Glitter Star Wreath

A Fourth of July Decoration gets 3-D from digital and traditional techniques

Fourth of July Decorating is one of my favorites.

I’m not really that patriotic a person, it’s just that my birthday is a few days after the fourth, and I like to think the entire month is mine to celebrate.

Lately on the craft blogs and Pinterest, wreaths with big stars are popping up, some made out of tin, or wood. This one, made of paper, really caught my eye.

Of course I wanted to change it up a bit.

Instead of a vintage look, I went with a glitter version (not real glitter, that’s too messy), and took cues from the original craft post on how to make the paper stars really look more three-dimensional. Instead of using stamping ink, though, I did the whole thing digitally.

In Adobe Illustrator

In Illustrator, I drew up a star, and then resized it several times so I’d have some variety for my wreath. Using the pen tool, I drew straight lines from the center of each point to the opposite side. I changed the stroke to a brush effect, and then changed the opacity to 40% so that whatever I placed underneath it would show through a bit. These lines are going to create  a shaded effect on the ridges of the stars when they are folded.

Stars with shading for a glitter star wreath

I like to work in Illustrator because I’ve used it for many years, but you can accomplish this same look in whatever design program you are comfortable with.

DeviantArt designer harperfinch has a great assortment of free background digital files that are great for projects like this. I found files for red, white and blue glitter backgrounds.

glitter background for a glitter star wreath

Because I’m going to do this as a Silhouette Studio Print and Cut project, I placed the glitter backgrounds in on separate layers in my Illustrator document, and then exported the star shapes as DXF files, and the shading and glitter layers and PNG files.

I also set up a polygon to be cut as my wreath background shape. Most of it isn’t going to be visible, but I thought the extra corners on the polygon would give me more surface to glue the stars to in the end. I exported that file as a DXF file as well, because the standard version of Silhouette Studio cannot work with an Illustrator file, but it can open the DXF format.

In Silhouette Studio

In Silhouette Studio I set up a document that is 8.5 x 11 and turned the registration marks on. I then brought in my cut file and my image file for the white glitter version, and centered them to each other.

There are three small white squares added in to block off the digital glitter background where the registration marks are – you cannot have any printing in those shaded areas or the laser detection for print and cut will fail.

print and cut file for a glitter star wreath

I saved the file because I’m going to need it later for cutting. I then sent the file to my printer, and printed two sheets.

Two more versions of this file are needed, one each for the red and blue versions. I printed two sheets of each of those as well.

To finish the print and cut, I placed a sheet of the stars on my cutting mat, making sure to have the little square in the upper left corner, matching the screen. After changing the cut settings for the card stock I had printed on, I sent the file to print.

stars for a glitter star wreath

After all the sheets were cut and weeded, I set up and cut three pieces for my wreath form. I didn’t have any stock that was thick enough, so by cutting three and gluing them together, I made my own special cardstock.

frame shape for a glitter star wreath

Final Assembly

score stars for a glitter star wreath

Using a ruler and a scoring tool, I scored the back side of the stars from the center of each point to the opposite side.

folded and scored star for glitter star wreath

And then I folded the star along each of the lines, and pinched them into the final star shape. The shading effect is subtle, but it really helps the paper look much more sturdy than it really is.

I arranged the stars approximately how I wanted them to look on the form, and then hot glued them into place. Because the stars aren’t flat, it’s a little tricky getting them glued on. Use lots of glue only on the spots that actually touch the form or each other. And be careful to not get burned squishing them into place.

 

 

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Grilled Asparagus

A simple recipe that brings out the flavor

I do not really remember eating asparagus as a kid, and I only saw it a few times at holiday meals in my early adult life. All the recipes for it seemed ultra-tricky – I don’t own a stand up steamer and hollandaise sauce looks pretty finicky to make and not have separate.

A few years ago, when we tried grilling pretty much everything to see if we could, we tried asparagus and it was a nearly instant success. The only real trick is you need a grill pan of some sort to keep those stalks from rolling into the grates and being eaten by the fire.

Simple grilling brings out great flavor in asparagus | suzerspace.com

We add garlic cloves to the pan for an additional kick of carmelized flavor, but you can skip this step if you are not a fan.

 

Print

Grilled Asparagus

Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 50 minutes
Servings 3

Ingredients

  • 1 pound fresh asparagus
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic
  • Splash Balsamic Vinegar
  • Splash Splash Olive Oil

Instructions

  1. Pre-heat the grill with a grill pan on the grates. 

  2. Rinse and pat dry the asparagus. Cut off the tough bottom ends (quick tip – leave that bottom rubber band on and cut above it to make trimming easier).

