Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Brownie Toppers

I wanted to do another food posting but I also wanted to show some of my paper crafts, so here is a combination.

I was remiss in getting thank you cards out to family and friends for the Wonderkid's birthday presents.  It was over 2 months ago and I hadn't done a thing.  So, I thought I would make their cards, bake some brownies and blondies and add these cute toppers.  I was pushed along because I HAD to make some sweet treats for one of my dearest friend's birthday.  She always spends it at the beach and I send a small box of treats for everyone to enjoy while they are there.

The blondies are from my Great Grandfather's cookbook.  It has a catchy name, Grandpa Healy's Cookbook and the third and I believe last version was published in 1972.  I LOVE his cookbook, not just because he was related.  He was very meticulous about his recipes.  Many of them have 3 different types of flour, two types of sugar, etc.  The challenge is he used brand names and many of them are no longer in existence.  He also used a type of sugar called "brownulated".  Domino Sugar still makes it but you can purchase it in most stores.  I have it shipped to my by the case, that caused quite a bit of laughing in my household.  I had three versions of blondies this time, carmel, chocolate chip and butterscotch.

Brachs makes the most wonderful carmel chips, think about those little squares that you would buy to make carmel apples in the fall but get rid of the wrappers and make them chocolate chip sized.  They taste fantastic and bake wonderfully. The chocolate chip is made the way the book says, and finally, butterscotch.  The butterscotch is Moma's favorite.  I made them for vacation a couple of years ago and haven't been able to get the recipe the same again.  I think I've finally done it.  The smell of the butterscotch is so overpowering so I wasn't adding enough butterscotch.
Here are a few of the brownies.

And then the brownies.  I have some wonderful friends that want to make and sell brownies as a business.  I worked with them to get a recipe that they liked. These are not your childhood brownies.  They have a very strong chocolate taste, almost like a bitter chocolate.   I started with a King Arthur flour recipe as a jumping off point. I changed the type of cocoa used in the recipe and I add the Brachs carmel chips or Andes mint chips to some of them.  Be careful with the Andes chips, a little goes a long way. 

Here is the final product, in its box and everything.
My brother is a big fan of Chelsea soccer (futball) and his gift to the Wonderkid was a stuffed animal of Stamford, Chelsea's mascot.  So, I sent him lion toppers and a lion thank you card.  The cut for the toppers and the card were from Zooballoo.

The toppers are cut from a top note on the Sentimentals cartridge.  I used inexpensive cardstock from my stash (JoAnn's, Micheal's, Hobby Lobby, whatever I have handy)  The card was made using Core'dinations gemtones cardstock.

The butterflies, hearts and stars were cut out of silver DCWV metallic stack.  They all came from the Wall Decor and More Cart.  I'm really starting to love that cart.  It has some nice scroll work and cuts very nicely.

The card in this picture was made using the H2O cart.  It was used for a thank you to someone sending sand toys and such.  A similar one went to another friend that sent water sprinklers and such.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Heritage Week - Watermelon Pickles

Yes, Readers, that pot of boiling stickiness will soon become Watermelon Pickles.

When I was growing up, my brother and I would spend a couple of weeks with many of our relatives.  One of the things I remember my Grandma McNemar making is Watermelon Pickles.  I've been trying to find a good recipe for them ever since.  When I asked Grandma for her recipe she looked at me with a blank look, as though she didn't remember ever making Watermelon Pickles.  Everytime I looked at recipes they seemed wrong.  So many of them called for cinnamon and cloves.  For my Grandma, these are some pretty exotic spices -- especially with pickles.  So I would discount those and try others. They were NEVER correct.  Well, this year I tried this recipe from Southern Foods.

