Sunday, January 29, 2017

Brush Stroke Flower Card

One of the first cards we did at our January class was this cute little brushed flower card.  I got the idea from Pinterest a while ago, and it's been one of my go-to cards.  It's so quick to put together, and you can literally use any colors you have.  I have a STACK of paper in my craft room, so I'm always trying to use up some of the colors that otherwise get ignored.

As promised, here's the tutorial for this super easy (and super cute) card!

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Card Class--January 2017

Along with starting a blog, one of my New Year's resolutions was to spend some more time with friends.  

I decided that I wanted a way that I could bring a few people together at a time in order to de-stress and keep in touch.  I also wanted to use the back room that Dave worked so hard to update and complete.  So, I picked a day, sent out some invites and had people over first card class.

About two years ago, my friend Kathleen invited me to join her and go to the card classes she went to.  We both share a love of crafting, and I had just recently discovered card making.  I agreed to go along, and the rest is history.  I go to class once a month, and each time we make a few different cards and learn new techniques.  It's one of my favorite ways to de-stress, and it's a great way to spend a Sunday night before I have to go back to work on Monday.

After two years of taking classes with Diane (check her out over at Stampin' Rainbow...her cards are lovely!), I figured I was ready to have some myself.

I spent some of my spare time in the weeks leading up to class coming up with ideas, prepping, and getting everything in order.  

I wanted the first class to be easy enough that my friends who aren't so crafty wouldn't get frustrated, but also to create some cards that they would want to share with their friends and family.  I also wanted it to grab their interest so they would agree to keep coming and spending time with everyone.

Thinking of my most used cards, I came up with thank-yous and birthday cards.  Valentine's is also around the corner, so I figured a couple of romantic cards would also be a good idea.

It was set up so that we made 2 of each design.  I pre-cut and put all of the stuff needed together, so that when everyone got here, all I had to do was show them how to stamp and assemble, and they did the rest!

In the end, we made two of the Brush Flower cards:

Two of the Peacock cards:

Two Valentines:

and two guy-friendly cards:

Check in the rest of this week for tutorials on all of the cards we made!

Tomorrow's post:  Tutorial for Work of Art Flower Card

Sunday, January 8, 2017

A Lesson in Listening Closely

A few years ago, I was teaching ENL at a school in the city of Buffalo.  It was my second year teaching, and I had just been bumped up from the primary ages to 8th grade.  That year, I had a group of students that gave me a run for my money every day.  They picked on me, we joked daily, and I absolutely loved them.  They were a great group that really awakened my love for teaching the middle school grades (6-8).

This age group can be tricky to work with.  Hormones flair, cliques start to form, and kids start to really consider who they want to be in life.  Some would consider it a nightmare--I call it paradise (most of the time, at least).

Anyway, in this group, I had a student named Dah.  Dah spoke Karen (Kah-ren). He came from the Karen state in Burma to the US a few years earlier.  

Many Karen people come to the United States because they are fleeing years of persecution and a complicated conflict with the Burmese government.  Sometimes, they make it over the border to Thailand where they spend time in refugee camps before making it to the US.

At the time I had him in my class, Dah was considered an intermediate ESL (English as a Second Language) student (the labels have since changed).  His writing was still choppy, and his speaking was difficult to understand at times.

But boy, was this kid funny.

Always laughing, always ready with a quick comeback, always ready to make you laugh.

He drove me absolutely nuts.  I jokingly threatened at least weekly to throw him out of the window of my classroom.

Partway through the year, report cards were going out.  Many of his teachers had come to me complaining that Dah wasn't finishing his homework.  It was my job, as his ESL teacher, to discuss his work and double check if he needed help.

So, I approached him one day.

"Dah, you really need to start doing your homework.  Your other teachers are worried about your grades because you're not completing assignments."

"Oh Meeess," (my Asian students have an endearing way of pronouncing "miss") "what the fuh...?"

"Excuse me?!  What did you just say to me???"  I was ready to flip on him.  Here I was, checking in on him to help him succeed a little bit more in class and he was about to start swearing at me??  Seriously??  😡😡😡

"I said waterfuh, Miss.  You know, like when the water goes over the rocks?  Niagara Falls?  Waterfuh."  😏  He smirked at me, knowing that he had successfully set me up.  Checkmate.

He was aware enough of his accent when speaking English, and realized what letters he pronounced and where he lacked.  He had also slyly thrown back my daily lesson of "be sure you're listening closely!"

