Custom Carrying Caddy

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This was another birthday present for the Pie.  When he goes off to play Street Fighter, he brings what is known as a “setup,” which includes an XBox, the game, his fightstick and a display monitor.  He can put pretty much everything in one backpack, but carrying the monitor to and fro is more difficult, especially when negotiating doors and long hallways and preventing it from getting damaged while sliding around in the trunk of the car.  So he has often wished aloud that he had some kind of specialized carrier that would make humping the monitor to and fro less of a pain in the patoot.

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The idea percolated in my head for a few months, and then, about a week before his birthday, I figured it out.  I managed to make this, from concept art to completion, in about three hours, on a horribly humid and rainy Sunday afternoon.  I’m not sure if this particular DIY is practical for you, but maybe you have something awkward you need to carry around on occasion and if so I hope this inspires you to make something that is perfect for the purpose!

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First, obviously, I measured the crap out of everything.  I studied the front and back of the monitor, figuring out where the base stuck out of the back and how wide it was when it did so.  To make this custom caddy stable, it made more sense for the caddy itself to enclose only the screen, and have the base stick out the bottom.  This means that you can put the whole thing down on a surface without it overbalancing and tipping over.

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I picked up this absolutely awesome Spider-Man fabric at Wal-Mart.  I couldn’t resist.

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And if I turned it sideways, it was the perfect size for a custom caddy.

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This quilted stuff I grabbed at Fabricland, as well as some red velcro and some red strapping.

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In order to ensure the continuing accuracy of my measurements, I had to cut the stuff in the basement where the sewing machine was, and then carry it upstairs two storeys and hold it against the monitor in question. I would have brought the monitor down but it would have been harder to explain if the Pie had come home early.  This shot shows the fold-over flap at the top.

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Now I needed to figure out the hole for the base and stem.

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Measure, check, measure, check again, and then finally cut.  Fortunately I bought enough of the quilted stuff to have a do-over if I messed it up, but I didn’t want to waste it.

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The slit in the back of the caddy with the hole for the base.

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Here it is with the foldover flap pinned down for measuring purposes.

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Now to attach it to the outside fabric.

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I pinned it in place as straight as I could, and mitred the corners to avoid fraying.

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In order to have the Spider-Man fabric wrap properly around the quilting along the slit, I widened it slightly to give me a little wiggle room.

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Not much wiggle room, but some.

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The pinned slit.

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This gives you an idea of how it’s going to look from the back, with the top flap folded down.

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And the flap open.

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Then I sewed it all down.

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It’s not perfect in the hole but it’s the best I could do at the time.

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Now for all the bits to hold it together.

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Each strap is a metre long, and I pinned them far enough down on the caddy so they would support the weight of the monitor while not putting too much strain on the fabric.  They’re also at a comfortable spot for the straps to go over your shoulder, with the monitor balanced against your hip.

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Sewn in place with reinforced stitches.  You can see here how the foldover flap keeps the two sides split by the slit together.

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In order to keep the foldover flap in place I needed the velcro.  One fuzzy strip across the flap and a hook strip on either side of the slit.

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Sewing velcro on a machine is not easy.

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It was hot work, in fact, but the humidity outside didn’t make anything easier.

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But I did it!

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So basically here’s how it works.Custom Caddy 31

You open it up and align the slit with the base of the monitor, tucking the strap over the monitor (not shown in this shot, sorry).

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Slide the slit along the base of the monitor (sideways works best).

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Twist the carrier so the solid side is in front, covering the screen.

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Lift the caddy by the straps …

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… and fold the flap over to hold the two back ends together.

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So you can easily carry it and just as easily set it down.

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Here’s me trying to take a selfie while holding the thing on my shoulder.

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Hakan-Themed Gel Transfer

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I’ve been sitting on this project for what feels like FOREVER.  I made it for the Pie’s birthday and despite it being a first attempt I’m nevertheless pretty stoked about how it turned out.

