Friday, February 25, 2011

Friday Foodie: Cooking rice in the oven

Posting a little late today, but didn't want to miss sharing what I recently learned about making rice.  I don't own a rice cooker, but instead always make our rice in the microwave.  Last weekend I was asked to make a very large amount of rice when the party we were going to had a last menu minute change.  30 cups of cooked rice to be exact.  Since I have never cooked such a large quantity at once and I had no desire to be cooking rice all day, I turned to google and made a wonderful discovery. 

You can bake rice in your oven.  And not just a normal amount of rice, like 2 or 3 cups--really large quantities like 15 cups. It is super easy and the rice comes out perfect.  Here's all you do:

Ingredients:  2 cups of water per 1 cup of rice.

Bring water to a boil.  You can add some oil and salt to the water if you'd like.  (I put a little oil in mine, but no salt.)

Place rice into the pan you will be baking in.  Pour boiling water on top.  Stir.  Place lid on pan.  Put pan into preheated 350° oven.  Cook for 30 minutes.  Remove pan from oven and let sit for 15 minutes.  Fluff with fork.

As I said before, this is super easy and turns out perfect rice.  So if you are ever asked to make 30 cups of rice the only challenge will be to find a big enough pan. 

Oh, and as a bonus foodie tip--check out this new website I discovered last week:  TasteSpotting  It's a great online resource for new recipes.   Check it out.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Young Women Survival Kit

Although I've sat in this chair from almost as long as I can stand today, I really wanted to share something my daughter put together for our New Beginnings program on Sunday. 

During New Beginnings we spotlight the girls who will be turning 12 and entering our Young Women organization this year.   As part of that spotlight, my Laurels wanted to include some little gifts.  My daughter volunteered to take care of the gifts and put together a survival kit for the new girls.  Each box contained several items along with a description of why they were included. Check it out and let me know if you think they are as cute and creative as I do:

Welcome to Young Women!

To help you adjust, we thought we’d give you a Young Women Survival Kit!

Inside this kit you will find:

PLAYDOUGH- Because the things you learn while in the Young Women Program will mold your character!

GLOW STICKS- Because the Young Women values will light the path to the temple!
HAND SANITIZING WIPES- Because the habits you develop through the Personal Progress Program keep you morally clean!
BUBBLES- Because you will be bubbling over with knowledge each Sunday you attend Young Women!

JOURNAL/PEN- Because it’s important to record the spiritual promptings you receive during Young Women lessons!
TISSUES- Because the spirit is always strong during Young Women lessons, and you may shed a tear or two!

SOCK MONKEY- Because we’re going bananas waiting for you to become a Beehive!

CANDY- Because we think you’re sweet!

We can’t wait for you to turn 12 and join us!

Love, The Young Women!

Easing back into things

It's now been a week since my little fall down the stairs.  I wish I could say I am totally back to normal, but unfortunately I cannot.  My back is still sore, and simple things like sitting in a chair, standing over a table and reaching for things have it complaining in the most unpleasant way.  But since I can't just sit around all day, I am slowly getting a few projects done. 

Before I start catching you up on what I managed to do the last week, I want to write a little about my change is focus this year.  In earlier posts I told you that I was taking the second semester of my Arts Metals class.  You may have noticed that I haven't said a word about the class since the end of January and my posting about Lost Wax Casting.  This is due to an interesting chain of events that has totally changed my focus this semester.

Right after that last post about my class, I was contacted by Continental Airlines about interviewing for a job with their food services.  I was laid off from Continental in July of 2009, and have missed my flight benefits so much I have been trying for months to figure out a way to get back into the company.  Back in September I applied for the position of Transporation Agent.  Since I never heard back from them, I assumed that I didn't make the cut.  However, it appears they were just a little slow in getting through the hiring process.

When I was first contacted about the interview, I had alarms going off in my head about whether the position would work with my class and church volunteer schedules as well as an upcoming trip I have planned with my in-laws.  But I decided I needed to go check it out.  

