Thursday, January 31, 2013

Designer Arsenal: What's in the Bag?

On this edition of Designer Arsenal, I will be simply talking about supplies. There are a few supplies that I like to keep on hand at all times just because they seem to be the supplies I need the most.

First off, I always have rubber cement around and double stick tape. These two work on most items, and as long as you are not using the permanent kind of double stick tape, these two do not have to be permanent adhesives, which if you are mocking things up or just playing around with something that can come in handy.

An Exacto knife is a designer's best friend. They are excellent for cutting out just about anything. But I implore you to be very careful with them, they are extremely sharp and I have seen some intense Exacto injuries. So make sure those fingers are out of the way.

When you are using an Exacto you will need a cutting mat and most likely a ruler (for cutting straight lines). Both things are good to have on hand regardless. I actually have two cutting mats, one large and one small. I think I only got the small one when I was in school for traveling purposes, so it's not really necessary to have multiple. 

I like to make boxes for mockups so I keep a bone folder on hand. It's not a totally necessary tool, but it sure does make things easier. I know I talked about them before, but they are basically for scoring edges so that you can fold materials easier.

I also like to cut out more complicated shapes (for some reason) but am no good at cutting circles with an Exacto (sidenote: I went to school with a girl who had a natural talent for cutting circles, so she was great to have around but you can only ask someone to do your cutting for you so much). So I keep a circle cutter on hand. The one I have is a little cheaper and a bit hard to use, but if you spring for a fancier one they work quite well and you no longer have to worry about cutting out perfect circles.

I also for some reason only make things with rounded corners. I dont know, I just like how they look better, so if I have the choice, I make my corners rounded. Therefore I also keep a rounded corner cutter (probably not the official name, but thats what it does) on hand.

There are other supplies I keep on hand such as a variety of pencils and pencils in various weights, acrylic paint, charcoal pencils, colored pencils, various paint brushes and erasers. I will probably post about that stuff later on, but it's a little more specific to me personally and my interests rather than general supplies.


Friday, January 25, 2013

Rosemary just needs a little Thyme: A Bread Story

I want to be one of those people that cooks bread in a hearth. Instead, I have a rented oven with an inaccurate thermostat. BUT, I do have a thermometer that lets me know what the hell the thermostat is up to these days.


4 cups unbleached bread flour
1 tsp active yeast
1 tsp granulated sugar
2 tsp salt
1 stick melted butter
1 1/8 cup warm water
2 tbsp freshly chopped rosemary
2 tbsp freshly chopped thyme

Mix all dry ingredients together in a very large bowl.

Add chopped herbs to melted butter. Mix wet ingredients in small bowl.

Stir together for several minutes, then move in with your hands.

Knead until the dough no longer has CRACKS everywhere. I'll say it again. CRACKS. I love Mean Girls. This bread does not rise much, so shape into the desired form. Cover with Saran wrap. Let the dough sit for 1-3 hours. Cut an "X" in the center.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place bread on middle rack. Cook for 20 minutes, then place aluminum foil over top to prevent the top from burning. Let cook for a remaining 20 minutes.

This bread is very dense and savory and delicious. It has a thick crust and chewy center. Very tasty. I gave some to my work buddies, and let me just say since we're amongst friends, it got rave reviews :)


Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Chicken Pot, Chicken Pot, Chicken Pot Pie!

It's been really f-ing cold lately. Like really, unbearably, terribly cold. In summation: "It's cold in the D!" (yeah, I said it). Therefore I want filling, warm, comfort food. Enter the Chicken Pot Pie. Downfall of this amazing comfort food is it is not usually that all that good for you, so I was reluctant to make it. But then I found this awesome recipe from one of my favorite food blogs Eat Yourself Skinny and had to try it. It is a slimmed down version of a chicken pot pie. Happy? Yes. Excited to try it? You bet. So let's do this.

What you need:

1.  1 cup fat-free half and half
2. 1 cup fat-free chicken broth
3. 3 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
4. 1 tsp. poultry seasoning
5. 1 tsp. thyme
6. 2 cups roasted skinless chicken breast, cubed
7. 1 (10 oz) package frozen mixed veggies, thawed
8. 4 green onions, chopped
9. 1 tsp. salt
10. 1/4 tsp. pepper
11. 1 can (7.5 oz) refrigerated reduced-fat biscuits

You will also need 5 (6oz) ramekins (the recipe says it makes 5, but it only made 3 for me, I dunno maybe my ramekins were bigger than 6oz)

First off, preheat your oven to 425F.

