April 15, 2013

Practically Martha Decorates Her Apartment

My head has been elsewhere the past two months.  Which means that my hands have not been busy crafting and creating things.  Which means I have less to blog about.  As the chart below scientifically proves, break-ups are bad for creativity. 
Practically Martha Site Traffic

What I have been doing is decorating my new apartment and filling my walls with new artwork.  And in this Etsy and Pinterest era we live in...cute stuff is just a keystroke away.  As I find my way back to my crafty self, I figured I'd share some of my fun finds in the meantime.

American Buffalo (The Animal Print Shop)

I'm in love with this little buffalo, my college mascot from The University of Colorado.  The Animal Print Shop has dozens of cute animal photos ranging from piglets to prairie dogs, all against a clean white background.  These would look adorable in a baby's nursery or any animal lover's home...

Girl With Bun - Elizabeth Mayville (Etsy)

Everything about this portrait is 'me'...the messy bun, the auburn hair, the striped shirt.  And yet this print is so versatile in that you're seeing the back of an anonymous person's head...it could be anyone...including me!  


You Get In Life - Marlos de Vries (Society6)

Since I'm busy livin' my best life, my apartment wouldn't have been complete without a few words of wisdom from my favorite life guru...Oprah.  

Holocene III - Harper Smith Photography (Society6)
My uber-talented friend Harper took the photo above and I love its tranquil feeling.  Naturally, I had to have it. 

TV Quotes - Paper Chat & Creative Sobriety

Being the big TV nerd that I am, the 30 Rock and Parks & Recreation posters make me feel warm and fuzzy.  Etsy is filled with these type of odes to shows with cult-followings: Arrested Development, Community, Seinfeld and more!


First Aid Kit Poster
I've developed a bit of an obsession with the band First Aid Kit - two Swedish sisters singing beautiful folk music.  I loved their tarot-card-like poster above...even though it's also a little Shining twins-like.

March 26, 2013

Crispy Panko Chicken + Brussell Sprouts


This is officially my favorite new recipe and I'm super excited to finally be sharing it!  I wish I could take credit for the original idea but was inspired by some combination of Ina Garten and Deb Pearlman to create my new masterpiece: panko-crusted chicken breasts and pancetta brussel sprouts.  

Neither item on their own is particularly wow-inducing.  Chicken.  Meh.  Brussel sprouts.  Ho hum.  But when you add just a handful of special ingredients...ah-mazing. 

I'll start with the main dish, which is basically just fancy fried chicken.  You'll need the following items:
  • Boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • Salt & pepper
  • Flour
  • Eggs
  • Dijon mustard
  • Whole milk
  • Lemon
  • Garlic
  • Panko bread crumbs
  • Olive oil
  • Special Supplies: Meat tenderizer and a microplane/zester. 

First, slice your chicken breasts in half lengthwise so that you have two thinner breasts.  Place the chicken on a cutting board between two pieces of saran wrap.  Then, my favorite part.  Using the flat part of a meat tenderizer, pound the #$%*! out of your chicken.  I kid you not, this is the cooking equivalent of kickboxing.  Let your aggression out until your poor chicken is flattened out to about 1/2" :)

Next, lay out three shallow dishes.  In the first one, fill with a thin layer of flour.  In the second, whisk together 3 egg whites, 1 tbs mustard, 1 tbs whole milk, 1 tsp minced garlic and 2 tsp lemon zest (I love lemon zest so you could put less if you want).  In the third, place a layer of panko bread crumbs.  

You're going to take your chicken and lightly roll in the flour.  Then, dip it in the egg/mustard mixture.  Lastly, coat with the panko bread crumbs.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

To cook, heat up a skillet and add a few lugs of olive oil.  Fry up your chicken for a few minutes on each side (it cooks really quickly since you've thinned it out) and you're done!

Next up, brussel sprouts!  I hated these as a kid but now, they're one of my faves.  You'll need...
  • Brussel sprouts
  • Diced pancetta
  • Syrupy balsamic vinegar
  • Olive oil
  • Salt & pepper
  • Special Supplies: Jelly roll pan

Slice your brussel sprouts in half, trimming off the stalks.  Place them on the jelly roll pan with the diced pancetta.  Trader Joe's sells this already pre-diced and I have no shame in saying that I use this time-saving shortcut.  Coat with some olive oil and sprinkle on some salt and pepper.  Bake at 375 for approximately 15 minutes.  Place in a serving bowl and drizzle on some syrupy balsamic vinegar.  

This last part is the most important of the entire meal.  Invest in some nice, expensive syrupy balsamic.  It tastes incredible and doesn't have the same level of acidity as regular balsamic.  Apparently you can make your own by slowly heating the cheaper kind but that's for another blog post...Enjoy!

