Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Get Lost!: At the Farmer's Market

Gorgeous sunny days and enthralling summer thunderstorms mean only one thing: ideal weather for perfecting produce. And the best place to purchase the best local produce is at your local farmer's market.
You'd be surprised at the bounty of goods available at most farmer's markets. Sure, fresh fruits and veggies are expected, but anything from fresh baked goods to locally produced honey and honey-made products are usually available for purchase. Even gourmet dog treats and hand milled goats milk soap can be purchased at farmer's markets!
Although its a bit early in the season for most fruit and vegetable delights, check out for harvest times in your area. My boyfriend can't wait for the local sweet bell pepper harvest to ripen. We're already collecting recipes to try out with the freshest local ingredients available. I encourage you to let the fruits and veggies of the season inspire your next menu. Not only is it cheaper to purchase produce when its in season, but you're also supporting the local economy and you're providing your family with a healthier, fresher option.
or some simply yummy recipe ideas, several reads are now on the market specifically written with the farmer's market shopper in mind. We've been going green and saving a little money by using some of the titles available at our local library. Better Homes and Gardens has a few older books available, but one book I'd love to get my hands on is "Fresh from the Farmer's Market" by Janet Fletcher. Some of the reviews on Amazon claim her recipes are a little too restrantry and sophisticated, but I'd love to read what shopping tips she provides.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Post Revisited: Thrift Store Candelabra

Not long ago my wonderful boyfriend made me a romantic dinner. Anybody can cook someone dinner, but it was the little touches that made it the ultimate, romantic meal for us. Not only did he set the table with our new dinnerware from Target by way of the thrift store, but he surprised me with a candlelit spread. And not just any candlelight, but rather candlelight provided by our beautiful thrift store candelabra. He hunted down the perfect red glass votive holders to complete the look. On top of all that, he rigged up a contaption to be able to hang this beautiful lamp over our table. What a lucky girl I am!

Check out the before and after pictures below!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Crafty Quick Fix: Ribbon Calla Lilies

One of my aunt's was kind enough to donate to my card making and crafting efforts, a Hefty bag full of dozens of spools of ribbon in all sizes, colors, and types. My challenge now is to find new was to utilize and incorporate ribbon into more and more projects. is a great source to find new and unique uses for ribbon. I found a simple but charming tutorial for making Calla Lilies (my sister's favorite!) out of ribbon from Posh N Pretty.

Modifying the tutorial provided there, I created this picture frame. Instead of using hot glue to secure the folds of the ribbon, I used a needle and thread to hand sew them together. It prevented me from burning myself on a hot glue gun and it allowed a little more adaptability! Ribbon accents stripe the wooden frame in coordinating colors and bring a feminine touch to a natural frame.

In contrast to the elegant ribbon version of the Calla Lilly, I used the exact same tutorial to make origami lilies out of paper for a sympathy card. Green ribbon was still utilized to make stems for these lilies. The stark purity of the white flowers against this black background visually evokes the same sentiment of the cards written message.

By changing the color of the card's elements, you could easily create a cards to celebrate almost any occasion. Pastels to celebrate a baby shower. Metallics in silver or gold to commemorate a wedding anniversary. Deep jewel tones to recognize a friend's birthday.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Friday's Feisty Feast: Grandma's Tropical Carrot Cake

Celebrating the June birthday of my boyfriend found me consulting my very talented Grandma for a recipe to make his favorite dessert - carrot cake. Her unique recipe uses the juiciness and sweetness of crushed pineapple to create a moist, delectable delight. Traditional cream cheese frosting swirled with walnuts presents a perfectly irresistible topping for this tangy, tropical treat. Be sure to refrigerate any leftovers.

Grandma's Tropical Carrot Cake
1 c White Flour
1 c Whole Wheat Flour
1 c Brown Sugar
1 c Honey
2 tsp. Baking Soda
1 can of Crushed Pineapple with its juice
1 tsp Cinnamon
1/2 c Chopped Walnuts
4 slightly beaten Eggs
1 1/2 c Vegetable Oil
2 Grated Raw Carrots
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Lightly grease a 9 x 13 inch pan. Mix dry ingredients in a large bowl. Add eggs & oil, mixing well. Add carrots, honey, pineapple, and nuts. Thoroughly combine all ingredients. Pour mixture into the cake pan and bake 50-60 minutes. Allow cake to cool before frosting.
Cream Cheese Frosting with Walnuts
8 oz Cream Cheese, softened
1/2 c Butter, softened
1 tsp. Vanilla extract
1 lb. Powdered Sugar
3/4 c Walnuts, chopped
Using a hand mixture, combine the cream cheese, butter, and vanilla. Slowly add the powdered sugar, a little at a time. Once all of the powdered sugar has been added and well combined, use a spatula to stir in the chopped walnuts. Once the walnuts are thoroughly distributed, proceed with frosting your cake.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Get Lost!: In the City

