Monday, November 6, 2017

Best Bulk-Baked Bacon

Oh, My, Bacon!

For my tiny family of two, we go through a lot of bacon:

I have been trying to eat low carb for a while and one of my favorite parts of this way of eating is that BACON is not off limits. We love our bacon and have a few slices a day each. I also like to keep some on hand to toss into salads or our other meals as well but I hate to cook it. More specifically, I hate to pan-fry it. We love bacon, but we hate our house to smell like it all the time. So, I found a method that works better for us.

I buy and bake my bacon in bulk in the oven once a month and I wanted to share how I do it with you!

Prep your pan:

We'll be cooking a few pounds of bacon and a larger pan makes quick work of it. I like to use these large pasta pans from the super center. The higher sides keep most of the splatter down to help make cleanup easier and the pan is disposable so we have virtually no cleanup when we're done :-)

Unroll a length of aluminum foil about 6 inches longer than the pan and roll it up into a log the length of the bottom of the pan. Make three of these total to support the center and ends of our bacon slices.

pick one corner of the pan and pinch it into a spout so we can collect all the rendered fat after each batch has finished cooking. 


Add Bacon and Prep Draining Mat:

Add your aluminum logs to the pan and lay out strips of bacon. You can squeeze them in pretty close together, they'll shrink a bit during cooking. Make note of the time. Your cooking time will vary but you can use your first batch to time the subsequent batches as long as you're using the same brand/thickness. I try to flip the bacon abut 10 or 15 minutes in.

Pull out another sheet of aluminum foil a little larger than a couple of paper towels and lay it on your counter top. Add two layers of paper towels on top of the foil. This is where your cooked bacon will drain and cool until you're ready to pack. 

Prepare your Pack:

Your bacon will survive just fine in the freezer until you're ready to eat it. I store mine between layers of parchment in a freezer bag.

Start with a Gallon size freezer bag and measure and cut multiple sheets of parchment slightly smaller than the bag. I usually need about 8 sheets. Add more or cut fewer depending on how much bacon you're cooking. 


Finish the first batch and repeat:

Once your bacon is cooked to your liking, pull the pan out of the oven and transfer your slices onto your draining mat. Use additional layers of paper towels between each layer of bacon.

Move the aluminum logs onto your draining mat and pour the rendered bacon fat into a jar for use later. Add the logs back into the pan, add new bacon slices and repeat the cooking process until you've cooked all of your bacon. 

Store your Bacon:

Once the bacon has cooled, begin to layer it in the freezer bag separating each layer with the parchment paper sheets. This method will allow you to pull out individual slices of bacon whenever you need them. Make sure to keep the pieces separated into layers. If the bacon sticks together in the freezer it will be harder to separate without breaking. 

Cooling Bacon

 To use your bacon

I like to warm them back up again in my NuWave oven (3 minutes on each side is perfect for me) or in the microwave for 8-12 seconds. Also, you can use kitchen shears to slice the frozen pieces directly into your salads or recipes and its perfect by the time you're ready to eat.

Oh, Beautiful! 


This is the fastest part of the whole process! Once you've packed away all your bacon, pile the paper towels and the aluminum sheet under it that you used to drain the bacon slices into your pan to absorb all the rest of the oil. Roll the whole thing up and you're done. 



And an added Bonus:

Once you're finished cooking you're left with some amazing rendered bacon fat. I keep mine in my fridge in the jar. Whenever I saute veggies or eggs, this is what I start with. You can also melt it into recipes that call for melted butter to give an extra salty/savory kick to your meals. 

What about you guys?:

Is there a technique that you use to get the most out of your cooking time? 
Any useful hints to make our prepping lives easier?

I look forward to hearing from you. 

Happy Crafting!

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Silhouette Pixscan: A 5 minute how-to.

Hey all!

I was working with a lady on Facebook a little earlier today and basically made a quick Pixscan walk-through. It's a just a bare-bones, how-to-start tutorial to make sure you're setting your project up correctly. This won't cover troubleshooting but, as always, I'm happy to help if you have specific questions that aren't covered here.

What is Pixscan and why do we LOVE it?:

The Pixscan mat by Silhouette is a unique cutting mat that comes pre-printed with registration marks like you would use in print-and-cut projects. There is a sticky cutting area like a regular mat where you can adhere vinyl scraps, pictures, small pieces of thin metal for etching (we may get more into that later), or, my favorite, sticker sheets.