  3. Peel the garlic. If a milder taste is desired, place the cloves in a microwave safe measuring cup with a cup of water and microwave for 1 minute.
  4. Combine asparagus and garlic in a bowl and add a splash of olive oil; mix well (I use my hands) to make sure everything has a light coating of oil to prevent sticking.
  5. When grill pan is hot, add vegetables and toss, being careful to avoid splatter from the oil.
  6. Monitor while grilling, stirring/flipping occasionally. 

  7. Remove from the grill using long-handled tongs and transfer to a serving plate.

  8. Splash with Balsamic Vinegar, and cover with foil to keep the heat in while you plate up your other grilled dinner items.

Recipe Notes

The 30 minutes of prep time includes bringing the grill up to cooking temperature; actual hands on prep time is less than 5 minutes.

For grilling vegetables, we use a cast iron grill pan, but I've had success with those thinner metal ones with the holes in them that you find in the grilling section of hardware and cooking gadget stores.

Stir occasionally while grilling - these are not fussy and do not need to be perfect; like the grilled mushrooms, the goal is get them good and charred but not burned.

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Web Wednesday: June 28, 2017

Alarm Clocks, Mortgage Calculators and Buzzy Bugs

  • As a person who has good intentions but often ends up with odd results on DIY home improvement projects, this made me laugh.
  • On my adulting list last week was meeting with a loan officer about the best time to refinance our mortgage, and while the web is full of information, I really liked this calculator which stepped you through the messy math needed to make a decision.
  • I can already hear them at night. It’s getting to be Cicada Season (don’t click if you don’t like pictures of bugs).

None of these links are affiliate; they are just items that caught my eye in the last week.

Tiny Tip: Make Matching Art Accessories

A quick trick that doesn’t require a 500 word essay

I have this super cute shower curtain that I purchased at Ikea (sorry – no link, it’s no longer being offered).

Shower curtain for matching art

They had matching towels, but no wall artwork was available.

So I made my own.

I took a good, clear closeup photo of two of the fish on the curtain. And then I cleaned them up in Adobe Photoshop and auto traced the result in Adobe Illustrator. I changed the colors to be more vibrant, added a border and border background color and printed it as an oversize color print.

I have the luxury of working where I have access to an oversize color printer, but Staples/Kinkos/etc. will print these in the $1.99 to $9.99 range depending on size and paper stock.

I dropped it into a inexpensive frame (from Ikea, of course) and now  my bathroom is a one-of-a-kind designer masterpiece. And when I change shower curtains, I can make new matching artwork.

I’m only suggesting this for personal use, of course. I’m not a lawyer, but I’d guess that if you tried to sell an item created this way, you’d likely be violating every copyright law there is.

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Patriotic Paper Wreath

Perfect for Summer Holidays!

There are three holidays in the summer that cry out for patriotic decorations – Memorial Day, Flag Day and Fourth of July.

For this wreath, I used what I learned making the mini Happy Day spring wreath. By changing the shape of the “stems” and adding some correctly colored circles for berries, I created a fun door decoration I can use whenever it’s called for.

In Adobe Illustrator

I searched the web for images of berry laden stems, and then simplified them into two versions, a tall one and a short one. I also created an additional circle that was just a little larger than the ones on the branches so I could add the red, white and blue berries on later.

Branches drawn for a patriotic wreath

 

I exported the file as a DXF, since the basic version of Silhouette Studio can’t work with an AI, EPS or SVG file, but it can use the DXF format.

In Silhouette Studio

I set up my Design Page settings for 9 x 11 to match the paper I had selected.

Branches to cut for a patriotic wreath

I duplicated and moved the branches around until I could fit as many as possible on a sheet. I sent the file to cut, weeded it and repeated until I felt like I had more than enough pieces to fill out my shape. This does not have to be an exact science – if you guess wrong you just go back and cut more.

Berries to cut for patriotic wreath

I then duplicated and aligned the circle that becomes the berry, and cut a sheet each of them on white, red and blue paper.

Final Assembly

I used my standard trick of cutting a circle out of a cereal box using a bowl for a guide, and just like in the other wreath project, I began in the upper left corner and used tacky glue to adhere the stems down, working to cover the cereal box and keeping the wreath really natural looking. This means you don’t want to overlap the stems too perfectly – some should stick out a little bit higher or lower than others.

Weeded parts for a patriotic wreath

It turns out I had way more than enough stems cut, so I decided to go ahead and glue them on the back of the wreath. The back of the wreath won’t ever be seen, but by doing this, I added a little more dimension to the piece.

Assembled patriotic wreath

 

I let this stage of the project dry for a while so that it wouldn’t fall apart as I glued on the berries.

I eyeballed the wreath into thirds and began gluing on the circles of red, white and blue. At some point I realized I didn’t have enough of two of the colors and went back and cut additional circles to finish.

