Thursday, February 27, 2014

Soap Savers


You may have seen me mention these little things in passing (I believe the first time I even mentioned them was Flower Weekend back in May & then again in July at my first Art Walk) but it doesn't look like I've ever really talked much about my Soap Savers on the blog.

If you follow me on Facebook you may have seen their debut at the Toledo Farmer's Market:


This handy bath item is the perfect size to collect those little shards of soap in to get every last bit of use out of your soap, or you can even store a whole bar of soap in it!  I describe them as self-refilling loofas/washcloths because once you have added soap to the inside of the pouch and started working a lather through its walls, it will continue to lather every time it is massaged.

Here is one of my friends who has used hers since last summer (about 6 months at this point).  She loves how well it lathers:


I've even found that it makes a nice scrubbie and would probably work to scrub dishes or the bathtub walls!  Does anyone else use a soap saver?

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

More Granola: Maple Cinnamon

While in search of the perfect granola recipe for us, I discovered Sarah's blog through Liesl's 3 Question series.

Yesterday I tried her recipe for Maple Cinnamon Granola with only slight hesitation at the inclusion of cinnamon.  I've been looking for a healthy, tasty granola to pair nicely with my homemade yogurt & a drizzle of honey (my favorite snack ever!) and the idea of cinnamon just didn't seem to fit the bill - at least in my mind.  I've always thought of cinnamon as more a holiday flavor and pairing with sugar & sweets.  But I decided to try it anyway since my last two batches have been quite dull in flavor.  I also omitted the water she called for and added an extra teaspoon of vanilla extract instead.  :)

Fresh out of the oven & cooling.
So far the flavor is smokey & delicious (I licked the spoon after pouring it into the baking sheet) and the sweet maple aroma is just starting to waft from the oven.  I'm so excited to try this latest batch with my yogurt.  The only downside is I'm almost out of dried cherries!


Recipe:
5 cups rolled thick oats
2 Tbs whole flax seed
2 Tbs wheat bran
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup unsalted almonds (I would have added a whole cup but this is all I had today)

1/2 cup pure maple syrup
1/2 cup applesauce, homemade so it has a few chunks in it
3 tsp vanilla extract

Mix oats, flax, wheat bran, cinnamon, salt & almonds together in a large bowl.  In a separate bowl, mix syrup, applesauce and vanilla together.  Pour wet over dry ingredients, being sure the oats are fully coated.  Pour onto a greased baking sheet in an even layer.  Bake at 325*F for about 30 minutes (until oats are golden brown & no longer wet), stirring about every 10 minutes.

While cooling, add in 1 1/2 cups unsalted peanuts and 1 cup dried cherries.  Stir occasionally while cooling.  Store in an airtight container.

Monday, February 24, 2014

2014 Goals

I know it may seem a little late to be posting goals for the new year, but these have been swirling in my head since the end of January and I think they are finally ready to be listed and documented.  Not to mention by publishing them I can hold myself accountable and keep myself on track for the year.

  1. Finally get my Tax/ Incorporation in order.  Aka, am I a sole proprietor or LLC?  I meet with my uncle who does taxes for a living to figure this out next week.  :)
  2. Commit to at least one show/fair/market per month.  Obviously I missed the first three months this year but so far I'm on track to start in April with the Merchant's Landing Show April 12 & 13.
  3. Post to this blog once a week.  If more is happening that's worth posting about, I'll be sure to post it as well, though it may be less wordy.  Who is ok with just a picture post once in a while?
  4. Get my wares into a physical brick & mortar store.  More to come on this once things are settled.  I'm currently talking with two different shops and it just makes me super excited for new possibilities!
I've also started reading this great book that has some nice exercises (I'm not usually a fan of "exercises" in a book) that really spoke to me after I met my goal of doing 1-3 physical shows in 2013.  I felt so empowered and excited I couldn't wait to make more goals for this year & feel an even bigger empowerment at the end of this year.  Thus my mind has really started opening to the possibilities because of this book & it has really inspired some energy in me for this year's success.


