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Windows Explorer

March 20th, 2014 10:03 pm

I have Windows 7, and I’m guessing I got an update recently that reset some settings or something. Anyway, my Windows Explorer was coming up almost completely blank, with only Libraries in the left hand navigation pane. I store everything on C or D, so I really wanted those to show up, at least. I know I can just type it in the navigation bar at the top, but I’m too lazy to type sometimes and I’d rather just click through. It’s a hard problem to search, but I did finally come up with an answer:

http://www.askvg.com/windows-explorer-always-opens-in-libraries-view-in-windows-7-how-to-change-target-folder/

I’ve got it targeted at “”, and it works great!

Banana Chocolate Chip Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

March 16th, 2014 9:15 pm

As co-host for a baby shower this past weekend, one of my duties was to bring cupcakes.  I decided to make them, since they can be so expensive.  I found a few recipes and ran them past the mom-to-be, and she picked banana chocolate chip with cream cheese frosting.  The first recipe I tried was this one, except with plain cream cheese instead of strawberry. I was glad I did a trial run. The cupcakes were dense, like banana bread, and stained the cupcake liners. I researched cupcake liners and found that some places sell foil lined “fade proof” or “grease proof” liners. I picked some up at JoAnn. I also know, from making other recipes, that cake flour might be beneficial for a lighter texture, so I searched for a recipe with cake flour. I finally settled on this recipe for banana chocolate chip cupcakes, but without the peanut butter frosting. I doubled it, because we were expecting at least 26 guests, and I’d rather have too many than not enough.

I have had GREAT luck with all of the recipes from Simply Recipes, so I used her recipe for cream cheese frosting. This recipe was twice as big as the recipe from the first link with the strawberry cream cheese, which had been enough for 18 cupcakes, so I figured that a single batch of the Simply Recipes Cream Cheese Frosting would be enough for 36 cupcakes. It was plenty.

I found some woodland animal sugar decorations on EBay that I thought were just perfect!

All in all, these were good. They’re not my favorite, but the mom-to-be seemed to love them and my coworkers devoured the leftovers within an hour.

Decorating Baby Clothes with Peel-and-Stick Appliques, Dye Sticks, and Pens

March 16th, 2014 8:53 pm

I just co-hosted a baby shower for a friend and I chose to be in charge of a “onesie” decorating activity. I thought my notes and my shopping list might be useful to others.

I got the basic idea from several posts like this one about using Aleene’s Fabric Fusion Peel & Stick Sheets to make fabric appliques. Based on this review of fabric markers, I decided to purchase Pentel Fabric Gel Roller Pens in black for fine lines (2 packs of 2) and Pentel Arts Fabric Fun Pastel Dye Sticks (15 color set). The dye sticks are just like crayons, but a little softer, and can be blended, but they do smear easily. The nice part is they clean off of stencils with just a little rubbing with dry paper towels. I purchased some stencils with words like “giggle” and “play”, basic alphabets, sun/clouds/moon, and leaves.

Aleene’s Fabric Fusion Peel & Stick Sheets are 4.25×5 inches, so I figured that quilter’s charm packs (typically about 40 assorted pieces of 5×5 inch fabric squares per charm pack) would be almost perfect. I wanted a variety of prints. This baby’s nursery theme is woodland animals, so I tried to find some fabrics that went along with “nature” and had “boyish” colors, whatever that means. I’m a quilter, so having extra charm squares leftover was not a big deal to me, so I purchased two Moda charm packs.  I washed the fabric squares in a lingerie bag, ironed them, and picked out the ones I thought would work best.  I applied the adhesive to the back side.  I found clip art online of a fox, an owl, a squirrel, a rabbit, a bird, an acorn, a crescent moon, circles, stars, and assorted mushroom caps and stems, and added some freehand clouds.  I traced these onto template plastic and traced the templates onto the adhesive-backed fabric squares.

