About Crystal

 

Hello and welcome to my blog! I am Crystal and I am a manager by day, crafter by night.  Make yourself at home, find a project and I hope in turn you learn something new and have some fun along the way!

What's Chica working on now? These things to come soon!

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Saturday
Jan052013

It's doable...easy guest toiletries basket

On a recent vacation I was admiring the particularly nice little shampoos and conditioners the hotel had left us when an idea struck me!  Why not use these to create a basket to leave out for overnight guests?  This basket takes no time at all and is practically free!

What I included:

-2 mini shampoos (sometimes the ones at the hotels are pretty poor quality, these were bath and body works so I don't feel guilty leaving these out, you could always pick some up from the travel section of your local drugstore)

-2 mini conditioners

-2 mini body lotions

-travel sized q-tips (these I bought for about $1)

-cotton balls (these were provided from the hotel)

-1 bar bath soap

-1 bar face soap

-feminine products

-1 basket/box to hold it all (I got this from the dollar section at Target)

So if you were keeping track, the whole shebang cost me $2!! I pair it with extra toothbrushes and washcloths and set them out when people stay over.  I also keep a basket under the sink in our main bathroom in case anyone needs something and may not want to ask :)

 

 

 

Tuesday
Jul312012

It's doable...4th of July flag cake

Come one, come all! You too can do this AMAZING flag cake! I brought this baby to the lake without telling anyone what to expect.  They just knew I was excited about cutting it and I kid you not, when I cut it and flopped the piece down on to the plate the whole place erupted, cheering and clapping.  All you need are minimal cake baking skills and you can handle this.  My husband and I busted this out in less than 3 hours and the majority of the time is baking...we were even able to keep the kitchen clean during the whole process!  So turn on some music and let's get ready for some baking. 

You will have a lot of excess 'scraps' so you could always make a simultaneous dessert by tossing these scraps in a trifle bowl with some cool whip and possibly strawberries and blueberries... just a thought.

 

WHAT YOU'LL NEED:

-4 18.25 oz. boxes white cake mix and ingredients necessary for cake mixture (I used super moist Betty Crocker)

-2 12 oz. containers white frosting, this just barely covered it so I would suggest 3 to be safe (I used Betty Crocker fluffy white whipped)

-non stick spray

-sprinkles of your liking

-8 in round cake pans (I had 3, this cut my baking time down drastically, I would actually suggest 4 if you have it)

-blue and red food coloring (it takes quite a bit of coloring, for me it was an entire .25 oz bottle of the red, less of the blue)

-butter knife

-spatula

-large bread knife (can substitute but this will make it easiest)

-several medium mixing bowls

-electric mixer (used for mixing the cake batter and for mixing the icing to make it go further, not necessary but recommended)

-small circular object (around 4 inches) to trace for flag cut out (I used a KFC tupperware container)

-cooling racks (optional)

 

STEPS:

Forward: We will use each cake box to make 2 cakes.  7 cakes are needed so you'll have one cake left over.  You will need 3 red cakes, 2 white cakes and 2 blue cakes and you will have a leftover white.  The important thing in this process is the timing.  Don't mix all your batter unless you have 8 cake pans and oven space or the cake batter will rise.  Mix each box when needed, this is why I suggest having 3 cake pans.

1) Let's start with 3 reds and 1 white.  Preheat your oven and prepare 2 boxes of your batter as directed on the box.  Dump 1/4 of the batter into a seperate mixing bowl (this will be a white cake so don't add food coloring).  Add in your red food coloring to the bowl with the 1.5 boxes.  I used an entire .25 oz red food coloring... it could've been a little darker but still came out more red than pink. 

2) Grease your cake pans with your non stick spray.  Divide your red batter into the 3 pans, smooth out the top of the batter and bake. (Your white cake will sit out this baking round).  Please pay attention to your cooking time and test with a toothpick.  You want just the smallest bit of crumbs to come out when you stick it with a toothpick. 

3) Let them cool in the pans for 5-10 minutes (until you can comfortably touch the top of the cake).  Very carefully remove the cake from the pan and set the cake on a cooling rack or the like.  I did this by flipping the pan upside down with my hand on the top of the cake and then flipping the cake onto the cooling rack.  However you do it, don't let the cake rip. 

4) Use the white batter for your 4th cake.  Use the third cake box to make 2 blue cakes and repeat steps 2-3 but with blue.  (You should now have 3 reds, 2 blue and 1 white cake).

The next few steps are going to depend on how fast you cut, ice and bake.  So read ahead if you are at a standstill.

