Monday, February 28, 2011

Manga Monday: Big Bad Beans

While I was trying to stay warm on a mountain in Michigan during a recent vacation, lots of beans were cooking up over the man-made stove one crew brought along.  Over and over, people kept saying how amazing the beans were.  So, I fulfilled my blog duties and grabbed the recipe, which is adapted from one found by the cook online.  People raved.


1.5 pds lean ground beaf (ground round/sirloin)
1 large onion, diced
2 large cans of baked beans with pork
1 large can of Northern beans
1 bottle of a rich and sassy BBQ sauce
1 tbsp of worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp of brown mustard or horseradish
1 cup of biscuit baking mix
1 egg
1 cup of milk
1 cup of shredded cheddar cheese
Ground black pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 350-degrees.  Crumble and brown your beef over medium heat.  Add your onion and pepper.  Stir.  Once the beef is browned and the onions are soft, drain the grease.  Mike transferred the ingredients to a cast iron pan, but a standard casserole dish will do.  Then, add your baked and northern beans, BBQ and worcestershire sauces and the brown mustard.

Separately, mix the baking mix, milk, and egg.  Pour that mixture over the beef and beans.  Bake your dish for 40-45 minutes, until the biscuit mix turns a nice looking brown.  Sprinkle with cheese while your beans are still hot, and let it melt.  Serve.

The amount of kick and spice depends on the type of BBQ you use.  If you use will be more mild.  If you use spicy'll be on fire.  Big bad beans are good for a big party on a cold winter day.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

DIY Bangles Made with Mod Podge

Hi there!  I'm Amy from Mod Podge Rocks.  The topic of my blog is my craftastic disorder - an obsession with Mod Podge.  I consider it to be completely healthy, because it allows me to be featured on wonderful blogs such as this one.  It's my pleasure to be here!  It's actually going to be a regular occurance for 2011, so I hope you'll get used to me.  I like the color blue and sock monkeys, pumpkin bread and road trips.  I also like chunky bracelets, hence the project you see above.  I typically only wear silver hoop earrings, but I've expanded into some additional fun jewelry as this spring approaches.  Come join me on the wild bracelet ride.  Here's how to make these.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Meet Mod Podge Amy!

Get ready for some excitement TOMORROW!!!

Marketing by day, Mod Podge Mistress by night! I can't tell you how over the moon I am to introduce you to our new monthly guest blogger! Mod Podge Amy is the creative mind behind Mod Podge Rocks! She likes to wear stripes and/or bright colors every day because it makes her happy!  When I went to her blog I was immediately happy. She exudes excitement and energy!

She says "I love the color blue, dogs, reading, cold weather, funny movies, road rallies, yogurt, garden gnomes, sock monkeys, running, tattoos, being outdoors, buttons, snuggling and apparently blogging." You have to check out her blog- her Mod Podge projects are second to none- and if you have a project she accepts submissions to be featured!

Amy moved from rain loving Seattle to Hot-lanta! That's Atlanta Georgia if I got to cheeky for you!hehe. She's been knitting for 18 years, sewing for longer and decoupaging for just a few- but I guarantee you she is THE expert in the world of Mod Podge.

Amy is joining our little Crafty Life and Style family as a monthly guest blogger for a YEAR!!!!! She will be offering some amazing crafts AND giveaways. I'm so excited!! This is really a dream come true for me! Can you tell? Please give a warm welcome to Mod Podge Amy!! She has an awesome D.I.Y. coming TOMORROW!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Tasty Tuesday: French Butter Cream Icing

