SideBar: Frosted Whisky Root Beer

Root Beer Cocktail 19This popped up on my Facebook feed recently and Trav and I decided it was interesting enough that we wanted to try it. That, and root beer is a favourite amongst our set. Root Beer Cocktail 15

First, grab yourself some oranges. You’ll need about four large juicy ones.

Root Beer Cocktail 2Juice those suckers until you get 1 cup fresh orange juice. Root Beer Cocktail 4

Next in the recipe is 1/2 teaspoon cherry bitters, which we didn’t have, so we improvised. I pitted about 5 fresh cherries and mushed them up with a fork. You can use any other kind of bitters you like. We think that it would have enhanced the flavour, but the cherries were a nice touch.

Root Beer Cocktail 7Then we chucked those things in a 1L bottle. Root Beer Cocktail 9

Add in 1 1/4 cup Canadian whiskey (we actually used Maker’s Mark, which is a bourbon, but Trav says it’s a better choice) and 1 cup water. Give it a decent shake and then shove it in the fridge for a couple hours.

Root Beer Cocktail 10When you’re ready to serve, grab some pint glasses, run them (inside and out) under cold water, and chuck them (gently) in the freezer for about 10-15 minutes. Grab yourself some of your favourite ice cold root beer. We were trying to find Harvey & Vern’s, because it’s local, but this was the stuff they had at the store. Root Beer Cocktail 11

Grab one of your frosted glasses and pour in 3oz of your orange juice/whiskey mix.

Root Beer Cocktail 12Top with root beer and serve immediately. It’s subtle, but it’s quite nice. Root Beer Cocktail 18

Our New Toy! Silhouette Cameo

New Silhouette 25After much deliberation and discussion, it was decided that my parents would purchase a Silhouette Cameo die cutter to be shared between myself, the Pie, and my mother. We ordered it recently and I finally got it set up this past weekend. New Silhouette 10

It’s a bit of a frustrating tool to use, to be honest. The manual, while lengthy, is not particularly useful. There is, however, a plethora of information about it by users on the internet, with handy instructions such as, if your cutting mat is too sticky, rub it with a t-shirt for a bit and it will be fine. Seriously.

New Silhouette 11Basically, you take your paper, stick it to the mat, shove it in the machine, and you’re ready to go. New Silhouette 13

Then you use the software to design a thing and then you “print” it to the machine and the machine cuts it out. It makes a terrifying noise that sounds like it’s jammed and it takes for-freaking-ever but it cuts it.

New Silhouette 15There’s a lot of trial and error, like figuring out how thick your paper is versus the setting on your blade – this butterfly was made with a lower cut setting than it should have been and that’s why you see the rough edges. New Silhouette 1

Another error was trying to use construction paper.

New Silhouette 17Don’t use construction paper. I don’t think it’s cohesive enough. New Silhouette 18

But when you get the settings right it’s so satisfying to pull the paper off and watch the design reveal itself.

New Silhouette 20I originally thought this weird spatula tool would be totally useless. New Silhouette 14

But it’s super handy getting all the little stuff up off the mat.

New Silhouette 21And you can make some really neat 3D objects with some careful layering, like this little succulent. New Silhouette 6

New Silhouette 7And this flower. I MADE THAT. OUT OF PAPER. New Silhouette 5

New Silhouette 2The possibilities this opens up are pretty amazing. My mother wants to use it to create 3D city scapes and greeting cards. The Pie and Trav want it for cutting out custom templates for their role-playing games. It’s also going to be way handy for making screen prints – no more printing out three layers of transparency and hoping they line up properly – I can just print out a sheet of opaque vinyl and adhere it right to the screen. Or use it as a stencil on its own. New Silhouette 22

I also decided to use it to make a nice decorative banner using two different patterns and two colours of paper: the yellow flowers you saw earlier and these green vines.

New Silhouette 23

New Silhouette 24

I used a dab of glue to stick the little flowers to the vines and then I strung both flowers and vines up on a length of fishing line, so it’s all delicate and floaty. I love it!