With a couple of modifications:


  • 2 pounds watermelon rind
  • 1/4 cup pickling salt
  • 4 cups water
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup white vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon broken stick cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons whole cloves
  • 1/2 lemon, thinly sliced
  • 5 maraschino cherries, halved,optional


Trim the dark green and pink parts from watermelon rind. Cut rind in 1-inch cubes and measure 7 cups. Soak watermelon rind overnight in a mixture of the pickling salt and water. If it takes more to cover, use the same proportion salt to water. Drain and rinse watermelon rind. Cover rind with cold water in a large saucepan; cook just until tender. Meanwhile, in a 6 to 8-quart kettle or Dutch oven, combine sugar, vinegar, cinnamon, whole cloves, and 1 cup water. Simmer mixture 10 minutes, then strain. Add drained watermelon rind, lemon slices, and maraschino cherries, if using. Simmer the mixture until watermelon rind is translucent. Fill hot half-pint jars with watermelon rind and syrup mixture, leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Adjust lids. Process in boiling water

 I left off the cherries and I used a little bit of lemon juice but I skipped the thin slices.

 The most amazing thing happened when I was making these pickles.  As soon as I smelled the sauce cooking, I knew I had the correct ingredients and probably the correct recipe.  I make a lot of pickles (Bread and Butter, Dill, you name it) but this has a special smell.  For just a moment, I was transported to my Grandma's farm house in the summer.  I've tasted them.  I think I've finally worked this out.

Here is a picture of one of the jars.
That is what good Watermelon Pickles should look like.  While searching for recipes, I found a picture someone posted of their Watermelon Pickles, they were green.  The cook had added green food coloring.  It was just wrong, I tell you, just wrong.

Here is a picture of the mess I still need to clean-up.
Except for the two boxes in the front, all of those jars are full of yumminess.  I need to label all of the jars on the floor, which is part of the reason they haven't made it onto the shelves.  Nothing goes on the shelves until it has been labeled otherwise I end up in a terrible pickle (he he he).  Last year I forgot that rule and I was constantly trying to figure out which jars had plums and which strawberries and which had peach butter and which was pear or apple. 

I think I'll make another run down to the Farmer's Market next week to see if I can get a few more peaches, some more tomatoes (we go through a lot of tomatoes every year) and maybe some pears.  I've been wanting to buy more scuppernog or muscatine grapes but I just can't afford to buy them right now.  At $25 for a flat, I can get so many other treats for the same amount of money.

Anyone want to vote on what I should "put up" next?

Monday, August 23, 2010

Heritage Week - Farmers Market

With the Wonderkid safely tucked away at school, I headed back down to the Georgia Farmer's Market to try and catch up on my canning.  This year, I haven't done nearly as much as I normally do.

This is the Georgia Farmer's Market.
I prefer to buy from these folks.  There are stalls for folks that sell from all over the country but the last three "sheds" are for Georgia farmers and seasonal sellers only.

This is a "shed" for the seasonal sellers. 

I bought tomatoes, peaches and watermelon, today.  The watermelons were huge.  Here are a bunch of them. 

It wouldn't be Georgia without the peanuts.  They sell them in these huge 50 pound bags.  Although you can also Boiled Peanuts from a woman in the Georgia shed.

I like the neighborhood/town farmers market to hang out, check out what is selling and people watch but I find that the prices aren't much better than anywhere else and often times they don't have the quantity I would like for canning.

I enjoy a website called Pick Your Own.org.  When I moved back to Georgia I was trying to find good Farmers Markets.  Ben at Pick Your Own recommended the Georgia Farmers Market.  He was right, it is a great place to get good prices on fresh fruit and veggies.  The farmers from across the state come to this market to do wholesale or retail selling.  I buy from a lot of different farmers.  Today, I bought from a guy just north of Ellijay. 

The other thing I like about Pick Your Own.org is the wonderful, very easy basic recipes for jams, jellies, butters and pickles.  These aren't fancy recipes.  They are the recipes like Grandma would make them.  The final piece of information he covers, where you can do pick your own picking, pumpkin patches, corn mazes and Christmas tree picking.  I don't know what I would do without Ben's wonderful information. 

I've already started making tomato sauce and paste.  This year we are going to make spaghetti sauce and can it also.

Want to guess what else I'm making?  This is what REALLY fits into my Heritage Week theme.

Here is a picture of the first step.