This is just my thinking, unless it is a Red Velvet or Carrot Cake (then it has to be Cream Cheese Icing) the only icing to use on a cake is Butter Cream. If made properly it is light, smooth, and very tasty. You can control the sweetness with the amount of powdered sugar you add to the icing. It is very easy to spread and with a container of hot water you can make your cakes look like the Cake Boss has made a personal visit to your home. The reason this batch of Icing is blue is because my 6 year old daughter asked me “Daddy what is your favorite color”, when I came home my Birthday Cake was on the table and it was blue.
1 lb of Sweet Cream Butter
½ Lb of Shorting (Crisco not butter flavored)
2 Lb of Powdered Sugar (10X)
5oz of Egg Whites (5 large eggs)
1 Tbsp of Vanilla (not imitation)
Mix Butter and Shorting together until light and fluffy. Slowly add egg whites until incorporated and mixture looks dry.
Add powdered sugar slowly and at a slow speed on the mixer (unless you want powered sugar on your ceiling, this is the voice of experience talking)
Add the vanilla and taste; if you want it sweeter add more powered sugar. If the icing gets to stiff add a couple teaspoons of water of milk to loosen it up.
Add food coloring if desired for decorating. Store in refrigerator for up to 6 months. When ready to use again put in mixer and whip until lose and spreadable.
When icing a cake use a cake spatula and a container of hot water. Spread icing on cake and as you need dip spatula in hot water and it will act like an iron and make the icing smooth as glass. Enjoy and have fun with it, the best way to make perfect cakes is to practice, practice, and more practice!!!!!

Wrapping for Him

Here's another observation I wanted to pass along.  Men will always ask a woman to wrap presents for them, if they can.  I visited a friend recently who needed several presents wrapped.  Naturally, he asked me to do it.  I'm used to that.  My father has asked me to wrap all of my mother's presents for years.  Fortunately, she keeps lots of embellishments in storage.  But my friend didn't have anything but wrapping paper.  No ribbon, no bows, no tags, just paper.

If I was going to do it, I wanted to do it right.  I wanted to at least tie all of the presents up into one big package and top it with a bow.  But, I literally had no supplies with me.  I wandered around his house, which has only the bare minimum of everything and anything, until I came across two of my own shopping bags.  One of them had a decorative piece of ribbon attached.  Score!!  Necessity is the mother of all invention.  I untied the rope handles of my bags, tied them together, and wrapped them around the gifts to create one big package.  Then, I made a little bow out of that piece of ribbon.  In the end, my package isn't half-bad...thanks to shopping bag scraps.  It is so basic, but I love it when I'm forced to figure out how to make something cute out of nothing.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Shutterbug Sunday: The Fog

Just sharing a photo this Shutterbug Sunday that I like to look at.  There wasn't a lot of thought put into this picture.  I literally just peeked my head out the back door, aimed, and snapped because I wanted to show my friends the fog that hit Michigan last week, while I was visiting there.  The unexpected result is that each time I look at this picture it evokes a different emotion in me.  My friends all felt the same way.  One felt inspired to write.  The other just enjoyed the visual.  The fog reflected my mood that day...heavy and lingering.  The entire region was literally barely visible all day.  It lasted from the early morning hours right through the evening.  It never lifted.  While I could easily have felt suffocated by the low clouds, I opted instead to think of it as a fluffy white blanket that I could wrap myself up in all day.

Saturday, February 19, 2011


I love these little wreaths I made for my girl's room. It's funny- I'm not even sure how I came across all the supplies for them but I specifically remember not having to go to the store to buy any of the items when I embarked on my little project. If you're looking to decorate like this- it's very simple. I know some people choose to use wiring to secure the leafs and flowers- but the only adhesive I used was hot glue! I made sure to use the natural makeup of the twigs and their little crevasses to weave the stems of my flowers and leafs in and out of them and then was sure to secure with hot glue. One way to make this project really stand out-- and I'm not sure if you can see it in these pictures-- is to spray it with a fine glitter spray. Every time I walk into my daughter's room the little flecks of glitter catch my eye. It's such a sweet little decoration!

Friday, February 18, 2011

On the Road: Man Crafts

Normally this blog is full of estrogen-fueled ideas.  But today, I happily present an example of a totally male creation.

I recently attended the Continental Cup International Ski Jumping Championship on Pine Mountain in Iron Mountain, Michigan.  The event spans several hours each day for two days and, take my word for it, it is extremely cold.  Locals and ski jumping fans literally claim a spot days in advance and build little makeshift shelters.  Some have tarps to block out the wind, others literally build little houses with windows.  Turnout is estimated between 5-10,000, with athletes from all over the world competing in a very small town in the middle of rural America.