As I sat in the room and listened to the description of the job and the inflexibility of schedule that would be required for the first six months, the alarms I heard earlier started going off again.  At the end of the discussion, the HR rep told us that if we could not make our schedule meet with those requirements we could bow out of the interview and reapply at a better time.  I sat in my chair and debated whether or not I should drop out of the process, but in the end I decided to stick with it because I wasn't going to lose anything by continuing.

The next step in the process was a tour of the facility.  They broke us up into groups according to the position we applied for.  To be totally honest, when I got the invitation to be interviewed I had to look at my application history to see which job I had applied for--how funny is that?  Once they started dividing us into groups, I was no longer sure which job I was being considered for.   But since I didn't want to look stupid, I picked the one I thought was right and went along with that group.  They took us into the refridgerated warehouse and we watched different groups do their assigned jobs.  Most employees worked alone in an area doing assembly line type work.  

As I was led from area to area, an interesting thing happened.  I was struck by the fact that there was absolutely no interaction with customers, and there seemed to be very little interaction with other employees.  This realization made me start to feel a little sad.  I also had one thought that kept popping into my head--"There is absolutely no way I can work in here 40 hours a week".   So at the end of the tour when the HR rep asked if anyone had changed their mind about continuing, I raised my hand, signed out and left the facility--before I even had an interview.

The day seemed like a total bust, however I learned a couple of interesting things.  I learned that the interaction with customers was a huge part of what I loved about my job with Continental.   I learned that I will not do ANY job just to have flight benefits.  (I'm still not sure if I would have been willing to suffer through this job if it had been part time instead of full time, but since all of their positions are full time that is totally a moot point). 

The other interesting thing I learned was that I wasn't that upset about the thought that I might have to drop my arts metals class.  In fact, the more I thought about it, the more I decided it might be a good thing to do.   This semester was all about learning how to cast, which would have been very cool.  However it is a skill that I would not be able to do at home without a serious investment in equipment.  And to be perfectly honest, I didn't see that ever happening. 

I also started thinking about other things I wanted to do this year, which would be hampered by my being in school twice a week.  And I kept feeling like it would be better for me to be more flexible with my schedule this sememster.  I'm not sure what that feeling is all about, but I do know that the more I thought about it, the more it felt right to withdraw from class.  So that is what I did.

In  the end my interview with Continental did not get me my flight benefits back.  But I listened to the promptings that came from the experience and  gained a new perspective on what I should be focusing on right now.  I still feel like there is something coming that makes the decision to be more flexible a good one for me.  Maybe that something was just the tumble I took last week, or maybe it's something still to come.  But that really doesn't matter to me.  What matters is that I really feel good about the decision I made and I am totally loving not going to school twice a week.  Instead I am using my time to focus on other things, including working on art projects of my choosing.  

I'll continue to share those projects and what I am doing with my free time here. 

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Paint and Pain

This week I continue to play with texture on canvas.  For this project I picked up some 6 x 8 panels.  I applied the texture:
And then some paint:
Then I took some sandpaper to the finish to add a little distressed contrasting to the canvas:

I really like this look.

Then I tried several things that totally failed, which I did not take photos of.  In order to try to salvage the project, used more paint and sandpaper to get back to my project base:

And then I was stuck.  I looked at these canvases and had absolutely no idea what to do with them.  Just when I was about to put them into my unfinished project box,  I found these:
And a light bulb went off.

You'll have to wait for another day to see what that light bulb was.  Partially because my day is filled with several appointments that will limit my craftiness.  And partially because of this little fellow:
This is Phil, my dog's new chew toy. 

Dakota likes to shred stuffed animals.  She doesn't steal them and shred them, but when we give her one she spends quite a while ripping their faces off and then pulling the stuffing bit by bit out of the toy.  I know that sounds kind of gruesome, but really its just pretty messy.  And if the stuff animal is a cheap one, it will only entertain her for a few minutes.  The ones that really last are the Build a Bear animals.  We discovered this because she used to steal animals and once got a hold of a BB bear.  It gave her many, many hours of enjoyment. 