Great architecture and classic design share a distinctly unique relationship. They can play off of each other, influence each other, and inspire each other much to our aesthetic pleasure. For the cost of a bus fare, metro ride, or parking meter, you too can enjoy the hidden beauty which lies in any urban setting. Grab your camera and capture your favorite shapes, patterns, architectural elements, and design motifs. Challenge yourself to be inspired by them for your next craft project. Or better yet, take some artsy photos, blow them up and have them framed. Give them away as housewarming gifts to new neighbors or present them to old friends that move away so that they may have a lasting memory to cherish and admire.

Check out some of the shots I collected on a recent trek into the urban jungle!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Salvaged Parts: Deconstructed Jewelry

If you're looking for a quirky, low cost way to spice up your cards or add a little bling to your scrapbook pages, hit the thrift store, check out some rummage sales, or rifle through the closet of a family member. Old, unwanted, or broken jewelry can quickly and easily be salvaged for usable charms, chains, and beads. I especially love deconstructing vintage earrings - that way I can make two identical cards using the same design element!
Just look at the treasure trove of inspiring goodies I purchased this weekend from my aunt who sells vintage jewelry. Ideas are already swirling in my head on how to design cards and gift tags inspired by my salvaged parts. Stay tuned to see what I come up with!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

If You're Going to San Francisco...

We spent the weekend celebrating the nuptials of some very dear friends of mine. The ceremony was touching, the bride was beautiful, and reception was impeccable. And we finally had gorgeous summer weather! Yay!

To mark this exciting occasion for Mr. and Mrs. Love, I did what I do. I thought outside the box and came up with a creative wedding gift no one else was sure to copy. I bought the newlyweds a giftcard for their favorite restaurant, Chipotle. And knowing their honeymoon destination (San Francisco and Napa) ahead of time, I got the addresses to all the Chipotles in the San Francisco metropolitan area. How clever! They can share a honeymoon burrito on us!

As detailed oriented as I am, I also designed a San Francisco themed card to enclose the giftcard. Using ribbon, I made a layered tri-fold card, featuring some of the most recognizable sights and landmarks of the San Fran area. Alcatraz, trolley cars, steep hills, and the Golden Gate bridge almost seem to come to life on this one of a kind card.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Friday's Feisty Feast: Icebox Omelette

Today's culinary delight is as versatile as they come! I've affectionately named this one "Icebox Omelette" because it's a great way to clean your fridge out of leftover vegetables, meats, and cheeses before going out of town. It's versatility also shines through in the fact that omelette's can be created with customizable ingredients to suit individual taste preferences. Vegetarians and meat lovers alike can easily share this same meal too! You can serve one to one-hundred people at any given time, without any added complexity. And thanks to the heartiness of protein-loaded eggs, this meal can easily be served for lunch or dinner. Eggs are not confined to just breakfast anymore!

Icebox Omelette

2-3 Eggs per Omelette
Olive Oil
Filling: Approx. 1 cup total of your favorite vegetables, meats, and cheese (or whatever you have leftover in your fridge)

Suggestions: Bell Peppers, Tomatoes, Green Onions, Minced Garlic, Black Olives, Mushrooms, Italian Sausage, Diced Ham, Bacon, Pepperoni, Cheddar Cheese, Mozzarella Cheese, Feta Cheese, etc.

$*$*Money Saving Bonus: Choose your favorite pizza toppings. Make omelettes for lunch and a pizza for dinner using the same ingredients. Less waste and less trips to the store!*$*$


Dice all ingredients for the filling and set aside. Coat the bottom of a medium sized frying pan with olive oil over medium heat.
Add any meats and vegetables to the oil and saute for 3-5 minutes, stirring often.
Meanwhile, whisk together 2-3 large eggs in a small bowl, adding a splash of milk if you desire a fluffy omelette.
Remove the sauteed meats and vegetables from the pan and set aside.
Return the frying pan to medium heat and add the eggs.
Allow the eggs to cook undisturbed while the bottom begins to set.
Take a wide flat spatula and drag one small portion of the omelette to the center of the pan, allowing the liquid portion of the egg to run in and fill its space.
Repeat this step until most of the liquid has set.
Add your meats and vegetables filling to one half of the omelette, setting aside a teaspoon of filling for garnishing.
Layer on any cheese filling now and fold the bare portion of the omelette up and over the filling.
After about two minutes, flip the omelette and cook the other side.
Once fully cooked, remove from heat and slide the omelette onto a plate.
Garnish with extra filling and extra cheese.
Serve with your favorite variety of potatoes, breads, and beverages depending on the meal you are serving it as.

