DIY: Paper Pinwheel Art


One reason I love paper crafts is that they're easy on the wallet. I made this paper pinwheel art a couple Christmases ago when I was trying to save money on holiday decorations.  Come December 26th, I had a hard time taking it down, so it's been there ever since. (In my house, it's quite a feat for any object to stick around a whole year in the same spot.)

Last month a reader emailed to ask where she could get one. So here's a little "craft and tell". If you need a craft for a girls' night, this would be great project. It's cheap, perfect to do while chatting, and not intimidating to the anti-crafter. (You know we all have those friends.) Only a few supplies are needed: paper, a hot glue gun, and scissors. A paper cutter and some punches would be nice if you have them.
 What to do with them you ask? 
Glue them to a hurricane.
Attach them to a $2 frame from Wal Mart and hang on your wall.
Hot glue to ribbon and make a streamer.
(Please excuse my dirty windows. Funny how I didn't notice them until now-ha!)
Check out these awesome pics of pinwheels used elsewhere...

What else have you seen pinwheels used for?

Vanilla Bean Pots de Creme


I have to admit, I've never actually cooked with real vanilla beans before. They're one of those gourmet Martha-like items. At market this weekend I tried to hide my "I'm actually taking these puppies home with me!" excitement with an "Oh, yes. I buy these all the time" vibe.

Don't let the fancy French name fool you; this is not a complicated dessert. Vanilla bean pots de creme is a delightful custard made up of only four ingredients. I found the recipe via the New York Times, but adjusted some of the cooking instructions a bit. Here's what you'll need to pick up if you want to give it a try:
Cooking Instructions:
1. Heat your oven to 320 degrees. Then split each vanilla bean down the center lengthwise. 
2.  Add cream to a saucepan and scrape seeds into the pan.
3. Add bean pods to the pan as well. Heat until steam rises from the cream and them remove from heat. Cover and steep for 10 minutes. Remove pods from the pan.
4. Add 1/2 cup of sugar to 6 egg yolks. Beat until light. (I'd say this was around 3 minutes for me.)
5. Place 4 ramekins in a baking dish. Add water until the ramekins are half way covered.
6. Add one fourth of the cream mixture to eggs and sugar. Stir until combined.
7. Add egg mixture to the cream mixture and combine.
8. Pour into ramekins and cover with foil.
9. Bake 30-40  minutes until the center is just slightly jiggly. The baking time could vary depending on your oven. I'd say check it after 30 minutes. If the majority of custard still jiggles, keep it in 5 more minutes. (Let's see how many times I can use any form of the word jiggle in this post...jiggle. jiggly. jigglified. Too much?)
10. Chill for 2 hours and then serve. These store fine overnight as well, so you could easily make them a day ahead. You'll need to be very disciplined for them to make it that long without being consumed.
If you like creme brulee and vanilla bean ice cream, then you'll love these little "pots of cream".  I added some organic mint and strawberries. You could pair them with almost anything but don't really need to. They put on quite the show without a supporting cast. Personally I think adding a little vegetation to my cream and sugar takes an edge off the guilt...

Beauty 411: Eyes That Pop


Every so often I feel like I get stuck in a rut with my make up routine. Usually that's when I call my friend Stacie for advice. Her makeup is always stunning, and she practically has a PhD in beauty products. (Seriously, the people at Sephora know her by name.) So I asked her to give me a little tutorial on how to add some drama to my eyes. Check out the before and after pics...
Tools she used...

-brush / (similar to the one shown) Sephora classic flat liner/eyeliner brush
-mascara / Maybelline Great Lash in blackest black (This is a MUST for me daily!)
-under eye brightening powder / Laura Mercier secret brightening powder

Stacie's cosmetic bag is like the VIP club of make up. I can always count on her to let me know what I should be using (even though I buy mostly cheap stuff.) When I grow up, I want to have make up half as cool as hers... 
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DIY: Make A Fabric Banner


Remember my 30th birthday brunch?  I got an email asking about the banner used for decoration, and I thought it would be a good idea to show what a simple project this was. I'm not saying it was quick. Cheap and easy? Oh yes. (Poor girl, I'm gonna' get her bad a reputation on Pinterest if I keep talking like that.)
I purchased this piping/chord (don't really know what it is?) at the fabric store for under $2 a yard. Luckily, the fabric was on sale for $3.99 a yard. I chose fabrics that looked the same on both sides. This is key for this project. I got 1/2 yard of each color.