The most popular spot at each makeshift viewing station is generally the heat source/cooking device.  In this case, one crew had used a barrel to handcraft a stove, with a two-tier cooking rack on top.

Yes, it actually made the food boiling hot.  The food in Michigan generally involves lots of bratwurst, chili, and venison.  The male maker of this fireplace stove welded on feet, a door, and even a ventilation tube in the back.

He loaded it up with firewood to keep the flame going.  It let off massive heat.  For the record, I'm sure nothing about this would pass any legitimate codes inspection, so I am in no way condoning this and I certainly don't want anyone to try this at home.  But, nobody can say we don't appreciate man crafts occasionally here on Crafty Life and Style.  One more time you are irritated that the hubby still hasn't gotten around to that project around the house you've been bugging him about...take a look at all of the energy that went into these little creations.  Priorities.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

On the Road: Protest Pictures

Since I know you all love taking pictures, I wanted to share a few of the photos I took in Madison, Wisconsin where workers were protesting a bill that would eliminate collective bargaining for many government employees.  Schools were closed after so many teachers called in sick that the district decided to let students stay home.  Many of those students showed up at the rally.  Some reports suggest up to 30,000 people attended the rally.  My goal was not political, rather to document a moment in American history.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Admiring From Afar

I just wanted to share a little observation I made during a recent vacation.  Earlier this week I wrote about my trip to the Continental Cup, an international ski jumping competition in Northern Michigan.  The event is full of men, dressed in hunting gear to keep warm, watching hours of competing.  They are camping out, roughing it in the mud, sitting on hay for seats, and full of sports-loving testosterone.  So, I had to smile a bit when one of the men pulled out his wife's scrapbook.  He brought it along because it showed pictures of him visiting that same competition on Pine Mountain 40 years ago.  These men, in camouflage coats, thick boots, and full beards...gathered around this scrapbook on hay seats surrounded by dirt and reminisced about old times.  While they often act disinterested in our crafty habits and dismiss it as ladies stuff...we all know, deep down, they are delighted by our scrapbook albums, even if they act too tough to admit it.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Tasty Tuesday: Plantains

Being from Texas we always had fried bananas, I married a girl that spent a lot of time in South Florida. There are a lot of Caribbean influences in that part of the country so I was introduced to Fried Plantains. I will admit I prefer the sweet ones but the savory ones are pretty good too!! The key to this recipe is making sure that the Plantains are ripe, and when I say ripe I mean black and pretty soft. If the market has them and they are green put them in a brown bag and put on top of the fridge for about 1 week. DO NOT FREEZE THEM!!

3 Ripe Plantains
2 cups of Canola Oil
Frying Pan
1/2 cup of salt (for savory)
1 cup of sugar and a couple pinches of cinnamon (for sweet)

Heat oil to 350 degrees.
Peel and cut plantains on a bias (angle) soak in water with a little lemon juice to prevent browning.
Remove Plantains from water and pat dry (do not put into oil wet, I do not think I need to explain why!!!)
Place plantains a couple at a time and cook until golden brown on one side then flip them over to brown the other side (be careful, oil might splash).
Remove from oil and place on a paper towel to drain.
While they are still hot sprinkle with salt, or toss in cinnamon sugar. (The key is while they are hot. This will allow the salt or sugar to stick).
Serve warm or at room temperature. With your favorite Caribbean Dish. Some of those recipes will follow in the coming weeks.

Salute and be well

Happy Valentine's Day

If you have someone special in your life, we hope you are enjoying some time together on this day for lovebirds.  If you are looking for ideas for a handmade gift to give to someone are links to a few loving crafts we've featured here on Crafty Life and Style.  Enjoy a nice night this evening...with a present from your heart:

C'est Magnifique French Toast ...start the day off with a special yummy breakfast.

40 Wonderful Reasons can still do this one today and it is very personal.

Book of Love ...this one takes a lot of work and time, but you might be able to adapt it.

Crafty Coasters ...print pictures from special moments together and make something useful.