5) While the blues and whites are cooking, we want to cut the rounded tops off the red cakes.  Using the bread knife shimmy across the top of the cake, making it flat with the bread knife.  There is no real trick to this, just make sure you can see what you are doing (I crouched down eye level) and start from one side and work to the other.

6) Are your blues and white done? Cool, remove from pans and cut the tops off.  Make your fourth box the same way but this time don't use any food coloring so the cakes come out white.  When done, cool, remove, and cut the tops off.  You are done baking!

7) I chose to whip my frosting to make it go even further.  If this interests you, do this now but with just one container.  Do each container as needed.  I emptied the container of frosting into a bowl and beat it on high for several minutes, you will see the frosting almost double in size.

 

Layering:

8) Place a red cake on whatever surface you plan to serve the cake on.  For me it was a cake stand.  Place this bottom layer right where you want it because you won't be moving it again.  Take your butter knife (yes butter knife, not spatula that will smear in crumbs I found) and smooth a layer around the whole top. This is how much I put on:

9) Place a white cake on top, (You want it to line up when you lay it down because it will be hard to move, so line up a side and then put it down). Next, cover the white with a layer of frosting again.  And last place a red layer on top and layer with frosting.  Your cake should now be bottom red, white middle, top red.

10) Take your round object and center it on a blue cake.  Trace with a knife and cut all the way through to the bottom so you have a donut.  I found it easiest to place the cake on top with the 'donut hole' still inside it for strength.  I used a giant spatula and my husband held the edges.  Once on top of the cake, I pulled the inner 'donut hole' out.

11) Make this same cut with your last white cake but keep the donut hole.  Place this in the center of the blue and ice the top of this layer.  (Now you have bottom up: red, white, red, blue with hole and white inside blue ring).

 Note: I did frost the top of the white.

12) Repeat with your other blue but put a red donut hole inside.  You're done!

Does it look like the red is lower? It is, I corrected my directions so that you won't have that result... please remember I just winged this the first time around :)

13) Ice the whole thing and dust with sprinkles!  I iced mine so that you couldn't see the different layers or colors, it was a big surprise :)

 

The first cut...

 

Progression...

 End result...

 

 

Sunday
Jul012012

It's doable...broccoli and feta frittata

Oh my gosh, the deliciousness of this dish is immeasurable!  This recipe is a modified version of one I found in my Eat Well, Save Big cookbook, a cookbook I've had for years that focuses on cheap and easy recipes.  And let me tell you, it's original cost was $12.99 and it has more than paid for itself over the years!

This can be eaten at any meal and to be completely honest, I have had it for breakfast, lunch and dinner!  It's fast, easy, cheap and healthy... what more could you ask for, right?

WHAT YOU'LL NEED:

-1 Tbsp. unsalted butter (I use I Can't Believe It's Not Butter light from the tub)

-1/2 onion, finely diced

-2 cups chopped broccoli florets

-7 large eggs (you may substitute egg whites)

-3 oz. feta cheese, crumbled (I used Athenos reduced fat tomato-basil feta)

-Round glass baking dish (I used an 8inch oven-safe pie dish)

-non-stick spray

-salt and pepper to taste

STEPS:

1) Preheat oven to 475 degrees.  In a small skillet, melt butter over medium heat.  Add onion and cook, stirring frequently, about 4 minutes until translucent. 

2) Add broccoli, season with salt and pepper and cook until tender, about 6 minutes longer.  Remove from heat.

3) In a medium bow., which together eggs and season with salt and pepper.  Spray your baking dish with non-stick spray and add the onion-broccoli mixture and gently spread out over the bottom of the dish.

4) Pour eggs over the broccoli-onion mixture.  Sprinkle the surface with the feta.

5) Bake for about 20 minutes or until the edges brown and it is cook thoroughly (check center with a toothpick).

Slice and serve!

Sunday
Jul012012

It's doable...compost pile and worm bin

For years I've thought about having a compost pile, but I always thought they were a lot of work and very stinky.  Well I was very wrong! They don't stink at all (if you know what you can and cannot put in them) and you can build one for about $35!  But the best part?  It only takes about 20 minutes to build one.

Then I took it a step further.  I heard about Castaway Compost and fell in love.  But with what you ask? Worms!  You can purchase a worm bin for about $30 and feed them your composted compost and in turn get great worms and soil to put in your garden.  Plus, the website has a whole page dedicated to pirate jokes! Haha

 

But let's not get ahead of ourselves, I'll start from the top.