So far my favorite passage is on goals & goal setting (thus inspiring this organized post instead of just a note to self on a scrap piece of paper):

Goals are really amazing things.  They give you focus and set your course.  [...]  Goals support Intentions.  By actively working on these goals, the end result will be accomplished.  You can use your intentions to make sure you keep your business on track. [...]  Your goals should be your friends; they should excite you, and you should look forward to working toward them.  Goals are not chores.
Exercise: Make a list of all the goals you've had since you decided to be a creative business owner.  Now circle all the goals that you've already accomplished.
Quote from Jolie Guillebeau: "Take small steps consistently.  Do something every single day to make a little progress toward your goal." 
Grow Your Handmade Business - Kari Chapin

Anyone read anything inspiring lately?

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Friday, February 21, 2014

E is for Elephant

Every third Saturday of the month is our monthly Sit n' Stitch at Michael's and my fellow crochet instructor brought an adorable elephant pattern that she has been using and made a copy for me!

Our workspace at the Sit n' Knit.  Can you see our elephant heads?

Elephants have unofficially become the "animal" of the nursery (I think) after the baby shower had so many elephants on the gift bags, cards, and little linens - too cute!  So when I saw she was making a stuffed elephant, I just had to try my hand at one for our nursery.  And to my utmost surprise (because I normally loath crocheting little pieces to be sewn together) it whipped up quickly & sewed up quickly - just 5 or 6 hours!  And as an added bonus I was able to use up hole-y socks to stuff it :)


Didn't he turn out just adorable?? :)

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Tools I Use for Blogging

I got the idea for this post last week while I was reorganizing & posting across different platforms.  These types of posts are always my favorite on other blogs so I thought I would share what I have found works for me.  Please feel free to add anything I've missed in the comments.  :)

Dropbox

My primary photos are taken with my smartphone, like most people these days.  But instead of plugging my phone into my laptop every time I want to add a photo to my post, I select and upload photos to Dropbox via the app on my phone and then open the folder on my computer.  Voilà!  My photos are on my computer waiting for me to edit & post.  (I used to use Bluetooth when I was at my computer and had my phone next to me, but it has since stopped communicating for some reason.)  An added bonus is I can upload photos to dropbox wherever I am so the photos are waiting for me when I get home to start blogging.

PhotoGrid

I use Preview to edit my pictures on my computer; it's simple and easy to do (control+command+c to open the editor menu).  If I'm on my phone & need to post right away, I use PhotoEditor to correct any color balance issues.  I also love PhotoGrid to make quick and easy collages of photos.


Canva

Canva is my new favorite way to go from image to GRAPHIC.  Even though there are paid add-ons, you can get quite a nice graphic with all the free images available.  My favorite process is to start with my uploaded image(s) + add text (lots of fonts to choose from + you can plug in your RGB colors) + then polish it off with a ribbon or other little graphic to make my font pop.  I've also played with transparency to soften the image colors which allows the text to stand out better.

IFTTT

I don't always have the time (or remember all the platforms) to post a link of my newest blog post or recent etsy listing to facebook/ twitter so I use IFTTT with specific "recipes" that do it for me.  For the nitty gritty, I definitely love the automation.  Just remember "If This Then That" when creating your own recipes or you can use recipes that are already available and tweak them to work for you!

Blogger

I have been blogging since the days of LiveJournal & Xanga and I have to say Blogger has been an easy interface to learn and work within.  The Draft feature, filtering out all posts that have been published, is a tool I use many times a day.  When I get ideas, I start drafting a post and save it to come back to when I have time to finish it and/or have a photo to top it off with.  I also love that I can customize my blog as I please, dabbling in HTML in order to tweak its appearance just so.

WordPress.com

I publish these same posts on Wordpress to help reach a larger audience, using an IFTTT recipe.  I believe I heard it called "Cross platform publishing" by another blogger.  Though Wordpress is definitely a nice site, the free customization can be very limited.

Pinterest

I use Pinterest not only to brainstorm ideas for my personal life, but also for referencing when blogging about a new project or product.  I keep a separate board specifically for past work I have created for sale and link to it often as a sampling of what I can do for potential customers.