The Pixscan mat lets you take advantage of the FULL SURFACE AREA of your page rather than wasting space printing on registration marks that your machine may end up having trouble reading later anyway. Also, you can place scraps of vinyl on the mat any way you want and then, when you load the photo into the program (which I will walk you through below) you will be able to place cuts anywhere you want on the material to make sure you get the most out off every last little piece of vinyl! You can also place pictures on the mat and cut around your friends and family or cut the photos into letters in a pretty font or even different shapes. There are so many uses.

Sounds cool! How do we start?:

The process itself is simple but there are a few critical points where it can fail and I'll point them out to you as we get there.

Step 1: Place your media on your mat and take a full resolution photo of it in good lighting and preferably against a dark/contrasting surface and save this picture to your computer somewhere it will be easy to get to in a few minutes. 

Make sure the entire mat is visible and none of the edges are cut off. Here, I used a large piece of black card stock behind the mat. You can use a digital camera, your phone, or you can even scan a the mat using the flatbed scanner on your printer. 

DO NOT crop the image, DO NOT re-size the image, DO NOT rotate the image. The software in Silhouette studio will handle all that for you! Yay for less work! 

Step 2: Open a new project in Silhouette Studio

Step 3: Choose the Pixscan option from the menu on the right hand side of the screen

Step 4: Click on the "Import PixSccan Image from File" button and then locate the picture file you saved earlier.

Step 5: If the software can successfully read the file, you will see a thumbnail and progress bar as it loads into the studio space. Note: This is one of the first places things can go wrong. More on that below the photo.

See how it says "Calibration: Samsung S6"? That means that the software recognizes that I took the photo with my phone and knows how to adjust the file according to the specifications of my camera. If the program can't read your image and gives you a calibration error, first try to re-take the picture in better lighting. There could have been a glare covering the registration marks, or the angle the picture was taken at could have been too severe for the software to accommodate. If you're using a camera or an older model phone, there is a calibration process you can complete where you print a full size page of dots and take a photo of them with whatever picture-taking device you're going to use and then load that picture into studio. This will teach the program how to adjust for the device you're using. There are a few good tutorials on this process elsewhere on the internet and I may link one in later for you if needed.

Step 6 (passive): Assuming your photo calibration was recognized, you will see your image open in the studio space (without the watermark 😎) but it won't be editable like a normal file. See how the mat looks like the PixScan mat now instead of the normal mat image? If you see normal print-and-cut registration marks instead of something similar to my photo, go back and start at step 2. If it does look similar to my photo below, think of it now as a sheet of dough and you will create cookie-cutter cut lines on top of this to show the machine where to cut. 

Step 7: Create your cut lines.

In my file, I actually used my silhouette program to design the sticker sheets I had printed so I copied out one of the elements and used that to create my cut lines for the individual pieces. I placed each one individually based on what I saw in the image and adjusted the shape and length a little bit for each one based on the lines in the image. I also left a "bleed" area around each of my images when I printed so that if the cuts were off a little bit one way or another, I wouldn't have a ruined cut, just one that was a tiny bit off center. NOTE: you don't need to change your line thickness, I just did this for the photo so it would be easier for you to see. 

Step 8: Cut! Once you are happy with all your cut lines, load the mat into the machine (I have a Cameo 2 so I used the "load mat" option) and select the media type you're cutting just as if you were using a regular mat. Once you press "START" the machine will take in the mat and start to calibrate the cut based on the registration marks on the Pixscan mat. If it scans all three registration marks successfully, it will return to the starting point and begin your cut.

And, oh, when it works! It's the COOLEST thing. 

I never fail to smile when everything works and it's super satisfying!

BONUS Step: But wait, there's just a little more! One of the benefits of the digitized cutting file you've just created is that you can cut multiple pages of the same thing if you added in a small bleed area around your images and you put your sheets on the mat in (almost) exactly the same spot as your original photo. I used this set of files to cut 20 identical pages of stickers, off of the same picture and cut file, being sure to match the top and left corners of my sticker sheet to the top and left corners of the cutting box of the PixScan mat. WooHoo for more saved time! 

Do you love PixScan yet?