March 14, 2013

Girls Love Cross Stitching


I'm a big fan of the HBO show Girls...minus Lena Dunham's constant need to get naked...and dress inappropriately for her body type...and her super unrealistic sex romp with Patrick Wilson...and... 


But in all seriousness, I do admire her and I love how wise her outlook on men is at the ripe age of 26.  It's very apropos to my life right now...

"When I was younger I liked men who gave me some guff.  Now I'm much more into someone who is interesting and open with his emotions, has a really good sense of humor and a passion for what he does, wants to hang out with my parents and doesn't want to stay out too late.  If I can get excited imagining funny things he did as a kid, there's a pretty good chance I'm in love with him."

When I saw that Girls was making custom cross stitches out of show quotes, I fell a little more in love.  Cross stitching is kinda my thing.  Even though I'm not sure I get the references below and watching Girls now is like the reverse of me watching Sex & The City when I was 20. 


February 3, 2013

7 Layer Super Bowl Bean Dip

I'm approaching 30 and I still don't understand how football works.  Countless people have tried to explain it to me, but I'm a lost cause.  So when Super Bowl Sunday rolls around every year and we head to our dear friends Celeste & Kyle's house, I tend to focus on what I love about the occasion: the food, beer, good company and my annual trip to Target during halftime. 

This year, I'm bringing down a crowd pleaser that's embarrassingly simple to make: 7 layer bean dip.  Here's a list of the layers from bottom to top, all assembled in a pie dish.  You can whip one up in 10 minutes flat and will have a delicious, flavorful dip ready to bring to your Super Bowl party!  (with tortilla chips, of course)
  1. 2 cans refried beans.  Spread evenly with a spatula.
  2. 1 16-oz container sour cream with 1/2 packet of taco seasoning    (I used the low sodium variety) mixed in. 
  3. 1/2 bag Mexican shredded cheese blend
  4. 2 diced roma tomatoes
  5. 3 stalks diced green onion
  6. 1 diced avocado
  7. 1 small can sliced black olives

February 2, 2013

Tattooed Tea Towel

I'm giddy with excitement about my latest embroidery project and wanted to share with you.  I started it a few weeks ago on my trip to North Carolina and have been chipping away, stitch-by-stitch ever since. 

I bought the tattoo pattern from Sublime Stitching, along with the plain white demi towel and used lots of brightly colored threads.  The pattern came with color recommendations but I much prefer mixing and matching my own.  Most sections are done with a simple running or stem stitch, with some of the sections filled in with a satin stitch, including the birds' beaks and blood drop.  

Stay tuned for more stitchy crafts coming soon, including a stamped & stitched piece of embroidery hoop art I'm making for my friend's little baby-to-be.



January 26, 2013

DIY Glitter iPhone Case

I'm so excited to finally be posting about this project.  A few months ago, I dropped my iPhone and cracked not only my screen but my case.  Which meant I needed a replacement...

There are a million cute cases out there but I'm a sucker for all things glitter.  I found a few sparkly options at Kate Spade and JCrew that I loved.  Being the consummate DIY-er though, I decided to save my $35 and make one myself.  To make your own, all you need is a clear iPhone case, Mod Podge, a sponge or paint brush and glitter. 

Using your paint brush, apply a nice thick coat of Mod Podge to the front of your iPhone case.
Sprinkle glitter on top of the Mod Podge.  

Tap/shake the case to get off any excess.

Allow to dry for about 30 minutes and then add another layer of Mod Podge on top to seal everything in. 
Once everything is dry, you'll have a gorgeous new iPhone case!  (and maybe a little extra glitter inside your purse for a bit)

January 11, 2013

How The Kardashians Led Me To Craft + Embroidery Basics

 
A few years ago, I found myself with a nagging feeling of boredom that I just couldn't shake.  I'm talking Level 11, I've been on YouTube for an hour looking at videos of that husky kid singing Lady Gaga into a banana kind of boredom.  Facing the very real possibility that I was about to start a Twitter account, give myself bangs or watch Keeping Up With The Kardashians I instead decided to find a new hobby... 

...cross stitching! 

I don't know if I'd ever sewn much more than a button before I started cross stitching but I quickly taught myself after reading a few online tutorials and a bit of good old fashioned trial & error.  Before long, I was designing my own patterns, untangling the gnarliest of knots and had practically memorized the DMC color/number system. (think Pantone but for craft geeks)  While it's great to feel like a pro at something, I equally love the challenge of learning a new skill and am always seeking new ways to keep my raging, undiagnosed case of ADHD at bay. 