Breakfast: Hash browns, toast, and orange juice
Lunch: Potato chips, Italian rolls, and ginger ale
Dinner: Mashed potatoes, ciabatta bread with olive oil and vinegar, and red wine sangria


Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Get Lost!: At the Zoo

Next time the kids are driving you nuts or you're just antsy to get out of the house, why not make a stop at the nearest zoo? (You can even threaten to leave the kids in the monkey house if they really start to get on your nerves!) Check out the Association of Zoos and Aquariums website to find a zoo near you!

The local zoo also makes for a great "stay-cation" this summer if the travel budget is a little tight. Don't forget to bring along the digital camera to capture some great shots of the exotic animals you're sure to come across. Go ahead and get inspired by the bright colors and bold patterns you see reflected in feathers, fur coats, and hides of the animals you encounter. Find your favorite pattern or color combo and let it inspire your next scrapbook page, homemade card, knitted afghan, or painted piece of furniture. Don't stop there. Let it also inspire your wardrobe and home decor too!

My personal favorite are the jewel-toned colors of the peacock. It's inspired me to work in peacock blue as an accent color in my living room. We already have sage green and dark brown in there. I can't wait to get a house of our own and paint an accent wall in Largo Teal from Benjamin Moore or Bosporus from Sherwin Williams. Throw in a few coordinating photo frames, candlesticks, and toss pillows, and you have a regal, nature-inspired living space.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Craft Quick Fix: Body Scrub Party Favors

At the end of last month my younger sister hosted a small gathering of friends to celebrate her 21st birthday. I am a wonderful big sister and I contributed homemade party favors for her guests to take home and enjoy. I used an idea I found on to make a scented body scrub that any girl will go ga-ga over now that it is flip-flop season again. Epsom salt provides gentle exfoliation while grape seed oil or olive oil moisturizes your skin to a smooth, touchable finish. You can even choose your favorite essential oil for a personalized fragrance. My boyfriend has even requested I try making a scrub for him in his favorite scent, pine-balsam! Check out the recipe here.

Packaging these favors are simply a breeze now that Ball Mason Jars have taken on a fun, contemporary design. Their new line, "Collection Elite", provides the perfect storage for all types of things. I used the small 8 oz. size for these gifts, but Ball Mason Jars also come in a larger 16 oz. Pint size. Their wide-mouth design and platinum lids are a stunning update from the Ball Mason Jars your grandma uses!

This project would lend itself to a number of uses: bridal showers, girls-night-out souvenirs, teacher appreciation gifts, brithday presents, etc. Design your own gift labels to suit your needs. Be creative and have fun with it.

And don't forget to make a little extra for you to use yourself!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Creative Tip: Free Project Ideas from

Even the most crafty and creative person needs a few last minute gift or project ideas. One of my favorite sources for a quick brainstorm or project idea is There you can find a great number of free patterns, free tips, and free project ideas in the Projects and More section of their website. This site should be the first stop for anyone planning bridal or baby showers, summer camp crafts, or even holiday parties or gifts.

I've already started bookmarking some of the projects I'd relish in the chance to try out when I find the time!

Go on and find a new project for you to try this month! I dare you!

Friday, June 5, 2009

Friday's Feisty Feast: Picnic Pita Pockets

Great for ball games, summer luncheons, or an afternoon at the zoo! A refreshing twist on the summer sandwich, these delicious pita pockets are a snap to create! Purchase your favorite variety of pita pockets from your local grocer or make them from scratch like I do. Check out Bernice Hunt's "Great Natural Breads Made Easy" for a simple recipe. I substitute one cup of whole wheat flour for a more robust flavor and additional nutrients. Then choose a filling recipe from below or create your own!