Once you get the process down, there are SO MANY cool uses:

  • As I mentioned above, you can throw a bunch of vinyl scraps on the mat any which way you want and cut funky shapes out of every little piece. 
  • You can make planner stickers or labels for your home and custom cut them into specific shapes without wasting any space on those expensive full page sticker sheets with traditional print-and-cut registration marks.
  • You can have images printed on acetate and cut them out in exactly the right shape to insert into ornaments or cut out pictures for lockets or scrap books. 
  • You can tape down thin metal tags and engrave on them if you have an engraving tool and you'll be sure that your engraving is centered and upright instead of using a regular mat and HOPING that you counted your squares right. (wait, what? engraving? TEASER!)

I'm sure you guys can come up with a bunch of cool stuff too. Let me know in the comments below what you've done with the PixScan mat.

Happy Crafting!

Sunday, September 24, 2017

All in one Kitty Center with custom litter box.

Everyone deserves their own space.

Including the kitties:

I have two little kitties with big personalities. They pretty much have the run of the house. Everyone that has a kitty or two (or more!) knows that there are a few undeniable facts that you have to deal with. Food, water, toys, records, and, of course, the litter box.

I wanted to try to find a way to organize it all and still have it look clean and contained. I have gone through a few different configurations and I think I finally figured out something that works great for all of us, and maybe it can work for you too. So, this post will walk you through what I did


Corner Molding
Construction Adhesive
Litter Box
Floor mat (x3)
Food and litter containers (x2)
Storage Bins

Basic Process:

I have gotten this project together over the course of about 6 months so I don't have the exact directions. If you have any questions, I will do my best to answer. This will just be an outline.

1) Locate the side of the BESTÅ Cabinet side that you want to have your opening on. Mark out the size of the opening that you want for your litter box opening.

2) Use a drill to drill a hole inside the area that you've marked for your opening and then use a saw (I used jigsaw) to cut the opening.

3) I cut pieces of vinyl corner molding and used the construction adhesive to attach it to the rough cut of the opening to give it a cleaner finish. If you're able, you can miter the edges to get a cleaner frame but I didn't do that with mine.

4) Assemble your BESTÅ subbing in the soft close hinges if you choose to use them. I didn't want the doors to slam and startle the cats when they were eating. Mine came with teflon feet so it's really easy to pull away from the wall to vacuum and mop around the box when I clean.

5) I chose to use a very high box for the litter box because one of my cats has a habit of making a bit of a mess with shorter boxes. Put the box in the cabinet on the side of the opening and mark out where you need to cut your opening. Note: I actually used two of these boxes from Home Depot because I hadn't seen the IKEA ones yet. If you want to know how I modified the boxes I used, please let me know in the comments below and I'll write it up for you guys.

6) Use a blade to cut the opening out of the front of the litter box and I used a lighter to melt the raw edge to smooth it over. If the top edge keeps your door from closing, you can trim it off too.

7) Once you've assembled the cabinet, it's just a matter of putting everything in place where it needs to go.

8) I used the containers from Walmart to store food and litter. The fabric storage containers hold toys, brushes, treats, and cans of soft food. Records and their travel bag are stored in the small space above the litter box. The box I use to store the litter scoop is no longer available but you could use a tall narrow cereal box or something similar.

9) I used two of the floor mats to create two eating areas on top and the third to help cut down on the litter scattering as they exit. These are great because they have a rubberized bottom and don't slip. They also protect the surface of the cabinet.

10) That's it. I like having 10 steps but really, you're done! Enjoy a more organized space.

Always evolving:

Well, guys, this is my outcome. I am always open to ideas and if you've got any improvements, additions, or ideas, I'd love to hear them

Happy Crafting!

Friday, September 15, 2017

Silhouette 4.0 Follow-up

That'll Do Pig.

Two weeks ago:

It's been about two weeks since I installed the newest version of the Silhouette Studio software (designer edition) from Silhouette America and I am happy to say that things seem to be going well.

In my last post, I covered "the good, the bad, and the ugly" of updating and mentioned that I'd come back to update you on my experience. So, here goes!

The Good:

I have been playing with many of the new features available and plan on throwing together a few new tutorials for you guys on these features. But for now here are three of the things that have worked well and I am liking about the new update so far.