Wrapping Paper Alternatives ...even if your present isn't homemade, you can wrap it special.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Shutterbug Sunday: Framing the Shot

I wanted to share with you one of the very first pieces of advice I was ever given when taking pictures. My father and grandfather were both photography hobbyist, and the reason my love affair with photography began. My father first placed a professional camera in my hands at the age of 16. I remember holding the old piece of equipment, and taking in its leather smell. I was so excited to try it out, I think I went through an entire roll of film in about 20 minutes!

Tip: The closer you are to your focal point, the lower/wider you want your
 aperture setting to be. For example mine was set to f/2.2, this is how I was 
able to keep her face sharp, and the palm branches soft. You will also want
to make sure to toggle your  focus points in your lens when using wide apertures, 
 especially on people. The focus point in my lens was directly over her eyes.

Once teaching me a few technical things about its operation, my Dad gave me a great piece of advice that I have now applied to every aspect of photography. While we were out shooting for the first time I had practically tripped down a hill when trying to avoid some brush that was getting in the way of the shot I wanted. My Dad told me that instead of avoiding the brush, to use it. Frame the shot he said!  So I tried it. I outlined the shape of the base of the tree I was trying to photograph with the brush. After getting the photos back I flipped through them and one picture in particular caught my eye. Yup, you guessed it, the one where I had framed the tree with the brush. It had so much more visual interest than any of the other pictures I took. So, long story short? I started using that technique in nature photography and now I apply it to every aspect of photography I do. So the next time you’re out and about taking pictures try using some of nature’s natural elements and FRAME THE SHOT!  You might just love the results!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Scrapbooking Nature

As we all wish for Spring to come sooner than later, you may be adding more nature to your scrapbooks.

One of my favorite embellishments to add is a homemade tree.  They add texture to your page and look pretty darn impressive.

The trick for the bark is the paper.  You can generally find this type of paper in Michaels or other major craft stores that carry paper varieties.  You might end up paying $1-2 a sheet, but you can cut it up for many uses....animal skin, trees, or picture borders.

It comes in different shades.  In addition to blue and other bright colors, there is a leathery looking brown and a bronze brown.

It isn't a flat paper, but rather a crinkled, folded, hard paper with spots of darker and lighter brown mixed in.

Trace you tree trunk with several limbs shooting out and adhere it to your background paper.

Next, add your leaves.  I didn't make them.  I bought these leaves.  They are paper, but they have a fabric feel.  Find your own version in the craft store.  The fabric feel is important.  Paper leaves just don't have the same effect.  Then, one by one, add those leaves to your branches.

I really love how this page looks because it combines the picture of real tree branches with the base of the homemade tree.

Instead of using the whole picture, I cut out the excess space and let the branches within the picture, frame the subject.  The snapshots are lovely in this layout....but the tree steals all the attention.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Crayola Art

 Wow! Aren't these creative?!?  These are pictures that can be found on the website of  Diem Chau. I was turned on to this cool art via another very creative website called Freckled Nest. I think it's so awesome that an element used in art has become the art its self!

     Diem also has a very interesting story. She is a Vietnam native and her family came to America as refugees in 1986. Chau goes on to say her biography that she is a BFA graduate from Cornish College of the Arts and has received an Artist Trust GAP Grant and a PONCHO Artist-in-Residence Award. Her work has been exhibited in New York, Miami, Seattle and Los Angeles.
Do you have any creative artwork that we can highlight? Please feel free to drop us a line. We love to share the amazing work of our Crafty Friends!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Bookmark D.I.Y.

 I love to curl up with a good book. In fact, I think that's just about all I've been doing lately because the weather here in upstate New York is miserable. It's cold, snowy and downright nasty. What better way to cope than to warm up with some blankets and dig into an adventure? I love real books. I'm not sure how I would do with an E-reader. I kind of like turning the pages and smelling the books. It's an experience. Another way to show my books some love is to make a bookmark to go with it. This is so easy- really, I'm not sure if you'll think I'm corny for actually spelling out the directions- but here it goes!