I’ve seen a few blog posts on the internet where people take photos or photocopies and use a medium to transfer them to canvas or wood for a folksy sort of artistic-like thing.  And I wanted to do that.  So I did.  But a bit differently.  You’ll have to forgive the photo quality, as I did most of this at night while the Pie was out.  Playing Street Fighter.

First I took this image, which is Hakan, the Pie’s character of choice in Super Street Fighter 4.  You may remember him from a birthday cake I made a few years back.

From http://streetfighter.wikia.com/wiki/Hakan

Then I ran it through Rasterbator.  Because I like dots.

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Then I printed it out. Trimmed it.

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Assembled it with tape.  If I did this again I would skip the tape part and just assemble it in situ.

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Then I cut it into four pieces and hid them in the closet where the fuse box is and worked on my canvas.

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These are four 20″ x 16″ canvases I got at DeSerres.

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Hakan’s colours are sort of maroon-y purple and turquoise, so I vaguely mixed some craft paint together in a dish and smeared it across the four canvases.

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I’m quite pleased with the effect.

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Once it was dry I grabbed my gel medium.

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I smeared that generously across the whole surface of each canvas.

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I then used my screen printing squeegee to smooth the printout pieces face down onto the gel medium.  It’s important to note here that your image will be reversed from how you originally printed it out.

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Then I hid it back in the fuse box closet to dry overnight.

To remove the paper, spray it with water and get it nice and soaked.  Then you can just peel off the other ply of the paper, leaving the ply with the design on it stuck to the medium.

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You can use your fingers or a soft towel.  If you pull up some of the design, don’t freak out — this is supposed to look a little weathered.

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I used a gentle scrubby for it as well.

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This takes for-freaking-EVER, FYI.  And it’s messy.  Paper bits get everywhere.  This is blurry but you can see the scrubbed side versus the non-scrubbed side.

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And then once it dries you can still see some white leftover.  So I went over mine a few times.

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Eventually I had to give up and just leave it as-is.  It’s not supposed to be perfect, in any case.

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Some of my dots are missing.

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But the rest looks pretty badass.

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Look now neat that is!  I did fill in a few spots with black craft paint where I thought it was necessary.

To get rid of some of the whiteness, I coated the whole thing with glossy polyurethane top coat a few times.

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Nice and shiny.

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The finished piece, assembled on the floor.

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Now to make it hang-able.  Gren stood watch for me while I did this in secret.

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You can get little hanging hardware kits from department stores, grocery stores, and hardware stores.  In each kit will be a bunch of these little loops with screw ends.  Measure down from the top of your canvas an equal length on both sides and screw them in.

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Then you have this wire stuff.

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Cut a length and loop it between the two screwed in hooks.

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Pull it tight and wrap the ends around the wire to keep it secure.

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Make sure if you’re using multiple canvases that the length of the wire and where it’s situated on the canvas are consistent across the board.

Also make sure when you’re putting in hanging hardware that you can hang the picture without the hook pushing into the surface of the canvas.

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Punchy Potato Salad

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With potato salad, like most salads, you can wing it more often than not and it turns out great.  It does help, however, to have a general idea of what sort of flavour theme you want to have ahead of time.  For this one I wanted something creamy but also with enough greenery and fresh things in it I didn’t feel like it was coming straight from a plastic grocery store container.

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I started off by washing and chopping 13 medium sized potatoes.  I like to leave the skins on.

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I then boiled them until they were quite soft.

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Then I hard-boiled 6 large eggs by putting them in a pot of water with a dash of vinegar (the vinegar makes the shells easier to remove) and bringing it to a boil; then I turned the water off and left them for 20 minutes.

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I drained the potatoes and chucked them in a large bowl together with about 3 stalks minced celery.  Then I grabbed a handful of herbs from the garden and minced those as well: dill, chives, parsley, green basil, and purple basil.

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Into the bowl.

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Some chopped baby dill pickles too.

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And of course the eggs, which I peeled and chopped coarsely.

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The dressing was simple: Dijon mustard, Wafu’s sesame dressing, and some aioli I picked up at the grocery store (instead of standard mayonnaise).

