I got a new toy… a Kitchen Aid 5 qt Artisan Stand Mixer in Ice.  A pleasant side effect of planning a wedding is gifts!  This was the first thing I registered for and the first thing that I received and I am in love.  It makes cake making so much easier and cleaner.  Once I saw that bad boy come off the registry list I went out and bought “The Best of Martha Stewart: Cakes and Cupcakes” magazine.

CIMG3821

The perfect occasion to bake cupcakes for was this past St. Patricks Day.  I made the one bowl chocolate cake recipe with cream cheese frosting.  I added 1 shot of Baileys to the frosting in honor of St. Paddys.  I tried to do the trick where you fill half of the piping bag with green and half with white to get a swirl effect but as you can see that didn’t quite happen.  They did turn out delicious and I got nothing but good reviews.  The full recipe yielded 33 amazing cupcakes.

CIMG3825

I am currently a bride on a budget trying to plan a very personalized wedding.  Since I love crafting and DIY I could not wait to make the save the date cards.  I figured it would be good practice for doing the invitations later.   To start off I knew that I needed a printer.  Since my fiance and I needed a printer anyways it was a good excuse to invest in one that we could use for invitations.  I got some advice and did my own online investigating.

  1. I was looking for something reasonably priced and the cut off point for my budget was $150.
  2. I needed something that could print on a variety of sizes of paper.
  3. I have had awful experience with HP printers and customer service at work so I wanted to stay away from that brand.  Sorry HP!
  4. I wanted something that would print decent photos in case we decided to incorporate photos into our invites or save the dates.

A friend had recommended the HP Office Jet 6000 line.  She had printed her own invitations and found that it worked well for her, she also likes that she could print on 4 x 6″ size paper.  After reading reviews on amazon.com and cnet.com we decided to go for the Canon Pixma MG5320 which we picked up at Staples for $80.  So far I have been thrilled with it, the detail is great and it doesn’t leave those pesky stripes on what you print.  I have been feeding cardstock through it and it handles it no problem.  The software that it came with is very easy to use.  I have a Mac and my fiance has a PC and we can

I used the free online printables at weddingchicks.com.  Since we are getting married on a farm, love food, and my fiance’s parents preserve food as a hobby we went with the mason jar design.  I went to the local paper shop (www.hollanders.com) and got a variety of sizes of cards and envelopes in the colors I liked, writing the size and price on each one in pencil.

Paper selection

 

Then I printed and ended up printing on 8.5 x 11″ cardstock and trimming to size.  I used the manual tray feed and placed a small x on the upper right hand corner and then fed the same sheet through to print the back side.  I found it was easier and cheaper to print on 8.5 x 11″ and trim it down to 4 x 6″ to get two invite out of each piece of paper.

Trimming to 4 by 6"

 

So I had the card done then I wanted to line the envelopes because I am crazy and think it looks great!  I got some fancy wrapping paper at Hollanders, similar to this.  I made a pattern outlining the envelope and decreasing a half inch on each side and to conserve paper the insert stops just below what is visible.

Envelope Insert

 

I used a bone folder to place the crease.  This was tricky and it took me a couple tries to get the hang of it and watching some youtube videos helped.  I used Elmer’s sticky dots to adhere the insert to envelope.

Supplies

 

Then I practiced my writing, drew some pencil lines, penciled the address and wrote over it with marker, and then erased the pencil with the best eraser ever.  Here’s some pics of the final product:

IMG_1459

 

Final

 

Back Final

 

All I have to do is pick out some cute stamps and send them on their way.

 

Here is a cost breakdown for about 40:

While I think the cost is quite reasonable these were pretty labor intensive.  So unless you really enjoy this stuff you might want to spend more for less work.

 

I recently had a big birthday and wanted to celebrate in a big way.  So I grabbed two of my best friends and went to Ireland.  The cast of characters: myself, KTB random freshman year roomie at U of I, and KTwill next door dorm neighbor and technology whiz.  The trip was planned by travel agent extraordinaire Aunt Nancy.  One week to explore Ireland with a loose itinerary subject to change at any time.

I arrived in Dublin and met up with KTwill and KTB at the airport.  They had previously been exploring London on their own.  I insisted on taking a cab since I was grumpy, carrying a 30 pound backpack, and wearing 3 inch heels.  We arrived at the lovely Shelbourne Hotel.  When we pulled up in the cab we looked at one another and wondered, “are we really staying here?!”  When we walked up to the check in desk we heard the next best words, “you have been upgraded to a suite.”  It was a wonderful start to the trip.

