Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Gold Polka Dot Pillows

Most of the pillows I've made have been really colorful and have been single pillows that didn't match. I keep seeing simple, neutral throw pillows and always admire them, so I've been meaning to make some for awhile. I looked for fabric that appealed for this but didn't find it, so I decided to make it when I saw the success of the freezer paper deer sweatshirts

You'll Need: 
Pillow Covers - I found two 18x18 pillow covers that were $4.99 on sale for 50% off at Hobby Lobby and bought them, relishing the joys of not measuring and sewing. I need to take a refresher course on sewing machines because while I do use mine, I use it in the worst way possible and break sewing needles all the time. 
Paint - I also bought a 2oz tube of metallic paint in "Antique Gold". I debated buying two but went with the one and it was fine. 
Textile medium - guessing this isn't necessary, but I had it so I used it. 

I began by ironing my pillow cover.
To prevent paint from seeping through the fabric, I improvised and used these plastic cutting boards - side note: they are the best cutting boards on the planet.

After getting the covers situated, I set to work on making the dots. I google image searched "polka dots" and found one that I liked, then magnified the image to the size I wanted. I don't have a printer, so I put copy paper to the screen and made dots around the circles to trace.

I set my dots under the freezer paper and began to cut. And frustration bubbled over. You know how it's hard to draw a perfectly perfect circle? Well, it's also hard to cut one with a little knife. And not just to cut one but to cut enough to cover a pillow.

After lots of wasted freezer paper scraps and lots of frustration, I decided to go to the closest store (Wal-Mart) and see if they had anything that would help. I was looking for a stencil or some sort of long hole punch so I could make the stupid dots. I didn't really want circles that looked like these:

I found these little round foam things and thought "why not?"

So then I used my former freezer paper stencil as a guide. I used a regular old brown marker to mark the middle of each, to show where my dots should go.
 And I tested out my dotting on a napkin. Side note: I want to do gold with navy sometime because I loved the way this looked!

I mixed textile medium with my paint, hoped for the best and stamped the fabric. This was definitely the way to go - the two hours (yes really) I spent trying to figure out the freezer paper situation could have been spent in more profitable ways.

And this is why the cutting boards were necessary - this is how they looked when I pulled them out.

I didn't love the way the gold turned out - it was really bronze looking on the pillows once it dried, so I grabbed leftover glitter paint and brushed it on. It wasn't too sparkly but gave the dots more dimension.

And after they were dried (well, mostly dry, but I was anxious to be finished), I put a cloth napkin over the top and ironed to set the paint.

I took these pillows whose origin was unknown (were they a gift? did Carson find them at a garage sale somewhere?) and that I've never loved and used them to stuff my new pillows.

I wish they were a little fuller so I will probably make forms for them someday, but for now I'm really satisfied.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Arm Knitting!

A month or two ago, I saw a picture of the neatest scarf a friend of mine had made. She claimed to have "arm knit" the whole thing in under an hour, which intrigued me. It turns out that "arm knitting" is a thing, and that some genius somewhere has figured the whole thing out. Browsing the aisles at a craft store the week before Morgan came, I came across the yarn and was again motivated to try this craft out. She was game, so we hit up Hobby Lobby for yarn the day after her arrival. 

You will need:
2 skeins of yarn (chunkier is better for a thicker scarf, but we went with medium-width yarn)
Access to YouTube

First, open both skeins of yarn. You'll be using them simultaneously, which I didn't understand when we first began.

Measure out six arm lengths

Get ready to watch, start, rewind and pause YouTube a million times.

I think you can watch the video by just clicking right here. There were lots of tutorial videos, so we chose the shortest one.

You'll begin by casting on. It's just like regular knitting except you use your arms instead of needles. You will forget this time and again and get frustrated and want to quit until this seeps into your brain.

From there on out, you'll knit, transferring the yarn from one arm to the other. Make sure you've gone to the bathroom and done whatever you needed to do before this, because your hands are going to be tied together until you're finished.

My laugh here was an annoyed laugh. I felt like there was quite the learning curve.

But somehow I got the hang of it and ended up with quite the headdress. The tutorial suggested that we do 24 rows before ending it but I measured it on myself and determined that 24 was not enough. It would have been, but I kept going and ended up with a really long scarf (not a problem - I wrap mine around 3 times),

Morgan's scarf, finished! Before she snipped the ends.

And here are both of our scarves. I love the gold of hers and might copy her and make a new one now that I get the hang of it.

