spoon, add another 3/4 cup stock.
  5. Continue adding stock 3/4 cup at a time and stirring constantly until rice is mostly translucent but still opaque in the center. Rice should be al dente but not crunchy. As rice nears doneness, watch carefully and add smaller amounts of liquid to make sure it does not overcook. The final mixture should be thick enough that grains of rice are suspended in liquid the consistency of heavy cream. It will thicken slightly when removed from heat.
  6. Remove from heat. Stir in butter, Parmesan cheese, crab meat and sage; season with salt and pepper.
  7. Divide the mixture among four shallow bowls, mounding risotto in the center, and grate or shave additional Parmesan over risotto. Serve immediately.
Serves 4.
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Hi Ho! Hi Ho! It's Back to Work I Go!

19Feb11

Sorry I haven't posted all week. I've been busy getting over the flu and getting all my car maintenance done and other general preparations for heading to work. I got called up on Monday for a NOAA job in Mississippi for the next couple weeks. While it will be nice to be back at work and still be able to come home on the weekends, it means I won't be able to post as much until March 14th or so. Later, if Joe and I end up having to move. Actually, it means I'll be doing DIY stuff for 8 hours a day, but I'll be getting paid and working on a ship so I can't exactly stop to take pictures. Besides, I can't imagine that you'd be too interested to watch me changing filters and doing electrical stuff.


In the meantime, now that I finally kicked the flu, I've been busy today. I've got quite a few projects I'm taking care of before I leave, so I'll stockpile a couple of those to post over the next couple of weeks. Otherwise, I guess this will be the perfect opportunity for me to actually sit down and work on that sweater I swore I was going to make. lol.
For now, here's a smoothie I whipped up while I was waiting for laundry to be finished and baking to be done. It is sort of a mid-afternoon sweet treat and effort to clean out the fridge, since we all know whatever groceries are in the fridge now will still be there when I get back. All of these measurements are sort of approximates. It came out to about a glass and a quarter of smoothie, so I just put the leftover in a container and popped it in the fridge for dessert. You can probably use ice cream too to make a milkshake as opposed to a smoothie.
Strawberry Smoothie:
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1 cup frozen/defrosted strawberries
1/4 tsp vanilla extract (optional)
1/2 tbsp sugar (optional)
Basically you just toss them all into a blender, or in my case a food processor, hang on tight (those frozen strawberries can wreak some havoc), and pulse until smooth.

While I'm unDIYable, maybe you could all pop over to my Etsy shop and tell me in the comments what you think about the new photos I've put up for my items. I'm trying to gauge if they're better than the old ones or if they still need improvement.

Yum!
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Sweets for my Sweetheart!

14Feb11
Sorry I haven't posted in a few days, but I've been trying to get over the flu. Even though, I wanted to make something special for my Valentine. So I scrubbed my hands and doped myself up on Dayquil and got to work. I ordered a Madeleine pan from Target and hid it in the best hiding place ever, not because it was genius, but because Joe would never think to look in the drawer where the baking pans are for his present.

Here's a copy of the recipe I used from allrecipes.com:

Madeleine Recipe
yields 12 cookies

Ingredients

  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar for decoration

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Butter and flour 12 (3 inch) madeleine molds; set aside.
  2. Melt butter and let cool to room temperature.
  3. In a small mixing bowl, beat eggs, vanilla and salt at high speed until light.
  4. Beating constantly, gradually add sugar; and continue beating at high speed until mixture is thick and pale and ribbons form in bowl when beaters are lifted, 5 to 10 minutes.
  5. Sift flour into egg mixture 1/3 at a time, gently folding after each addition.
  6. Add lemon zest and pour melted butter around edge of batter. Quickly but gently fold butter into batter. Spoon batter into molds; it will mound slightly above tops.
  7. Bake 14 to 17 minutes, or until cakes are golden and the tops spring back when gently pressed with your fingertip.
  8. Use the tip of the knife to loosen madeleines from pan; invert onto rack. Immediately sprinkle warm cookies with granulated sugar. Madeleines are best eaten the day they're baked. Leftover madeleines are wonderful when dunked into coffee or tea.

I was surprised by how little flour and sugar was actually needed for this recipe. You actually make the dough thick by whipping the eggs. I think that sifting the flour is especially important in this recipe in order to achieve light fluffy cookies. I don't have a flour sifter, so I used a sieve and a fork instead.The shape of the cookie is pretty well known, but I think that you could probably do them in a shallow muffin pan. They just wouldn't turn out as pretty. These ended up a little darker than I meant for them to be, but they were still perfectly cooked in the middle.

After I baked them, I set them on a plate and wrapped it in some red tulle that I had and put a handmade card on top. They turned out pretty well, if I do say so myself. 

Happy Valentine's Day!
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When Good Jeans Go Bad

09Feb11

It's one of the saddest days in a fashionista's life. The day your favorite jeans finally give up the ghost and wear through. Whether it's a tear in the knee from too much rough housing or a worn spot in the butt from sitting on too many sofas, it's inevitable that your favorite jeans will eventually develop wear holes. That happened to me over my Christmas break. It was a bittersweet day. It meant that it was time to go shopping for a new pair of favorites but it was also the day that one of my favorite fashion work horses was being put out to pasture. They travelled back to Florida with me in the expectation that they would eventually be chopped off at the crotch to become shorts in the summer. That is until I found the tutorial that saved their life...



My jeans were pardoned from becoming questionably wearable shorts when I saw this tutorial. That tutorial became the inspiration for me to turn my already pretty worn in jeans into a pair that would be mended through the years to become the iconic distressed jeans that people pay so much money for. And all I would need are a little interfacing, some thread and my newly revived sewing machine.