Then chop your shit (and by that I mean the onions and chicken)

Part of what made this recipe so great was that we had leftover chicken anyway, so I didn't have to worry about cooking it. 

After everything is chopped, in a medium saucepan whisk together the half and half, broth, flour, poultry seasoning and thyme. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer...continue to whisk for about 4 minutes until the sauce has thickened. Remove from heat and add your veggies, chicken, green onions and salt and pepper. Cover and set aside.

On a lightly floured surface roll out the biscuits into about 4 inch rounds. Spray each of the ramekins with cooking spray. Evenly fill the ramekins with the chicken mixture. Cover each ramekin with the rolled out biscuit. Press the dough to the edges of the ramekins to hold in place, then cut 4 holes in the top of the dough.

Place the ramekins in the preheated oven and bake for 12 minutes. Now I say 12 minutes as that is what the recipe I followed said. BUT mine burned. Thats right, the dinner I was SO excited about, burned. 

I was extremely sad, to say the least. SO I say do more like 10 minutes...or just really pay attention. Remember all you are doing here is baking the crust, the rest is cooked already. 

In spite of burning the edges of the crust a bit, the rest was still very good. And I would never have guessed it was slimmed down from your typical pot pie. So I would definitely do this again, but just pay better attention to the baking portion.



Saturday, January 19, 2013

Estate-Sale Finds!

I thought I'd give you guys a look into my recent estate sale hunts. Found some pretty good things and came to a realization. I have a lamp fetish. I'm collecting too many of them and although I hate to do this to you, I feel it's appropriate to quote Anchorman. Yes, I do love lamp.

Silver arc lamp. The cord was broken and the guy asked $40. I told him I couldn't pay over $25. He said, "ok!" Doesn't hurt to ask! Rewired it and it's purrfect! The rewiring task proved to be a bit intimidating, so it sat in my trunk for about 6 months, but now it's purrfect! ;)

Basket weave hanging lamp. Asked $20. I told her I'd like to pay $10. It was their last day of the sale. She said she couldn't do it. So, I left. She chased me down the hall and said she'd take $10. ;) I may paint this lamp later. I haven't decided what color yet. Possibly white... Or yellow...

Gold finish coffee set. Asked $12. I said, "ok!"

Like I've said before, it's important to note what the items are worth to you. Many times people at these sales are greedy and won't budge on the prices. It's ok to walk away. I'd rather leave empty-handed than leave with something I overpaid for. Sometimes, the walking away gets you the item anyway!


Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Slow Cooker Chicken Fajitas...sort of

So once again I am trying to eat healthy and actually do that whole working out thing. Which I hate, so we'll see how this goes. But with that being said I have been on a healthy recipe search and in my quest came across this little gem: Slow Cooker Chicken, which I figured would be really good in fajitas, or tacos, or something of the like. Plus the recipe sounded super easy. I love slow cooker meals...throw shit in a pot and let it sit all day, come home and dinner's ready..BAM! What more could you ask for?

Here's what you need:
2 pounds (32 ounces) chicken breasts, boneless and skinless
1 cup salsa, homemade or purchased
1 cup petite diced canned tomatoes (choose low-sodium)
2 tablespoons taco seasoning
1 cup onions, diced fine
1/2 cup celery diced fine
1/2 cup carrots, diced
3 tablespoons sour cream, reduced fat
2 bell peppers (I chose red and yellow, primarily because they were on sale and I'm cheap)
1 cup shredded lettuce
1 cup shredded cheese (choose whatever kind of cheese you like here)
8 flour tortillas

recipe yield: 8 servings (supposedly, seems to be a lot more than that to me though)

Hhhokay, so, first chop the carrots, celery and onions. I know the ingredients say diced, but I went with more of a rough chop and it was fine, but I am impatient and hate dicing things. So it's totally up to you on the size here.

Your chicken is probably close to good to go, but make sure that you rinse it with water first. I also like to trim up the edges a bit as well...get off that extra skin and random hangy parts that tend to be left on boneless, skinless chicken breast. Again, that's a personal preference thing, so you could just use them as they come out of the package.

Place the chicken in the slow cooker...I ended up with two layers of chicken so I layered the other ingredients between the chicken layers. Then add the taco seasoning, onion, celery, carrots, salsa and 1/2 a cup water.

Set the cooker on low, cover it, and let it cook for 6-8 hours. The meat is cooked when it shreds, or when it reaches an internal temperature of 165°F. I turned mine on before I went to work, and by the time I came home the chicken literally fell apart as I was taking it out of the cooker...which is what you want. Take the chicken out and shred it. When you finish you can put it back in the leftover sauce that is in the cooker, and it will stay warm while you prepare the rest.

