Burlap Wreath Saves Ugly Front Door!

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A front door says a lot. Mine is the ugliest. Really, really, U-G-L-Y because it has no alibi ugly. Worn dingy green paint job finds door with no structural character, topped with a silver number plate that makes it look more like a motel front than a home.

So I wanted something to jazz it up. A wreath I could make, and the pinecones I found while hiking the Lincoln National Forest Trails in New Mexico in October inspired me to move on this endeavor. 20131028-215028.jpg

I went to pinning. I found plenty of ideas, most of which featured wire bases with burlap wrapped around the outside. But it takes a lot of burlap to build a big, full wreath as well as a lot of patience–once you find out that burlap falls apart quickly and leaves little strings everywhere. When I went to Hobby Lobby, I found an alternative I liked much better.

Here’s the easiest little wreath you can make and one you can accessorize every season. Come Thanksgiving I’ll be adding some red, orange, and yellow ribbons. Christmas might be more green and red by removing the ribbons and pinning on ornaments, but who knows. Go where the wreath takes you, right?

Materials

1 wreath base (bunched twigs)

1 yard white burlap20131028-215020.jpg

2-3 pipecleaners

string from burlap or clear fishing line

Baubles and ornaments you want to decorate with

Note: I chose pine cones, a wooden J, and a faux white branch, but you can play around with this as much as you like, as noted above.

Directions

Start with your burlap. Cut the burlap into 2.5 inch-wide strips that all link together by alternating the sides you cut down. So you don’t want your burlap to look like one large tasseled end. Instead, cut down the first strip, stopping about 2 inches from the end of the first row. Flip sides and cut from the other end; continue to alternate until you have a longer, connected fabric that almost snakes or zigzags. 20131028-215039.jpg

Wrap the burlap onto the base. To secure the first part, use one of the pipe cleaners, sliding it through the twigs on the backside of the wreath to secure the fabric. Continue wrapping upwards to cover the entire wreath, but you might leave out a few twigs or gaps to show the twigs, if you like. Secure the final end with another pipe cleaner.

Next, I attached by white sprig branch by wrapping the wire stem around one lower part of the base. That wrap around stem I used to attach my other baubles. So I used the extra burlap strings to tie the pinecones onto the sprig branch’s wire, and did the same with the J.

Depending on what you use, yours could be very different, but as it stands, this might be the easiest wreath you could put together, and I think it’s lovely. I’m glad to have a chic, country touch on my ugly motel-esque front door. My only piece of parting advice might be this: In picking your baubles or even burlap color, consider the color of your front door and the colors around it. White works well to distract from mine without clashing, but if you’ve got a white door, you might want something different.

Administrative Professionals’ Day Craft

Baby Flower Headbands

DIY Fabric-Covered Canvases

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Broke Girl DIY: Fabric-Covered Canvas

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I really enjoy crafting. That being said, don’t take that to mean that I’m good at crafting… The two really are different.IMG_1201

I’m a drive-by crafter. My inner perfectionist gets a kick out of small projects that are easy to do. It helps me relax and feel like I’ve accomplished something.

Dealing with fabrics happens less frequently. This is because I’m a novice sewer with a mild phobia of sewing machines–those stitchers look like they could really take a few fingers off!

But I can do this fabric craft. Seen on Pinterest, accomplished in my own study, no sewing involved, and fingers remaining in tact.

What you need:IMG_1202

An old canvas (or new if there’s nothing hideous you want to cover)

Enough fabric to cover that canvas and it’s edges, plus a little extra

Flat push pins

ScissorsIMG_1203

An iron

The ability to fold

Directions:

Lay out your fabric on the ground or a large flat surface. Place canvas on top. Cut around this leaving about 3-4 inches extra fabric around the edges for folding.

Iron the fabric so it’s nice and smooth and will lay flat. Place the canvas evenly in the center and beginning folding your corners, wrapping as you would the edges of a present with gift wrap.

Pin down each corner lightly but not all the way. Why? you may need to make adjustments if the fabric pattern appears crooked or is laying too loosely over the canvas.IMG_1204

When you’ve gotten the fabric to lay as you like, push your pins down.

Hang and bask in your craftiness. Or folding abilities. Or just your abilities to choose aesthetically-pleasing fabric patterns that add to your interiors.

And if you’re feeling crazy–or need a visual change next month–do it all over again with another fabric pattern! 