Making our to do list with Rick Steves' Ireland 2011

We started off with breakfast at Bewley’s on Grafton Street, which was followed by a hunt for a SIM card for the IPhone junkie.  That day we went to the Number 29 Georgian House Museum, which I loved.  My favorite part of history is learning about the daily lives of regular people and compare them to modern day.  We wandered around hitting up parks and stumbling upon Avoca, which is the more fabulous Irish sister of Anthropologie.  Their woven wool throws are gorgeous, and as a knitter I know my wooly crafts!  If I was a souvenir person one of their throws would be on the top of my list.  We had an early dinner at Porterhouse, which I highly recommend.  Excellent bar food at very reasonable prices, yummy beer, and a good mix of locals and tourists.

Sampling all of the delicious Porterhouse brews

When we arrived home there was a bottle of Prosecco waiting for us from my mom and aunt to celebrate my birthday… a great finish to our first day in Ireland.

For school/work I wanted to get a nice DSLR camera.  What did I want in a camera?

  • Something that took great detail/close up shots.  I knew that I would need a macro lens and ring flash, as these are what is most commonly used in my field.
  • Something that would be under $1000 since I am a poor grad student.
  • A versatile camera that could be used to take snapshots.
  • Easy to learn.

After talking to some instructors and some fellow students I narrowed it down to a few different options.

  1. Canon Digital Rebel xSi
  2. Canon EOS Rebel T1i
  3. Nikon d60

What I ended up getting was the Canon EOS Rebel T1i in a kit from Costco.  Here is what my kit included:

Features and Benefits:

  • Effective Pixels: 15.1 -megapixel CMOS sensor with DIGIC 4 Image Processor
  • LCD Monitor: 3.0″ TFT color LCD; 920,000 dot color monitor
  • Top Shooting Rate: Up to 3.4 frames per second
  • Live View: Enhanced Live View shooting includes face detection mode
  • HD Video: Full HD video capture at 1920×1080 resolution with HDMI output
  • Focus Area/Sensors: 9 AF points (Cross-type)
  • ISO Sensitivity: ISO 100 to 3200 in 1 step increments
  • Focusing Modes: Auto, One-Shot AF, Predictive Al Servo AF, AI Focus AF, Manual Focusing (MF)
  • Metering Modes: 35-zone TTL full-aperture
  • Power Source: Rechargeable Li-Ion Battery
  • Images Per Battery Charge: Up to 500
  • Dimensions: 5.1” x 3.8” x 2.4” (W x H x D)
  • Weight: Approx. 1.1 lbs.
  • Storage Media: SD/SDHC

What’s Included:

  • Canon Rebel T1i Digital SLR Camera Body
  • Canon EF-S 18-55mm IS Lens
  • Canon EF-S 55-250mm IS Lens
  • Canon Rebel Gadget Bag
  • 4GB SD Card
  • Mini HDMI Cable
  • Rechargeable Battery Pack
  • Battery Charger
  • AV Cable
  • USB Interface Cable
  • Wide Strap
  • EOS Digital Solution Disk
  • EOS Rebel T1i Guide with Rick Sammon DVD
  • “Great Photography is Easy” Booklet

To me this seemed like a pretty good deal and I knew from previous experience if I had any problems Costco customer service would help me out.  I also ended up purchasing a Canon EF-S 60mm f/2.8 Macro USM Digital SLR Lens for EOS Digital SLR Cameras and a Sigma EM-140 DG Macro Ring Flash for Canon SLR Cameras.

What I have learned since getting all this equipment is that photography is not easy!  Even when you have the fancy equipment.  So I recently joined a photography group in my town and went to my first meeting; I learned about the exposure triangle and then I came home and practiced some shots.  The guys in the group were great and did not make fun of all my newbie questions.  At this point I want to become proficient in using the different modes on my camera and capturing what my eye sees.  After that I can start focusing on the “pretty” shots.

