January DIY Darby Box Review

One of my biggest problems when crafting is not wanting to “waste” my materials on anything less than the best.  Somewhere my brain knows this is silly, but I still have difficulty committing.  So, when January’s DIY box came, I kept staring at it, wondering what the perfect design to carve would be.  And that’s why this review is coming so late. I spent so much time thinking and throwing out design ideas, that I didn’t actually finish this until my February box arrived at my door.  That was the final push I needed to do this!

january darby box

Review

So what came in the January box?  It was full of materials to do a linoleum block print on tea towels.  The kit included two tea towels, a foam tray, a paint roller, black ink, a linoleum block (wood backed), and a carving tool set.  I’ve done a little bit of linoleum printing before, but I was super excited about having another crack at it.

It took forever,  but I finally decided on a herringbone design.  I’ve always enjoyed geometric shapes, and thought it would be a good design if I gifted the towels to someone.  Simple and inoffensive.  While I was much more impressed with this kit than December’s, I was a little dismayed when it finally became time to carve.  My block was REALLY hard, like, didn’t want to cut at all hard.  It took a lot of force to make the cuts.  I actually spread them over several passes several hours apart because it was hurting my hands so much.

I think my final project turned out just okay.  It isn’t the perfect final product I always want, but this is also literally the second time I have worked in this medium, so it’s not like I should be too hard on myself for not achieving perfection. I haven’t decided if I will keep or gift these yet, but I am super glad I made them.  I’m also excited to use the stamp again for some other purposes!

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Egg Roll Salad

The first thing I have to do is apologize for missing my Friday post.  Things got a little crazy here.  We came home from a trip midweek, only to find out one of our dogs had bitten the other and needed stitches and a drain.  It was a lot of running around (especially since our kennel and vet are an hour away from us), so things got a bit messy and I never got to that Friday post.  I’m sorry.  But, if you’re looking for comfort food, you can’t go wrong with today’s recipe.  It certainly made a crazy week a little easier to deal with.  You will need:

  • Ground sausage
  • Onion
  • Pea and Carrot mix
  • Cabbage

Check out the full recipe here, or my pin on my Yum board.

Egg Roll Salad

Review

The first thing that struck me about this recipe was just how much cabbage was in it.  I decided to take it slow and only add a little bit at a time.  However, it soon became clear to me that you really did need all of it!  In fact, this recipe was too salty for me without the cabbage to help cut the salty flavor down.  I would, though, keep a little bit separate an add it at the very end to keep that touch of crunch to the dish.

I, of course, love a one pot meal, so this was a winner on that front.  Everything about this was simple and straight forward.  The flavor was good, but it also made me realize that the fried wrapper is just as much of the taste I love as the inside.  Will I make this again?  Yes.  We don’t have any good Chinese takeout here, so this is definitely an option for any time my egg roll craving gets to be overwhelming.

Monkey Bread

Monkey bread is one of those things that I didn’t hear about until I was out of college.  It just wasn’t one of those recipes that my family made.  However, since then, I have learned that it is a holiday tradition for many.  It sounded delicious, so I decided I had to try it out, audition it if you will, to see if it was worth adding to my holidays.  You will need:

  • Biscuits
  • Brown Sugar
  • Butter
  • Cook and Serve Pudding Mix

Check out the full recipe here, or my pin on my Breakfast board.

Monkey Bread

Review

I don’t own a bundt pan, or, at least I didn’t.  So, when I made these I thought it would be fun to try and make them in individual cupcake tins.  I also couldn’t find the biscuits mentioned in the recipe, so I just used a tube of Grands.  All this probably meshed together into my downfall.

You see, this was a disaster.  Parts of the biscuits didn’t cook all the way while other parts cooked too much.  The brown sugar/butter sauce didn’t coat well in this setting either, so what was salvageable wasn’t always tasty.  Some parts were super sugary while other parts were just plain biscuit.

However, after I mentioned this to my mother-in-law, she bought me a bundt pan ans a little surprise, so I pulled it out to try again.  I will say that I had a lot more success with the proper pan, but that I still had some of the “not fully cooked” issue with the biscuits.  There were still some that were gooey.  I threw it all back in the oven when I realized what happened, to some success.  I still couldn’t get it to come out of the pan in the beautiful ring that the original recipe showed, but it did taste good.

