Cricut

Paper Cherry Blossoms with Your Cricut

Cherry Blossom Wreath
So what if Cherry Blossoms aren’t normally seen on wreaths! That’s the beauty of paper flower making!

February is usually the snowiest month here in New England, which generally leaves me praying for the first signs of Spring with every new day.  I’ve long given up hope on the Groundhog’s promise of an early Spring. Instead I just hold on to the notion that “Hope Springs Eternal” and jazz up my home with all the Spring flowers I can think of.  One of the first ones for me is the cheery Cherry Blossom.

Cherry Blossoms are easy to make and will quickly liven up your home with tiny shocks of pink from the palest blush to the brightest hot pinks.  And because we are not Mother Nature, we are only confined to the limits of our imagination!  How about some purple cherry blossoms?  Or maybe some patterned paper ones?  Whatever you decide, a paper cherry blossom can adorn a quick note card, a wreath (why not?) or even a bare branch from your garden.

Paper Cherry Blossom
Paper Cherry Blossom adorning a notecard

 

My cherry blossom pattern comes from a FREE design in Design Space entitled “Cherry Blossom Tree”.  Find it quick by searching for “cherry blossom” in the Images section.  Here’s a photo to help guide you:

Search results for
Design Space Search Results for “Cherry Blossom” produces over 200 images. The image we are using is the first one.

 

I happen to like my cherry blossoms full, so the first thing I do is Ungroup the file and Duplicate the flower portion so that each of my blossoms has two petal layers. To be honest, sometimes I will duplicate the yellow stamen, because it is so intricate and I have a tendency of ripping them when I remove them from my mat, but that’s up to you.

Duplicating the Petals
Duplicating the petal piece will create fullness in your blossom

 

For variety, I like to use a few different colors and sizes for a bigger cherry blossom project. This is easy to achieve by grouping your blossom again and duplicating the file. After duplicating the file you can manipulate the size and petal leaves. Try blush, white or mauve colors and you’ll then have four different blossoms to work with.

Varying the size the color of blossoms
Creating multiple blossoms in slightly different colors and sizes

 

After cutting and removing all your cuts from the cutting mat, head over to your work area with the cuttings, a shaping tool, some glue and foam dots and some different sized pearl buttons. Using your shaping tool, you want to carefully crease each petal to give it some shape. The leaves also will be creased this way. The stamens can be carefully bent to give them more texture, too. Once you’ve completed all the shaping, all that is left is assembly.

 

To give the blossoms more fullness, I like to use foam dots between the two petal layers and also adhere them together slightly askew.  After adhering the petal layer, use white glue to place the stamen inside the blossom. When dry, place an appropriately sized pearl inside. Depending on your pearls, you may want to glue these.

 

And finally, flip your blossom over and affix the leaf to the back. Allow the glue to dry before flipping them back over.img_7606

 

And viola! Your blossoms are now ready to adorn any project.

img_7608

I hope you try to make these super simple Cherry Blossoms.  Hurry back for more paper projects including future projects for making Paper Peonies, Hydrangeas and Daffodils!

 

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Cricut

Access: Cricut’s Subscription Service

Cricut Access Projects
A few of the hundreds of projects in Access

I often get asked if Cricut’s subscription service–called Cricut Access–is “worth it”.

My usual answer is “Absolutely”!  But, if you need more convincing than that, consider my situation.

I’ve been crafting with a Cricut machine for over six years now and I remember the days when cartridges (the little devices that would store a set of Cricut images) were so expensive they would lock them up at the craft stores!  Most cartridges at that time retailed for anywhere between $30 and $80 and we “old school” Cricuteers would wait until they went on sale for $20 to stock up on all the latest image sets.  I managed to collect about 150 cartridges, which at an average cost of $20 each, I invested over three thousand dollars in Cricut images!  (And that is NOT an exaggeration!)

Furthermore before the subscription, you used to have to load cartridges into your machine before cutting, making the entire process extremely time consuming.  (Thankfully Cricut eventually did introduce a way to save your cartridges online, eliminating the need to fuss with cartridges anymore, but you still had to rely on using the tiny books to know what images you had or what the cartridges could do.)

The introduction of Design Space forever changed how I managed all my Cricut content, and Access was just the cherry on top of the whole thing!  Even with over 150 of my own cartridges for content, there were still several hundred image sets I didn’t own (Imagine my horror!!) and weren’t even available for me to use…until Access made them available.

