Friday, October 26, 2012

31 Days off Your Duff {Day 25} - Plan in Advance

Yes, plan in advance is redundant. But I really mean it.

This is kind of part two to Do What Makes You Happy.

If you have found what you can do to make yourself happy, then great! Good job. But now you have to stick to it. If this happiness requires you to learn a new skill/habit, then I'm talking to you right now.

I know my big problem, when starting something new, is getting overwhelmed early on. Last year I got some Poi balls to start learning that form of dance, and there were so many things out there that I could learn to do! Unfortunately, I couldn't do any of them just yet, and I got so buried in the possibilities that I just let it paralyze me.

Don't let that happen to you! Plan out your learning... well in advance! Before you even touch a crochet hook/poi ball/guitar/etc.

My Plan

For instance, I started crocheting this month. Now there's a hobby with possibilities I could easily get lost in. But, I knew I had a weakness for that, so I planned it out a little better than I did my Poi.

My goal is to eventually make my own patterns and sell my crocheted items. And I am terrible at reaching goals with no definitive time frame, because I just want to be there now! So, I told myself that I had 1 year to become good enough to sell my work, then I'd put up an etsy store - just in time for Christmas!

Another limit I gave myself was about stitching. I said I would spend a week just practicing different basic stitches, over and over and over again. I knew if I didn't understand what I was doing the first time I read a pattern, I might get scared off. So for the first week (or just the first 3 days.... my impatience still kicks in a little bit!) I would stitch squares or circles, undo them, and start all over again.

So you get the idea! If you are like me at all, you should plan ahead of time. Just pretend you are about to start a new class, but write your own syllabus. Think to yourself,

"For my first [crochet] class, would they have me jump straight into a [cupcake hat], or would they have me practice some [single crochet stitches] first?"

And on and on. Find the online resources or books that are necessary, plan at least a month of "classes," and make it very specific:

"On October 28th, I will read and complete the [crochet pattern] on page 13."

Once you've completed your course, re-evaluate your skills from there. If you find it necessary, then make a second month of classes that build upon what you have learned.

So whatever fun skill you are about to begin; plan, plan, plan in advance!

31 Days off Your Duff {Day 24} - Yogurt Sandwich

Hey, remember all that yogurt we just made? I know you have some in your fridge now.... right?

Well, it's perfect as the spread for this delicious sandwich.

Yogurt-Fruit-Cheese-Salad Sandwich

Okay, I couldn't think of a proper name to go with this sandwich, and Ashleywich just sounds stupid.

But regardless of what you call it, this is a delicious sandwich. Here are the ingredients I use!

  • Bread
  • My homemade yogurt
  • A red apple
  • Feta cheese crumbles
  • Dried cranberries
  • Homemade vinaigrette, or just some flavoured vinegar
  • Kale
  • Flax seeds, chia seeds, all kinds of healthy seeds

1. Cut the apple into thin slices
2. Mix all your seeds in with your yogurt before spreading it on
3. Make a sandwich (I think you can handle that part without a description)
4. Sprinkle with delicious vinaiggrette/vinegar
5. Eat and/or serve!

I love these sandwiches so much. And if I'm going to make it ahead of time, I just put all the little or liquid ingredients in their own tiny, stainless steel, lidded bowls that I have. Then I put those and the large dry ingredients together in one big Tupperware container.

Now get off your duff and go make and name this sandwich!

31 Days off Your Duff {Day 23} - Stuffed Mango Chicken

This is a recipe my boyfriend made several months ago.

There's really not much to it; you could easily make it tonight, if you flit off to the grocery store first.

You'll need:

  • Mango sauce of some kind (or make your own!)
  • Chicken breasts to feed everyone
  • Bell peppers, preferable in a variety of colours
  • Pineapples
  • Whatever side you want - I think we had rice.

Lay the chicken breasts out on the counter, and then pound at them with a meat tenderizer until they have flattened some and about doubled in width. Then put the bell peppers and pineapples on top with some mango sauce, and fold the chicken over as if it were a taco.

Next just put them in a cooking pan, cover in lots of mango sauce, and cook at 375° for about 25-30 minutes. Your chicken needs to reach 165° to be safe for consumption.

That's it! If you want more food of course, just make a side of rice, salad, or whatever you prefer.

Now get off your duff and cook your own dinner!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

31 Days off Your Duff {Day 22} - An Alternative to Letting Your Child Gorge on Candy

Where has time gone? I've been doing this blog challenge for three weeks now, and Halloween is just about here.

Oh boy. Tons of children running around on sugar highs. Doesn't that sound exciting?

Well, my parents never thought so. Thus, they devised a plan that would limit our candy intake, but still make Halloween an incredibly exciting event for us!

But Ashley, what was that plan?

Well readers, each year we would all sit down and come up with a list. This list would encompass all possible candies that we would gather, from M&M's to obscure items we would never see again. Then, we would assign each candy a value - nickel, 2 nickels, a whole dollar, etc. - and that would be the amount of money our candy would earn!