Facebook

Facebook is a great resource for interacting with customers & supporters.  I like to use it as a landing page for anything related to Knittedhome (blog posts, Etsy listings, upcoming art shows, announcements, new class offerings, & sharing fun finds along the way).  I also like to direct my customers to my facebook page to post a photo of themselves wearing my product with their thoughts.  It is such a wonderful thing to hear feedback!  I am always learning new things from my customers.



MailChimp

I have tried to use MailChimp for newsletters but have yet to get a good grip on it.  In March I finally took the plunge + sent my first newsletter to my six subscribers.  Since creating a sign up link in my side bar I have already received new subscribers + plan to send out a weekly newsletter with my blog posts of the week via the RSS template.  Eventually I'd like to create unique content for email subscribers only so if this is something you're interested in you can sign up for my blog's newsletter here.
How do you use this app?

I'd love to hear what everyone else uses to keep their blog(s) running smoothly.

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Any sponsorships that you see in my sidebar are handpicked by me because I believe in their products + services and think they could benefit you.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Stuffed Peppers & Venison Chili

I swear this isn't a food blog, but apparently I've been doing a lot of cooking & baking lately and they are all new recipes that I just have to share!  Plus I figured most of you might be interested to try some of these recipes as I always love reading yours.

Last week I made, for the second time, stuffed peppers from a pin (my first time actually using Pinterest to cook!  I have more recipes pinned here).  Both Dan & I LOVED how the stuffing turned out so well, that we made it again, even though we didn't have bell peppers to stuff, haha.  It makes a great tortilla chip dip as well as a topping over rice!  Plus the ground turkey helps get my protein numbers up and keep my carbs down.  And you can throw in whatever veggies you have on hand, which makes this a great recipe for cleaning out the fridge! ;-)


Pepper Stuffing
1 lb. ground turkey, browned
1 can (15oz) diced tomatoes
1 can (15oz) beans, drained & rinsed (I used Great Northern Beans)
1/2 bag frozen corn (you could probably throw the whole bag in, I was saving half for the chili, below)
1/2 bell pepper, chopped (I sliced the other half for eating with hummus)
1/4 c diced onion

I didn't measure out my seasonings, just started sprinkling them on.  Here is what I used:
chili powder
cumin
Mrs. Dash's Chipotle seasoning
salt & pepper to taste

1. If you are planning to cook rice, start it first.  1 cup rice to 2 cups water.
2. Brown the turkey in a large skillet.  Drain and return to low heat.  Stir in tomatoes, beans, corn, bell pepper, & onion.  Add seasonings.  Allow to simmer until onions become translucent and everything is heated through.

Serve over or mixed with rice, top with Mexican cheese, and scoop with tortilla chips.  Or maybe make a plate of tortilla chips on the bottom and spoon the stuffing on top, then sprinkle with cheese and microwave for 30-60 seconds to melt the cheese.  Yummy goodness!

This makes quite a few servings so we normally divy it up into small glass-lock containers to be used for packed lunches (rice & cheese are warmed up & added at serving time).


My other new recipe is Venison Chili which we made in the Crock pot.  I apologize I didn't get any pictures of this one.  My husband gobbled it up within 2 days!

2 lb. ground venison, browned
1 onion, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
1 can (15oz) diced tomatoes
1 bag of frozen corn  (I ended up using 1 1/2 bags)
1 can (15 oz) of beans, drained & rinsed
1 glove of garlic, minced
1 can (6oz) of tomato paste + 24oz of water thoroughly mixed

*All seasonings are approximate as they were added at the beginning, sparingly, and more was added toward the end of cooking time by my hubby.  So I recommend using these amounts as jumping off points and just season to taste.*
2 tsp chili powder
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp red cayenne
2 tsp basil
salt & pepper
garlic powder
onion powder
Mrs. Dash Chipotle seasoning

1. Brown venison.
2. Mix tomato paste & water in a separate pot.
3. In the crockpot combine all ingredients.  Add seasonings and stir everything together.
Cook on low for 4-6 hours.