Since I don't want to give her BB toys to shred, I am always on the look out of durable doggie toys.  Last week we found this guy at PetCo.  They claimed it was extremely durable, and although it was way more than I ever dreamed I'd spend on a dog toy, I bought it--hoping it would last longer than a stuffed animal.  And guess what?  It does!  Dakota loves Phil, and he is so durable she hasn't even managed to put a hole in him yet--even after several hours of play.

Now you may be wondering what Phil has to do with me finishing a craft project.  You see, Dakota loves to play with Phil on the stairs.
This morning when I went upstairs to wake up my baby, I saw that Dakota had left Phil there.

For an instant I thought about picking him up, but I dismissed it.  You see, I was tired.  Usually I call my daughter to wake her up, but she hadn't felt well last night so I thought I should go check on her and see if she was feeling good enough to go to school.  I'm sure you know what is coming next.  I walked past this little guy on my way up, only to step on him on my way back down.  My foot slipped and down I went.  Major OUCH!  And now my back is sore and I'm moving slowly, and getting through just my scheduled events may be all I can manage today. 

But even with the pain I am excited about the idea I have for at least one of these canvases.  I'll let you know when I make some more progress.

I am also keeping my eyes open for Phil.  After our morning encounter I put him on top of Dakota's kennel, just so I'd know where he was.  I just walked by there, and he is gone.  Apparently he was still within Dakota's reach.  
Like I said, she loves Phil.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Valentine's Love from my oven

What else would the breakfast of champions be followed up with?

Valentine's Breakfast of Champions

Here's what was served at my house for Valentine's Day breakfast.


Here's the recipe in case you want to make some.

2 beaten eggs
1 1/2 cups milk
1 cup all- purpose flour
1 tablespoon cooking oil
1/4 tsp salt

Place all ingredients in a bowl and beat until combined.  Heat a lightly greased 6 - in skillet; remove from hear.  Spoon in 2 tablespoons batter; lift and tilt skillet to spread batter.  Return to heat; brown on 1 side only. (Or cook in crepe maker following manufacturer's directions.)  Invert over paper towels; remove crepe.  Repeat with remaining batter, greasing skillet occasionally.

My adaptations: 

I mixed my batter in a blender-pulsing until combined.

I used a 10 in cast iron skillet, which I placed a little butter before adding batter.  I also increased batter to about 4 tablespoons.

You can tell when the crepe is done because the sides start to pull away from the pan.  I use a wooden spatula to pull up crepe and check for a lightly browned crepe.

Serve with your favorite fruit or jam.  This morning we used Nutella and bananas.  Strawberries and whip cream are also yummy.

Crafting with the Stars Final Project

Update:  Jonie placed 2nd in the finals.  Congrats to one talented lady!

The final projects are up at Crafting with the Stars.  With my love of mosiacs, you won't be surprised that I loved Jonie's Mosaic Bean Art and Belt Chair.  Too, too cute and a project anyone could do. 

Do me a favor and VOTE for her now!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Random Sunday Topic

Since I mentioned and provided links to several other blogs this week, I've decided today's post will be a random topic instead of a random blog.  Since tomorrow is Valentines day, I thought Love would be appropriate.  Here is what I learned about love searching online:

Love is the emotion of strong affection and personal attachment.

There is a love calculator that can calculate the chance of a successful relationship between two people.  FYI, it projects a 42% chance for me and my husband of 25 years.     

Love is a chemical state of mind.

But the best information about love comes from a video which tells us "Love is what matters most".

So spend some time with those you love today!  Enjoy your Sunday.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Bonus Post: Friday Foods

It is cold here in Houston, and I'm in the mood for something yummy.  So as long as I'm baking, I decided to start a new feature on my blog--Friday Foods.  I'm hoping that by committing to posting a recipe once a week will keep me motivated to try new recipes and share some of my family's favorites.

I'm starting off with one of our new favorite holiday recipes.  My husband asked me to make for him this week.   I resisted at first, because pumpkin bread is only eaten in November and December.  Am I right?  But in the end I made it for him.  That's just the kind of wife I am.  And guess what?  Turns out it's just as good in January as it was in December. 

You should make some.  Trust me, it is delicious!