Once complete, this hangs on the nail on my front door.

I was featured at the MyBusyBeehives.com linkup party

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Smashed Beans

An ugly but tasty side dish that’s a step up from canned refried beans

I have several recipes that if I were going to categorize them beyond the meal courses they belong to, I would have to put them in an “ugly but really tasty” group.

Smashed Beans is one of them.

But don’t judge too harshly – if you normally use refried beans from a can, then you really can’t argue that they are much better in appearance.

Personally, I don’t really like the texture of refried beans, nor the way they look kinda of like dog food when you remove them from that can. (Side note – what is that extrication method called? The one where you try and unseat them from the bottom of the can with a knife and vigorous upside down shaking? I’m offering “Unsuck them from the can” but the ballot is open for entries).

Instead, I take a can of regular beans and mash them with spices and a little olive oil and onion to exactly the taste and consistency I want. This also lets me use Black Beans, which I like better in taste than red/pinto. I’ve also made these with beans from scratch, on those rare occasions that I’ve remembered to soak them overnight ahead of time.

 

Print

Smashed Beans

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 1 minute
Total Time 11 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 15 oz cab Black or Pinto Beans Rinsed and Drained
  • ½ teaspoon Paprika
  • ½ teaspoon Garlic Powder
  • ½ teaspoon Onion Powder
  • ¼ teaspoon Cumin
  • 1 Tablespoon Diced Jalapeno
  • 1 Tablespoon Diced Onion
  • 1/4-1/2 Tablespoon of Olive Oil

Instructions

  1. In a microwave safe bowl, add a splash of olive oil to the contents of a can of rinsed and drained beans. Microwave on high for 30-45 seconds, until warmed through and soft (but not really hot).
  2. Add spices and jalapeno and onion. Use a large fork or a potato masher to mash/smash the beans to the desired consistency.
  3. If using as a side dish, heat an additional 30-45 seconds to completely cook through.

Recipe Notes

We enjoy these  as a side dish, a soft taco/burrito/wrap filling. They also make a great layer in 7-layer dip or Taco salad.

Web Wednesday: June 21, 2017

  • This was a great documentary about how origami and science work hand in hand. Unfortunately, you have to be a paid PBS subscriber to view it. So if you aren’t, how about this site with a lot of smaller projects to start with?
  • I love ringtones, and astronomy. So the NASA web page full of MP3 and MR4 downloads? Yay!
  • You know when you get on the plane and you scope out all the your fellow passengers wondering who the troublemakers are going to be? Can you imagine if this happened on your flight?

None of these links are affiliate; they are just items that caught my eye in the last week.

Tiny Tip: Design cards with the envelope in mind

A trick that doesn’t require a 500-word essay

If you are creating cards or invitations, it’s helpful to know the sizes of standard envelopes so that once you have finished all that hard work, it’s possible to actually mail them.

You could, of course, create your own envelope, but if you are doing invitations or a mass of thank you cards after an event, you’ll probably want to stick to the sizes easiest to find at the stores.

One other quick card size tip – you’ll also want to consider the size of the sheet of paper you are printing them on. One of my favorite sizes is the A2 insert size – at 4.25 x 5.5, you can get four out of a standard 8.5 x 11 sheet of paper (or two if they fold over).

Father’s Day Card

An easy technique that can create a card for any occasion

Here’s a quick card technique that combines Silhouette cutting and and a simple design/print technique that can be used for just about any occasion.

To set up the printed portion

In your choice of design program,  using an 8.5 x 11 sheet size, create a wall of repeating text about the occasion. In this case, I’ve typed “Happy Father’s Day” over and over.

the inside of the Father's Day card

To give the inside a little more pop, I have colored this text a light blue, and then added a large rectangle of darker blue behind it for a tone on tone effect. Placement here isn’t super important – the only important part is you want the entire block of text and background color to be considerably larger than the card you are going to cut.

Make sure that design is centered to your page, and then print. I like to use an 80# smooth white cover stock for this – regular paper would be too flimsy to stand up on it’s own after folding.

Set that sheet aside.

To set up the cut file

I use Adobe Illustrator to design my cut files because I’m more familiar with it, but this same technique works in Silhouette Studio.

In either program, set up a page that is 8.5 x 11 (the size of the already printed sheet). Draw a rectangle that is the full flat size of the card you are making. In this case, I have an A2 envelope handy, so I’m making an A2 sized card. That card is 4.25 x 5.5 when folded. So I need a rectangle that is 5.5 wide by 8.5 tall for the outside cut dimensions.

Draw a line that is the same width as the card (5.5 inches in this case) and center it to the rectangle (both top to bottom and left to right). This line is going to become the score line later.