I purchased pieces of inexpensive white, yellow, and light blue bodysuits, shirts, and bibs in sizes 3 mo. through 18 mo. Light colors were recommended for the dye sticks, and this shower was for a baby boy. I did test runs on a blue shirt and a green bib to see how the dye sticks would work out. I decided that ironing freezer paper on the inside of the clothes and the back of the bibs might be helpful for stabilizing the fabric to make writing easy and to keep the pens and dye sticks from bleeding through. I ironed and washed my test shirt and bib, and the appliques did well, only unsticking on thin parts like an acorn cap stem and a lightning bolt, and one cloud wrinkled. The dye sticks faded, but not too badly. The pen looked almost as good as it did before washing.

Here’s the shopping/source list.  Our estimate was that a maximum of 28 people would show up for the shower, and in fact the total count ended up being about 16.  I purchased enough to make about 30 pieces of clothing, and it was just the right amount for our 16 people with only a few left over.

  • About 30 pieces of light colored cotton clothing in various sizes

various sizes and colors of t-shirts from the Dharma Trading Company
various colors of bibs from the Dharma Trading Company
various colors and sizes of bodysuit from the Dharma Trading Company

  • 6 packs of Aleene’s Fabric Fusion Peel & Stick Sheets
  • One charm pack of fabric (I chose to purchase two for variety, but one would have been more than enough). I chose Moda – Wren & Friends and Kate Spain for Moda – Sunnyside.
  • Pentel Arts Fabric Fun Pastel Dye Sticks, 15 Color Set
  • Two packs (total of 4 pens) of Fabric Gel Roller Pens 2/Pkg
  • stencils to use with the pens and dye sticks (alphabets, sayings, etc.)
  • search online for clip art or buy stencils for making the appliques
  • a piece of template plastic & pencils or pens for tracing templates – available in most sewing and craft stores (I traced the stencils before the party)
  • scissors for cutting out appliques (I cut out the appliques before the party)
  • freezer paper (I cut pieces and ironed onto the back sides of clothing before the party)
  • cardboard rectangles and pins
  • an iron for ironing the fabric squares, adhering the freezer paper, and setting the pastel dye sticks
  • clothesline and clothes pins for display at the party (we draped our clothesline over a curtain rod)
  • paper towels to clean the stencils and to put between the pieces of clothing when you pack up to prevent the dye sticks from transferring from the front to the back of the clothes
  • scent free, dye free laundry detergent for washing the finished products

Check out some of the finished products!  With the exception of the blue t-shirt with a rain cloud and thunderbolt and the green bib with the acorn, these have not yet been ironed or washed.

 

UPDATE: despite my test run, these did NOT wash well.  The peel-and-stick appliques came off, some entirely, some only partially.  It was a huge disappointment.  I have since decided to do raw edge applique with just plain fabric cut outs using plain running stitch a mm or so in from the edge or blanket stitch at the edge. I did use some of my leftover peel-and-stick shapes and tried to sew through them, but I don’t recommend that – sewing through is painful, although they wash up great!  Also, a friend lent me Stained by Sharpie fabric markers, and they work wonderfully, although the tips are soft so it can be difficult to do fine lines on knits. For that the Fabric Gel Roller Pens are better. The Sharpie Stained markers wash well – the colors stay dark.

Winter Minestrone

May 9th, 2013 8:31 pm

I have made this Winter Minestrone recipe twice now, and both times it has been spectacular. I think I particularly like that the soup has a lot of spinach in it. It’s like soup and salad in one bowl. I don’t have a lot of experience with butternut squash, but in this soup it isn’t a strong flavor, just a nice addition. I use regular bacon instead of pancetta.

Chopping the vegetables is the most time consuming part of this recipe. It cooks surprisingly fast with very little fuss. The only ingredient that gave me a little trouble was 2 cups of cooked pasta. We purchased “large rings”, and it turns out that 1 cup of dry is about 2 cups cooked. The first time I made this soup, I thought 2 cups of cooked pasta couldn’t possibly be enough, and I put in 2 cups dry (4 cups cooked). It was more like pasta with watery sauce, but it still tasted great.