I don't have any of our original lists, but here is a mock-up for you to see:

  • Candy Bar, small - 10¢
  • Candy Bar, large - 20¢
  • M&M's, small -
  • Almond Joy - 25¢
  • Sweet Tarts - 50¢
  • Unique, Strange, Amazing Candy - $1

You get the idea. Candies that were my parents' favourite were worth more, and crazy unique candies were worth a lot just for the novelty (one time I think I had sweet tarts in the shape of an airplane somehow... that earned me extra!).

So armed with the knowledge from our list, my sister and I would set out into the night. If someone offered us a big bowl of assorted candies, we knew exactly which one to grab. We knew to be excited when a package of sweet tarts or skittles were deposited into our bag. We also knew which candies we could afford to eat in between houses to keep up our energy.

Then, at the end of the night came the most exciting part; dumping our candy all over the floor and totaling it up. Once we were ready, we turned it all in and our parents gave us the money - one year I made over $30! I still have the steel dragon statue I bought with those earnings.

So whether you want to take away your kids' candy for their health, for their safety, for your sanity, or just for the sake of making some new memories, go grab some paper and start making a list!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

31 Days off Your Duff {Day 21} - Etching Your Own Designs

Hello everyone! Today I thought I'd share another of the projects I did over the summer; etching my own glassware.

This has so many amazing possibilities, but sadly I've only accomplished one so far. Even so, I am very pleased!


Over the summer I started steeping some vinegar and herbs together to make my own all-purpose cleanser, but I had no container special enough to put the finished project in.

Luckily, there exists this amazing etching cream that would allow me to design my very own container out of an ordinary bottle. I needed only a few supplies:

  • Glass Bottle - easy, as I recycle dozens of flavour bottles from my shop every week
  • Spray top to fit on my bottle - I got lucky; the first cheap spray bottle I bought fit perfectly
  • Etching Cream - had to buy a gigantic tub of it for about $22 from my local building supply store
  • Brush - got a sturdy one at that same supply store
  • Protective Rubber Gloves - again, same store
  • Clear Contact Paper - grabbed a huge, exciting, useful roll at Michael's!

Now, I believe I got this fabulous idea from Kelly over at ImperfectHomemaking. She used clear contact paper for some label work she had to do (although she prefers vinyl), and after some experimentation I got it to work for my etching.

Doing the Deed

So, I boiled my bottle to sterlize it, and got to work cutting out shapes from my contact paper.

That was by far the worst part. I tried printing the shapes I wanted onto it - worked great, until I realized the ink never, ever dries, and instead smears the moment you touch it.

That was a failure. Next.

I attempted to draw my shapes onto the paper, then use an exacto to cut them out. Yeah.... that might work on giant, bold cuts, not on the fine ones I needed to make. The paper just scrunched instead of cutting.

Another failure. Fine, I'll do things the hard way.

So I got scissors, and gave myself hand cramps cutting out tons of different sized squares. I was trying to do patterns that involved larger squares around smaller squares around smaller squares, so of course the sizes had to work well together. Not as easy as it sounds.

Eventually, after tons of wasted contact paper (good thing it's such a large roll!) I got enough usable squares. After a little celebration, I got to work on affixing the squares to the bottle - a task that proved only mildly difficult at times.

After that, I just needed to carefully apply the cream with my brush and wait while it worked it's magic!

Just be sure you actually wait patiently. I rinsed all the cream off way too early in my excitement, and hardly had any results. The next time I waited the instructed amount of time, and it turned out much better.

Again, as I wasn't exactly preparing for a blog at the time of this bottle's creation, I don't have any pictures. I would take one now, but of course, the bottle is still packed away in storage.

So instead, I guess you'll just have to get off your duff and make your own to look at!

31 Days off Your Duff {Day 20} - Fudge Brownies

Yum, fudge brownies always sound delicious. Sadly though, they too often just taste like cake.

One of my friend's mothers made good fudge brownies once, and I think she used pudding, but I'm not really sure.

So one day I decided I was sick of the un-aptly named brownies, and would make my own correct version!

I don't even have exact measurements or times to tell you; it was all very experimental. I can tell you I made a simple brownie recipe from scratch, and a simple fudge recipe from scratch. And I mixed them together so they formed one perfect food.

First, I got the brownies made and cooking. Then, using my warped concept of recipe time, I tried to make the fudge so that it would just be ready to set as I pulled the brownies out of the oven. Shockingly, I mostly succeeded on that! Mostly.

My fudge was made on the stovetop, and is supposed to cook until it starts thickening up. Then you put it in the fridge to set. The brownies, you pull out while they are still just a little underdone, because they continue to cook for a few minutes. This was my goal; to mix the two together while they were each in their respective "setting" stage.

So, I simply scraped and pulled the brownies out of the pan and into another container, poured lots of fudge into them (but kept the majority of it brownie), and mashed it all together. Then I did put them in the fridge to set, even though I like warm brownies.

After all of this hurried work, I had success! My fudge brownies were delicious! I have to work out a few kinks here and there, but this is definitely a strong building block.