Hard Water Stains Begone!

Well after 6 years of living in Austin, my glasses are really starting to show the stains from our hard water.

So it’s time I introduced them to my friend vinegar: 

Oh yeah, Pickle Perfect.

So let’s go for a quick 30 minute soak in a bath of vinegar.  Now you just get to go about your business while that works away.

Then come back and give them a little bit of a scrub – you want to make sure those stains know that you are the boss.

And voilà!  Brilliant, sparkling clean glasses again 🙂 See the before and after below.–Martta

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Emergency Evacuation Checklist

Update: The terrible fires and evacuations this week in Colorado had my friend remind me how handy this evacuation checklist can be. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!  Spend some time thinking about what you would take if you had to evacuate. It’s much easier to make decisions when you’re calm than panicked.

September 2011:

We’ve been suffering through the hottest Summer on record in Texas and to make life more miserable, we’ve been fighting a record breaking drought as well.  Tropical storm Lee kicked up high winds this weekend and the tinder box that is Central Texas has gone up in flames.  There are multiple fires that were ignited on Sunday afternoon.  The winds, combined with the abundant fuel, have created fast moving fires that are rapidly forcing people from their homes.  My friend was given 5 minutes to evacuate his home.  What would you do in five minutes?  What would you take?

As I pondered that question, I realized if I only had 5 minutes to think about what to take, I would forget a lot of stuff!  It took me about a half hour to come up with the list of things I’d absolutely take with me and even then, when I rattled it off to my friend, she pointed out that I forgot my medications.  Doh!

As I thought about it, I realized I need to write this down.  And tape it to my fridge.  So if I ever get a knock on the door, I can just grab my checklist and run through the house and get the hell out.  Maybe you want to consider making your own checklist too so I made a template which you can find here: Emergency Evacuation Checklist.

I included phone numbers on my checklist because let’s be honest, if I’m ever parted from my cell phone, you can just assume I don’t know your phone number.  Does anyone know phone numbers any more?

So what’s on my checklist you ask?  Here’s what I came up with:

  • My pets (children) on their leashes:  I suppose I could just grab them and run, but that wouldn’t be very practical later when I needed to walk them around.
  • My computer external hard drive:  My whole computer is backed up to that drive.  So if I don’t have time to take the computer, I can just grab the external drive and power supply and run – with all my pictures and important documents.
  • ID and documents: Speaking of documents, I’m grabbing my passport and social security card as well as my purse with driver’s license and insurance information.
  • Medications: Yes, I could get these again, but let’s make life easier and take them with me….and any medications my dogs are taking too.
  • Cell phone: Did I mention I don’t know your phone number if I don’t have that thing?  And I’ll need the charger too.
  • Clothing: I would probably just grab the dirty clothes hamper and run out the door.  Why the dirty hamper you ask?  1. I can use it throw things into like that hard drive I’m lugging around.  2. That dirty hamper probably has at least one of all the clothes in it that I’d need for a few days.  3. It’s way easier to get to than my suit case.  4. I can throw some clean clothes in on top of the other stuff.
  • Toiletries: I could get these at the store, but I have to walk past my pre-packed toiletries travel kit when I’m getting the hamper so it just makes sense to throw them in there.
  • Keys: I need to be able to pull out in my get-away car.  A spare set of key to the house and the car wouldn’t hurt either….you know, in case my first set falls out of the hamper.
  • Sentimental items: There are a few pieces of jewelry and photos I’d take with me.
  • My car: As I said before, I’m getting the hell out.
This is my list, but you might also want to consider a few others:
  • Food and water for you and your pets – especially if you’re on a special diet
  • Bedding or sleeping bags
  • Flashlights and batteries
  • Radio
  • Money
  • Cameras and batteries
  • First aid kit
  • Glasses
  • Things to keep you or the kids busy – books, toys, etc.
So what’s on your checklist?
–Martta

Linking up here: HookingupwithHoH

Mini Frilly Apron for Little Girls

I am the Oprah of frilly aprons (“And you get a frilly apron!  And you get a frilly apron!”).  The sewing table has been consumed with making frilly aprons for Heather and Marilyn for Mother’s day and this little cutie for Caroline – a mini frilly apron: 

I based my pattern for the mini frilly apron largely on the adult sized version which I wrote up earlier.  I did a bit of shopping and found that most children’s aprons are 23″ in height.  So I got to work with my trusty calculator and began figuring out how to shrink down my pattern to this new dimension.  I realized quickly that children’s noggins are a lot larger proportionally than the adult version so rather than a single strap that loops over the head, I created strap ties in the kid’s version.  After a bit of trial and error and working with another apron that fits Caroline well, I had my plan.