Mamma Mia Mediterranean Pocket

(Makes 8 Pockets)
8 Pita Pockets
8 oz. Feta Cheese
3 oz. Cream Cheese (Hint: Philadelphia makes a brick in this size if you don't want leftovers)
20-30 Kalamata Olives, sliced
4 Roma Tomatoes, sliced
1 Bell Pepper (any color), sliced long and thin
2 cups Shredded Lettuce

In a small bowl, combine feta cheese and cream cheese to make a paste. Spread a thin layer of cheeses on the inside of a pita pocket. Layer in the lettuce, tomatoes, and peppers, stuffing the ingredients into the pocket. Sprinkle with sliced olives and top off with a crumble or two of extra feta cheese. Repeat with the remaining pockets.

Pocket Size BLT
(Makes 8 Pockets)
8 Pita Pockets
1/2 lb. Bacon, cooked and cut into 3 inch strips
4 Roma Tomatoes, thinly sliced
Romaine Lettuce, torn into 3 inch strips
Miracle Whip, optional

Spread a thin layer of Miracle Whip on the inside of the pita pocket (Optional). Layer in the strips of lettuce, tomato slices, and bacon strips. Serve with lemonade, potato chips, potato salad, or your favorite summer side dishes.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Get Lost!: In a Greenhouse

Wacky Wednesday is once again upon us and I'm celebrating the less-than-warm temperatures of this teaser summer we are having, by inaugurating a new theme for Wednesdays during the month of June. Now, Wednesday's headlines will be "Get Lost!", a series on inexpensive and entertaining destinations for inspiration. What better way to relax, unwind, and recharge those creative juices than to save a little money, support the local economy, and explore some of the hidden wonders of your community!

First stop: the bright and beautiful, independent greenhouse! (Hint: This trip is especially fun for apartment dwellers or black-thumbs who don't have the space or the talent to keep a garden of their own!) Browse to your hearts content among the aisles and aisles of blossoms and blooms in any local, independent greenhouse. The Big Box Stores all have their corporate versions, but those greenhouses really pale in comparison to the variety and the stunning quality of plants at independent greenhouses.
"Where flowers bloom, so does hope." - Lady Bird Johnson

Color: Like a box of 64 Crayola crayons, almost every shade of every color of the proverbial rainbow are represented by the lush foliage and bountiful blooms of the plants and flowers found in any greenhouse. These colors and clashes of colors have forever been inspiration for artists, designers, poets, and writers. Monet had his water lilies. Shakespeare's rose still smells just as sweet. Channel some of this timeless creative mojo and get inspired by the colorful fragrances and fragrant colors you experience!
"The Earth laughs in flowers." - Ralph Waldo Emerson
The only money you'll have to budget for this little creative excursion is the cost of travel: either a few cents for gas or a few hundred calories if you bike or walk to your local greenhouse. If you are ever interested in purchasing any of the inspiring botanicals you come across, be sure to go native! Look for plants that are native to Wisconsin. Using locally grown, native plants is not only an educational experience, it also benefits the environment and saves you money with no need for pesticides or harsh fertilizers! Check out the DNR website for everything you need to go native!
Check back next Wednesday for another reason to Get Lost!

Monday, June 1, 2009

A Happy Hiatus!

Any number of my faithful followers are probably wondering why the sudden scarcity of craft-y, clever blog posts from What A Joy Designs. Well, wonder no more! I've been busy securing myself some much needed employment. Finally, after filling out dozens of applications, penning dozens of cover letters, re-writing my resume over and over again, I landed an interview. I impressed them so much that they immediately offered me a position. Yippee! (It's about time some company realized what a valuable asset I really am!) Those of you who have devotedly followed my blog and also enjoy guessing games, the graphic to the right is a hint at what international industry hired me!

Needless to say, I'm adjusting to a new schedule and juggling new responsibilities, that I just haven't found spare time for crafting - much less spare time to blog about said crafting. Once I get into the swing of things, I'll have more time to sit back, relax, and craft away to my heart's content!

In hopes of making posts to the What A Joy Designs Blog a more regular occurrence, I'm making a goal for myself to post every Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and once on the weekend. With a fresh month starting today, I thought a fresh start at this new goal is a perfect June activity for me! I'll also be incorporating at least one recurrent day of the week devoted to a particular theme. Weekly, I'll be bringing you Friday's Feisty Feast with yummy recipes for you to try at home. Anything and everything edible will be featured, with user-friendly instructions, helpful graphics, and simplicity at every recipe's core! As always, I look forward to any feedback from my readers. Let me know what new ideas you want to see here!

Check back here every week to see how well I keep to my goal!