Cricut Access Standard
Cricut Access Standard

Access introduced me to over 30,000 images, more than 1,000 top-quality projects and an almost dizzying amount of fonts (over 370!) .  With SO many choices and at-my-fingertips use, I am never at a loss for crafting ideas with my Cricut machines.  And for a cost of about $10 a month, I am now saving myself hundreds of dollars in new cartridge purchases just by subscribing.

Cricut Access Image sets
Some of the Access Only image sets

Ever accommodating, Cricut breaks down their subscriptions into three tiers.  For people who can’t get enough of fonts, for only $5 a month you’ll have over 370 fonts at your fingertips without ever having to search for one again.  Or, if you want more than just fonts, try the Standard Access for about $8 a month and immerse yourself in thousands of images plus the fonts, too!

If you’re an “all or nothing” kind of crafter (like me!), spend just under $10 a month and go for Access Premium.  Premium gives you everything.  All the images.  All the fonts. Plus 50% all digital images not part of the subscription (hint: there isn’t much NOT available!) And always 10% off materials on Cricut.com.

One more thing…I forgot to mention that the folks at Cricut are always adding to their image library and often have Access Only images and projects available.  That means you’ll get to create beautiful projects that other folks would have to search the web for hours to find…all right in Design Space!  Stuff like this:

Hopping Down the Bunny Trail image set
Hopping Down the Bunny Trail image set
Dimensional Scenes: XOXO
All the Dimensional Scenes image sets are only available on Cricut Access
Cactus Love
Cactus Love image set only available on Cricut Access

If I’ve convinced you to give Cricut Access a closer look, please use my link so that I will get a small percentage of any sale you make at the Cricut website:

http://www.shareasale.com/u.cfm?d=369132&m=51766&u=1089398

Please note: This blog post contains an affiliate link to the Cricut website, which will result in a small percentage of any sale generated to be credited to the author.
Cricut

Using Pens With Your Cricut

Example of a card with scoring and writing
Card ready to be made; contains both a scoring line and writing with a pen

For my friend Debbie’s birthday, I gifted her Cricut’s January Mystery Box.

While I realize sending a birthday present full of unknown products is usually an “iffy” proposition, I figured I was safe because she is known to proclaim that her “favorite color is glitter” AND because this month’s box was marketed as being “elegant”.  Well, I am happy to report my gamble paid off.  Her Mystery Box contained a hefty amount of glittery and shiny items. In addition, she was elated to find two packages of pens for writing, which prompted me to write this blog post.

Debbie is a long time crafter, but is still learning how to use her new Maker.  I told her I would publish a post on how to use pens in her Cricut, so that everyone can get a little tutorial (or refresher) on how to do it.

For this example, I am using two cards that I got from vast Cricut Make It Now project collection.  Fortunately, these cards came all set up with both scoring lines and pen marks, so when I go to make it my machine already knows (and tells me) I will be needing my Scoring Stylus and also a Pen:

Tools you will use on project

If you have more than one additional tools in a project–as I have in this one–your Cricut will tell you which one to load first and then also prompt you to change tools.  In this case, I am to load my Scoring Stylus (into the left clamp/Clamp A) first and then load the pen afterwards.  Cutting is always done last with a project.

After my Cricut scores the card stock, it will ask you to change the tool…like this:

Reminder to add your pen

Make sure you are careful about changing out the tools; don’t tug too hard on the scoring stylus when removing, but also make sure your pen is firmly in place as well.

After you change out the stylus for the pen, you will see the machine actually drawing on your cardstock, as shown in this example:

Drawing your project

And once the writing/drawing is complete, the Cricut will proceed with the final step, cutting your card.

And–believe it or not–that’s all there is to it!

If you don’t want to be limited by using pre-made cards from the Make It Now section (although you may be surprised at how many projects are there!), I will post a “Part 2” to this project in a bit that will show you how to make a card from scratch that uses the drawing technique.  So check back later for more info, please.

DIY · Dutch Oven · recipe

Popcorn in the Dutch Oven

Popcorn in the Dutch Oven

So…on a whim…I decided to try making popcorn in the Dutch Oven…because, you know, I just can’t separate myself from this thing!

And, of course, it came out phenomenal!

My mom gave me a little bottle of coconut oil that is infused with jalapeños and so I decided to cook a batch with it. My mouth is burning! In an awesome jalapeño kind of way! I’m thrilled!