This was one of the first times (of many) that I would be schooled by my students, and it's still one of my favorites.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Table Fan Beef Jerky

"So I saw this video on YouTube..."  

So many of our conversations start this way.  Sometimes, we've stumbled upon the weird, dark, someone-must've-made-this-video-way-too-late-at-night stuff.  Other times, we find things that are really interesting or helpful.  This time, Dave had somehow found a video of a guy who made beef jerky with nothing more than a fan and some drying racks.

You've gotta be kidding me.  There's no way that's sanitary.  Doesn't the beef jerky need to be heated a little?  What do you mean it's not cooked at all?  Huh...I guess I never realized it was literally just meat with the water content removed.  😟😧

After questioning him and gaining a new understanding about jerky, I agreed to try it out with him.

Dave had me look up a marinade (I used this one that I found on Pinterest) and I went to buy the supplies.  

I went to our local Wegman's (seriously, best. supermarket. EVER.), and found a nice 4.5 lb slab of top round roast.

While going to find the Liquid Smoke needed for the recipe, I spent a good 10 minutes walking up and down the aisle, wracking my brain and finally googling where the stuff might be found (definitely in the aisle I was currently patrolling), and eventually found what I was looking for.  

On the top shelf.  

In the back.  

Surrounded by a million other glass jars that could easily be shattered all over the floor.

Now let met tell you;  I'm only 5'3".  I have spent my fair share of time scaling shelves to try and reach things that were placed too high for vertically challenged people such as myself.  I took a quick glance around, and with only two other shoppers and a small little boy at the end of the aisle, I rolled up my sleeves and tried to get a good step up on the bottom shelf.  Gripping with my fingertips, I reached blindly for the back of the top shelf, hoping to feel the bottle graze my fingertips.  

No luck.

I could feel the bottles at the front of the shelf tipping and clinking against each other.  Not wanting to create an epic disaster in the sauce aisle, I conceded defeat and stepped down from the bottom shelf.

I heard the little boy behind me giggle.

I turned to his mom, who was clearly a few inches taller than me (isn't everyone?), and asked if she could reach it.  She reached up and grabbed the bottle like it was nothing.  I thanked her and told her I wished I was a bit taller.

As I was walking away, the mom was muttering to herself about what she was looking for.  A little louder, she said, "Oh, there it is...down by where the short people would look."  She glanced at me, realizing that she had said it out loud, and sheepishly said sorry.  I laughed and told her it was not a problem.  I left the store still laughing about it.

Now, back to the original point of this post:  Beef Jerky.

When I got home, Dave cut up the meat while I mixed the marinade.  I had to double the recipe since we had so much meat.  

We let the meat sit in the marinade for a few hours, before transferring the beef to the wire racks.
Recently, we had updated the addition room on our house.  We've been using it as much as we can.  It's great, because it has two french doors--perfect to close to keep the fur babies from getting into things.  

We set up the wire racks over baking trays lined with aluminum foil, and put the meat in a single layer.  Dave explained as long as the air is able to circulate above and below the racks, we'd be all set.  Since I only had two racks, we had to do two batches.  SO.  MUCH.  MEAT.  
This is only the first batch.  The racks were full of delicious smelling meat!

Dave turned on a small fan.  The heat in that room was already around 72 degrees.  

"Now what?"  I asked him.

"Now, we wait for the meat to dry out."

"That's it?" 

"That's it." 

We let the meat sit overnight with the fan on it, and let me tell you how AMAZING the space smelled in the morning.  
We started moving the jerky off the racks in the morning.  By the time I got to taking this picture, we had already eaten our share, along with packaged some up to share with family and friends.
The jerky was perfect--peppery, chewy (but not so tough that it felt like you might lose a tooth from biting it), and absolutely delicious.  

Is there a way to take an attractive picture of dried meat snacks?  While these all look awkward, please believe me that this jerky is!

Another plus?  It was super cost-effective!!  Normally, Dave buys the little bags of jerky that have like 2oz of meat in them.  They usually run $5.99 and up.  By making it ourselves overnight, we ended up with way more than that!  The first batch alone yielded 18.5oz of insanely delicious and addicting jerky.  

We are going to start making our own jerky regularly.  We have already talked about different flavors that we've seen--teriyaki, barbecue, and even Hawaiian.  I'll be sure to keep you updated on how the other flavors turn out!