Monday, December 15, 2014

Using Burlap for Crafting

I love the look of burlap but I'll be honest, I'm not crazy about the mess it makes when you work with it.  It leaves little fibers, fuzz and strings all over everything.  Yuck.  But the texture is so cool, isn't it?   Last week I showed you the Ho, ho, ho Christmas Card Holder I made.   Today I'm going to share the picture frame I made as a gift for my good friend Moira.

You know Moi - I went down to Sanibel last August with her and Traci.  You can read about our fun filled trip here.   Moira and I share a passion for decorating with beach themed items, and after she gave me some gorgeous sand dollars a couple of weeks ago, I had an idea of something I wanted to make for her.

First I took an 8" x 10" picture frame and painted it beige....

 I applied a thin coat of watered down Elmer's Glue to both sides of the sand dollars to help make them a little more sturdy.  Sand dollars are so fragile and I've found that I break fewer of them if I coat them with the glue mixture.  Once they dry, you can't even tell.   I took a piece of burlap and cut a piece a little larger than the cardboard insert for the frame.  Then I ironed it out nice and flat.   I pulled out my stencils and some blue paint....

....and stenciled one of our favorite sayings onto the burlap....

Once the paint had dried I attached the burlap to the cardboard insert and put it inside the frame.  Finally I took one of the sand dollars and glued it to the corner of the frame.  I adore the look of stenciled letters on burlap.

So the above frame was made for Moira and then I made this for myself.  I took one of the arrowhead sand dollars she gave me and gave it the Elmer's Glue dip.  Then I took a 4" x 4" frame, painted it beige and simply glued the sand dollar to the back of the frame.   This was a super easy project and it's now standing on a book shelf  in my office.  Isn't the shape of this sand dollar awesome?

I swear it took me longer to clean up all that burlap than it did to make both projects.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Getting a Little Fresh Air

Last week we had 2 chances to get outside for some fresh air and geocaching.  On the first day we picked up my parents, dressed warmly, and headed out.  The first cache we looked for was hidden on a gazebo near a park.   It took us about 10 minutes and then I pushed something and Dad took a closer look and found the cache!

Another fun geocache was a very sneaky one hidden near this fire hydrant.  I've seen fire hydrant hides before and this one was very clever.  There was even a decoy cache hidden here.  Take my word - it was a sneaky cache!

Then we drove off to the woods to grab a few.  It was a perfect day to be out hiking around and it felt great to be outside.  Can you spot the cache here?

It was so pretty walking in the woods with the leaves crunching underneath our feet.  Check out my mom - 2 knee surgeries last year, and then radiation and chemo this year, and she was out walking in the woods like a champ.  I think she's pretty darn inspiring, don't you?

She even spotted a couple of the caches before the rest of us...

This cache practically hit me upside the head as I walked underneath it and totally missed seeing it...

I think we were all happy to be outside doing something together that we enjoy....

We found this geocache laying out in the open, its contents laying in the dirt.  We cleaned everything up and then re-hid the cache better than we found it....

The next day Louie and I headed out alone to tackle a series of geocaches that were going to require quite a bit of bushwacking and about 3 miles of trail.  My favorite one of that day was this one where we needed to improvise with some natural tools to reach the cache that was hidden about 20 ft. up in the air....

 Getting it down was pretty easy.....

But putting it back up proved to be more difficult.   Louie was determined tho and finally got the cache back where it needed to be.

I have to say, walking in the woods this time of year is one of my favorite things to do.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Ho Ho Ho Card Holder

I had bought some burlap for a project last week and had quite a bit left over.  While scrolling through Pinterest the other day I saw a card holder idea and decided to tweak the idea and make one for myself.

First I cut a piece of burlap approximately 5 ft. by 10".   Then I ironed it so it was nice and flat.

I folded over the top edge and sewed it about 2" down from the top, leaving both sides open....

I dug through my craft box and pulled out a paint stirring stick.  I painted both sides with a light brown acrylic paint....


After the paint dried I drilled a hole into each end of the stick, about 1/2" in.  Sorry. no picture of that.

I went out into my craft shed and rummaged around until I found a bag of old clothespins that I bought last summer at an estate sale.  I grabbed some green and red acrylic paint and painted up a bunch of the clothespins.   Yeah, I know that's a lot of stuff piled up on my craft table but I had about 4 projects going on at once.   Does anyone else do that??

