Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Guest Post from Sweet Basil

Hi everyone!! I'm Carrian from Sweet Basil. I post about recipes I've found to be delicious or that I've created myself. I also work over at Simply the Sweet Life. A new magazine that is as beautiful as it is wonderful and I'm so excited to be posting on Monkey See Monkey Do! It's such a great site (Hello! Did you see the rocking chair re-upholstery? Awesomeness!) Jennifer was so kind to let me do a guest post and I hope it helps at least one of you out.

I think that one of the best ways to save money is to do smart grocery shopping. This could obviously be a huge post about couponing, shopping sales, staying on a budget etc, but we can talk about that another time. One of the best ways that I've found is to plan out my meals. Every week I post a meal plan on Monday so that you can have all week to get to the grocery store and buy your ingredients. Then at the end of the week (or beginning of the next week if you want to say it correctly) you use the meal plan.

I am a big believer in buying foods and then trying to use the ingredients and leftovers in other meals that week so you don't waste anything. Planning it out means less trips to restaurants, to the store and less over buying which in the end means more money in your pocket.

Here's just one example.

You buy a big ol' juicy roast. Bake it up on Sunday, eat yourselves silly, and have tons of leftovers.

Then on Monday or Tuesday you turn that delicious pork into Tostadas!!!

And then, if you are anything like my family you will probably have leftover tortillas, black beans etc. You could turn those into something that weekend like,

This time things did end up a little on the Mexican side, but it doesn't have to be. Remember pizza one night could mean using the sauce and mozzarella for lasagna the next or a rotisserie chicken turned soup or chicken salad the next night!

Thanks for having me, Jennifer!! I hope you'll all stop by Sweet Basil and say HELLO!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Toddler Shorts Repurposed from Men's Shorts

I love to make things for my little boy. I wanted to make him some plaid shorts for the summer with a slight patriotic theme (since it is Memorial Day!)

Here's a preview:

I decided to buy a pair of used shorts from the thrift store. They had a missing button. I should've asked for a discount, but didn't. I paid $5. A little steep? Maybe.

Anyway, I used the pattern for flat front pants from MADE. (And I didn't do a whole tutorial, just a few highlight pictures from the process. So visit Dana's site if you want the whole scoop!)

I cut these so I could use the existing bottom hem for the new shorts' bottom hem:
Keep in mind that the front and back of shorts and pants should be a little different, even for kids. One exception is that usually newborn pants can be made with the same pattern for front and back.

Sew the crotch seams up to the waistband. Don't sew down the legs yet!

To sew down the legs, you'll attach the front and back pieces. (No picture for this).

This is what the elastic casing will look like:

Since I did the flat front version, there is no elastic in the front of the shorts.

Trying to get a good picture of my child is difficult. Even with a graham cracker bribe.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Best Chocolate Chip Cookie Bar Recipe

I love to make cookie bars instead of individual cookies because it saves a lot of time over forming and dropping each cookie onto the sheet. I made a few tweaks in a recipe I usually use in a cookbook and think these are the best cookie bars ever.

3/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup Grade B maple syrup
1/2 cup Demarana Sugar (you can identify it by its larger crystals)
1 cup butter, at room temperature (no substitutes)
2 t vanilla
1 large egg
2 1/4 cups flour (scant)
1 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
1/2 cup pecans, chopped
12 ounces milk chocolate chips

1. Heat oven to 375 degrees.
2. Beat the sugars, maple syrup, and butter in a large bowl with an electric mixer. Do not over mix. It is good to have some lumps of butter. Add the vanilla and egg and mix some more.
3. Stir in flour, baking soda and salt--again, do NOT overmix. Just make sure to incorporate all dry ingredients.
4. Stir in nuts and chocolate chips.
5. Using a spatula, put dough into an ungreased 9"x13" metal pan. To spread dough to all edges evenly, wash your hands well and then leave them wet with cold water. Use your wet hands to press the dough evenly around the pan. If it starts to stick, re-wet your hands.
6. Bake 15-20 minutes and cool completely before cutting.
7. Store in an airtight container with a slice of bread (it helps the cookies stay moist!) When the bread dries out, replace it with a fresh slice.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

More Taffeta Flowers

I don't have any finished projects to show...but this is one of the things I've been working on lately. I needed some sort of accessory to go with my dwindling maternity wardrobe (I had to buy some new maternity things this weekend...) and am working on something with these flowers. I posted a tutorial on making these flowers here.

Monday, May 23, 2011

More Low-Budget Wall Art

I made these framed animals for my son's room. They match the fabric I used to recover the rocker (see here and here) and the color of the frames matches the bookshelf I painted for him (bookshelf seen here).

To make the shapes, I found the fabric online (called Zoo Pals Blue Print Fabric by Robert Allen), printed off a few of the animals at much larger proportions, and traced them onto my fabric or paper.

I used felt for the whales:

I used jersey knit for the rhino (it's a sleeve of an old t-shirt):

And I used scrapbook paper for the turtles. For all the eyes, I used holes from a hole punch. Then I used rubber cement to attach everything to butcher paper. The rubber cement didn't hold well for the jersey or the felt, but it held well enough to get it under the frame's glass. I spray painted the frames with the same color paint as for the bookshelf.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Want to Make: Skirts

Slight skirt obsession. I don't wear them that much, but I love to make them!