Now to pick up the fabric!  In all honesty, I didn’t actually have to pick up much because I had leftovers from Heather’s apron (which of course I made to match the mini version!).  But if you are picking up fabrics for yourself, here’s what I’d call for:

  • Fabric 1 and 2: 1/2 yard each
  • Fabric 3, 4, and 5: 1/3 yard each

I’ve used 1/4″ seams for this project unless otherwise noted.  But you should have plenty of fabric if you would prefer 1/2″ or 5/8″seams.  Just adjust your cuts accordingly.

From Fabric 1 Cut:

  • Cut two trapezoid bibs.  Top length 7.5″ and bottom length 11″, 10.25″ tall.
  • Cut two straps 18″ by 4″
  • Cut one frill 34.5″ by 5.25″

From Fabric 2 Cut:

  • Cut one apron skirt 19.5″ by 7.5″
  • Cut one waist 19″ by 4.75″
  • Cut one frill 34.5″ by 5.25″
  • Cut two ties 22″ by 4.5″

From Fabric 3 and 4 Cut:

  • Cut one frill 34.5″ by 5.25″

From Fabric 5 Cut:

  • Cut one frill 34.5″ by 7″

So now you should have a pile of goodies that looks somewhat similar to this: Just pretend I haven’t already sewn one of the straps in the upper left hand corner, I was testing out final cut dimensions.

OK, now on to the longest part of this project: Frill prep.  If you have a serger, you can save a bit of time by serging the top and bottom of all the frills.  If you’re like me, then you’ll just need your good ole friend zig zag on the top of each frill.  For the bottoms, I used a rolled hem.  To create, press the bottom of the frill up 1/2″ Open the press you just made.  Fold your raw edge to the press line and press again.Finally, fold fabric to original press line and press once more.  See, I told you this is the part of the project that takes the longest!  Edge stitch your rolled hem in place.

Repeat the rolled hem on the bottom and sides of each of the frills as well as the sides of the apron skirt.

Sew a gathering stitch across the top of the frill.  OK, now all your frills should look like this:

You’ve got rolled hems on the bottom and sides, zig zag or serge across the top and a gathering stitch on the top.

Now it’s time to start making things happen!  Gather all your ruffles.  Pin ruffle number four (in my case, the brown fabric) right sides together to the bottom of the apron skirt.Directly on top of that, pin ruffle number five (in my case the blue fabric) with the right side facing the wrong side of ruffle four.Sew in place and press seam up toward the top of the skirt.

Next mark the ruffle placement on your skirt.  Mark a line 2.5 inches down from the top of the apron skirt and mark a second line 5 inches from the top of the skirt.  You can barely make out the light purple marking lines on this dark fabric I’ve chosen!Pin ruffle number three right sides together on the 5″ marking line.  (In all honesty, you could simply place the ruffle wrong side to right side, but I like the finished look of a folded seam even if it’s hidden by the ruffle above it!).  Sew and press down.Repeat for ruffle two.  For ruffle one, simply match the raw edge by placing the wrong side of the fabric to the right side of the skirt.  You should now have an adorable mini skirt. Now is the time I like to hold it up and dance around the house Can-Can style, but this step is optional.

Once you’ve stopped dancing, take your waist band and fold one edge up 1/4″ and press.  Match the centers of the unpressed edge of the waistband and skirt and pin right sides together.  You should have a 1/4″extra length (Your seam allowance) on each side of your waistband – see how it sticks out past the side of the skirt?  That’s good, you’ll need that later.Sew and press seam down toward the skirt.  Be sure you don’t have any zig zag or gathering stitches peaking out on the front of the skirt at the waistband.