Cut the peppers into strips and place in a medium sauce pan. Cook on medium heat until the peppers begin to char a little (or until your desired level of cookedness, yes that's a word, because I say it is).  Stirring occasionally. While the peppers are cooking, warm the tortillas either in the microwave for about a minute or in the toaster oven. Also if your lettuce is not shredded already, you can do this now.

Once peppers are cooked assemble the fajitas to your liking. I did chicken, cheese, peppers, lettuce and a little sour cream. These were very tasty, super easy and we had a TON of leftovers, which means no cooking for the next couple of days (always a bonus). I will definitely make these again but probably cut down the recipe a little. So go on, give these a try and let me know what you think!


Friday, January 11, 2013

EASY: How to turn King Pillowcases into Standard

I've carted these great pillowcases with me from apartment to house to apartment for years. I can't remember when I got them... probably when I was a teenager at a garage sale with my mom. They are obviously from the 60s, I'd say. Unfortunately, they were king sized. So, the other day I decided it was time to get new pillows. I was faced with the question of getting standard or king pillows, to fit my rediscovered cases. King pillows would not fit on my full sized bed though, so standard it is! Therefore, a compromise had to be made..

Solution! Turn king cases into standard!

1. Turn pillow case inside out
2. Measure 5" from seam
3. Sew vertically along the 5" mark
4. Turn pillowcase inside out

Cute, huh? AND now I can buy more random, mis-matched cases at estate sales because I know how to fix 'em  :)


Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Designer Arsenal: How to Make a Box

This is the beginning of a new feature I will be doing on occassion. I plan to talk about some things that every designer should know and have in their arsenal, if you will. Starting with tonight's post, where we will learn how to make a box. Why do I need to know how to make a box, you say? Why DON'T you need to know how to make a box? For designers in particular it is an excellent skill to be able to physically mock up products. Yes, we live in a digital age, and you COULD do it in Photoshop, but come on...everyone knows it's Photoshopped. Plus I firmly believe that it is just nice to have something physical to look at and hold. For those of you who are not designers, a box can come in handy for all kinds of crafts, so bear with me here.

What you'll need:

1. Poster board (once you get this down you can use a thicker chip board for more durability)
2. Exacto Knife
3. Ruler
4. Pen/Pencil/Writing instrument of some kind
5. Cutting board
6. Bone Folder (Scorer, whatever you want to call it)
7. Double Stick Tape (I know, I know...I have glue pictured but that was before I remembered that glue sucks and double stick tape is the shit and I'm lazy and didn't want to retake the pic. I know some people don't like it, but I love it, let's put that shit on everything...but I digress)

This here is your handy dandy diagram of how to cut this out. I did a 5x5 box, so you will want six 5x5 boxes altogether.  Leave a 1/2 inch tab on the 5 outermost boxes.  It's really hard to explain, but basically draw the diagram above on your poster board.

Now the tricky part. Using your Exacto and ruler cut out your box, but make sure to just cut the outermost lines. The rectangles that were made for tabs will also need to be cut in the inner corner so that they can fold in. Again, reference diagram. When cut out, it should look something like this:

Then using your bone folder and ruler, score all the areas that will be folded. Scoring just makes it easier to fold and makes sure that you have a straight line.

Once scored, apply double stick tape to the tabs on the box. Stick the tabs to the inside of the side kitty corner to it. It's pretty self explanatory once you get to this're making a box, soooo make it look like a box. Try to align the edges as best as possible, the box will work best if everything is even.

Fold the top down, but do not tape that side or else you just have a cube, not a box. But that's it! Once you get this down you can move on to more advanced boxes and shapes. If you are using this for a mock up, you would then print out your design, preferably in the same shape as the the diagram and wrap that around it. Sorry I'm not great at explaining what to do, but it's not too tough if you have the correct shape to cut out. Try it! Lemme know how it worked!



Saturday, January 5, 2013

DIY Jewelry Holder

I was strolling through Home Depot and saw these awesome peg boards for tools. The brand is Everbilt. I have been needing a jewelry holder for a while now. These came with all different types of hooks and there was also a basket pack with three sizes. I hate jewelry holders that take up dresser space, so a wall option is best for me. These were originally black, but per usual, I spray painted them. I used the colors leftover from my folding chair project. The spray paint dried really fast when left outside in the freezing cold. BTW this looks fucking cute. >^^<