Serve with crackers.

Let me know how you like these recipes.  What variations did you make?  I'd love to hear about them!

Friday, February 7, 2014

First Homemade Granola

Loose granola has been on my DIY list ever since I discovered how much I like it with yogurt.  Especially greek yogurt.  Now, I can finally say I made some!


I used this recipe as a base for my jumping off point.

In a large bowl, I mixed together:
3c rolled oats (because I didn't have old fashion)
1/2c unsalted peanuts
1/2c unsalted almonds
2 Tbs flax seeds (mine are whole, but most recipes call for ground flax)


In a separate measuring cup, I used the microwave to assist melting together:
1/4c applesauce (mine is homemade, so I know it is only apples & a dash of water)
1/4c peanut butter

Then stirred in:
1 1/2 Tbs honey
**I wanted to include 1-2 tsp vanilla extract but I forgot to add it.


I poured the melted mixture over the dry ingredients and mixed until fully coated.


Spread out on a parchment lined cookie sheet.  The thinner the better.  It will roast a little quicker, especially at the edges so be sure to "stir" or disturb it so as to work the edge pieces toward the middle and vice versa.


Bake at 300-350*F, setting the timer for 10 minutes.  After 10 minutes, give it a good stir and bake another 10 minutes.  My first batch was thicker so I baked it for 10+10+5 (25 minutes).  The second batch was much thinner, baking for 10+10 (20 minutes).

Allow to cool (I only had enough parchment for one baking sheet so I cooled the first batch in a glass bowl) and mix in:
1/2 - 3/4c dried cherries


After roasting and allowing the granola to cool, I can definitely tell it is missing some flavor.  I stirred in the dried cherries while it cooled which helped add a little zip to it, but I think 2 tsp or 1 Tbs vanilla extract would really help bring out some more flavor in this granola.

Now I'm off to try a cup of homemade yogurt with some of this new granola.  :)

Thursday, February 6, 2014

A Few New Changes

A couple weekends ago, my wonderful husband organized 8 of our friends to come over and paint the second bedroom so we can start to convert it into a nursery.


(please excuse the mess; this was only a couple days after painting)

As a bonus (and because we were ready for a change in the living room), they also painted the living room a cheery yellow.  :)  I love how it looks when the sunlight pours in with its bluer light.  The table lamps are a little warmer in color so I've been on the look out for bluer LED bulbs to swap them out.

So far I have a handful of hand-knitted baby items made up (mittens, socks, hats, one blanket and one sweater) but I feel like a slacker that I don't have more sweaters and more longies made up.

A few of the smaller items I have collected for Baby.

These bibs + washcloths are from BeastiesBabies

Lots of knitted socks + mittens

I also keep thinking I need to make a few outfit pieces (sweater dresses/jumpers and sweater vests).

What item(s) would you most recommend I make a priority to knit before baby is here?  Is there something that you are so happy you made and use all the time or highly recommend now that you have a little wisdom under your belt?  Please let me know!  

Monday, February 3, 2014

Groundhog Weekend 2013

I found this post waiting in my drafts so I thought it was time to resurrect it.  This is the weekend my inventory of wool-ease hats began.

Groundhog Day is not usually a holiday I celebrate very much, but last year we had the opportunity to visit Punxsutawney, PA for their big holiday at the beginning of February.   A friend of ours is from Punxsutawney and invited us to join him and his wife for the roadtrip weekend.  So of course I had to keep busy during the drive...


I brought my remaining stash of thick, wool-ease yarn to see what I could come up with.  I even surprised myself how quickly they whipped up!


Even though I haven't posted many of these hats in the Etsy shop, they sell quite well at all the shows I've done.  I even had a custom order for a pure orange one at the 2013 Make It Indie fair.

After finishing the third (and my favorite) hat, I had an ah-ha moment.  ...


What do you think of a thick, wooly baby (or lap) blanket??  Even though I haven't tried this yet, it is definitely on my to-do list.