Next prepare your waist ties.  Fold the tie in half on the long side, press and stitch one short side and length of long side.  Turn the tie, press again and top stitch.

Match raw edges of the tie to raw edges of the waistband.  Fold waistband over the tie so it is sandwiched into place.Sew, open waistband and press.

Now we’re ready to move on to the strap ties.  Create a rolled hem as before on one short edge.  I hate turning tiny things and since the finished width of this tie is only one inch, I decided there was no way I was going to turn that.  So I folded the tie in half and pressed.  Then folded raw edges into the center press mark and pressed again.

Finally I folded along original press lines and pressed a third time.  Top stitch around the strap and repeat the whole process on the second strap.

Pin straps to top of one apron bib, raw edges together, 1/4″ from the sides of the apron bib.  Place apron bibs right sides together with straps sandwiched between.  Sew sides and top of apron.  Clip corners, turn press and top stitch the bib.

We’re almost done! Place skirt front side down.  Place bib front side down.  Match centers of bib and waistband and align raw edges. Fold raw edges under along the waist band pressed fold.  Pin in place.  Top stitch waistband.  One more press and we’re ready for our model!   Look at Caroline work that frilly skirt over her party dress!  So cute.  I hope we can get up to some cooking in this apron!

–Martta


DIY Gold Mercury Glass

Man, you could not turn around this past Christmas season without seeing mercury glass – from those darling owls at West End to ornaments at Target, it was just everywhere.  But it wasn’t a sparkly silver Christmas for me, this year it was all about gold and red.  So how to make gold mercury glass?

I scoured blogland and read up on my Martha to find knocking off mercury glass should be pretty easy.  So I dug into my supply of glass vases and gold paint and I was ready to go.  It’s pretty straightforward really, just pick up a newspaper, tape, a spray water bottle, paint and glass containers and you’re ready to make gold mercury glass too.  You can see I’ve got a few chunky dowels here too – those are for drying the vase upside down.  After a few vases, I just skipped that step – it dries fine right side up or upside down assuming you don’t have too much water in there.

Step one: Mask off the outside of your vase – you’ll be working on the inside only. Grab a spray bottle and load it up with water.  Gently mist into the vase.  I found if the vase is really tall that it helps to start spraying at the bottom and work my way up. You’ll have to experiment with how far away to hold the sprayer – too close and your water will glob up and run in streaks, too far and you’ll end up getting the newspaper really wet.If you spray in too much water, just wipe it out and start again.  You’re going for spots, not runs of water.  Here’s what mine looks like.  Once you’ve gotten your desired level of misting, you’re ready for step two.  Pick your paint and get ready to start layering.  I experimented with quite a few different paint options: shiny gold, satin gold, and mirror paint.  I found the effect that I liked the best was having shiny gold first.  Remember, what you put on first is the color on the outside and will be the most prominent.

Spray very light coats of paint.  Just bursts of color really – you can always add more!  The look I was going for had a bit of that transparent quality and the only way to achieve that is to put less paint on the vase.

Ok, walk away and let it dry.

This is where Martha’s tutorial stops, she says ‘you’re done!’, but I wasn’t feeling it – I wanted more depth and texture.  Other blogs recommend an acid etch at this point.  Having no desire to break out the thick gloves, I looked for alternatives.

A few blogs recommend a faux acid etch with white vinegar.  This turned out to be a total waste of time – I had vinegar all over that sucka and nothing.  But I had a break through when I went to wash the vinegar off.  Yes, my little green scrubby sponge and some hot water etched that paint right off! You can go really crazy here and practically scrub off all the paint – the hotter the water, the easier it is to remove.  If you aren’t careful, the paint will come off in giant sheets (also more likely if you’ve put on a thicker coat of paint).  It’s an interesting look, but eventually, I decided a light scrub was my favorite.  In just a few seconds, I had the etched look I was after.

Now for a second coat of paint.  Again, I masked off and sprayed with water and then tried all three of my paint options.  The shiny gold was my favorite again.  Here’s the breakdown  of my paint combinations.