Make one of these! We found yarn at Hobby Lobby, but I noticed that there's great yarn (and cheaper yarn) at Wal-Mart too!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Parmesan Alfredo Shells

Oh I'm sorry, you were looking for something healthy? Um, not today. 
Unless heavy cream and lots of cheese is healthy, in which case - you're in the right place!
We decided to make new Pinterest recipes for date night. 
I'd originally told Carson to search for my name on Pinterest and go look at my boards, but for some reason my profile didn't come up, so he clicked on another "Lindsay Bay" and found a recipe I wouldn't have pinned, some sort of enchilada, and planned to serve that with a potato recipe. I showed him my actual profile and he chose two different things: Chicken Alfredo Shells and Bacon-Wrapped Asparagus. 

Chicken Alfredo Shells!
You'll Need:
24 cooked and dried jumbo pasta shells (6oz or so)
2 Tbs. Olive oil
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, seasoned (the first time, we cooked this on the stove; the second time [yes the second - our poor arteries] I cooked a bunch of chicken in the crockpot for recipes and we used what we needed. I recommend doing that anyway)

Sauce (which would be excellent over any sort of pasta)
1 1/2 C heavy whipping cream
2 cloves chopped garlic
1/2 stick butter (original recipe calls for a whole stick but you definitely will not miss it)
1 1/2 C grated Parmesan, divided
chopped fresh parsley (use as much as you want. Parsley is my personal favorite herb so I use more than recommended)

Preheat broiler. Spray muffin tins (we used regular but the original recipe recommends mini so whatever you have works); set aside. Cook pasta shells, rinse under cold water.

Heat oil over medium heat. Add chicken and saute, then chop (again, we already had chicken, so whatever works for you here).

Mix cream and garlic in large saucepan over med-low, until steaming. Whisk in butter until melted. Add 1C Parmesan, a little pepper, a little parsley (or a lot). Increase heat to med-high and simmer around 10 minutes. Stir in chicken and remove from heat.

-- if you're going the regular pasta route, top that with the mixture and go on your merry way. If not, keep reading! --

Fill pasta shells with about a tablespoon of the mixture. Sprinkle with the rest of the Parmesan.

Broil until bubbling and melted. Garnish with parsley.

Enjoy! And eat non-bacon veggies with this. Lots of them.
This can be put in the freezer pre-broil if you'd like to save for leftovers!

Here's the bacon-wrapped asparagus, which sounds amazing, but was in reality disappointing. The bacon was too chewy and the asparagus under it was too tough. I love when roasted asparagus crunches, so the tops were just perfect. The flavors were good too - perhaps we'll go a different direction and roast the asparagus WITH pieces of bacon next time for a better result (or just wrap green beans... those never fail).

Carson's hilarious, wonderful apron made by my mom. That's what you get for complaining about my girly ones - best thing? It's not ridiculously short on him. My other ones look like doll clothes on him!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Glittery Deer Sweatshirt

Morgan and I have called each other "Deer" for years and years. I remember that it started one night when we were younger, very late at night, and we were coming up with a story or something. We nicknamed each other "Little Debbie" and "Deer" and I couldn't tell you why exactly if my life depended upon it. All I know is that we forgot who was who and over time have just called each other "Deer". Our letters and birthday greetings and texts usually include a reference to this nickname, and when putting pictures on Instagram, Morgan created a hashtag with "Deer cousins" in the title. 

Thus, the great need for deer related paraphernalia. This craft turned out to be easier than expected and better looking than we hoped, and I now have my eye on other things to stencil. 

You'll Need:
Freezer Paper (it's in the aisle with foil and plastic wrap)
Paint (you can use fabric paint, but we used textile medium with acrylic glitter paint)
Sweatshirt or shirt
X-Acto knife
Cutting board (learned the hard way)
Paper, Pen, Patience

To start, trace an image you like onto printer paper. I Googled "deer outline" and found an image we both liked, then increased the zoom until we liked the size. Since we were making two shirts, I went ahead and traced the image twice, one backward for a little variation.

Then put the printer paper under a sheet of freezer paper and cut out your shape with the X acto knife. I made the brilliant mistake of not using a cutting board and now I have a deer etched into the pine of our coffee table. Carson said "Cool!" when he saw it, but still, don't do that.

Try your shirt on and figure out where you want the shape to go. This was important because we thought we liked it a certain way, but our bulky sweatshirts wouldn't have looked good if we'd gone through with it. We used a clothespin on the hem of the shirt to show where we wanted the leg of the deer to go.

