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Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Blog Button

Just made a blog button using a really great tutorial.  There is also a "grab box" to go with it on my sidebar.  I don't know if I can get it in this post; I know just enough about this stuff to be clumsily dangerous.

I used Apple's Pages and Preview to get a graphic and Gimp to edit the j-peg.  I tried a few other tutorials but they were way too involved and complicated-wish I had found this one first!  If you make your own, let me know and I'll try to figure out how to start my own "button jar" here.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Easy Triple-Wrap Bracelet

Recently, I began making bracelets with suede lace.  You know, the stuff that we made necklaces with at camp by stringing plastic pony beads on and tying a knot in the back so that if you ever wanted to take it off, you had to cut it and then you were sad because you could never wear it again.  Yes, that stuff.

I had some prepared ends lying around and they kind of fell together and I pulled and Voila! this cute little knot happened!  I did some making and measuring and came up with the triple wrap "join" bracelet.

Here's how to make your own~

You don't need much to get started:
-At least 48" of suede lace, although this will depend on the size you want to make.
-Two ribbon crimps, 6-8mm wide.
-Two 3mm jump rings.
-A toggle or lobster clasp, large-ish is better.






1) Choose two colors.

2) Measure your wrist.  Cut two lengths of suede lace using these measurements:
-6" wrist:: Cut two 20" pieces.
-6 1/2" wrist:: Cut two 22" pieces.
-7" wrist:: Cut two 24" pieces.

 3) Make sure that each piece is straight and not twisted before you add the crimps.  Do this by doubling the piece and laying it on a flat surface.




4) Hold the ends of one piece together and add a very, very small bit of glue to the tips of the suede.  Center the crimp to make sure that the suede ends are not hanging out of either side, then close the crimp.  I use jewelry pliers to do this so they don't scratch the crimp.  If you're digging these bracelets, you might want to buy a pair because they're specially made not to scratch metal.  Repeat for the other length of suede.

5)  Lay the pieces out, one over the other lengthwise:

Grab the right (brown) end, pulling it over the blue loop and the left (blue) end, pulling it under the brown loop.
Carefully pull the ends away from the center, making sure the suede doesn't twist.

Pull the ends until your center join is tight.

6) Add your toggle or lobster clasp using the jump rings.  To properly open and close jump rings, don't open the circle up.  Swing the ends away from each other like a gate; close the same way.

I lay the joint on the top of my wrist and loop each end around, then clasp.
See!  Not so hard!  Hope you enjoy making these.  You have my permission to make as many as you want to sell for fundraisers or give as gifts.   Go crazy!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Jewelry-sitting...

I know... what the heck is jewelry-sitting?  Well, my sweet, little friend Guitta makes lovely, large and colorful jewelry, the exact opposite of what I make.  Originally from Lebanon, she returns there for half of every year to visit with her elderly parents.  She and I were "neighbors" at The Boulevard in NoDa and then again at The Boulevard at Southend.  She just left and now, I'm jewelry-sitting!  We jewelry makers have to stick together because it's a very competitive vocation. 

Guitta's using a shelf in my space at The Boulevard, but she gave me some extra pieces to restock.  So, I brought them home and promptly took everything out and tried it on!  She has such a great eye for combining colors and different types of beads.  I wanted to share some of her pieces with you~ 

$ 48, 18 inches

$ 20, 18 inches

$ 29, 18 inches (My favorite!)

Wear long or doubled, $ 32, 32 inches

$ 48, 18 inches

$ 24, 18 inches (another favorite)

$ 25, 18 inches ; matching earrings $ 3

$ 26 each, rectangle pendant is on 20 inch chain and square is on 18 inch chain

$ 46, 18 inches

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Earring Giveway!

Giveaways are so much fun!  Here's what I'm giving away:
Raffle begins Monday, September 24, 2012 and lasts until Monday, October 1, 2012.  I'll post the winner on the cloverleaf creations facebook page.   There are lots of opportunities for multiple entries:
a Rafflecopter giveaway


May the odds be forever in your favor~

Monday, September 10, 2012

I ❤ Poached Eggs

One would think that, with an egg being... well, an egg, that it would taste the same, barring any seasoning, no matter which method is used to prepare it.  I beg to differ.  Poached eggs have a different flavor, a more pure, natural flavor.