Taken in aperture priority mode, no flash, EFS60mm f/2.8 Macro USM

Shutter 1/25

Aperture f/8.0

ISO 400

For Christmas one of my friends got me a subscription to Everyday Food.  She had been raving about this magazine and how great it was.  I had also seen the show on PBS.  Yeah I thought they had good recipes and it was by Martha so it had be decent.  I have been completely surprised by how much I have used and enjoyed this magazine.  I have a bunch of cookbooks by the Barefoot Contessa and Giada De Laurentiis that I use once in a while.  I also use some of the America’s Test Kitchen booklets and online resources like TheKitchn.  Since getting the first two Everday Foods I have tried 4 of the recipes and been completely impressed.  The recipes are easy to follow, delicious, and fast.  I eat a lot of vegetarian food to keep by grocery budget down and I like make ahead freezer friendly food; Everyday Food has delivered on each of these.

From the January/February Issue 79 I have tried:

  • Sweet-and-Sour Chicken with Green Beans – I substituted extra firm tofu for chicken and used a bag of frozen vegetables.  Basically I just used the sauce they suggested and served over rice.  The rice and sauce ingredients were in the pantry so I spent around 5 bucks at the store.  This made 4 HUGE servings.  Loved it.
  • Chocolate Ricotta Mousse – I love jello pudding but I know it probably has no nutritional value and is made with high fructose corn syrup and other crap.  This was a much superior alternative to pudding.  Again most of the ingredients were in my pantry so only had to buy the ricotta cheese.  Made 4 huge servings and next time I will split it up into 6.  I put some of the mousse into little to go containers so I could pack it in my lunch.  Awesome.
  • Shrimp Pot Stickers with sriracha-ginger dipping sauce – This was a splurge since I added shrimp.  The recipe says it makes 36 but I think I made at least 40.  This is a great freeze ahead recipe, you can just grab a couple and fry them up so easily.  This is something I would not normally attempt and I was surprised by how well they turned out.

From the March Issue 80 I have tried:

  • Tomato Soup with Bacon Grilled Cheese – Great recipe for just one person.  Again mostly pantry ingredients; it was a great way to use up some shredded cheese I had leftover.  I had to buy a can of tomatoes ($0.77!) and bacon.  I did pick up some concentrated pesto in a tube, and it might become my new favorite pantry item.  It is refrigerated so it keeps well and tastes amazing.  I think it adds a nice hint of fresh basil and nuttiness.  I could add it to any pasta dish and homemade pasta sauce for more depth of flavor.  I hate buying fresh basil out of season because it is so dang expensive.

I went to go see the Detroit Derby Girls Friday night down at the Cobo Arena.  Since I am new in town I joined Meetup.com to try and meet some new friends.  Spending 6 hours on a trip to Detroit with people you have never met is kind of a crapshoot.

I have always wanted to check out the roller derby because it seems pretty cool.  Girls with tattoos and great derby names kicking ass and having fun.  The night included two match ups between Detroit teams.  The matches are both an hour long; the lower ranked teams go first and the higher ranked teams go second.  If I had to do it over again I would have just gone for the second match.  Tickets were $15, which I thought was pretty reasonable for the whole evening.  Before each match they play a little video to explain the way derby works and there are announcers for the matches.  It is pretty family friendly with kids games during halftime.  I would go back to check out the travel teams, since they are more competitive.  On March 5th there is a match between the Detroit DDG Travel Allstars and the Chicago Windy City Roller All-Stars.  Of course I would have to cheer for Chicago, my home town.

I took the new camera along with my Zoom Lens EF-S 55-250mm.  Since I have no idea how to do anything manually I tried out the Sports mode and No flash mode.  The no flash mode seemed to work out better because the sports mode photos were too dark.  Here are a couple of my favorite shots.

This was the first weekend I had to myselft after quitting my part time job.  It was filled with all of my favorite things: homemade food, crafting, knitting and watching Harry Potter.  Yes, I am still single, why do you ask?

Saturday I hit up Michael’s and dropped way too much money on supplies to make valentines.  I was inspired by the Sushi Card over at Paper, Plate, and Plane.  I am still a novice crafter so my cards are much simpler and I wanted to make a ton of them.  I found some cards and envelopes in the clearance section, stocked on some cardstock, and picked up a trimmer by my girl Martha.  I set up a little assembly line and used my heavy school books to help everything dry flat.  Now I know why people use the expensive double sided tape; no crinkly paper when it dries and you save a ton of time waiting for everything to dry.

Here are the results:

I made 16 of them to give to my coworkers, family, and friends.  The only thing is that the envelopes are square so I will have to get extra postage on them.  Next weekend I have plans to go to the roller derby; and I am hoping to bring along my camera and get some action shots.