Go to your ribbon stash and find a pretty ribbon. You can cut it at about 12 inches. Then raid your jewelry stash. I found a cute little heart charm and a wonderful little funky bead. You thread an embellishment on each end of your ribbon and tie it off. I tied the bead in on both ends- but left my little heart with one end open. It's not moving. Then you put it in your book and away you go. There are also little clasps that you can put at the end of a ribbon that allows you to dangle a charm from- but in this case- I wanted to make a quickie one. I hope you like it! Happy reading!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Tasty Tuesday: Cream Tomato and Basil Soup and Grilled Cheese Sandwich

      As a chef I am always producing food that I love to cook. Chefs also enjoy making a simple dish look really elegant with the way we present it to our customers or family.  I would like to say most of us are pretty simple when it comes to food we like to eat at home. Sometimes I go all out to produce a meal for my family, but most of the time it comfort food, you know the food you grew up on, it keeps you grounded to the simple things in life. So I have decided  to write this week’s blog about one of my favorite things to eat. It reminds me of my Mother and growing up in Texas. Of course I put a twist on because we did not keep basil and heavy cream in the house on a regular basis.

  1 Can of Campbell’s Condensed Tomato Soup
  1 Soup Can of Milk or Heavy Cream
  1 tsp of Dried Thyme
  2 tsp of Salt (I use Kosher but it does not matter)
  1 tsp of Crushed Black Pepper
  1 cup of chopped fresh Basil
    1/4 cup fine chopped Onion
  1/4 cup of Butter

  Heat butter in sauce pan and saute onions until tender about 2 minutes.
  Add Basil and saute until fragrant about 1 minute (do not burn, it will ruin the final product)
  Add soup and milk or heavy cream and mix well.
  Bring to a boil and reduce heat to a simmer and adjust with Salt and Pepper.
  Serve hot with a fresh Basil leaf for garnish.

   Grilled Cheese
2 Pieces of Whole Wheat or White Bread
1 cup of melted Butter
2 Slices of Cheese Cheddar, Provolone, or Swiss (not processed it taste funny and does not hold its form very well)

  Heat a frying pan or griddle to about 300 degrees.
  Brush melted butter on one side of bread.
  Place bread in pan.
  Put cheese on bread and top with other piece of bread.
  Brush top piece of bread with butter.

Cook for about 3 minutes on each side until golden brown.

  ***The sandwich is not pictured but I can tell you it was beautiful and teasted great***

As we say in Texas "Ya'll come back now, ya hear"~ Chef Donavan

Scrapbooking Brochures

We all grab brochures and wristbands and any other little scrap from a vacation, so we can come home and make a scrapbook of our experience with free embellishments.  But, if you have protective plastic sheets over your layouts, you don't want to have to pull the page out of your album just so you can see a sterile brochure.

I like interactive scrapbook pages, as you've seen with my picture flip pages and picture pockets.  So, I dare to cut the plastic protective sheet.  I know it is very SCARY...but, it is the only way to allow people looking at your album to actually discover and play with your 3-D embellishments.  Brochures are a particular challenge because they fold open and shut.  First, you need to affix the bottom page to your layout.  My brochure here folds open both the bottom page is not necessarily the last page of the brochure.  If you're not sure what I mean, lay your brochure flat, all folded up.  The page that lays flat against the layout is the page you want to affix to your background paper.  Place the layout inside the protective plastic sheet of your album as you would with any other layout.  
With an exacto-knife, carefully trace the right and left side of your brochure, along the folds.  Be careful to cut very close to the edge of your brochure without actually cutting your paper.  Make a slit all teh way down, the length of the brochure.  Slide the page that opens to the right through the right slit.  Do the same with the left side.  Now, when you flip through your scrapbook.  The brochure will fold closed on the outside of the protective sheet and admirers can open and read it. 

Place the layout inside the protective plastic sheet of your album.  With an exacto-knife, carefully trace the right and left side of your brochure.  Be careful to cut very close to the edge of your brochure without actually cutting your paper.  Slide the page that opens to the right through the right slit.  Do the same with the left side.  Now, when you flip through your scrapbook.  The brochure will fold on the outside of the protective sheet and admirers can open and read it.  

I like to add a tiny personal picture or two inside as a sweet little surprise.  It looks like your family is part of the brochure!!  Use the same method to open the picture flip pages and picture pockets that I showed you.  See the next blog for those details.  You'll never scrapbook the same way again.  You will find yourself opening and flipping through your album over and over again....cuz you know that's what we all do!!