The first time I had poached eggs, my step-dad made them.  He boiled water in a pot and threw the eggs in.  By the time they were done, they were just yolks covered with a thin layer of white, but they still tasted great.  Over the years, I've tried to poach eggs using several different methods and usually ended up with watery, scrambled eggs or drippy, runny yolks and I don't do runny yolks.  When I began trying to eat healthier, I was determined to learn how to poach eggs properly and, thanks to google, I am a mean, egg-poaching machine.  Here's what you do:

Skillet, not pot.
First, don't use a pot.  Use a skillet (or frying pan for us southerners.)  Fill it 3/4 of the way to the rim and heat it on high until it just starts to boil.  At this point, turn the heat way down, usually by half, but make sure there are still a few bubbles.





Scattered egg white.


If not, your water will not be hot enough and your egg white will scatter.  If you let your water boil too long because in a random ADD moment, you started cleaning the stove, take the skillet off the heat for a bit.






Cute, little bowl.

While you're waiting for the water to boil, find a small dish.  I found these cute little glass cups at the dollar store; four for $1!  Crack the egg into the dish.  You'll also need a small spatula.





gently, gently...


 When the water's at that small bubble boiling point, gently lower the side of the dish into the boiling water.  WATCH YOUR FINGERS!  Wait for the egg white to settle a bit, then slowly slide the rest of the egg into the water.




Loosen the egg from the bottom.

Wait about 30 seconds, then delicately slide your spatula under the egg white and loosen it from the bottom.






A nice, oval shape means the water's just right.



The egg should float and a large portion of the white should stay together.  Set a timer for 10 minutes.

As I mentioned before, I don't do runny eggs and by runny, I mean any tiny portion of the yolk uncooked.  Avoid undercooked yolks by gently flipping the eggs over at the 10 minute mark.   Slide your spatula under the egg and use the side of the skillet to cushion the flip.  After three minutes, you can flip them back over so the yolk is on top, making a nice presentation because you're prone to OCD or just leave them as is.  Hold each egg over the pan for a few seconds to let the water drain off.  Add some fruit and ketchup.  Yes, ketchup.  Enjoy your successful egg endeavor.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

The Difference Between a Cobbler & a Crisp

This past July, my awesome husband decided to find a local peach farm.  He was very tired of the grocery store peaches that tasted like fibrous cardboard, even during peach season.  We live in Charlotte, NC about 45 minutes away from SC, one of the biggest peach producing states in the country and our Costco sells peaches from NJ.  [blank stare]

We found a cute little peach stand just over the border into SC, Springs Farm.  Great directions are on the website.  I must say that these peaches were some of the best I've ever tasted and we will be making this an annual family outing from now on!  We even took some to Chicago when visiting family, just to share our Carolina 'sunshine'.

So, all these peaches and what to do with them?  My entire family would have been fine with eating a peach every other hour or so, but we wanted to preserve some of that joy for the coming months.  So, I made peach jam~  Recipe will follow in a future post.  You will definitely want to check back because it's *amazing*

We also wanted to try some in a Peach Cobbler so I googled 'Peach Cobbler'.  I was just a little confused because, growing up, my grandmothers made cobbler all the time and I knew exactly the kind of recipe I was looking for.  My favorite part of the cobbler wasn't the fruit so much as the moist, mushy dough covered with fruit goo inside the cobbler and the golden, flaky crust on top.  This was what I imagined when I began my recipe search.  Most of the results that came back were for what I call a crisp: no dough, just a mix of flour and butter, crisped on top of the baked fruit.  (By the way, I have a recipe for an apple crisp that is also *amazing* and will post later as well!)

And the sugar content-WOW!  Our peaches were already naturally sweet and I wanted to preserve that taste, not add 3 cups of sugar to the mix.  So I basically used biscuit dough to capture my idea of the Perfect Cobbler and it worked!  Here's my dough recipe.  I used white wheat flour instead of regular flour and mixed honey in with the peaches instead of sugar.  Don't forget to add little drops of dough into the peach mix before you put the top crust on!

~Here's to Peach Season 2013~

PIZZA NIGHT Pizza for lunch~

In my first PIZZA NIGHT Pizza post, I proved to myself and the world that making your own pizza on a regular basis is easy, inexpensive and much, much better than serving store-bought pizzas to your family.  My children (boys: 16 & 11), however, beg to differ and asked on a regular basis when we were going to start buying frozen pizzas again because they missed the easy lunch option.  So instead of lamenting the lack of appreciation for my 'back to basics' efforts, I came up with a way to have homemade pizzas available to my kids for their hobbit-like need to eat several meals a day.