Ruffled skirt. Love skirts. Love ruffles.
another ruffled skirt tutorial. i must make one.
Maternity skirt. Looks easy! Cute!
I need to make this skirt, no hem!
Oh my goodness.I love this ruffled skirt.
This skirt is too cute.
Or this super cute skirt made from a pair of pants!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

My Favorite Marinade

I cut this marinade out of a magazine and glued it into my recipe book. I use it a lot because it is so easy and I usually have the ingredients on hand. It is great on chicken or pork; haven't tried it on beef.


1 part soy sauce (I usually do 1/2 cup)
1 part maple syrup (so usually 1/2 cup)

Cover the raw chicken or pork with it and refrigerate for a few hours or overnight. Cook as desired.

A note on maple syrup: I usually use Grade B for because it is less processed and best for cooking. It tastes good on pancakes or waffles, too.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Bird Theme Wall Art

Decorating the walls of of one's home can be really expensive. Even a lot of DIY ideas out there require much $$$$ to be spent on the materials! I want to decorate my home at a lower cost, so I've got some ideas. Here's one.

I was at a garage sale a few weeks ago and found these frames. They cost me $1 for all of them. Some had glass, some didn't. It didn't matter for this project if any of them did.

I lined them all up outside on a rare sunny day for painting.

I used my favorite lilac spray paint to coat all the edges.

I found some bird images online and used scrapbook paper and cardstock to create the bird images and backgrounds. I stuck with the lilac/purple theme. I used rubber cement to attach the birds to the backgrounds.
Note: For my first attempt, I used Mod Podge but that was a giant fail. Rubber cement is absolutely necessary for this project!

I just popped the pictures in the frames and cut some cardboard for the frames that were missing backs and used hot glue to keep everything together. Can't wait to move into our house so I can put them up!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Rocking Chair Reupholstery Part II

So far, the chair looks good from the front.
But the back is not finished.
Finishing things up proved to be the most challenging part so far.

The first challenge was that I was using a manual staple gun and not getting the staples all the way into the wood. I debated buying a 'real' upholstery staple gun (pneumatic or electric) but that would cost $150+ dollars. Not very frugal!

So I put off finishing the chair for about 5 months!

My dad suggested trying to hammer in tacks to the wood. I tried that and it worked well! It took forever, but it was worth saving money.

The first thing I hammered in was the trim for the back.

The next thing I used was ply-grip. Here's a great how-to video about ply-grip. Ply-grip is the metal stuff at the edge that allows you to finish an upholstery project without any staples showing and with all raw edges tucked in.

You need ply-grip on three sides. On the fourth side, you can tack (or staple) the fabric down.

This is how you'd tack it down:

Then the opposite side should get tucked into the ply-grip. I waited until the very end to use the mallet to bump it into place (see the video, I can't quite get the point across in pictures).

This is what the back looks like after pulling all four sides tight under the ply-grip:

Closer view of the back:

This is the bottom. I used the same technique to attach the solid navy fabric to the bottom. However, I did have to fold it a bit around the legs of the chair so it isn't as tight.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Rocking Chair Reupholstery Part I

Do you remember the rocking chair I posted about awhile ago? It was my mom's that I found in the attic. Well, I finally got around to reupholustring it! It was my first true reupholustery project. Here's how I went about it:

First, I stripped the chair of the fabric and padding. I carefully saved the fabric and labeled it in order. Mine only had three pieces, which made it a simple first project.

Then I ironed the original fabric flat so I could trace it onto the new fabric.

Here's the chair:
I had removed the burlap from the back, so I added a new piece. I think it keeps the foam in place and from sliding out between the rungs on the chair's ladder back.
I cut foam to fit the back of the chair. I used an electric knife straight out of the kitchen!
Then I just went for it! I started stapling (using a manual staple gun; I've read it is better to use a hydraulic gun but I do not have one.) I started at the bottom of the fabric. I also read it is important to keep the fabric pulled very tight while stapling.
I needed more hands, so I had to get my hubby to help me hold the fabric taught. I was excited at how the back turned out!
I did have to hammer some of the staples flat b/c they didn't quite make it into the old wood. My dad says wood dries and hardens with age.
Here's what the back looks like so far. Don't worry; I'm going to cover it up soon!
We did the seat's bottom next. Here's how it turned out!
All that is left now is the bottom and back of the chair. Stay tuned for Part II of this post to see how it turns out!

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Butter Chicken Recipe

I highly recommend this recipe for butter chicken. We went out for Indian food last Friday and ordered this for our son to eat--I ended up eating most of it and just HAD to have it again! I made it last night and it was fabulous.

Try it!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Vintage File Drawer Repainted

I rescued this drawer from my parents' barn. It had rusted (it was from a 1960's style office) and was dark green with a brass colored handle and various scratches and chips. Unfortunately, I was in such a hurry to sand, prime and paint it the other day I neglected to take a 'before' picture.

But here is the after picture:
vintage file drawer spray painted file drawerI really love how it turned out. I think I might use it for recipe organization. It's for 3x5" cards.