Check back on the progress of these little treats.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Heritage Week -- Quilt Block Cards

Last week I showed a summer's worth of work on the walls of the Northwestern Middle School.  This week, I'm going to shake things up a little bit.  I don't have the entire thing planned out but...

To start the week I want to share some cards I designed and made.  A few weeks ago I saw some quilt blocks done by SVG Cuts.  They have a ton of free SVG's on their blog, many of which I've used at different times.  The SVG's are then imported into SCAL making cuts for my Cricut.  I looked at the free SVG but didn't have time to make the card I had in my mind.  Well, this week, I went back and made it. 

Once I started making the quilt blocks I ended up making almost a dozen.

The upper block shows my modifications.  I didn't layer the star (as the design called for) and I added the square in the middle from one of the other versions.  These were made using Stampin' Up pattern paper and cardstock.  The base is Very Vanilla, the dark brown is Chocolate Chip and the pattern paper is one I bought in the spring but I can't find the package.  I love these colors together.  I must admit, SU makes it easy to do something like this. They create the entire pallet, all you need to do is mix it together. 

While I like the colors of this upper ones, I like the next design better.
I created this quilt block after looking at a number of different quilts.  It is very close to a block called Evening Star.  I think the next time I make it, I will use a patterned base as opposed to the white base.  This card is the perfect example of why SCAL is easier to use than CDS. You could create this in CDS.  The shapes are available in George and other carts, the same as they are available in SCAL.  However, in SCAL I was able to design this at 12 inches and resize it for a 5 inch card.  Design Studio requires you to either be very confident of the size of each element before you start or to resize each element individually.  I'm not certain I would have ever made this design (or the other dozen I'm thinking about) if I didn't have SCAL. 

Here is one more version of the Evening Star block.

I inked all of the edges with Color Box Cat's Eye blue chalk.  The paper is from a pack by Anna Griffin called the Alix Collection.  The paper is double sided and incredibly versatile for this type of project.  I initially worried that the pattern was too large for this design but I think it worked out fine. 

Thank you for joining me today.  This week I think we will do some canning.  I may show you the farmer's market in Atlanta, make some watermelon pickles and I'm not certain what else.

Soon I will show you a number of t-shirts I've made for the Wonderkid and other friends and family.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Northwestern Middle School Computer Labs - Math

Today we are going to take a look at the math themed computer lab at Northwestern Middle School.  While the language arts lab couldn't have been done without Cricut cartridges, they left me high and dry when it came to math images.  I found these images as a PNG in the public domain (Wiki Commons).  I downloaded them to my computer and then traced them in SCAL.  I broke them apart so I could have one image on each page.  After copying them to their own page I made certain I had the proportions box clicked and then enlarged them to fit on a 12 x 24 mat.  Using the style button in the drop down menu for appearances I created a rounded shadow for each of the images.  All of the base images are cut in black and then the actual symbols were cut in different colors.

The picture above shows the infinity and pi symbols.
Here is summation, the computer mouse, Grace the mouse and some of the computer terms.  I had to seperate the summation and pi because they were both done in orange with black backgrounds.  My Dad was in a fraternity (Sigma Pi) and their colors were orange and black.  All I could think about when I was doing these was Ohio Norhtern's Sigma Pi chapter.

This is a close-up of the calculator I created.  I looked everywhere for a realistic looking calculator, especially a graphing calculator.  I wanted to put an arrow with peaks in it but I never got that far.  I used a system similar to the books in the language arts lab.  I cut the outside of the calculator, the screen and the bar below the top four buttons.  Then I switched the blade with a black mini sharpie.  The sharpie had a pen/pencil grip (you can find a dozen or so at almost any office supply store) on it so it would stay firm in the Cricut Expression.  I spent a lot of time making all of the squares for the keys and the numbers and symbols.  In the end, I'm very pleased with the way this turned out.  If you would like a SCUT file of the calculator, I'm happy to share.  Just send me an email.

I love this compass.  It is cut from the Locker Talk cartridge.  I used black as the base, light gray for the metal parts of the compass, yellow for the pencil and pink for the eraser.  Isn't this just so much fun?

