Monday, September 2, 2013

Smash it!

Have you heard of smash books?  It's like journaling meets scrapbooking meets junk drawer.  You can write down ideas, thoughts, quotes, or smash in a magazine clipping or a picture.

Smash books are becoming increasingly popular in the classroom.  Being a soon-to-be-FCS-teacher, a smash book has caught my attention.  My thing is, the idea of a smash book is very new to me, and I am not that artistic.  So what can an artistically challenged person do to dress up a smash book?

  • Notebooks: You don't have to use the actual Smash books.  They're expensive, about $9 a book!  Instead, use a spiral bound notebook, a composition notebook, a journal, or hole-punched notebook paper in a 3-ring binder.
  • Project Life: After completing my project life scrapbook, I had TONS of things leftover: stickers, papers, notecards, a date stamp.  I am using my date stamp to take note of when I write things down.  If I see something I like or an idea pops in my head, I have notecards stashed in my purse and backpack so I can jot it down before I forget.  Then when I get to it, I add it to the smash book.
  • Washi Tape: I love this stuff!  It's tape, it doesn't rip paper when it needs to be adjusted, you don't need scissors because it tears easily, and best of all, there are so many fun designs!  I've had papers to add to a page, but don't want them just floating around, especially if they fall out.  Use a strip of washi tape to secure the paper down.  I use it on one side of the paper, that way I can still use the notebook paper beneath the added-in paper.  Amazon has a lot of designs.  I have a few rolls I got a while back from Pick Your Plum.  On that note...
  • Pick Your Plum: this site has a daily deal on a lot of fun stuff.  I've seen washi tape, baker's twine, lace, scrapbook paper, labels, fabric flowers, and a lot of other fun stuff.  The deals are usually heavily discounted, so you get a great deal.  You have to be on top of the site to get an order in, though, since some things sell out really fast.  I've seen a sale sold out by 10 AM.  
  • Scrapbook paper: If you just write in your smash book and get tired of the white background, mix it up!  Get out your scraps of scrapbook paper and use 'em up!  Tear the edges to get a rough look, use cute trim scissors, use up your sticker stash.
  • Stickers: use stickers to secure pictures or notecards to the page.  Use an arrow or a bright sticker to bring attention to an idea you want to make note of.
  • Doodle!  You love to draw spirals?  Do it!  Whatever it is or however it is that you doodle, go at it!  It's your smash book, make it full of you!
  • Number the pages: there are times that you will come across something you want to add to your book.  Jot or smash it in, then write in a reference to the page that idea connects to.  Kind of like the "Choose Your Own Adventure" books.  I loved those in elementary!
  • Writing tools: You can add a lot of color and personality with the writing tools you use.  Colored pencils, a variety of colored pens, markers, crayons, calligraphy pens.  Use what you want!

Here are some of my ideas for using a smash book in my classes:

  • Favorite recipes
  • Cooking tips
  • Favorite cookbooks
  • Outfit cut from a magazine
  • Fabric swatch
  • Sketches
  • Quotes
  • Tips or things learned in class
Interior Design
  • Magazine cutting of a house, piece of furniture, floor layout
  • Swatches
  • Ideas
  • Sketches
  • Paint chips
  • Flowers/leaves for inspiration
Child Development/Adult Roles
  • Lyrics to a song
  • Rules to a game
  • DAP activities
  • Example of writing a check/deposit slip
  • Wedding ideas
  • Ideas for Star Event project
  • Handouts from meetings
  • Magazine cuttings
So go ahead and Smash!

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Sunday, March 3, 2013

Sweet N Sour Chicken

I'm a sucker for good Chinese food.  My favorite is Orange Chicken.  Luckily were I am from, there are a few good Chinese places nearby.  Yes, there is a Panda's.  No, it is not one of my favorites.  Panda's is where I go if I'm in a hurry or need a quick fix for a Chinese food craving.

My sister and I are fans of cream cheese wontons.  We have made it a few times, but we have a hard time making a decent sweet and sour sauce.  Life with cravings is hard.

I have taken up cooking with the crock pot to save me time and money on lunches.  I usually eat in between classes on campus, so it can be a real temptation to just buy something at a cafe.  A friend of mine usually has something she brought from home that was made in a crockpot, and we (mostly she) have traded ideas.  She saved me from my search for a good sweet and sour sauce.  And since I haven't seen it online, I'm going to share it here for you!

Sweet and Sour Chicken

1-2 lb. chicken, cubed
1 16-oz. bottle Russian salad dressing (I could only find Wish Bone brand Russian dressing)
1 pint of preserves (my friend uses plum, I used apricot.  You can pick a flavor)

Stir together the dressing and preserves in a crockpot.  Stir in the chicken.

You can also add fruits and vegetables for color, flavor, and texture.  I added baby corn and canned and drained pineapple chunks.  You could add bell pepper, red onion, cabbage, etc.  Just be sure to add them in at a time that they won't overcook. (bad experience with cabbage and asparagus cooked the same amount of time as a pork roast.  Thecabbage and asparagus turned out mushy and off-color.  Yuck!)

Cook in the crockpot until the chicken is cooked all the way through.  Serve over rice (I used jasmine). This recipe made about 8 cups of sweet and sour chicken.  I served it with 6 cups of cooked rice.