First you have to make the dough (click on link in first sentence).  I've started making a double batch of dough on PIZZA NIGHT since all of the ingredients are already out, the oven's already toasty, etc.  Instead of dividing the dough in half as you would for the regular pizzas, divide it into four little balls.  Roll these out to only 10" circles.  Why 10"?  Well, that's the size of the gallon zip-lock freezer bags that you'll need to freeze your lunch-size pizzas!

You can keep the dough in the fridge until the next day or, while you're in pizza making mode~carry on!  Bake these 10" dough circles for about 5-6 minutes.  I turn the oven down to 350° to make these.  I know it's not exactly the right temp after having baked pizzas at 450° but I don't want them to be overdone.  Don't let them bake past 6 minutes; they'll turn out too crusty.

While these are baking, you can prepare four zip-lock bags by writing the directions on the zip-lock bag:  Bake @ 400° for 12 minutes.

Once the crusts are done, let them cool down, then add your sauce, cheese and toppings.  Carefully, and I do mean carefully, fit each pizza into the aforementioned zip-lock freezer bag.  The pizzas should hold up well enough until you get them into the freezer.  I was even able to stack mine!

And the best news:  My boys were extremely excited to again have frozen pizzas and I'm happy that I didn't give in and stock up on Totino's.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Make Your Own Mixes

Add some fruit right before you bake your muffins
Chances are, if you have a really good idea, someone else (or several someone elses) has had that same idea too.  Probably, they even did it better than you.  A few months ago, in our clean-eating endeavor, I began bagging my own muffin mixes using this recipe.  It's worked out really well and I plan to do more bagged mixes in the...
BUT STOP!  
Guess what I found?  Someone has already done all of the work for me!  I just found Fake It Frugal, lots of DIY mixes and cleaning products, very excited!

Some experiential advice:  In my process of switching over to clean eating, I always use the exact ingredients listed and follow the directions given in any new recipe.  This way I'm able to figure out where I can make changes that work (use less sugar) AND avoid those that don't (use at least some sugar).

Take my muffin mix for example: I've learned that if you only use baking powder in your recipes, your baked goods have a slight bitter flavor.  I began wondering if that's why sometimes baking recipes have both baking powder and baking soda.  So, I substituted 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda for one of the teaspoons of baking powder and, BINGO, no bitterness!

You also have to try the chocolate chocolate chip muffins~

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Cleaning up my eatin'

My family has always been kind of 50/50 with the healthy vs. junk food thing.  Although, I have to also say that McDonald's is (was?) one of my favorite places to eat and the Big Mac my favorite thing to eat there.  I've raised my boys, who are now 16 & 11, to love fast food too.  However, dinnertime at our house was, in the past, "okay."

Around August of 2011, I started having weird breathing issues.  I started going to see doctors and received a new diagnosis and a few new prescriptions at each visit!  There was a point where I would leave with drugs for my physical symptoms and drugs for anxiety.  One visit was to a pulmonologist (lung dr.) who told me I had acid reflux which began a series of acid reflux meds beginning with omeprazole all the way to Dexilant.  I eventually ended up in the E/R at 3AM one morning with excruciating stomach pain.  But I digress...

The very day that I saw the pulmonary doc, I cleaned up my eating habits and began eating lots of fruits and vegetables, juicing, etc.  I didn't force it on my family at that point, but, over the next three months, I lost almost 20 pounds.  I really didn't need to lose weight; my initial weight was 152 and now I weigh about 136 or so.  I'm 5' 8".

Anyway, near the end of this whole ordeal, my good friend K found www.100daysofrealfood.com and made the 10 Day Pledge on the site.  I went by her house one afternoon and she had a huge tub full of all of her processed food ready to give away.  I checked out the site and, though I didn't take the pledge, really liked the simple, straight-forwardness of the guidelines there.  And now, we're trying to eat as many whole foods as possible.  I have to say that I don't buy organic most of the time.  My husband and I both feel that most of these items are overpriced and over-hyped.  We just do the best we can with the goal of staying away from processed foods.  So far the exceptions are French vanilla coffee creamer and Doritos.

I've really enjoyed learning how to make as many things as possible from scratch and like to share what I've learned.  So come back and visit or follow me on pinterest.  Learn how to make homemade pizza here!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

PIZZA NIGHT! Pizza Recipe

As promised to several friends, my PIZZA NIGHT pizza process:

First of all, you may be asking 'why?', when there are perfectly good frozen pizzas that you just pop in the oven or awesome papas who will bring a steaming, cheesy pie to your front door, would you want to make your own.  Over the past several months, I've decided (due to health reasons and because all my friends are doing it) to clean up what we eat, consuming as few processed foods as possible.  I started with a just few of our meals and PIZZA NIGHT pizza was one of them.