1) Cut time progress bar. This is so great. There is now a progress bar at the bottom of the cut screen to show you how much longer it will take for your cut to complete. This is great for time management and has already helped me a lot. I know how long each cut is going to take so I can work on other things (like making a cup of coffee!) while the machine is grinding away.

2) Mirror reminder. Forgetting to mirror HTV is something I know we have either all done or will do at some point in our cutting careers. This can be a costly mistake when it happens with our last piece of hard to find glitter or the only bit of that one color we had left. The studio software now includes a pop-up reminder to check if you mirrored your design. If you haven't, it will do it automatically for you. If you have, just click "Send As-Is" and your cut will start.

3) Warp Function. This works for both text and images. You select the warp panel and then select what object you want to warp and then you can play around with the number of columns or rows and pull the handles around to warp your image. Note: This feature is available in Designer edition and up.

The Bad (and the ugly):

I mentioned in my last post that I had some concerns about things that might not work correctly with the new update and I have discovered a couple of glitches so far. Keep in mind, this is NOT a beta version. All of the features have been tested and this is supposed to be a complete and finished product. Nonetheless, there are still issues. Here are a few that I have noticed.

1) Tracing issues. Tracing can be difficult even when everything works the way it is supposed to. It can be a little tricky but thanks to some great tutorials like Tracing without Tears from Kay Hall at CleverSomeday on YouTube, it isn't as hard as one would think. The issue I have been running into with Version 4 is that I will select my trace area and adjust my settings and when I click "trace" nothing happens. The yellow fill disappears as though the trace has completed but it doesn't give me a cut file. The only thing I can do is start over and hope it will trace the second time. It doesn't happen every time but it is often enough to be a bothersome glitch.

2) SVG drag-and-drop issues. Having Designer Edition means that I have been able to open SVG's in my design studio. This has been an awesome feature and allows me to pull all of the elements I need to create my design directly into the studio space that I am using and design on the fly. With version 4, I will drag and drop my SVG into my studio space and it will simply "stamp" itself onto the background and will not allow me to select, move, or modify it at all. I have had to open each element into a separate studio screen and then copy it and paste it into the space I am designing in. It's not impossible to get around, again, but it makes things take far longer than they should have and I am afraid that I will accidently save a modification to an original element if I forget to close WITHOUT saving changes.

Final thoughts:

Overall, I am pretty happy with the update. There is still a TON of room for improvement but there is also a huge list of new things to play with.

What about you guys?

What are your thoughts on the new update? Are there things you're super happy to see included? Other problems that you've noticed? Other things you wish were possible? I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

Happy Crafting!

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Silhouette 4.0

Change is a good thing! Change is a good thing... Change is a good thing?

Maybe you're like me:

When I see a new software version update on my phone, I put it off a long as possible. I mean, like, a long time. Weeks, months...

I am so afraid that doing the update will stop other important things I use every day from working properly if they haven't been modified for the update.

Most recently, the on-screen keyboard on my android phone just plain quit after an update. I couldn't type anything at all on my phone or bring up the keyboard for voice-to-text.

I was finally able to get a supplemental keyboard installed and finally got my phone up and running again but it was a frustrating experience to say the least.

So, you'll understand my hesitation:

Silhouette America released the newest version of their software suite recently and today is the day I plan on switching over.  I have been following along with a few of my acquaintances on Facebook who were helping to beta test and a lot of the early adopters who have already started making tutorials to get the good, the bad, and the ugly about the upgrade.  Sometimes the easiest way to learn is to watch someone else do it, right?

The Good:

So Many New Features! The tutorials I am watching have excited me.

  • With new features like text warping, you won't have to create your design in another program and import it. 
  • A glyphs panel should make it a little easier I currently use Nexus Font) to take advantage of all of the extra swashes in some of the more decorative fonts a little more easily. 
  • There is finally a cut-progress bar in some of the videos I have seen. 
  • And, as I am starting to get into HTV a little more, a pop-up reminder before cutting to mirror your image so you don't end up wasting material.

The Bad (and why it's not so bad):

The number one horror story I am seeing regarding the software upgrade is people loosing their designs that are stored by silhouette. A more recent update introduced cloud storage and operation and many people lost their designs during that too. Thousands of hours and hundreds of dollars can be lost if someone has spend enough time designing and/or purchasing designs. I believe there there have been a number of successful recovery stories but I don't have any personal experience with those.