I used contact paper for transfer tape.  I cut contact paper (the type of you buy in the grocery store, KMart, Target, etc. to line your shelves.  I like the clear contact paper so I can see exactly what I'm doing.)  I rubbed them on tables a few times so they weren't "too" sticky.  Then I would put the sticky side of the contact paper on the unsticky side of the vinyl (it was already weeded at that point).  I found that if you made certain the corners were well stuck you could then pull the letters away from the backing of the vinyl.  I would line the vinyl with the contact paper up in the correct place on the wall and rubbed it onto the walls.  I would then carefully pull the contact paper away from the vinyl.  It takes a good bit of work to burnish the letters down on cinder blocks.  I would run my fingers along the edges of all the letters until they were firm.  I also would pull the letters back up and push them into the cracks between the blocks.  In the picture above, look at the T, O and W.  Each of these were arranged in the crease so they would be firm against the wall.  Most, but not all of the graphics were done without using transfer tape.  This room required more transfer tape than the language arts lab.  The math symbols had enough edges and the compass was especially difficult.  Anytime a graphic had lots of edges I used transfer tape to give it a bit more substance and make certain it wouldn't stick to itself when I was putting it on the walls. 

Friday, August 20, 2010

Northwestern Middle School Computer Labs - Social Studies theme

Welcome back to my week of computer labs.  This week will deal with lots of vinyl and printing on large images. If you haven't had a chance to look at the overview, it can be seen here.

The social studies themed lab had the normal computer terms (see this post for a list of them) and websites used by the students to study government and social issues.  Some of the websites included WhiteHouse.gov,  NationalGeographic.com, SmithsonianEducation.org, FactCheck.com, and because we are in Georgia, Georgia.gov.  All of these sites were cut out in a blue similar to the color of a hyper link in an email or word document.  I purchased the vinyl from Nick at Craft Vinyl.  I had trouble getting the correct blue from anyone else.  He can be found here.  I am not affiliated with him, I think he does a good job and I like working with small businesses.

The graphics in this room included these images from the 50 States cart.  I can't tell you how much I love that cart.  It comes in handy at very interesting times.  Not only does it have the outline of each state, word art for the states and capitals but it has the state flags (not especially helpful for Georgia but great for other states) and the state flower.  I have been wanting Walk in My Garden for a while but I always know I have very realistic flowers on this cart. A few months ago, someone on the Cricut MB sent around a listing of the colors for each state if you don't want any contiguous states to have the same color.  It was very helpful if you wanted to make a full map.

The students study Georgia history and world history.

The globe comes from the Going Places cart.  I cut it in 4 pieces (two for the green and two for the blue).  I had to "hang" half of the image off of the mat so I could cut it large enough.  In the end it was 24 inches across.  The continents were made using SCAL and an SVG from the internet of a world map.  I then broke them apart so I could cut them each separately.  Australia fit on a 12 x 12 mat but the rest of them required a 12 x 24 mat.


In retrospect, I could have made this room a little more colorful.  I think I would have done the continents in different colors.
This is a fairly good picture of the theme with the computer mouse, Grace the animal mouse and the word "mouse" connected together with the computer mouse's tail.

For everyone looking for something to do with the piles and piles of CD's and DVD's that you no longer use, I love the way this chalkboard was decorated. 
I wish I could take credit but this was done by the Technology Specialist (the person that runs the labs), she is also my Moma.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Northwestern Middle School Computer Labs - Research

Welcome back to day 5 of our computer lab decorations.  The lab we are discussing today was a little different from the other labs.  First, this lab is significantly bigger.  The themed labs were in rooms designed as conference rooms.  Also, the lab we are discussing today has windows.  None of the other labs have windows.  Finally, this is the only lab with bulletin boards.  These differences gave me some new opportunities but also created new challenges.
Windows -- I put vinyl above the windows.  It is tough to see given the lighting but I wanted you to see the windows.