 

Appetizer Idea: Healthier Mozzarella Sticks

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Guess who was still trying to eat her way through 20+ egg roll wrappers after a month or more of coming up with egg roll wrapper ideas?CC Pics 016

This girl.

When my own creative mind fails, Pinterest does not. I took to the pin boards and happened across lots of recipes using cheese sticks to make baked mozzarella bites with an egg roll wrapper coating. I’ve already tried the breaded bites, so I thought why not the wrapped ones. Let’s see which is better.

Well to no surprise, they were both equally good. I think my baked mozz bites made with whole-wheat breading looked a lot prettier, but these had a nice crunch.

And these egg-rolled-wrapper ones are super quick, easy, and mess free. If you’ve got some wrappers to use or company coming over and not a lot of time on your hands, I’d go for these. CC Pics 032

1 serving (Double or triple for more company)

Ingredients

2 organic or soy mozzarella cheese sticks

2 egg roll wrappers

optional: Marinara sauce for dipping

Directions

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Lightly grease a cookie sheet. Set aside.

Cut the cheese sticks into three equal parts. Lay on one edge of the egg roll wrapper, and then slice the wrapper into three’s, too, to fit with each of the mini sticks.CC Pics 030

Roll up! I rolled mine sort of at an angle and then tucked in the sides at the end. Use a drop of water or less to seal the egg roll wrappers in place.

Bake for 6-8 minutes or until golden brown and crispy. The cheese may begin to bubble out of the sides, and if so, that’s just a sign that you did something right. They’re ready to go!

Appetizer Idea: Baked Egg Rolls

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Ever admired an egg roll for its fresh veggie crunch? photo (30)

I have. What I’ve loathed, though, is the fact that the crispiness is usually fried. You know how I feel about that. NOT a fan. I love my arteries a bit too much.

Yes, so my health-snobbish ways have me trying another recipe of my own. My usual approach plays out here. I’m not drawing from any one specific recipe. Instead I snoop around on Pinterest, get a feel for how the traditional, unhealthy recipes are made, get the steps and ingredients down pat, modify to my liking, and

love it.

Everything’s better when you make it to your liking. I wanted a crispy, unfried roll with stir-fry-like veggie filling. You could modify the half-cup of veggies with rice, meats, beans, essentially anything you like. Have fun, experiment, and make it something you would want to eat.photo (28)

Again and again and again.

Ingreidents

3 egg roll wrappers (I love Nasoya)

1/2 cup stir-fry veggies

1 t low-sodium soy sauce

dash of ginger

bigger dash of red pepper flakes

optional: 1/2 t Asian dressing (like Newman’s Own Ginger-Sesame)photo (27)

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a cookie sheet. Set aside.

In a small pan, fry up veggies in soy sauce, and then mix in ginger, red pepper, and dressing if you’re using that. Saute it up on high ’til tasty coating forms, then turn down to low after a few minutes. Juices will begin to thicken. Let saute a few more minutes.

When ready, evenly distribute the veggies on the three wrappers, laying them out in a thick line. At the ends of each line, fold edges in. Flip one of the adjacent edges over and roll. You’ll roll ’til you can’t roll anymore. Flip the egg roll over on its side or seal with a dab of water so the wrapper holds (but not much).photo (31)

Bake for about 8-9 minutes or until golden brown. Serve warm with your favorite dipping sauce.

Hope you love it! I definitely want to try it as an appetizer for a group.

 

Broke Girl DIY: Administrative Professionals Appreciation Day

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Happy Administrative Professionals Week!SAM_5127

How do you plan to thank these wonderful people? The people who have the spatial ability to organize and prioritize work flow? The people who take all your questions patiently and kindly, no matter how obvious or absurd they might be?

Most of the women in my family worked in some capacity as administrative professionals and the care and the effort they put into their work is relentless. It exhausts me just thinking about it. I’m not crazy about the term secretary or that this field is still dominated by women, but the work these people do is fascinating. A lot of it is day-to-day, mundane filing and fielding questions, but more than that, it’s taking care of others. Administrators are the buffers between work conflict. They’re always tending to people’s problems and I’m sure that wares on their energy at times. That’s why admire them. Plus, the power and influence they have over an office is incredible.SAM_5137

Put another way, if the ringleader isn’t happy, the animals won’t be either.

So I found this cute little idea on Pinterest. It does take commitment to do an administrator’s job. So I hope I can sweeten up some of their days (I only have six!) with a surprise commit-MINT.