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A little black pepper never hurt.

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Mix that all together.

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Oh the creamy, dill-y goodness!

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Made-up Macaroni Salad

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Pasta salads are ideal for summer parties.  You can make them ahead of time and you don’t have to worry about heating up the house.  This one came together on the fly, as most of them tend to do.  I stuck with a reddish theme and it worked out.

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Start with a bowl of cooked pasta.  I used cavatappi, or Scoobi-do pasta.

Made-Up Macaroni Salad 1

Chucked in a diced onion, tomatoes, garlic, red peppers, and green olives.

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Then some fresh oregano, chives, and some cubed feta.

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Then I decided to throw in a few bocconcini as well.  I also tossed in some tandoori spice and some Hungarian paprika for kick.

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When you make a pasta salad, make a lot of dressing to go with it, because the pasta will absorb so much extra liquid.  The base of this one was olive oil, maple syrup, Tabasco, and rice vinegar.

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As I said, make a lot.

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Put half in now and then the other half right before you serve it.

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TADA.

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There was enough left over that I added some pasta sauce to it, topped it with cheese, and baked it into a casserole afterwards.  Waste not!

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Spider-Man Spice Cake

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A couple of weeks ago my sister-in-law Ryder winged a banana coffee cake that had me drooling — alas, Rusty refused to share.  So when the Pie requested a spice cake for his birthday I figured I’d wing something similar of my own devising (it’s actually his birthday today, but we celebrated on Saturday).  For the basic cake, I used this one from Dinner with Julie, and it’s excellent.  As for the rest … well, you’ll see.

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Start by preheating your oven to 350°F and butter two 8″ round cake pans.

Spider-Man Spice Cake 1

In a bowl (or a measuring cup, as I prefer), stir together 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, 2 teaspoons baking powder, 3 teaspoons cinnamon, 2 teaspoons ground ginger, and 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg.

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In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat together 1/2 cup softened butter with 1 1/4 cup brown sugar until light and fluffy.

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Add in 3 large eggs, one at a time, and keep beating.

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Stir together 1 cup buttermilk and 1 tablespoon vanilla.

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Add about 1/3 of the flour mixture to the eggs and sugar, beating on low speed. If you don’t beat on low speed you will get flour in your face. Consider yourself warned.

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Add in half the buttermilk, followed by another third of the flour, then the rest of the buttermilk, and then the rest of the flour.

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In a separate bowl, mash 2 large ripe bananas.  In another, mix 2 tablespoons instant coffee in with 1/2 cup water (or cold coffee as I used here) and 1/3 cup Nutella (or hazelnut spread).

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Divide your batter in half and mix one with the bananas and the other half with the coffee.

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Pour into your prepared pans in bits, and give it a bit of a swirl with a fork to combine but not fully mix.

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Bake for 30-35 minutes until solid on top and a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean.  Set those aside to cool completely.

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While that’s on the go you can make this truly amazing icing.  It might be my new favourite. I doubled it from the original to enable me to do what I had to do and only had a little bit left, but I’ll give you the real proportions here.

In a small saucepan melt 1/4 cup butter over medium heat.

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Keep cooking, stirring occasionally, until it gets all nice and foamy, and when you look beneath the foam the butter has turned the colour of caramel (this is, of course where the colour in caramel comes from).

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Pour that into the bowl of an electric mixer together with another 1/4 cup butter and set that aside for now.

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In the same saucepan, still over medium, combine 1/4 cup half and half cream with 1/2 cup brown sugar.

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Dissolve the sugar in the cream and keep stirring.

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Remove the mixture from the heat when it gets smooth and foamy, like this:

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Pour that in the mixer bowl too, and let the whole thing cool a bit.

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Slowly mix in 2 cups icing sugar, give or take, until you achieve a consistency that you like.  Now, if you’re a normal person, you can go ahead and just ice your cake to your specifications and enjoy it for what it is.  Me? Nope.  I had to go and make a Spider-Man themed cake for my husband, because I like him a bunch.