I took my stencils and some red paint and wrote ho, ho, ho across the top edge of the burlap...

And finally I threaded a piece of hemp string through the holes of the paint stick so I could hang my card holder from a hook.  I stuck my colored clothespins along the edges and as I receive Christmas cards I can attach them to the burlap with the clothespins.  I love this idea because usually as I receive cards I lay them on a Christmas plate on the shelf, but this way I can actually see, enjoy and display all my cards.

This was a quick project and it will be easy to roll up and store away with my Christmas decorations.  Ho, ho, ho....

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving 2014

Happy Thanksgiving to all my blogger friends.  I hope each of you has a day filled with love and joy.
This year I'm thankful that my mom has finished her chemo and radiation and is now cancer free.  That's the best gift I could have been given this year.
What are you thankful for?

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Toffee Pecan Caramel Pound Cake

Toffee Pecan Caramel Pound Cake - You have to check out this cake!  Are you a fan of Pinterest?   I love Pinterest and that's where I saw the recipe for this cake.  Here's the link back to the original post.  Go over and look at her photos and I think you'll agree.   I couldn't wait to make this cake and shove it in my mouth   taste it.

It's extremely easy to mix up....

It took almost 90 minutes to bake.  My problem with Bundt pans is always getting the cakes out in one piece.  The recipe tells you to grease and flour the heck out of the pan, which I did, and it still stuck to the pan.  Most of the cake came out in one piece, but a little of the top of it stayed in the pan.  I just picked it out and slapped it back on top of the cake.... 

Then I did what I do best - covered it up and made it pretty with some sprinkled powdered sugar.  Doesn't that look nice?  You can barely tell....

Here's the link to the original recipe for the Creamy Caramel Sauce.  You do not want to omit the sauce.  I was seriously sneaking spoonfuls of the sauce and just eating the sauce.... by itself....  I'm kind of nutty that way.  I bet it would taste really good over ice cream altho I don't know if it's going to last long enough around here to actually make it on top of some ice cream.  We'll see.

The recipe calls for pouring the Caramel Sauce over the whole cake, but I was afraid that would make it mushy and kind of gross after a day or two.  So I just made the sauce and let everyone pour as much as they wanted on their individual pieces of cake.  Altho some people who shall remain nameless took way more than their fair share of the caramel sauce.  Just saying....

In the meantime, go make this cake - It's excellent!  I think I'll go eat another piece.

Linking up with....
Party in Your PJ's # 31

Friday, November 21, 2014

When Ham is not a Ham

The other day my husband brought home a most unusual gift from a friend of ours.  It was wrapped in a large garbage bag and weighed about 30 pounds.   When I opened it up, I saw this....

(google images) 
" What the heck is it," I asked.   To which he replied that it was a fresh ham.   Hmmm....  Ok.  Now, what do I do with it?

Visions of succulent pineapple/brown sugar baked ham danced around my head like little sugarplum fairies.  I remembered a recipe for baked ham that I recently pinned from my friend Dolly over at Dolly is Cooking.  Take a look at her ham - doesn't this look fantastic?

Who wouldn't want a dinner that looked like that?   Since we were leaving the next day to go on a hunting trip in Kentucky and I'd have a bunch of people at the house to feed, I figured this would be the perfect thing to cook up for dinner one night.   So off to Kentucky we went, with our ham nestled in the back seat.
I went to the store and bought pineapple and cloves and a nice large pan, and as I was washing the ham off, it occurred to me that I had no idea of its exact weight, nor did I have a meat thermometer at the lake house.   After looking again at Dolly's recipe and guesstimating the ham at around 30 pounds, I started to panic.  This thing was going to have to cook for like 7 hours.  What was I thinking??  I grabbed a butcher knife and hacked two large chunks of  meat off the sides, wrapped them in saran wrap and stuffed them in the freezer.   Then I had everyone at the house lift what was left of the ham and guess at its weight.  We averaged it out and decided it now weighed about 20 pounds.   Then I started firing off e-mails to Dolly asking her questions about cooking it.  Suddenly I was thinking that this fresh ham baking wasn't such a great idea.  Who was I kidding?  I had no scale to weigh it, so how was I going to guess at how long to cook it and how in the world was I going to know when it was done without a thermometer?  I really felt like an idiot.   But Dolly shot me back some links on cooking times and recipes and assured me I'd be fine.  Apparently Dolly doesn't know what a lousy cook I am in general.
I got up yesterday and tossed that sucker into the oven at 8 in the morning.  By 10:00 am it was starting to smell pretty good.  At 1:00 pm I decided to take the tin foil off of the pan and see what my lovely ham was looking like.  Except when I did, I was shocked and horrified to see that it was not pink and crusted over with a delectable skin.  It did not look anything like Dolly's ham.   Instead, it was brownish grey and it didn't look anything at all like a ham.  
I ran to my laptop and started to google uncured fresh ham and discovered that uncured ham is basically a pork roast.  Once my heart stopped pounding through my shirt I took another look at a recipe for uncured ham that Dolly had sent to me -  this one by Paula Deen.  I started to feel better but then began to second guess myself because it was fresh pork and I wanted to be sure it was cooked all the way.  Cripes.  I jumped in the truck and drove all the way to town which is about 15 miles, just to buy a meat thermometer!  When I got home I plunged it into the meat and this is what I saw.  Done, finished, cooked just past the proper internal temperature, and when I cut a slice off, I was amazed at how good it was.  Plus, it was done earlier than I had expected, so I guess it was a good thing I drove to town for that meat thermometer, huh?