Too cute, right? The wordie in me will always be a sucker for a good play on words.SAM_5132

So please do something kind for the professionals who are so kind to you. This craft is a no-brainer and inexpensive. A few bags of Andes mints, peppermint patties, or whatever minty treats you can find. Goodie bags, ribbon, and a kind note seal it up into a simple, thoughtful presentation.

DIY: Cupcake Transport Idea

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Friends of mine might remember the adorable cupcake presentation boxes I had for my letter writers when I was applying to M.A. programs two years ago.SAM_4837

Another round of excellent and supportive letter writers put up with my numerous reminders and gushing thank you’s again, this time for doctoral programs.

There’s a lot changing in my life right now, but craftiness and my cooking-to-relax routines are not. This time, it was a healthful little blueberry muffin. It needed delicate transport and it needed to be as cute as I was thankful. My favorite culinary truth: Eating is 50% presentation.

So I found this great little idea on Pinterest. Put a muffin or cupcake in a small plastic cup. Wrap with whatever kind of wrapping you like–I used treat bags from Michael’s–tie up in a pretty bow and take them anywhere. The cups keep the treats sturdy and upright. The bag gives the pizzazz.

Oh, and the most important part, the muffin, makes everything sweet. I hope they liked my thank you’s. I’m thinking of baking something for them again because I had so much fun tucking them into their mailboxes.

Secret Ingredient Cookie Dough Dip

Santa can’t be getting enough nutrients eating cookies all the time. Maybe the big guy should try some fiber and protein in his cookies for a change…

If you’re on Pinterest, you’ve seen this recipe. Everyone and their brother has added it to their token food boards.

And one can understand why. Chocolate-Covered Katie, my all-time favorite healthy dessert blogger, never fails to impress.

This recipe is pretty good. It reminded me a lot of her other bean-based cookies I’ve tried on this site.

But there’s something less appealing to me about this dip for some reason. It’s not the unconventional ingredient or the fact that everyone pins it over and over again. I think, instead, well… Just read through my single-serving version and when you get to the end you’ll see how I ate this instead.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup low-sodium chickpeas or white beans, drained and rinsed
  • pinch of salt and baking soda
  • splash of pure vanilla extract
  • 1 T nut butter or vanilla yogurt (depending on which you’d prefer a scant taste of
  • 1 T nondairy milk
  • 1 T stevia
  • 2 T oats
  • as many chocolate chips as you like
  • optional: dash of cinnamon
 Directions
-In a blender, puree the chickpeas. Then add in the remaining ingredients, except the chocolate chips.
-Blend once more until smooth dip forms. Once finished, whip up the dip in a cute bowl, and prepare whatever dipping sticks you’d like.
I actually ended up treating my dip more like a dough and baking it into cookies, but you can dip banana rounds, apple slices, large nuts, whole-grain graham crackers…
Maybe even actual cookies!?
Or you could really take yourself on a culinary trip and serve atop a chocolate cake…
Oh, the possibilities. Cooking is always better when it’s creative.

Salsa Rice

I found this really neat site on Pinterest: My Fridge Food. The site lets you select what’s currently in your fridge, and then it uses your selections to find quick & easy recipes featuring the ingredients you have available to you.

When I punched in my fridge foods, one of the recipes that came up was Salsa Rice.

Salsa what?

I have lots of salsa on hand always, so I was intrigued. What would a salsa rice taste like? Would it be good?

I doctored up this recipe a bit, adding in some spices and seasoned tomatoes, but I think you could easily follow the original recipe (1 cup rice cooked, 1/2 cup salsa) and have a tasty meal in a pinch.

It almost seems like the perfect bachelor recipe–like a Spanish rice my dad could whip up in just a few minutes.

Note: Pick a salsa with all-natural ingredients. On The Border makes a good, all-natural salsa. Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods also have some great options.

Here’s the recipe I created:

Ingredients

-1 cup rice, cooked

-1/4 cup

-1 small tomato, sliced and sauteed in cumin and onion salt

-1 t hot sauce

-1 t chili powder

-red pepper flakes to taste

Directions

-Prepare rice.

-Meanwhile, grease a small saucepan with cooking spray. Add in sliced tomatoes and sautee with seasonings for about 5 minutes. Simmer ’til rice is ready.

-When the rice is finished cooking, mix into saucepan. Then mix in salsa, and then hot sauce, chili powder, and red pepper flakes. Mix well & serve warm.