 

WHAT YOU'LL NEED for the compost pile: (note: if you do it the size I did, you won't have to cut any of the hardware cloth)

-4 fence posts/stakes with fasteners (We used 4 foot stakes)- $10 total

-2 rolls of galvanized hardware CLOTH (3 ft tall by 5 feet long)- $26 total

-Measuring tape or yardstick

-Handful of small zip ties (optional, we had these laying around the house but it does make it more secure)

-Hammer

 

STEPS:

1) We chose a bare spot in the back of our lawn for our compost pile and used the hammer to drive the first stake in.  You want the pointy part to be under the soil, and you want your stake to be as far out of the ground as your roll.  So we just held up the roll next to the stake and measured that way.

2) Measure out 2 1/5 feet and drive in another stake.  Drive in 2 more after this to create a square. 

3) Open your first roll of hardware cloth (this is sharp, so you might want to wear tough gloves) and while the bottom of the roll is touching the ground, 'hook' it onto a stake. Basically, line it up on the post and push it down over the fasteners and it will lock onto the stake.  You'll have room to leave about an inch or two hanging over the side away from the direction your roll is going.

4) Roll out the roll to the next stake and fasten that side.  Proceed to the next post and fasten it.  It should cover 2 full sides of the compost pile.

5) Do the same with the next roll, starting where you left off and finish where you started the whole thing.  All sides of your compost bin are now covered, with some overlap on two corners.  What's nice about this is that you never had to cut the wire and you can open it totally up if you ever want to.  This is when we added some zip ties around the stakes and wire.

6) Add your items.  I usually keep a bowl out on the counter when I am cooking and just throw all of my scraps in there.  If you purchase a worm bin from Castaway Compost he can give you a very detailed list of items that can and cannot go in your compost.  Mainly the things are items that are biodegradable like paper towel rolls and paper shreds, all veggies, low on fruits and no dairy or meat. Since I don't eat meat, and rarely dairy, pretty much all of the scraps from my cooking can go in.

 

 

  (After about a month of composting)

Thinking about a worm bin too?  You should! It's definitely my favorite part of composting! After your compost has been composting, the mixture can go into your worm bin, or small things like spinach or chopped up items can go directly in it, because as Keith O'Dell from Castaway Compost says, "worms have very little mouths".

We keep our worm bin in our garage.  It has a layer of shredded cardboard over the top of the compost so you never smell it and as long as you follow the directions on what you can put in there, you won't smell a thing!  After you've had your bin for a month or two, fertile soil comes out the bottom of the container.  We have already used our worms in our garden as well as the fertile soil they create throughout our yard and planting.

Just another natural and 'good for our earth' project!!

 

Monday
Jun112012

It's doable... a garage sale coffee table redo

On the way to one of the many weddings we attended this fall, we stumbled up this beauty at a barn sale.  Yes my friends, I am from the Midwest where you sometimes see barn sales versus yard sales.  I saw it as a diamond in the rough (while my sweet husband scoffed at me) and we bought it for a mere $8.  Don't pass by a solid wood item just because it needs a little lovin!

 

 

Aren't the before and after amazing?

 

It's really quite simple what we did... although time consuming.

1) First, we decided we could take the table apart by removing a few screws.  This wasn't the original plan but the table needed some new reinforcements and one thing led to another and we had it taken apart.  It was old enough the glue had worn off so it was just screws holding it together.

2) Second, we used a 100 and 120 grit sandpaper to sand the life back into the table... the main goal here is to get all the old junk off, while not taking any gouges out of it as you do so.  I highly recommend a dust mask and goggles for this part... especially if it is painted and not stained, you don't want to come into any contact with old lead paint.

 

3) If your table is rickety like ours was and this is new to you, take pictures of it to your local hardware store and they'll show you what brackets you can use to tighten her up!

4) We chose a white satin spray paint and a chocolate brown for accents.  Make sure you are in a well ventilated area and have a lot of drop cloths down around your table (you will be moving your can at different angles and will inevitably spray off your drop cloth...sorry honey!)  Read the can carefully and don't get too impatient with how thin the first layer of paint looks... trust me, I did and put it on too thick and then it ran.  And I had to sand some more.  It'll take a few coats, and putting the table on it's end or upside down.  It's important not to rush this, you want each coat to be dry before grabbing it and moving it around.

5) Put it all back together! (For some reason the leg looks crooked in this picture... it's not, just so it doesn't drive you crazy wondering why we didn't fix that too!)

6) We then took it to a local glass cutting store and had 2 pieces made in a grey tint (this was by far the most expensive part coming in at $50).

Total cost:

table: $8

sand paper: free (we had it)

couple cans of spray paint: $20

custom cut glass inserts: $50

TOTAL: $78 Think that's expensive? Go price out a solid wood table and I'll see you back soon :)

 

 

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