This lab and the lab with the technology time line are the only ones where I used laminated cardstock and paper in addition to the vinyl.  I put the computer terms on the walls in vinyl and I used research websites.  The bulletin boards required the laminated cardstock as opposed to vinyl.
These bulletin boards are next to each other. 
I want to digress for just a moment.  When we started the lab decoration project we thought we would do a mixture of pre-packaged store bought posters and the vinyl.  In fact, we bought and put up store bought items in the math lab.  It just didn't work.  The items weren't tied together properly and we scrapped that plan after we started the second lab.  We learned that it was OK to have laminated cardstock with vinyl but it needed to have the same look and feel as all of the other items.  Given this change, we added a good bit of work to the project.

I used the the mouse from the other labs
and here is the laminated version of Grace.  I orginally did this as a test cut but it looked good so she ended up on the bulletin board also.

I made four files for each mouse.  The first is the base (black).  The second is the places I used the cutting blade.  On the mouse it was the eyes and the outline.  The third layer is for the inked places, the lines in her ears, the whiskers, her mouth, and the details on the feet and legs.

Here is what my mat looks like in Design Studio for the base and nose:

Here is the cut version of the mouse.  If you notice, everything on the inside is light blue because I have used hide contour.

And finally, this is what I "cut" with my mini sharpie in my Cricut E. 

I hope this makes things a little clearer for folks that don't use Design Studio or markers in their Cricut machines. 

This is done in vinyl.  I loved the way the layout of this room came together. 

This is the same dictionary image I used in the Language Arts lab.  If you want more information on this image and others from Cursive 101 go to this post. 

Here are some closer pictures of the images used on the bulletin board.    Each of these images with the text plays off of the headline: "Did you know?"

I absolutely love this factoid and the images.  The "moth" (it's actually a butterfly) comes from Mickey and Friends but I flipped it.  I made the magnifying glass in SCAL although it wouldn't be tough to make it using George and Basic Shapes.  The computer monitor is the one I used in the timeline posts.  It can be found here.
This is a closer view of two of the laptops.  This is to give you some ideas of ways the laptop screens can be used to deliver a message.

I hope this has been useful.  Please leave me a comment if you have questions or need more explanation.  If you would like any of these files, please leave a message. I'm happy to share any of them.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Northwestern MIddle School -- Technology Timeline part 2

Yesterday, we looked at all of the parts of the timeline created with the Cricut Expression and Cricut Cartridges.  Today we are going to look at the timeline using Sure Cuts A Lot 2.  Sure Cuts A Lot 2 can use many different files and trace them.

I found a black and white telegraph, traced it in SCAL, deleted all of the "extra" pieces and came up with a clean copy of this telegraph.  The base is black and then I added the gray pieces.  The writing was printed on vellum and added to the bottom of the telegraph.

I bought this cut from SVG Cuts. You can find their website here.   It was part of the Crafty Mice SVG Cuts which can be found here

I also purchased some cuts from Creative Delights.  They can be found here.  The TV,  IPod, and old computer monitor are from Family Room Fun. I like the option of purchasing a couple of items from other companies.  I would prefer to use a Cricut cart because they are easier and straight forward but I like the option of going other places.   The movie camera is from the Lights Camera Action set. Each of these sets cost $5.00 but I had a half off coupon.

While I bought a few of the cuts I needed, I also created a number of them.  Some, like I showed yesterday were created with shapes from George and Basic Shapes.  Some, were made by tracing logos and other items easy to find.

Stanford's logo
MIT's logo
MIT and Microsoft Windows
Google logo.  You can barely see the logo for Facebook in the upper left corner. 

Finally, I was looking for the White House.  I thought certainly either Cricut, Creative Delights or SVG cuts would have one, but no.  So, I started looking online.  Believe it or not, I found the White House seal fairly easily.  I then cleaned it up a little bit and this is what I came up with.  I took the details off of the White House, columns, doors, etc. so I would have a place to print "1993:  US White House come on-line; President Bill Clinton: President@WhiteHouse.gov."

I hope you have enjoyed my technology timeline.