I’ve all but stopped eating popcorn several years ago…and when I did, I worried about the microwave kind giving me cancer or something…but then I remembered how my Dad would make popcorn in a pan on the stove and a light went off. Why couldn’t I try out a stove top version in my new best friend…I mean, my Dutch Oven.

I even shook it out into a brown paper bag to get out some of the grease…just like Dad used to do!

And now I’m strolling down memory lane and enjoying every second of it! Dad would be so proud!

I’m now seriously wondering if there’s anything that this Dutch Oven CAN’T do…

Plus I’m thinking they may need to bury me with it, because I *never* want to be without it again!

Dutch Oven · New England · recipe

Durgin Park Baked Beans

Prepared in a Dutch Oven, of course!

bakedbeans

If you’ve ever heard of Boston, you may have heard it being referred to as “Beantown”.

And–although most people from around here never refer to Boston as Beantown (really…never ever!)–baked beans have been a staple at Bostonian tables for generations.  And for good reason!  Beans are nutritious, hearty and inexpensive to prepare.  With a pound of dried navy beans, a chunk of salt pork, some molasses and a few other simple ingredients, you could appease a large family on a cold Saturday night–the traditional bean eating night.

I’m not old enough to remember when Saturdays were regular bean cooking days, but I do recall preparing baked beans for special occasions–such as Easter–and, of course, seeing beans offered as a side dish on every New England menu, including at Durgin Park.  Baked beans are especially good as a compliment to scrambled eggs or served for with boiled hot dogs for supper.  Yes, hot dogs are boiled or steamed in New England and served on open topped buns, too!  We’re weird, I know…

If you’re not from Boston you might be wondering what exactly Durgin Park is.  I’m sure you’ve figured out it isn’t a park at all, but a restaurant.  A very old New England restaurant.

Actually Durgin Park is the second oldest restaurant in Boston–second only to the Union Oyster House, which has been serving food since the days of the Revolution!  And two hundred years later, the Durgin Park menu is still full of all the old New England favorites–lobsters, chowder, Indian Pudding, Yankee Pot Roast and, of course, baked beans.

Back in the 80s, Durgin Park distributed their famous recipes as a souvenir, which is where I got my recipe.  I don’t dare change anything about the original recipe for fear of being accused of making improvements on an already perfect thing.  My only adjustment is to use my new mini Dutch Oven instead of a traditional (but messy) bean pot.

Ingredients:

  • One pound of dried navy beans, soaked overnight
  • 1/2 tsp of baking soda (for the parboiling)
  • 1/2 pound of salt pork (or thick cut bacon if not available), cut into chunks
  • 1/3 cup dark molasses
  • 1 tsp dried mustard
  • 1/2 of a medium sized onion, peeled but not cut
  • 1 tsp of salt and 1/4 tsp of pepper
  • 4 tablespoons of sugar (I prefer brown sugar, but the recipe does not specify)
  • 3 cups of hot water to start plus more as beans cook

 

Instructions:

  • Begin preparing the beans the night before by soaking them in water.  You may need to add more water halfway through the soaking process as the beans rehydrate, so check them before you go to sleep.  Don’t try to use canned beans for this recipe or to rush the soaking and parboiling process, because we Yankees will know if you did!
  • In the morning, rinse the beans and boil them with the baking soda for 10 minutes.  Drain and rinse the parboiled beans and set aside.
  • Dice the salt pork into chunks and peel and halve the onion (do not chop).  Put half of the salt port in the bottom of the pot along with the onion.
  • Add the beans to the pot and cover with remaining salt pork.
  • Combine salt, pepper, dry mustard, molasses and sugar with 3 cups of hot water and mix thoroughly.  Pour mixture over the beans.  Cover your pot.
  • Bake your covered Dutch Oven (or bean pot, if you have one) in a preheated 325 degree oven for six hours, checking about every hour or so to see if the beans need water
  • Top off the beans as needed throughout the baking process
  • Remove the onion and salt pork bits (or not…up to you!) and serve!

 

parboiling navy beans for baked beans
After soaking the beans overnight, parboil them for ten minutes
Salt Pork for Baked Beans
Salt pork is still readily available in most New England grocery stores and the best choice for baked beans

 

 

Simmering baked beans
The beans are simmered for six hours in the oven and should be checked regularly to make sure there is enough liquid on top
Baking beans needing water
When the liquid on the top of your pot begins to cook off, you should replace it with enough water to just submerge the beans in water.
Last night's beans with eggs
Leftover beans are great served with breakfast and also make a great bean sandwich!