Pumpkin Gingerbread
Adapted from a recipe found at


2cups sugar
1 cup chunky applesauce
4 eggs
2/3 cup water
1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin puree
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
Chocolate chips - optional to some, but not to me

(I never measure chocolate chips.  Just throw a handful or two in until it looks like there is enough.  How's that for exact measurements?)


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Lightly grease two 9x5 inch loaf pans.

In a large mixing, combine sugar, applesauce and eggs; beat until smooth. Add water and beat until well blended. Stir in pumpkin, ginger, allspice cinnamon, and clove.

In medium bowl, combine flour, soda, salt, and baking powder. Add dry ingredients to pumpkin mixture and blend just until all ingredients are mixed. Add chocolate chips and mix. 

Divide batter between prepared pans.

Bake in preheated oven until toothpick comes out clean, about 1 hour.

Creating our YW Values

Yesterday I showed you my first attempt at creating textured canvas art and told you that I would be making similar projects with the young women I work with at my church.  Today I'm going to show you their creations.

The idea for this project came about as our Laurel class planned for our New Beginnings which will be later this month.  The girls has requested another activity where we painted, and I decided the perfect way to address both activities would be for us to paint the Young Women Values, which are:Faith, Divine Nature, Knowledge, Choice and Accountability, Good Works, Integrity and Virtue. 

Before our activity I made the canvas for Virtue: 
Each value has an assigned color.  Virtue's is gold.

I followed the same process for texturing and painting this canvas as I did for my Mia Maid project from yesterday:

But instead of using a ink jet transfer for the image, I had my friend Stephanie cut out letters with her Cricut, because I am not lucky enough to own one and she is.  Santa, you might want to start taking notes!  The letters were decoupaged onto the canvas after the molding paste and paint were dry. 

At the beginning of our activity, I showed the girls my Virtue and Mia Maid pieces.  I did this not to influence their work, but to give them an idea of different ways to approach the texturing.  I then had each girl choose a value and go to work.  Unfortunately I forgot my camera (add forgetfulness to the list of personality traits I started yesterday), so I don't have any pictures of the girls creating their projects.  But I do have pictures of their completed work. 

Here are our Young Women Values and a close up of the textures each artist created:
Artist: Me

Artist: Brittany

Artist: Bridget

Artist: Erin

Artist: Jeanette

Artist: Edie

Artist: Gabby

Artist:  Me

The girls really enjoyed this project.  I love how their individual creativity shines through in each one! 

Oh and a funny side story on our activity. Because we needed to finish our projects during our hour and a half activity, we had to blow dry all of the canvases. I asked each girl to bring a blow dryer with them, and we ended up with 4 at the church. As I was explaining the process to the girls, my oldest, and apparently wisest, Laurel, asked if we were going to blow a fuse by running so many blow dryers. I told her I had no idea and told her I guess we'd see. Well, guess what? At one point we had three blow dryers going at once, and we blew a fuse. I thought it was hilarious. So we spread out to other plugs in different rooms and I got my husband to find the breaker box and restore our power.  It's good to have a handy husband!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Playing with texture and photo transfer

I'm a bit behind on posting this week.  It has been a busy week, but part of what has slowed me down was my discovering some new blogs that have fascinated and inspired me.  Translation:  I have spent more time reading other blogs than posting on my.  But in the end it is all good because I am still on target for my goal of completing one project a week. 

This week I wanted to try out texturing a canvas with Molding Paste.  I was inspired by one of my new blog obsessions, Design Mom.  The thing that really drew me into this blog was that this mother of 6 has recently moved her family to France for a year.  She and her husband both work from home and have always wanted to live abroad, so they decided to just do it.  I so wish we could have lived abroad with our kids, so I anxiously await each new post to learn about their experience.  But let's get back to the focus of this post.  While reading Design Mom's blog, I found this Abstract Art for Kids project, which was written by Dani Henriksen  who writes one of my other new blog obsessions, Pineapple Paintbrush

This project totally inspired me and I immediately ran out and bought some molding paste and canvases.  And this week I put them to use making projects for an upcoming activity with the young women at our church.  

Here are my supplies:

Since it was my first time using molding paste and I wasn't sure how much I would enjoy it, I ended up buying the cheaper store brand. 