Will I try this recipe again?  Maybe.  I think if I do, I will try a different type of biscuit to see if I can get better results.  However, I think it will be several months before I try this again.  I’d much rather give something new a chance before I come back to this.

Burp Cloths

As I mentioned previously, my niece recently had a baby.  As part of her gift, I made her some baby bibs.  The other part of her gift was burp cloths (coordinated with the bibs of course).  Burp cloths are one of the easiest sewing projects I have ever done.  For them you will need:

  • Soft fabric (I used baby fleece, but terrycloth is another good option)
  • Coordinating thread
  • A sewing machine

Check out the sewing instructions here, or my pin on my Crafts as Gifts board.

Burp Cloths

Review

Burp cloths are a simple and quick project.  I decided to add a little extra interest to mine by adding the stripe in the center of the patterned side.  I also added the iron on appliques, just like I did with the bibs.  In fact, I used the same shapes on the burp cloths as I did with the bibs.

I ended up making a set of four burp cloths, and the entire process took around an hour.  I did it assembly style.  I cut all pieces for all the cloths as once.  I sewed all the stripes together.  I sewed front to back, etc.  This made the entire process very efficient.

I will absolutely make these in the future.  They are quick, simple, and easily to customize.  Besides, my understanding is that one can never have too many burp cloths as they are constantly used and abused.

Pumpkin Waffles

Pumpkin is often relegated to fall.  We drink pumpkin spice lattes and eat pumpkin pie, and generally go pumpkin crazy.  However, you can buy canned pumpkin year round, and it is one of my favorite flavors to cook with.  When I came across this recipe back in the fall, I decided to save it for later when I was missing fall and all her beautiful flavors.  You will need:

  • Flour
  • Brown Sugar
  • Pumpkin Puree
  • Milk

For the full recipe go here, or see my pin on my Breakfast board.

Pumpkin Waffles

Review

Have I mentioned I love pumpkin?  These were some tasty waffles!  Since pumpkin is no longer in season, finding pumpkin pie spice was nearly impossible.  (My store didn’t even carry it during the height of pumpkin season.)  So, I improvised with some cinnamon and nutmeg, a dash of all spice too.  I know the overall flavor would have been better with the real deal, but we make do.

This was a perfect breakfast to remind me of the perfect autumn we just had.  Plus, it was nice enough here that we could go hiking later in the day, so these waffles were just the start to a wonderful weekend.  Don’t let anyone tell you that pumpkin is a fall flavor! You can enjoy it any time of year!

30 Days of Strength

Finding a workout program I like has always been a challenge for me.  I tend to get bored easily, or feel like the time isn’t being as well spent as it could be.  And, of course, working out is something that takes time to show results, and sometimes I get impatient.  So, when a friend told me about this program, I decided to try it out. It’s only 30 days, after all.

Check out the workout here, or my pin on my Let’s Get Physical board.

30 Days of Strength

Review

First of all, I picked this specific workout instead of the many others available through this site because I have always wanted a toned, lean body that is also healthy.  I thought that the strength program was probably a good way to do that. Also, it was the one that had been recommended to me. While I have tried out some of the other programs, this is the one I want to focus on.

This program has three levels: beginner, intermediate, and advanced.  I did the beginner level because I wasn’t sure which level I actually was. I figured I could bump myself up if I thought it was appropriate,but knew I would be disappointed with myself if I had to bump down a level.

Pros

Most days I spent 20 minutes or less on the workout, which was nice.  There wasn’t enough time to get bored with the workout.  It also doesn’t require any equipment. Some exercises need a 20 lb box, but it very nicely points out that you could just put some items into a laundry basket and you’ll be good to go.  Pull ups are also utilized, but there are alternatives to those as well.  Also,the program has a pattern to it, so you know that every fourth day will be a stretch day.  Predictability can be a nice thing.  Also, the webpage has built in timers you can use as needed.