1. To begin, cut the strips about one and a half inches wide. This was the most time consuming part. (I suggest watching an episode of Mad Men or two episodes of Modern Family to help pass the time.) The width of each strip will vary some. Several of mine were crooked, but this doesn't really  matter in the long run. Don't get hung up on making it perfect. You'll drive yourself crazy, and this cheap project will end up costing you your sanity. 

2. After you've cut all the strips, I laid them in piles by color. I wish I had taken a picture of all the little piles; they looked like pastel "hay" stacks across my living room. 

3. Next, tie a  knot connecting the fabric strip to the chord starting in the center of the chord.  Continue adding and knotting fabric strips to each side. You could go for a pattern, but I kind of picked from each stack randomly. I wanted it to feel a bit whimsical.

I had to show you guys the following pics...I asked Stu to pose while I took test shots for the banner pic. Consider this the gag reel.
Can you tell how happy he is to be doing this? After about five minutes he asked, "How  much does a tripod cost?"

Empandas With Avacado Cream Sauce


What's not to love about meat filled pastry pockets? And we all know that avocados make everything better.  These little guys didn't last too long at our house. Maybe 20 minutes...Sadly, they took a lot longer to prep. A slow cooker was my BFF for this recipe.  Add a rump roast, veggies, and spices to the crock pot in the morning.  The meat will be ready to shred by the afternoon. The nice thing about this recipe is that there's usually quite a bit of meat left to use for another meal. Empanadas are perfect to take to a party and also make for a great Sunday night dinner at home.  Here's what you'll need to pick up at the store if you want to try them out...
Honestly, these are empanada impostors. Authentic empanadas typically come stuffed with raisins, boiled egg, and sometimes green olives.  Mine are really more like carne asada taco pockets.

I hope I don't offend anyone by using the term loosely, but "empanadas" is such a fun word to say. It just rolls off the tongue easier than "Mexican spiced meat pockets".
1. Add the following to your crock pot and cook on low for 6-8 hours:
    -beef rump roast
    -1 diced yellow onion
    -1 diced jalapeno
    -1 small can of diced green chile peppers
    -1 tbl. cumin, 2 tsp. paprika, 1 tsp. ground chipotle
    -juice of one lime
    -1 cup "super" stock (Boil one cup of water and add two beef bouillon cubes. Stir until dissolved)
2. After cooking, the meat should be tender and falling apart. (If not, stir, cover and cook for one more hour.) Remove from the crock pot and shred with two forks.
3. Add 2/3 cup of the juice from the crock pot to shredded meat. At this point, you can store the meat in the fridge and assemble empanadas the next day if you choose.
4. Roll pie crusts together on floured surface. Cut circles anywhere from 4-6 inches in diameter. 
5. Add about 1 tbl. of meat and a sprig of cilantro to one side of the crust.
6. Dip your finger in water and trace the perimeter of the crust. (This helps the dough stick together.)
6. Carefully pull and fold the crust over the meat, pressing the edges together with your fingers.
7. Crimp with a fork to make sure edges are completely sealed.
8. Bake at 350 for 25 minutes. I used an egg wash (1 beaten egg + water) to add a golden finish to the crust, but this is just optional.
9. Now for the sauce...
1. Combine the ingredients shown above until smooth, and creamy, and delicious looking. Pretty technical, huh? 

Added bonus to this post, I have a dramatic before and after for you...

Our poor scruffy girl...Turns out we hadn't taken Brooke Shields in for grooming since September. Yikes! The ladies at the shop looked at me like I was a little crazy when I told them we were letting her go hippie for the winter. Isn't she the most dignified little canine you've ever seen? Ok,  maybe I'm a tad biased.

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