Go with the one you like the best or play around with tons of other options.  With a candle inside, I think it gives off the perfect gold mercury glass glow.

These vases are perfect for the holidays and of course Oscar Party!  And it’s March now, and they are still on my buffet, so it looks like they will be staying out for a while. 

Enjoy making your own mercury glass!

–Martta

Chenille Pot Holders Tutorial

Guest blog post from Mom!  Heather and I each received one of the pot holders for Christmas this year and they have quickly become kitchen staples.  Check out her tutorial so you can make your own!

Begin by selected four distinct colors of flannel – you’ll need 1/4 of a yard of each (although you will have a few leftovers).

Cut one 2.5” strip across width of fabric for binding and hanging loop – if you make one. Set aside.  

For pot holders, cut two 6.5″ by 7.5″ rectangles from each of your fabrics for a total of eight rectangles. 

Lay one base layer face up on your work surface.  Stack three other colors on the base layer face up. Repeat with the second base and top layer set.  Use a Hera marker or pencil or chalk to draw a diagonal line from top left corner to bottom right.  Stitch along this line.  You can chain stitch each set of layers to save time and a bit of thread. 

At first I drew lines 3/8” across the whole thing. What a waste of time. After that first one, I just used the presser foot as my spacing guide.  One word of caution!  The needle might not be centered on your presser foot meaning stitching to right of last line = 3/8”, but stitching the left on the return only = 1/4″.  I made a few lines before I discovered this issue with my presser foot.  To correct, I simply added a 1/8” visual distance from the edge of the presser foot and the last stitching line when I was stitching on the left.  Here’s a picture of my presser foot – you can see the distance from the needle to the side isn’t even.

And who cares how straight the lines are. I found I had varying widths and curvy lines. It still worked when cut.

Continue stitching 3/8” from the first stitch line, working your way to corner of your pot holder. Turn the pad and repeat from center out.

Pick up your scissors and slash open between each of the stitch lines through top three layers only. I did find that it’s much easier to do one layer three times than all three layers at once – your hand gets too tired fast.  

You should have one layer of fabric remaining that has not been cut. 

Repeat with the second stack of fabric.

Any by all means, don’t cut through that fourth layer of fabric like this:

But you know, if you do, repair as best you can – don’t worry about how it looks, the back will be on the inside of the pot holder and the chenille should cover the front.

Trim up hot holders to approximately 6.5″ by 7.5″ square. 

Place each stack of fabric back to back (so that cut layers are facing out).  Then use the 2.5” strip to bind the edge of the pot holders.

Begin by folding the 2.5″ strip in half, right sides out.  Lay the strip along the first side of the pot holder so that all raw edges are facing out.  Leave 3-4″ of excess binding strip to hang past the starting corner so you can make a loop later.  Sew the binding strip around the edge of the pot holder. Miter the corners of your binding by folding the strip out from the pot holder at a 90 degree angle. 

Stitch to the corner.  Fold strip back over pot holder with raw edges facing out and continue stitching.

Once you’ve stitched all the sides, size the pot holder loop and stitch ends of the binding strip together

Flip the pot holder over and fold the binding strip over the raw edge.  Hand sew on the back side, the binding around the edge of the pot holder.You’ll have to work a bit to fold in the excess fabric around the loop, but you can do it!
Next, get each pot holder thoroughly wet, wring out and put in dryer with old towels OR just throw them in with a dark load of clothes and find them when you are folding the load at the end of the cycle in the dryer.

And magic: after washing and drying they come out as chenille! 

You can also create a hot pad with this same method.  Simply cut all fabrics to 9″ by 9″ squares rather than 7.5″ by 6.5″ rectangles.

It’s that chenille fun?? 

–Jane

St. Patrick’s Day Strawberry Shortcake

The dessert in a jar craze has been all over Pinterest and the blog world for a good year now. I finally bought some small jars from Walmart to make my dessert for St. Patrick’s Day Bunco! I think they were just under $8 for a dozen… not terrible, and something I can use over and over. I believe they are about 4 ounces… I bought the larger size when we were celebrating my son’s birthday in CA last year, and they were much too big for a normal serving. As much as we all wanted to, nobody needs to eat 2 cupcakes and a wicked amount of frosting in one jar!