Cons

When you go up in levels, basically you are just adding more sets, and I can see how that might get repetitive.  Also, some of the days seem much harder than the others. The box jump day was probably the hardest one for me, but I also have rather weak knees due to surgeries I’ve had on them, so your mileage may vary. Another con is that there really isn’t any cardio built into the program, so you will need to supplement that yourself.  (Other programs do have cardio in them, though.)  I don’t have a place to do pull-ups, so I utilized the alternatives.  I wasn’t a huge fan of any of them, to be honest, but they did get the job done.

Results

At the end of the 30 days, I did see some changes.  My body was responding well to the program.  I did feel stronger, though I didn’t do any sort of test to actually prove it.  I did see some muscle toning start to emerge as well.  I did all 30 days at the beginner level, and gave serious thought to doing another 30 days at intermediate.  Instead, I moved on to another program.  I think this was a great start to a more fit new year.  I’ve moved on to some harder workouts that integrate cardio and toning, but I really think 30 days of strength helped me prepare for the harder workouts I’ve moved on to.

Caramel Frappuccino

I love coffee and am a real sucker for a good flavored coffee.  It’s probably best that there’s no where to get a coffee like that in town.  I’ve done lots of experiments with my own coffee syrups, but once you make those you start to realize just how much sugar is in them.  So, I’ve started to drink my coffee black and save flavored coffee for special occasions.  However, when I came across this skinny caramel frappuccino recipe, I knew I had to try it!  You will need:

  • Coffee (cold)
  • Ice cubes
  • Milk
  • Caramel Sauce

Check out the full recipe here, or my pin on my Drinks on Me board.

caramel frappuccino

Review

When I went to make this, I noticed that I only had about a cup worth of ice instead of three.  I only own one ice cube tray, and it only makes about two cups of ice, so I was never going to have 3 cups.  “No problem,” I thought to myself, “I’ll just add more coffee so there’s more liquid.”  I don’t think this was a bad idea, but it certainly didn’t end up with the slush mixture that it should have (which I knew).

That said, I still found this to just be okay.  Even though I had less ice than the recipe called for, it still tasted a bit watery to me.  That might have been because my coffee was still luke warm when I used it and it might have somewhat melted the few ice cubes I did have.  Also, my version is no where near as skinny as hers is.  She used almond milk, but I only have soy.  Turns out there is a HUGE calorie difference between the two.  According to the source, she’s only in for 15 calories over 24 ounces.  I, on the other hand, am in for 110 over just one cup.  I guess that means I need to start looking for almond milk because dang if that isn’t huge.  Because of this, she ends up with a 50 calorie frappuccino (which, I believe, is not accurately counted because you can’t just say 15 calories is basically the same as zero because it’s not), whereas I end up with 60 calories in just milk following the same recipe.

Will I make this again?  Maybe.  It didn’t wow me, but sometimes you’re desperate.  Besides, I think I owe it another chance with closer to the right amount of ice.

 

***UPDATE:  So, I wrote this post and saved it for a morning when I didn’t feel like writing.  Since then I have gone to the store to check out almond milk.  Now, I don’t have a fancy grocery store (I’ve written about how some days I can’t even buy normal items), but the lowest calorie almond milk I could find was 30 calories over 8 ounces.  Even when I looked online, I couldn’t find any almond milk (that told me the calories) that was under 30, so I don’t know where she gets her milk.  Furthermore, I’ve decided to stick with my soy for now because of all the nutrients that I get from it.  It might be more calories, but I am getting things for those calories, so I think it’s a worthwhile trade-off.***

Honey Garlic Chicken

This pin was one of those that I found surfing Pinterest while hungry.  Just reading the name made my mouth water and I knew I had to try it out.  I love honey and garlic and think they are excellent together, so I had high expectations.  For this you will need:

  • Chicken
  • Honey
  • Garlic
  • Eggs
  • Flour

The full recipe can be found here, or check out my pin on my Yum board.