Set the freezer paper stencil on the shirt shiny side down, making sure both shirt layers are smoothed out, and iron on low. You want the edges to be very secure.

 Mix one part textile medium to two parts acrylic paint, and paint away! We did two coats before we were satisfied, but could easily have done a third.

Wait till it's dry or mostly dry and carefully peel away the freezer paper. We were amazed that there was zero bleeding around the edges! I think I ironed too much and that was a good thing.

Once it's fully dry, put a cloth over your image and iron. You can wear it whenever, but don't wash for 5-7 days to make sure it's set.

I have a plain sweater and some pillows that I think I'm going to try this out on very soon!

Monday, February 17, 2014

Valentine's Day 2014

We've come to enjoy the tradition of celebrating Valentine's day early. Both last year and this year it was because Carson's schedule didn't allow for us to do anything on the day itself, but it's worked out well and might become a tradition. We celebrated the night before.

The day before we celebrated, I went to Carson's office after work to discuss our plans. We usually see each other for about 15 minutes a day (I wish that weren't true!) so we normally communicate plans through text or email, but this way was so much easier and we got to spend time together! After going through options (had to be indoor, didn't really care to go to the art museum or botanical gardens, did we want dessert out? [we were thinking milkshakes]) we decided that a simple dinner at home was the way to go this year. It's cheaper, less crowded, and you can talk without eavesdropping on neighboring tables (not that we would...). We came up with things to do at home (Carson wanted to write poems, but we didn't have time) so we wouldn't treat it like a normal night. 

We bought most of the food at Trader Joes this year and found some fun options.
We decided to each pick something to make just like a real restaurant.
(Carson picked steak and potatoes; I picked asparagus and Marsala pasta, and we had garlic bread. We also bought some frozen chocolate lava cakes but as I'm writing this we still haven't eaten them.)

We began with spinach artichoke dip, because between the time Carson picked me up from work and the time we had dinner were light years apart. We don't usually get appetizers at restaurants, so while we began dinner, we popped this in the microwave. It served to ease my stomach's rumblings, and it was nice to talk over the crunch of tortilla chips.

While I ate, Carson chopped up potatoes to boil and I tried to capture the moment without getting the clutter of the top of the microwave.

We didn't start anything else until the potatoes were boiled, but we made a Marsala sauce (Marsala wine was the reason for going to Trader Joes in the first place) and it rivaled the ones I've had at restaurants. We used this Food Network recipe.

When we had everything in the oven or just simmering on the stove, we quickly changed. We thought it would be fun to dress up, even if we weren't going anywhere. It felt more like a holiday and less like a random Thursday in sweatpants. 
This prompted a photoshoot. While the background is less than ideal (but does allude to the fact that we made dinner this year), this is my favorite photo.

Carson loves to make faces like this, ruining otherwise lovely pictures. I love it and hate it.

And a zoomed out one to show our footwear. I'm not sure why Carson rolled his pants up either, but you sure can't do that at a restaurant!

 Here's the Marsala pasta. I chose asparagus to go with this - we put it in while we were changing and forgot about it, so it was a little crispy. By the way, this sauce was excellent on the steak and probably would have been good with the potatoes but I didn't eat them because I was full.

I grabbed a bunch of candles for a candlelit dinner.

It was fun! We had a great discussion over dinner, which wasn't remotely romantic (we discussed the book of Revelation... haha!).

And then we decided to give each other gifts! Carson gave me a big piece of poster board with candy on it, using the names of the candy to fill in the blanks for a little message, earlier in the day.

I found this book for Carson at Barnes and Noble and thought it would be fun to do together. I also gave him black licorice and heart shaped Reeses.

And in addition to the candy message, I got a grater and an apple slicer.
Since we've been married, I've talked about how much I want an apple slicer. I don't know why, because they're pretty inexpensive and I could get one anytime, but every time I go to eat an apple, I wish it was sliced, and without the risk of slicing my hand. The grater? We had a really cheap one for a few years, but it rusted on the bottom and for some reason we kept it and it got rust stains everywhere. I'd finally had enough of rust stains on our kitchen towels and counters, so I threw it out in a fit of rage (I don't really remember my mood, but I'm guessing). So I bought another one which broke (it had a plastic handle). So these were perfect gifts.
Oh! He also bought a single pink rose. I forgot to take a picture of it though.

We settled in to watch a show after the gift excitement wore down. Carson asked if he could wear sweats and I told him he'd look better like this. I was very wrong (side note: he tied his tie like this on our first date and danced like a crazy person, no alcohol involved).

It was all in all a very successful Valentine's Day.
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