Strawberry shortcake in a jar sounded perfect to me… I am terrible with frosting, so the berries and whipped cream made this super easy for me to assemble quickly right before my party.

I started by adding some decorative ribbon to my jars… measure the circumference of your jar, then cut your ribbon slightly longer. I used hot glue to attach the ribbon to itself, making sure to pull tightly, so it wouldn’t slip off.

Now make some shortcake!

Ingredients:

Strawberries! I had a huge box from Costco, but if you are making this for a small family, one container from your grocery store is plenty.

Yellow cake – baked in a 9×13 per box directions

Heavy cream, vanilla extract, and sugar – for the whipped cream.

Clean & cut your strawberries into bite sized pieces. Add a teaspoon or 2 of sugar and gently mix them together… this lets the strawberries sweet juices flow!

I turned my cake out onto a large cutting mat, then used an empty sanding sugar container to cut cylinders of cake. If you have a biscuit cutter that matches the diameter of your jars… use it! I don’t have biscuit cutters, and for some crazy reason 2 stores I checked did not have them!! I thought I lived in the South! Thankfully, my cake was slippery enough to come out of my jar, but you may want to lightly spray yours with cooking spray if your cake sticks.

Here is my cake inside the jars…

Next, just spoon the strawberries over the cake and top with whipped cream!

Whipped Cream:

Pour 1 cup heavy cream into your mixer’s bowl (I use my KitchenAid, but you can use a hand mixer as well). I like to add a teaspoon of vanilla extract, and about a tablespoon of sugar. Using the whisk attachment, whisk on medium to high speed for about a minute, or until peaks form. Don’t over whip… you don’t want butter!

I made the picks using kabob skewers I cut down into 4 inch pieces, then taped on the decorative tags. The tags I downloaded for free from The Tomkat Studio… I just used a scalloped 2-inch punch to cut them out, and taped them to the skewers. You can also use popsicle sticks, lollipop sticks, or whatever you can find!

My guests loved the shortcake, and it was something easy to make that made a big impact. Let us know how you’ve made dessert in a jar… it’s always fun to hear new ideas!

-Heather

Cream Cheese Spinach Tortilla Rolls

Once a year, I host our neighborhood Bunco group. We have such a good time chatting, playing, eating, and of course indulging in a glass of wine… or 3. Because I was hosting in March, and a week before St. Patrick’s Day, I decided to go along with a green theme, and add in a few shamrocks here and there. I’ll try to share all of my recipes over the next week!

Today, I’ve got a recipe my Grandma shared with me a few years ago. It’s super easy, and always a crowd pleaser. These cream cheese rolls are similar to the ones you see on catering trays from the grocery store, but cheaper, and so easy to do yourself!

Ingredients:

16 ounces cream cheese – softened

1 packet dry ranch dressing mix

Half of 1 small can chopped olives

1 small can diced green chilies

fresh green onion – about 3, chopped

1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

1 package tortillas – I used the spinach wraps for the green color, but you can use plain, low fat, whole grain, whatever you like!

Mix all the ingredients together… except the tortillas! I let mine sit overnight so the flavors could blend, but you don’t have to… maybe let it sit for a good hour or 2. Take one tortilla, and spread the mixture all over, evenly. I think I used about a 1/2 cup per tortilla, and made about 5 tortillas worth.

Roll up the tortilla, making it as tight as you can. You don’t want gaps or spacing inside the tortilla. Chill for about an hour, then slice them up! I cut off the uneven ends (a snack for me!), and sliced the rest in approximately 1 inch increments. Done!

I served mine on a chilled glass cake stand… I think it helped keep the cream cheese cold for a longer period.

Some tips:

You can make the filling a day or 2 ahead! However, I don’t recommend rolling them until a few hours before your party or event. I made one roll a day ahead to see if it would be ok, and it was slightly soggy. Yuck. I even rolled it in plastic wrap, but I think the humidity of the refrigerator, plus the cheese, just doesn’t work.

Enjoy your St. Patty’s Day!

-Heather