I made sure to test out my sewing machine on a scrap of fabric before using it on my beloved jeans and after a satisfactory test I set to work. First I ironed on a little piece of interfacing to the inside of the hole. This took a little trial and error as I've never used interfacing before, but once I removed it from the damp napkin I was using to press it on and turned it the right way, I stuck pretty well. Then I set to work with my sewing machine zigging and zagging across the hole. I made sure to let the stitches go a little wide of the hole to keep it from getting any bigger. Then I trimmed the interfacing. 

It was pretty easy until I started to run low on thread on my bobbin and my machine started acting up, but I think that had more to do with the tension of the bobbin thread than it did the machine. That and the build-up of thread on the place where I was working. I think it should be perfectly functional in most other sewing applications. I don't expect that this is the last hole I will need to fix now that these jeans have a new lease on life.

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07Feb11

So, it's pretty much a given that everyone likes cookie dough, but especially with the recent egg recall eating raw cookie dough isn't good for you. So I found this awesome alternative. It's not good for actual cookies because it lacks all of the things that makes them puff up, but it's perfect for adding to ice cream or just eating on its own. You can also dip them in melted chocolate and decorate to make little cookie dough truffles. However you do them, they're yummy.


I used this recipe with the addition of a few shakes of nutmeg and cinnamon. Then you ball them up and pop them in the freezer. I've done them as truffles or just as little bite size cookie dough. These are the perfect remedy for when you want cookies but don't want to spend the time baking. Yum!!!

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Baked Apple Stuff

05Feb11
So as I mentioned earlier this week, I made some granola. I also happened to buy WAY too many apples, thinking that I'd eat them all with lunch. So I've been trying to be creative with how I use them. Tonight I made two apple treats -- a baked apple crisp with whipped cream for dessert and an overnight apple cinnamon french toast. Joe's dad makes an awesome apple french toast the I think is similar to this one.


So I had a few eggs, some heavy cream, a ton of apples and other pantry staples and I was racking my brain and the internet for almost an hour trying to figure out what I wanted to make for dessert. I was really feeling something fancy and sophisticated, but didn't want to spend all night making eclairs or tiramisu or something equally delicious yet labor intensive. Finally I decided on my take on a dessert I used to make at Girl Scout camp YEARS ago -- Apple Brown Betty.
1 Apple, chopped
1/2 cup granola
1 tbsp butter
A couple shakes of cinnamon
Whipped Cream
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup confectioner's sugar
A splash of nutmeg, cinnamon, and vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. I started by melting some butter in the bottoms of two ramekins and put a layer of granola on top of that. I then put some chopped apples on top of that, sprinkled with brown sugar and cinnamon. This went into the oven about 15 minutes, or until the brown sugar melted. Meanwhile, whip the ingredients for whipped cream until you form soft peaks. Pull the ramekins out of the oven and top with whipped cream. Delicious!

Before Baking

After Baking and Whipped Cream
Then I decided that I needed something to put the extra whipped cream on, so I made some french toast using this recipe to have for brunch tomorrow, only with fresh apples and a drizzle of applesauce instead of apple pie filling.

It was a hit. Joe said it would have been better with sourdough bread instead of the wheat bread I already had in the fridge, but I thought it was delicious.
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Just Call Me a Granola...

04Feb11
I recently decided that my yogurt was a little boring and needed some crunch. Now, I could have paid $5.00 for a small bag of granola, or I could spend a little more and make a customized granola using my Mom's recipe. I called her in the middle of the grocery store, first to ask her where I would find oats, and second for her to email me her recipe. Here is my version of her recipe:


I kind of made mine up as I went since I didn't have the recipe until I got home from the grocery store, but the measurements are based on my Mom's recipe.

4 cups rolled oats
1 tbsp cocoa powder
1/2 cup coconut flakes
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup sunflower seeds or any kind of nut you want but small pieces
1/2 cup chopped macadamia nuts
1/2 cup chopped almonds
1/2 cup veggie oil or peanut oil.
1/2 tbsp Vanilla Extract
1/4 cup Honey
1/4 cup Maple Syrup
A few shakes of cinnamon and nutmeg
Cook in a 275 degree oven for one hour stirring occasionally so it dries evenly (I've also heard of it being done in a crockpot, probably on LOW.) I christened my new Christmas dutch oven with this recipe.
Once it is cooked and cooled add what ever dried fruit you like. I used some dried cherries that I had lying around.

This recipe fills about half of a gallon sized ziploc bag.

I've already found several uses for my granola. I've put it in yogurt, applesauce, ice cream and even used it as a sort of crust for a baked apple dessert that I'll post later this week. I'm also thinking of making some homemade granola bars too. It's far more versatile that I would have originally thought and VERY tasty.
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An Offer I Couldn't Refuse...

02Feb11

So I recently finished off the last of my birthday and Christmas gift cards. My shopping adventure brought me to Ross where I found a few things, but only one to really write a blog about. You have to be in the right mood to shop at Ross. You have to be willing to root around, try things on, and use your imagination. And here is a perfect example:

I had just finished trying on a sweater and was on my way to purses when I found the holy grail of Ross purchases. A Columbia sweater, originally $75.00, marked down to $7.49!!!! The only problem? The tie used to close the sweater was confusing and cumbersome to tie. It went through one loop, was threaded through an opening on the right side and then wraps around and ties. This was too much for my poor little brain that only wanted a cute wrap sweater. So what did I do? I replaced the tie with a couple of buttons. There were already little belt loops, so I just sewed on a couple of buttons! Easy Peasy!

BEFORE

Supplies

AFTER!

It's nice and warm and is water resistant, which helped yesterday when I had to take the mail out just as it started raining. It's not bulky but it keeps me plenty warm. It even has a zippered pocket! I love a happy ending! =)