Egg-bot plotting on larger objects

March 30th, 2013 4:44 pm

I purchased some painted foam eggs (“carveable”) that are about 6 inches long and 4 inches in diameter.  We discovered that it is VERY useful to slow down the motors for plotting on larger objects, or the pen will bounce all over the place.  We also discovered that some of our pen arm components were loose.  Brian swapped out the faulty piece that holds the servo motor for the replacement that he requested for free along with the wider pen arm and diamond engraving tip that we purchased.  These eggs are unfortunately pretty wonky in shape, so I’m having some pen contact issues, but otherwise things seem to be going more smoothly now that I’ve slowed it waaaayyy down (50 steps/sec).  I think it was originally on 300 steps/sec, which works ok for chicken eggs.  We also adjusted the current to the stepper motors following the wiki, but I think we probably ended with it approximately where it started.

I have some two piece plastic eggs and some ceramic eggs that are closer to chicken size to try next.

Sodastream Review

January 29th, 2013 8:42 pm

This year we bought ourselves a Sodastream Dynamo Deluxe from Costco for Christmas. We had been eyeing them for a while, and while we didn’t get the black Friday low low price, we still thought we got a good deal. We didn’t read or fully understand the instructions, but after watching a video online, we figured out that the machine has to “fart” 3+ times before the water is carbonated enough. The first time we threaded a bottle on the machine it was too loose or cross threaded or something and we sprayed water all over the kitchen! The cat really doesn’t like the noises that the sodastream makes :)

While I’m pleased with the carbonation and the ability to make my own soda, I have been disappointed by a few details. We have not personally seen a replacement 130 carbonator locally. We might be able to order one, but the only local choice seems to be 60L, which costs almost as much as 130L. Also, the flavors have been pretty bad.  We got sample flavor pack with our purchase. Of the 1 flavors, we have made 10, and I have personally tasted 8: regular orange, regular lemon lime, regular root beer, regular “Dr Pete”, diet root beer, diet cola, diet lemon lime, and diet “Dr Pete”.  Almost all (all?) oftheir flavors contain sucralose (Splenda) and acesulfame potassium (Ace-K), even the non-diet flavors! Sometimes I’m ok with this artificial sweetener taste, but sometimes I’m not. Regular orange, lemon lime, and Dr Pete were ok, but the others tasted pretty bad. I’m not a fan of Diet Coke or Diet Pepsi either. In addition to the sampler pack, we have also tried the natural root beer, natural ginger ale, and regular (unnatural) cherry cola. The natural flavors are made with sugar and whatever glucose syrup is. They come in bigger bottles, and each bottle only makes 6L compared to about 12L from the smaller (unnatural) flavors, they’re much more expensive (~3x), and there are fewer natural flavors. No doubt the reason the larger bottles make fewer liters of soda is because the artificial sweeteners are sweeter than sugar by volume. The cherry cola had an oddly bitter lettuce taste behind the sweetness, yuck.

So, I’m dissatisfied with the syrups. I’ll have to investigate making my own. Grenadine and Torani are other options, but not necessarily cheaper. I think making simple syrup and flavoring it with extracts, fruit concentrates, etc might be a better option.

 

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins

October 8th, 2012 10:01 pm

I made these pumpkin cream cheese muffins yesterday. They are fabulous. I didn’t make the topping, because I didn’t feel it was needed. I don’t think they’re missing anything without it.  Calling these muffins feels disingenuous, though.  Let’s be honest, they’re cupcakes.  They may have pumpkin in them, but that doesn’t make them particularly healthy.

The cream cheese filling is softer than the black bottom cupcakes I have made before that have egg in the cream cheese mixture. I rolled the cream cheese and sugar filling into a tube in saran wrap and popped it in the freezer while I made guacamole and mixed up the pumpkin muffin base.  Still, the filling wasn’t frozen when I went back to it after an hour in the freezer.  I decided to use it anyway, and ended up scraping cream cheese off the saran wrap.  Next time, I’d skip that whole deal…. why  not just scoop it into the muffin batter from the bowl and skip the whole frozen log part?

Also, I have no idea what “pumpkin pie spice” amounts to, but I substituted 1/2 tsp of extra cinnamon, 1/4 tsp ground ginger, and 1/4 tsp allspice.  My nutmeg grater doesn’t always give the finest shavings, but I sifted the dry stuff and most of the bigger shavings didn’t make it through.  The overall flavor is very much like pumpkin pie (I think it’s mostly the cinnamon and cloves), but still pretty mild.  With the cheese filling, it’s kind of like pumpkin cheesecake.