I kept the roast wrapped in foil on the counter and started making side dishes, you know, just in case the roast didn't taste all that great.  First I whipped up 2 types of gravy, because after all, anything tastes good drowned in gravy....

Then I made cole slaw, mashed potatoes, broccoli rice casserole and green bean casserole.

When the guys finally got home from hunting and Louie sliced up that ham pork roast, we were all pleasantly surprised at how good it was.  I mean, it was fork tender and actually delicious.   And it didn't look too bad either. 
It was no Paula Deen roast, but it tasted ok....

Fresh Ham

(Paula Deen's roast)
We had fried pork with biscuits and eggs this morning and tonight we're going to have barbeque pork sandwiches on hard rolls for dinner.  All's well that ends well.  So that's my story on how a ham is really a pork roast and I learned a lot about ham and pork roast in the last 2 days.  Now I have to go buy a cured, smoked ham so I can use up the pineapple and brown sugar that I bought.  I'm not promising that my ham will look anything like Dolly's though when I'm done.
Linking up with.....

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Author Interview - David McRee

If you missed my book review on Monday on "BeachHunter's Florida Gulf Beaches Access Guide" then go here to read it.  Author David McRee stopped by to say hello and to do an interview so please read on....

You now call yourself a professional Beach Bum.  You served as a beach expert for for over 2 years providing multimedia content.  What is your writing and photography background?

My only experience with writing and photography was researching and writing my Florida Gulf Beaches Access Guide and building my website. I took beach photos for the book and website. In 2007, Miles Media in Sarasota was looking for someone to create content about beaches for the new Visitflorida website. One of the editors found my website and liked my writing, so they offered me the contract position. I gained a lot of valuable experience and contacts from that assignment and got to travel to beaches all over the state, including my first trip to the Dry Tortugas.

Do you hold a regular job now or are you lucky enough to spend your days living on the beach and writing about it?

I am a Certified Public Accountant licensed to practice in Florida. I left my job at an accounting firm in 2005 to pursue my writing, however I’ve done a great deal of freelance consulting as a CPA to pay the bills and am currently rebuilding my practice since writing about beaches has never really produced a dependable full-time income. As a CPA I specialize in tax compliance and IRS problem resolution for nonprofit organizations of all kinds. I’ve also done some freelance writing and blogging for the Space Coast Birding and Wildlife Festival in Titusville, Florida and have created content for some other beach related websites.

How many books have you written?

Well, let’s see, with regard to beaches:

·         Florida Gulf Beaches Access Guide (currently available in print only)

·         Best Beach Day Trips from Orlando and Central Florida (e-book only from my website)

·         Dog Friendly Gulf Beaches of Southwest Florida (kindle book only)

·         Beach Survival Guide (e-book available on my website (free) and on Kindle (not free))

With regard to my CPA work, I’ve written a technical manual for CPAs and attorneys on resolving IRS penalty issues for nonprofit organizations.

What do you like most about writing your beach books?  Is it gathering the information, the writing, the photography, the editing?

I enjoy it all, but mostly I enjoy discovering new beaches or new things about a beach I’m already familiar with. I also get a huge amount of satisfaction from all the email I get from people telling me how much my books and website have helped them find the right beach and plan their vacation. I have individuals who tell me they have been using my website and books for many years.