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So I divided up the icing into four batches.  One was my control, and would go in the centre between the two halves of cake.  The others were getting dyed with gel paste food colouring.

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I like to do this in glass containers because then I can look through the bottom to see what I’ve missed.  Glass is also way less likely to stain on you.

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The finished concoctions.  Euch.

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Here’s a trick I learned on the internet somewhere for when you need to pipe different colours of icing and don’t want a huge mess.  Not that I’m capable of doing anything neatly.  But anyway.  Plop your icing onto a sheet of plastic wrap.

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Roll the ends of the plastic wrap together, making a tight seal.

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Keep rolling until you run out of wrap to roll.

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Grab the ends of the wrap and swing them around so the icing twists further into a tight little sausage.  Because it was hot as Hades’ hoo-ha in my kitchen I chucked these little sausages in the fridge while I put the cake together.

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Icing in the middle …

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Now you take your sausage of icing and tie a knot in one end of your wrap.

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Then you shove the other one into your icing bag and cut off the end.  Screw on your tip and ice as usual.

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At the end you just pull out this wizened piece of plastic and you are good to switch!  No fuss no muss!

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I think I put too much icing sugar into my icing, so I ended up pressing the top part on with my fingers.

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Then I piped on the best approximation of the Spider-Man logo that I could do with my unsteady hand.  Not bad!

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Almost Not There Lemon Squares

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I made these from Amy Approved yesterday for another round of meetings at work.  They’re gluten-free, dairy-free, and paleo, so if you have any sensitivities to food you’re probably safe eating these (unless you’re allergic to nuts, coconut, or eggs, in which case you might die – don’t eat these).  In addition, unlike traditional lemon squares, where you bake the crust and then bake the filling, this filling is a stove-top deal, so it’s ideal if you need your oven for something else.

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Preheat your oven to 350°F and line a 8″ x 12″ baking dish with parchment paper.

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Grab about 2 cups raw almonds (I used blanched ones) and pulse them in a food processor until they’re in small chunks — don’t go too far, though: you don’t want almond meal.

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Mix the almonds together with 1/4 cup honey, 1/2 cup melted coconut oil, 2 tablespoons coconut flour, and 2 large eggs.

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It looks like vomit. Gross.  Don’t let that deter you.

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Press that sticky gooeyness into the bottom of the dish and bake that for 15 minutes, until the edges are slightly brown.  Let that cool completely.

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For the lemon filling, crack 6 large eggs into a saucepan and add as well 1 cup fresh lemon juice (I used the juice of 4 large lemons), 1/2 cup honey, and a dash of sea salt.

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I don’t feel lemon bars are complete without some lemon zest as well, but I leave that up to you.

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Whisk that all up and heat over medium.  Stir in 1/2 cup coconut oil until it’s completely melted.

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Keep whisking.

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And whisking.

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The mixture will eventually start to thicken, so you want to keep gently heating and whisking until you’ve got something resembling a thick pudding.

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When you get there, give it a few more whisks and then you can remove it from the heat and let it cool completely.

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Once the lemon goo is cool, you can smooth it over your crust.

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Feel free to garnish the tops with shredded coconut as well.

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Shove that in the freezer for about 30 minutes so everything will set and harden, then cut into bars. I just chucked mine in the fridge overnight.

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Keep these babies in the fridge to prevent them from going gooey.  If they last that long. They’re not as satisfying as a lemon square made with butter and sugar and flour but they’re still pretty tasty!

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Wondrous Wallpaper Wednesday

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I want this wallpaper.

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The Pie’s grandparents put it up in their front entryway when they built their home in the early 1950s.  I only  noticed it after we moved everything out and displaced the bookshelf that had been in front of it for as long as I’ve been around.

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Now the house is sold and the Pie’s grandmother doesn’t remember where it’s from.

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So today marks the beginning of my quest to find, if not a replica of this stuff, then something remarkably similar.  If you guys have any ideas, I’d love to hear them!

Wondrous Wallpaper 1

adventures in grown-up living

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