Don't be shocked by the price tag on this molding paste. I try to always use a coupon for my art supplies, and used a Hobby Lobby 40% off one for this jar of paste.  I bought the large jar because I knew I would be using it a youth activity and wanted to make sure I had enough to play with it on my own and then with my young women.

For this project I decided I wanted a flat canvas instead of a wrapped one.  So I bought packages of these: 

Because I get multiple Sunday papers, I was able to use the same 40% off coupon for these.  I just had to stand in line 4 times that day.  Luckily there were 5 different cashiers working up front and none of them seemed to notice or care that I kept coming back. 

Yesterday I pulled out my supplies and went to work.

I started spreading the paste with a pallet knife I found in an old art kit I bought.
I knew that kit would come in handy one day!

Once the canvas was completely covered, I used some old beads and a cookie cutter to create the texture.
I really liked how the texture turned out.
The Abstract Art article at Pineapple Paintbrush said to let the molding paste dry overnight.  I, however, have a serious problem with both procrastination and patience, so I just couldn't wait.  I pulled out my blow dryer to help speed up the process.  Then I moved on to painting the canvas with metallic gold paint. 
Once again, I loved the result.

While the paint was drying, I got back on my computer to prepare the next step of my project.  I wanted to make an ink jet transfer to put on the canvas.  I had read about this process at More Than Photography.  

The first step in this process is to print out a mirror copy of the image you want to transfer.   Our young women are divided into three age groups--12-13, 14 -15, and 16 - 18.  I plan to make a picture for each age group that contains the name of the group and their class symbol.  These will then be used in our New Beginnings Program later in the month where we will be highlighting our youth program to all the girls who will turn 12 this year.

Here is the image that I am working with: 

I got a JPEG copy of the Rose--the class symbol the Mia Maids (our 14 and 15 year old girls)--from Jenny Smith.  I then pasted it into a word document and flipped the image horizontally.  The text was created as Word Art and also flipped horizontally.  I then printed the document in the BEST mode, and allowed it to dry for a couple of minutes.

The next step is to apply Mod Podge, or any other decoupage medium, to the printed side of the image. 

This is what was in my craft box, so this is what I used. 
The image is then placed onto the canvas, and rubbed to make sure it adheres completely.   I used my fingers and also a rolling pin. The texture on my project made this a little tricky.  My first attempt at this process probably should been done on a non-textured background, but apparently I don't like to do anything the easy way.

Once you are satisfied that the contact is as good as you're going to get, you should walk away and let it dry.  The above article says drying time should be at least 20 minutes but for best results you should let it dry overnight.  Hmmm....guess which time frame I decided to follow? 
After about 20 minutes, I started to remove the paper.  This is done by wetting the paper and then using your fingers or a damp sponge to rub the backing off of the mod podge image. 
I started to rub with a wet sponge...
Because I chose to start rubbing right at the minimum wait time, this ended up being a drawn out process.  Turns out it wasn't dry enough to remove properly and parts of my image came up with my paper.  Of course it could have also been the fact that I didn't follow directions exactly.  Instead of spraying the paper down, I just used a wet sponge. 

So let's review--today you've learned that I am an impatient procrastinator who is bad at following written instructions.  Add that to other personality traits this blog has highlighted and I am probably the only impatient procrastinating ADD instruction ignoring hording crafter you know.  So glad this is recorded for my posterity!

But getting back to the problems I had removing the paper from my image.  Take a close look at the center of the flower and you'll see what my above personality traits caused--a spot where the image completely came up:
When this happened I waited a couple of more minutes, then used a blow dryer to hurry things up a bit (because even when I mess up, I still can't be patient!) and then started rubbing again.  

Here is my finished project: 

I don't love it, but I did learn a lot that will hopefully make the next two more successful.  I plan to do them at night and then leave them alone until morning.  I will then actually follow the directions and see what happens.  How smoothly that goes will determine if I keep this one or redo it.   Either way, I'll post the results.

Well, I am out of blogging time this morning.  Tomorrow I'll show you the projects my young women completed last night.