Honey Garlic Chicken

Review

Honestly this recipe was a little bit of a pain to make.  I felt like I was making a huge mess and using tons of utensils and bowls and such.  It was going to be a very full kitchen sink once I was done.  But you know what?  It was totally worth it.  This recipe was DELICIOUS.  I would make all that mess again in a heartbeat (and have)!  Everything smelled great while I was cooking and the end result was satisfying and tasty.  I was actually happy to wash all those dishes afterward because it was such a good meal.  Also, the second time cooking it was a lot easier (since I knew exactly what I was doing), and the process was a lot less hectic and messy.  You should definitely give this one a try!

Blackberry Poppyseed Bread

Lemon poppy seed bread is one of my favorite things.  I love the smell and the mild lemon flavor.  I’d never made it before, so I was excited when I saw this recipe while looking for something else.  But I had used up the last of my lemons on salmon the night before.  I did, however, have some blackberries on hand, and an idea was formed.  For this you will need:

  • Flour
  • Sugar
  • Milk
  • Blackberries
  • Blackberry jam
  • Eggs
  • Butter

To see the recipe I altered, you can go here, or check out my pin on my Yum board.

Blackberry Poppyseed Bread

Review

Let’s start off with what I changed.  The first change I encountered was the lemon zest.  I did not have anything to zest, so I just dumped around 5 or 6 blackberries into the sugar and rolled them around in it before I added in the butter.  The second change was whole wheat flour instead of white flour (because that’s what I had).  Next, I used vanilla Greek yogurt instead of the sour cream in the recipe.  This was partially that I had read elsewhere that Greek yogurt could be a sour cream substitute, and part I had yogurt and not sour cream in my refrigerator.  The final change I made was a teaspoon of blackberry jam each time I was supposed to add lemon juice.  I also opted not to make the glaze as I tend to prefer my lemon poppy seed bread without glaze.

Whew-that was a decent amount of changes.  Enough, in fact, that I wasn’t sure this was going to turn out at all.  (You might have also noticed that I don’t own a loaf pan so I used a 9×9 pyrex.)  But I need not have worried-this was excellent!  The blackberry flavor was subtle-enough to tell what it was, but also enough to make me think I would add some more blackberries to the sugar if I was to do this again.  It was sweet, but not overly so.  It cooked up just right in 45 minutes.

Would I make this again?  Maybe.  I might try a different fruit next time.  Maybe some orange poppy seed or cranberry poppy seed.  I feel more confident about making small changes to a recipe now that I’ve been successful once.

Garbage Disposal Refreshers

Sometimes my sink doesn’t smell totally fresh.  I clean it, but the smell is definitely coming from the disposal.  So, I set off to find a solution.  These refreshers took ingredients I already had in my house, so I decided to try them out, as I wanted a fresher smelling sink stat!  You will need:

  • Baking soda
  • Salt
  • Lemon
  • Dish soap

Check out the how-to here, or my pin on my Clean It Up board.

Garbage Disposal Refreshers

Review

It’s really hard to mess up the steps while making these because there’s just so little to it.  That said, I’m not sure if I messed up or these just don’t do much.  First of all, I needed more dish soap than the directions called for because my “wet sand” would not stay together when I tried to scoop it into balls.  Adding more soap helped, but even when they dried they were fragile and two of them crumbled.

I didn’t have a small scoop like the directions called for, so I used a tablespoon to measure out my mounds.  I had to pack it in there tight to make it stay together, but not too tight or it would stick to my measuring spoon.  I let them dry overnight as directed, and immediately put one into my disposal the next morning.

And….nothing.  We turned on the water and disposal, and the refresher was so small it seemed to just glide right down.  I know that I didn’t make them too small according to the given directions, but they seemed too small to be useful.  I probably should have used my big ice cream scoop instead.  (I don’t know that balls that size would have stuck together, though.)  Using the tablespoon, I ended up with 13 refreshers, 2 of which crumbled the second I tried to put them in the jar.  (They got dumped into the disposal before the one complete one.)  If I had used the ice cream scoop, I probably would have only gotten about 4 balls.

So, did it work?  I honestly can’t smell a difference, so I’d say no.  However, I am not fully casting the idea to the side.  I think a slightly different ratio plus larger scoops might yield better results.  But as is?  Nope.  Didn’t work for me.  (Later I put some lemon slices down after having used them in my tea and I DID smell a difference for a little bit, so there is some hope.)