Draw an inner rectangle that is 1 inch less than the width and height of the panel. The panel is half the card, so in this case, my rectangle will be 3.25 x 4.5.  Position that rectangle so it is centered left to right in the bigger rectangle.  Move the inner rectangle up so it is .5” inch from the bottom of the bigger rectangle. This centers the inner shape in the front panel of the card.

outside design for a Father's Day cardType the text you want in a big bold font and size it large enough to span the width of the inner rectangle. You’ll then need to adjust the spacing between the letters so that they touch, and resize the overall width of the word so that it slightly overlaps the left and right sides of the inner rectangle.  In Illustrator I select the overlapping letters and choose United from the Pathfinder Pallette. In Silhouette Studio you would select the overlapping letters and choose Weld from the Modify menu. Once the letters are united/welded, you’ll need to select them and the inner rectangle and choose Minus Front (from the Pathfinder Pallete in Illustrator) or Subtract (in the Modify window in Silhouette Studio). Check to make sure the letters are now a cutout portion of the inner rectangle – if something has gone wrong, undo this step and check to make sure the united/welded  word is in front of the inner rectangle.

file for cutlines for a Father's Day card

Since I created my artwork in Illustrator, I need to save it, and then export it as a DXF file because the basic version of Silhouette Studio can’t open an Illustrator file but it can use the DXF format. Once I’ve exported that file, I open Silhouette Studio and merge in the file. If you’ve created your artwork in Silhouette Studio then you skip this step.

The Silhouette Cameo doesn’t really produce a true score line, but a perforated cut will work. Select the center line you drew in the big rectangle and select a dotted line pattern from the Line menu.

Final Assembly

cut file for a Father's Day cardCheck to see that the lines are all set to cut properly, and then place your previously printed sheet printed side down on the cuttng mat. You want the text to be upside down as well, so the first line of text is at the bottom of the mat, not the top. This sounds backwards, but when the card cuts, the front panel of the card is going to be at the bottom of the sheet, and the printed text forms the inside of the card.

Load the mat, and send the cut file to print. Remove the cut sheet from the mat carefully, and fold along the perforated line at the top. Note – if when you fold the card your inside text reads upside down, then the printed sheet wasn’t placed correctly on the mat. Just print a new sheet and position it the other way and cut a second version. That’s the great thing about paper crafting – mistakes are pretty easy to hide (just through them in the recycle bin!).

inside view of the Father's Day card

Sign at the bottom (in that ½” space at the bottom so it isn’t visible from the cutout portion when folded) and you are done!

By changing the color and text on the printed portion and the word on the outside that gets cut, you can create an infinite number of custom greeting cards using this method.

I was featured at Scraptastic Saturday

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Spinach and Artichoke Dip

An easy version of a classic restaurant appetizer

Do you subscribe to the New York Times Cooking newsletter? You might consider it (not an affiliate link). It’s free, and I really like how the editor works current affairs into the weekly pattern of recipes.

I especially liked a recent edition where the subject of Spinach Artichoke dip was reviewed – I had no idea that some foodies consider it a controversial subject.

I am not a foodie. I like tasty, easy to make food that’s easy on the budget and fits my health plan.

The recipe from the New York Times site didn’t actually fit those requirements, but I skimmed it for a basic jumping off point and then slimmed it down literally and figuratively.

Print

Spinach and Artichoke Dip


Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes

Ingredients

  • 8 oz Lowfat Cream Cheese at room temperature
  • 1 Tsp Mayonnaise
  • 1/8 cup Feta Cheese crumbled
  • 4 oz fresh baby spinach rinsed and patted dry
  • 1 stalk Green Onion
  • 2 cloves Garlic peeled
  • 1/2 jar Marinated Artichoke Hearts (Jar was 7.5 oz)

Instructions

  1. Finely chop the garlic, spinach and green onion.

  2. In a small saute pan, heat olive oil and once it begins to shimmer, add garlic, spinach and green onion. Saute until spinach is fully cooked and very wilty.

  3. While the garlic/onion/spinach mixture is cooking, combine the mayo, cream cheese and feta in a large, heat safe bowl.

  4. Roughly chop the marinated artichoke hearts and add to the mayo/cream cheese mixture.

  5. When the garlic/onion/spinach mixture is done, remove from heat add to  the mayo/cream cheese mixture.

  6. Stir thoroughly to combine. 

Recipe Notes

The heat of the cooked vegetables will melt the cream cheese/mayo mixture. At this point, the dip can be enjoyed warm.

Leftovers should be refrigerated.

The dip will solidify, and can either be enjoyed as a chilled spread, or reheated in the microwave if you wish for a hot dip.