Here are the main ingredients that you need for the dough and sauce:
 yeast, flour (I use TJ's white wheat), olive oil, Parmesan cheese, tomato sauce and tomato paste.  You'll also need a little bit of sugar, salt, oregano and basil.  I found this dough recipe through a random internet search several years ago.  It's called Steve's Pizza Dough (link at bottom).  I don't know who Steve is, but I salute you, man!

Dissolve a tablespoon (or one packet) of yeast in 1-1/3 cups water.  The water should be at about 120 degrees F.  I let my faucet run for a few seconds (I know, wasting water) and it's right at 120.  I know this because I actually used a thermometer on it!  If the water is too hot, you'll kill the yeast.  I don't know if I've ever killed yeast or not, but, hey, it's just pizza dough...

The yeast needs to dissolve in the water, usually takes 5-10 minutes.

While the yeast is doing its thing, combine three cups of flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon sugar and 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese in a bowl or your handy-dandy Kitchen Aid mixer.  Mix this, then add 2 tablespoons of olive oil.  Check your yeast to make sure it's completely dissolved.  I usually stir it a little about now.  I don't know if that's proper yeast procedure, but I'm impatient.

Turn your mixer on or start stirring and slowly add the dissolved yeast.  Mix this until everything sticks together and no flour is left in the bowl.  When that's done, I use a silicone scraper to remove all the dough from the paddle and change to the dough hook.   I've discovered that silicone scrapers do NOT stick to the dough and make dealing with it a lot easier.


Before you begin kneading, turn the oven on to warm and PAY ATTENTION TO IT!  It only needs to warm up for four-five minutes, then turn it off.

If you don't have a mixer, you get the pleasure of hand-kneading!  Do this on a floured surface, like a large cutting board or your dining table if you have negligible amounts of counter space like me.  This is a very carthartic process so don't fret.  Basically, you're going to smush the dough up into a ball, turn it, then smush it flat, repeat.  Knead for about 5-8 minutes.  Roll the dough into a ball. Prepare an oven safe bowl or vessel of your choice by coating it with olive oil.  Roll the dough around in the oil before you let it settle in it's little oily bed.

In order to keep some moisture near the dough, I wet a cloth dish towel (remember, the oven is OFF!) and lay it over the top rack and put the bowl of dough on the bottom rack.  Shut the door, set the timer for an hour, 30 minutes if you're short on time, and get ready to make some sauce.
For the sauce, I use a 15-ounce can of tomato sauce and a 6-ounce can of tomato paste.  Mix these together by putting the paste in a bowl and slowly adding the sauce as you whisk.  Then add one teaspoon of basil and one teaspoon of oregano.   Sometimes, I add a bit of garlic, but most of the time I forget.

At this time, I double check all of my toppings so that I still have time to run to the store if my 11 year old has eaten all of the pepperoni left from last time.

Some of our favorite toppings are pepperoni (always have this...boys, you know), veggies (whatever I have), fresh basil with black olives and feta or ricotta, and BBQ chicken.  Pretty much anything is good on a pizza and it's fun to be creative!

I also use this time to prep my pizza stones.  I use the Pampered Chef stones, which are one of the greatest kitchen tools ever and just smear olive oil all over 'em.

If the dough rising fairies have been kind to you, your dough has doubled in size.  Smush this down with the super-duper non-sticking silicon spatula and divide it into two halves. 

Form them into thick circles and plop them onto the oily stones.  Roll the dough all the way out to the edges of the stones and use a fork to poke holes all over the dough. 

If you want a thicker crust you can either use the dough to make only one pizza or, once the dough is rolled out onto the stones, warm the oven again and put them back in for another 30 minutes or so.

Once you're ready to assemble your pizza, preheat the oven to 450 degrees and spread the sauce to within one inch of the edge, creating your crust.  If you want a crust that sticks up above the toppings like the restaurant pizzas, smush the dough up.  That's all I've got...
All that's left is to add your toppings and cheese.  Bake the pizzas for 10 minutes or so and that's it!

In my previous experience with homemade pizza, it always seemed to be as expensive as ordering pizza.  Thanks to Costco and Trader Joe's, these pizzas aren't that expensive unless you want fancy toppings...

 The cost of one pepperoni pizza, not including salt, sugar, basil and oregano is only $ 4.50.  I count the labor as a gift to my family.

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