Fortunately for me, since day one with Silhouette, I have kept all of my fonts and designs in a DropBox folder. This means that no matter what the update throws at me, my designs, my fonts, and my files will still be there.

The Ugly:

Knowing that all of my previous work is not at risk of being lost forever is a huge confidence boost to push me to start trying to take advantage of all the new features. Unfortunately though, even that won't solve the #1 issue.

This is a pretty big change. The layout is similar but the buttons have all been shifted. Some icons are slightly different, and they've introduced separate panels that pop out instead of everything being controlled by fixed menus at the top and side.

The process of getting re-acquainted with how to do some of the more basic things that are so quick for me to do now is what has held me back so far. I hate the feeling of starting over.

*goes back to re-read the good things about the upgrade again*

But, today is the day. I am going to install. I am going to learn. I am going to create cool things. And, I am going to teach you to do it too! 

Going Forward:

Lunch is here. Time to install and re-start fresh :-) I'll put up a new post in a day or so to track progress. Feel free to follow along. It should be fun!

What about you guys?:

Have you had an experience (good or bad) with an update that you want to share?

If you're already working in 4.0, do you have any quick tips that could help me get up and running a little faster?

I look forward to hearing from you!

I look forward to hearing from you! Happy Crafting!

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Product Application & Care Instructions

In this list, I will compile all of the application and care instructions for anything I make or share. I will sort by category and update as often as necessary. 

Whoops, I did it again!

Being consistently inconsistent is still consistency, right? 

So, January of 2016:

January of 2016 was my last post. I was excited to share the news of my new machine. I was excited to do more nail art. I was excited to start blogging again. I really was excited to start teaching and sharing again. But,I'm lazy I couldn't find the time. We DID end up moving, halfway across the country in fact. A one bedroom apartment in Florida was my new home. There wasn't a lot of room to really focus on some of the things I wanted to do. And, I worked in car sales and that can be a little time consuming too.

Car sales profile pic!

In January of this year, we moved to Texas. This has been a turning point in my crafting. I finally have a room (A whole room!) set up to work in. A place I can keep organized and have easy access to the things I need to get things done. And boy, have I done some things.

Stuff & Things:

That Silhouette machine and I have come a long long way since that January 2016 post. I had originally gotten it hoping to make some nail decals and stencils to bring you some more nail art tutorials but once I got into the software and started learning about the possibilities of the machine, I got into so much more.

At current count, I have a sandblasting rig, a heat press, and I even bought a tiny little sewing machine to play with. The best part is, I'm going to share it all with you. Everything is linked together and it all ties back to that little Silhouette machine. Even though I haven't been posting everything, I have been taking pictures all along the way so I can share it all with you.

The software is the easier part since it doesn't require any "real world" setup. I started a series of YouTube videos called DIY On Demand where I address common questions I see in the Facebook groups. My goal with these videos is to directly answer the question while providing helpful tips along the way without all the extra story-telling fluff. I like direct and to-the-point when I am trying to get something done so all of my videos are less than 5 minutes long. Take a minute to check them out. I'll wait.

Where do we go from here:

This proves to be the hardest part. As I mentioned above, all of the pieces are linked to each other so it's kind of difficult to get into one without also having covered the other. There is some great news though:

1) Just about everything I am doing has already been done by somewhere sometime. Most of what I do is not 100% original. I just try my best to condense all of that information down into one easy to understand, 5 minute chunk.

2) Sometimes, people don't want to watch a video and would rather have written directions. That's what this blog is intended to do. This will be the text-heavy portion of my projects and I'll direct you here whenever you want more information on something if I have made a partner post to a video.

3) I am working on setting up shop! If you like what I do and don't want to do it yourself, I am working on opening a small store for simple orders. As of right now, I am only making any of my work available locally. This is the part of the whole process I am still learning about. Eventually, I will offer affiliate links in my videos and here and I would appreciate any feedback or advise you guys may have for me in this realm as it's all new to me.

What about you guys?:

I've mentioned sandblasting, my heat press, and my teeny tiny sewing machine. Are there any projects you guys are interested in learning more about first? Anything you want me to place a priority on?

How often would you be interested in seeing new posts? Would you like longer, more detailed posts a few times a month, or shorter posts with more variety a little more often?

I am excited to get started! Looking forward to hearing from you guys soon!

Happy Crafting!