What an easy, inexpensive, delicious recipe!  The sauce really is good.  This recipe is a keeper!!!

Friday, February 1, 2013

Millet Muffins

A couple semesters ago I took a basic foods class.  One of our labs focused on grains--bulgar, quinoa, wheat, oat, millet, and a few others I've forgotten.  One of the grains I had never tried before and loved the taste of was millet.  Millet is actually a seed, and is often seen in bird feed.  It is so versatile!  If soaked overnight, it becomes quite soft and fluffy.  It  can also be toasted, ground into flour, or just used plain.  I have been wanting to try using millet, and finally found it in the gluten-free section of the local grocery store.  This morning I finally opened the bag and tried a new recipe.

Berry Millet Muffins

1-1/4 cup oat flour
1 cup white unbleached flour
1/2 cup millet
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1/3 cup buttermilk (I use plain milk with enough vinegar to make it curdle a little, no more than 1 Tbsp.)
1/2 cup frozen and thawed berries
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup honey
1 egg

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Mix together the milk, berries, oil, honey, and egg.  A great trick is to measure your oil first, then use the same measuring cup for the honey.  This allows the honey to easily pour out of the cup.  Add the flours, millet, baking powder, baking soda, and salt, and mix in until just wet.  Do not overbeat until the dough is smooth!!!  If needed you can add more white flour if it is too wet.

I also added a crumb topping:

1/4 cup quick oats
2 Tbsp Sugar in the Raw
1/4 cup softened butter
1/4-1/2 cup flour

Using two butter knifes or a pastry cutter, cut together the oats, sugar, and butter.  Slowly add in flour until the mixture is nice and crumbly.

Grease your muffin tin.  Scoop muffin batter into the muffin cups until about 2/3-3/4 full.  Yields 12 muffins. Sprinkle a little of the crumb topping onto the batter.  Bake for 20 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Transfer muffins onto a wire rack to cool.  These muffins can be frozen for later days when you're in a rush to get out the door without time for breakfast.

These muffins are really good and moist!  The millet gives it a nice subtle crunch.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Good Resources

Wow, sorry it's been so long since I've posted.  The difficult thing about studying such a creative major is that there are limits on what I can share.  For instance, I've taken two clothing production classes the last two semesters, and I'm now starting an independent sewing class, and I am not allowed to share pictures online.  Privacy policy rules and all that.  Most of the things I've made I've not been able to share because of this.  There have been some things I've made, such as some great handwarmers I made out of rice and minky fabric for my roommates as Christmas gifts.  But let's face it, I am downright awful at remembering to take pictures as I work.

So, since I really don't have anything cute to share, I thought I'd share some knowledge and resources with you.

First, over the Christmas break, I splurged and bought myself the Brother 1034 Serger.  I haven't had a whole lot of practice on it, but so far I really like it!  It's not that difficult to thread, the blades are very easy to lower, and the manual is very easy to follow.  And for the price, it's really quite good for a first serger!  My first project I made with it was a mini boppy pillow for my 6-month-old nephew.  Again, apologies for the lack of photos.  I did make an adjustment for this pillow: I added an inch around the seams, and added 2 inches to the middle of the pattern where the fold is, so that it would fit my nephew.  He's quite the healthy little chunk!

I've realized after the sewing classes I've taken, that sewing textbooks are so nice to have on hand!  I have kept all my books.  I thought I'd share them with you:

Singer Complete Photo Guide to Sewing: This book is really great!  It has a lot of step-by-step photos of how to do simple and more complicated sewing techniques.  It is a must-have!

The New Complete Guide to Sewing: This book is a good complementary book to the Singer book.  What is not covered in the Singer book is covered here, and vice versa.  Again, good step-by-step instructions, especially for zipper applications, smocking, and beginning tailoring.

Unit Method of Clothing Construction: This book takes some patience to get through.  There are not a whole lot of pictures to go along with each guide.  Read it through carefully, and try to envision what you have to do with each step.  Have a ruler, tissue paper, a pin or two, a french curve, and tape handy.  It is really great for customizing patterns to fit yourself.  I've used this book to widen sleeves, shorten pants, lengthen torsos, and change darts and pleats.

Principles of Flat Pattern Design: In some ways, this book is similar to the Unit Method book.  This book works off of slopers, which are the absolute simplest pattern pieces.  This book has you trace the slopers (some samples should be included with the book), and you use the guides in the book to adapt the sloper to the pattern pieces you want.  You can change a simple sleeve to a bell sleeve, a pencil skirt to a circle skirt, and a blouse with darts to a blouse with princess lines.  You can also combine a skirt and blouse sloper to create a smooth-lined dress.  Definitely practice a few methods before you try to work on a big project.

Fashion A to Z: An Illustrated Dictionary: Finally, the ultimate reference to any design you otherwise would never know about.  It not only includes information on designs, but also information on different fabric dyeing and printing processes, fabric types, finishing processes, seam types, types of stitches, and so much more.  Basically a must-have for anyone interested in design, or becoming a bonafide fabric geek.

Of course, these are just books I've used heavily for my projects.  There are many, many more out there.  These are just familiar to me, so I prefer them.  If you decide to purchase sewing books, be sure to read reviews or even look at them in book stores or libraries before you make your final decision.