What do you like the least about writing a book?

My least favorite part of writing is probably the last few editing and fact-checking efforts where I’m really splitting hairs in the way I word something or where I’m having trouble nailing down an important detail about beach access at a particular location. Also, making sure the table of contents and the index are correct and the layout is readable and all the photos are positioned correctly is tedious. I use Microsoft Word, which is not really what a professional book layout person would use.

Your books are available in both print and E book.  Do you prefer one medium over the other?

Just from a personal perspective I prefer printed books.  Now that I’ve discovered the Createspace publishing platform I no longer have to stock books and mail them out. Createspace handles printing and on-demand delivery. From a business (profit) perspective, I prefer to sell e-books. They are easier to update and have a much higher profit margin. And I can use color photos or illustrations if the book is not too long.

How do Florida’s east and west coast beaches differ?

I could easily write an entire article on this. The Gulf beaches are calmer, have more shells and fewer jellyfish (except the panhandle has lots of jellies), and the Gulf barrier islands are smaller and narrower. The panhandle and Atlantic coast beaches tend to have larger dunes and the buildings and houses are not packed quite as tightly as on the Gulf side, with some notable exceptions. The Gulf of Mexico water temperature gets warmer in the summer and colder in the winter than the Atlantic Ocean.

What’s the most unusual thing you’ve ever found on a beach?

I found a clay smoking pipe on Caspersen Beach, near Venice. It looks much like a pipe that Native Americans or Caribbean Islanders might have smoked hundreds of years ago, but probably isn’t that old. Perhaps it fell from a passing cargo ship. Who knows? It was a great find!

I know that water clarity changes on a daily basis, but which beaches typically have the clearest water for snorkeling/shelling?

I’ve actually written a blog post on this and it happens to be the most popular article on my blog at Panhandle beaches from Pensacola to around St. Joseph Peninsula generally have very clear water. Beaches from Anna Maria to Naples often have very fairly clear water, especially during May and June before the rains start, but clarity varies and can be inconsistent. On the Atlantic side, the beaches from about Palm Beach south to Miami usually have very good water clarity.

What do you personally look for in a beach in order for it to qualify as great beach?  Is it the shelling, the snorkeling, sitting in the sand, watching sunsets, the parking?

It depends on what I’m in the mood for mainly. But overall, it’s the vibe. I prefer quiet neighborhood beaches where I don’t have to fight traffic and I can just pull into a shady parking spot right next to the beach access trail. I like beaches where there is no crowd—just a few locals and vacationers staying nearby--and where I can see plenty of greenery and no high rise buildings. Clear water is a plus. I don’t care if the sand is white or brown or if there are lots of shells. Late afternoon and sunset are my favorite times at the beach. I don’t want to smell cigarette or cigar smoke, and I don’t want to hear traffic noise or loud music.

Describe your best beach day.

My best beach days actually happened when I was a teenager. I spent many wonderful days surfing with good friends on Anna Maria Island. I’ll never forget those times and those friends. More recently, my best beach day is harder to pinpoint, but my first trip to Sanibel Island, Bowman’s Beach and Captiva, --before Hurricane Charley blew over all the Australian Pines--was probably one of the most magical beach and island exploration days I can remember. My first trip to the beaches of Cayo Costa aboard the Tropic Star rates pretty highly as well.

So going to the beach is technically your “job.”  What do you like to do for fun?

I still go to the beach for fun. I enjoy kayaking as well. I’ve been a life-long birder and also enjoy working in my vegetable garden almost every day. For indoor activities, I’ve been an avid Argentine Tango dancer for over 15 years and I still pursue that passion as my schedule allows.

What advice would you give aspiring travel writers?

Oddly perhaps, I don’t really think of myself as a travel writer but I guess that would be a conventional description of my beach related writing. My advice would be to pick some angle or niche that you can specialize in. Become the “go-to” expert in that niche. Don’t be afraid to start off by self-publishing. Learn to take good photographs and to use social media. Create a lot of content. The biggest challenge in travel writing is that so many travel writers are willing to work for free or nearly free. That’s some pretty tough competition. Don’t undervalue yourself. Learn to write persuasive sales copy. Don’t quit your day job too soon.

I'd like to thank David for his interview and for giving me the opportunity to review his book "BeachHunter's Florida Gulf Beaches Access Guide."  It's available on his website and also at Amazon.
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