New Silhouette 33

New Silhouette 32

Floating Citronella Candles

Floating Citronella Candles 17Spending time outdoors in the summer is always an opportunity for a good time, but dealing with the bugs that also want to spend some quality time with you is less good. And you can get giant buckets of citronella candles and citronella torches and all that stuff, but they lack a bit of elegance. So for this upcoming shindig I’ve got going on, I thought I’d add a little something fancy to my bug repellent and float some citronella candles in glass containers filled with water and greenery. I had trouble finding floating citronella candles, however, so I decided to make my own, and here’s how I did it. Floating Citronella Candles 13

The most important thing you need is citronella essential oil. Now, a lot of people find the scent to be a little off-putting, so I decided to add in some clove oil as well to mellow it out. Cloves are also a very good bug repellent.

Floating Citronella Candles 4And you need some wax. I picked soy wax for this project, because it has a lower melting point and tends to throw scent a little better than paraffin or beeswax (which of course has its own scent). Floating Citronella Candles 6

You also need some wee containers. I have these miniature tart tins that I picked up from Value Village a million years ago. I have never used them for tarts but they’re handy for lots of other things.

Floating Citronella Candles 1If you don’t happen to have miniature tart tins, a set of silicone muffin cups (or a silicone tray of any sort with small depressions in it) will also work quite well. Floating Citronella Candles 7

You’ll also need some wicks, which you can purchase, or you can make your own, which is what I did.

Floating Citronella Candles 8Chuck your wax into the top of a double boiler and set that to melting over medium-low heat. Remember that if you use flaked wax, as I did here, that the melted volume will be about half what the solid volume is. Add minimum 3 drops citronella essential oil per cup of wax, and use half the amount of any additional scent. Once it’s all melted, let it cool for a little bit before pouring it. Floating Citronella Candles 5
While that was melting and cooling, I sat down with my wicks and some hot glue.

Floating Citronella Candles 2Because my wicks don’t have those nifty metal bases, I had to attach them to the bottom of the containers I was using. Don’t use too much glue – you actually want this stuff to come off. Floating Citronella Candles 9

I didn’t bother doing this for the silicone ones, but the metal dishes I rubbed with petroleum jelly to ensure that the candle would come out again when it was done.

Floating Citronella Candles 10Then I carefully filled each container. I actually used one of the empty silicone muffin cups as a scoop and it worked really well. Floating Citronella Candles 11

I used straws and pens to hold up the wicks that were determined to droop.

Floating Citronella Candles 12Then I forced myself not to touch them for like AN HOUR. We had Gren’s sister Bakhita staying with us for the weekend and neither dog would come near me because I stank of citronella. Floating Citronella Candles 14

Once they were solid and cool I carefully popped them out of their containers. For the metal ones I wiggled them loose on the sides first, then turned them upside down and gave them a whack with a small hammer, and then it was easy to pull them out by the wicks.

Floating Citronella Candles 15I’m storing them until the shindig but here you can see a sample of my “vision” for how I’m going to set them up. Floating Citronella Candles 16

Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies

Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies 15You’ll have to forgive the photo quality here: I mixed the dough in the dead of night and then made the cookies at the crack of dawn so they’d be a nice birthday surprise for the Pie.  This dough is very soft so I would recommend baking your cookies from frozen(or at least chilled). Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies 1

Start with 1/2 cup butter and cream that together with 1/2 cup brown sugar and 1/2 cup granulated sugar.

Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies 2Now crack in 2 eggs, tip in 2 teaspoons vanilla, and scoop in 2/3 cup peanut butter (crunchy or smooth, up to you). Beat the crap out of that. Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies 3

In another bowl, whisk together 2 cups flour, 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice (or just cinnamon and a touch of nutmeg), and 1/2 teaspoon baking powder. Tip that into the other stuff and mix it until a soft dough forms.

Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies 4Add in 1 cup oats and 1 1/3 cups peanut butter chips (that’s basically a whole package). Mix, mix, mix! Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies 6

Roll the dough into golf-ball-sized chunks, set them on a baking sheet, and freeze them (or don’t – but this is what I did in order to keep the secret).

Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies 8Once they’re frozen, transfer them to an airtight freezer bag if you’re not making all of them right away. Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies 10

When you’re ready to bake, preheat your oven to 350°F and set your cookie balls on a baking sheet – leave a decent amount of space between them. If the dough is soft, squish the cookies a bit to flatten them. If not, then shove them in the oven for a while and squish them after about 5 minutes. I baked these for about 12 minutes, until the bottoms were a dark brown and the tops were golden. Leave them to solidify on the pan while they cool and then leave them on a table for your husband to discover when he wakes up in the morning.

Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies 11Cookies for breakfast? Yes please! Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies 12

A Simple Guest Book

Guestbook 21We’re having a bit of a shindig in a couple weeks to celebrate my parents’ 40th wedding anniversary and Atlas recommended that we set up a guest book for attendees to reminisce in written form. The problem is that most guest books you find in stores are like fifty bucks and they also contain about four hundred more pages than you really need. Then the people who receive the book don’t know what to do with this half-empty journal they have. Guestbook 2

So I thought I’d make a smaller version by hand for the occasion, just a couple dozen large pages for people to scrawl their congratulations, and then it will be a slim little volume that can be tucked away with the wedding album once the day is over.

I started with some basic supplies: coloured cardstock for the interior pages and patterned cardstock for the exterior, a paper cutter, hole punch, ribbon, washi tape, and a decorative punch for the corners. Obligatory corgi butt in photo as well.

Guestbook 1The pastel cardstock I had was already 8″ x 8″ so I left that as is. Guestbook 3

After I’d gotten everything sorted the way I wanted it, Gren came over to take a closer look.

Guestbook 4Then he got tired so he had to lie down. Guestbook 5

Then I told him to move because he was lying on my stuff.

Guestbook 6So he flattened out further. Because he’s kind of a jerk. Guestbook 7

In the end, *I* moved and started punching holes in the pastel cardstock.

Guestbook 8Then I decided on a cover (conveniently this paper is double-sided so the opposite page has a complementary pattern as well). Guestbook 9

I wove the interior pages together with a piece of ribbon and tied it off in the centre.

Guestbook 10Added my cover pages, which were cut slightly larger than the interior, and a spine made of the opposite page of the cover. Guestbook 11

Then I started taping everything together with the washi tape. I chose the tape because it was partly transparent, but with enough colour so you’d notice it.

Guestbook 13I folded back the pages of the interior just to get them more flexible for use. Guestbook 14

And then shoved the interior pages into the exterior cover. I made a hole in the spine for the ends of my ribbon, which I tied in a bow on the outside.

Guestbook 15Then I continued my taping. Guestbook 16

It looks a little messier on the inside but it did the trick.

Guestbook 17Guestbook 18

Guestbook 19I punched the corners of all the pages to make them pretty. Guestbook 22

And added a few rubber stamped flowers to match the theme of the party.

Guestbook 23Tada. Guestbook 20

Gelatin Plastic

Gelatine Plastic 21This is the beginning stage of a pretty major undertaking I’m … undertaking. But it’s taking some time to get all my pieces in order so I thought I’d start with a bit of a teaser post for you. Did you know you can make plastic out of gelatin and water? I kid you not. And once you start playing around with all the different things you can do with it, it opens up the possibility for lots of super fun crafts, and it’s totally something you can do with kids. To start, you need some gelatin (I used powdered), some food colouring (optional, if you want your plastic tinted), something to cut your plastic with (I have a cookie cutter for big circles and a straw for little ones), and a smooth, relatively flexible, shallow plastic or silicone dish. Many people use the flexible lids to margarine containers and the like. Gelatine Plastic 1

For every little pouch of gelatin you use, you’ll need 3 tablespoons water.

Gelatine Plastic 3I used 4 pouches in my experiments so I needed 12 tablespoons water, or 3/4 cup water. I plopped that in a small saucepan with food colouring and turned it to low heat. Gelatine Plastic 4

Tip in your gelatin and stir it gently to dissolve all of it.