Medusa Pepper Plant

September 16th, 2012 8:10 pm

I’ve always admired the plants with multicolored mini peppers that I see at the Dane County Farmer’s Market, so this year I bought one. The vendor had two kinds: sweet and hot. I purchased sweet, but I wasn’t convinced that the peppers would be completely mild. I thought they would be LESS spicy than the “hot” kind. I got the courage to try eating one recently, and I found it completely mild – no heat whatsoever – like a mini bell pepper. I suppose I could cook with these little sweet peppers, but I bought the plant mainly to look interesting. Because it seems completely devoid of capsaicin, I think it is a Medusa Pepper.

It looks a lot like this (photo source here)

The nights are getting cooler here, and I plan to bring the plant inside soon. I’m not sure if this pepper is pet-safe.  Most pepper plants are NOT considered safe around cats and dogs (or children), but I think capsaicin is the main concern, and this plant seems to have none. Some internet search results suggest it is child-safe, but I will still keep it out of reach of my cat.

Happy New Year!

January 5th, 2012 11:21 pm

My creativity has been really on and off these last few months.  I have managed to accomplish a few things, though:

Three French Hens from Jim Shore’s 12 Days of Christmas

I’ve been working on these for a few years – it seems unlikely that I will finish three sets of 12 like I originally planned (oh, ambition!), but I’m still plugging away on set #1. Next up: Four Calling Birds.

felted knit slippers (for me)

Finishing these slippers was a 2012 resolution (yes, I make it easy on myself). I had done 1.5 before running out of yarn. They’re really easy, but running out of yarn sort of stalled me for a few months. Silly, I know.

Cathedral Window pillow cover

The Cathedral Window pillow cover was done by machine piecing the background and sewing all of the windows together with loose flaps dangling before inserting the colored “panes” and hand turning the windows.  The second shot shows my sloppy attempt at an invisible zipper using a regular zipper foot – oh well.  I still love it.

The fabrics on the front are mostly Michelle Hill’s Adelaide Collection and Jason Yenter’s Camelot Collection along with a few bits and pieces of random stuff.  I really loved both fabric collections and bought a fat quarter bundle of both, then realized that quite a few of the fabrics would go together well enough for this project and that the colors would look pretty good with my IKEA embroidered pillows.  I still have a lot of fabric left, of course, since the windows only used a tiny bit of each fabric.  the border was nearly an entire fat quarter, and I was so glad I had enough to do it.  The back fabric is from an IKEA ironing board cover that I bought without considering my ironing board’s dimensions.  My ironing board is significantly longer, but I liked the print well enough to use it for a pillow back.  Overall, I’m pleased.  The cathedral windows were a lot of work, but I did them during the summer when we went to a lot of outdoor concerts where I could sit and work on putting the colored bits in the windows and hand sewing the window frames without distraction.

I want to work on some tile quilt blocks for pillow covers with the remaining fabric.

Bracelet

August 11th, 2011 10:07 pm

I bought a very pretty clasp at the bead shown in town this spring, and I’ve been puzzling over what to do with it. I did a Google image search for bracelets with three strand clasps and somehow stumbled on chain maille. I decided to try Japanese 12 in 2 chain maille for this bracelet, and I like the way it turned out:

I found the bracelet surprisingly hard to photograph – or maybe I’m just tired. I think it looks better in person.  There are amazing free resources for doing maille online, and I was able to get away with some craft store “bright silver” rings.  If I decide to do anything more complicated, I will have to order some rings in appropriate sizes.  This isn’t too bad, but it’s maybe a little loose.  I did 12 in 1 (one layer of big rings) first, and 12 in 2 definitely gave it more structure.  I don’t recommend going through and adding another layer of big rings afterward like I did.  It definitely would be easier to start out doing 12 in 2.

It’s definitely not perfect, but I still like it, and I think I have the patience to do more maille in the future if inspiration strikes.