Still wanting to do a sewing-type craft (and after nearly stabbing my eyes out with knitting needles following a few unfortunate scarf-making incidents) I resolved to take up embroidery!  Yay!  

While I'm nowhere near an expert yet, I've picked up a few great starter tips, tricks and cool products that I wanted to share with you.  I hope you found this little amalgamation of Embroidery 101 useful.  Stay tuned for photos of my latest projects!  I've been giving so many of my pieces away for gifts and keep forgetting to take photos beforehand...eek!

Best Tutorials
Embroiderer's Guild

Essential Supplies
Embroidery Hoop
I love the classic wooden hoops.  They're sturdy to use and look beautiful if you decide to mount your finished piece inside them.  You'll use your embroidery hoop to frame up the section of fabric you're working on and keep it taut.  Create For Less is my go-to source for these so grab a 6" one to start with.  It's large enough that you can work on a sizable section but not so large that it's hard to grasp/maneuver while stitching.

Embroidery Scissors 
For snipping threads, I love my Gingher Stork Embroidery Scissors that I bought on Amazon but really any small, sharp sewing scissors will work.

Needles
You can grab these at any craft or fabric store for a few dollars a set.  The smaller the number, the larger the gague of the needle.  

Embroidery Floss
DMC has the monopoly on the embroidery floss so there's really not much to say here, except that $.39 each really adds up and that I have hundreds sitting in my craft closet.  Eeek.  Hint: When I first started cross-stitching, I threaded the entire 9-strand piece of floss.  Wrong.  You're supposed to separate the threads into 2-3 strand segments.  Don't learn the hard way like I did.

Fabric
You can embroidery anything from kitchen towels to napkins to baby onesies...it's really up to you!  For basic kitchen linens, you can head over to a craft store for an OK selection or hit up Sublime Stitching.  They're a little pricey but I just ordered two of their demi towels and they are absolutely gorgeous and extremely well-made compared to what I've found elsewhere.

Iron Transfer Patterns
I could do a whole post on how to manually transfer a pattern but I personally think it's more fun (and much simpler) to use one of the beautiful, pre-designed iron-on patterns.  Sublime Stitching hands down has the best selection I've found and their look is really modern and unique.  As their site says, "No geese in bonnets." LOL  

There's also a gold mine of great patterns on Etsy, including those from the shops below:


...one of which I'm especially dying to do!  Can you stand how cute this little guy is?!?




January 8, 2013

My So Delish Crock Pot Turkey Chili

Why, hello there!  I hope everyone's holidays were as wintery and wonderful as mine were.  Ryan and I traveled to Traverse City and Chicago and spent 10 glorious, relaxing days visiting friends and family.

In addition to lounging about and gorging ourselves on coffee and food...we did a Jingle Bell 5k, saw It's A Wonderful Life at their historic downtown State Theater and I even got a sewing lesson from his Mom on her Bernina...the Bentley of sewing machines.  Sadly, I took shamefully few photos, including snapshots of some great eats that I wanted to share here!  One of the best meals we had on our Midwest getaway was a creamy sausage & fennel pasta dish cooked by Jennifer Blakeslee, Ryan's sorta-step-sister and owner of one of Mario Batali's favorite restaurants, The Cook's House.  

I'm hoping to share that on here sometime but you'll have to settle for the oh-so-delish turkey chili recipe below - born from my love of hearty dishes and disdain for canned meat.  After slow cooking a batch the other night, I curled up on my couch with a glass of red wine and savored a flavorful bowl...perhaps 2.  (Ryan had at least 3 so I don't feel too guilty)  To make your own, just follow my easy instructions below and enjoy!



Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 lbs ground turkey 
  • 3-4 slices bacon
  • 1 14-oz can tomato sauce
  • 2 14-oz cans diced tomatoes
  • 1 14-oz can each of pinto, kidney and chili beans
  • 1 small can corn
  • 1 small jar sliced jalapenos
  • 1 diced green pepper
  • 2 diced small/medium white onions
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, diced
  • 2 tbs. chili powder
  • 1 tbs. cayenne pepper (more if you want spicier)
  • 1 tsp. paprika
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • Salt & pepper for taste
Directions
  • Brown the ground turkey and diced onion in a pan for several minutes.  Once fully cooked, drain off any liquid and set aside. 
  • Cook the bacon in a separate pan (or use the pre-cooked, microwaveable bacon like I do...shhhh).  Once cooled, dice or crumble in to small pieces. 
  • Place everything in your crock pot...
  • Put the lid on...
  • And cook on Low for 7-8 hours...
  • Top with cheese, sour cream, avocado or tortilla strips. Ta-da!