Gelatine Plastic 5Don’t feel the need to whisk it or start a stirring frenzy as this will cause your gelatin to foam and you won’t have a nice clear result. You’ll get a bit of foam at the edges but nothing serious. Gelatine Plastic 6

Once you have heated the gelatin water enough that all the gelatin is dissolved and the liquid is clear again, pour it into your little dishes (I used two 6″ x 8″ dishes) and smooth it out with a spatula so that all the surfaces are covered. Try to pop any bubbles you see, but a few are okay.

Gelatine Plastic 7Now leave that puppy alone for about 45 minutes. After that time you will have gelatin that is set but is still flexible. You can peel it out of your dish super easily, but do it slowly as it can tear. Gelatine Plastic 8

I used a cookie cutter to cut out large circles, and a shot glass to cut out smaller ones.

Gelatine Plastic 9Then I used a straw to cut out hanging holes from all my circles. Gelatine Plastic 10

The excess is weird and floopy.

Gelatine Plastic 14But cool to play with. It’s totally edible (but doesn’t taste that great) and you can chuck it in the compost. Gelatine Plastic 12

Then I set the circles to dry. I did a lot of trial and error with drying these things. There’s a school that wants you to set them on a paper towel, under another paper towel, sealed just under the lid of a tupperware container, but I didn’t have much luck with that, nor did a bunch of the people who have already done this project and posted it on the internet. In this picture you can see I set the circles on parchment paper to try, but of course paper wrinkles when wet.

Gelatine Plastic 11So I ended up with these wrinkled chip things when these were dry (which takes a couple days). Gelatine Plastic 17

I had also laid a second piece of parchment over top to help hold the drying circles down and prevent them from warping, but it only helped a little, and the paper’s surface got copied onto the circles, leaving a matte finish.

Gelatine Plastic 18I found when I left them on a smooth surface (in this case, plastic wrap taped to my counter) then they warped more but they were totally clear, and I preferred that. Gelatine Plastic 20

I also let some dry completely inside the dishes, and ended up with a big sheet of (still warped) plastic.

Gelatine Plastic 19You can cut this stuff easily with scissors. Gelatine Plastic 23

And it’s also compostable.

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It’s going to take me a while to get all the little circles made that I need but I have a due date of September so stay tuned!

Greek Baked Eggs

Baked Eggs 14My brother and I take turns hosting a family brunch every second Sunday, and because both of our families are on tight schedules on Sundays (us with getting Gren exercised and tired prior to the brunch, and them with getting the General up and ready to go in time), it makes sense to prepare dishes that can be made ahead of time, or that can be cooked all at once, and also dishes that don’t require constant presence in the kitchen when we should be paying attention to the interactions between corgi and toddler. This one from Salted and Styled requires some focus and prior preparation but it’s very quick so you’re not in the kitchen for very long. The original recipe worked for 5 servings, but I upped mine to 8 so the measurements are approximate. Go with what looks good to you. Baked Eggs 2

Start by cracking however many eggs you want into individual bowls. You’ll need to pour these quickly later so that’s why you’re doing this. Grab as well some fresh herbs from the garden: parsley, thyme, and oregano. I bet some sage would be tasty as well, and if you wanted to alter the flavour a little then you could maybe do a sage-savoury-chives combo or something like that. Chop up the herbs and set them aside for a minute. Grab a few handfuls of feta cheese and crumble that up as well.

Baked Eggs 4Grab as well a handful of Kalamata olives, and chop those up (after removing the pits). Mix that with a little bit of minced garlic and some salt and pepper. Go easy on the salt though, as the olives and the feta are both pretty salty in their own right.Baked Eggs 5

Now preheat your broiler and grab a large cast-iron skillet or wide, shallow baking dish. Dollop some butter in there as well as a few drops of heavy cream.

Baked Eggs 6Heat the butter and cream either under the broiler or on the stovetop until bubbly. Baked Eggs 7

Then working very quickly, slide in all your eggs.

Baked Eggs 8Sprinkle with your herbs and olives. Baked Eggs 9

Top with feta.

Baked Eggs 10Shove that under the broiler until the eggs are cooked to your satisfaction (runny or hard, it’s up to you) – probably less than 5 minutes. Baked Eggs 13

Serve straight from the pan with some buttered toast as a plate or for sopping up your yolks. Mmm!

Baked Eggs 15

adventures in grown-up living

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